Monday, December 19, 2011

RED DAWN & THE EMPIRE OF ROBOTS: Rise of the Machines - Chinese Company Continues Plan To Replace Workforce With 500,000 Robots!

Possibly the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, Foxconn plans to add a half million robots to its assembly lines.

How to deal with the rising cost of running your factory? Get rid of all those inefficient humans and hire robots instead. Citing labor shortage and rising wages Hon Hai, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, recently announced that it intends to build a robot-making factory and replace 500,000 workers with robots over the next three years. Supervisors will never have to hear about bathroom breaks again.

Hon Hai, parent company of manufacturing giant Foxconn, which assembles the iPhone and iPad for Apple as well as products for Sony and Nokia. Hon Hai already has 10,000 robots busy at work in its factories, and they’re not wasting any time with their plan to increase the number of robots to one million by 2013. Earlier this month the company announced their plans to build a $3.3 billion “intelligent” technology park in Taichung, Taiwan. That intelligence will come from CNC (computerized numerically controlled) devices, servo drivers and motors, and robots.

Part of the driving force behind the company’s robotization is China’s booming economy. With about 800,000 employees and a yearly revenue of about $60 billion, Foxconn may be largest electronics maker. The company has made its name largely on cheap national labor. But as China’s economic growth has led to increases in worker wages and, at the same time, increased demand for the electronics that Hon Hai makes. Hon Hai’s company chairman Terry Gou, among China’s richest men, spoke at a ceremony where he signed a letter of intent to invest $3.3 billion in greater Taichung. He said the robots will increase the production value of Foxconn by about $4 billion over the next three to five years and create about 2,000 new jobs.

Rumors in the past had pointed to FRIDA as Foxconn’s robot of choice, made by the Swiss robotics company ABB. But evidently Foxconn isn’t going to wait around for the robots to come to them. And considering the sheer number of robots they plan on building and putting in their factories, it makes more sense for the company to custom-design and build themselves. The program’s initial cost is estimated to be about $223 million, but it should pay off in the long run.

Foxconn is long due for some positive change. A string of suicides at several Foxconn campuses have drawn international scrutiny and criticism. The companies factories are models of efficiency, with a production line scheme designed in such a way that “no worker will rest even one second,” Li Quang, executive director of the labor rights group China Labor Watch, told the New York Times. Between March and May of 2010 nine Foxconn employees leapt to their deaths from Foxconn factory rooftops. Foxconn responded by installing catch nets around their high-risk buildings. Over the past 15 months 14 Foxconn workers have died in what looks to be suicides. Of course, installing half a million robots will most likely lead to much of Foxconn’s workforce looking for other jobs. But the company insists its intention is not to replace humans, but to move humans from jobs that are “dangerous and monotonous” and free them up to do jobs that take more thoughtful research and development. I’ll believe that when I see it.

If his workers might not be, Gou is certainly excited about his company’s coming robot revolution. “The investment marks the beginning of Hon Hai’s bid to build an empire of robots,” read a statement from the Central Taiwan Science Park authorities. At the ceremony, Gou declared that Hon Hai will build an “intelligent robotics kingdom” in the coming years. “Empire of robots”…”robotics kingdom”…I wonder if Mr. Gou has some bigger plans for his army of robots. Sorry, probably a bad choice of words. When the robots roll out onto the factor floor, they’ll join the warehouse floor-scooting Kiva and other robots that are revolutionizing industry automation. Pretty soon it’s going be strange to see a human on a factory floor. But at least they’ll still need humans to do the more intelligent and creative decision-making jobs. You know, the kind that Watson is studying for right now. - The Singularity Hub.
WATCH: Kawada’s Nextage Robot - A "Drop-In-Solution" for replacing human labour?

WEATHER ANOMALIES: The Power of Nature - Rare Tornado Spotted Hurtling Across the Mediterranean, Off the Coast of France!

Keen photographer Lionel Cironneau was in the right time at the right place when he took these stunning shots of a tornado. The twister was spotted swirling off the coast of France at Nice near the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea.

The vast majority of tornadoes form in the U.S. although they do occur on other continents and have even been spotted in the U.K. They are formed when moist air rises upwards to a great height before producing a thunder cloud. A rotating column of air links the cloud to the surface of the Earth, which is encircled at its base by debris and dust. Most tornadoes have windspeeds of less than 110mph, measure 250ft across and can travel for several miles. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300mph, stretch more than two miles across, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles. - Daily Mail.
WATCH: An earlier sighting of the formation of a tornado in the Mediterranean.


EXTREME WEATHER: Heavy Storm Destroys 47 Houses in the Kutama Area, South Africa!

Nealy 50 families from Tshikhwarani, Manavhela, Muduluni and Madodonga in the Kutama area were left stranded last Thursday afternoon, when a big storm, accompanied by rain, damaged their homes and uprooted trees.

Mrs Josephina Mbedzi of Tshikhwarani lost her one-roomed house and all the goods inside were damaged. “When the storm started, I was inside the house. I thought of hiding inside the wardrobe, but I became very afraid. The wind blew the roof off and I was left in the roofless ruin,” she said. “All my furniture, blankets and groceries were damaged and I do not have money to replace or repair them,” she added. “I did not sustain any major injuries, but I am extremely shocked,” she added. According to Mrs Kutama Maseakhole of Muduluni, whose RDP house was severely damaged, the wind swept through the village, leaving everyone trying to take cover. Soon big raindrops pelted down. This was followed by loud cracks of thunder and streaks of lightning, which lit the darkened neighbourhood. The situation worsened for her, as deafening sounds started coming from the roof.

She indicated that her RDP house's windows were broken by the storm. She added that the walls started to shake and the roof rattled and shook violently. The roof sheets were also torn off. Most of the victims are from the poor rural area, where most of the people are unemployed. The spokesperson of the Makhado Municipality, Mr Louis Bobodi said they had distributed food parcels to the affected families, including maize meal, cooking oil, beans and blankets. He appealed to those whose houses were damaged by the storm to contact the headman or ward councillors to register their damage. The initial estimated damage caused by the storm is close to R700 000, but observers say it can be more. "We urge community members to help one another and our condolences and sympathy go to all affected families,” Bobodi said. Last Friday, many villagers were still drying out mattresses, blankets, clothes and furniture. Some property was rendered unusable. At Tshikwarani, 23 houses were damaged, with eight at Muduluni, 15 at Madodonga and one at Manavhela suffering the same fate. - Zoutnet.

THE GREAT DELUGE: Death Toll From Tropical Storm in Philippines Rising - National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Said the Toll Stood at 927!

Typhoon Washi swept across the southern Philippines this weekend, washing away whole villages and killing 927 people, according to the latest estimates.

The death toll from a tropical storm in the southern Philippines has reached more than 900, an official with the country's disaster agency said Monday. Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the toll stood at 927. The Philippines Red Cross reported a lower death toll, at 713. Tropical Storm Washi affected more than 167,000 people, the council said in a report Monday. About 88,000 people were being served at evacuation centers. President Beningo Aquino plans to visit the region Tuesday. U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement Monday expressing "deep condolences for the tremendous loss of life and devastation." He said the United States "stands ready to assist the Philippine people and government should humanitarian assistance and recovery efforts be needed."
The Red Cross noted that hundreds are missing after entire villages were swept away. The stench of death permeated the air as aid workers scrambled to help survivors. Military and disaster officials said the vast majority of the dead were found in the port cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, many of them swept away as they were sleeping. Water-logged bodies from washed-away villages floated at the shoreline on the northwestern coast of Mindanao island. Five people were killed in a landslide, but virtually all the others died in flash flooding after Tropical Storm Washi, which is called Sendong locally. Survivors in the hardest-hit areas are contending with no electricity or clean drinking water. One woman in Cagayan de Oro collected murky brown floodwater in a bucket, just meters away from where a destroyed vehicle was submerged. Flash flooding overnight Friday, following 10 hours of rain, fueled the devastation. As much as 20 centimeters (8 inches) of rain fell within 24 hours in some areas. December generally brings about 60 millimeters of rain (a little over 2 inches) to the region, CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri reported. - CNN.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Sudden Snowstorm in Moscow Kills 10 - Unusual Weather Shift Wrecks Havoc With Traffic, Meteorologists Expect it to Get Even More Extreme?!

A sudden change of weather in Moscow and in the Moscow region has caused several car accidents with tragic outcomes.

Ten people have been killed in the accidents, about 30 were hospitalized. A snowstorm and a drop of temperature by several degrees have literally turned Moscow roads into staking rinks, especially on bridges.

The snowstorm will continue in the Russian capital, and weather conditions may become even more extreme: meteorologists expect an ice storm in the city. Trees may fall and electric power lines may break in such weather, website said. Residents of several areas of Moscow and the region have witnesses ice balls with water inside falling from the sky, NTV reports. That was a phenomenon of the ice storm, meteorologists said. - Pravda.

DELUGE: Flash Flooding and Landslides Submerges Wonosobo, Central Java, Indonesia - Six People Killed, Five Missing and Hundreds Displaced!

Six people died during a flash flood and landslide in Wonosobo, Central Java on Sunday.

According to the spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a joint search and rescue team from the local mitigation agency, the military, police and local people found five more bodies on Monday. Five others are still missing and 627 people were displaced by the natural disaster and are taking shelter at the village meeting center. “The missing victims might be buried under the mud,” Sutopo said.

A flash flood and landslide swept away 13 houses in Tieng village, Wonosobo on Sunday afternoon and damaged seven houses. A survivor, Romdhon, said the disaster occurred during heavy rain. “My mother and I were outside our home, while my father was inside,” he said. “All of sudden mud covered our house and swept it away.” His father still has not been found. - Jakarta Globe.

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Nuclear Nightmare on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea Test Fires Short-Range Missile Following the Death of Leader Kim Jon Il, South Korea on High Alert!

North Korea has testfired a missile off its eastern coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported as South Korea's military was placed on high alert in the wake of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak earlier on Monday called for calm as the government was placed in "emergency mode" amid fears that Kim's death could further destabilise relations between the two Koreas, who have remained technically at war since an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953. "President Lee (Myung-Bak) urged the public to go about their usual economic activities without turbulence," a senior presidential official told a televised news conference on Monday. Following news of Kim's death, Lee convened an emergency national security council meeting and ordered all government officials on emergency response status, meaning they are restricted from taking leave or travelling. "All Blue House [parliament] officials are in emergency mode," a presidential spokesman said. The spokesman said Lee had spoken to US President Barack Obama about two hours after Kim's death was announced. "The two leaders agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together," a presidential spokesman said.

Uncertainty over the implications of the North Korean leader's death also affected stock markets in Asia with South Korea's benchmark KOSPI stocks index slumping 3.43 per cent on Monday. South Korean military chiefs said that it had stepped up border air surveillance, with Seoul asking its US ally, which stations 28,500 troops in the South, to step up monitoring by planes and satellites. The demilitarised zone between the two Koreas is considered the most heavily fortified frontier in the world. "Monitoring and security around border areas has been strengthened. We are paying close attention to any movements by the North's military," a defence ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency. "All commanders are on alert and the South and US are beefing up the sharing of military intelligence. There have been no particular moves by the North's military yet." 'Trigger for changes' People in the street in South Korea were both cautious and worried in their reaction.

"I hadn't much imagined what it would be like when Kim Jong-Il died, but now he has. I'm shocked and I'm very interested in what will happen from now on," Byun Mi-Sook, a housewife in Seoul, said. Businessman Kim Sung-Il, 49, expressed hope that North Korea would change after its leader's death. "The death will be, and should be, the trigger for changes in and out of North Korea," he said. University student Kim Lee-Soo, 21, said South Koreans and their government should "stay calm and try to respond appropriately, as this will have a huge influence in the South's stance in international society". However, internet reaction was less restrained. "No one should pay respects to the dead," said user Lim Jung-Min on the Nate portal. Tensions betweens the two Koreas have been heightened since the South accused the North of sinking a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives. The North denied involvement in the sinking but shelled a South Korean island in November 2010, killing four people. Many units in the North's more than one million-strong armed forces are stationed close to the heavily fortified border, along with thousands of missiles. - Al Jazeera.
WATCH: North Korea's future in question.

EXTREME WEATHER: Blizzard Warning for the Panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma - Southwest and Plain States Braces for Days of Bitter Cold, Heavy Snow and High Winds!

The panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma were placed under a blizzard warning on Sunday as the Southwest and plains states braced for two days of bitter cold, heavy snow, rain and high winds.

The storm is expected to produce up to 16 inches of snow and wind gusting to 50 mph in the first major snowstorm of the winter for Texas and Oklahoma, the National Weather Service said. A blizzard watch was also in effect until Tuesday for parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas, with high winds and up to a more than a foot of snow expected across the region. The storm was expected to edge into the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado before heading east on Sunday night or Monday morning, the agency said in a statement. By Monday night, conditions further east in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are expected to have deteriorated so much that officials warned motorists to stay off the roads. A blizzard watch or warning means forecasters believe life-threatening winter weather conditions are likely, including winds of at least 35 mph and visibility less than a quarter mile. The mix of rain and snow will move into the Chicago and Detroit areas on Tuesday, forecasters said.

In Guymon, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, emergency management officials met on Sunday to go over storm preparations. With wind gusts up to 50 mph predicted, blowing snow could cause problems, said Eddie Adamson, police chief in Guymon. "That's the serious concern," he said. "With the blowing snow it makes it a blinding event." Even so, residents appeared more busy Christmas shopping rather than stockpiling snowstorm supplies, he said. "It's unbelievable. Right now it's 65 degrees," Adamson said. "Tomorrow we're expecting to have our snow boots on to make it to work." As the United States readies for a week of holiday travel, weather officials warned of dangerous road conditions on Sunday and Monday in the plains, especially on Interstate 40 in the Texas Panhandle and on Route 54 in Kansas. By Sunday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Transportation had issued warnings about winter driving conditions along Interstate 40 through the central part of the state. In New Mexico, travel along Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque and on Interstate 25 north of the city was likely to be treacherous, officials said. Paul Braun, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Transportation, said: "If you're going to travel Monday night and Tuesday, I would really, really, seriously, strongly advise against it. Once you get home Monday night, stay home." - Reuters.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Alaska's Massive "Extra Tropical Cyclone" - Storm Listed Among the Most Significant Events for the Month of November!

That massive “extratropical cyclone” that walloped Bering Sea and Northwestern Alaska communities with high winds and blizzard conditions last month was named one of the eight significant climate events to strike the United States in November, according to NOAA’s latest update.

“Winds gusted to over 80 mph and the storm surge topped 8 feet, marking the strongest storm to impact the region in decades,” NOAA said. Other startling U.S. weather developments that month included a tornado that struck Oklahoma, record warmth in some New England states and the third most active hurricane season on record. Alaska's storm began as an intense low pressure system that formed southeast of Japan on Nov. 7 and grew stronger and more intense as it rolled across the North Pacific toward Alaska’s Aleutian frontier. As this cyclone whirled into position, the storm’s interior pressure dropped 50 millibars in 24 hours to a minimum of 944 millibars — comparable to a Category 1 hurricane.

“Waves to 35 feet and 100 mph winds were recorded offshore as the storm approached,” NOAA reported. “Hurricane force winds and blizzard conditions affected coastal Alaska. Storm surges of up to 10 feet affected communities along Alaska’s west coast -- causing flooding, some structural damage and property loss. … An ice zone connected to land had not yet developed to lessen the impact of large waves striking the coast.” In other ways, November didn’t go down as particularly remarkable for Alaska — a somewhat cool month in a thoroughly average year. NOAA reported the state saw the sixth coolest temperatures since 1918. Overall, 2011 has delivered almost exactly average temperatures to the Far North state — the 43rd coldest of the past 94 years. Despite lots of snow in southern Alaska, November was the 41st driest in the record, with 2011 giving the state the 41st driest January-November since 1918. - Alaska Dispatch.
WATCH: Record-breaking Alaska storm.

EXTREME WEATHER: La Nina Weather Phenomenon and the Early 2012 Forecast: The Year is Expected to Start Warmer Than Normal in the East, and Unusually Cold in the West!

This past week, U.S. federal weather forecasters announced their predictions for the beginning of 2012. They say the first three months of 2012 will see warmer than normal temperatures in the eastern U.S. and the opposite out west. The weather predictions are based on the continued effects of the La Nina weather phenomenon.

Federal weather forecasters are predicting that the first three months of the new year will start off warmer than normal in the East, but cooler than usual out West. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that January will be toastier than normal, with most states east of the Rockies getting warmer weather, except for New England.

Forecasters say the southernmost parts of the nation should be drier than normal, including drought-struck Texas. But the Northwest and Great Lakes states are likely to be wetter than normal. Meteorologists are basing much of their forecast on a continuing moderate La Nina weather oscillation. The flip side of the El Nino, La Nina is a cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that influences weather worldwide. - Huffington Post.
The effects of Texas' prolonged drought on the state's cattle industry were apparent this week. The state's cattle population has dropped by 12 percent since the beginning of 2011, totaling a loss of 600,000 cows. Heavy winds continued in the United Kingdom this week, with gusts of up to 70 miles per hour hitting some coastal areas of Southern England.

WATCH: Weather forecast for early 2012.