Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pepsico to cultivate seaweed in coastal Gujarat, India

Pepsico India Holdings Pvt Ltd, makers of the Pepsi-range of soft-drinks and snacks products, would soon start cultivating seaweed along the coastal areas of Gujarat and set up a plant next year to extract its by-products like jelly and some organic growth nutrients to increase the growth of crops in rain-fed farms in India.

This is going to be the second such plant in India, the first one being at Mandapam in Tamil Nadu.

As in Tamil Nadu, the Gujarat project would also be a woman-dominated activity. They would get jobs in their local habitat with flexible working hours and may earn Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 a month.

Seaweeds are used in many maritime countries for industrial applications and as a fertiliser. The major utilisation of these plants as food is in Asia, where seaweed cultivation has become a major industry.

Seaweeds are found throughout the world's oceans and seas and none is known to be poisonous.

This is a case of Pepsico making money while discharging a social responsibility to the community in which it operates.

Yusuf Islam returns to music

Yusuf Islam formerly known as Cat Stevens with wife Faezia at the "Adopt A Minefield" Benefit Gala at Swissotel Neuss in Dusseldorf, Germany. (05/30/2005). Photo Credit: Splash News

Yusuf Islam has given a comeback live performance at the launch of The Fortune Forum Club in London on September 26.

The singer-songwriter, who was influential in the folk rock movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, has played for an audience that includes former US president Bill Clinton, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as well as the famous acting couple, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Fortune Forum club raises money for global poverty.

Yusuf later said that he would never have agreed to the gig if Bill Clinton was not involved. He had quit the music industry two years after he embraced Islam in 1977.

"Bill Clinton is one of the good things we miss about America. I remember being little and dreaming of the things this world offers. I promised myself if I got them I was going to give back," Contactmusic quoted him as saying.

On his return to the music world, the world's most famous convert to Islam said in a press release, “I feel right about making music and singing about life in this fragile world again.”

He will release his first pop music album in 28 years in November this year.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The first blogger from space

Her name is Anousheh Ansari, an American businesswoman, who has become the first female space tourist. Previously there have been male tourists to space, but she's the first person to blog from space.

Ansari who holds a master's degree in engineering has given some candid insights about her space adventure through her space blog.

On September 12, she writes, She was born in Iran and at the age of sixteen had migrated to the United States with her family. She had a dream.. She's certainly living the American dream in the land of dreams which provide the best opportunities to realize your dreams. She's worked hard and is an inspiration to anyone who sees the sky as the limit.

The price of her 10-days dream is $20 million. Only a privileged few are going to realise this dream but as Ansari has experienced it is truly an amazing journey, unfathomable when you grounded on this earth.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Clinton takes a coffee break

In London for a speaking engagement, former US president Bill Clinton who is a regular visitor to the Starbucks chain in his home town of Chappaqua, New York, may have been feeling the need for a little taste of home.

For as well as his coffee, he enjoyed one of the US chain’s sandwiches. Dressed in a bright red polo shirt and a zip-up bodywarmer, the 60-year-old statesman looked relaxed while two security guards kept watch outside.

Earlier he delivered a lecture to political enthusiasts who had paid up to £300 per ticket to hear him speak at the Royal Albert Hall. Bill Clinton charmed his audience in a wide-ranging talk ranging from climate change and global poverty to the unifying power of the internet while presenting his vision of political leadership in the 21st Century.

Greenhouse gas scare rises again

Scientists have put up the red flag. Research published in "Nature" this week, shows that the levels of the greenhouse gas methane will rise sharply in the next few years, warming the planet faster than previously expected.

Since 1999, levels of methane from human activity have been rising in Asia, consistent with a surge in coal usage in China.

Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and is estimated to have been responsible for a fifth of the enhanced greenhouse effect over the past 200 years.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cultures clash in custody battle

The 12-year-old girl at the centre of an international custody battle, must grow up in a country where the preservation of her chastity will not be jeopardised, a court in Pakistan was told yesterday.

The girl,Molly, who prefers to be known by her Muslim name, Misbah Iram Ahmed Rana, vanished last month from her mother’s home in the Outer Hebrides, prompting an international police hunt.

She has resurfaced in Lahore, Pakistan and she is reunited with her father. She claims to have left her mother, her legal guardian and went to Pakistan voluntarily.

Her Pakistani father Sajad Ahmed Rana said that people in Britain lived a lifestyle that “condones and even encourages sexual promiscuity. This is repugnant to the injunction of Islam.”

Islamic convention meant that a girl who was “near puberty” must be placed in a social environment where the preservation of her chastity could be ensured, he said.

In response to remarks by Misbah's mother that she was taken to Pakistan illegally,Mr Rana has sought to portray the dispute as a battle between cultures, and has pointed to his former wife’s alleged drinking and drug taking. He has also criticised her for having a baby with a man to whom she is not married.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tobacco firms come under fire

A case charging tobacco firms of misleading smokers into believing that low tar or "light" cigarettes are not as adverse as regular cigarettes has proceeded into a class action suit in the United States.

Insiders surmise that the tobacco industry could incur an up to $200 billion expense.

The defendants include Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and British American Tobacco joined by Lorillard Tobacco and Liggett Group.

Tobacco investors are closely watching the suit as it is one of the industry's more important remaining legal risks.

The tobacco companies are being forced to cut out the spin and come clean on the dangers of smoking.

A US District Court decision on August 17, 2006, ruled that tobacco companies could no longer use terms like "'low tar,' 'light,' ultra light,' 'mild' or 'natural'", which they declared to be misleading. Beginning in January 2007, these product names can no longer be used.

The dangers of a 'light' cigarette is no less than any other. This is a phony method to lure younger and unsuspecting customers into taking up this deadly habit. The tobacco companies knew the link between smoking and lung cancer since it was first confirmed in 1954.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Liberalism and Conservatism-

Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.

William E. Gladstone

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Islamic finance is riding high

Islamic Finance is based on interpretations from the Qur'an. Its two central tenets are no interest can be earned on loans and socially responsible investing.

In the Western financial tradition there are many investors who invest in "socially responsible" means, but the socially responsible concept of investing is not as wide spread as it is within the Islamic tradition.

Islamic finance is rapidly prospering around the world owing to an influx of oil money from the Middle East and increasing demand by investors, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

The Islamic finance sector, compatible with Sharia law based on the Koran, is now worth between US$300 and US$500 billion (237 and 394 billion euros), economists estimate, compared with US$200 billion two years ago.

Islamic retail banks and investment funds now increasing and financial institutions in non-Muslim countries, including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and UBS, are choosing to offer products that are compatible with Sharia law.

Here is BBC's Q&A about islamic finance, for a better understanding.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Essentials of entrepreneurship

  • So what is entrepreneurship all about?

1-It is all about hard work and applying your mind properly.
2-It needs complete dedication to your ideas and putting your best efforts into them.
3-It is going to bed thinking about the idea and waking up in the morning thinking about it.
4-It is a field where you need constant attention at every detail.
5-It is about driving yourself: If you are a professional, your boss will remind you that you are not working, if you an entrepreneur you have to remind yourself.
6-It is about convincing others about your ideas too: You have to get the full support of your family and friends to succeed.
7-It is about networking: Being an entrepreneur also means that you have to be constantly in touch with clients, customer and business partners at close quarters.
8-It is about leadership: You should know how to be a leader and add value to the leadership with your ideas.
9-It is about confidence: You have to live with the conviction that even if things don't work out in the initial stages, later on everything will be in place and you will emerge a winner.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Clinton summit continues to shine

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton secured nearly $2 billion in commitments on Wednesday during meetings which took place on the sideline of the United Nations general assembly.

This is the second year that president Clinton has invited world leaders, business leaders and other prominent individuals seeking their commitment and inspiring action in his Clinton Global Initiative.

The CGI is attempting to tackle a variety of global problems after brainstorming with some of the world's richest and most influential people.

The pledges to combat illness, poverty, religious and ethnic conflict and climate change were made during the first day of the second annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York, which last year raised a total $2.5 billion over three days.

When some of the world's best brains come together in order to discuss crucial issues pertaining to the development of the planet and to identify innovative solutions for the big problems of humanity, it opens the path to real progress.

Among those helping generate ideas and money at the summit were billionaire businessmen Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson and 50 current and former heads of state, along with entertainer Barbra Streisand.

One of the first to make a pledge this year came from US First Lady Laura Bush who announced a major commitment from the US government and two private foundations to bring clean water to sub-Saharan Africa.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson (in image) pledged to commit $3 billion over the next 10 years to help combat global warming. All profits from the airline and rail businesses of the Virgin Group (that he founded) would be spent on combating global warming, he said.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another coup d'etat in coup-ridden Thailand

This is democracy in action in Thai style. The Thais are generally peace-loving people in this predominantly Bhuddist-dominated country.

Coups are nothing new to Thailand, but many hoped that after 14 years of uninterrupted civilian rule, the days of revolving door military regimes might finally be over.

Many believed that Thailand's economic and political maturing meant that coups were outdated in this age of globalization.

In recent months, however, mass protests and an impasse over flawed elections have thrown the country into its worst crisis since the last army takeover in 1991.

In Thailand, politics has been dominated by rival military-bureaucratic cliques headed by powerful generals. These cliques have initiated repeated coups d'etat and have imposed prolonged periods of martial law.

Parliamentary institutions, as defined by Thailand's fourteen constitutions between 1932 and 1987, and competition among civilian politicians have generally been facades for military governments.

Gen Sondhi, the first Muslim army commander in Thailand, was appointed to the army's top post last year with a mission to deal with an Islamic insurgency in the country's south. Now he has dismissed the country's prime minister and taken charge of the country as acting prime minister.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Is the World Bank itself corrupt?

Fighting corruption is an essential part of overcoming poverty, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Monday, but he acknowledged that donors should not penalise poor people for the abuses of their leaders by withholding aid.

Wolfowitz, who has championed fighting corruption since becoming chief of the bank last year, has come under fire from Britain and several African nations for blocking more than £500million in aid to either countries believed to be involved in illegal activities or such projects where there reports of graft.

According to the World Bank, £500billion in bribes change hands worldwide every year.

As this article states, the World Bank cannot really occupy the moral high ground when it comes to corruption for the World Bank is itself a fundamentally corrupt organization because it lives off taxes and taxes are extorted funds, collected coercively by governments that threaten to rob people of everything if they fail to pay up.

It appears that whatever efforts that the IMF/World Bank has made to reduce poverty has helped to enrich various crooked leaders while leaving the poor just as they were.

"Kisses for My President"

This is the 1964 film about the story of a married American woman who is elected as the US President.

This would be quite a giant leap for the feminist cause. America is a country that provides equal opportunity, regardless of whether you are a man or woman. But so far it hasn't elected a woman president and most of the corporate CEOs and politicians are still men.

The first woman commander-in-chief in "kisses for my president" gets pregnant who then decides to leave the presidential home and goes to live in her own home.

The latenight humour shows would be having a field day, rediculing and poking fun on the president.

When the president gives birth, the hospital would announce "madame president and the baby are both doing fine."

Monday, September 18, 2006

India unhappy with World Bank

India on Monday lashed out at the World Bank for over-emphasis on issues of governance and corruption, which it said cannot replace the core of the development agenda, crucial for the uplift of millions of poor and downtrodden in developing and emerging economies.

India's Finance Minister P.Chidambaram said that since the scale of the development challenge facing the world was "daunting", the Bank as an institution needed, more than ever before, to focus on where it can actually make a difference.

Mr. Chidambaram is a highly respected financial guru and he knows what he is talking. Fighting corruption in developing countries is no less a daunting task. India has to take the bull by the horns and fight to eradicate corruption.

An extraordinary mea culpa by the Pope

The pope is the spiritual head of the Catholic Church and he is also the Head of State of the Vatican City, and independent city state nation enclaved by Rome in Italy.

The pope on Sunday apologised in person for the angry Muslim reaction to his comments on Islam. Pope Benedict XVI said that his quote from a 14th century Christian Byzantine emperor did not reflect his personal opinion.

Many people have described that the pope's public apology is something unheard of in a pontiff's living memory.

Just minutes after saying he was "deeply sorry" to the Muslim world yesterday, the Pope quoted from St Paul on the meaning of the cross. Speaking in Italian he cited Paul, saying "we preach the crucified Christ - a scandal for the Jews, a folly for the pagans".

Jewish representatives expressed surprise. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, a member of the board of the Council of Christians and Jews, set up to counter prejudice between religions and races, said: "The Pope has every right to quote his own holy texts, but it may be unwise in the current climate to choose those which relate to other faiths."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

E-coli outbreak blamed on spinach

The US Federal health officials worked Friday to find the source of a multistate E. coli outbreak linked to bagged spinach and warned consumers that even washing the suspect spinach won't kill the sometimes-deadly bacteria.

One person died and dozens of others were sickened in the nine-state outbreak, linked by Food and Drug Administration officials to bagged spinach.

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA warned people not to eat bagged spinach and said washing it wouldn't solve the problem because the bacteria is too tightly attached.

Thorough cooking can kill the tenacious bug.

The outbreak has been traced to Natural Selection Foods, based in San Juan Bautista, California, and the company has voluntarily recalled products containing spinach.

Supermarkets across the USA pulled spinach from shelves and consumers are discarding out the leafy green.

IMF predicts tough times for Asia

IMF is making all the right noises without saying that the global economy is heading for a financial crash. It is saying that Asian economic growth faces increased risks next year, including a likely slowdown in the U.S. economy, although the region will probably emerge largely unscathed amid strong growth in China and India.

The IMF also said that rising income inequality in Asia threatens to undermine the sustainability of the region's growth.

The widening income gap is becoming a political issue in the region. In Japan, the opposition blames the economic policies pursued by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the worsening inequality between the rich and poor. South Korea's President Roh Moo Hyun has pledged to narrow the gap by spending on job creation and social welfare.

The latest burst of growth in Asia has been driven by technological change, which tends to favor skilled workers and exacerbates inequalities.

Instead of redistributing wealth via the tax system, the IMF recommended governments lift spending on education to increase the number of skilled workers able to benefit from technological change.

The IMF also called for more spending on transport infrastructure, helping to connect poor and remote regions to the market for their goods.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Skinny models going out of style

The world's first ban on overly thin models at a top-level fashion show in Madrid has caused outrage among modeling agencies and raised the prospect of restrictions at other venues.

The Madrid show is using the body mass index or BMI -- based on weight and height -- to measure models. It has turned away 30 percent of women who took part in the previous event.

This is a very interesting development. The whole of America and most the developed countries are getting fat on fast foods, so perhaps it's time to look beyond the ultra-thin models.

A whole generation of young girls have grown up looking to poster images of skinny models, and it seems unfair to impose BMI as the yardstick to permit the catwalk.

Anorexia and other health problems related to underweight is what the organisers of these catwalk contests should really worry about.

If this trend of thinking could be extended further, the chubby and the beautiful can take the centre stage of beauty. And everyone can have a good feasting time.

DDT back in business

Malaria, carried by the mosquito, kills more than a million each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reversed a 30-year policy by endorsing the use of DDT for malaria control.

The chemical is sprayed inside houses to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

DDT has been banned globally for every use except fighting disease because of its environmental impacts and fears for human health.

Supporters of the DDT say since the ban, two million people a year have died unnecessarily from malaria, mostly children. The ban has caused more than fifty million needless deaths.

It just seems that the policy to ban DDT in the first place was poorly thought out and it had far reaching implications especially in the poorer countries that could not afford other forms of more expensive pesticides.

Why did it take WHO 30 years to realize DDT wasn't harmful to humans and infact it could save so many lives, who otherwise died from malaria? What a first class controversy this has come to. There must be many conspiracy theories floating around.

Green tea prolongs life

Drinking green tea may reduce risk of death from all causes, suggests a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study found those who drank five cups of green tea per day were 16 percent less likely to die from any cause during the 11-year study than those who drank less than one cup per day.

The recent study is different from many previous studies because it involved so many people - 40,530 Japanese adults. Those who drank lots of green tea were less likely than those who drank only a little tea to die from cardiovascular disease and other causes, but not cancer.

Tea of all kinds is the most consumed beverage in the world aside from water, while heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death worldwide.

The study said the apparent protective effect found was not likely to be the result of tea drinkers somehow being more health conscious, since almost all Japanese consume green tea as one of their favorite beverages regardless of their other health habits.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Religious tolerance and understanding needed

During a speech at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday, Pope Benedict quoted criticism of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who wrote that everything Mohammad brought was evil and inhuman, "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

Pope Benedict, who used the terms "jihad" and "holy war", repeatedly quoted Manuel's argument that spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable, adding: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

Muslims across the world are expressing outrage about the Pope's remarks and are demanding the Pope to apologise and withdraw the false statement.

Pope John Paul II who was Pope Benedict's predecessor travelled widely and worked tirelessley building bridges between nations and religions, attempting to remove divisions created through history.

Sadly instead of of building and strenghtening on the racial harmony that the present Pope inherited, Pope Benedict has started off on the wrong foot.

The Pope as the highest cleric in Christianity needs to set a good example of understanding other religions and should not make statements that insult other religions.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A strike of crossed legs

Wives and girlfriends of gang members in one of Colombia's most violent cities have gone on strike. They are calling a ban on sex in a bid to get their men to give up the gun and stop violence.

These women know that sex is a very powerful weapon, hopefully they can lure their gangster men to come to them on their terms.

The women have come up with a strike anthem rap song that included the lyrics: "As women we are worth a lot. We don't want to fall for violent men because with them we lose too much."



It is a curious quirk of human nature that some people can see opportunities, while others only see problems. When you train your mind to seek out opportunities, you will find that every day literally presents you with more opportunities than you can take advantage of.

They will be all around you. Instead of your seeking opportunities, they will seek you out. Your biggest problem will be choosing the best ones.

The first step in making sure you are ready to recognize opportunities when they occur is to make sure you have a clear understanding of your own core competencies.

Realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses as though you were reviewing the credentials of a total stranger.

Identify what areas you’re best in and those where you need improvement. Work on your weaknesses and build upon your strengths so that when you recognize opportunities you are prepared to capitalize upon them.

This positive message is from the Napoleon Hill Foundation.

IMF Meet- Singapore a good example of security

It is a feature of IMF/World Bank meetings to engage with accredited representatives of civil society groups who stage protest rallies coinciding with major international economic conferences on a range of issues including the perils of globalization.

They also call for good governance and structural reforms of these lending agencies. These voices need to be heard and they play a vital role to bear pressure on these agecies to do what is right and fair.

When some of these civil society activists and they certainly are a minority, become over-zealous and engage in street battles torching vehicles and damaging buildings as was seen in Seattle and Hong Kong, that cannot be considered civil and it must be stopped. It should not be allowed as it is harmful to public safety.

Singapore has banned about 28 such activists from attending the meetings, saying they posed a threat to security. A secure area has been earmarked at the lobby of the conference venue for indoor protests by the accredited civil society groups.

Singapore does not allow street protests and it can be proud of peace and progress of a vibrant nation. It cannot take these for granted and therefore remains averse to unruly street protests.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

War against salt

According to government data, Americans eat far too much salt. It is sprinkled into everything from bread to cheese, soups and breakfast cereal, just about every fast-food restaurant meal and now even fresh cuts of meat, salt is ubiquitous in the American food supply.

Now the nation’s largest doctors’ group, the American Medical Association, is going after the government and the food industry to reduce what it sees as a persistently high level of salt in many processed foods.

The medical association is asking the Food and Drug Administration to treat salt not as “generally recognized as safe,” a classification that warrants little oversight. Instead, the F.D.A. should regulate salt as a food additive, the medical group said.

If the recommendation were adopted, packaged-food companies would have to adhere to limits on allowable sodium levels for various categories of food, and speed up the search for an alternative to salt as a preservative and flavor enhancer.

The world has vast untapped oil reserves

The world has tapped only 18 percent of the total global supply of crude, a leading Saudi oil executive said Wednesday, challenging the notion that supplies are petering out.

Abdallah S. Jum'ah, president and CEO of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known better as Aramco, said the world has the potential of 4.5 trillion barrels in reserves - enough to power the globe at current levels of consumption for another 140 years.

Trading in the oil market is driven by the fear that oil supplies might be reduced due to geo-political reasons. Middle East, the world's largest oil producing region is also one of the most unstable and volatile region.

Outside the Middle East other oil producers with their own issues have caused worry for investors, such as the strikes and political problems in Venezuela and potential instability in West Africa.

Critics of the oil industry argue that the true cost (the total costs both visible and hidden paid by western societies to obtain and use oil) of oil and subsquently gasoline are much higher than wholesale oil markets or retail gasoline prices reflect. The hidden oil/gasoline costs consist mainly of tremendous spending on military protection of world oil supplies.

When oil prices go high, passions can run high and can lead to global uncertainty.


To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit.
-- Robert J. Furey

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

FIFA seeks truce from Zidane and Metarazzi

The infamous head-butt that ended Zinedine Zidane's glorious career ignominiously is still living on, or so it seems going by Fifa's president Sepp Blatter.

Blatter wants the two men to meet on Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid were incarcerated. Mandela, South Africa president from 1994 until 1999, was sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island in 1964 and remained there for 18 years.

This sounds a publicity stunt for Fifa which has declared South Africa as the venue for 2010 world cup. Both players have already been called up to Fifa headquarters, the matter has been investigated and both players have been penalised.

Zidane said on Sunday he had put the incident behind him after Materazzi admitted last week that an insult aimed at the French captain's sister was the catalyst for Zidane to plunge his head into the Italian defender's chest.

What more does Fifa want now? Instead of rambling on this head-butt why doesn't Fifa workout ways to stop deliberate provocation? After all the game is about playing football, not about getting under opponent's skin with repeated verbal insults. It is called cheating and it is no small disgrace that Fifa is unable to put its own house into order to avoid such shameful incidents occuring in a game that is intended to bring about harmony and strengthen relations between peoples of different nations.

Roger Federer: Virtues of perspiration

Roger Federer has had an amazing run of success in tennis.

After beating Andy Roddick in the US Open for his ninth grand slam title, at the same time becoming the first man to win the US Open and Wimbledon back to back for three consecutive years, you wonder what's the secret of the man's continued success.

While relishing the accolades and comparisons with past great players, here's what Federer said when looking back.

" At this moment of high achievement he cast his mind back to the problems, pressures and pain of his early days. "People said this guy has got some talent, but he can't get his mind right, he's not fit enough. That stuff hurt me. I was at a junction, faced with the choice of the talented road or the hard-working road. I chose for the hard-working road and it paid off."

Ultimately its the hard work and the conviction of belief that pays off.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nuggets from Andre Agassi's swansong

Andre Agassi, when it all began. After 21 years of thrills and trophies, its so long!

"The scoreboard says I have lost but what it doesn't say is what I have found... you have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams. In my last 21 years I have found you and will take the memory of you for the rest of my life."

In his final match in the US Open against B. Becker of Germany, not Boris but Benjamin, Agassi played an agonising match with back pain.

A tearful Agassi thanked everydody afterwards, giving an oncourt retirement speech that won him more hearts and fans.

Adios Andre Agassi.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A record bouquet for the Indian President

The world's biggest flower bouquet, consisting of over 1,75,000 flowers and standing 15 feet high, was presented to President A P J Abdul Kalam on Friday at the International Flora Expo 2006.

Dr. Kalam is an eminent scientist who believes in the power of technology to resolve society's problems. He is a supporter of Open source software over proprietary solutions and believes that the use of open source software on a large scale will bring more people the benefits of information technology.

The popular President said he had decided to donate the bouquet to the exhibition hall for people to see and admire.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Inzamam's catch, and the double standards.

In a match that England finally won ending their recent one-day drought, Pakistan thought they had dismissed left-hander Strauss, for five, in only the fourth over when an edge off Mohammad Asif flew low to Inzamam-ul-Haq at first slip.

On-field umpires Daryl Harper and Mark Benson referred the catch to third official Ian Gould, who ruled Strauss was not out.

Some people thought the TV replay showed the ball bouncing in front of Inzy’s hands. But time and again such images have proved false.

Sky TV commentators Mike Atherton and David Gower both thought it was a clean catch, while Michael Holding was convinced the ball was not up.

In between time the Pakistan captain had been done something of an injustice as one of a collection of inconclusive images was shown on the big screen in the stands - he was roundly booed by the 15,000 crowd.

"When they showed the replays there were two views of it," said Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer. "One looked out and the other one looked not out.

"If they are going to show one on the big screen they should show the other."

These are the double standards that continue to plague this fine game. Having an uncontrolled rowdy crowd of spectators who do not maintain or observe the spirit of fair gamesmanship is the beginning of the road towards the more serious and sinister hooliganism which now has been curbed in English football through strict measures.

A talking elephant!!!

The South Korean Everland amusement park has an elephant and its keeper for the last ten years claims it can speak.

Don't read too much into this. On Friday the park officials said that its 16-year-old male Asian elephant, named Kosik, can make sounds imitating up to eight Korean words, including "sit," "no," "yes," and "lie down.

That seems more plausible. There have been studies that suggest elephants can mimic sounds, but the park claims that Kosik displays the ability to imitate a human voice.

Why would elephants want to speak the human language? Perhaps scientists would need to do more research to figure that out.

One possibility is that some elephants have decided to learn a second language.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Germaine Greer's diatribe against Steve Irwin

While the world mourns and glowing tributes are filled in newspapers around the world for the Crocodile Hunter, academic Germaine Greer is in the eye of a storm after she lashed out a scathing attack on Steve Irwin for being "insensitive" and "elitist".

Greer told Australian TV Channel Nine's "A Current Affair" news programme that those who mourned Irwin's death were "idiots" and he had embarrassed possibly millions of Australians. Irwin had not treated animals with the respect they deserved, she added.

Australians were outraged Wednesday over their native feminist writer Greer's claim that the death of wildlife documentary maker Steve Irwin was payback from the animal world.

The time to criticise Irwin for such behaviour was when he was alive, if infact Greer wanted him to change his behaviour.

To attack his character while his body is barely cold, and his wife and two small children are still in shock, is height of callousness and insensitivity. It shows Greer's lack of empathy and a cowardly act of a twisted logic.

Greer has done nothing towards animal welfare or contributed in any way to increase the human understanding of animal behaviour. She is only seeking publicity by attacking Steve Irwin, when she has nothing positive to draw attention to.

Ball tempering and name calling in cricket

Why do people resort to name calling especially in international cricket when this is the clean and 'gentle' game?

Fear of losing the game could be one reason while ignorance of the consequences could be another.

In cricket, ball tampering is an action in which a fielder illegally alters the condition of the ball. Umpires are required to monitor the condition of the ball by regular inspections.

Ball tempering controversy resurfaced between England and Pakistan test at Oval when Pakistan forfeited the match in protest, the first forfeiture in test history under extraordinary cicumstances.

The same problem of ball-tampering briefly resurfaced again at The Rose Bowl between these two teams, but it was Sky Sports’ coverage of the incident which came in for criticism in the media this time.

Sky showed Shoaib working on the ball in the 25th over, three balls after he had dismissed Ian Bell.

In a mischievous piece of commentary, Sky failed to draw their own conclusions, leaving it for viewers to email in their thoughts.

Nasser Hussain went even further to say that Shoaib, was very silly and stupid to do it in the current climate.

The umpires had a look at the tapes and cleared Shuaib of any wrong doing.

It seems that some commentators are insensitive about criticising which hurts the opponents and leaves a bitter feeling and that is not good for this beautiful game.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Birds make soup for humans

Some species of birds have edible nests. The most heavily harvested nests are from the White-nest swiftlets.

The nests are built during the breeding season by the male swiftlet over a period of 35 days. They take the shape of a shallow cup stuck to the cave wall. The nests are composed of interwoven strands of salivary laminae cement. Both nests have high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

Birds nest soup is a expensive delicacy in China. The Chinese usually put the nests in a soup, to eat as a starter.

Funeral offer for Steve Irwin turned down.

Steve Irwin is regarded by many Australians as a national treasure and Australian Prime Minister John Howard and other leaders have said Steve can have a state funeral if that is what his family members wish for.

Steve's family was keeping a low profile while absorbing the shock of his death on Monday minutes after the barb from a stingray's tail pierced his chest while he snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef.

His father Bob has said in a news conference that the family was not interested in offers of a state funeral and no plans are made yet for the funeral.

"The state funeral would be refused because he's just an ordinary bloke," he said of Steve.

Inspite of Steve's world-renown celebrity status, the statement from his grieving family speaks volumes about the humility of this larger than life personality.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Malaysia plans tea party in space

Malaysia will send its first astronaut into space aboard a Russian rocket next year and attempt for the first time to make the nation's favorite hot drink, teh tarik, in space.

"The physics experiment is to see what happens to teh tarik in space," Haniff Omar, head of Malaysia's astronaut selection program, told reporters in all seriousness on Monday after two Malaysian men were short-listed to make the trip.

Malaysians pour boiling-hot milky tea swiftly and repeatedly from one vessel held high in one hand into another(seen in the photo) held low, producing a distinctive layer of froth. This is called teh tarik or the pulled tea.

Making it in space would bring one of Malaysia's favourite tradition to the attention of a worldwide audience.

Pulling this off would be tricky in space where unlike the gravity-bound earth, no gravity exists in space. Whatever the outcome, the humble teh tarik would have risen to astronomical heights.

Quotes from "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin

_ "I have no fear of losing my life — if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it."

_"I get called an adrenaline junkie every other minute, and I'm just fine with that."

_"Fear helps me from making mistakes, but I make lot of mistakes."

_"Crikey, mate. You're far safer dealing with crocodiles and western diamondback rattlesnakes than the executives and the producers and all those sharks in the big MGM building." — comparing dealing with deadly animals with show business."

_ "Crikey!" — his catch phrase, exclaimed repeatedly during his television show whenever something interesting happens.

Monday, September 04, 2006

KPP schools in New Orleans receive $2.4 million

KIPP or the 'knowledge is power' is a network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States.

A year after Hurricane Katrina, The Broad Foundation and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF announced today a total of $2.45 million to fund two current and three planned KIPP schools in New Orleans. The KIPP model has improved achievement for students across 16 states and last year raised student achievement for New Orleans evacuees on average more than two grade levels in reading and mathematics.

"KIPP is one of the country's great education success stories," said Eli Broad, founder of The Broad Foundation.

KIPP began in 1993 when teachers Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg completed their Teach For America commitment and launched a program for fifth graders in a public school in inner-city Houston, Texas. While only half of the students passed their fourth grade tests before enrolling in KIPP, more than 90% passed the Texas fifth grade exams in English and mathematics after one year at KIPP.

Stingrays can be deadly

Above is a magnified view of a tail spine from the Atlantic stingray.

Stingrays are considered passive creatures, but their venom and their barbed tails can be deadly, experts say.

According to experts, fatal attacks such as the that one killed the famous Steve Irwin of Australia are extremely rare.

Irwin's death was only the third known stingray death in Australian waters, said shark and stingray expert Victoria Brims from Oceanworld Manly, in Sydney.

A sting on the leg or arm can be painful but harmless, but if the sting hits a vital organ it could be fatal.

Steve Irwin: A true original dies

Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and environmentalist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray during a diving expedition. He was 44.

Irwin was killed by a stingray barb to the heart on Batt Reef, off the remote resort town of Port Douglas in northeastern Queensland state, his wildlife park Australia Zoo said in a statement.

He is seen as the khaki-clad Australian who lived a real life crocodile dundee. His passion and enthusiasm has contributed enormously to our understanding of the natural world by his work at the Australian Zoo and his many TV programmes.

Talks are planned to erect a memorial in the tiny southwest Queensland town of St George where the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has a 37,000ha property to which he retreated when he needed to find solace from his globe-trotting hectic schedule.

The world has lost a great wildlife icon, Australia has lost a great ambassador.

He died doing what he loves best leaving behind rich and wonderful memories that bring immense joy to millions of people, particularly to children.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

A new documentary "The US Vs John Lennon", by documentary makers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, has won many hearts at its first screening in Venice.

One of the film's striking feature is the footage of anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s and '70s, is to place Lennon's words and activism in the context of the time.

The film has obvious resonances with the current era and the war in Iraq. By its championing of Lennon's poetic pacifism and political activism, the film-makers reveal the lack of such a high profile figure around which the world could gather now.

Red Fort- Delhi's historical wonder

The Red Fort
is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Delhi, attracting millions of visitors every year.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Grameen: A Bank for the poor

The Grameen Bank is a Bangladeshi organization that makes small loans (known as microcredit) to the impoverished without requiring collateral. It provides financial services to clients who are excluded from the traditional financial system on account of their lower economic status.

The system is based on the idea that the poor have skills that are under-utilized. The bank also accepts deposits, provides other services, and runs several development-oriented businesses including fabric, telephone and energy companies.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of "Grameen Bank" and its Managing Director, says that if financial resources can be made available to the poor people on terms and conditions that are appropriate and reasonable, "these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder."

The World Bank which is responsible for providing financial assistance to developing countries to reduce poverty , create growth and development has not fully realised its objectives because the policies and their implimentation set in place by receiving governments have not matched the needs of the poor at the bottom.

Capitalism and the free market system have not yet solved the world's problems of eradicating poverty. It may be worth for social entrepreneurs or do-gooders as they are also called, to replicate Brameen Bank's experience and empower the poor people to help themselves out of poverty.

From Africa to America poverty is pervasive

According to the World Bank there are over a billion people around the globe living on $1 a day. The world's total population is more than 6 billion.

Poverty cuts through rich countries and poor countries, between the rural and urban life. This is an epidemic with far reaching consequences. Inspite of globalization, the gap between the rich and poor is increasing and more needs to be done to lift the poor out of poverty.

According to this research, nearly 35 million poor persons were living in the United States in 2002. This is a staggering figure and it shows poverty exists not only in poor countries like Africa but also in America which is the world's richest nation that contributes millions to help the poor in other countries.

The World Bank says poverty has many faces. Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.

So poverty means different thing to different communities. In order to alleviate poverty, it is important to find out what works to reduce poverty for a certain group of people like farimg communities and help them to do well for themselves. Financial help, education and designing sustainable projects for individual communities who can take ownership of such projects and work towards improving their own livelihoods may be the best way to beat poverty.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Here's why it is hard to stub out cigarettes

The amount of nicotine in most cigarettes rose an average of almost 10 percent from 1998 to 2004, with brands most popular with young people and minorities registering biggest increases and highest nicotine content, according to a new study.

Nicotine is highly addictive, and while no one has studied the effect of the increases on smokers, the higher levels theoretically could make new smokers more easily addicted and make it harder for established smokers to quit.

Smoking is a powerful addiction. Smokers often make multiple attempts to quit before they can successfully stop smoking. Increased nicotine yield may make it much harder to kick the habit.

California breaks ranks on global warming

California aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter over the next 14 years in a landmark deal struck by the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the state's Democrats.

The Democratic controlled senate in California is expected to approve the bill and Gov. Schwarzenegger will ratify it.

California has taken the lead to become the first US state to impose a limit on all greenhouse gas emissions, including those from industrial plants, under a landmark deal reached on Wednesday.

California is the most populous state in the United States.

This a victory for Gov. Schwarzenegger and environmentalists are elated by California's bold move. The US Federal Government has not taken action to curb green houses as called for by the Kyoto Protocol agreed by more 163 countries .