Nokia preps phone that uses radio, TV in the air to recharge

Standby mode is often accused of being the scourge of the planet, insidiously draining resources while offering little benefit other than a small red light and extra convenience for couch potatos. But now Nokia reckons a mobile phone that is always left in standby mode could be just what the environment needs.

A new prototype charging system from the company is able to power itself on nothing more than ambient radiowaves – the weak TV, radio and mobile phone signals that permanently surround us. The power harvested is small but it is almost enough to power a mobile in standby mode indefinitely without ever needing to plug it into the mains, according to Markku Rouvala, one of the researchers who developed the device at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge, UK.

This may sound too good to be true but Oyster cards used by London commuters perform a similar trick, powering themselves from radiowaves emitted by the reader devices as they are swiped. And similarly old crystal radio sets and more recently modern radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, increasingly used in shipping and as antitheft devices, are powered purely by radiowaves.

The difference with Nokia’s prototype is that instead of harvesting tiny amounts of power (a few microwatts) from dedicated transmitters, Nokia claims it is able to scavenge relatively large amounts of power — around a thousand times as much — from signals coming from miles away. Individually the energy available in each of these signals is miniscule. But by harvesting radiowaves across a wide range of frequencies it all adds up, said Rouvala.

Everyone ready for a re-read of Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein? I may decide to join the scientist in getting a lead-lined suit to protect myself from all the RF zapping us every minute of the day and night.

OTOH, if we could use this effect to keep my coffee warm – I may endorse it.

Doctors group joins golf buddies opposing health care reform

As the health care debate heats up, the American Medical Association is letting Congress know that it will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan, which President Obama and many other Democrats see as an essential element of legislation to remake the health care system.

While committed to the goal of affordable health insurance for all [so they say], the association had said in a general statement of principles that health services should be “provided through private markets, as they are currently…”

But in comments submitted to the Senate Finance Committee, the American Medical Association said: “The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.”

If private insurers are pushed out of the market, the group said, “the corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers.”

Do you realize what sort of egregious contradiction is contained in that piece of claptrap? They say public insurance will be so cheap that insurance companies will go out of business. Gee, they better pull their investments out, eh?

Then, they say, after that happens public insurance will automatically become more expensive than the private insurance that was just killed off. Who’s writing their copy? He could go to work for Jay Leno.

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Woman thanks God for $1 Million lost in tossed mattress

Security guards have been placed on landfill sites in Tel Aviv to keep treasure hunters away, as word spread in Israel of what must be the worst exchange since Aladdin’s battered old magic lantern was swapped for a shiny new one. The daughter, identified only as Anat, generously bought her mother a new mattress on Sunday, and got rid of the old one.

Anat, who did not want to reveal her full name, told Israeli radio that she had wanted to surprise her mother. She was shattered wto learn that her mother had banked all her savings in that most traditional of hiding places. She immediately rushed off to retrieve the mattress – only to discover the rubbish had already been collected.

The woman nobly said it could be worse: “People have to take everything in proportion and thank God for the good and the bad.

Assuming that mama is telling the truth– I don’t think we should assume she is– thanking God for “the good and the bad” would seem to imply that somehow God is responsible.

Thanking God for the good and the bad is a common theme among the superstitious, and shows the lengths to which people will go to hang on to their beliefs.

I can hear the little whiners already: “That’s not what she MEANT.”

So, the Canadian mint seems to have misplaced the gold

Canadian police will investigate why the Royal Canadian Mint seems to have lost some of its gold and other precious metals.

Media reports say more than $9.1 million in gold and other assets are missing. Ottawa acted after it learned that an independent audit of the mint was not going to be able to solve the mystery.

“I have instructed the mint to call in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to (do) a full investigation,” junior government minister Rob Merrifield told reporters, declining to say how much was missing.

Opposition politicians said the incident showed the minority Conservative government was hopelessly incompetent.

If they can’t even hold on to the gold in the mint, what are they capable of doing?” asked New Democrat legislator Thomas Mulcair.

The mint…says its vaults are “an exceptionally secure facility.”

Some pain-in-the-ass once said it’s the exception that proves the rule, eh?

“Put on your wig hat, momma!” Sing that song to Phil

A prison photograph of Phil Spector has offered a rare view of the jailed music producer without one of his many wigs.

The mug shot, taken on 5 June, shows a gaunt, bald-pated man with long stringy hair on the sides of his head.

Spector, 69, was sentenced last month to 19 years to life for killing actress Lana Clarkson at his home in 2003.

Over the course of two trials the “Wall of Sound” pioneer turned heads with his flamboyant hairpieces – forbidden in US prisons unless medically necessary.

“They took my husband’s freedom and dignity. So why not his hair?” said Spector’s wife Rachelle. “In case you don’t know, they don’t allow for much accessorising while in prison.”


Pandemic? World Health Organization declares it official

The World Health Organization has told its member nations it is declaring a swine flu pandemic — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years.

The move came after an emergency meeting with flu experts here [Geneva] that was convened after a sharp rise in cases in Australia, which reported 1,224 cases on Wednesday, and rising numbers in Britain, Japan, and elsewhere in Asia.

In a statement sent to member countries, the W.H.O. said it decided to raise the pandemic alert level from phase 5 to 6, indicating a global pandemic outbreak, The Associated Press said, attributing the information to health officials from Scotland, Indonesia and Thailand. An official announcement of the change was due at 6 p.m. Geneva time Thursday (12 p.m. in New York).

In an effort to avoid triggering panic with such an announcement, W.H.O. officials are expected to include with their formal announcement a caveat that the flu is not more deadly now that it has been declared a pandemic. Rather, the announcement reflects the global spread of the disease, not an increase in its severity.

According to W.H.O rules, the organization should declare a pandemic once it finds evidence of widespread “community transmission” — meaning beyond travelers, schools and immediate contacts — on two continents…

The declaration of a pandemic will trigger drug makers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine and prompt governments to devote more money to containing the virus. While international health officials have said the flu appears to be less deadly than the annual bouts of seasonal flu that sweep the globe each year, they have warned that the virus could mutate into a more lethal strain during the southern hemisphere’s upcoming winter flu season.

China appears to be ahead of most western nations at producing vaccine. They expect to be ready sometime in July. European and American producers have focused on the traditional winter flu season and are moving more slowly.

Here in North America an obvious trigger for pandemic status has been Canada which reported 533 new cases in a 2-day period.

GM’s dealers told to stop selling non-GM brands

General Motors Corp. has told its roughly 4,000 surviving dealers to stop selling non-GM brands in their showrooms by the end of this year, said an official of the company.

Mark LaVeve, GM’s vice president for sales, services and marketing, told the Detroit News in a letter that the dealers must also be prepared to sell more vehicles and improve the look of their showrooms, if necessary.

GM is seeking to close at least 2,400 of its nearly 6,200 dealers during its stay in bankruptcy court.

The company said it expects that its continuing dealers will remove non-GM brands from the GM showroom by Dec. 31, 2009, and will operate a showroom exclusive to GM products going forward…

Nearly 90 percent of GM’s continuing dealers have signed or verbally agreed to the participation agreements, while 75 percent of the closing dealerships have agreed, the company said.

Of course, the latter are still appealing to on high to retain their dealerships.

What ales Molson retirees?


Beer maker Molson is turning of the tap and cutting off the supply of free suds to its retirees, reports the Toronto Star.

Molson, a division of Molson Coors, said it was looking to “standardize” its complimentary beer policy. There are 2,400 Molson retirees in Canada and their free beer costs the company about $900,000 a year, the Star said.

Molson retirees in the province of Newfoundland will see their monthly allotment of beer fall from six dozen a month to zero over the next five years.

Current workers will see their allotment drop from 72 dozen bottles a year to 52 dozen.

“There was no consultation, we just received a letter that this is a done deal, which is totally unfair,” Bill Bavis, who retired six years ago after 32 years at Molson’s in St. John’s, Newfoundland, told the Star. “I think with the economic downturn they’re trying to take advantage of us, as a way to cut retirees’ benefits and justify it.”

If Molson’s wasn’t such crap beer I could understand the complaining.