Archive for February 14, 2011

Japan confirms China surpassed its economy in 2010

February 14, 2011 Comments off


TOKYO — Japan confirmed Monday that China’s economy surpassed its own as the world’s second largest in 2010 and said a late-year downturn was Japan’s first quarterly contraction in more than a year.

Japan’s real GDP expanded 3.9 percent in the calendar year in the first annual growth in three years, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a surging China. Japan’s nominal GDP last year came to $5.4742 trillion, less than China’s total of $5.8786 trillion, the Cabinet Office said.

Gross domestic product shrunk at an annualized rate of 1.1 percent in the October-December quarter, a sharp reversal from a revised 3.3 percent expansion in the third quarter, the government said.

A slowdown in exports and weaker consumer demand at home led to the unsurprising downturn, which is expected to be temporary. The result was better than Kyodo news agency’s average market forecast of an annualized 2.2 percent decline.

China was acknowledged last year as having grown to the world’s second-largest economy, but the Japanese data confirming it were not available until Monday. The switch underscores the nations’ stark contrasts: China is growing rapidly and driving the global economy, while Japan is struggling with persistent deflation, an aging population and ballooning public debt.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has pledged to revive the economy and make major reforms in the country’s tax and social welfare systems. His approval ratings are eroding quickly, however, as voters question his government’s ability to lead the country through its pressing problems.

The fourth-quarter figure translates to a 0.3 percent fall from the previous three-month period, according to the Cabinet Office’s preliminary data. Consumer spending, which accounts for some 60 percent of GDP, fell 0.7 percent. Auto sales slumped during the quarter after government subsidies for “green” vehicles expired in September.

Exports fell 0.7 percent from the previous quarter amid a strong yen and waning global demand. A rise in the Japanese currency reduces the value of exporters’ profits overseas and makes Japanese goods pricier in foreign markets.

The road ahead looks brighter, with economists saying GDP will expand this quarter in tandem with global growth. The head of Japan’s central bank, Masaaki Shirakawa, said last week that that recent signs indicate Japan is emerging from the “pause” and performing at par with other advanced economies.

Ryutaro Kono, chief economist at BNP Paribas ( BNPQY.PK news people ) in Tokyo, says exports and production have escaped their “soft patches.”

“The economy seems to be recovering again from December, so the negative growth in (the fourth quarter) need not become the basis for pessimism about Japan’s cyclical outlook,” he said in a report this month.

M CLASS Solar Flare Headed Toward Earth

February 14, 2011 Comments off

Sunspot 1158 has just unleashed the strongest solar flare of the year, an M6.6-category blast @ 1738 UT on Feb. 13th and it is heading straight for Earth.

The eruption appears to have launched a coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. It also produced a loud blast of radio emissions heard in shortwave receivers around the dayside of our planet. Amateur radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft recorded these sounds. Stay tuned for updates!

Solar activity increased sharply over the weekend with the eruption of an M6.6-class solar flare from behemoth sunspot 1158.  The blast produced a strong burst of radio waves heard in the loudspeakers of shortwave receivers around the dayside of our planet, and it appears to have hurled a faint coronal mass ejection toward Earth.

Sunspot 1158 is growing rapidly (48 hour movie) and crackling with M-class solar flares. The active region is now more than 100,000 km wide with at least a dozen Earth-sized dark cores scattered beneath its unstable magnetic canopy. Earth-directed eruptions are likely in the hours ahead.

The remains of old sunspot complex 1147-1149 are rotating over the eastern limb today. Although the region is in an advanced state of decay, it’s not dead yet. During the late hours of Feb. 11th, a plasma bullet came rocketing out of the region’s unstable core. Watch the movie–but don’t blink, because it’s fast.

Movie formats: 21 MB Quicktime, 1.3 MB mpeg, 0.5 MB iPad. Credit: SDO

Huge coronal hole on Sun turning towards Earth

Blast from the Sun

Panama Canal rail alternative built by China considered by Colombia

February 14, 2011 Comments off

A 136 mile rail alternative to the Panama Canal built by China is being considered by Colombia in a move that would boost trade between Asia and South America.

Panama Canal rail alternative built by China considered by Colombia

The project is one of several Chinese proposals designed to help boost transport links between the two continents.

The ‘dry canal’ would link Colombia’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts by rail, according to Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia.

“It’s a real proposal… and it is quite advanced,” he told The Financial Times. “I don’t want to create exaggerated expectations, but it makes a lot of sense.”

The project is one of several Chinese proposals designed to help boost transport links between the two continents.

It is also hoped the rail link would help encourage the US to ratify a four-year-old free-trade agreement. Agreements with Colombia and Panama, which would Read more…

Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport completes first stage testing of novel biometric security system

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Sheremetyevo International Airport has completed the first stage of testing of the Russian-owned Artec Ventures new novel biometric security system BROADWAY 3D, which is based on using one of the most reliable biometrics – the three-dimensional surface of the face. The system delivers highly reliable identity recognition with minimal human involvement in the process of identification, which is of particular importance given the requirements set out in the Rules on the protection of airports and their infrastructural facilities (approved by Resolution No 42 of the government of the Russian Federation, dated 1 February 2011).

The company is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, USA with its R&D office in Moscow, Russia.

the team invented 3D face recognition technology in 1999 and cultivated it from an idea stage to a biometric solution that became an industry standard worldwide in 2006. This technology is widely Read more…

US study links pesticides to Parkinson’s disease

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – US researchers said Friday they have found that people who used two specific varieties of pesticide were 2.5 times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

The pesticides, paraquat and rotenone, are not approved for house and garden use. Previous research on animals has linked paraquat to Parkinson’s disease, so it is restricted to use by certified applicators.

Rotenone is approved only for use in killing invasive fish species.

“Rotenone directly inhibits the function of the mitochondria, the structure responsible for making energy in the cell,” said study co-author Freya Kamel, a researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“Paraquat increases production of certain oxygen derivatives that may harm cellular structures. People who used these pesticides or others with a similar mechanism of action were more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.”

The study examined 110 people with Parkinson’s disease and 358 people who served as a control group from the Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) Study.

FAME is part of a larger Agricultural Health Study looking at the health of approximately 90,000 licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses.

The study appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Temple Institute Reveals First Blueprints For Portion Of The Third Temple

February 14, 2011 1 comment

In his recent USA speaking engagement tour, (January 2011), Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute revealed to the public for the very first time detailed construction plans for the Chamber of Hewn Stone: the seat of the Great Sanhedrin which is a central component of the Holy Temple complex on the Temple Mount.

These complete and highly intricate plans constitute the first stage of an historical undertaking of the Temple Institute: the drafting of blueprints for the entire Holy Temple complex. These plans, drawn up by a top Israeli architectural firm hired by the Temple Institute, take into account the specific requirements of the Sanhedrin assembly hall, known historically as the Read more…

FBI can obtain phone records without oversight, Justice Dept memo claims

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Without court oversight, the nation’s top law enforcement agency can obtain domestic records of telephone conversations made to international receivers, the Justice Department claimed recently.

“[The Office of Legal Counsel] agreed with the FBI that under certain circumstances (word or words redacted) allows the FBI to ask for and obtain these records on a voluntary basis from the providers, without legal process or a qualifying emergency,” the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a recent report by McClatchy Newspapers.

The claim put forth in the document released to McClatchy seemed to indicate that the Obama administration has continued the previous administration’s policies.

The Bush administration maintained that the FBI needed such policing powers in order to stop possible terrorism. Critics of the FBI’s surveillance program stated that the tactic was frequently applied in abusive manners.

Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told McClatchy that the OLC’s disclosure that Read more…

Chinese Develop Gait-Biometrics Surveillance

February 14, 2011 Comments off
Another way to be under surveillance.






A confidential United States embassy dispatch released by Wikileaks provides details about a new technology developed by the Chinese Academy of Science to identify people by their gait.

The technology is designed to be deployed beneath existent flooring. From there it measures pedestrian pace and walking pressure to create a unique biometrics profile which can be used to identify and track the movements of individuals without their knowledge…

According to the dispatch, when questioned about the technology’s potential applications, scientists “stated the device was being used by ‘secret’ customers and was not available on the commercial market.” Officials went on to note the technology was involved with “Program 863.”

Program 863, or the State High Tech Development Plan, is a civil-military program created in 1986, according to Lev Navrozov – a former dissident Soviet writer – for the purpose of developing a “post-nuclear superweapon” possibly incorporating nanotechnology.


Spacecraft to be controlled by artificial intelligence

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It is a concept that had fatal consequences for the astronauts in the science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey after their spaceship’s artificially intelligent computer reasoned it had to kill them in order to continue the mission.

Yet despite this warning from Arthur C Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick, The European Space Agency now hopes to use real-life artificial intelligence to control future spacecraft.

British engineers, supported by ESA, are developing control systems that can be used in satellites, robotic exploration vehicles and spacecraft capable of controlling themselves.

The space vehicles will be able to learn, identify problems, adapt during missions, carry out repairs and take their own decisions about how best to carry out a task.

Details of the research have emerged as ESA prepares to launch the second of its Read more…

Target Earth: Near Earth Asteroids Swarming the February Skies

February 14, 2011 Comments off
Near Earth Object 2006 WJ3
Near Earth Object 2006 WJ3
Photo by Steve E. Farmer Jr.

February 12, another newly discovered hazardous asteroid (PHA) was announced. As most other NEO’s in the past, this one safely passed by Earth…this time.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 2011 CU46 was announced on February 12, 2011. This hazardous asteroid did not drift by Earth at only a few thousand miles as in the case of Near Earth Object 2011 CQ1; 2011 CU46 safely passed by at a distance of a little more than 316,000 miles – which is still considered a “near miss” in astronomical terms. PHA 2011 CU46 has a diameter of 20m – 50m; and this particular object would likely cause a massive fireball and surface damage if it were to impact Earth in a populated area.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids & Near Earth Objects

As defined by NASA, A Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) is based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth. An asteroid which comes within an orbital intersection distance of 0.05 AU with Earths orbit and is of a diameter of 110m – 240m, is normally identified as a potentially hazardous object. Other factors are also included.

Since the February 4 announcement of NEO 2011 CQ1, over forty more Near Earth Objects have been discovered, identified, and catalogued.

Apophis Likely to Miss, What about PHA 2011 AG5?

PHA 2011 AG5 was discovered by Mt. Lemmon Survey on January 8, 2011. After more than one-hundred extra observations of this Potentially Hazardous Asteroid were collected by both amateur and professional astronomers, orbital elements were calculated and it was determined that 2011 AG5 could possibly impact Earth in the year 2052. More observations and research is needed to refine the orbit of this asteroid.

Near Earth Object 2006 WJ3 - Photo by Steve E. Farmer Jr. Comet 81P/Wild - Photo by Steve E. Farmer Jr. Comet 4P/Faye - Photo by Steve E. Farmer Jr. Comet 177P/Barnard 2 - Photo by Steve E. Farmer Jr.

2011 AG5 is very similar to the famous asteroid Apophis which could possibly impact the Earth in the year 2036. Apophis is a little larger in diameter that 2011 AG5 and is expected to pass by Earth twice as close as 2011 AG5. Both of these minor planets are large enough to cause substantial damage to a major city on Earth if impact were to occur, but with any luck these minor planets will spare Earth and safely pass us by.

Preparing for Asteroid Impact

It’s only a matter of time before the announcement comes that Earth will obtain an impact from a minor planet large enough to cause wide-spread damage. It is this reason why more studies be performed on minor planets – to help further improve our understandings on these objects in hopes to give us a better defense option when that announcement comes. We have the technology to detect these hazardous objects and certain programs are working on methods to deflect or destroy asteroids. With any luck, they will design a fail-proof method to eliminate the potential risk from these objects impacting Earth.