√ Tariffs on GPS devices — now up to 8% — will be reduced to zero if a bilateral agreement between economic rivals China and the U.S. is approved in December, as expected, at World Trade Organization talks in Geneva. On November 11, China and the United States agreed to cut tariffs on high-technology consumer goods after a yearlong stalemate over expanding the 1996 Information Technology Agreement (ITA). WTO estimates that the ITA expansion could apply to US$0.8 trillion to $1.4 trillion of annual trade. Presidents Obama and Xi shook hands on the deal at the Asia Pacific Economic Forum summit in Beijing. See our article for more details.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
√ Previous Hotspots talked about the hazards of GPS device use in the subprime loan business. This time, that same business practice saved the life of a Philadelphia woman. On November 2, Carleesha Freeland Gaither was snatched off a city sidewalk and into a Ford Taurus by a stranger with a knife. Three days into the manhunt, police noticed a used car dealer’s name on a traffic camera image of the car. The dealership switched on the GPS device they’d placed in the sedan, sold to an apparently bad guy with bad credit. Within five minutes, police found Freeland Gaither, still alive.
3. Just in Case…
Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Mirny), Russia
√ Russia paid 242 million rubles to insure the next GLONASS satellite and rocket against problems with the flight tests and launch. On November 7, navigation satellite 12L arrived at Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The modernized GLONASS K2 will fly on a Soyuz 2-1b with a Fregat upper stage sometime in December. The unpressurized satellite is lighter than previous models, more powerful, longer-lived, and more accurate. It will broadcast five signals on L1, L2, and L3 bands.
4. World of Wonders
Atlanta, Georgia USA
√ What is as “graceful as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and as awe-inspiring as the Colossus of Rhodes?” According to Slate magazine, it’s GPS-aided air traffic control systems. In a series about the modern wonders of the world, they led with an anecdote about Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport, and its Equivalent Lateral Spacing Operation (ELSO). GPS-guided navigation and the hyper-refined tracking it enables makes it possible to shave degrees off departure angles while keeping the same distance between aircraft as before. The choreography impressed the editors, and so does the increased capacity it allows.
5. Comet 67P
317 million miles from Earth
√ We could talk about Galileo FOCs, but historical events trump errant middle earth orbits. Let’s head to outer space for Europe’s best news of the year! On November 12, European Space Agency probe Rosetta made humanity’s first soft landing on a comet. After a 10-year journey from earth to Comet 67P near Jupiter, the robotic lander Philae left its orbiting module to get down to work studying the space object’s dust, nuclear structure and organic materials. Philae had a bumpy landing into a location where its solar batteries may not recharge; so, scientists gathered information quickly. So far, the comet is much darker, less icy, and somewhat warmer than expected.