Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Saab 9-5 to be reborn in the US as a Buick

As Saab struggles to cling to survival, a Swedish newspaper, Dagens Industri, has report that GM is ’seriously considering’ using the near-ready 9-5 model as its next Buick.

The 9-5 share much of its development with the Opel Insignia, itself already used to underpin at least one Buick model, but in order to avoid overlap, the report suggests the 9-5 may present a more radical option for Buick buyers, and could perhaps feature as the next LaCrosse, Regal or Excelle sedan.

With GM already treating Buick as a kind of testing ground for new designs, one of the most modern Saabs yet shaped could easily feel at home in the US if sold under the more familiar Buick nameplate. The move would also see the 9-5 finally attain volume sales.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Iguazu falls in brazil tour

The name of the falls comes from the Guaraní word for "great water". The first Spanish explorer to see the falls was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541 but the vast power of the falls was not fully utilized until the construction of the huge Itaipu hydroelectric power plant built jointly by Paraguay and Brazil. Completed in 1991 the dam is open to tours and provides 12,600,000 KW of power satisfying almost 40% of Brazil and Argentine power needs. The dam one of the largest in the world is touted by both countries as a masterpiece of technology.

Taller than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 cascade spread in a horsehoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River, Iguazú Falls are the result of a volcanic outbreak which left yet another large crack in the earth. During the rainy season of November - March, the rate of flow of water going over the falls may reach 450,000 cubic feet per second.

It is possible to see the falls and surrounding area in a lightning trip but it is better to plan at least two days. The view from the Brazilian side is the most panoramic and there are helicopter rides out over the falls from Foz do Iguaçu. You may also take boat rides out to the falls. The light is best in the morning for photographs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

50-car pileup shuts down Route 110

A massive pileup on Route 110 in the area of Indian Wells Road caused the road to be closed down for an investigation and clean-up, according to WTNH.com. About 50 cars were involved in the Sunday afternoon accident.

WTNH reported that 46 people suffered minor injuries in the accident and six were transported to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, citing police officers.

Shelton EMS set up a temporary shelter for the involved in the crash, the report said.

The road was reopened at around 6 p.m.

source: http://www.necn.com/Boston/New-England/2009/12/13/50car-pileup-shuts-down-Rt/1260746355.html

300 stuck temporarily on Disney World monorail

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) - A power failure stranded about 300 passengers for a couple hours aboard three monorail trains at Walt Disney World. Bo Jones of the Reedy Creek Fire Department says no one was injured when the monorail system lost power around 1 a.m. Sunday.

Jones says firefighters used ladders to assist some visitors aboard one train "more out of customer service than as an emergency situation." Other passengers disembarked later when the trains were towed to nearby stations.

The 15-mile monorail service was restored by the time the parks opened later Sunday morning.

An electrical short disrupted the monorail service in September.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chevrolet Volt: A sneak peek at GM's plug-in hybrid

It accelerates with a big husky twist of its electric motor. Actually, you can even chirp the front tires if you push the go-button hard enough -- very unlike a golf cart. It corners confidently and brakes crisply and, if it's no Ferrari, it certainly won't embarrass itself on the 110 Freeway, otherwise known as the Pasadena Grand Prix.

It's comfortable, practical and -- graded on the curve of five-seat family hatchbacks -- reasonably attractive. Think German-made-dishwasher pretty.

But the question remains: Will the Chevrolet Volt -- General Motors' radical electric vehicle with a range-extending gas generator on board, due in November 2010 -- really work? Will it help GM leapfrog Toyota -- currently experiencing its own woes -- as a grandmaster of green-car technology? Will it help win back legions of disaffected customers? Will it wow EV enthusiasts in Southern California, who still haven't forgiven GM for building the Hummer H2 or forgotten the murder of its charismatic little electric car of the 1990s, the EV1?

The high-tech, Earth-friendly Volt could provide a bridgehead for GM in California, where the company's sales have plummeted about 50% from September 2008.

And by the way, while the Volt is saving GM, will it save gasoline?

"Absolutely," says Andrew Farah, the Volt's chief engineer. "It's going to work and work better than people realize. . . . I'm proud as hell of this thing."

The Volt is a series hybrid EV that is propelled by a 120-kilowatt (160-horsepower) electric motor. Drawing on energy stored in its 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the Volt has an all-electric range of about 40 miles. If the battery is depleted, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder generator kicks in to supply electricity to the traction motor.

The advantage of this design is that if drivers don't exceed 40 miles of driving daily (and most don't), and if they plug in at night, they won't use any gas at all. If they need to go farther, they can, burning gasoline.

The Volt splits the difference between the greenness of an EV and the freedom of a gas-powered car. It will be the first such car to come to market.

GM hasn't announced pricing, but it's widely speculated the car will sell for under $40,000. Buyers will get a $7,500 tax credit on the car, for a net cost of $32,500 or less. That would still make the Volt thousands more expensive than a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight hybrid.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of the Volt to the image of GM -- not least because GM, battered by bankruptcy and a lingering reputation as the Darth Vader of fuel economy, has been trumpeting the car in advertising for well over a year. That strategy carries its own risks.

"GM likely feels the massive pre-intro hype for the Volt is probably more valuable than any post-intro disappointment it may yield," said Karl Brauer, editor of Edmunds.com, the consumer auto research website. "The company is well into its second year of cashing in on the car's promise of near-zero emissions and 200-plus mpg. Will there be a year plus of scolding by the press if the car ultimately bombs? No, a few weeks at most."

Behind the wheel

Farah was in Los Angeles this weekend taking a hand-built Volt prototype on a goodwill tour of sorts, visiting Jay Leno's garage and car enthusiast events. The tour included a stop at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, when journalists had a chance to drive the car for themselves.

I spent 45 minutes behind the wheel, weaving through a four-tenths-mile course marked off by cones in one of the parking lots. This was one of the first opportunities for anyone outside of GM engineering to test the car.

The Volt -- a four-door sedan with a hatchback, about the same size as a Toyota Prius -- is filled with cheery, next-generation textures: the Mac computer-like finish on the touch-sensitive center console; a bright, animated information panel with readouts for battery life and fuel consumption.

Dan Neil drives a Volt prototype at Dodger Stadium, in one of the first chances for anyone outside of GM engineering to test the extended-range plug-in hybrid. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / November 29, 2009)

As with all electric cars, the sensation of hard acceleration feels slightly empty since there's no accompanying pitch of a snarling internal-combustion engine. The absence of engine noise tends to amplify other sounds, such as the squealing of the special low-rolling-resistance tires.

The Volt has a sport mode that boosts battery/motor output by 27 horsepower. In sport mode, the Volt acceleration feels well within the reported 8 seconds to 60 mph, perhaps a little better.

The critical moment arrives when the Volt exhausts its supply of onboard electrons and the range-extending gas generator kicks in. During my test drive, this moment came and went without much of a mechanical inflection. The output of the electric motor, and therefore the performance, remains the same. The engine noise is distant and muted.

If the car encounters a steep uphill grade, or the driver really floors it, the gas generator does rev up to keep up with the electrical demand, sounding much like a conventional car. The engine noise is still too noticeable, according to Farah. The complex power management software will be evolving until the day the car goes to market.

Still, even in this rough prototype, the Volt vibe is spacious, comfortable and lively. The whole car seems lit from within by the ambitions of its builders.

The job ahead

The Volt will not be an easy sell. Because it is, in Farah's words, a "discontinuous product" -- which is to say, unlike anything else on the market -- the public is still unsure how the Volt works or how it differs from a hybrid or a pure electric vehicle. "People hear what their brain tells them they already know."

For example: Unlike electric cars like Nissan’s Leaf, due late next year, the Volt has essentially unlimited range, since it can run on gasoline.

And yet, many fret that the Volt will leave them stranded with a dead battery. So-called range anxiety is one of the big obstacles facing battery-electric vehicles in the U.S. "One message we're trying to get out is that there's life after 40 [miles]," Farah said.

Another challenge: Not everyone will have a place to plug the car in. Apartment dwellers need not apply.

The Volt's technical approach has won fans in the environmental community.

"Combining battery electric drive with an internal combustion range extender is an elegant solution that provides enough electric-only range for most people, while offering unlimited hybrid range when required," said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of GreenCar.com.

However, some in the industry are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"It's a new kind of technology and an unknown quantity," says Michael Omotoso, director of powertrain forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

"The fact that there's an engine on board might give people confidence in the car's range," he said. "On the other hand, people might say, 'Wait a minute. I want an electric car. If I wanted something with an engine on board, why wouldn't I just buy a hybrid like a Prius or the Honda Insight?' "

To complicate matters, the federal government isn't quite sure how to calculate fuel economy for the Volt and other range-extended EVs (such as the proposed Fisker Karma). In August, GM announced that the Volt got 230 miles per gallon in city driving -- which is accurate by the numbers but not really representative of real-world driving.

Farah said GM and the government are working toward a mileage methodology. "We want a clear, understandable and communicable number," he said.

Based on a national average of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, GM estimates it will cost about 80 cents per day to fully charge the Volt. In electric mode, that works out to about two cents per mile. A comparable gas-powered car would cost about 12 cents per mile to operate, according to GM's figures.

In any event, GM figures the Volt will average more than 100 miles per gallon for most consumers. "I drove it for over 200 miles one weekend and used two-tenths of a gallon of gas," Farah said.

source: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-neil30-2009nov30,0,7229671,full.column

Japan Airlines receives new offer

American Airlines and private equity firm TPG have offered $1.1bn (£659m) of investment to struggling carrier Japan Airlines (JAL).

It said the offer was "far superior" to the $1bn offered by rival Delta.

Both carriers are keen for a stake in the Asia Pacific market. JAL has said it will make a decision on the bids by the end of the year.

The Japanese carrier has been struggling with competition, rising fuel prices and huge debts.

Japan's government has bailed it out four times since 2001. The airline lost $1.5bn in the six months to September.

American Airlines and rival Delta are keen for a foothold in Asia

Aviation consultant Mark Kiefer said: "There's a lot at stake here, especially given the importance of the Japanese market and the Asian market to all of these carriers."

American Airlines said its deal would provide $700m in extra revenue and that together they would receive anti-trust immunity.

However, Delta's lawyer Jeffrey Shane responded by saying: "A JAL-Delta alliance would post no threat to competition."

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo said Japan Airlines still had plenty of problems to overcome - including massive debts. It is trying to get its staff to accept a 40% cut in their pensions.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8392243.stm

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Toyota recalls Tundra pickups on rusted-frame concern

Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 110,000 Toyota Tundra pickups for the 2000 to 2003 model years after reports that rusted frames in cold weather may cause spare tires under the truck bed to break loose and fall onto the road.

Corrosion of the rear cross-member, which supports the spare tire, also eventually may affect the rear brake line and lengthen vehicle stopping distances, increasing the risk of a crash, Toyota said in a statement Tuesday.

Toyota will contact owners of vehicles in 20 cold-weather states that have high road salt use--including New York, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania--the statement said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 300 complaints, including reports of three injuries but no deaths.

Toyota will contact owners of 2000-2003 Tundra vehicles in 20 cold-weather states that have high road salt use--including New York, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

NHTSA on Tuesday urged owners of the recalled Tundras to remove the spare tires before bringing the vehicles to the dealer for repair.

Last month, Toyota announced a recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to replace a floor mat that could cause the accelerator to stick.

Read more: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20091124/CARNEWS/911249989

Airlines Fined for Stranding Passengers for Six Hours

There is some good news for travelers and a warning to air carriers heading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend: The government is getting tough with airlines that strand passengers on airport tarmacs.

The U.S. Department of Transportation fined three airlines a total of $175,000 for their role in the stranding 49 passengers -- and two children held on laps -- overnight in a plane at Rochester, Minn. on Aug. 8 saying that the passengers were forced to spend an "unreasonable period of time" on the airplane.

This is the first-ever fine against an airline for such an incident.

"I hope that this sends a signal to the rest of the airline industry that we expect airlines to respect the rights of air travelers," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said in a statement.

Stay Up to Date on the Latest Travel Trends from ABC News on Twitter

Continental Express flight 2816 was flying from Houston to Minneapolis when thunderstorms forced it to divert to Rochester International Airport. It landed there at 12:30 a.m. but the airport was closed for the night.

Mesaba Airlines employees -- the only airline employees at the airport at the time -- refused to open the terminal for the stranded passengers. The passengers were trapped aboard the aircraft until approximately 6:15 a.m. when they were finally allowed into the terminal.

Passengers inside the tiny jet had to deal with crying babies, little food or water and a smelly toilet even though they were just 50 yards from the terminal.

The captain of the flight repeatedly pleaded to allow the passengers to deplane and enter the terminal but was told they could not enter the terminal because there were no Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners on duty at that hour, despite the fact that TSA rules would have allowed the passengers to enter the airport as long as they remained in a secure area.

The government's actions come as Congress weighs passengers' rights legislation that would place a three-hour cap on how long airlines can keep passengers waiting on tarmacs before they allow them to deplane or return to a gate. The measure would give a flight's captain the authority to extend the wait an additional half hour if it appears that clearance to takeoff is near.

Continental Airlines and its regional airline partner ExpressJet, which operated the flight for Continental, were each fined $50,000. Mesaba, now part of Delta Airlines, was fined $75,000.

"A conclusion that there was some wrongdoing or negligence is more important to me than the amount of the fine," Link Christin, a passenger on the stranded jet that day, told The Associated Press.

Continental said in a statement that it agreed to the government's consent order "to avoid costly litigation."

Continental Express jets line up outside a terminal at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. There is some great news for travelers heading to the airports this Thanksgiving weekend: the government is getting tough with some airlines that stranded passengers for hours on a tarmac in August.

It said that ExpressJet "worked throughout the night to safely deplane the customers at the earliest possible time" and blamed the Mesaba ground crew for failing "to provide reasonable assistance and accurate information." It also pointed out that it's fine was less than the one leveled on Mesaba.

John Spanjers, president of Mesaba, the Delta subsidiary however said in a statement that his airline believes it "operated in good faith."

"Mesaba continues to feel it operated in good faith by providing voluntary ground handling assistance to ExpressJet during this delay," Spanjers said in a statement. "However, customer service is paramount, and we are reevaluating our policies and procedures for the courtesy handling of other airlines' flights to do our part to mitigate this type of delay."

ExpressJet spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas told the Associated Press that the airline can avoid paying half the fines if it spends the same amount of money on additional training for their employees on how to handle extended tarmac delays.

Besides the fine, Continental also provided a full refund to each passenger and "offered each passenger additional compensation to tangibly acknowledge their time and discomfort," the DOT said.

There were 568 flights delayed on runways by three or more hours this year through Sept. 30, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, has opposed the so-called passenger bill of rights saying it could cause more problems than it fixes by leading to an increase in canceled flights.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, co-authors of the passengers' rights bill, said in a joint statement that they were pleased by the department's action, but legislation is still necessary to establish standards for airlines' treatment of their customers and to hold airlines accountable for meeting those standards.

The bill also includes requirements for the airlines to provide water, food, adequate restrooms and a comfortable cabin temperature and ventilation in the event of a long delay.

Continental and ExpressJet, in separate orders, were found to have violated the prohibition against unfair and deceptive practices in air transportation because ExpressJet failed to carry out a provision of Continental's customer service commitment requiring that, if a ground delay is approaching three hours, its operations center will determine if departure is expected within a reasonable time, and if not the carrier will take action as soon as possible to deplane passengers.

ExpressJet also failed to take timely actions required by its procedures, including notifying senior ExpressJet officials and providing appropriate Continental officials with notice of the delay. Continental was found to have engaged in an unfair and deceptive practice since, the DOT said, as the carrier marketing the flight 2816, Continental ultimately is responsible to its passengers on that flight.

Source: http://www.abcnews.go.com/Travel/BusinessTraveler/airlines-fined-stranding-passengers-travel-nightmare/story?id=9168606

Friday, November 20, 2009

FAA flightplan computer glitch causes airport delays across U.S.

ATLANTA - A problem with the FAA system that collects airlines' flight plans caused widespread flight cancellations and delays nationwide Thursday. It was the second time in 15 months that a glitch in the flight plan system caused delays.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said she doesn't know how many flights are being affected or when the problem will be resolved.

Another FAA spokesperson, Paul Takemoto, said the problem started between 5:15 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. EST. The outage is affecting mostly flight plans but also traffic management, such as ground stops and ground delays, he said.

Regarding flight plans, airplane dispatchers are now sending plans to controllers and controllers in turn are entering them into computers manually, he said.

"It's slowing everything down. We don't know yet what the impact on delays will be," Takemoto said.

An AirTran Airways spokesman said there's no danger to flights in the air, and flights are still taking off and landing.

However, spokesman Christopher White said flight plans are having to be loaded manually because of a malfunction with the automated system.

"Everything is safe in the air," White said.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport, has been particularly affected.

AirTran had canceled 22 flights and dozens more flights were delayed as of 8 a.m. EST. Delta Air Lines also has been affected.

The FAA said in a statement that it is having a problem processing flight plan information.

"We are investigating the cause of the problem," the agency said. "We are processing flight plans manually and expect some delays. We have radar coverage and communications with planes."

Passengers are being asked to check the status of their flights online before going to airports.

Only minor delays were being reported at metropolitan New York City area airports, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Flight plans are collected by the FAA for traffic nationwide at two centers — one in the Salt Lake City area and the other in the Atlanta area, Bergen said. She did not know which center was affected Thursday.

In August 2008, a software malfunction delayed hundreds of flights around the country.

In that episode, the Northeast was hardest hit by the delays because of a glitch at the Hampton, Ga., facility that processes flight plans for the eastern half of the U.S.

The FAA said at that time the source of the computer software malfunction was a "packet switch" that "failed due to a database mismatch."

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2009/11/19/2009-11-19_faa_flightplan_computer_glitches_causes_airport_delays_across_us.html

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GM needs new Buick Regal, Chevy Cruze to be hits

DETROIT—Two General Motors cars due in showrooms next year must be hits to help the automaker turn around sales and pay back its big debt to U.S. taxpayers.

The Buick Regal midsize sedan and Chevrolet Cruze compact, both sold in key segments of the U.S. car market, face stiff competition and other obstacles to success.

GM was to roll out the Regal on Thursday in Los Angeles, and it's counting on the sleek-looking sedan to claw out a new market for the once-stodgy Buick, now the official brand of bingo night at the senior center.

Buick has been absent from the tough midsize market since 2004, while the Cruze was recently put on hold because GM wasn't happy with how it drove.

Executives have high hopes that the Regal, much of it designed by GM's Opel engineers in Ruesselsheim, Germany, can help bring younger buyers to Buick, crucial to the brand's long-term growth. Currently the median age of a Buick customer is around 68, but GM is targeting new models for those in their 40s and 50s, said Craig Bierley, Buick's product marketing director.

"Clearly having a midsize entry is absolutely critical for us," Bierley said.

Buick sales so far this year are down 33 percent compared with last year, worse than the overall U.S. market, which is off 25 percent.

Midsize cars like Toyota's Camry, the perennial sales leader, are attractive to young families and baby boomers who are downsizing their vehicles. They typically can haul five people and have decent trunk space. Also, several entries get well over 30 mpg on the highway, making them the default buy for those who need space but are concerned about the return of $4 per gallon gasoline.

So far this year, the midsize segment is the biggest part of the U.S. car market, making up 47 percent of sales. Camry dominates the segment with 294,000 sales.

GM has no margin for error with the Regal or any other new vehicle, said David Koehler, a clinical marketing professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Their success in the future is riding on these new launches," he said.

The new Regal, due in showrooms in the second quarter of next year, is aimed at those who want a car that's fun to drive yet is practical. The Regal has three ride settings (normal sport and touring) and is smart enough to tailor the car to the way people drive, Bierley said.

The 2011 Buick Regal sedan is shown at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. GM will roll out the sporty Regal on Thursday with an event in Los Angeles, and it's counting on sleek-looking the five-seat car to claw out a new market for Buick. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Regal is designed to compete with the sporty Acura TSX made by the Honda luxury brand, and the Volvo S60.

Pricing wasn't announced, but it will be between the mainstream midsize Chevrolet Malibu at $21,325 and the $27,835 base price of a larger new Buick, the LaCrosse, aimed at luxury buyers.

The flabby old Regal, discontinued five years ago in part because it couldn't compete with the Camry and Honda's Accord, bears little resemblance to the new one, which Bierley said is equipped only with four-cylinder engines to boost fuel economy.

At first the car will have only one engine choice, a 2.4-liter, 182 horsepower powerplant that gets around 30 mpg on the freeway. By next summer, a 220-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four with power comparable to a V-6 also will be available.

Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with the AutoPacific marketing and consulting firm, predicts that GM will sell about 40,000 Regals in its first full year, not a huge number but enough to bring critical profits to GM. Last year, Acura sold almost exactly 40,000 TSX models.

"It doesn't really matter how many they sell of the Regal. It matters if it's profitable," she said.

Koehler said even more is riding on the smaller Cruze, which must sell in larger numbers than the Regal because of its lower profit margins. The Cruze will be targeted at younger entry-level buyers as well as those seeking fuel economy. It's supposed to get around 40 mpg on the highway.

But GM postponed the Cruze's April build date about three months, said Mark Reuss, GM's vice president of global vehicle engineering.

The company, he said, wasn't happy with the Cruze's performance, especially with the six-automatic transmission.

"No one was thrilled with where it shifted, how it shifted," he said in an interview.

source: http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/11/12/gm_needs_new_buick_regal_chevy_cruze_to_be_hits/

Motorola eyes $4.5 billion home/networks unit sale: Two sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Motorola Inc is in the early stages of looking into a potential sale of its $4.5 billion television set-top box and network equipment business, two sources said on Wednesday.

Motorola is in the early stages of seeking buyers for the unit, whose suitors include private equity firms and other communications equipment makers, said one source familiar with the situation.

Motorola may decide to keep the unit in the end, said the source, who was not authorized to speak with the media.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc are advising Motorola on the possible sale, the source said.

J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Motorola, which has been losing market share in its cellphone business for years, declined to comment, but said it was still focused on its previously stated plan to separate its handset business from the rest of the company.

Analysts said there could be a lot of interest in the home and networks unit, particularly because Motorola has a strong market share in the set-top box segment, where it is bigger than Scientific Atlanta, owned by Cisco Systems Inc.

But RBC analyst Mark Sue said that a divestiture of any of Motorola's other business units could hurt Motorola's money-losing handset business.

"The mobile devices business still needs the rest of the businesses to fund its operations. It hasn't really recovered fully yet so it would be a little too early to cut off the lifeline," Sue said.

While growth in the mobile network equipment market has slowed dramatically in recent years, rival gear makers could see Motorola as a way to increase their market share, particularly in the United States.

Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton said a $4.5 billion price tag would represent an 18 percent premium over his estimated valuation of $3.8 billion for the home and networks unit, based on operating earnings.

Analysts at Avian Securities said that their sum-of-parts analysis values Motorola's Home & Networks Mobility Division segment at $4.25 billion, according to an emailed report.

"Simply put, the deal price cited ... is not far off from our valuation," the report said.

Potential suitors could include Ericsson, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Alcatel Lucent SA or Nokia Siemens, a venture of Nokia and Siemens AG, analysts said.

The Wall Street Journal cited China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and UK based Pace Plc as other potential buyers.

The Wall Street Journal cited potential suitors as Silver Lake Partners and TPG.

TPG declined comment and Silver Lake Partners was not immediately available for comment.

Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said the company does not comment on rumor or speculation.

"Separation into two independent, publicly traded companies (Mobile Devices and Broadband Mobility Solutions, which comprises Enterprise Mobility Solutions and Home and Networks Mobility Solutions) is the publicly stated long-term goal of Motorola," Erickson said. "We remain committed to the separation goal and continue to believe that it is the right strategy to position Motorola for long-term success."

Motorola shares were down 15 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $8.70 in afternoon trading on New York Stock Exchange.

source: http://www.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUSTRE5AA3DS20091111

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sony stays in the red, trims annual loss forecast

TOKYO -- Sony reported a smaller-than-expected 26.3 billion yen ($289 million) quarterly loss as cost cuts combined with healthy sales of PlayStation 3 game consoles and Michael Jackson hits helped it inch toward recovery.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment giant has been battered by the global slowdown, sliding prices of gadgets and its failure to produce new blockbuster consumer products. But Tokyo-based Sony Corp. said Friday it now expects a smaller flow of red ink for the full fiscal year through March 2010.

It's forecasting a 95 billion yen ($1 billion) loss compared with the initial projection for a 120 billion yen ($1.3 billion) loss. The new forecast is marginally better than the 98.9 billion yen loss it suffered the previous fiscal year.

Chief Executive Howard Stringer has promised a turnaround at Sony since taking the helm in 2005, but convincing results have been slow in coming.

Stringer has appointed a new and younger management team that he says will better bring together Sony's sprawling empire, including gaming, electronics and entertainment.

A Welsh-born American and the first foreigner to head Sony, Stringer has carried out aggressive cost cuts, shutting plants, reducing suppliers and slashing jobs by the thousands. But the global economic slump and lack of hit products like Apple's iPhone and Nintendo's Wii have hampered recovery efforts.

Sony said it managed to turn a profit in the July-September quarter at its core electronics and device business. But Sony acknowledged its liquid crystal display TVs and game machine computer chip businesses continued to be hurt by intensifying price competition.

The perk Sony got from nostalgic demand for Jackson albums following his death in June wasn't enough to offset the losses in its other divisions.

Other best-selling albums for the quarter included Whitney Houston's "I Look To You" and the King of Leon's "Only By The Night," Sony said in a statement.

A strong yen, which diminishes the overseas earnings of Japanese exporters, erased 77 billion yen ($846 million) from Sony's quarterly operating profit.

The rising yen hurt Sony's gaming business despite stronger sales of the PlayStation 3, which got a lift from a recent price cut. Sony sold 3.2 million PlayStation 3 machines around the world during the latest quarter, compared to 2.4 million the same period the previous year.

Sony hopes to sell 13 million PlayStation 3 consoles for the fiscal year through March 2010. But sales of its predecessor PlayStation 2 have been lagging, hurting profitability, it said.

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2009 file photo, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan President Shawn Layden speaks on a new PlayStation 3 during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan. Sony reported Friday, Oct. 30, 2009, a smaller-than-expected 26.3 billion yen loss ($289 million) for the July-September quarter as healthy sales of its PlayStation 3 game consoles and Michael Jackson catalog recordings helped along a gradual recovery. Itsuo Inouye, FILE / AP Photo

Sony, which also makes Walkman portable music players and Bravia flat-panel TVs, had reported a 20.8 billion yen profit for the July-September period last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected a 40 billion yen loss ($440 million) for the July-September quarter this year and were expecting full year losses to be reduced to 89 billion yen ($978 million).

Quarterly sales plunged nearly 20 percent to 1.66 trillion yen ($18.2 billion) from 2.07 trillion yen the same period the previous year. The global slowdown dragged on consumer spending and the strong yen pushed down overseas sales when translated into yen.

Sony said its Vaio PC business took a hit from flagging global sales and the yen. But its financial services division boosted sales amid solid investments at insurer Sony Life as the Japanese stock market recovered.

Not so positive were results at its movie section which lacked major theatrical releases except for "District 9" and "Julie & Julia," according to Sony.

The company booked equity-related losses for poor results at joint ventures, including Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, which makes cell phones, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and S-LCD Corp., which makes flat-panel TVs with South Korean rival Samsung Electronics Co.

For the first six months of the fiscal year, Sony lost 63.4 billion yen ($697 million yen), a reversal from a 55.79 billion yen profit for the first half of fiscal 2008, on 3.261 trillion yen ($35.8 billion) sales, down 20 percent from the previous year.

Sony shares, which nose-dived to about 1,500 yen ($16) earlier this year, gained 2.8 percent to close at 2,785 yen ($30) in Tokyo.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/business/breaking-news/story/1307805.html

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Toyota pushes hybrids with new model

Toyota Motor Corp is ramping up its push on gasoline-electric hybrids, launching a new model in Japan and taking on up-and-coming competitor Hyundai Motor Co in its Korean home market with its flagship Prius.

Toyota said on Tuesday it aims to sell 36000 units a year of its new Sai hybrid sedan in Japan, taking another step towards its goal of selling 1 million hybrid vehicles annually worldwide soon after 2010.

The Sai sedan is the second hybrid-only model under the Toyota brand after the Prius, and is a repackaged version of the Lexus HS250h hybrid, which went on sale in June.

Toyota also on Tuesday launched its brand in South Korea, a market dominated by Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors Co, first with the Prius and Camry hybrids, as well as the RAV4 sports utility vehicle and non-hybrid version of the Camry, its most popular sedan.

Hyundai has been grabbing market share globally from Toyota and other major automakers, winning over customers with its line of cheap, fuel efficient models and catchy marketing campaigns.

In July, Hyundai unveiled its first hybrid car, which uses liquefied petroleum gas, in the South Korean market and is due to launch its first gasoline-electric hybrid, a version of the flagship Sonata, in the latter half of 2010.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, is miles ahead of competitors in the fast-growing hybrid field, which has enjoyed tailwinds especially in Japan thanks to generous subsidies and reduced taxes on cleaner cars.

It expects to sell 500,000 to 600,000 hybrid vehicles globally this year, while facing a short-term battery supply bottleneck for anything further.

“The introduction of the Toyota brand into South Korea is aimed to meet the diversifying needs of consumers in this growing market,” Toyota Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo told a news conference.

“We intend to make every effort to contribute to South Korean society and earn a loyal following.” Toyota expects to sell a combined 500 vehicles per month initially, aiming to raise that to a still-modest 700 units beginning in 2010.

The Sai, which will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 7, starts at 3,38 million yen ($37290), compared with the Lexus HS250h’s starting price of 3,96 million yen.

The Sai has a listed mileage of 23 km/litre (54 mpg), or twice that of a comparable gasoline car, chief engineer Shigeru Nakagawa told a news conference.

Toyota said it had no plans to export the Sai, which will be built by unit Toyota Motor Kyushu in southern Japan.

Toyota said the Sai concept was derived from a Japanese character meaning talent and coloration.

For more information visit http://www.timeslive.co.za/news/world/article158318.ece

Electric cars to be big draw

TOKYO - MOVE over hybrids - the biggest buzz at this year's Tokyo Motor Show looks set to come from electric cars as the dream of affordable zero-emission vehicles moves closer to reality.

Japanese automakers, pioneers in hybrid cars powered by a mixture of petrol and electricity, are now looking to take fuel-efficient motoring to the next level with vehicles that run on rechargeable batteries.

Nissan will put its electric car, the Leaf, on display to the public for the first time at the Tokyo Motor Show, which kicks off on Wednesday with press previews and opens to general visitors on Saturday.

The mid-sized hatchback, which will go on sale in late 2010 in Japan, is billed by Nissan as 'the world's first affordable, zero-emission car.' It can travel more than 160 kilometres on a single charge, at a top speed of 140 kilometres per hour.

The world's largest automaker Toyota, which has said it aims to launch an electric vehicle by 2012, will display a new version of its electric concept car - the FT-EV II - at the show.

'We think the time is almost ripe for cost levels, batteries and performance to evolve one step further,' said Toyota's Akihiro Yanaka, who oversees the project. -- AFP

source: http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Tech%2Band%2BScience/Story/STIStory_443677.html

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Latest Typhoon Kills 4 in Philippines, Churns Away

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines military rushed Sunday toward villages cut off by floodwaters from Asia's latest deadly storm, which killed at least four across the northern part of the country but spared the capital.

Typhoon Parma was churning through the South China Sea as troops in southern Taiwan helped to evacuate villages that could be hit next. The Central Weather Bureau said Parma should miss the island, but it could still bring heavy rain to flood- and landslide-prone areas still recovering from a deadly typhoon in August.

Tens of thousands of Filipinos fled to higher ground as Parma bore down on the main island of Luzon just eight days after an earlier storm left Manila awash in the worst flooding in four decades, killing almost 300 people.

Winds of 108 mph (175 kph) battered towns in half a dozen provinces, and downpours swelled rivers to bursting, officials said.

In Isabela province, one man drowned and another died from exposure to the cold and wet weather, said Lt. Col. Loreto Magundayao of an army division based there.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said another two people died in eastern Camarines Sur, as one man fell from a roof and a 2-year-old boy drowned.

About 14 villages at the mouth of the Cagayan River were flooded when a seawall collapsed, forcing some residents to clamber onto their roofs, the mayor of nearby Aparri town told The Associated Press.

"A few of these floods were at roof level," he said. "Some people were on roofs and some of them were evacuated last night, but the rescuers were not able to reach others immediately."

The navy was bringing rubber boats to try to rescue people still stranded, he said.

Power, phone lines and internet links were down across the north, making it difficult to get reports about the extent of damage, Armand Araneta, a civil defense official responsible for several northern provinces, told the AP.

"We really got the brunt of the wind," he said by phone from Tuguegarao city, capital of Cagayan province. "Many trees fell here. The winds knocked down cables, telephone lines — even our windows got shattered by the strong winds."

Manila escaped the worst of the storm. On Sept. 26, Tropical Storm Ketsana killed at least 288 people and damaged the homes of 3 million. Ketsana went on to kill 99 in Vietnam, 14 in Cambodia and 16 in Laos.

Parma was part of more than a week of destruction in the Asia-Pacific region: an earthquake Wednesday in Indonesia, a tsunami Tuesday in the Samoan islands, and Ketsana.

Another typhoon, Melor, was churning Sunday in the Philippine Sea, 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) to the east.


Nissan's electric vehicle tilts into corners

ATSUGI, Japan — Nissan's Land Glider electric vehicle tilt from side to side, sashaying into curves by up to a 17-degree angle, as though showing off in a fashion declaration that it's zero-emissions.

The wheel segments of the car can move separately from the cabin, allow the car, still an experimental concept model, to sway and swerve, almost like a motorcycle.

Nissan Motor Co. project design director Takashi Nakjima says Land Glider is designed to be a "personal city commuter."

In a demonstration for reporters, the car glided roughly on a test course at Nissan's design center, outside Tokyo, leaning slowly to one side, and then the other, as it turned tight corners.

Just 110 centimeters (43 inches) wide, Land Glider has sensors to calculate speed and level of lean required for corners, and can maneuver through narrow streets and fit into tight parking spaces, according to Yokohama-based Nissan.

People aboard sit in a line, one behind the other, not next to each other as in traditional two-seaters.

Reporters got a preview look of the "concept model" but no test drive, of the Land Glider. There are no immediate plans for profit-making production.

It will have its world premiere at the Tokyo Motor Show, opening to media Oct. 21, two days before its formal opening. The show runs through Nov. 4 in the Tokyo suburb of Chiba.

Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are also showing nifty electric vehicles at the show.

Toyota's FT-EV II has a roomy cube design, a relatively conventional look for electric cars. But Honda's EV-N is small and cute with an intentionally old-fashioned car shape.

"We feel exploratory efforts in electric vehicles have entered a new stage" with Land Glider, Nakajima said.

Japanese automakers say electric vehicles will largely be used initially for limited range, commuter travel.

Nissan is among the first to offer an electric vehicle, set to go on sale in Japan, the U.S. and Europe next year — the rather regular-looking Leaf.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

U.S. Seeks to Ban Texting for Some Drivers

The Obama administration said Thursday it will seek to ban text messaging by interstate bus drivers and truckers and push states to pass their own laws against driving cars while distracted.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the administration also would move to put restrictions on cell phone use by rail operators, truck drivers and interstate bus drivers.

"Driving while distracted should just feel wrong - just as driving without a seat belt or driving while intoxicated," LaHood said at the end of a two-day conference on the problem. "We're not going to break everyone of their bad habits - but we are going to raise awareness and sharpen the consequences."

As a first step, LaHood said President Barack Obama signed an executive order late Wednesday banning all federal workers from texting while driving on government business, driving government vehicles or using government equipment.

The administration also will push to disqualify school bus drivers who are convicted of texting while driving from keeping their commercial driver's licenses.

Researchers, safety groups, automakers and lawmakers gathered to discuss the perils of distracted driving, hearing sobering data from the government that underscored the safety threat as more motorists stay connected with cell phones and mobile devices.

The Transportation Department reported that 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 were injured last year in crashes connected to driver distraction, often involving mobile devices or cell phones. Driver distraction was involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 and was more prevalent among young drivers.

Senate Democrats said support was building in Congress to move against text messaging by drivers. The legislation, pushed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding.

"It's like driving with your eyes closed," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a proponent of a texting ban.

LaHood declined to endorse Schumer's bill, saying simply that the administration would work with Congress. Many states have questioned the use of so-called "sanctions" against states that do not pass laws sought by Congress, especially during tough economic times.

"The words 'federal mandate' and 'federal sanctions' do not play well," said Bruce Starr, an Oregon state senator who attended the conference.

Eighteen states and the federal enclave of Washington, already have passed laws making texting while driving illegal, and seven states and the Washington have banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Many safety groups have urged a nationwide ban on using any handheld mobile devices while behind the wheel.

The conference attracted families of victims of accidents caused by distracted driving, who urged the government to take a strong stance against cell phone use in vehicles, whether it includes a handsfree device or not. They said technologies that prevent the mobile device from receiving e-mails or phone calls while the vehicle is in motion could help address the problem.

via: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/01/politics/main5356500.shtml

Monday, September 21, 2009

Raw Video: Discovery Begins Flight to Florida

The space shuttle Discovery started its cross-country flight from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Florida after landing from space earlier this month. It's being ferried atop a modified 747 aircraft, known as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. (Sept. 20)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Renault previews electric car blitz at Frankfurt auto show

Renault is charging into the electric car game with four head-turning concepts.

They preview a quartet of production cars that will launch starting in 2011.

The Fluence Z.E. concept is an electric version of the five-seat Fluence sedan and has a range of 100 miles. It will be the first to make it into production in the first part of 2011, Renault says.

The Twizy Z.E. concept is an ultra-compact city car. It's slightly larger than a scooter and has a 1+1 layout.

The top speed is 47 mph with the acceleration equal to a 125cc motorbike. Power comes from a 15-kilowatt motor.

The Zoe Z.E. concept is a four-seat supermini for urban driving. It has scissor doors in front and butterfly doors in the rear. The motor is 70 kw, and it has a 100-mile range.

It rides on 21-inch alloy wheels, has a retractable rear spoiler and mood lighting.

The Kangoo Z.E. concept previews an electric van for fleet and commercial use. It has a 70-kw motor, solar roof panels and a heated steering wheel.

Renault also unveiled a “Quickdrop” system, which would allow batteries to be swapped out in three minutes at special stations. Otherwise, the vehicles take four to eight hours to charge via a socket, or can get a quick charge in 20 minutes.

Source: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20090916/FRANKFURT/909169984

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bay Bridge Will Not Reopen Tuesday Morning

Transit officials say the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will not reopen in time for the Tuesday morning commute. The announcement leaves thousands of drivers to find alternate ways to get into San Francisco. (Sept. 7)

Monday, August 31, 2009

BlackBerry® Storm™ 9530 smartphone Back to All Phones

Introducing the world's first touch screen BlackBerry only from America's largest 3G network, Verizon Wireless. At work or at play, the BlackBerry® Storm™ keeps you connected to both sides of life. The breakthrough SurePress™ touch screen with a tactile click response allows you to accurately navigate within every advanced feature that's packed in the Storm including a music player, 3.2 megapixel camera and a true Internet web browser. Plus, enhance your productivity with email, MS Office document support and advanced global capabilities, and keep connected with social tools like Instant Messaging and pre–loaded Facebook and Flickr applications.

Business customers (5 or more lines of service) interested in purchasing a global calling plan or global feature with the BlackBerry Storm must call a sales representative at 1–800–899–4249. If you are not a business customer, you will be able to purchase a global calling plan or feature by visiting a retail store or calling 1 800 2 JOIN IN.


  • Network Support: Dual–band 800/1900 MHz CDMA/EV–DO Rev. A networks; Quad–Band: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks Single–Band: 2100 MHz UMTS/HSPA networks
  • SIM Card: pre–installed in BlackBerry® Storm
  • Memory: 128MB Flash Memory, 192MB RAM, 1GB On–board memory
  • BlackBerry 4.7 Desktop Software Integrated Email, Phone, SMS, Browser, Calendar, Address Book, and additional organizer applications
  • BlackBerry Internet Solution (BIS) – integrate up to 10 personal email accounts
  • BlackBerry Enterprise Solution (BES) – works to provide functionality such as single mailbox integration, remote address book look–up and more
  • SurePress™ touch screen with portrait and landscape views
  • Display: High resolution (480x360 pixel), 3.25" color, TFT LCD. Supports over 65k colors
  • microSD™ memory card support: 8GB SanDisk® card installed (device supports up to 16GB)
  • On–Screen/virtual keyboard – portrait SureType and multi–tap; QWERTY landscape.
  • 3.2 Megapixel Camera w/Flash, auto–focus and Video Capture
  • Integrated speaker and microphone, Hands–free headset capable (3.5mm 4 Pole)
  • Media Player – videos, music, games and more...
  • Bluetooth® (v2.0) including A2DP for Stereo sound
  • Ring Tones: Polyphonic + vibrate
  • Text, Picture, Video and Instant Messaging
  • VZ Navigatorsm for spoken turn–by–turn directions
  • Visual Voice Mail compatible
  • Mobile Broadband Connect capable (Windows only)
  • Instant Messaging applications for BlackBerry
  • V CAST Music with Rhapsody® (Subscription, Wireless & PC downloads)
  • Password protection and Keyboard lock
  • Total Equipment Coverage is Available


  • Dimensions: 4.43" (H) x 2.45" (W) x 0.55" (D)
  • Weight: Approximately 5.47 oz. including battery
  • Standard Lithium Cell (1400 mAh)
  • Usage: Up to 330 minutes of talk time OR
  • Standby: Up to 360 hours
  • SAR Information: 0.50 W/kg at ear; 0.57 W/kg on body
  • Hearing Aid Compatibility = M3

Included Accessories

  • Lithium Ion Battery (1400 mAh)
  • 3.5 mm Stereo Headset
  • BlackBerry® Travel Charger with International Adaptor Clips
  • USB Data Cable
  • 8GB SanDisk® microSD™ memory card pre–installed in device
  • SIM Card pre–installed in device
  • Documentation Kit (including BlackBerry Tools CD)
  • VZAccess® Manager™ CD (including User Guide)
  • Quick Reference Guide
  • Global Support Kit


  • HTML Browser
  • Domestic/International Voice, Messaging & Email Service
  • V CAST Music with Rhapsody® (Subscripton, Wireless and PC downloads)
  • VZ Navigatorsm with turn–by–turn directions
  • Visual Voice Mail
  • Mobile Broadband Connect Capable

source: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/store/controller?item=phoneFirst&action=viewPhoneDetail&selectedPhoneId=4286

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sun Country Passengers Endure 6-Hour Wait

Minneapolis, MN - Two weeks after 47 passengers were stranded on a Minnesota tarmac for almost six hours, more than 100 Sun Country passengers waited that long for a Twin Cities-bound plane to leave New York. Flight 242 was supposed to take off from New York City on Friday about 11 a.m. local time. But passengers say the plane didn't start boarding until about noon, and didn't take off until after 6 p.m.The flight lasted 2 1/2 hours.

Passenger Gary Kurth says travelers were told a weather system over Iowa was causing the delay. Fellow passenger John Nides says "the crew brought out the food cart after three hours, but the items had to be purchased and quickly ran out. Sun County chief executive Stand Gadek says the airline regrets the delay and will issue refunds."

Source: http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/Sun_Country_Passengers_Enddure_6hr_Wait_August_22_2009

Toyota makes biggest China recall

Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, is recalling almost 690,000 cars made in China because of faulty electrical window switches.

The recall affects the company's Camry, Corolla, Vios and Yaris models made at two joint ventures in China - Guangzhou Auto and Tianjin FAW.

This represents Toyota's biggest recall of cars in China.

The company said that no injuries or accidents had been reported as a result of the faulty electrics.

Toyota makes the Prius, the world's best selling hybrid car

"The size of the recall is big, but won't be a major problem for Toyota given the nature of the defect. Still, there will be some impact in the short term," said Huang Zherui, analyst at CSM worldwide.

The recall includes 384,736 Camrys made with Guangzhou Auto between 15 May 2006 and 31 December 2008.

A total of 22,767 Yaris compact cars made last year with the same partner are also being recalled.

The affected cars also included 245,288 Corollas and 35,523 Vios made in 2008 with FAW.

Last month, rival Japanese carmaker Honda announced it was recalling 440,000 vehicles in the US because of an airbag defect.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8217522.stm

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stop your engines? Classic car cruise drivers worry there's no successor to muscle cars

Jack Beller's blue 1966 Corvette has the classic big-block engine and the enormous carburetor that make putting the keys in the ignition a roaring ode to muscle car history.

He and his classic ride have been coming to Saturday's Woodward Dream Cruise, billed by its sponsors as "the world's largest one-day celebration of car culture," since it began 15 years ago. But this year, as he sat against his wife Marilyn's arrest-me-red '62 Corvette, there was a depressing realization setting in: There may not be a successor to his beloved fleet of classic cars.

"This is gone," said Beller, 68, sweeping his hand across a parking lot along the cruise's Woodward Avenue route, where 100 other classic cars were lined up. "This is gone forever."

In a year when General Motors and Chrysler have taken a quick trip through bankruptcy court and are being supported with taxpayer dollars, this cruise had participants feeling more nostalgic than ever about their vehicles. With GM now pushing cars like the whispery-quiet electric Volt, destined to get 230 mpg, the thundering, fuel-guzzling beasts that marked America's love affair with the car are a dwindling breed, and a rare sight on the road.

As the industry turns toward more fuel-efficient and even electric vehicles, classic car owners worry the soul of the cars that symbolized personal freedom, speed, status and sex appeal have been lost. In their place, the highways are filled with identical sedans that hum along, one just like the other, none more spectacular than the next.

For a day, though, Woodward Avenue was given over to the strutting cars of yesteryear. An estimated 40,000 Dream Cruisers slowly drove up and down the event's 16-mile stretch in Detroit's suburbs, classic big-body Cadillacs swimming by with a murmur. A fleet of hot rods, engines announcing their presence long before they came into view, roared out of red lights as patrons at local bars cheered, sipping beers mid-morning. And amid it all, a few strange gems like the original MonkeeMobile, from a goofy 1960s sitcom featuring the pop-rock quartet the Monkees, drew smiles from the hundreds of visitors sitting in folding chairs along the route.

George Lusk of St. Clair Shores, Mich., shows off his 1960 Chevy Impala during the annual Dream Cruise which spans a 16-mile stretch along Woodward Ave. on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009 in Ferndale, Mich. Automakers might be suffering, but for just a day, it looks like the glory days of car culture are back again in Michigan. More than 40,000 cruisers are driving down a 16-mile stretch of suburban Detroit Saturday in a celebration of the automotive heyday. About one million visitors are expected to watch. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)

As they cruised, the classic car enthusiasts discussed whether any contemporary vehicles will reach the iconic status of their trusty rides. Sadly, the drivers say, today's cars just don't measure up to the wonders of old _ making the cruise a bittersweet journey back to the Motor City's golden years.

"They're bellybutton cars _ everybody's got one," said Bob Patrick, 74, of Warren while sitting next to his glossy red 1947 Plymouth Special Deluxe.

There are a lot of reasons the classic car culture may fade. While modern versions of muscle cars such as the Camaro and Corvette retain a good deal of their aesthetic appeal, the design concerns of the contemporary carmaker _ including government safety regulations regarding crash readiness and a car's aerodynamic profile _ can lead to visual similarity across models.

That makes "everything looks like a jellybean. Period," Beller said.

It also makes identifying a future generation of classic cars difficult. While cars known as "tuners" _ typically foreign model cars like whose mystique stems from souped-up engines and agile handling _ are often put forward as heirs to the classics throne, their skeptics abound.

"They'll throw 'em away and play with something else. There's nothing out there today that anybody wants to save," said Dave Sandow, 62, who was showing off his red 1970 Chevy El Camino.

Some who adore their conventionally classic car believe the definition of a classic is captured in childhood _ and thus will continue to evolve generation to generation. So if a child looks out the window and sees a parade of fuel-efficient Toyota Prius models driving down the street, he may begin to consider that a "classic" when he gets older.

"The cool guys always had the cool cars and that's what you try to emulate," said Joe Ramsey, 58, of Sterling Heights, a former GM designer who owns a 1932 Ford. "It's what you grew up with."

There are some signs automakers aren't giving up on the influence of classic cars completely. There has been some convergence between the classic car culture and a more modern, technological, tuner-influenced brand, said Richard Shi, an American cultural historian who has studied car culture. This union is on display with the Chevrolet Volt, GM's electric vehicle slated to be released in 2010, which has a profile much closer to the Camaro than the comparatively mousey hybrid Toyota Prius.

"In some respects, the Volt is trying to be the best of both _ the physical appearance of an American car but with the drive train of an increasingly eco-conscious public," said Shi, the president of Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Even if the glory days of muscle cars is waning, some, like 16-year-old Kevin Duby, are still buying into muscle car culture. Duby, of Livonia, spent four years of savings on his 1979 Camaro. And despite what his friends might value in a new car, the allure of a flashy ride is worth a heavy price.

"I would rather work two jobs to drive that than a Prius," he said.

For more information visit http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/apArticle/id/D9A3PO1O0/

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two strong storms across the eastern Asia

Aerial pictures show the extent of damage in Taiwan caused by Typhoon Morakot
The two strong storms across the Pacific region have left scores of people dead or missing.

At least ten people have been killed in Japan in flash floods generated by the approaching tropical storm Etau.

Meanwhile Typhoon Morakot hit mainland China on Sunday, killing at least one child and prompting almost a million people to flee from coastal areas.

It has already passed over Taiwan, killing at least 12 people and causing the worst flooding in 5 decades.

Taiwan's National Disaster Relief Centre said it believed about 100 people were trapped in a landslide that hit the mountain village of Shiao Lin on Sunday morning.

Typhoons and tropical storms are frequent in the region between July and September.

Swept away

Nearly 50,000 people in western Japan have been told to leave coastal areas after warnings of rain, floods and mudslides triggered by the approach of Etau.

Eight people have died in Hyogo prefecture, including one man whose car was swept away by a swollen river and a woman who was found dead in a gutter.

Another woman was killed in a mudslide in Okayama prefecture.

The storm may hit central Japan on Tuesday, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Meanwhile, Typhoon Morakot dumped a record 2.5 metres (100 inches) of rain on Taiwan over the weekend, leaving at least 12 people dead, among them a group reportedly washed away from a makeshift shelter in Kaohsiung in the south.

Taiwanese television has reported that about 200 homes in Shiao Lin village have been buried by mud.

Roads to the village have been cut and heavy rain and cloud cover have made it difficult for rescue helicopters to reach the area.

In another incident, an entire hotel - empty at the time - was swept away by the waters.

The typhoon then went on to hit mainland China on Sunday afternoon, destroying more than 2,000 houses and causing at least one major river to burst its banks.

Chinese state media said the sky turned completely dark in Beibi, Fujian, when it made landfall.

Trees were uprooted as high winds and heavy rain lashed the coast.

Some 473,000 residents of Zhejiang province were evacuated before the storm struck, as well as 480,000 from Fujian, Xinhua news agency said.

In Zhejiang's Wenzhou City a four year-old child was killed when a house collapsed. Dozens of roads were said to be flooded and the city's airport was closed.

Rescuers used dinghies to reach the worst-hit areas; in one area only the tops of trees were said to be showing above the floodwater.

Two storms roared across Asia making landfall in Taiwan, forcing a million people to flee inland. Authorities have Tokyo on alert in case the typhoon changes course. Barry Peterson reports.

Although the storm is losing strength, violent rainstorms are expected across six eastern Chinese provinces and Taiwan over the next few hours.

Morakot has also contributed to heavy rains in the Philippines. At least 10 people were killed in flooding and landslides in the north of the country last week.

Liam Dutton, BBC Weather Presenter
Typhoons are low pressure systems that form over tropical waters, with organised thunderstorms and winds at low levels that circulate in an anti-clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere.

In order for a storm to gain typhoon status, it has to have sustained winds of 74mph (120 Km/h) or more.

In the northern hemisphere most typhoons occur between June and November with a peak in September. However, in the north-west Pacific it is possible to get a typhoon at any time of the year.

For more information visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8192633.stm

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ticket costs increase at Walt Disney World

Orlando, Fla.- It now costs $83 for a 1-day, one-park ticket to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., a Disney spokeswoman says.

Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty said the 5.3% hike from $79 started Sunday, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported.

"Our pricing is based on the high-quality experience we deliver to our guests, and our guests continue to agree that a ticket to Walt Disney World represents a great entertainment value," Prunty said.

Tickets for children ages 3-9 increased 7.9%, going from $63 to $68.

Multiday-ticket packages for the Florida tourist venue also are going up at least 2.6%.

The Sentinel said adding a Park Hopper feature to a Walt Disney World ticket is increasing from $50 to $52. The feature allows a customer to spend time in more than one Disney park in a day.

source: http://www.themoneytimes.com/20090802/walt-disney-world-ticket-cost-increasing-id-1078673.html

Friday, July 31, 2009

Spain on high alert after 2 bombs attacks

A powerful car bomb exploded early Wednesday outside a barracks housing police officers and their families in this northern Spanish city, slightly injuring 46 people and causing major damage in the area. (July 29)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Swine flu outbreak temporarily closes Oregon summer camps

PORTLAND, Ore. – Officials for a Christian youth summer camp(s) in Central Oregon have temporarily closed the facility in the wake of a swine flu(H1N1) outbreak.

There are at least 7 confirmed cases from the Young Life Washington Family Ranch camp near Madras. More than 700 campers were there last week.

In a message posted on the camp’s Web site, camp officials said they started seeing campers on Wednesday with what they believed was Type A Influenza, of which swine flu or H1N1 is a variant. They contacted state and local health officials for guidance and tried to contain the virus by sending sick campers and leaders home, isolating those thought to be contagious and sterilizing surfaces most likely to carry the virus, according to the Web site message. However, the number of cases continued to rise despite those efforts.

All but camp staff were sent home by Saturday, when a week-long effort to sanitize the facility began. READ A LETTER SENT HOME WITH CAMPERS

A Young Life official told KATU on Sunday the organization has dealt with similar flu outbreaks at other Young Life camps across the country this summer.

Though H1N1 flu is highly contagious, its symptoms and duration are similar to other seasonal strains of flu, camp officials said on the Web site.

Staff hope to have the camp reopened by Friday.

source: http://www.katu.com/news/local/51747082.html

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adobe investigating zero-day bug in Flash 9 and 10

Researchers on Wednesday said they have uncovered attacks in the wild in which malicious Acrobat PDF files are exploiting a vulnerability in Flash and dropping a Trojan onto computers.

The situation could affect tons of users since Flash exists in all popular browsers, is available in PDF files, and is largely operating system-independent.

Any software that uses Flash could be vulnerable to the attack, according to Symantec. Adobe Reader is vulnerable because its Flash interpreter is vulnerable, said Paul Royal, principal researcher at Purewire, a Web security services provider.

In a post on its Web site, Adobe said it "is aware of reports of a potential vulnerability in Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.1.2 and Adobe Flash Player 9 and 10. We are currently investigating this potential issue and will have an update once we get more information."

"The authors of the exploit have managed to take a bug and turn it into a reliable exploit using a heap spray technique," Patrick Fitzgerald writes on a Symantec Security blog post.

"Typically an attacker would entice a user to visit a malicious Web site or send a malicious PDF via e-mail," he writes. "Once the unsuspecting user visits the Web site or opens the PDF this exploit will allow further malware to be dropped onto the victim's machine. The malicious PDF files are detected as Trojan.Pidief.G and the dropped files as Trojan Horse."

It appears the exploit was 1st developed about 2 weeks ago, Royal said. The bug itself has been around since December 2008.

The hole is exploitable on Windows XP and Vista users are protected if User Account Control (UAC) is enabled, Symantec said.

US-CERT offered information about workarounds on its Web site:

Disable Flash in Adobe Reader 9 on Windows platforms by renaming the following files: "%ProgramFiles%\Adobe\Reader 9.0\Reader\authplay.dll" and "%ProgramFiles%\Adobe\Reader 9.0\Reader\rt3d.dll".

Disable Flash Player or selectively enable Flash content as described in the "Securing Your Web Browser" document.

source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-10293389-245.html

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

FUJIFILM Offers Digital Camera Line-up Suited for All Consumers

VALHALLA, NY -- 07/22/09 -- FUJIFILM U.S.A. Inc. today announced 6 new additions to its 2009 digital camera line-up --
  • the FinePix F70EXR,a technology-rich compact digital camera,
  • the D-SLR-styled FinePix S200EXR,
  • the stylish FinePix Z37,
  • the ultra-compact FinePix J38 and
  • the 2 new entry-level models, the A170 and A220.
Each camera offers the user different options in styles, features and price points.

The sleek FinePix F70EXR adds a 10-MegaPixel Super CCD EXR sensor to combine intuitive use with the most advanced technology and features available in a point-and-shoot digital camera. The FinePix F70EXR is also Fujifilm's 1st model in the growing long-zoom compact segment, with an impressive Fujinon 10x wide angle optical zoom.

Available: August 2009,
Retail Price: $279.95

Fujifilm's most advanced SLR-styled camera to date, the FinePix S200EXR combines the pin-sharp 14.3x Fujinon optical zoom lens (30.5mm-436mm equivalent) with Fujifilm's latest 12-MegaPixel Super CCD EXR sensor. The FinePix S200EXR is aimed at top-end camera enthusiasts looking for excellent picture quality without the hassle, bulk and expense of a D-SLR system.

Available: August 2009,
Retail Price: $599.95

Thinner, bolder and sexier than previous Z-series models, the FinePix Z37 is a party camera. The FinePix Z37 combines a 10-MegaPixel CCD sensor, a sharp 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.7" LCD screen in its incredibly thin 19.1 mm metal front body. Available in green, blue or violet, the FinePix Z37 is able to match anyone's style and personality.

Available: August 2009,
Retail Price: $149.95

At only 20 mm thick, the FinePix J38 is the perfect on-the-go camera fitting easily into a shirt pocket. Despite its size, the FinePix J38 black metal front body houses a 12-MegaPixel CCD, a 3x Fujinon optical zoom lens and a 2.7" high resolution LCD which displays images with sharpness and clarity.

Available: August 2009,
Retail Price: $129.95

Designed specifically for consumers seeking an affordable, user-friendly upgrade to their current digital camera, the Fujifilm A170 & A220 encompass all the features essential to today's users. These include the SR Auto Mode (Automatic Scene Recognition), Panoramic Shooting Mode, Face Detection technology and come in at a slim 21.9 mm for convenient photography on the go.

A170 Available: July 2009,
Retail Price: $89.95

A220 Available: August 2009,
Retail Price: $99.95

NOTE: Additional information and images are available at: www.fujifilmusa.com/press/news/recent_news.

Michael Steavenson
Text 100 Public Relations

source: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/fujifilm-offers-digital-camera-line-up-suited-for-all-consumers,899887.shtml

Monday, July 20, 2009

Those Missing Sunspots: The Eclipse Chase

It iss our 2nd full day at our mountain aerie, where we're preparing for Wednesday’s eclipse (July 22 at 9:33 a.m. here in Tianhuangping, China, and 12 hours earlier, 9:33 p.m., on July 21 in New York). I’m here with a team of scientists and students to view and to do research about the solar corona. It's my 49th solar eclipse, and the 29th total eclipse. (A dozen of the others were annular, when a ring of everyday sunlight remains, and a few were merely partial.) We are coming up on the 50th anniversary of my first eclipse, which I saw as a freshman at Harvard under the guidance of the eclipse expert Donald Menzel.

We look at the sky carefully all day, watching the clouds come and go. At eclipse time yesterday, the sun was in a thin bank of clouds, through which we would have seen the corona; a fist’s width to the side, a quarter of the sky was pure blue. This morning (it is now 5:45 a.m., but we have been up for hours; the 12-hour time-zone change is brutal) we see blue sky and an overlay of clouds. But only 9:33 to 9:39 a.m. on Wednesday will count.

The longest total solar eclipse this century will begin on July 22 in India, sweeping east across China and into the Pacific Ocean. Blogging about the event for TierneyLab is Jay M. Pasachoff, a Williams College astronomer and veteran eclipse chaser who has planted himself and some colleagues on a mountain outside Hangzhou, China, to see and study the eclipse.

I just checked not only the weather outside my window (which overlooks dramatically deep valleys and wooded mountains) but also the space weather. “Space weather” is the current name for the relationship between the Sun and the Earth, since the Sun gives off particles in an outflow called the solar wind and bursts of X-rays and other radiation, affecting the Earth. Today’s monitoring at spaceweather.com shows that there are no sunspots on the Sun — again. More detailed monitoring at solarmonitor.com shows that other images of the solar surface, in X-rays, magnetic field, hydrogen light and ultraviolet light, are all smooth rather than showing bright areas that mark the sunspot regions. Sunspots are places on the Sun where the magnetic field is thousands of times stronger than the average magnetic field. But there have been hardly any for about 2 years now; the Sun has been blank for more than 3 quarters of the time. This is very unusual, even for a low phase in the approximately 11-year sunspot cycle. And we've been in this low phase for at least 12 and a half years, getting to a worrisome point. Nobody knows why it is taken so long — or even definitively if sunspots will reappear.

Scientists are particularly interested because of work by the recently deceased astronomer Jack Eddy, who found a period in the early 1700’s where there were no sunspots for decades. That period corresponded to a cool period, at least in Europe, known as the Little Ice Age. Nowadays, scientists monitor the “total solar irradiance” (it used to be called the solar constant, but it turned out not to be constant). It's about 1/10 of a percent less at sunspot minimum than at sunspot maximum, which has to be taken into account in models of global warming. The effect is much too small compared with our human contributions to the atmosphere to be important for global warming calculations, but it should be included in the models.

Tianchi, the town near here, means “heavenly lake” (or high-altitude lake). We're at the end of a windy road with many hairpin turns, and we hope thus to be away from the bustle of downtown Hangzhou. (However, I have given a number of TV and newspaper interviews, and we hope that all 20 million people from Shanghai don’t decide to try to get here because the professional astronomers are here.)

Yesterday, my team unpacked a lot of the shipping containers we brought and set up the telescope mounts we have borrowed from the local Celestron telescope dealer through Lin Lan, a teacher at Hangzhou High School who runs a wonderful astronomy club there. Some of her students are with us, along with 5 of our Williams college and visiting undergraduates. I work on the scientific experiments here with Bryce Babcock, a physicist at Williams College who is a genius with electronics and computers. He is supervising 2 of our students, Katie DuPré and Yung Hsien Ng Tam (known as Caroline) in setting up and testing our 2 main systems, meant to search for oscillations in small loops of the solar corona. Our equipment is sensitive to very short periods, only about 1 variation per second, by taking images at 10 times per second through a very special filter that passes only light from million-degree coronal gas. So we should have 600 exposures per minute or over 3,300 exposures on each of 2 cameras. We therefore hope to have lots of data to study when we get back to Williamstown. Our hope is that our search for oscillations will distinguish among theories of how the solar corona gets to be millions of degrees.

source: http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/the-eclipse-chaser-those-missing-sunspots/