Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Carter builds homes in India

Former US President Jimmy Carter (L) looks on as wife Rosalyn (back to camera) speaks to actor Brad Pitt (R).
Photograph: STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

On October 30, former US President Jimmy Carter invited Brad Pitt to the hill-station of Lonavala -- approximately 100 kilometres from Mumbai, India -- to build houses as part of the 23rd Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) in association with Habitat for Humanity.

A day before, the former President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner inaugurated the project at a grand ceremony in Patan, near Lonavala.

Brad Pitt is currently on a film shooting schedule in India and people were surprised to see him turn up and volunteer in the building process, as did many other volunteers assisting in President Carter's project.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A grim warning on climate

Sir Nicholas Stern, an eminent economist with the UK Treasury, who was commissioned by Britain's Cabinet Office to review the economics of climate change has issued a 700-page STERN REPORT today.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the report was the most important one received by the government during his period in office.

Stern's review shows the world needs to spend 1% of gross domestic product to combat global warming.

For Britain, that would be £11bn a year from industry, government and ordinary people. The British government has already started to give grants for ordinary people to install energy-saving technology in their homes.

The review calls on the international community to sign a new pact on greenhouse emissions by next year rather than in 2010/11, when they had planned to agree a successor to the Kyoto agreement on cutting carbon dioxide and other gas emissions.

Even if immediate action is taken to cut pollution, slow acting greenhouse gases will continue to have an effect on the environment for another 30 years, the report adds.

It is also time for the biggest polluters like the USA, to cut down greenhouse gases, for without action the report says 200 million people could become refugees as their homes are hit by drought or flood.

The Stern report gives a stark warning , reminiscent of the Great Depression that was a worldwide economic downturn which started in 1929. The rich nations are now put to the test to avoid another great depression, mass migration and untold human suffering.

US debates to ban trans fats

Trans fatty acids, also known as trans fat, is an artery-clogging fat that is formed when vegetable oils are hardened into margarine or shortening. It is found in many other foods besides margarine and shortening, however, including fried foods like french fries and fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers. Read more about dangers of trans fats here.

As public debates are being held in the United States to ban trans fats, The City of New York's health department is pushing its 20,000 restaurants and fast food outlets to remove trans-fats from the food they serve.

The push to legally prevent individuals from having a french fry may prevail, given the dire health risks and the health care costs and politics that shape public opinion.

This debate has brought forward two passionate groups of people with opposing interests.

Advocates for the ban present evidence that trans fats clog arteries, cause death and cost billions in tax dollars in medical care each year.

Civil libertarians accuse the other side of promoting a nanny state — that is, an intrusive government that dictates how people may live under the guise of taking care of them.

In a country where both public and private health care have become increasingly expensive, the best choice for most people would have to be, to eat right and avoid clogging up arteries in the first place.

Those fighting for civil liberties needn't hold their breath, they can grab their soft drinks or eat whatever food they want, for they have a right to do so. But they can also make better informed choices when the suppliers of food are required to provide more nutritional information perhaps also alerting the health risks.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Your Privacy Vs. Your Security

When business executives go jet setting around, losing their laptops is one of the biggest concerns. These laptops contain valuable data including private corporate information that their employers really do not want outsiders to see.

Now there's a new worry for travellers to the US.

At a meeting in Barcelona of travel industry officials, it was found out that almost 90 percent of its members were not aware that customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travellers' laptops and even confiscate laptops.

While many would be unhappy with this intrusion into privacy, think again. This is a reflection of the reality of the times we live. The nature of the beast of terror is such that this precautionary action has to remain a welcome inconvenience.

MAHARAJAS: Glorious Parisites??

Glorious Parasites is the headline in a Time article reflecting the lavishes and the insane extravagences of an era gone by.

Before India became independent from the British in 1947, India consisted of more than 600 princely states, many of them ruled by the Maharajas or the great kings.

The world's richest man in 1937 was His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, a princely state. TIME featured him on its cover that year, estimating his fortune at $1.4 billion, including "$150,000,000 in jewels [and] $250,000,000 in gold bars."

During the period of the Indian struggle for freedom in 1939, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's future Prime Minister, lamented that most of the princely states were "sinks of reaction and incompetence."

After independence in 1947, the first act of its new leaders was to demand that the maharajas hand in their crowns. While many princes withered away into poverty, a few adapted to democracy, refashioning themselves as politicians and diplomats.

Others, such as the enterprising Kings of Rajasthan, converted their palaces into magnificent five-star hotels and turned themselves into successful businessmen. But as The Unforgettable Maharajas shows, India's royals will be best remembered for their pomp—and pomposity.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friends and Acquaintances


There is nothing like money to make you attractive and appealing to others. But, of course, the kind of people who are attracted to you only because of what you can do for them may be acquaintances, not friends.

You may have many acquaintances if you become wealthy, but whatever your station in life may be, you will never have true friends unless you are a friend to others.

Be very selective in your choice of friends. Choose to associate with positive people who like you for the person you are, who encourage you to be yourself and to be the best you can be.

This positive message is brought to you by the Napoleon Hill Foundation http://www.naphill.org/.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Can one succed with just 'sweat equity'?

Sweat Equity refers to work, especially manual labor, performed in return for a share in ownership, as of a home.

Some of the best businesses in recent entrepreneurial history are those that have been started with little or no money. Dell Computer, MicroSoft, Apple, HP and tens of thousands of others started in dorm rooms, tiny offices or garages.

With these illustreous names to look upto, the answer to my title question is a resounding 'yes.'

With plenty of sweat equity and with minimal capital equity, anyone can create their own business that could rival the likes of EBay, even if the sweat equity entrepreneur chooses to work with EBay.

Technology and communication has thrown up endless possibilities for those daring to innovate, even on some old ideas.

These are the best times for entrepreneurs who are dedicated and committed to achieve results of long term goals.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

PCB should not interfere with players' religiosity

According to an article in Cricinfo, The Pakistan Cricket Board,(PCB) Chairman Dr. Nassim Ashraf has commented on Pakistani players religiosity saying that, "There is no doubt their religious faith is a motivating factor in the team. It binds them together. But there should be balance between religion and cricket."

Ashraf has called up Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, who has strongly denied accusations that he was putting players in the team under pressure to pray.

Inzaman hit back saying all those talking about our religious activities have never offered prayers and nor do they have any link to Islam.

PCB has had enough problems recently, their team forfeited a test match at Oval and their captain has been banned 4 ODI matches for bringing the game to dispute. Two days before the Pakistan team left for the current world cup in India, the incident of a revolving captaincy finally ended up with the Board Chairman's resignation.

In comes Dr. Nassim Ashraf as the new chairman of PCB and many thought things would turn out for the better.

Two days before the Pakistan team began their campaign in India, the two fast bowlers Akhtar and Asif were declared to have tested positive for drugs and were sent home.

Clearly PCB has enough problems on its plate. PCB should support the team , inspire and motivate the players to perform at their best without worrying about why they are praying.

Wall Street reaches new record highs

The Dow Jones Industrial Index or the Dow the tracks the performance of 30 of the largest and most widely held public companies in the United States.

The Dow is reaching record highs. It rose 10.97, or 0.09 percent, to 12,127.88, eclipsing the record close of 12,116.91 set Monday. The Dow also set a new trading high of 12,133.80, edging past a day-old record of 12,125.16 before giving back some of its gains.

These record highs of the stock market are coming at a time of increased investor confidence, looking at how hard the US Courts are cracking on white collar crime.

Enron is one of the biggest corporate financial scandals in US history. Jeffrey Schilling, the former CEO has been sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in federal prison, for his role.

Pundits and investors are watching The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee which began a two-day meeting Tuesday. Many investors expect the central bank's policymakers to leave interest rates unchanged for the third straight meeting.

If interest rate remains unchanged, it is good for the stock market.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Australia moves to curb global warming

Like the United States, the world's biggest polluter, Australia has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change saying that it will adversely affect the Australian farming industry.

Now under pressure from academics and experts, the Australian governmnet has established a special $500 million fund to be used in partnership with companies and state governments to invest in new technologies designed to produce cleaner fossil energy and also renewable energy.

Starting this week, the Australian Government will announce the first projects to be supported out of this fund.

The wine industry is Australia's fastest growing rural enterprise with an annual gross value of more than $5 billion, including $2.7 billion in export earnings.

According to a scientific study, global warming will hit Australian winegrowers hard, possibly reducing the area suitable for vineyards by more than 40 per cent by 2050.

The grape growers will need to adapt, perhaps moving to cooler areas while they keep pressure on their government to introduce measures and cut down greenhouse gases in line with the the Kyoto accord.

Click to see greenhouse effect.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Caution on white bread

Those who eat five slices a day are almost twice as likely to develop the most common form of kidney cancer compared to those who have one and a half slices.

Scientists put the cause down to refined cereals triggering a surge in blood sugar and insulin levels, which is thought to fuel cancer cell growth.

Now experts are recommending what we should eat and what we should not eat, as they always do.

People should particularly cut down on white bread, which causes the biggest rise in blood glucose levels, and opt for wholemeal varieties instead.

The study also adds to the mounting evidence of the health benefits of following a low GI diet.

Whole grain foods are classed as having a low GI value as they lead to slower release of sugar into the blood stream.

The new study published in the International Journal of Cancer set out to investigate potential triggers of Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Click here and read the Glycaemic Index of some foods.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A picture that took nine years to obtain and was almost deleted at the last minute has won the prestigious Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

Goran Ehlme's shot of a walrus feeding on clams on the sea floor is a whirl of grey; the animal's face is seen poking through a cloud of disturbed sediment.

Technorati tag: Wildlife photography

The world's most polluted cities

A US-based environmental charity The Blacksmith Institute says three of the hotspots are in Russia, with the remainder dotted in various countries as marked on the map above.

The institute surveyed scientists and environmental bodies across the world to compile its list, and is running clean-up projects in some of the sites.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happiest Countries !!!

Researchers at Britains University of Leicester have used an array of statistical data, plus the subjective responses of 80,000 people worldwide, to map out well-being across 178 countries.

Denmark and five other European countries, including Switzerland, Austria, and Iceland, came out in the top 10, while Zimbabwe and Burundi pulled up the bottom.

Countries that are happiest are those that are healthy, wealthy, and wise. The most significant factors were health, the level of poverty, and access to basic education. Population size also plays a role.

Smaller countries with greater social cohesion and a stronger sense of national identity tended to score better, while those with the largest populations fared worse. China came in No. 82, India ranked 125, and Russia was 167. The U.S. came in at 23.

Why have Asians done poorly on this happiness chart?

It is hard to understand without knowing all the details of what went into the survey.

Most Asian countries have strong collective identity, family bonds and all members of the family pull together for each other. This may be changing because of the pressures of modern-day life of materialism and intense competition.

Drive Global Poverty to Extinction

Yesterday millions of people around the world who leapt to their feet to support an end to world poverty may also gain a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The STAND UP campaign is an event organised by the Make Poverty History coalition.

Unfortunately, just a one-minute leap up on the feet is not the solution to combat global poverty even if it creates a Guiness Record.

The root causes of poverty will have to be addressed and action taken on those problems can only help to alleviate poverty.

One example of a success story to empowering the poor stands out, thanks to the Norwegian Nobel Committee who recently awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Professor Mohammad Yusuf of Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank that he founded to help the poor.

Bangladesh is a country that suffers an image crisis in addition to the problems of poverty that it shares with many other countries.. All the negative attributes like pervasive corruption, weak governance and political leadership, widespread poverty and backward economy conditions are the same problems that many other countries continue to experience.

Though poverty, corruption and economic backwardness are no stranger to many other countries of the world, the poverty of political leadership is not so conspicuous elsewhere as it is in Bangladesh. As a consequence, Bangladesh has remained a perennial and convenient whipping boy.

Its time for the international community to wake up to this reality and call for accountablity from those who are entrusted with the responsibilty to help the poor. The world has more than sufficient resources and wealth to let everyone live a dignified life.

Technorati tag: poverty, make poverty history

Sunday, October 15, 2006

When is a cross not a cross?

A row has emerged between British Airways (BA) and one of its staff Nadia Eweida who is adamant that as a Christian, it is her right to wear a cross, just like a muslim women is allowed to wear a veil or a sikh man is allowed to wear a turban.

British Airways says their policy is that all jewellery and religious symbols on chains must be worn under the uniform.

BA has made an exception for Sikh turbans and Muslim hijabs because they cannot be covered up.

The debate of the cross is coming as a time when rumblings over the muslim veil is raging across Britain and its muslim community.

Discrimination over religious symbols of different faiths is a sensitive matter. Some may argue that the display of the cross is more than a religious symbol to some, who may well regard it as statement of fashion.

Whatever the case may be, Christians have a right to dislpay their religious symbols just like other religions.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Victory For The Poor

Professor Mohammad Yunus, and economist and his Grameen Bank have won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, and I have already posted that news yesterday.

Mr. Yunus's drive and insight was simple, and is worth quoting: "Charity is not the answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue." He realised that, even if the vast amount of Western aid reached its intended targets, it would merely create dependency and suppress initiative. His solution was to start at the bottom – to offer small loans, at commercial rates of interest, to those in his native Bangladesh with no collateral and no credit rating. It was, in essence, a gamble on the goodwill and industry of humanity."

Now small has become big. Yunus is a great organiser. He mobilised support not just with his own government in Bangladesh but also from international development agencies.

Although not a household name in the west, Mr Yunus is a familiar name on the international development circuit where he is known as "banker to the world's poor". Such was his reputation that in 1987, when Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas, he approached Mr Yunus to help them replicate its model in his state.

Yunus passionately believes that, like freedom of speech, credit is a fundamental human right and everybody should have access to it.

It is not the fault of poor people that they are poor. The West and the International Community can learn a lesson from Yunus, a lesson on how to pull the world’s poorest out of destitution and beat poverty.

Man Of The Year

Can the freeworld be led by a comedian- Robin Williams. Make the call.

Politics is serious business. The trailer here reveals a political thriller. It certainly wouldn't be politics as usual at a time when most politicians in the world's only superpower, the USA, are trying hard to speak in politically correct language.

How else can it be explained that they have 12 million illegal aliens, many of them working in plantations and other jobs that the native Americans will not take up. Perhaps the minimum wage being paid is too low to attract locals.

With Robbin Williams in it, this film may turn out to be good political satire.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nobel prize winner is 'Micro Credit Team'

Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work in advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor, particularly women.

The bank for helping the poor, Grameen Bank which Yunus founded gives out loans toward buying items such as cows to start a dairy, chickens for an egg business, or mobile phones to start businesses where villagers who have no access to phones pay a small fee to make calls.

Here are some facts that hold exciting promise in reducing poverty.

1)Realising that small amounts of credit could revolutionise the fate of poor communities, Yunus started by lending the equivalent of $27 to a group of female basket weavers to expand their businesses.

The idea was the seed for the Grameen Bank, which was formed in 1983 to extend banking facilities and improve the provision of credit to the rural poor.

2)Yunus' philosophy is to help the poor help themselves. He never responds when a beggar holds out his or her hand for money. His dream is the total eradication of poverty from the world.

Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.

Grameen Bank has helped millions of poor Bangladeshis, many of them women, improve their standard of living by letting them borrow small sums to start businesses.

Technorati Tags: Poverty, Grameen Bank, microfinance

Calling Confucius

After having being frozen over the last several decades, Confucian thinking is making a comeback in China, as witnessed by the lavish official celebrations marking the great sage's 2557th birth anniversary on September 28th this year.

Confucian values such as unity, morality, and respect for authority are being seen by Chinese leaders as the key to the country's future.

The Chinese government is setting up several Confucius Institutes based on the model of the British Council of Great Britain or the Goethe Institute of Germany, which promotes knowledge of the respective language abroad and fostering international cultural cooperation.

In recent years more and more people have put great emphasis on materialism. This has led to morality losing it's rock solid status of guiding people in determinig what is right and wrong, fair and unfair.

Now it is time, to look back and emulate the values that made China a great civilisation.

Here is a golden rule that Confucius applied:

"What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognises as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others."

Technorati tag: Confucius, morality

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Booker Prize for Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai's ``The Inheritance of Loss,'' a novel about globalization and its impact on a small Himalayan village, has won the United Kingdom's leading literary award 50,000-pound ($92,773) Man Booker Prize for fiction.

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, also known as the Booker Prize, is one of the world's most prestigious literary prizes, awarded each year for the best original full-length novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland in the English language.

The 35-year-old, India-born author Kiran Desai defeated competition from five other finalists including the bookmakers' favorite, ``The Night Watch'' by Sarah Waters, and ``In the Country of Men,'' a first novel by Hisham Matar set in Gaddafi's Libya.

Desai is the youngest female winner of the prize. She dedicated the novel to her mother and fellow novelist Anita Desai who has herself been nominated for the Booker prize three times, but has never won.

Walnut is better than Olive Oil

Walnut is known to be a healthy food, rich in nutritional value and energy.

Just released new research from a Barcelona's Hospital Clinico which appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, says eating walnuts at the end of a meal may help cut the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries.

The study recommends eating an ounce (28g) of walnuts a day.

Researchers added five teaspoons of olive oil to the meal of one group of voulnteers. For the other, they added eight shelled walnuts.

Tests showed that both the olive oil and the walnuts helped to reduce the sudden onset of harmful inflammation and oxidation in arteries that follows a meal high in saturated fat.

Over time, this is thought to cause the arteries to start to harden - and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, unlike olive oil, adding walnuts also helped preserve the elasticity and flexibility of the arteries, regardless of cholesterol level.

Arteries that are elastic can expand when needed to increase blood flow.

Walnut is a wholesome super food. Previous studies have concluded that omega-3s contained in walnut help reduce the potential for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and clinical depression.

Nuts in general are high in calories, so moderation is the key. The best approach is to reap the health benefits of eating walnuts but not add excessive calories to your daily intake.

Technorati tags: walnut, health foods, heart disease

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A lesson on forgiveness from Amish

The Amish in the United Sates are from a christian denomination and they reject many types of modern technology in their effort to lead a life true to holy scriptures. The Amish separate themselves from mainstream society for religious reasons. They restrict the use of cars, telephones and television to varying degrees. The Amish emphasizes plainness and piety above modernity.

Last week there were three incidents of deadly school shootings in the United States. The Amish schoolhouse attack in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was the deadliest and the most horrendous which sent shock waves through out the United States.

Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old truck driver who lived in the area, carried a shotgun and a handgun into a rural schoolhouse, state police said. Then he lined the Amish girls against the blackboard, tied them together by their feet, and shot them in the head, execution style at point blank range. He sent his last bullet into his own head.

Three girls died in the classroom. Seven others, some severely wounded, were rushed to nearby hospitals. Two other children died later.

Roberts had nothing against the Amish community. He chose Amish schoolhouse because it was close by and there was no security. Roberts was bent on killing young girls as a way of “acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago” when he was a boy, the police said.

Roberts had brought violence to a peace-loving community who live mostly by crop farming and dairy farming and they believe that violence is evil.

Within hours of the shooting the Amish community reached out to Roberts' wife and his three small children. They told Roberts' wife that they will forgive him and that they pray for the victims that he killed as well as his wife and children.

Whenever there is a school shooting in the US, hordes of journalists, TV and cameramen converge on the site to report the news. In the same manner an army of people who came to report the Amish schoolhouse shooting were surprised to find the calm and dignified manner in which the Amish handled this tragedy.

They look like something from another world. Their simple clothing never changes with the trends, and their humble demeanour makes you feel that time has stood still in this place.

As is so often the case when such tragedy strikes, they do not torment themselves with the endless questions of how and why and pointing fingers of blame. Instead, they will turn their eyes to the future, and not waste time seeking an answer to the inexplicable.

What is most remarkable is that several persons from the Amish community were at Roberts' funeral. They have forgiven him and they prayed for him.

Amish refuse to turn their hurt to hate. They allow their faith to carry them to forgiveness. The Amish have shown the Americans how to heal even in the face of the worst calamity.

The Amish have responded to violence with love, to rage with forgiveness. This is truly a moving experience, and a demonstration of how this community hold's firm to the rock of their values when they are faced with such a horrible situation.

Technorati tags: America, Amish, faith, school killings, forgiveness

Monday, October 09, 2006

India bans child labour from Tuesday

Here is some good news to cheer about.

India, home to the largest number of child labourers in the world, has banned children under the age of 14 from working as domestic servants or at hotels, tea shops, restaurants and resorts.

The labour ministry said the ban would come into effect from October 10 and those violating it could face a jail term up to two years and a maximum fine of 20,000 rupees ($430).

The child labour estimates today are alarming, ranging from about 12 million children according to government sources, to about 100 million children according to NGOs and other sources.

The situation of these children violates the fundamental right to education, right to childhood and equal opportunity to participate as equal citizens.

This recent ban precedes a previous law that banned children working in some industries from 1986. The current ban extends to include homes and in hotels/restuarants teashops, resorts, spas or other recreational centres which were not included earlier.

India has laws to protect children from being exploited, but they remain ineffective in many areas.

In some cases poverty forces parents to push children out to fend for themselves, while in other cases unscrupulous employers or their agents use children as cheap labour.

It will be a tough call to free the children from employment if their families have no viable alternative source of income. Therefore, reducing poverty is an important aspect that requires immediate attention in order that the children can be given their rights.

The problem of child labour is not going to go away by mere cosmetic changes. Campaigns will need to be run to create public understanding and the laws will have to enforced without fear or favour.

Technorati tags: India, child labour, human rights

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The veil furore in Britain

Jack straw, the former foreign secretary and presently the leader of the House of Commons would normally give out carefully-worded statements and speeches.

In a free and open democratic society, Jack Straw has the freedom of expression to say what he wants.

He feels uncomfortable talking to a woman whose face is largely hidden and in his constituency of Blackburn where the muslims are a minority, he has asked women to remove their veils when they come to talk to him.

Jack Straw wrote in his local newspaper column that the wearing of full veils was making “better, positive relations” between communities “more difficult”. Concealing a face was “a visible statement of separation and of difference”.

Straw's statement has unleashed a racist backlash from the muslim community. They say that the Muslims should be able to wear whatever dress they want to dress, same as anyone else is entitled to wear what they want.

Jack Straw wanted a debate, he's got one though it isn't a very intelligent one.

Wearing the veil is regarded as a religious duty by those who wear it.

Many forms of social behaviour create discomfort to different people. Some people may take offence at navel-baring women while others may get offended to see women in body-hugging skimpy dresses, while still others may find it it offensive to see gory images tatooed on human flesh.

In a multicultural society, different communities will have to be sensitive and respect the other's way of life, so long as it does not infringe on racial harmony and security of the community.

Technorati tags: veil, social behaviour, freedom of expression

Neuroeconomics: A new look at decision making

Neuroeconomics uses the latest brain imaging technology to look at the brain to find out how people decide. The technique has been developed by Elizabeth Phelps, a professor of psychology and neural science at NYU and Colin Camerer, an economist at Caltech.

Plato's comparision of the human soul to a chariot pulled by the two horses of reason and emotion is now being put to test after being obssessed with doing things with 'reason' for so long.

Some experiments have been carried out by presenting people with alternatives that carry different degrees of risk. It turns out that given "an even chance of winning a hundred and fifty dollars or losing a hundred dollars, most refuse the gamble, even at the expense of gains."

Until recently, economists were only observing people from the outside. Now, by using magnetic resonance imaging they have begun to look inside the brain for fresh perspectives.

For more on this confusing business of nueroeconomics click here.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Coffee and Tea, in black

They come in different names : English coffee, French and Spanish café, German koffee, Finnish kahvi, Dutch koffie, Swedish and Norwegian kaffe, Russian kofe, Polish kawa, and even Yiddish kave.

As the drink traveled around the world, it was given more names—Japanese koohii, Malay kopi, Thai gafae, , Punjabi (India) kaafii, and Hindi kofii.

Well, the black brew has become popular in Europe, its origins thought to have come from the highlands of Ethiopia and spread to the rest of the world via Egypt and Europe. The word coffee is derived from the Arabic word Qahwah.

Gourmet Coffee is big business in the United States, and according to this article September 29, 2006, was celebrated as the National Coffee Day.

Scientists who have conducted research into the of the rich English tradition of drinking tea now say there's evidence to suggest that drinking a minimum of four cups of black tea a day can help you fight daily stress.

Coffee and Tea are the most widely consumed beverages in the world. While some will swear by their morning coffee, others can only make their day starting with the cup of tea at breakfast.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Real Madrid and Chelsea cross swords

It is not about a contest to beat the opponent on the field playing the beautiful game- soccer.

It is about a war of words, a locking of horns if you like of football's richest club in the world, Real Madrid versus the Chelsea of England who has the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, as the benefactor.

Real's president Ramon Calderon, believes the double Premiership champions Chelsea are over-inflating transfer fees for other European clubs and expressed concern at the huge financial loss the Blues have made since Abramovich arrived.

Chelsea is shooting barbs back by accusing Real of not being completely transparent in their own accounts.

Calderon says he is worried what would happen were the Russian to walk away from Stamford Bridge, as they as already lost €220m last season.

Real Madrid has not won any silverware in the last few seasons, either in the domestic league or the European championships. Several of their legendary players like Figo and Zidane have left the club.

Perhaps the trophy drought is having some pressure on Calderon to revive past glory of Real's illustreous history.

The way to do that is not to worry about what will happen to Chelsea when they make financial losses, but to build a strong Real team that not only has individual superstars but more importantly is committed to play as a team and is hungry for winning on the pitch.

Real Madrid and Chelsea and every other club can buy or sell players as determined by their market value. That is the beauty of a free and an open market.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A 'rogue' elephant and the 'killer' sea

An elephant trampled and killed a British man on his honeymoon in Kenya.

Patrick Smith, 34, was killed in front of his wife, Julie, in the Masai Mara National Reserve on Sunday. His wife managed to leap out of the way.

This fatal accident came about because of a "rogue" elephant, the tourist officials at the park say while scratching their heads to find out why the elephant attacked the honeymoon couple and killed the man.

Last Sunday in Perth, Western Australia a news headline reads, "killer sea appeared out of nowhere" causing a fishing boat to be capsized and killing one person. Elsewhere the same 3 meter wave would have been described as a 'rogue wave.'

We, the human beings, the most powerful of all animals have the temptation to use these words like 'rogue elephant' and 'killer wave' almost in scorn.

Surely, when we encroach the habitat of the elephant, there is always the possibility of a tragedy as was the case with the unfortunate couple.

The sea is unpredictabale, one moment it is calm and the next moment it can erupt ferociously as it appears was the case in Western Australia.

Monday, October 02, 2006

An amazing story of COURAGE

Here is a story of the power of the enduring spirit of human nature, the beauty of nature that draws us to take incredible adventure and the ferocity of challenges that unexpectedly befall on us.

This is the experience that Australian environmentalist Warren MacDonald describes in his book "A Test Of Will." In April 1997, Macdonald and a just-met fellow climber and hiker, a Dutchman Geert Van Keulen decided to climb to the summit of Mount Bowen, on an island off the coast of Australia.

Along the way up, MacDonald meets with an accident when a one ton slab of granite shears away from a rock face pinning MacDonald to the bed of a rising creek . No matter how hard the panicked Geert pushed against it, it wouldn't move. Now Geert faces a break-neck race against time to bring help for his new-found friend.

When Geert managed to bring help some 36 hours later, it was too late to save his legs. Both his legs were amputated above the knees and with the help of prosthetic legs, he had to learn how to walk all over again.

In February 2003, he became the first double above-knee amputee to reach the summit of Africa’s tallest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro (19,222ft) seen in the picture below, and later that year he conquered El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, North America's tallest cliff face (850 vertical meters), as well as the 180m frozen waterfall "Weeping Wall" in Alberta, Canada.

Most people with lesser conviction and determination would have easily settled for a less adventureous life. But not MacDonald, whose true mettle has started shining bright only after he lost both his legs.

For anyone facing a setback in life, this is a golden inspiration.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ball tempering fiasco at Oval

It has been called the Ovalgate where last month ICC's empire Darrel Hair charged that Pakistan had tempered with the ball, an allegation Pakistan challenged by refusing to take the field after tea. For the first time in test cricket's history a match was forfeited and England was declared the winner.

The rumblings of this incident was felt immediately all across Pakistan with front page news and street protests.

Pakistan team felt that Hair has accused them unfairly and their caption Inzamam-ul-Haq said it was a slur against his country's integrity.

A Code of Conduct hearing held at The Oval cleared Inzamam of ball tempering charge. ICC hearing concluded that the marks on the ball were consistent with normal wear and tear as would be the case of a ball used over 52 overs. Inzamam was. however, banned for 4 ODI matches for bringing the game to disrepute.

Inzamam-ul-Haq is happy with the outcome of the hearing and said he would not seek legal action against Darrell Hair after being cleared of ball tampering charges by the ICC. "Our religion Islam teaches us to forgive and forget, so I forgive Hair and will not take any action against him," Inzamam told AFP on his return.

This seems to be a victory for reason and common sense.

Geoffrey Boycott, former England cricketer and now a commentator was one the experts who examined the condition of the ball at the ICC hearing at Oval. After ICC verdict was given out overuling Hair's ball tempering charge, he had a scathing attack on Hair for refusing to show any contrition.

In the Daily Telegraph Boycott wrote, "Hair is the first man to apply the five-run penalty for ball-tampering and he got it wrong. He is also the first man to call a Test match forfeited, and I believe he got that wrong too."

Now it remains to be seen what the future holds for Hair's career with ICC who is responsible to cause this incident in the first place.

The fallout from South Africa's apartheid

According to the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and winner of the Nobel Peace award in 1984, South Africa's annual crime statistics have shown a sharp rise in some areas of violent crime. This is the unhappy position of this country after the end of apartheid.

This is the country whose famous prisoner through his 27-year imprisonment, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mr. Nelson Mandela became the most widely-known figure in the struggle against South African apartheid.

After Mandela's release from prison, he became the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections.

South Africa's democracy is now 12 years old, still young and somewhat fragile. Apartheid is history, and Nelson Mandela, has overseen one of the most remarkable periods of political transition anywhere in the world.

The former president and master of reconciliation is now 88 years old and enjoying a happy retirement.

Despite the end of apartheid, millions of South Africans, mostly black, continue to live in poverty. The legacy of apartheid is still affecting this country, with deep rooted communal suspicions and unresolved hatred of the past several generations of segregation policies.

The Rainbow Nation of South Africa, as described by Desmond Tutu will host the FIFA world in 2010. It will be the first time the tournament is held in Africa.