Walmart tests shelf-scanning robots in 50-plus stores

Walmart tests shelf-scanning robots in 50-plus stores (Source Engadget) You may have seen stores deploy shelf-scanning robots before, but they’re about to get one of their largest real-world tests to date. Walmart is expanding a shelf-scanning robot trial run to 50 additional stores, including some in its home state of Arkansas. Machines from Bossa Nova Robotics will roam the aisles to check for stock levels, pricing and misplaced items, saving human staffers the hassle of checking everything themselves. There will be technicians on-site just in case, but the bots are fully autonomous. Thanks in part to 3D imaging, they can dodge around obstacles and make notes to return later if their path is completely blocked.

Walmart stresses that the robots are there to supplement humans, not replace them — to eliminate drudgery and the expenses that go with it. This helps workers get to the task of filling empty shelves, and that’s a job that the company doesn’t see ending any time soon given the difficulty robots still have when grabbing objects. “Store associates will always be better at that,” Walmart’s Martin Hitch told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And the chief of Bossa Nova rival Simbe Robotics, Brad Bogolea, added that shelf checks can cost a major retailer hundreds of millions of dollars per year. However expensive the robots may be, they could pay for themselves very quickly.

Whether or not the robots see wider use will, unsurprisingly, hinge on the success of this wider trial. Early results are positive, however. And given that Walmart has already made a point of using technology to automate processes like grocery pickups, it’s hard to imagine the company turning robots down.

Two-Thirds of US Baby Foods test postive for Arsenic


Some 65 percent of baby food products in the US – including four out of five baby formulas – contain traces of the toxin arsenic, a new study has found, but officials say there is little they can do to remove substances that could harm developing infants. The Clean Label Project study of 530 baby products also found that 36 percent of the products contained lead, 58 percent cadmium and 10 percent acrylamide. While most samples contained only trace amounts of the toxins, some exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations by up to six times.

The transparent labeling advocacy group said that Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout – market-leading brands – produced some of the most contaminated baby foods.

“The baby industry needs to do a better job in protecting America’s most vulnerable population,” Jaclyn Brown, the executive director of the Clean Label Project, told USA Today. Arsenic damages the brain and other internal organs, is carcinogenic and has been linked to diabetes. Several studies have shown that babies exposed to greater quantities of the poison go on to develop lower IQ and motor skills, but it has been impossible to determine at what threshold the damage occurs, and if there is any amount of arsenic that is safe. The FDA has recommended a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal, but has not made its recommendation compulsory for manufacturers. It says one of the problems is that foods, particularly rice, a popular infant snack, tends to naturally absorb toxic substances such as arsenic and lead, another neurotoxin.

“It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food,” said Peter Cassell, an FDA spokesperson.

The European Commission has, however, imposed a legal limit on arsenic content in rice destined for infant food, even though several studies have shown that manufacturers are still not complying with the ruling.


NBA responds to ex-commissioner David Stern’s comments about marijuana

NBA responds to ex-commissioner David Stern’s comments about marijuana (Source

Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who ran the league from 1984-2014, made headlines Wednesday for his stance on marijuana and how he believes it “probably should be removed” from the league’s banned substances list.

“I think all of the (sports) leagues are now appropriately focused on player training, structuring of the right parts of their body, player rehabilitation in the case of injury, player nutrition … (marijuana) should be a part of that conversation,” Stern told former NBA player Al Harrington in a documentary published by UNINTERRUPTED. The documentary, titled The Concept of Cannabis, follows Harrington’s journey from NBA star to marijuana entrepreneur. When Harrington raised the question regarding recreational marijuana use among players in states where it has been legalized, Stern said, “We’ve got to change the collective bargaining agreement and let you do what’s legal in your state.” “I think it’s up to the sports leagues to anticipate where this is going and maybe lead the way,” he continued. Stern added that, during his reign as commissioner, it was “generally known” that a lot of players smoked marijuana until the league tightened the rules.

“Some of our players came to us and said, ‘some of these guys are high coming into the games.’ We began tightening it up, and at that time, people accepted the generally held wisdom that marijuana was a gateway drug.”

Now, Stern says, there’s “a completely different perception.”


‘Really Big’ Earthquake Is Coming, Striking 7 Million People

‘Really Big’ Earthquake Is Coming, Striking 7 Million People in the Worst Natural Disaster in North American History (Source Newsweek) The last time the Juan de Fuca oceanic plate jolted under the North American plate, unleashing a 9.0 earthquake, was in 1700. With the event scheduled to happen once every 500 years or so, we are due for another any day now. Although it’s not clear what will happen when this mega quake does hit, researchers at the University of Washington recently presented 50 possible scenarios of how the event might unfold.  Earthquakes are typically measured using the Richter scale, named after the geologist who invented it in the 1930s. The scale is numbered from 0-10, although no magnitude 10 earthquake has ever been observed, making a 9.0 one of the most powerful quakes in recorded history. The predicted earthquake, dubbed the “Really Big One,” will take place where the Juan de Fuca and North American plates meet along Cascadia subduction zone, just north of the San Andreas fault line. The earthquake would affect those living in coastal Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Northern California, and a 2015 New Yorker article predicted the quake and its subsequent tsunami could affect 7 million people.  The team presented both best- and worst-case scenarios of a potential 9.0 earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting on October 24. Their 50 simulations use different factor combinations, such as where the epicenter may be, how far inland the earthquake would travel, and where along the fault the shaking would be the strongest. They were run on supercomputers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Texas, Austin. Although other reports have looked into possible scenarios of this predicted earthquake, this is the most in-depth scenario prediction to date, The Independent reported.

“With just a few simulations you didn’t know if you were seeing a best-case, a worst-case or an average scenario,” explained lead study researcher Erin Wirth in a recent statement. “This project has really allowed us to be more confident in saying that we’re seeing the full range of possibilities.”

World War 3 fears as Russia fires Huge missile in show of strength

World War 3 fears as Russia fires HUGE missile in show of strength (Source

Amid an ever-tightening spiral of threat and counter-threat on the Korean peninsula, Russia has issued a major warning with its own provocative missile launch.

The launch of the nuclear-capable ICBM took place at the Kura Test Range during war games held in the far-east of Russia. The missile fired was a Topol-M, capable of travelling at speeds of up to 16,400 miles per hour and to a distance of 6,800 miles – putting all of Europe and the USA’s east coast in range. Shocking footage showed the huge missile slowly pointing upwards before exploding into the sky. Fighter jets then soar along an airfield and into the air.

It came as the Vladimir Putin’s military continues to hold military exercises across the country.

Russia’s defence ministry said: “In accordance with the Armed Forces Training Plan the Russian Federation conducted training on the management of Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces. Thousands of Russian troops marched into Europe for the Zapad Exercises, which some neighbouring countries believed was preparation for an invasion.

Poland warned of a “risk” of an “aggressive scenario” during the week-long drills, which began on September 14.

Polish Deputy Defence Minister Michal Dworczyk had said he was fearful of violent incidents, warning: “Operations on this scale always run this risk.”


Is War with Russia Coming? U.S. Marines are Getting Ready

IS WAR WITH RUSSIA COMING? U.S. MARINES ARE GETTING READY FOR A CONFLICT IN EASTERN EUROPE(Source Newsweek) The U.S. Marine Corps is seriously considering the prospect of a conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe and dedicating more resources to its Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, Military Times reported Tuesday.

A Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) is the largest type of Marine combat force and can include up to 25,000 Marines. In recent years, the conflicts the U.S. has been involved in have seen the U.S. Marine Corps focus its warfighting capabilities on smaller units, like the Marine Expeditionary Unit or Marine Expeditionary Brigade. As tensions have risen with Russia, however, the Marines have seen the need to focus on prepping a much larger force.

“The MEF command element will have to be ready to support a warfighting effort in Europe,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general of North Carolina-based II Marine Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Marines have ramped up their presence in Europe in the past few years, especially after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. In March, hundreds of U.S. Marines conducted drills with Romanian troops on the Black Sea coast.

This summer, the U.S. announced that some 330 Marines stationed in Norway will stay there until the end of 2018, twice as long as they were originally supposed to be there. The Marines, who were sent to Norway in January, represent the first foreign force to be stationed in the Scandinavian country (also a NATO member) since the end of World War II.

“We consider that this step contradicts Norwegian policy of not deploying foreign military bases in the country in times of peace,” the Russian embassy wrote in a statement at the time. Washington’s relationship with Russia has been deteriorating over the past several years as the Kremlin has taken aggressive actions in Ukraine and allied itself with foes of the U.S. in the Syria conflict. These tensions were compounded by Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Some have contended the current state of affairs represents a new Cold War.

Alarm in Russia as U.S. becomes the unpredictable superpower

Alarm in Russia as US becomes the unpredictable superpower (Source Miami Herald)

Russia may have got what it wished for with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, but almost a year later Moscow’s foreign policy community shows more signs of alarm than triumph.

Alongside statements of neutrality toward the U.S. vote from officials and others at a Kremlin-sponsored gathering of foreign and domestic Russia-watchers this week, there’s deep concern that the role of unpredictable, militarily adventurous superpower – played by Russia since 2014 – may be passing to the U.S.

Hartford could default on its Debt as soon as next month


The City of Hartford is likely to default on its debt as early as November without additional concessions from the State of Connecticut, bondholders and labor unions, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report. How and when the concessions are realized will factor into bondholder recovery as well as the city’s financial recovery. “Our analysis projects operating deficits of $60 million to $80 million per year through 2036, the final maturity of its general obligation debt,” says Nicholas Lehman, a Moody’s AVP. “Fixed costs — including pension contributions, benefits and insurance, and debt service — are driving large projected operating deficits of approximately 11% of revenues. “

Hartford will look to bondholders to restructure roughly $604 million in general obligation and lease debt. Options for restructuring include refinancing debt by issuing new refunding bonds with a maximum maturity of 30 years, instead of the previous cap of 20 years. As well, the new bonds would be secured by a statutory lien on property taxes.

In the event of a default, bondholder recovery is extremely sensitive to the amount of concessions received from stakeholders, and how those concessions are allocated. Bondholder recovery analysis supports the Caa3 rating based on Moody’s expectation the state and labor unions will provide significant concessions.

Hartford has lobbied Connecticut for additional short- and long-term aid, which would be an additional revenue source to help resolve the fiscal imbalance. However, the availability of this support is highly unknown in the midst of a state budget impasse, as one of the key contentious elements within the budget is additional aid for Hartford.


Why you might need a passport card to travel domestically in 2018

Why you might need a passport card to travel domestically in 2018(Source Yahoo) Everyone knows that you need a boarding pass and driver’s license to pass airport security. It’s always been this way, but next year, some travelers may also need a passport card. Starting on Jan. 22, 2018, travelers from a handful of states may have to show an alternate ID to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at the airport. This is because the REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005, will go into effect. Essentially, this act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses (and ID cards), and prohibits the TSA from accepting cards that don’t meet the standards. Several states have requested extensions to become compliant, many of which expired on Oct. 10. New extensions may be granted, but for now, the grace period for states ends on Jan. 22.

Currently, only 26 states are fully compliant, so residents of those areas can continue to use their state-issued driver’s license when passing through airport security. The remaining states, including New York, California, Illinois and Louisiana, are currently under review. This means that they may be granted an extension and given more time to become compliant. Or it could mean that residents of these states will have to use an alternative form of ID when flying in 2018.

North Korea Tells U.S. to Expect ‘Unimaginable’ Strike

North Korea Tells U.S. to Expect ‘Unimaginable’ Strike(Source Newsweek) North Korea has again threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S. in reaction to ongoing joint military drills involving American and South Korean militaries on the peninsula. An article carried by the state-controlled news agency KCNA warned the U.S. would face an “unimaginable” strike in retaliation for carrying out naval drills involving the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and for “creating tension on the eve of war” by conducting civilian evacuation drills in South Korea this weekend. “The U.S. is running amok by introducing under our nose the targets we have set as primary ones. The U.S. should expect that it would face unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time,” KCNA stated Thursday, as reported by the South Korean news agency Yonhap. The wording of the threat mimics previous statements from U.S. military officials such as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joe Dunford who said it was “not unimaginable” to have military options on the Korean peninsula. As recently as this week Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said at a forum in Singapore that his job was to “imagine the unimaginable.”