Monthly Archives: January 2015

NASA satellite to measure water in Earth's soil sent into orbit

A 127-foot (39 meter) rocket built and flown by United Launch Alliance blasts off at 6:22 a.m. PST (14:22 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California January 31, 2015. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

A 127-foot (39 meter) rocket built and flown by United Launch Alliance blasts off at 6:22 a.m. PST (14:22 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California January 31, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Gene Blevins


(Reuters) – – An unmanned Delta 2 rocket lifted off from California on Saturday carrying a NASA satellite to measure moisture in the top layer of the Earth’s soil, data to be used in weather-forecasting and tracking of global climate change.

Soil moisture is a variable that binds together all of the planet’s environmental systems, scientists say. More precise data will enable forecasters and policy-makers to deal more effectively with drought or flooding in specific regions. “It’s the metabolism of the system,” said Dara Entekhabi, lead scientist of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory.

The 127-foot (39 meter) rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance (ULA), blasted off at 6:22 a.m. PST (9 a.m. ET) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, located on California’s central coast, a live NASA Television broadcast showed.

ULA is a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. The launch had been delayed for two days by high winds and the need to make minor repairs to the rocket’s insulation.

Perched on top on the rocket was NASA’s 2,100-pound (950 kg) SMAP, which will spend at least three years measuring the amount of water in the top 2 inches of Earth’s soil.

Overall, soil moisture accounts for less than 1 percent of the planet’s total water reservoir, with 97 percent in the planet’s oceans and nearly all of the rest locked in ice, Entekhabi, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said at a pre-launch news conference.

Currently, scientists rely largely on computer models to estimate soil moisture. But from an orbit 426 miles (685 km) above Earth, SMAP has two microwave instruments to collect exact soil moisture measurements everywhere on Earth and update the measurements every two or three days.

“This data will benefit not only scientists seeking better understanding our planet’s climate environment, but it’s also a boon for weather forecasters, agriculture and water resource managers, emergency planners and policy makers,” NASA deputy associate administrator Geoffery Yoder, said after the launch.

SMAP joins 19 other NASA satellites keeping tabs on Earth’s land, seas and atmosphere.

“We strive to give the world a consistently expanding view and understanding of our planet from space,” Yoder said.

Including the rocket launch and three years of operations, the SMAP mission will cost NASA $916 million.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Alan Crosby)


Source: Newsjyoti Science

Rocket blasts off with NASA satellite to track climate change

The launch gantry is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard, at the Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California January 28, 2015.   REUTERS/Bill Ingalls/NASA/Handout

The launch gantry is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard, at the Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California January 28, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Bill Ingalls/NASA/Handout


(Reuters) – An unmanned Delta 2 rocket lifted off from California on Saturday carrying a NASA satellite to measure how much water is in Earth’s soil, information that will help weather forecasting and tracking of global climate change.

The tiny amount of soil moisture links the planet’s overall environmental systems – its water, energy and carbon cycles – as well as determines whether particular regions are afflicted with drought or flooding.

“It’s the metabolism of the system,” NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lead scientist Dara Entekhabi told reporters at a prelaunch news conference.

The 127-foot (39 meter) rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, blasted off at 6:22 a.m. PST/1422 GMT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, located on California’s central coast, a live NASA Television broadcast showed.

The launch had been delayed a day by high winds and a second day to make minor repairs on the rocket’s insulation.

Perched on top on the rocket was NASA’s 2,100-pound (950 kg) SMAP, which will spend at least three years measuring the amount of water in the top 2 inches of Earth’s soil.

Overall, soil moisture accounts for less than 1 percent of the planet’s total water reservoir, with 97 percent in the planet’s oceans and nearly all of the rest locked in ice, said Entekhabi, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Currently, scientists rely largely on computer models to account for soil moisture.

But from its orbital perch 426 miles (685 km) above Earth, SMAP has two microwave instruments to collect actual soil moisture measurements everywhere on Earth and update the measurements every two- to three days.

Including the launch and three years of operations, the mission is costing NASA $916 million. United Launch Alliance is a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

(Editing by Alison Williams)


Source: Newsjyoti Science

Pictures of the month: January

A man holds a giant pencil as he takes part in a Hundreds of thousands of French citizens solidarity march in the streets of Paris, January 11, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe


Our top photos from the month of January.


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Trucker pulling loose tooth triggers backup on Alabama freeway: report

(Reuters) – A truck driver distracted by yanking free his loose tooth veered off the road and caused a miles-long backup on an Alabama freeway, a local newspaper reported on Friday.




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NASA satellite to map soil moisture poised for launch

(Reuters) – An unmanned Delta 2 rocket is being prepared for launch on Saturday to put a NASA satellite into orbit that is expected to improve drought monitoring and flooding forecasts.

The 127-foot-tall (39-metre) rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 6:20 a.m. PST (1420 GMT).

Launch originally was planned for Thursday but was delayed 24 hours due to high winds, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, postponed the flight for one more day so that technicians could repair insulation on the rocket that had become detached during Thursday’s launch attempt.

Perched on top of the rocket is NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive observatory, or SMAP, which is to spend at least three years making precise measurements of the amount of water in Earth’s topsoil.

Soil moisture accounts for less than 1 percent of the planet’s total water reservoir, with 97 percent in the Earth’s oceans and nearly all of the rest locked in ice, said SMAP lead scientist Dara Entekhabi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But the tiny amount of soil moisture links the planet’s overall environmental systems, its water, energy and carbon cycles, as well as determines whether particular regions are hit by drought or flooding. “It’s the metabolism of the system,” Entekhabi said during a prelaunch news conference.

Currently, scientists rely largely on computer models to account for soil moisture. SMAP is designed to provide hard numbers of the amount of water in the soil and to do so worldwide, every two to three days.

The launch, 2,100-pound (950-kg) spacecraft and three years of operations is costing NASA $916 million.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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UPDATE 4-Shake Shack IPO vaults shares into 'nosebleed' territory

Source: Newsjyoti Hotstock

* Shares rise as much as 150 pct, valuing company at nearly
$2 bln

* Daniel Meyer’s 21 pct stake worth about $390 mln at high

* Some other hot restaurant debuts followed by swoons

(Adds investor and analyst comment, recasts lead)

By Amrutha Gayathri and Lisa Baertlein

Jan 30 (Reuters) – Shares of Shake Shack Inc more
than doubled on Friday, putting a nearly $2 billion price tag on
the small cult hamburger chain, in a huge bet that its growth
can match top performers in the crowded “fast-casual” dining
space.

Shake Shack’s debut is the latest in a string of blockbuster
IPOs from trendy restaurant chains that cater to younger and
more affluent diners willing to pay a bit more for fresher and
higher quality food. Growth-hungry investors are hoping to
replicate the red-hot run of industry darling Chipotle Mexican
Grill.

But Shake Shack’s own CEO Randy Garutti cast doubt on
whether it will do so, calling the chain known for decadent
milkshakes and hormone- and antibiotic-free burgers a “very
measured growth company.”

Its IPO followed the successful listing two months ago of
fellow premium burger seller Habit Restaurants. Other
hot restaurant debuts have been followed by stock swoons,
including Noodles & Co and sandwich maker Potbelly Corp
.

Based on 2013 earnings, the company that grew out of a
hotdog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park is trading at an
eye-popping price-to-earnings ratio of about 325, with each
restaurant valued at about $27 million.

“Seems like a nosebleed valuation,” said Bob Goldin, an
executive vice president at foodservice consultancy Technomic.
Shake Shack would need “explosive growth for years and years” to
justify its stock price, he said.

Its shares hit a session high of $52.50, a gain of 150
percent from its IPO price of $21, raising questions about
whether the stock was overvalued. The stock trimmed gains
slightly to close at $45.90.

“This is a valuation hurdle that is well … shaky,” said
Douglas Kass, president of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners
Management Inc, describing the rally as indicative of “silly
season.”

While the 63-unit chain boasts some of the industry’s
highest average annual restaurant sales, it only plans to add 10
domestic restaurants per year. Many of those new restaurants
will be in lower-profit-margin markets outside New York City.

The company, which had revenue of $83.8 million in the 39
weeks to Sept. 24, eventually plans to have 450 U.S. locations.
Shake Shack will also slowly expand overseas, with a store set
to open in London later this year and others likely to follow,
Garutti said, without providing a specific forecast.

When Chipotle went public in 2006, it had almost 500 U.S.
restaurants. Shares in the chain, which now has roughly 1,700
U.S. restaurants and is known for its uncanny ability to
profitably increase sales, debuted at $22 and trade at more than
$710.

“We’re at a point where investors are willing to give
‘story’ stocks the benefit of a doubt,” said James Angel,
associate professor of finance at Georgetown University’s
McDonough School of Business.

Repeating Chipotle’s success has proven elusive for most
restaurant operators, and it could be even harder to do in the
crowded and competitive high-quality burger segment.

“If it were easy to replicate, plenty of other people would
have already done it,” said Angel.

Shake Shack raised $105 million from its initial public
offering.

Its IPO has been bonanza for founder Daniel Meyer, whose 21
percent stake was worth about $390 million based on the stock’s
intraday high.

Meyer, the chef-owner of popular New York restaurants Blue
Smoke, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, opened the first
Shake Shack in 2004.

J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley were lead underwriters for
the IPO.

Shake Shack’s customers spend roughly $30 for a meal for
two, considerably more than diners spend at struggling fast-food
giant McDonald’s Inc, which this week replaced its CEO
after a dismal 2014.

Sales at premium burger chains, which also include Five Guys
Burgers and Fries, the Counter and Smashburger, rose 9 percent
in 2013, according to Technomic, while overall sales at all
burger chains including McDonald’s fell 1 percent.

Some old-school operators are also riding the wave. Shares
in mall-based chain Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, which went public
over a decade ago, have more than doubled in the last two years.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein and David Gaffen in New
York; Editing by Ted Kerr and Christian Plumb)

Winging it: Chicago man smashes Philadelphia eating record

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A professional competitive eater from Chicago downed 444 chicken wings in 30 minutes at the 23rd annual Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, narrowly edging out his nearest rival and shattering the record of 363 wings set a year earlier.


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Britain's FTSE closes lower, still posts best month in nearly a year

Source: Newsjyoti Hotstock

(Updates prices, adds trader comment)

* FTSE 100 closes down 0.9 pct at 6,749.40 points

* But FTSE up 2.8 pct over the month of January

* BT restructuring seen as weighing on stock in short term

* New powers for industry watchdog hurts supermarket shares

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Britain’s top share index posted
its strongest monthly performance in almost a year in January,
although a fall in BT pushed the market lower on Friday.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed down 0.9 percent
at 6,749.40 points. The index nevertheless ended up by around
2.8 percent for the month of January — its strongest monthly
performance since February 2014.

Telecoms group BT dropped 2.6 percent after agreeing to pay
down its ballooning pension deficit, and signing off on an
upgrade of its fibre network.

Traders said the steps to put its finances in order ahead of
a football rights auction and a deal to buy mobile network EE
were needed, but would weigh on the stock in the short term.

“BT have a lot of bills coming their way, plus the next
round of bidding for football services. Having made their bed
with regards to providing a certain standard of service and
coverage, they’ll have to lie in it, and that won’t be cheap,”
IG market analyst Alastair McCaig said.

The shares of major supermarket retailers, such as Sainsbury
and Morrison, also lost ground.

Traders attributed their fall to plans by the British
government to give more powers to a watchdog to fine
supermarkets if they fail to treat their suppliers fairly.

“In the midst of this supermarket war, with price cuts left,
right and centre, this development throws a new spanner into the
works,” Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said.

The FTSE 100 hit a peak last year of 6,904.86 points, which
marked its highest level since early 2000, although it then lost
ground towards the end of 2014.

Some traders were adopting a cautious stance, due partly to
uncertainty over Greece, after the left-wing Syriza party won an
election last weekend and vowed to oppose austerity measures
imposed on the country by international creditors.

“I would look to sell out on any rallies,” said Beaufort
Securities sales trader Basil Petrides.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Alison
Williams and Susan Fenton)

U.S. proposes effort to analyze DNA from 1 million people

A DNA double helix is seen in an undated artist's illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute to Reuters on May 15, 2012.  REUTERS/National Human Genome Research Institute/Handout

A DNA double helix is seen in an undated artist’s illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute to Reuters on May 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/National Human Genome Research Institute/Handout


(Reuters) – The United States has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers as part of a new initiative to understand human disease and develop medicines targeted to an individual’s genetic make-up.

At the heart of the “precision medicine” initiative, announced on Friday by President Barack Obama, is the creation of a pool of people – healthy and ill, men and women, old and young – who would be studied to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease.

Officials hope genetic data from several hundred thousand participants in ongoing genetic studies would be used and other volunteers recruited to reach the 1 million total.

“Precision medicine gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs we’ve ever seen,” Obama said, promising that it would “lay a foundation for a new era of life-saving discoveries.”

The near-term goal is to create more and better treatments for cancer, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. Longer term, he said, the project would provide information on how to individualize treatment for a range of diseases.

The initial focus on cancer, he said, reflects the lethality of the disease and the significant advances against cancer that precision medicine has already made, though more work is needed.

The president proposed $215 million in his 2016 budget for the initiative. Of that, $130 million would go to the NIH to fund the research cohort and $70 million to NIH’s National Cancer Institute to intensify efforts to identify molecular drivers of cancer and apply that knowledge to drug development.

A further $10 million would go to the Food and Drug Administration to develop databases on which to build an appropriate regulatory structure; $5 million would go to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to develop privacy standards and ensure the secure exchange of data.

The effort may raise alarm bells for privacy rights advocates who have questioned the government’s ability to guarantee that DNA information is kept anonymous.

Obama promised that “privacy will be built in from day one.”

SEQUENCING 1 MILLION GENOMES

The funding is not nearly enough to sequence 1 million genomes from scratch. Whole-genome sequencing, though plummeting in price, still costs about $1,000 per genome, Collins said, meaning this component alone would cost $1 billion.

Instead, he said, the national cohort would be assembled both from new volunteers interested in “an opportunity to take part in something historic,” and existing cohorts that are already linking genomic data to medical outcomes.

The most ambitious of these is the Million Veteran Program, launched in 2011 by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Aimed at making genomic discoveries and bringing personalized medicine to veterans, it has enrolled more than 300,000 veterans and determined DNA sequences of about 200,000.

The VA was a pioneer in electronic health records, which it will use to link the genotypes to vets’ medical histories.

Academic centers have, with NIH funding, also amassed thousands of genomes and linked them to the risk of disease and other health outcomes. The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics Network, announced by NIH in 2007, aims to combine DNA information on more than 300,000 people and look for connections to diseases as varied as autism, appendicitis, cataracts, diabetes and dementia.

In 2014, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc launched a collaboration with Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System to sequence the DNA of 100,000 Geisinger patients and, using their anonymous medical records, look for correlations between genes and disease. The company is sequencing 50,000 samples per year, spokeswoman Hala Mirza said.

“NAIVE ASSUMPTION”

Perhaps the most audacious effort is by the non-profit Human Longevity Inc, headed by Craig Venter. In 2013 it launched a project to sequence 1 million genomes by 2020. Privately funded, it will be made available to pharmaceutical companies such as Roche Holding AG.

“We’re happy to work with them to help move the science,” Venter said in an interview, referring to the administration’s initiative.

But because of regulations surrounding medical privacy, he said, “we can’t just mingle databases. It sounds like a naive assumption” if the White House expects existing cohorts to merge into its 1 million-genomes project.

Venter raced the government-funded Human Genome Project to a draw in 2000, sequencing the entire human genome using private funding in less time than it took the public effort.

Collins conceded that mingling the databases would be a challenge but insisted it is doable.

“It is something that can be achieved but obviously there is a lot that needs to be done,” he said.

Collating, analyzing and applying the data to develop drugs will require changes to how products are reviewed and approved by health regulators.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA’s commissioner, said precision medicine “presents a set of new issues for us at FDA.” The agency is discussing new ways to approach the review process for personalized medicines and tests, she added.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)


Source: Newsjyoti Science

UPDATE 3-Mattel CEO feels "sense of urgency" for new toys as Barbie ages

Source: Newsjyoti Hotstock

(Adds CEO comments, details from conference call; updates
shares)

By Shailaja Sharma

Jan 30 (Reuters) – Mattel Inc needs to move with a
“sense of urgency” to create toys that connect with young
customers, its interim CEO said, as dolls based on Disney’s
blockbuster film “Frozen” stole the show from its Barbie dolls
in the holiday quarter.

The company, which also makes Fisher-Price preschool toys
and Monster High and American Girl dolls, reported its fifth
straight fall in worldwide quarterly sales on Friday.

Mattel’s shares were unchanged in noon trading, recovering
from a 2.6 percent drop earlier.

Worldwide sales of Barbie fell 12 percent in the fourth
quarter, while those of Fisher-Price toys declined 11 percent.

Christopher Sinclair, who took Mattel’s reins after it
removed Bryan Stockton as CEO on Monday, said the company’s
brand propositions were not compelling enough, mainly for Barbie
and Fisher-Price.

Mattel spent 40 percent more on advertising in the quarter,
but that did not translate into sales, Sinclair said.

Industry-wide toy sales in the United States rose 4 percent
in 2014, according to consumer research firm NPD Group.

In the period, Mattel’s sales fell 7 percent, highlighting
the company’s failure to innovate faster than smaller rivals
Jakks Pacific Inc and Hasbro Inc.

Jakks makes dolls based on “Frozen”, such as Snow Glow Elsa
and Anna Ice Skating doll. Hasbro’s products include My Little
Pony toys and “Hunger Games” inspired Nerf Rebelle bow and arrow
toys.

Mattel’s sales fell in six of the 12 quarters that Stockton
was CEO. He took the top job in 2012.

Barbie sales have been falling for the past two years as
young girls increasingly favor electronic toys, tablets and toys
based on popular films.

Denmark’s privately held Lego Group dethroned Mattel as the
world’s largest toymaker by sales in the first half of 2014,
helped by the success of its toys based on “The Lego Movie”.
Lego is yet to report full-year sales.

Most of Mattel’s revenue comes from brands that are at least
three decades old. Fisher-Price was launched in 1930, Barbie in
1959 and American Girl in 1986.

The company’s net income plunged nearly 60 percent to $149.9
million, or 44 cents per share, in the fourth quarter.

Excluding items, Mattel earned 52 cents per share, lower
than the average analyst estimate of 92 cents, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Worldwide sales fell about 6 percent to $1.99 billion.

Mattel’s shares were at $27 in noon trading on the Nasdaq.

(Editing by Kirti Pandey)