Japanese astronaut to command space station in March

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – The first Japanese astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station is preparing for a return flight, this time to serve as commander, officials said on Wednesday.

This Week On The TechCrunch Droidcast: Samsung’s Galaxy Glut, Nexus Price Cuts, And HTC’s Next Step


Is it Wednesday already? It must be, because we’ve got yet another edition of the TechCrunch Droidcast to carry you through the rest of your day (or least the next half hour). This week it’s just Darrell Etherington and I shooting the breeze about the goings-on in the Android world, but there’s plenty for us to dig into.

Samsung has a new tablet for kiddies and confirmed it’ll show off the Galaxy Gear smartwatch next week for starters, and Google has just priced its 8 and 16GB Nexus 4s to move. Meanwhile, poor old HTC may be trying to put together a mobile operating system of its own so it can make some inroads into the Chinese market (and hopefully secure itself a future).

Throw in a bit of Kobo talk (at Darrell’s insistence, being Canadian and all) and a few off-topic moments at the end of the show to tear apart Nintendo’s downright ridiculous 2DS handheld, and you’ve got this installment of Droidcast in a nutshell. Interest piqued? Take a listen below and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes if you’re picking up what we’re putting down.

We invite you to enjoy weekly Android podcasts every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and 2:30 p.m. Pacific, in addition to our weekly Gadgets podcast at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific on Fridays. Subscribe to the TechCrunch Droidcast in iTunes, too, if that’s your fancy.

Intro music by Kris Keyser.

T-Mobile Employee Blackout Dates Support September 20 iPhone Release Date

T-Mobile has implemented vacation blackout dates between September 20 and 22, reports TmoNews, potentially confirming a prospective September 20 release date for the iPhone 5S and 5C that was first leaked earlier this month by Japanese business newspaper Nikkei.

During the blackout period, employees will be unable to take vacation time to ensure that T-Mobile has adequate staff on hand for a large release event. Similar blackouts have been instituted for the launch of previous iPhone models and other high-profile products.

While MacRumors has heard reports of a September 20 blackout date for T-Mobile employees, reports from AT&T and Verizon employees have been conflicting, with some citing an October blackout period. Blackout dates are occasionally instituted for a broad range of dates and then narrowed down as a release date approaches and can also be subject to change based on Apple’s exact event plans.

Apple’s iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C are both expected to be revealed at a September 10 event that has been confirmed by multiple sources, which makes September 20 a likely candidate for release as Apple typically launches its new phones in the United States and other markets approximately a week and a half after they are announced.

Last year, Apple announced the iPhone 5 at a media event on September 12, launching the phone several days later on September 21 in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.


U.S. intelligence committees say they’re not properly consulted on Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. congressional intelligence committee leaders believe the Obama administration has not properly consulted them as the president engages in final deliberations for possible military action in Syria, according to congressional officials.

‘ESPNews’ and ‘ESPN Deportes’ Added to WatchESPN App on iOS and Apple TV [iOS Blog]

NewImageESPN has added two new channels to its WatchESPN apps on the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, according to an ESPN press release.

ESPN today officially launched the availability of ESPN Deportes and ESPNEWS on WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the award-winning WatchESPN app and on Apple TV to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider (coming soon to ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members). The launch debuts just in time for the second leg of Spain’s Supercopa Final between Barcelona and Atlético Madrid live on ESPN Deportes at 5 p.m. ET tonight.

The channels are available to authenticated pay TV subscribers with the following cable companies:

– AT&T U-verse
– Bright House Networks
– Charter
– Comcast XFINITY
– Cox
– Midcontinent Communications
– Optimum
– Time Warner Cable
– Verizon FiOS TV

WatchESPN is a free download on the iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]


Mark Carney to U.K. consumers: Spend some money

Mark Carney is at it again. Only this time, he’s out there, banging the drum for banks to lend more and consumers to get out their wallets.

In his first major speech as Governor of the Bank of England, Mr. Carney sought to relieve uncertainty about the future of the economy, stressing that the U.K. central bank will keep interest rates where they are at least until unemployment falls below 7%, perhaps even longer. Where those rates are is already just 0.5%, half what the Bank of Canada charges.

“Exactly how long they stay low will depend on the progress of the recovery and in particular how quickly unemployment comes down,” Mr. Carney said in his address to business leaders in the city of Nottingham on Wednesday. “What matters is that rates won’t go up until jobs and incomes are really growing.”

So you’re Joe Consumer and you’ve been looking at boosting your lifestyle, say, purchasing a new recreational vehicle or maybe a bigger home, but you’ve held off up to now because, you know, the interest payments might go up.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, FileWhen the U.S. Fed announces it's winding down its stimulus program, everyone is affected.

Now, thanks to Mr. Carney, you can sleep at night, secure in the knowledge that your payments will hold steady. As an added incentive, your friends tell you, it’s almost foolish not to go into hock because these super low rates Mr. Carney is virtually guaranteeing don’t come around that often.

But it was only a few months back, when he was Bank of Canada Governor in ice-bound Ottawa, that Mr. Carney was hectoring Canadians not to go out on a limb with their borrowing.  The biggest threat facing the Canadian economy is excessive household debt, the rock star central banker declared, and indeed he repeated the warning so often that it became a personal theme during the latter part of his stint at the Bank of Canada.

Interestingly, the message went unheeded as consumers continued to go about their business, splurging on ever more expensive houses, TVs and so forth, and sinking deeper into debt.

Consumer debt to income levels at around 165% are now pretty much where in the U.S. was just prior to the real estate meltdown. Hopes that the borrowing binge is starting to level off were dealt a blow by a study by TransUnion, a credit measurement company, which found that households continue to borrow and that the rate of borrowing is now the fastest its been in two years.

But of course, with Mr. Carney hunkering down at his new job at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, there’s no one to chastise us, to warn us of dire consequences. Officially, Stephen Poloz is the newly anointed Bank of Canada governor, but he’s made hardly a peep since taking office on June 3.

Of course, Ben Bernanke is the guy who’s really calling the shots. The guy up in Ottawa — whether it’s Mr. Carney, Mr. Poloz, or whoever, can jawbone all he wants about reckless borrowing but at the end of the day, consumers are rational. If rates are low and banks are willing, they’ll go into debt. All it took was a few choice comments earlier this year about “tapering,” a.k.a less ultra-cheap money, by Mr. Bernanke and suddenly the tone has changed. Mortgage rates are going up and economists are warning of a slowdown in the housing market.

Galit Rodan/Bloomberg

Galit Rodan/BloombergStephen Poloz is the newly anointed Bank of Canada governor, but he's made hardly a peep since taking office on June 3.

The U.S. is the world’s biggest economy and when the U.S. central bank says it will tighten up on policy, Canada has not choice but to go along for the ride. Since May, long term interest rates have moved up nearly a percent, the biggest such jump since the mid 1990s. The yield on Canadian government bonds have moved in lockstep with U. S. government bonds.

But Mr. Bernanke is talking about taking away the punch bowl because the U.S. economy is on the path to recovery. The Canadian economy, by contrast, is still in intensive care, struggling with swooning commodity prices and a moribund manufacturing sector. The last thing we would appear to need is higher rates.

Despite all the accolades, Mr. Carney is in the same boat as Mr. Poloz. He can make all the promises he wants about keeping rates low but just like Canada, the U.K. and the rest of the developed world is being swept along by the same currents that are driving up rates in this country. When the U.S. Fed announces it’s winding down its stimulus program, everyone is affected.

The U.K. economy is even further behind the curve than Canada’s. That’s why Mr. Carney’s prescription is so different than it was here. His challenge then is enormous: In a world of rising bond rates, he’s got to persuade people that he’ll find a way to keep them low.

San Diego sets special election to replace mayor felled by scandal

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – The San Diego City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a special election for November 19 to replace Mayor Bob Filner, who announced his resignation last week as part of a settlement with the city of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Poll shows de Blasio surging in New York mayoral race

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Public advocate Bill de Blasio has taken a strong lead among Democrats in the race to be New York City’s next mayor, just two weeks before the September 10 Democratic primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.