In Japan, even robots are hit by the recession

In what is surely a disappointment for WALL-E fans everywhere, the New York Times reports growing robot unemployment in Japan: 

At a large Yaskawa Electric factory on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where robots once churned out more robots, a lone robotic worker with steely arms twisted and turned, testing its motors for the day new orders return. Its immobile co-workers stood silent in rows, many with arms frozen in midair...

Across the industry, shipments of industrial robots fell 33 percent in the last quarter of 2008, and 59 percent in the first quarter of 2009, according to the Japan Robot Association.


Even non-industrial robots are taking a hit. Ugoba, "maker of the cute green Pleo dinosaur robot with a wiggly tail" has filed for bankruptcy, the NYT says, despite selling 100,000 of its creations.

However, there is still hope for the robot industry, or at least baby dinosaur robots. "Pleo is alive and in good hands!" its official website declares. The company has been acquired by the Hong Kong based Jetta Group and will be "re-launched" soon. 



About that "ceasefire" in Nigeria

Just hours after Nigeria's Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) announced its 60-day truce, promising to prepare for negotiations, ("...wise men and women will be put together after consultations with relevant stakeholders. They will speak on our behalf and convey our demands to government.")... they may be changing their minds.

E-mailed to this blogger from spokesman alias Jomo Gbomo at 7:49am EST: 

Barely 12 hours into our ceasefire, the military Joint Task Force has dispatched seven gun boats with heavily armed troops from Warri and are headed towards one of our camps located around the Delta/Ondo state border.
If this information from a very reliable source within the JTF happens to be true, the ceasefire will be called off with immediate effect.
We are monitoring the armada and sincerely hope that the planned attack will be converted to a war exercise.
Well shoot. I don't think that's the deal that the Nigerian government  was hoping for when they released notorious rebel leader Henry Okah yesterday, after his two-year detention for gun-running. 
There's two other things to mention here: 
1) While the official militant media announcements are a fairly acurate indicator of rebel activity in the Niger Delta, MEND does not speak for all of the armed fighters in the region -- not by a long shot. In recent years, the insurgency has been plagued by a war of conflict opportunism. There's quite a few boys in the creeks who are fighting for a profit as much as for MEND. 
2) In case no one else has noticed... all this puts Nigeria on the rocks. Unofficial estimates from some sources on ground tell me that oil production has been cut drastically in recent weeks thanks to militant attacks -- a huge blow to a government already suffering from the budgetary burden of relatively low-priced oil.
Ceasefire or not, there's no calm forthcoming.