archives : Other News 2010

     

In the nearly 150 years since the bicycle debuted, its operation has remained remarkably consistent. That is, until this year, when a group of mechanical engineering students at Yale created what might be the first spokeless bicycle.

Redesigning something so fundamental was bound to be difficult. So Vern Van Fleet, a Sikorsky test engineer who taught the course, broke his students into three groups (frame, drivetrain and wheel) to tackle the challenge.

The result? An 8-pound frame, made from sheet aluminum, which holds the spokeless rear wheel in place. Inside the wheel housing, rollers fit into grooves carved into the wheel rim to prevent wobbling and to provide support. In place of the normal rear hub, the team added

- Tuesday 14 September 2010


Caribbean islands

Cuba has announced it will lay off more than a million state employees in a sweeping privatisation drive that will transform the island’s socialist economy.

Authorities said layoffs would begin immediately amid loosened controls on private enterprise which, it is hoped, will kickstart the private sector and create new jobs for former public workers.

The official Cuban labour federation, which made the announcement on Monday, said 500,000 jobs would go by March and eventually 1m would be cut in the biggest economic shakeup since the 1960s.

"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls [and] losses that hurt the economy," the union, which has 3 million members, said in a statement.

"Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, co-operatives and self-employment, absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years," it said. President Raúl Castro has repeatedly warned that change was coming but the scale of the cuts caught observers by surprise.

- Tuesday 14 September 2010


United States

America has some of the cleanest drinking water on Earth, but in many developing countries, clean water is oftentimes hard to come by. Bacteria and other nasty organisms give rise to such waterborne illnesses as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.

Many scientists are working on inexpensive and simple technologies that can clean water and make it safe to drink. Among them are Yi Cui and his colleagues at Stanford University, who have developed a new type of water filter that is 80,000 times faster than existing filters and less expensive than what’s available today. It doesn’t cost much because there are no moving parts and it uses very little power.

Just about everyone I know has some type of water-filtering pitcher in their refrigerator, or one hooked up directly to their faucet. While those filters physically trap most bacteria from flowing into water, this new nanofilter actually lets bacteria flow right through.

- Wednesday 8 September 2010


International

Google TV’s planned fall launch is not news, but given that Google hasn’t said much about its television plans since May, it’s time for a refresher. Here’s a quick rundown of everything to know about Google TV as anticipation grows for the imminent launch of the service:

What is Google TV?

It’s a platform that joins the Internet with traditional television. Google TV shares some traits with TiVo Premiere — search by name for a movie or show, and you’ll find ways to watch on cable or the Web — but Google’s approach to the Internet is more open. Google TV can act as a full Web browser for Flash videos, e-mail and reading, and users can set up home screens for their favorite channels, shows and Web sites.

So it’s not actually a television?

Not necessarily. Just as Android is a platform for smartphones, with hardware partners like Motorola and HTC, Google TV will run televisions and set-top boxes from other manufacturers. So far, Logitech has announced a set-top box called the Revue, and Sony plans to launch a television that integrates Google TV. Any cable box should be able to connect with Google TV devices at launch, but Dish Network HD DVR receivers will be "optimized" for the service, extending universal search to the Dish TV Guide, DVR recordings and on-demand movies.

- Wednesday 8 September 2010


United States

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration’s foreign policy strategy of rebuilding alliances and applying so-called soft power is beginning to yield dividends. But Clinton warned that mounting government debt is beginning to erode U.S. power abroad.

Progress report

Clinton’s address to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington amounted to a foreign policy progress report, a year and a half into the Obama administration.

She said the administration’s approach of rebuilding traditional alliances and acting multilaterally, as opposed to the Bush administration’s reliance on military power is beginning to show dividends.

- Wednesday 8 September 2010


Kenya

Kenya has great ambitions to establish itself as a tech-hub for Africa. But can it really keep up the pace of innovation?

The BBC’s Egon Cossou visited iHub, Nairobi’s innovation hub. This functions as an incubator, bringing together creatives, developers and investors.

He spoke to Jessica Colaco, manager of iHub, and Sam Gichuru of Ideas Africa.

- Tuesday 7 September 2010


Egypt

Television drama has become the latest weapon used by Egypt’s authorities in their confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned group that represents the largest opposition force in the country.

Independent candidates affiliated to the Brotherhood won 20 per cent of the seats in parliament in the last election in 2005. The government has made clear that it intends to prevent a repeat of these gains.

Three months before the next parliamentary elections, Egyptian television has been running a nightly series called Al-Gama’a – or “The Group” – tracing the history of the Brotherhood as founded in 1928 by a young cleric, Sheikh Hassan al-Banna. He is depicted as a dour political opportunist, prepared to use violence in his quest to establish an Islamist state.

- Tuesday 7 September 2010


Panafrica

According to recent studies by the International Telecommunications Union, only 10.9 percent of Africa’s population uses the Internet. By contrast, the Internet is used by 77.4 percent of North Americans. Though there are drastic population gaps — the latest census reports estimate the African population at just over 1 billion, while North America’s is around a third of that — Internet access in Africa is extremely expensive and very difficult to find.

But new help is on the way. Newly laid cables along the West African coastline are slated to bring reliability and improved communications to one of the world’s poorest areas. The cables will also lower Internet prices, drawing more consumers.

"It’s the first of a new wave of investment that the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union says will vastly raise the bandwidth available in West Africa by mid-2012," the Associated Press reported last week. The hope is in another decade, Africa will be at the top of the charts for penetration.

- Tuesday 7 September 2010


Caribbean islands - United States - Haiti

Sean Penn has one more critic to contend with.

At a concert in New York on Friday, Wyclef Jean suggested the actor’s recreational drug use led to him criticizing the singer’s presidential bid in Haiti, mtv.com reports.

Penn told Larry King last month that he worried the singer’s campaign was simply "about a vision of flying around the world, talking to people."

He later penned a column for the Huffington Post criticizing the singer for being absent after the January earthquake in Haiti.

- Tuesday 7 September 2010


United States - International

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Monday criticized a Florida church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, warning the demonstration "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.

The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, plans to mark the anniversary of al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington by burning copies of the Muslim holy book. The church insists the event is "neither an act of love nor of hate," but a warning against what it calls the threats posed by Islam.

- Tuesday 7 September 2010

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