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It is up to lawmakers to decide if the four unity bills will be withdrawn, said House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont.

Mr Somsak said he himself has never suggested withdrawing the bills.

Instead he has recommended that consideration be put off pending a public referendum.

“I never said anything about abandoning the bills or coordinating with the sponsors to drop it.

“That’s not my job. The final say belongs to members of the House,” he added.

The House Speaker insisted the unity bills will not be on the agenda when parliament reconvenes tomorrow.

Pheu Thai and its coalition partners are discussing how to proceed with the issue and expect to come up with a solution by Aug 8.

“The best I can do is to put off its consideration, but how [to get it postponed] is open to discussion,” he said when asked about the yellow shirts’ threat to stage a mass protest rally if the government refuses to abandon the bills.

The four unity bills are sponsored by 2006 coupmaker Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai Samart Kaewmeechai, Pheu Thai Party list MP Niyom Worapanya and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar, who is also a red shirt co-leader.

Parliament burst into commotion earlier this month when Mr Somsak tried to move the bills to the top of the meeting agenda for urgent deliberation.

Prime Minister’s Office Minister Woravat Au-apinyakul said there is no need to seek withdrawal of the bills. There are dozens of bills which are never picked up for a debate, he noted.

He said government whips have agreed not to pick the bills for deliberation when parliament reconvenes tomorrow.

Opposition whip Jurin Laksanavisit said the government is not backing down, but biding its time.

He called on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to start exercising leadership and take action to avert a possible confrontation. “If the government really wants to solve the problem, it must abandon the bills,” said Mr Jurin.

Meanwhile, Thaksin’s legal adviser Noppadon Pattama yesterday said it is not Mr Somsak’s job to talk others into abandoning the reconciliation bills.

He said there is no need to withdraw the bills and the government should seek input from the public and a public consensus before proceeding.

(CNN) — Watching the Olympics, which kick off in earnest Friday with the opening ceremony in London, is more fun when you know the stories behind the Games.

No doubt, sports broadcasters will hammer on plenty of rags-to-riches, against-the-odds backstories about the Olympic athletes. (You can also find plenty of them on CNN’s London 2012 page). And that’s all good. But knowing the technological underpinnings of the Games is perhaps just as intriguing.

Here’s a quick look at 10 of the most interesting tech stories to watch at the London Olympics:

Robotic cameras: Getty Images will install robotic cameras at a few locations at the Olympic Games. They can be controlled remotely and swivel 360 degrees. “The biggest help will come from cameras stashed in floodlights, rafters and scaffolding in and around Olympic venues to provide imagery from places inaccessible to human photographers due to space or security reasons,” NBC News wrote. In a YouTube video about new photo tech, Getty says it will shoot some of the Olympics in 3-D.

Souped-up sound: If you like to believe in the Tooth Fairy, don’t read the next sentence: Much of the sound you hear on TV during the Olympics isn’t real — well, at least in the sense that some of it wasn’t recorded during the event being shown. Some of the audio is recorded in advance, in optimized conditions, and then superimposed on the TV broadcast, writes The Atlantic. The site gives the example of archery, which an Olympics audio engineer says is based on the sound he heard watching “Robin Hood.” He captured it by putting a special mic on the ground between the archer and target, which, as Alexis Madrigal points out, creates a sound no person could actually experience at the event.

Two-part track: Look, Ma, no spikes! A new surface on the Olympic track in London means runners won’t have to wear spiked shoes. “Unlike other track designs that combine traction and shock-absorption in an upper layer of rubber granules, the Mondo track separates these functions, with a cushion backing for shock absorption and a solid upper layer that optimizes slip resistance, traction and durability,” the BBC writes. “This design cuts the need for the spikes on athletes’ running shoes to penetrate the running surface.”

Prosthetics: Called “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs,” South African Oscar Pistorius will be the first person to compete in the able-bodied Olympics using prosthetic legs. After some controversy about whether prosthetics should be allowed in the Olympics, Pistorius will run the 400 meters and the 4×400 meter relay on specially made carbon-fiber prosthetics.

Data-head athletes: Some people are calling this the “Twitter Olympics.” Others say it’s the “Data Olympics.” Many athletes are using sleep-tracking devices and motion-capture systems to understand, with a new level of precision, how their bodies work. According to the Financial Times, some biometric device companies are trading athletes their participation for data that they can use to improve their body-tracking gadgets.

Virtual cycling: Australian cyclists have been training on London’s cycling course even thought it’s thousands of miles away by using virtual reality. As the Australian Broadcast Corporation notes in a video package about the technology, the cyclists watch a screen that looks like a video game but actually is a “mile for mile, hill for hill recreation of the London Olympic road cycling course.”

NASA treadmill: American runner Shannon Rowbury, meanwhile, has been training for London with a treadmill that simulates weightlessness. The AlterG treadmill uses anti-gravity technology developed by NASA to give runners the feeling that they are only 20% of their actual weight, the company says. In an interview posted on the company’s website, Rowbury said the treadmill helped her start running much more quickly after a stress fracture.

Low-tech suits: We tend to think of the Olympics becoming higher-tech over time, but new technologies of course bring controversy and questions about how much help athletes should receive from space-age materials and equipment. High-tech Speedo swimsuits, called LZR Racer, are credited with helping swimmers shatter world records in 2008. But they will be banned at the London Olympics, leading to questions about how fast swimmers will go without this technological aid. At a news conference, Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing, said that records will fall in London even without the tech. “If somebody wants a record, it’s going to be broken.”

Electronic blocks: Omega, the official timekeeper of the games, is debuting new starting equipment for swimming and track-and-field events in London. The track starting blocks will be fully electronic for the first time. Previously, 1970s technology required athletes to push back the blocks 5 millimeters to register a start, according to Wired. The swimming starting blocks now will light up to indicate who placed first, second and third.

Jump-kick sensors: Taekwondo has been at risk for being eliminated from the Olympics, but technology that registers the strength and accuracy of kicks may save the sport. “I think taekwondo will really benefit from the technology because it will ensure the medals go to the best athletes, not to someone else because of a mistake from a referee or a judge,” World Taekwondo Federation President Choue Chung-won told Reuters. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to remain in the Olympics. Not many sports have this kind of technology. … It will help eliminate human error in taekwondo.”

Amazon’s recommendation secret

Posted by arnon_k On July - 31 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Much is made of what the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple know about users. Truth is, Amazon may know more. And the massive retailer proves it every day.
FORTUNE — When Amazon recommends a product on its site, it is clearly not a coincidence.

At root, the retail giant’s recommendation system is based on a number of simple elements: what a user has bought in the past, which items they have in their virtual shopping cart, items they’ve rated and liked, and what other customers have viewed and purchased. Amazon (AMZN) calls this homegrown math “item-to-item collaborative filtering,” and it’s used this algorithm to heavily customize the browsing experience for returning customers. A gadget enthusiast may find Amazon web pages heavy on device suggestions, while a new mother could see those same pages offering up baby products.

Judging by Amazon’s success, the recommendation system works. The company reported a 29% sales increase to $12.83 billion during its second fiscal quarter, up from $9.9 billion during the same time last year. A lot of that growth arguably has to do with the way Amazon has integrated recommendations into nearly every part of the purchasing process from product discovery to checkout. Go to and you’ll find multiple panes of product suggestions; navigate to a particular product page and you’ll see areas plugging items “Frequently Bought Together” or other items customers also bought. The company remains tight-lipped about how effective recommendations are. (“Our mission is to delight our customers by allowing them to serendipitously discover great products,” an Amazon spokesperson told Fortune. “We believe this happens every single day and that’s our biggest metric of success.”)

Amazon also doles out recommendations to users via email. Whereas the web site recommendation process is more automated, there remains to this day a large manual component. According to one employee, the company provides some staffers with numerous software tools to target customers based on purchasing and browsing behavior. But the actual targeting is done by the employees and not by machine. If an employee is tasked with promoting a movie to purchase like say, Captain America, they may think up similar film titles and make sure customers who have viewed other comic book action films receive an email encouraging them to check out Captain America in the future.

Amazon employees study key engagement metrics like open rate, click rate, opt-out — all pretty standard for email marketing channels at any company — but lesser known is the fact that the company employs a survival-of-the-fittest-type revenue and mail metric to prioritize the Amazon email ecosystem. “It’s pretty cool. Basically, if a customer qualifies for both a Books mail and a Video Games mail, the email with a higher average revenue-per-mail-sent will win out,” this employee told Fortune. “Now imagine that on a scale across every single product line — customers qualifying for dozens of emails, but only the most effective one reaches their inbox.”

The tactic prevents email inboxes from being flooded, at least by Amazon. At the same time it maximizes the purchase opportunity. In fact, the conversion rate and efficiency of such emails are “very high,” significantly more effective than on-site recommendations. According to Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester analyst, Amazon’s conversion to sales of on-site recommendations could be as high as 60% in some cases based off the performance of other e-commerce sites.

Still, although Amazon recommendations are cited by many company observers as a killer feature, analysts believe there’s a lot of room for growth.”There’s a collective belief within the e-commerce industry that Amazon’s recommendation engine is a suboptimal solution,” says Mulpuru. Trisha Dill, a Well’s Fargo analyst, says it’s hard to fault Amazon for their recommendations, but she also says the company has a lot of work to do in offering users items more relevant to them. As an example, she points to a targeted email she received pushing a chainsaw carrying case. (She doesn’t own a chainsaw.)

Besides refining the accuracy of recommendations themselves, Amazon could explore more ways to reach customers. Already, the company has begun selling items previously sold in bulk that were too cost-prohibitive to ship individually like say, a deck of cards or a jar of cinnamon. Customers may buy them, but only if they have an order totaling $25 or over. But the company could actively recommend these add-on products during check-out when an order crosses that pricing threshold, much like traditional supermarkets have impulse-purchase items like gum and candy bars at the register.

At that point, the Amazon customer, just as they would in the supermarket, might think, “It’s just a few more bucks. Why not?”

SURIN : Rules for the first-car buying scheme have been eased.
New car buyers must still order a car this year if they want to qualify for a tax rebate under the scheme, but do not necessarily have to take delivery by the Dec 31 deadline, the cabinet decided yesterday.

This should help auto manufacturers meet demand for vehicles under the scheme. Previously they had expressed concerns about their ability to meet production orders in time.

The cabinet previously required the buyers to have their new vehicles delivered and to file for a tax rebate by the end of this year.

Once buyers receive the vehicle, they must file the purchase documents with the Excise Department within 90 days to claim a tax rebate of up to 100,000 baht, said government spokeswoman Sansanee Nakphong. Failing to do so could prevent the buyers from receiving a refund, she added.

About 93,833 first-car purchasers had filed a tax-refund claim to the Excise Department between Sept 16, 2011 and July 13, 2012, she said. About 6.82 billion baht will be paid out as tax rebates.

The cabinet’s resolution comes after auto manufacturers complained they could not deliver all 425,000 cars ordered under the scheme by Dec 31. This would have prevented purchasers from being able to request tax refunds with the department in time.

The new regulation applies only to buyers who buy or order a car by Dec 31, she said.

The mobile cabinet meeting at Surindra Rajabhat University also agreed to earmark 5 billion baht in the 2013 budget to support graduates who want to start their own business.

The fund will be provided to graduates who finish their studies at university or vocational institutions after no more than five years.

The government will increase the fund every year, and a total amount of 40 billion baht is expected to be allocated for this programme by 2013-2016.

Meanwhile, a number of public groups converged at the venue before the cabinet meeting started, and some skirmishes were reported.

About 1,000 people of the Thailand Joint Development Group showed up to thank Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and give flowers to her.

They became frustrated when the premier did not come out to receive the flowers, and they started a brawl with security officers.

Later, the PM’s secretary-general Thawat Boonfeung came out to pick up the flowers and a letter from the group.

A network of people affected by dam projects such as the Rasi Salai Dam rallied in front of the meeting venue, demanding compensation for effects which they say the dams will have on their livelihoods.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung argued with the network representatives. Mr Chalerm promised to look into the issue within 30 days and asked the protesters to leave.

A group of handicapped lottery sellers, who called for more lottery quotas, tried to break the security fences. Two of them were taken away by security officers.