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Friday, September 30, 2005
 

NASA and Google to build research centre

NASA and Google are to build a million-square-foot research centre at NASA's Research Park at Moffett Field, Silicon Valley. Google and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration said they plan to cooperate on research projects such as large-scale data management, nanotechnology, massively distributed computing and the entrepreneurial space industry. G. Scott Hubbard said in a statement that the public-private partnership holds "an enormous range of potential benefits to the space program." The deal calls for Google to develop up to 1 million square feet of real estate within the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field, a former Naval air base that is surrounded by thousands of high-tech companies in the heart of Silicon Valley. The building plan is roughly double the size of its current headquarters in the adjoining town of Mountain View, California, where Google moved into the old offices of Silicon Graphics just two years ago. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Seven-year-old Google has been hiring employees at a rapid pace to meet explosive demand for its advertising-supported search and other Internet businesses. Google currently has 4,100 employees worldwide. Hubbard said examples of the sorts of projects envisioned under the partnership include new types of remote sensors, improved analysis of engineering problems and "materials from collaborations on bio-info-nano convergence." The NASA Ames director said other research would focus on "Earth, life and space science discoveries from supercomputing and data mining, and bringing entrepreneurs into the space program." The facility conducted research for the Apollo moon missions. Local boosters said they are hoping to turn Moffett Field into a new hub of research and development activity for Silicon Valley, with the NASA-Google partnership as a magnet. Google and NASA join forces - Google and Nasa in space venture - Forbes - CNET News.com - San Francisco Chronicle - Red Herring

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Thursday, September 22, 2005
 

Millions Flee From 'Potentially Catastrophic' Rita

Traffic came to a standstill and gas shortages were reported Thursday as hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston metropolitan area rushed to get out of the path of hurricane Rita, a monster storm with winds of 274 km/h. More than 1.3 million residents in Texas and Louisiana were under orders to evacuate to avoid a deadly repeat of the recent hurricane Katrina. The Category 5 storm weakened slightly Thursday morning, and forecasters said it could be down to a Category 3 - meaning winds as high as 209 km/h - by the time it comes ashore late Friday or early Saturday. But it could still be a dangerous storm - one aimed straight at a section of coastline with the country's biggest concentration of oil refineries.
"Don't follow the example of Katrina and wait. No one will come and get you during the storm."
Highways leading inland out of Houston were gridlocked. Gas stations were reported to be running out of gas. Shoppers emptied grocery store shelves. I-45 is the primary evacuation route north from Houston and Galveston. Police officers along the highways carried gasoline to help people get out of town. Forecasters said Rita could be the strongest hurricane on record to hit Texas. Only three Category 5 hurricanes, the highest on the scale, are known to have hit the U.S. mainland - most recently, Andrew, which smashed South Florida in 1992. Hundreds of buses were dispatched Wednesday to evacuate the poor and move out hospital and nursing home patients. At 8 a.m. EDT Thursday, Rita was centred about 790 kilometres east-southeast of Galveston and was moving west-northwest near 15 km/h. Wind speed was 274 km/h, down slightly from 282 km/h earlier in the day. Forecasters predicted it would come ashore along the central Texas coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi. Rainfall from the storm could reach 38 centimetres in spots. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 115 kilometres from the centre of the storm, and could prove devastating to the fractured levees protecting New Orleans. In the Galveston-Houston-Corpus Christi area, about 1.3 million people were under orders to get out, in addition to 20,000 or more along with the Louisiana coast. Galveston, a coastal city of 58,000 on an island 2 1/2 metres above sea level, was nearly wiped off the map in 1900 when an unnamed hurricane killed between 6,000 and 12,000. It remains the United States' worst natural disaster. City manager Steve LeBlanc said the storm surge could reach 15 metres. Galveston is protected by a seawall that is only five metres tall. Galveston's mayor said buses used to take people and their pets off the island were running in short supply Wednesday and warned that stragglers could be left to fend for themselves. Crude oil prices rose again on fears that Rita would destroy key oil installations in Texas and the gulf. Hundreds of workers were evacuated from offshore oil rigs. Texas, the heart of U.S. crude production, accounts for 25% of the country's total oil output. Rita is the 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, making this the fourth-busiest season since record-keeping started in 1851. The record is 21 tropical storms in 1933. The hurricane season is not over until November 30. Gulf Hurricane of Top Strength Menaces Texas - Hurricane Rita Blasts Across Gulf Headed for Texas - Seattle Post Intelligencer - TIME - Bloomberg - Houston Chronicle
THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005
 

Google launches blog search

Google has launched a blog search feature, as it seeks to go head-to-head with archrival Yahoo with blo.gs in the booming blog market. Google has unveiled a website that lets people search web journals or blogs. The database behind the search site will index all weblogs not just the ones published on the Google-owned blog writing site Blogger. The index starts with blog postings from June 2005 but Google said it was working on ways to add older posts. Via the site searchers can look up particular journals, authors or track down specific posts. According to blog search and indexing site Technorati there are more than 17 million webblogs which cover any and every subject. Most take the form of regularly updated journals that tackle a subject close to their authors' heart. Weblogs or blogs have taken off as tools that make it easy to put them together have appeared. Google will index all blogs that publish so-called feeds that automatically tell readers when they are updated. It will also gather data about blogs that tell other indexing sites about the entries they have made. As well as searching via the dedicated blog search page, Blogger users will be able to look up other blogs via a special box on the web-journal writing site. Writing on his company blog Dave Sifry welcomed Google to the blogosphere and said the move was a "validation" of the blog writing phenomenon. He said that he expected Google to start indexing all the text of weblogs soon not just the partial text found in feeds. Google is not the first company to create a blog searching site. As well as Technorati other search sites such as Memeorandum also catalog web entries. Roundup Of Google Blog Search Commentary - Google launches blog search tool - Geekzone - InfoWorld - Softpedia - websearch.about.com
THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
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Saturday, September 10, 2005
 

Bush dismisses emergency response chief

President Bush was in perhaps the deepest political trouble of his White House tenure: He had been excoriated for his response to a deadly tragedy; he was facing unified Democrats; and he was watching gas prices reach record highs as his poll numbers sank to record lows. Yesterday, he hauled Michael Brown, the federal official who became the public face of the government's response to the tragedy, back to Washington. Bush stopped short of sacking Brown, as his critics have asked, despite recent reports that Brown had embellished his resume. Brownie will keep his job and is still charged with preparing the nation to respond to catastrophes. But removing Brown from the front lines was part of a broader effort by the White House, which is desperately seeking to stop a political slide that may be threatening to much of the president's second-term agenda. Surveys suggest that Bush's presidency has suffered. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released yesterday indicated that only 39% of Americans approved of Bush's handling of his job, while 65% say the country is on the wrong track. Katrina and gas prices fueled that opinion. In the days after the hurricane, Brown quickly became a focal point for critics of a stumbling federal response that even the president said was unacceptable. As New Orleans spiraled into anarchy, Brown said in several TV interviews that he had been "surprised" to learn that tens of thousands had been stranded in the convention center in stifling, unsanitary conditions without food and water. Democrats have blasted Brown as an unqualified patronage hire; before joining the administration, he worked on Bush's campaign, and his last job was as a top official with the International Arabian Horse Association. Yesterday, Time magazine reported that Brown had exaggerated his credentials. Despite the criticism, Bush stood behind Brown at first, using his nickname and singling him out for praise Sept. 2 at a briefing in Biloxi, Miss.
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job"
But as the news reports of despair, death, and chaos in New Orleans continued, the performances of Brown and FEMA drew widespread fire: Democrats demanded that Bush fire Brown, world leaders questioned the president's leadership, and even some Republicans called for investigations into the federal government's preparedness and response. Yesterday, Democrats praised Brown's removal from the scene but said Bush stopped short.
"It is not enough to remove Mr. Brown from the disaster scene. Mr. Brown simply doesn't have the ability or the experience to oversee a coordinated federal response of this magnitude."
Michael Chertoff sidestepped questions yesterday over whether his key deputy had been forced out. As FEMA director, he must be ready to respond to potential threats posed by storms and terrorists, and the mission of Katrina relief is too big a job to allow distractions. Brown has been FEMA director since 2003, after two years as the agency's deputy director and general counsel. Time Magazine reported yesterday that Brown had contended to have been "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" from 1975 to 1978. He was an assistant to the city manager with no oversight duties. Though Brown is the main target, comments Bush made himself have contributed to the damage. On Thursday, Bush announced that he was cutting red tape to ensure that disaster victims could receive $2,000 debit cards, even as storm victims standing in line to get the cards at the Astrodome in Houston were shown complaining about delays. Bush drew withering criticism when he said in a TV interview that the breach of levees was a surprise, despite years of federal reports, scientific analyses, and newspaper articles predicting that it would happen in a storm of Katrina's strength. Democrats continued yesterday to call for an independent panel to investigate the government's preparedness for the disaster. In addition, they called for a new agency to coordinate federal, state, and local reconstruction efforts. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, recommended a "Gulf Coast Regional Redevelopment Authority" modeled on the New Deal-era Tennessee Valley Authority. Kennedy said he is working on legislation for such an entity. FEMA director says media made him a scapegoat - 'Atta-boy' out of there as new questions arise - New York Times - CBC News - MarketWatch.
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Friday, September 02, 2005
 

Angry New Orleans Mayor Says Feds Don't Have A Clue

The once-glorious city of New Orleans is in ruins and its people in chaos from Hurricane Katrina. For those who sought refuge in the New Orleans convention center, it became just another part of the nightmare. Thousands of people have congregated in the New Orleans convention centre - a spacious, largely dry building, where they have been told buses will arrive to take them out of the city. Whole families lie on the floor with what few possessions they rescued from the flooding - toddlers, the elderly and people with disabilities. All say no-one is helping them. Most are short of food and water and there is little sign of any organisation, let alone supplies to help those waiting to leave. A lot of people here are criticising the authorities for not putting enough effort into the evacuation of the city. The emergency services are split between the search and rescue operation, holding back more floodwater, and fighting gangs of looters. It seems they have little time left for the survivors, who are becoming increasingly desperate. People had to loot Wal-Mart and take what they could on the first day. It is very much the poorest people that are left here - those who didn't have the ability to get out with a car fast enough. Some boarded up their homes, and came to stay in the hotels in the city. Those are perhaps the richer of the poor. The rest are the bedraggled lot who've made their way from wherever they were when the storm struck. Many of them waded through the water after being rescued from the roofs of houses, only to be told they've got to leave. They are waiting desperately for buses to take them wherever it might be - anywhere where there are supplies of food, water, electricity. These are old and disabled people. It is amazing the number of people who are in a desperate situation and it is very difficult for the authorities to get everybody out fast - which is what they need to do. Hurricane's trail of anarchy - Crisis worsens in New Orleans - Guardian Unlimited - CTV.ca - Dallas Morning News - Houston Chronicle.
 
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