UPDATE: Orange Goo Mystery Solved (Sort Of)
The mystery of the orange goo that washed up on the shorelines of an Alaska village has again been solved - partially. It turns out the substance is made up of fungal spores, not microscopic eggs deposited by some form of crustacean as was originally thought.
The new announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) corrects the estimates made by Alaska-based NOAA scientists last week.
The scientists in Alaska sent samples of the mysterious goo to NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Bimolecular Research, based in Charleston, South Carolina. There, they determined that the material was in fact fungal.
The team of scientists in South Carolina found that the material was consistent with spores from fungi that cause rust, a disease that infects plants by causing a rust-like color.
NOAA scientist Steve Morton, of the Charleston lab, said in a statement:
The spores are unlike others we and our network of specialists have examined; however, many rust fungi of the Arctic tundra have yet to be identified.
The latest news puts to rest any fears that the substance may have been toxic. Residents initially feared the material could be pollution from the nearby Red Dog Mine, the world's largest zinc producer.
Early tests proved it was biological matter and not waste.
However, because the goo turned powdery once it dried, residents were then concerned that it may have gone airborne and contaminated their crops.
According Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for NOAA's National Fisheries Service in Alaska:
Rust is a disease that only affects plants, so there's no cause for alarm, Speegle said, noting that details about its origins remained a mystery.
There just has not been a lot of research done on rust fungi in the Arctic. This is one that we've never encountered before that we know of, Speegle added.
The goo first washed up in the small Inupiat Eskimo town of Kivalina at the beginning of the month. Located in Alaska's remote northwest coast, the town sits at the tip of an eight-mile barrier reef.
When the orange goo mysteriously arrived in the town and dead fish were spotted in the bay, all 374 residents were baffled. No one in the village could remember witnessing such a phenomenon before.
One week later, the goo dried up and disappeared.
Japan carmakers stay in black, PSA, Daimler turn red
Japanese car manufacturers unexpectedly posted profits on Wednesday and Mercedes-maker Daimler forecast improving performance this year but clear sings of sustained recovery for the world's battered auto sector remained elusive.
Global automakers have seen sales crumble in the past 12 months due to economic downturn and tight credit markets that have already driven U.S. rivals General Motors and Chrysler to bankruptcy and restructuring.
Governments around the world have introduced stimulus measures to revive the sector which is also racing to reposition itself for more ecologically-minded buyers with hybrid cars and electric vehicles.
Germany's Daimler AG posted a 1 billion euro second quarter loss that beat expectations and said it expects a gradual improvement in group operating profitability in the course of the year.
Honda and Nissan, Japan's number two and three manufacturers, posted big profit falls from a year earlier but both managed to stay in the black, surprising analysts who expected operating losses in the April-June quarter.
Conditions remain extremely severe in the auto market, Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo told a news conference.
France's PSA Peugeot Citroen generated positive free cash flow of 467 million euros in the first half, thanks to sharp cuts in vehicle stocks. But free cash flow would be negative in the second half, as no more stock cuts could be made, finance chief Frederic Saint-Geours told a news conference.
Its shares surged nearly 10 percent.
Elsewhere, the head of Volkswagen's commercial vehicle division said he expects demand to improve gradually from the second half of this year until the end of 2010.
And UK-based car dealer Inchcape beat analysts' forecasts with a H1 underlying profit of 65.4 million pounds, 58 percent lower year-on-year.
IN THE BLACK
Honda turned a profit of 25.2 billion yen, down 88 percent, as car sales tumbled and raised its full-year forecast as it said it expected sales to improve.
Nissan, held 44 percent by France's Renault, posted a similar fall of 86 percent to a profit of 11.6 billion yen, as cost cuts mitigated the effects of falling sales and a stronger yen.
It highlighted some bright signs on the sales front -- particularly strong growth in China -- but said it did not see a convincing recovery in global car demand, and repeated its full-year forecast of an operating loss of 100 billion yen.
Honda's shares closed up 1.1 percent. Nissan shares had closed up 0.8 percent before its results were released.
At Daimler, Chrysler-related expenses of 387 million euros along with 217 million in restructuring charges at its trucks division weighed on results but the group managed to increase its cash cushion.
The figures were better than the consensus. Particularly the free cash flow is better than expected. That's the key point, said UniCredit analyst Georg Stuerzer. Daimler shares were up 5.18 percent at 1201 GMT (8:01 a.m. EST).
The German group generated positive free cash flow in its industrial business of 1.4 billion euro amid a sharp 34 percent cut in Mercedes production.
Peugeot swung to a recurring operating loss of 826 million euros from a profit of 1.115 billion last year, with both sales and profit falling short of analysts' expectations.
Peugeot said Europe's car market would not start recovering until late 2010 but its shares surged as analysts welcomed an improved cash position. The group saw good potential from the Chinese and Brazilian markets.
PSA said it expected to increase its market share above 14 percent in Europe in the second half, and Morgan Stanley analysts said the group's net financial position was significantly better than expected. The group has no major debt to pay back in 2009 or 2010, it said.
CEO Philippe Varin said the group would be open to looking at partnership opportunities as long as they would create value and allow the group to maintain its independence.
Analysts had been eagerly awaiting more clues on group strategy. In June, shortly after he took control at the group, Varin told shareholders the group would be open to acquisitions or partnerships to boost its presence in markets it hopes will hold up in the face of the widespread sales slump.
For a FACTBOX on the market shares of carmakers reporting results on Wednesday click on
(Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Maria Sheahan; Writing by Helen Massy-Beresford, Editing by Will Waterman and Marcel Michelson)
AT&T Axes $10 Text Plan: Why You Should Consider Locking it in
AT&T will axe its $10 for 1,000 text messages plan on Sunday. Engadget first reported the news, which an AT&T spokesperson later confirmed to multiple publications. Before Aug. 21, it might make sense for people who don't already have the plan to lock it in.
AT&T will let customers already under the $10 plan continue to use it, even if they switch phones. However, for new customers or existing customers under a different text plan, it will no longer be available.
Instead, there will be only two options: a $20 unlimited text plan, or no text plan and pay at least 20 cents per text.
Having no text plan is an unwise option for most people; at a rate of 20 cents per text, $20 will only buy a user 100 texts.
Having a $20 unlimited plan, however, makes less sense to many people than having the $10 plan. (For some people, AT&T's old plan of $5 for 200 texts actually makes even more sense.)
The reality is that many users use less than 200 texts per month. An even greater number of consumers use less than 1,000 texts.
(In fact, many users under the $20 unlimited plan don't actually need it; they're simply paying a premium for the simplicity and peace of mind that comes with the word unlimited.)
One reason is that smartphone users, especially those on the BlackBerry, communicate using emails or chat messengers (like KakaoTalk) in lieu of text messages.
However, because most of them know a few people with feature phones who text them, they have to do some texting (to respond to feature phone users) each month, but certainly less than 1,000 texts and perhaps even less than 200 texts.
So if you care about paying an extra $10 per month to AT&T and you either know you're about to join AT&T or are convinced that your $20 unlimited plan makes no practical sense, then you should consider locking in the $10 for 1,000 texts plan before Sunday.
Michelle Obama's Tracy Reese dress was a hit at the DNC on Tuesday night.
The first lady is no stranger to rave reviews for her fashion choices, and the Tracy Reese dress she wore for her big speech at the Democratic National Convention is another fashion home run to add to her list.
The gold and pink dress showed off Obama's renowned toned arms and modestly cut off at her knees. She wore cute pink pumps from J. Crew and went with a trendy gray-blue nail polish for her nails, the Associated Press wrote.
The designer of the dress, Tracy Reese, described it is as a "silk jacquard in an abstract baroque wallpaper pattern" with a hot pink bodice wrapped with gold.
According to the Washington Post, Reese envisions Obama's body when designing a dress.
"There's a certain type of silhouette that is really flattering with her figure," Reese said. "She's tall and lean and curvy through the hips, so I'm always thinking about that."
The Associated Press reported that in an email, Reese said the first lady "looked incredible and spoke beautifully; I am so honored that she chose to wear one of my designs for such a memorable occasion."
Convention viewers took to Twitter Tuesday night to comment on the first lady's stunning Tracy Reese dress, which reportedly coat $4,000.
"GORG dress! Lovin the intro music @DJCassidy... Michelle Obama rocks #proudamerican #DNC," wrote actress Gabrielle Union.
"Michelle Obama wore a $4,000 dress to tell us how out of touch and Rich the Romney's are... HMMM?" @Romniac tweeted.
"Stay mad, haters. Michelle Obama looks gorgeous. Hair, dress both fabulous. #DNC2012" @TheReidReport posted.
"I take back all my criticism; Michelle Obama's dress is stunning. #DNC" @dangerfishback shared.
"Michelle Obama taught all these 'wannabe first ladies' how to be first ladies. Starting with dress code!" @devon_jamaal wrote.
In the past Michelle Obama has been seen wearing outfits from Jason Wu, Narciso Rodriguez, Maria Cornejo, J.Crew, Rodarte, Talbots and Azzedine Alaïa.
Check out the slideshow to view some of Michelle Obama's other smart fashion choices.