Friday, April 24, 2009

The Perils of Rubina: The Slumdog Star vs. the Media

Slumdog Millionaire propelled nine-year old Rubina Ali to instant stardom and fame. However, too much fame can be a bad thing for a pretty little girl from an impoverished background. She has been subject to near constant media attention, witnessed brawls between her mother and stepmother over her custody and, most recently, been the subject of a dubious international sting operationThe British tabloid News of the World purported to have caught Rubina's father, Rafiq Qureshi, on video agreeing to a deal to sell the girl to an Arab sheikh for 200,000 pounds (about $280,000). The story quoted Qureshi's brother as saying, "The child is special now. This is not an ordinary child. This is an Oscar child." Without bothering to check the allegations with Qureshi, Indian newspapers and cable television channels descended on Rubina in her home in a slum in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai, asking her to clarify the incident. Qureshi has consistently denied the tabloid's claims and has not been arrested — despite widespread reports in Indian newspapers and on television to the contrary. (See the real slum of Slumdog Millionaire.)

Rubina's biological mother Khurshida, who does not live with her and has been engaged in a custody battle over the child, then registered a case against Qureshi in the local police station. The Mumbai Police, however, have not found any evidence to back up Khurshida's claims or the tabloid's charge of attempted trafficking. "We had only called him in for an inquiry," says M. Dewar, the investigating officer at the local police station.

The authorities did, however, ask a local non-profit group, Childline, to meet Rubina and check on her well-being. "Our chat with the child was informal and was not intended to explore any story or seek the child's version of events or even to determine whether the story was genuine or not," a Childline spokesman said. The group has not yet been able to establish anything about Rubina's relationship with her mother, father or stepmother. "Those require a number of sittings and a variety of investigations," the spokesman said. (Read a story about what fate awaits Slumdog's child stars.)

In the meantime, The Jai Ho Trust, which was formed to look after the two youngest children in Slumdog Millionaire, Rubina and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, sprang into action. (It is supported by Slumdog's director, Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson and an Indian child rights group, Plan India). The trust issued a statement saying that its representatives are in regular contact with Rubina and her parents to help protect the child's interests. "We are looking towards shifting the family out of the slum and into a flat, which will be held in trust till the children turn 18," says Noshir H. Dadrawala, one of the trustees. "We will also provide them a monthly stipend of 5,000 to 6,000 rupees ($100-$120) to cover their living costs." The trust also plans to hire a local counselor to periodically sit with the children and their families to help them "cope with fame and also how to handle the media."

That's one skill that the slums of Mumbai could never teach them. Rubina and Azhar are learning to live under a media glare that can undo the wealthiest, worldliest movie stars. The Jai Ho Trust has asked the Indian media to curtail their attention in the future, "to limit further unnecessary exploitation of her rights and interests." The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has ordered a probe by the Mumbai police of the alleged trafficking, but is also concerned about the media pile-on that followed the report. "We already have had a consultation with them [the Indian media] in January and we plan to hold workshops throughout this year to sensitize the media about child rights," says Shantha Sinha, who chairs the commission.

Too much media exposure could even put Rubina in worse danger, says Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director of Plan India, part of the Jai Ho Trust. "This constant media exposure has been very bad for her," Dengle says. "She has actually been laid bare to the attention of traffickers." When asked whether the Mumbai police will be keeping a closer eye on Rubina after this incident, a police officer in the local station laughs. "Where is the need for police watch?" he says. "Ever since the Oscars there are a hundred cameras outside her home that are tracking her every movement. They record every minute detail of her life. They have taken over our duty."
source:TIME CNN

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How Apple is squeezing out more profit than ever

Apple's remarkable ability to remain unaffected by seems to be continuing unabated - here's the news story, and Jack mentioned the results too.

The numbers were certainly impressive: $1.21bn of profits on sales of $8.16bn - up significantly on the same time last year.

However, it's pretty hard to get an idea of what those numbers mean in context - so we've plotted the company's financials on a graph to show you how Apple's been performing in recent years.
As you can see, the numbers follows a pretty straightforward pattern - a slow increase throughout the year, followed by a drastic jump over the period that covers Christmas. Then things come down again, continuing the upward trend.

Keeping an eye on revenues (the blue line) there did appear to be a little flattening of growth last year - the spike in December 2007 was huge, largely on the back of the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, it's interesting to notice that the pink line (profits) doesn't move as drastically in comparison to the ups and downs of revenue. It carries on rising relentlessly - and actually at a greater pace than the revenues do.

What this shows is that Apple has bigger profit margins today than it did three years ago. You can see that revenues have gone up from $4.36bn for this period in 2006 to $8.16bn for the last three months - that's an increase of 87%. Meanwhile profits have shot up from $410m to $1.21bn, almost three times higher.

How? A significant chunk of this must be down to Apple's immense power in the flash memory market - it is now the world's biggest purchaser - and the economies of scale it can achieve when it's selling tens of millions of iPods each quarter. Plus there's the added bonus of things like the App Store (a 30% cut on each purchase) and deals with mobile phone providers - all of which are relatively new.

In short, when everyone's margins are shrinking, Apple is using its size and power to squeeze more out of the products it's making: no wonder Tim Cook doesn't want to make a netbook.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In Hong Kong THE WORLDS DENSELY POPULATED PLACE , Even the Dead Wait in Line

In Hong Kong, it can be hard just finding somewhere to sit down. In the fourth most densely populated place in the world, park benches are packed and strangers share tables at restaurants. But for the 40,000 people who die here every year, it turns out there's no respite from the crowds, even in the afterlife. While a land shortage forced Hong Kongers to give up on burials long ago — only 11% of bodies were buried in 2007 — the city has also run out of space for cremated ashes. By some estimates, that means roughly 50,000 families must store their relatives' remains in funeral homes and offices while they wait — often for years — to secure a 1-sq.-ft. resting place.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


WASHINGTON -- The International Space Station module formerly known as Node 3 has a new name. After more than a million online responses, the node will be called "Tranquility."

The name Tranquility was chosen from thousands of suggestions submitted by participants on NASA's Web site, The "Help Name Node 3" poll asked people to vote for the module's name either by choosing one of four options listed by NASA or offering their own suggestion. Tranquility was one of the top ten suggestions submitted by respondents to the poll, which ended March 20.

"The public did a fantastic job and surprised us with the quality and volume of the suggestions," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations.
"Apollo 11 landed on the moon at the Sea of Tranquility 40 years ago this July. We selected 'Tranquility' because it ties it to exploration and the moon, and symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station."We don't typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people and this is no exception," Gerstenmaier joked. "However, NASA is naming its new space station treadmill the 'Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill,' or COLBERT. We have invited Stephen to Florida for the launch of COLBERT and to Houston to try out a version of the treadmill that astronauts train on."

The treadmill is targeted to launch to the station in August. It will be installed in Tranquility after the node arrives at the station next year. A newly-created patch will depict the acronym and an illustration of the treadmill.

Tranquility is scheduled to arrive at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in May. There, it will be prepared for space shuttle Endeavour's flight, designated STS-130, which is targeted for launch in February 2010. Tranquility will join four other named U.S. modules on the station: the Destiny laboratory, the Quest airlock, the Unity node and the Harmony node.

Tranquility is a pressurized module that will provide room for many of the space station's life support systems. Attached to the node is a cupola, which is a unique work station with six windows on the sides and one on top. Tranquility is targeted for launch in late 2009.source:

Exercise Your Mind, Stave Off Alzheimer's Disease

The more you work your brain, the more likely you will stave off Alzheimer’s disease

Just a modest amount of mental stimulation can go a long way towards warding off Alzheimer’s disease. This is the opinion of researchers who created mice genetically modified to get a condition similar to it.

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine studied hundreds of mice altered to make them develop abnormalities known as plaques and tangles in brain tissue that are considered hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease in people.

Writing on Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, they said periodic learning sessions-swimming in a tub of water until finding a submerged platform to stand on-slowed the development of those two abnormalities in the mice.

“The remarkable thing was that just by learning infrequently, they still had a very dramatic effect on the Alzheimer’s disease pathology, “ said Kim Green, one of the researchers.

“So it suggests that in humans, if you learn more and more and more, it’s going to have a huge, beneficial effect,” Green added.

The findings highlight an idea that also has emerged in other research-that exercising one’s mind is important to staving off Alzheimer’s disease, the degenerative brain malady that is the most common form of dementia among the elderly.

Green noted that other studies have found that highly educated people are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people with less education.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s , which gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability t o learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities.

“What we have shown is that by learning by stimulating your mind, you’re able to protect against the development of the pathologies associated with the disease,” Green said.

“Crossword puzzles reading books, learning a new language-anything you can do to stimulate the brain is going to be beneficial, we think.”

The mice were given “a very mild learning experience”-essentially figuring out a maze but in the water-for a week at a time every three months. The sessions were four times daily for a week at two, six, nine, 12, 15 and 18 months of age.

The mice that performed the task experienced slower development of the protein beta amyloid clumping in the brain and forming plaques, gooey build-up that accumulates outside nerve cells, the study found.

These mice also experienced a slower build-up of another protein in the brain. Hyperphosphorylated-tau, that can lead to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles-twisted fibers in brain cells.

Green said the researchers are looking into whether more frequent and intensive learning sessions might provide bigger and longer-lasting benefits.

Alzheimer’s disease first affects parts of the brain controlling memory and thinking. As it advances, it kills cells elsewhere in the brain. Eventually, if the patient has no other serious illness, the loss of brain function will prove fatal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

All in the Facebook family: older generations join social networks

While online social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are known hang-outs for younger adults and teenagers, older generations in recent months have been taking to the medium at a faster rate than any other age group, according to industry reports.

Many of these older folks use social networks to keep tabs on younger family members and they often find fruitful connections with their peers after they've friended all of their kids and grandkids.



click here!Aspirants appearing for the Common Admission Test (CAT) can look forward to doing away with paper work as CAT, rated as one of the world's most demanding entrance examinations for any graduate institute, is all set to go online from 2009.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) will finally do away with its 25-year-old history of the traditional paper-pencil test.

The decision will impact thousands of students who, each year, appear for the highly competitive entrance exam at centers across the country in the ambition of making it to the hallowed corridors of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).

The examination will be conducted on the pattern of similar international exams like GMAT (Graduate Management Aptitude Test), with the only exception that the results will not be declared instantly.

The news has been confirmed by an official from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C) who said, "The test will definitely go online next year. However, we are not revealing anything about how it will be done."

The CAT committee is now preparing a question bank that will be used for the online test.

The committee is also considering different issues including online test procedure, timing, question data bank, test centres and ways to go about the online exam.

The IIMs had first given a deep thought at conducting the CAT 2008 online. However it was confirmed later that the IIMs were considering various alternatives for modifying the process of conducting CAT, but the exam in 2008 would be a paper-pencil test.

The CAT being conducted online will reap benefits for both aspirants and institutes conducting the test. For the IIMs, it would mean larger revenues as the cost of application forms are likely to go up.

MBA aspirants may also be allowed to appear for the examination three times in a year.

Speaking on the new initiative, Ashish Bhattacharyya, admissions chairperson at IIM Calcutta, said, "An online system would help us handle the huge number of students appearing for the test every year. Last year the number crossed 2.3 lakh. This year it was above 2.7 lakhs. This number is only expected to increase with projections of three lakh-plus in 2009".

It is also expected that once the new system is in place, not all students will be able to take the exam on the same day as is the system applicable now. The exam would then take place in phases with 'spread out batches' within a period of a few months.

The other change will be that instead of the current single exam paper, the online test will carry quite a few different papers of the same level of difficulty.

Around 270,000 MBA aspirants appeared for CAT across the nation this year.

A majority of those who appeared felt that while the three-segment paper was fairly 'doable', there were a few hiccups in the 'lengthy verbal' and 'tough quant' sections.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cows With Gas: India's Global Warming Problem

Indolent cows languidly chewing their cud while befuddled motorists honk and maneuver their vehicles around them are images as stereotypically Indian as saffron-clad holy men and the Taj Mahal. Now, however, India's ubiquitous cows — of which there are 283 million, more than anywhere else in the world — have assumed a more menacing role as they become part of the climate change debate.By burping, belching and excreting copious amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas that traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide — India's livestock of roughly 485 million (including sheep and goats) contribute more to global warming than the vehicles they obstruct. With new research suggesting that emission of methane by Indian livestock is higher than previously estimated, scientists are furiously working at designing diets to help bovines and other ruminants eat better, stay more energetic and secrete lesser amounts of the offensive gas.Already the world's largest producer of milk, India will have to yank up production from the current 100 million metric tons to 180 million metric tons by 2021-22 to keep pace with growing population and expanding disposable incomes. Livestock such as cows, buffalo, goats, sheep, horses and mules are indispensable to India's rural economy — whether yoked to plow land, raised for milk and manure, or harnessed to pull carts to move goods and people. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the animals contribute 5.3% to total GDP, up from 4.8% during 1980-81. But, says Dr. K.K. Singhal, head of Dairy Cattle Nutrition at the National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal in northern India, "while livestock plays a crucial role in the economy, global warming is becoming a huge worry. We're trying to find indigenous solutions, because our realities are very different from the West.For starters, most Indian livestock is underfed and undernourished, unlike robust counterparts in richer countries. The typical Indian farmer is unable to buy expensive dietary supplements even for livestock of productive age, and dry milch cattle and older farm animals are invariably turned out to fend for themselves. Poor quality feed equals poor animal health as well as higher methane production. Also, even when western firms are willing to share technology or when western products are available, these are often unaffordable for the majority in India. For instance, Monensin, an antibiotic whose slow-release formula reduces methane emission by cows, proved too expensive for widespread use in India. So the emphasis for Indian scientists is on indigenous solutions. "We know we cannot count on high quality feed and fodder," says Singhal, "No one will be able to afford it. What we have done instead is develop cheaper technologies and products." One example is urea-molasses-mineral blocks that are cheap, reduce methane emission by 20%, and also provide more nutrition so they're easier to sell to illiterate farmers who don't know a thing about global warming but want higher milk yields. an article from the TIME MAGAZINE

PG Wodehouse Maniac

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975) (IPA: /ˈwʊdhaʊs/) was a comic writer who enjoyed enormous popular success during a career of more than seventy years and continues to be widely read. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse's main canvas remained that of pre-war English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education, and youthful writing career.

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It is well known that Indians believe passionately in the theory of muhurts or auspicious times to perform sacraments, to make major purchases or to begin new ventures. Inspite of modern technology and changing lifeviews, this dedication to auspicious time is a prominent feature of Indian life. Akshaya Tritiya, the third day of the bright half of Vaishakh, is considered one of the four most sacred days of the vear.

The word Akshaya means that which never diminishes - hence beginnings made or valuables bought on this day are considered certain to bring luck and success. All over India people celebrate weddings, plan new business ventures, long journeys and other events on this day. Like Diwali, Dussera and Gudi Padva. Akshava Tritiva is reserved for buying gold, silver and other assets. On this day jewellers keep their shops open well into twilight time to entertain their buyers. Akshaya Tritiya or Akha TeeJ is traditionally the birthday of Parshurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. The Puranas tell how he reclaimed land from the sea along the west coast of India by his valour. Even today Goa and the Konkan are called Parshurama Kshetra. He then settled 96 selected families there, called Shahanavkuli Brahmins, who are said to have created the cultural heritage of this nart of India. In India gold is regarded as the ultimate symbol of wealth and prosperity. Buying gold and jewellery is a popular activity on Akshaya Tritiya, one of the most auspicious days of the year.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Blogging Techniques: The Best Support For Your Blog

To make the most of business blogging, you’ll need to commit some time and energy toward learning good blogging techniques. While your blog content should focus on your audience, you’ll want to stay mindful of the opportunities you’ll have to promote, optimize and market your blog.

A good training course can help you recognize and manage good link opportunities, and learn good blogging techniques, as well as techniques to avoid. Inadvertent SEO errors and missed opportunities can reduce the effectiveness of your blog and diminish its search engine visibility Blog training will teach you how to expose your blog to the marketplace and promote it among those readers most interested in what you have to say.

Good blogging techniques can also help you focus your posts on the key messages you want to send to your readers. Well-written posts targeted to the right audience will elevate your profile and act as a conduit for potential customers who are interested in your niche.

Blog training will demonstrate the most effective writing styles for your blog and allow you to reach out to readers in a way that is welcoming, encouraging and authentic. By making these personal connections with your readers, you will establish your authority and highlight the contributions you can make to your particular industry.

If you’re new to blogging, are interested in learning good blogging techniques or you’re not sure that you’re hitting your desired readership, consider taking the RSS Applied blog training course. You’ll increase your comfort level with what you’re doing, and you’ll be better able to assess your results.