Saturday, October 27, 2012

Surface tablet buzz starts, but Windows 8 excitement muted

SEATTLE (Reuters) - U.S. shoppers woke up with mild Surface fever on Friday, lining up in moderate numbers to buy Microsoft's groundbreaking tablet computer designed to challenge Apple's iPad.

The global debut of the Windows 8 operating system was greeted with pockets of enthusiasm, but not the mania reserved for some previous Apple Inc launches.

Microsoft is positioning the slick new computing device, which runs a limited version of Windows and Office with a thin, click-on keyboard cover, as a perfect combination of PC and tablet that is good for work as well as entertainment.

"I like the flexibility of having the keyboard and the touch capability," said Mike Gipe, 50, who works in sales for bank Barclays, and was planning to buy a Surface tablet at Microsoft's pop-up store in Times Square in New York.

"It's the combination of having the consumer stuff and the work stuff," he said, looking forward to using Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on the new device. Learn More...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gasoline Prices Set to Rise Through Election Day

Retail gasoline prices, already at the highest levels on average since July 2008, are likely to continue to climb this month as refinery and pipeline problems overshadow weakness in U.S. consumer demand.

On Wednesday night, a fire broke out at Exxon's (XOM) Baytown, Texas refinery, a 584,000 barrel per day facility that is the largest operating refinery in the U.S.

Exxon said there may be "some impacts to production" from the fire, but the plant will resume normal operations. A partial shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the nation's largest oil product pipeline, also contributed to supplies fears, as it impacted the portion of the line carrying gasoline from Atlanta to Nashville.

"It will only take another refinery issue and a bit more of geopolitical noise to have the first U.S. election at a US average gasoline price of $4 a gallon," says energy analyst Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix. Learn More...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

July in US was hottest ever in history books

WASHINGTON (AP) — This probably comes as no surprise: Federal scientists say July was the hottest month ever recorded in the Lower 48 states, breaking a record set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

And even less a surprise: The U.S. this year keeps setting records for weather extremes, based on the precise calculations that include drought, heavy rainfall, unusual temperatures, and storms.

The average temperature last month was 77.6 degrees. That breaks the old record from July 1936 by 0.2 degree, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Records go back to 1895.

"It's a pretty significant increase over the last record," said climate scientist Jake Crouch of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. In the past, skeptics of global warming have pointed to the Dust Bowl to argue that recent heat isn't unprecedented. But Crouch said this shows that the current year "is out and beyond those Dust Bowl years. We're rivaling and beating them consistently from month to month." Learn more...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Facebook shares sink to new low after 2Q results

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook's stock hit a new low Friday after it reported lukewarm second-quarter results and didn't give an outlook for the coming months.

The stock fell $2.88, or nearly 11 percent, to $23.97 in afternoon trading Friday, after earlier trading as low as $22.28.

Facebook Inc.'s initial public offering of stock priced at $38, and its low had been $25.52, hit on June 6. The stock is now about 37 percent below its IPO price.

Facebook issued its first financial report as a public company after the market closed Thursday. The company reported slightly stronger-than-expected revenue and a gain in user numbers, but investors weren't impressed.

Although revenue grew 32 percent in the second quarter, growth has slowed from earlier this year and from previous years. That's a concern for a newly public company. Investors are willing to value new companies highly, even if they are not making a profit, because they expect booming revenue.

Baird's Colin Sebastian also pointed out that the company is spending more on technology and hiring, driving up expenses.

But he's not overly concerned. He backed his "Outperform" rating for Facebook, saying advertising revenue was better than expected and the company is improving its ability to make money from users who access Facebook from apps on their phones and tablet computers. Learn more...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Best Ways To Lose Weight Fast

Limiting fats

Nutritionists recommend limit the intake of fats. The minimum number of fats is 25 grams per day. Of course, this dose is too low, and the abuse of such a diet can harm the body. But sit on for 3-4 weeks it is quite possible.

Do not forget about the proteins

Proteins are the basic food for our muscles, so they definitely need to include in your daily diet. Eat at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight.

Eat without salt

Getting rid of excess fluid in the body is a proven method of rapid weight loss.

Limiting carbohydrates

One extreme way to lose weight - severely limit daily intake of carbohydrates. In this case, your body will begin to lose fluid, which regards a significant weight loss.

Drink more

Take, for at least 10 glasses of pure non-carbonated water throughout the day.

Move more

If a person leads a sedentary life, then it is better to conduct exercises in two stages: first, gradually accustom your body to increasing the intensity of stress (criterion here is the absence of shortness of breath), and then perform the full range completely.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Space Shuttle Enterprise Set To Open To Public

NEW YORK (AP) — The last time some New Yorkers saw the space shuttle Enterprise, it was zipping around the city, riding piggyback on top of a modified jumbo jet past the Statue of Liberty and other local landmarks.

Others got to lay eyes on it as it sailed up the Hudson River on a barge.

Today, following its April and June sojourns, the piece of NASA history is on the move no more.

The Enterprise, a 150,000-pound mammoth of a flying machine, goes on public display Thursday at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum's new Space Shuttle Pavilion. Encased in the center of an accommodating inflatable dome, the shuttle will be available for visitors to admire up close from just feet away.

At 57 feet wide and 137 feet long — with a 78 foot wingspan to boot — the Enterprise is an imposing figure with quite a presence in its new home.

The space shuttle, which was completed in 1976, was NASA's first. Though it never actually flew a mission into outer space, it performed critical tests around the Earth's atmosphere and is widely credited with paving the way for five future shuttles. Learn More...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Apple pulls out of environmental ratings registry

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple's withdrawal from an environmental ratings registry has prompted at least one city — San Francisco — to stop buying its computers.

The decision does not apply to iPads or iPhones. But Francis Tsang, spokesman for Mayor Edwin Lee's office, says the city's rules require that laptops, computers and monitors comply with the registry's requirements.

Late last month, Apple Inc. told the nonprofit EPEAT, short for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, to remove its products from its registry. It also plans to stop submitting its products to EPEAT for environmental ratings.

EPEAT is an industry standard that seeks to make it easier for customers to buy environmentally friendly electronics. Manufacturers still participating include Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony. Learn More...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Internet blackout looms for thousands: What you need to know

Thousands of computer users may lose Internet access on Monday, when the deadline for a temporary fix to a malicious software scam shut down by the FBI last year expires.

What is it?

Millions of computers were infected with the so-called "Internet Doomsday" virus used in the hacking scam, which redirected Internet searches through DNS servers used by the scammers, who allegedly netted $14 million in bogus advertising revenue. After U.S. and Estonian authorities busted the malware ring last November, a federal judge ordered that the FBI use temporary servers while the malware victims' PCs were repaired. The temporary servers will shut down at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Monday, meaning anyone using a computer still infected with the virus will likely lose Internet access.

"Connectivity will be lost to the Internet PERIOD," Symantec, the online security firm, said in a blog post. "If your computer is still using DNS entries that are pointing to the FBI servers on July 9, you will lose TOTAL access to the Internet. No connecting to the office from home, no updating Facebook, nothing until the DNS settings are fixed." Learn more...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sea rise faster on East Coast than rest of globe

WASHINGTON (AP) — From Cape Hatteras, N.C., to just north of Boston, sea levels are rising much faster than they are around the globe, putting one of the world's most costly coasts in danger of flooding, government researchers report.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists call the 600-mile swath a "hot spot" for climbing sea levels caused by global warming. Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average since 1990, according to the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It's not just a faster rate, but at a faster pace, like a car on a highway "jamming on the accelerator," said the study's lead author, Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the agency. He looked at sea levels starting in 1950, and noticed a change beginning in 1990.

Since then, sea levels have gone up globally about 2 inches. But in Norfolk, Va., where officials are scrambling to fight more frequent flooding, sea level has jumped a total of 4.8 inches, the research showed. For Philadelphia, levels went up 3.7 inches, and in New York City, it was 2.8 inches. Learn more...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Global shares head lower as world slowdown fears grow

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares joined a global sell-off in riskier assets on Monday after disappointing May economic data from the United States and China overwhelmed any positive impact from hopes the world's central banks would ease policy further.

The euro slid 0.3 percent to $1.2400, moving closer to the $1.2288 it hit on Friday, its lowest level since July 2010, while Brent crude oil fell below $97 a barrel to a 16-month low.

Safe haven U.S. and German government bond yields held near Friday's record lows.,

"Investors are just fleeing risk assets," said ATI Asset Management chief investment officer Simon Burge.

The latest sell-off followed disappointing U.S. jobs growth figures on Friday and weak Chinese manufacturing data, which stoked fears that the problems in the euro zone are causing a worldwide slowdown in business activity. Learn More...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Commercial spacecraft speeds toward space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Opening a new, entrepreneurial era in spaceflight, a ship built by a billionaire businessman sped toward the International Space Station with a load of groceries and other supplies Tuesday after a spectacular middle-of-the-night blastoff.

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and its unmanned Dragon capsule marked the first time a commercial spacecraft has been sent to the orbiting outpost.

Tracing a fiery arc across the night sky, the rocket lifted off just before 4 a.m. and smoothly boosted the capsule into orbit. The capsule is expected to rendezvous with the space station within days, delivering a half-ton of provisions for its six crew members.

It is considered just a test flight — in fact, the capsule was packed with only nonessential items, in case something went disastrously wrong — but if all goes well with this mission and others like it, commercial spaceships could be carrying astronauts to and from the space station in three to five years.

"Falcon flew perfectly!!" billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of the SpaceX company, said via Twitter. "Feels like a giant weight just came off my back."

Musk later told reporters: "For us, it's like winning the Super Bowl."

Up to now, flights to the space station were something only major governments had done.

The White House offered congratulations. Learn More...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sugar can make you dumb US scientists warn

Eating too much sugar can eat away at your brainpower, according to US scientists who published a study Tuesday showing how a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup sapped lab rats' memories.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) fed two groups of rats a solution containing high-fructose corn syrup -- a common ingredient in processed foods -- as drinking water for six weeks.

One group of rats was supplemented with brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the other group was not.

Before the sugar drinks began, the rats were enrolled in a five-day training session in a complicated maze. After six weeks on the sweet solution, the rats were then placed back in the maze to see how they fared.

"The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier." Learn More...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Putin to be sworn in as president of divided Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin will be sworn in as Russia's president at a glittering ceremony on Monday, hours after clashes between police and protesters laid bare the deep divisions over his return to the Kremlin for six more years.

The former KGB spy will take his oath before nearly 2,000 guests in the Kremlin's St Andrew Hall, the former throne room with sparkling chandeliers, gilded pillars and high Gothic vaults, before being blessed by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and taking charge of the nuclear suitcase.

He will also deliver a short speech, inspect the Kremlin presidential guard and host a lavish reception featuring only Russian food and drink.

Although he has remained Russia's supreme leader for the past four years as prime minister, Putin will take back the formal reins of power he ceded to his ally Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 after eight years as president.

He is returning with his authority weakened by months of protests that have polarized Russia and left him facing a battle to reassert himself or risk being sidelined by the powerful business and political elites whose backing is vital.

Riot police detained at least 22 protesters when a crowd of about 40 people started shouting "Russia without Putin" near two exclusive hotels 500 meters from the Kremlin on Monday, a Reuters witness said. Bystanders shouted "Shame" as they did so.

"This shows that Putin is scared of dissatisfied citizens. Although there are not so many of us, there are not so few either," said 18-year-old student Pavel Kopilkov. Learn More...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Healthy Weight Loss May Also Cut Your Cancer Risk

TUESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate weight loss reduces levels of inflammation that have been tied to certain cancers, at least in postmenopausal women, a new study suggests.

According to the findings, older women who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight through diet alone or diet plus exercise showed significant reductions in key inflammatory blood markers such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.

In addition to risk for heart disease, elevated levels of these markers have also been associated with increased risk for several cancers, including breast, colon, lung and endometrial cancer.

The findings appear May 1 in the journal Cancer Research.

"Our findings support weight loss through calorie reduction and increased exercise as a means for reducing inflammatory biomarkers and thereby potentially reducing cancer risk in overweight and obese postmenopausal women," said researchers led by Dr. Anne McTiernan, director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

Aiming to lose 10 percent of their body weight, the women were either placed on a calorie-restricted diet, asked to participate in moderate-to vigorous-aerobic exercise for 45 minutes a day for five days a week, or told to do both.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Serena says diet change to support Venus not hard

NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams says altering her diet in support of big sister Venus hasn't been much of a hardship.

Serena said she's cut down on eating chicken and fish and is eating more raw foods like Venus, who adopted the change to help her body cope with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain. But while the new diet has been a big change for Venus, it's not been that big a deal for Serena, she says.

"I've always been a better eater than her, even though I'm a lot, lot thicker," she said, laughing during a recent phone interview.

Serena said since she lives with Venus, she is mindful to eat foods that won't tempt her.

"I don't want her to come home and see a piece of chicken and be like, 'Oh, I want it,' and she can't have it. It would be like a stumbling block for her," she added.

Both Serena and Venus have been back on the tennis court recently after dealing with health issues. Serena had ankle injuries this year and last year made her return after missing nearly a year because of several health concerns, including cuts on her feet from glass at a restaurant and clots in her lungs.

"I'm looking forward to playing, and just playing and being healthy; I haven't really been healthy in a few years, and I'm just really looking forward to having a chance to play," she said. "I think right now I am at 100 percent ... I'm really looking forward to continuing this and continuing to be healthy." Learn More...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Apple crushes Street targets, dispels iPhone fears

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc's quarterly results beat Wall Street estimates on stronger-than-expected demand for the iPhone, especially in the greater China region where sales jumped five-fold.

While iPad sales were a little lighter than expected, the overall results sent the stock up 7 percent, recouping some losses from the past two weeks that had stemmed from concerns about weakening sales growth for iPhones.

Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones - which accounts for about half its revenue - in the March quarter, outpacing the 30 million or so expected by Wall Street analysts.

Margins blew past forecasts - helped by lower-than-expected commodity costs - while a five-fold iPhone sales surge in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong bolstered revenue in the region to $7.9 billion.

Some investors had feared intensifying competition from Google Inc's Android phones - made by the likes of Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics - might pressure margins and eat into its market share.

"That shows they are able to maintain their pricing without compromising on growth," said Morningstar analyst Michael Holt.

"There are lower-priced alternatives from the Android world that are becoming more compelling. The concern was that Apple might sell more older models to be more competitive. That would have shown up in the gross margin. But aggregate gross margin and average revenue per device show that this hasn't happened."

Apple sold 11.8 million iPads, the latest version of which hit store shelves in mid-March. That compared with the average forecast of up to 13 million. Learn More

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NASA considering space station for Mars dry run


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The International Space Station may provide the setting for a 500-day pretend trip to Mars in another few years.

NASA said Tuesday that consideration is under way to use the space station as a dry run for a simulated trip to and from Mars.

It would be patterned after Russia's mock flight to Mars that lasted 520 days at a Moscow research center. Six men were involved in that study, which ended late last year. They were locked in a steel capsule.

NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini said before astronauts can fly beyond low-Earth orbit, they'll have to spend more than six months aloft at a time. That's the typical stint for space station crews. Five hundred days is more than 16 months. Learn More...

The human endurance record of 14 months was set by a Russian cosmonaut aboard the Mir space station in the mid-1990s. Only two others — both Russians — have spent as long as a full year in space.

No NASA astronaut has spent more than seven months in space on a single mission.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Biggest solar storm in years hits, so far so good


WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the strongest solar storms in years engulfed Earth early Thursday, but scientists say the planet may have lucked out.

Hours after the storm arrived, officials said there were no reports of problems with power grids, GPS, satellites or other technologies that are often disrupted by solar storms.

But that still can change as the storm shakes the planet's magnetic field in ways that could disrupt technology but also spread colorful Northern Lights. Early indications show that it is about 10 times stronger than the normal solar wind that hits Earth.

The storm started with a massive solar flare Tuesday evening and grew as it raced outward from the sun, expanding like a giant soap bubble, scientists said.

The storm struck about 6 a.m. EST in a direction that causes the least amount of problems, said Joe Kunches, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center.

"It's not a terribly strong event. It's a very interesting event," he said.

Initially, scientists figured the storm would be the worst since 2006, but now it seems only as bad as ones a few months ago, he said. Learn More...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nokia pins hopes on cheaper Windows smartphone


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Struggling cell phone maker Nokia kicked off the world's largest mobile phone trade show Monday by unveiling a new low-cost Windows smartphone that operators could give away free to customers, and another aimed at snap-happy consumers demanding better photo quality.

Chief executive Stephen Elop told reporters at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the new phones — a low-price euro189 ($254) smartphone that runs on Windows software and the , a handset with a high-resolution 41 megapixel camera — demonstrate "the actions necessary to improve the fortunes of Nokia."

"With great products for consumers, I think the rest will fall into place," Elop said.

In many countries, cell phone companies subsidize the sale of smartphones to customers who sign contracts. The low price of the new phone means their out-of-pocket costs would be low, even if they give the handset away.

But shares of Finland's Nokia Corp. were down more 6 percent to euro4.07 ($5.45) in Helsinki Monday afternoon after the announcements, erasing gains made Friday on investor hopes that Nokia would map out bolder plans to claw back market share. Learn More..

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Europe seals new Greek bailout but doubts remain


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers agreed a 130-billion-euro ($172 billion) rescue for Greece on Tuesday to avert an imminent chaotic default after forcing Athens to commit to unpopular cuts and private bondholders to take bigger losses.

The complex deal wrought in overnight negotiations buys time to stabilize the 17-nation currency bloc and strengthen its financial firewalls, but it leaves deep doubts about Greece's ability to recover and avoid default in the longer term.

After 13 hours of talks, ministers finalized measures to cut Athens' debt to 120.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, a fraction above the target, securing a second rescue in less than two years in time for a major bond repayment due in March.

"We have reached a far-reaching agreement on Greece's new program and private sector involvement that would lead to a significant debt reduction for Greece ... to secure Greece's future in the euro area," Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup of finance ministers, told a news conference.

Greece will be placed under permanent surveillance by an increased European presence on the ground, and it will have to deposit funds to service its debt in a special account to guarantee repayments. Learn More...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Independent group inspecting Apple suppliers


NEW YORK (AP) — Apple said Monday that an independent group, the Fair Labor Association, has started inspecting working conditions in the Chinese factories where its iPads and iPhones are assembled.

Amid growing criticism over labor and environmental practices —especially in China— Apple, last month, disclosed a list of suppliers for its popular gadgets for the first time.

The FLA team began the inspections Monday morning at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China, Apple said Monday. The complex employs and houses hundreds of thousands of workers.

Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. employs an estimated 1 million to 1.1 million people in China at a series of huge factory campuses. Foxconn assembles iPads and iPhones for Apple, Xbox 360 gaming consoles for Microsoft and other gadgets for companies including Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Learn More...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

NASA says Russian space woes no worry

WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA says it still has confidence in the quality of Russia's manned rockets, despite an embarrassing series of glitches and failures in the Russian space program.

A leak developed recently during a test of the next Soyuz capsule scheduled to launch astronauts to the International Space Station, so Russian space officials have decided not to use it. That delays upcoming launches.

NASA relies solely on Russia to take crews to the space station.

NASA space station manager Michael Suffredini said he still considers the Soyuz rocket the world's most reliable space system.

"I have confidence in the focus and abilities of the managers who build the systems and fly those systems," Suffredini said Thursday during a NASA teleconference. Learn More...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Scientists puzzled by region outside solar system


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A glimpse beyond our solar system reveals the neighborhood just outside the sun's influence is different and stranger than expected, scientists reported Tuesday.

One oddity is the amount of oxygen. There are more oxygen atoms floating freely in the solar system than in the immediate interstellar space, or the vast region between stars.

Scientists were unsure why, but they said it's possible some of the life-supporting element could be hidden in dust or ice.

"We discovered this big puzzle — that the matter just outside of our solar system doesn't look like the material inside," said David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

The discovery came from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft, which launched in 2008 to study the chaotic boundary where the solar wind from the sun clashes with cold gases from interstellar space. Learn More...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wall Street edges higher on bank earnsings


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose early Thursday, putting the S&P on track for its third straight advance after Bank of America and Morgan Stanley reported earnings and as strong demand at European bond auctions eased euro zone debt concerns.

Bank of America Corp climbed 5.2 percent to $7.14 after it reported a fourth-quarter profit, reversing a year-earlier loss, boosted by one-time items and lower expenses for bad loans.

Fellow financial Morgan Stanley jumped 6.2 percent to $18.45 after the Wall Street bank posted a quarterly loss but still managed to top analysts' expectations.

Financial shares have rallied since the start of the year. The S&P financial index <.GSPF> is up more than 7 percent for 2012, helping to push the benchmark S&P 500 index up 4 percent. The index was up 0.6 percent in early trading.

In a sign that investor nervousness over the euro zone's debt crisis was easing, Spain and France both drew strong demand at government debt auctions.

"It's a combination of no horror stories out of Europe and it is earnings season. We are up and down with the different earnings releases, of course, but in general they are expected to be good," said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago.

"Overall, earnings are expected to be positive and a positive influence for the market." Learn More...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Russian space probe crashes into Pacific


MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian space probe designed to boost the nation's pride on a bold mission to a moon of Mars has come down in flames, showering fragments into the south Pacific west of Chile's coast, officials said.

Pieces from the Phobos-Ground, which had become stuck in Earth's orbit, landed in water Sunday 1,250 kilometers (775 miles) west of Wellington Island in Chile's south, the Russian military Air and Space Defense Forces said in a statement carried by the country's news agencies.

The military space tracking facilities were monitoring the probe's crash, its spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. Zolotukhin said the deserted ocean area is where Russia guides its discarded space cargo ships serving the International Space Station.

RIA Novosti news agency, however, cited Russian ballistic experts who said the fragments fell over a broader patch of Earth's surface, spreading from the Atlantic and including the territory of Brazil. It said the midpoint of the crash zone was located in the Brazilian state of Goias.

The $170 million craft was one of the heaviest and most toxic pieces of space junk ever to crash to Earth, but space officials and experts said the risks posed by its crash were minimal because the toxic rocket fuel on board and most of the craft's structure would burn up in the atmosphere high above the ground anyway.

The Phobos-Ground was designed to travel to one of Mars' twin moons, Phobos, land on it, collect soil samples and fly them back to Earth in 2014 in one of the most daunting interplanetary missions ever. It got stranded in Earth's orbit after its Nov. 9 launch, and efforts by Russian and European Space Agency experts to bring it back to life failed. Learn More...

Monday, January 9, 2012

SEC wants banks to say more on European debt exposure


(Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission has urged banks to publish more details about their exposure to European sovereign debt, a factor in the recent bankruptcy of the futures brokerage MF Global Holdings Ltd .

In guidance issued on Friday, the regulator's Division of Corporation Finance said disclosures by publicly-traded financial institutions have been "inconsistent in both substance and presentation."

It said this could make it harder for investors to discern how much risk the banks are taking, both individually and relative to each other, and how the exposures will affect operating results or financial health.

The SEC urged that banks reveal direct and indirect exposures "separately by country, segregated between sovereign and non-sovereign exposures."

It said they should also provide more details on hedging, through such instruments as credit default swaps, and sums they might need to raise if forced to close out their positions.

"In determining which countries are covered by this guidance, registrants should focus on those experiencing significant economic, fiscal and/or political strains such that the likelihood of default would be higher than would be anticipated when such factors do not exist," the SEC said. Learn More...

Friday, January 6, 2012

GM offers fix to Volt to prevent fire risk


(Reuters) - General Motors Co said on Thursday it has developed a proposed fix to the battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt to eliminate the risk of a fire being triggered days after a crash.

GM said it would strengthen structural protection for the 400-pound lithium-ion battery in the Volt by adding steel reinforcements and take other steps to prevent coolant fluid from leaking and triggering a fire.

U.S. safety regulators indicated they were ready to sign off on the relatively quick repairs for the Volt, heading off a costly distraction for the top U.S. automaker and the prospect of a safety recall on its highest profile vehicle.

GM has made the Volt the symbol of its determination to seize a leadership position in fuel economy and green technology, and its engineers have been racing to respond to a safety investigation by U.S. regulators since late last year.

"This remains a halo vehicle for us in technology and design," Mark Reuss, GM's chief of North American operations, told reporters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a probe of the Volt's battery pack in November.

NHTSA, which has the power to review proposed safety fixes by automakers, said the changes to the battery pack developed by GM appear to protect the Volt from fires of the kind it found possible in its safety tests. Learn More...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tight race in Iowa kicks off 2012 campaign


DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa Republicans cast the first votes of the 2012 White House campaign on Tuesday, with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul in a high-stakes battle to win the party's kick-off nominating contest.

Voters will gather in schools, libraries and other public spots across the state to render judgment in the frequently shifting Republican race to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

Santorum, a conservative former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, is the latest candidate to rise in polls in a race that has seen a handful of hopefuls roll through the top spot.

He is battling Romney, the national front-runner and narrow leader in Iowa polls, and libertarian Paul for a crucial win in Iowa that could provide momentum and a surge of new donations as the race moves to next week's contest New Hampshire.

"Get folks and bring them to the caucus with you," Santorum told supporters in Perry, Iowa, on Monday as each of the candidates made a final pitch for votes and tried to bolster their turnout.

Iowa polls showed many voters could still change their mind before Tuesday night, adding an element of unpredictability to an already fluid race.

"I'm undecided, and I'm still in the same boat as when I came," said Zander Morales, a hospital worker in Des Moines after he attended a rally on Monday for Paul, the U.S. congressman from Texas. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do." Learn More...