Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Great inspiration from "I Live Inspired"

Chris Deutsch and Robert Foster, two American entrepreneurs are the founders of I Live Inspired, a website that sends out daily text messages carrying inspirational quotes authored by motivational experts in self-help, parenting, and business.

In October, Deutsch and Foster walked 100 miles through evocatively named cities in Indiana. The journey took them from Hope to Buddha and on to Bloomington, where the Dalai Lama was scheduled to attend a series of events at Indiana University and the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TCC).

Deutsch and Foster did a symbolic, mindful walk to draw some attention and see if we could get a meeting that way with the Dalai Lama. It worked. The day the two arrived in Bloomington, they were granted a session with the Dalai Lama.

"We call them pilgrims," said Lisa Morrison, TCC's public relations director.

Deutsch and Foster were given permission to send out pre-approved quotes from the Dalai Lama. In return, they're donating to TCC 75 percent of the proceeds generated from the Dalai Lama-themed text messages.

Now their holiday dream is to meet Al Gore in order to include quotes from former vice president and recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate in their fledgling website.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lower grades among the sleep skippers

A survey of 120 students at St. Lawrence University, a small liberal arts college in northern New York, found that students who have never pulled an all-nighter have average GPAs of 3.1, compared to 2.9 for those who have. The study, by assistant professor of psychology Pamela Thacher, is to be included in the January issue of Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

A second study by Thacher, a clinical psychologist, had "extremely similar" results showing lower grades among the sleep skippers.

Many college students, of course, have inadequate or irregular sleep, for reasons ranging from excessive caffeine to poor time management.

Dr. Howard Weiss, a physician at St. Peter's Sleep Center in Albany, said the study results make sense.

"Certainly that data is out there showing that short sleep duration absolutely interferes with concentration, interferes with performance on objective testing," he said.

Some night owls do get good grades, of course, which may be explained by circadian rhythms, Weiss said. Circadian rhythms can be tracked through body temperature and hormonal transmissions.

Some people have different 24-hour body clocks than others, and may do better depending on class and testing times, Weiss said.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

WIFI in the sky

The New York Times is reporting that airlines will start testing in-flight Internet connectivity as early as next Tuesday. This is good news for business travellers for whom the Internet has become a vital tool for success. For leisure travellers and others, it offers a new horizon to deal with the boredom and lack of productivity that comes with air travel.

Both JetBlue and American Airlines will be kicking things off with free email and instant messaging on its planes- JetBlue is only offering e-mail and IM connectivity, while American has plans for full 'Net access—and will only initially be available on certain flights, both represent a significant step towards full online connectivity at 35,000 feet.

It's still not clear how much Internet access would cost on either airline. There seems to be some confusion on this point, with some people claiming that the service will be free, while others say it'll cost $10. That $10 figure is actually drawn from a Reuters story from last August.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Selling Peace

Imagining Peace in Darfur. Make Love, Not War

Bret Dey writes, In March 31, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared at a Vienna press conference in a bag large enough to hold the two of them closely together, hidden from the glare of the camera flashes. Inside the bag, they claimed to be eating chocolate cake. Perplexed, the press asked questions and John and Yoko explained that the bag represented total communication. “When you’re in a bag, you can’t be judged by the color of your skin, the length of your hair, your age or any other attributes.”

38 years later, peace is still not an easy commodity to sell when you are dealing with Sudan that is alleged to have committed genocide, more than 250,000 killed and as many as 2.5 million are thought to have been displaced as of October 2006.

John Lennon realized that his high-minded art projects and chants of “Give Peace a Chance” were simplistic. And, to him, that was exactly the point. “We’re trying to sell peace, like a product,” he said on The David Frost Show. “We’re trying to sell peace the way people sell soap or soft drinks.”

This is what the African Union is preparing to do. Renegotiate the Darfur Peace Agreement, an agreement designed to explore, explain and communicate what peace is about hoping that affected parties will sign on to it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fulfilling the unlived life

Australian media reports that according to a new study, two-thirds of Australians were more likely to share personal information with other people on the Internet than they would in person. Just over half of Australians published three or more types of personal information on blogs, social networking sites or online shopping sites, while a third published their home address and two thirds revealed their real name.

Two-thirds of respondents also said people post personal information online without thinking through the possible consequences. Australians are more trusting online than in person — and it's putting them at risk.

Australians are facing an online identity crisis, using the web and social networking sites to unleash their alter egos, new research suggests.

Woolcott Research and was commissioned by Internet security firm Symantec to conduct the survey. It found Australians typically had more than 10 virtual identities. They included profiles on sites like MySpace and YouTube, email accounts, game avatars and characters in virtual worlds.

"This is what we used to call multiple personality disorder," said Andrew Fuller, a clinical psychologist and fellow of the University of Melbourne's Department of Psychiatry.

Andrew Fuller said the relative anonymity of the Internet encouraged people to be more open with their character, particularly in sites devoted to social networking, dating or gaming.

"Their online profile is more about who they would like to be, rather than who they really are," Dr Fuller said.

Symantec, says criminals could use information found in online profiles to commit fraud in the real-world ("identity theft"), or for social engineering.

Symantec regional consumer business vice-president David Freer said the biggest step towards preventing identity theft was education and that users should be wary of which details they provide online.

"Our internet security threat reports have seen the number of attacks double over the last six months," he said.

More than 2 billion deceptive messages attempting to elicit personal information from users – known as phishing attempts – had been detected so far this year, Mr Freer said.

"We suggest to people that they really look at what they're sharing online. Do you really need to put the information up online that you have?," he said.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Writers strike costs $US21m a day

The 2007 Writers Guild of America strike which is a strike by both the Writers Guild of America, East(EGA) and the Writers Guild of America, west(WGA) that started on November 5, 2007. The two labor unions represent 12,000 members of film, television and radio writers working in the United States.The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers agreed last week to return to the bargaining table on November 26.

According to reports this strike against major studios will cost at least $US21 million ($24 million) a day in television production spending alone and idle 10,000 workers if it lasts much longer, experts say.

The latest estimate accounts only for lost wages and other production costs in the Los Angeles area.

The writers have been demanding for a greater share of revenues from the Internet, widely seen as the future distribution pipeline of choice for filmed entertainment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hong Kong takes aim at thriving Islamic finance

Hong Kong's market watchdog has cleared the way for the territory's first Islamic fund, as the financial centre tries to compete with Singapore and Malaysia as a hub for Muslim investment.

“To further consolidate Hong Kong’s position as a global financial center, we should actively leverage on this new trend by developing an Islamic financial platform in Hong Kong,” Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive told legislators in his annual policy address this year.

“Apart from stepping up our efforts to promote Hong Kong’s financial services to major Islamic countries and regions, we will focus on developing an Islamic bond market," he said.

Islamic finance fuses principles of sharia or Islamic law and modern banking. Funds are banned from investing in companies associated with tobacco, alcohol or gambling, considered taboo by Muslims.

The system also bans the earning of interest.

A report earlier this year valued Islamic financial assets currently under management at more than 400 billion US dollars worldwide, with the industry growing at double digits annually.

Malaysia has "effectively established itself as the regional, if not global, hub for Islamic finance," said the report by Financial Insights, a company under market research and analysis firm International Data Corp (IDC).

Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Singapore are also promoting Islamic finance.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

US revamps Medicare

Starting next week in the United States, those eligible for Medicare can begin enrolling in the optional drug plan for 2008, with a dizzying array of choices — and potential premium increases for 74% of those who currently have a stand-alone drug plan.

About 1.6 million low-income enrollees will be switched from their current plans to other insurers because premiums rose above a government benchmark.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people over 65 that has been in existence for more than 40 years in the United States. Congress added a prescription drug benefit, known as Part D, two years ago.

Although Part D is subsidized by the federal government, it is run by private companies, many of which have aggressively marketed their products.

It’s that time of year again when seniors who want to switch their drug plans have to sift through the fine print of stacks of documents.

There are 55 Medicare prescription drug plans along with thousands of other Medicare supplement programs for sale, according to the state Office for the Aging. When those choices are added to the need to coordinate drug coverage, many Medicare beneficiaries are faced with what the office called "a complex maze of choices.''

Medicare officials say that people can avoid premium increases next year: "In every state, people will be able to find a plan that costs less than $20 a month," says Herb Kuhn of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Therefore it pays for seniors to shop around.

The average monthly premium for a Medicare prescription drug plan will increase to $25 next year, a 13 percent increase, according to the federal government. The plans were created in 2005 to offer more coverage to the country’s 43 million Medicare customers who rely on Medicare for their health care.

In general, United States is opposed to any "socialized programme", yet they do have some “socialized” programmes . Some examples include fire protection, police services, garbage pick up, roads, parks, schools etc. But health care is not one of them. This health care system is broken and serves only private interests. It seems in the US system, the insurance companies have far too much power over decisions regarding a patients health care needs. The United States has the highest per capita health care spending in the world, with comparatively disappointing results compared to European models of health care.

One of the fundamental problem that the US faces is that the ratio of workers paying Medicare taxes to retirees drawing benefits is shrinking at the same time that the price of health care services per person is increasing. Currently there are 3.9 workers paying taxes into Medicare for every older American receiving services. By 2030, as the baby boom generation retires, that is projected to drop to 2.4 workers for each beneficiary. Thus financing the medicare is going to be a huge task.

According to the Census Bureau's 2005 Current Population Survey (CPS), there were 45.8 million uninsured individuals in 2004, or 15.7% of the civilian non-institutionalized population. Since virtually all individuals over age 65 are covered by Medicare, the uninsured are primarily adults under age 65 and children who do not have medical insurance.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Singapore pays tribute to Sim Kee Boon

Former top civil service head Sim Kee Boon, who had been battling stomach cancer for 15 years, died on Friday morning. He was 78.

Mr Sim is one of the most well-known and respected public figure, who headed the civil service from 1979 to 1984, and had held numerous top positions in the public sector and statutory boards. He is survived by his wife Jeanette Sim, 76, five sons and five grandchildren.

The passing of former civil service head Mr Sim Kee Boon is a "loss" to the nation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee said Singapore owed an 'enormous debt' to public servants such as Mr Sim. "They grew up; they saw the country change; they made the change happen."

The prime minister said that as head of the civil service from 1979 to 1984, Mr Sim set the tone for the organisation and led it to achieve many highs, including the building of Changi Airport.

Tributes poured in from many who had worked with him in the civil service and business community. Many who knew him described Mr Sim as "a very sharp and intuitive man, and a good teacher." It is reported that whenever he's at any airport, he would make an effort to look around. He is known to go to the airport about one or two hours earlier and board the plane at the last minute. A hands-on man with exacting standards, he made frequent unannounced walks around the Changi terminals, instituting the habit of Management by Walking Around (MBW) in CAAS.

Leading the tributes from the Keppel group where Mr. Sim presided 16 years as Excecutive Chairman, Mr Lim Chee Onn, the current Executive Chairman of Keppel Corporation, said: "He developed a strong and stable platform for Keppel upon which we have been able to develop and grow at a sustained pace during these last 8 years. Keppel's success today is a result of his vision and efforts.

Mr. Sim is an outstanding personality who has left his mark on a country that is proud of and grateful for his contribution.

Friday, November 09, 2007

C K Prahalad: Rising Indian thinkers

C K Prahalad, India-born management guru and academician, has been voted the world's most influential living management thinker ahead of hands-on managers like Bill Gates, Alan Greenspan and Richard Branson.

C.K. Prahalad is Harvey C. Fruehauf Professor of Business Administration and Professor of Corporate Strategy and International Business at the University of Michigan Business School. The recipient of the Global Indian Award from the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence, Prahalad is a globally recognized business consultant. His groundbreaking article, “The End of Corporate Imperialism," won the 1998 McKinsey Prize as the year’s best Harvard Business Review article.

Prahalad, who is the first Indian-origin thinker to claim the title, was ranked number three in last year's Thinkers 50 list brought out by Suntop Media. The Thinkers 50 2005 was developed as a guide to which thinkers and ideas are currently having greatest impact in business.

"Best known for his work 'Competing for the Future' with Gary Hamel (ranked 5th) on resource-based strategy, which gave rise to the term core competences, more recently, Prahalad has turned his attention to the plight of the worlds poor," said Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove of Suntop Media.

In his book "The Bottom of the Pyramid", he argues that capitalism can be the engine to eradicate poverty.

“If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden, and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs, a whole new world of opportunity will open up,” he explains.

In economics, the bottom of the pyramid is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. In global terms, this is the four billion people who live on less than $2 per day, typically in developing countries. The phrase “bottom of the pyramid” is used in particular by people developing new models of doing business that deliberately target that demographic, often using new technology.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Alibaba IPO soars to pre dot com heights is China’s largest business-to-business trading website for companies. On Tuesday, saw its shares triple after its initial public offering rocketed 192% on the Hong Kong stock exchange. sold 858.9 million IPO shares, or 17% of its enlarged share capital, in a deal handled by Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. The stock performance raised $1.5 billion in the largest high tech offering since Google went public in 2004.

Founded in 1999 as a bulletin board for businesses leads, the Web site connects companies looking to import and export Chinese goods. The company said recently that at the end of June its online marketplaces had more than 24 million members.

The IPO is being closely followed because it is rare for an Asian technology company to decide to list in Hong Kong. In the past, such companies have typically sought to join the technology-focused Nasdaq in the US.

In 2005, Yahoo paid $1bn and contributed its own struggling Chinese internet business in return for a stake its Alibaba.

Alibaba is valued at $8.8bn, while Yahoo’s investment is worth $3.4bn.

The success of this business-to-business Web site is the most visible sign that the Internet is opening entrepreneurial opportunities in a way never before seen in China. With more than 162 million Internet users, China is close to surpassing the United States - and that's a fraction in a country with a population of 1.3 billion. business model is making it easier for Chinese manufacturers to run their businesses and to connect with companies around the world.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Microsoft and Reliance to offer IPTV in India

Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, and Reliance Communications Ltd. agreed for several technological collaborations, including software for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), WiMAX and a software development toolkit for the Internet, the personal computer and mobile phones.

Reliance, India's second-largest mobile-phone operator, will have the sole rights for Microsoft's Mediaroom TV software in India, the companies said today. The Mumbai-based company plans to spend $500 million on license fees to Microsoft and investments over several years in its network for the services, said Reliance Chairman Anil Ambani.

Microsoft will use the existing Reliance fiber network to develop a solution for its IPTV services. IPTV launch in Mumbai and Delhi is expected to be by the end of the year.

Friday, November 02, 2007

No easy divorce without pre-nup

When Sir Paul McCartney married Heather Mills, the famous beatle decided not have a prenuptial agreement as he thought it would kill the romance in the relationship. Experts say that one in three of all first marriages ending in divorce, and with 50 percent of second or third ones hitting the skids, a prenup is smart financial planning tool that can save painful heartaches later. A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people about to wed that spells out how assets will be distributed in the event of divorce or death.

After four years of marriage which began in at a remote countryside castle in Ireland in 2002, the couple have spilt and are going through divorce proceedings. This divorce contest has become one of the most nasty break-ups in recent times. The British media has turned against Mills who is portrayed as gold digger, a fantasist, a liar, and a whore.

There are reports that Paul McCartney and Heather Mills have agreed a $100 million divorce settlement, it is believed the Beatles legend is worth an estimated $1.7 billion .

Monday, October 29, 2007

GAP takes child labour heat

Has child labour gone into these clothes? (photo credit Paul Sakuma/AP)

It has been reported yesterday that an investigation has discovered Indian children as young as 10 years old were being forced to produce blouses for a Gap subcontractor in the Shahpur Jat area of New Delhi. Gap is one of the biggest American retail chains that operates more than 3,000 stores and franchises across the world.

More on this report here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Indian women rise to the occasion in politics

India's Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has been profiled by the US magazine Newsweek among eight women leaders worldwide who have reached the top despite all odds, with the Dalit leader narrating her struggle to rally the oppressed community.

Writing in the magazine, the 51-year-old Bahujan Samaj Party chief, who swept the Assembly elections early this year with a rainbow coalition of Dalits, upper castes and Muslims, says her aim is to replicate the victory in the other states and prepare for the bigger struggle to capture power in New Delhi.

Indian women are making their mark on the political scene. The present president and previously India had a women prime minister. Thus, some women are making giant strides up the political ladder in the world's largest democracy.

Many Americans from the US Democratic party believe that next year, United States may see its first women president from the Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How does 'being unreasonable' become a virtue ?

Paul Lemberg who has written the book 'Be Unreasonable' is hailed as a strategic mind in business.

According to an article on rediff citing excerpts from the book, the author explains the business advantages of being unreasonable. The excerpts of cases referred to makes interesting reading of what the real world is in extreme capitalism. Greed, oppression and denial of workers rights and making money at any cost are all forms of ruthless behaviour that individuals and corporations compete on. This is how creative destruction is brought about ruining some people's lives and taking over their property and assets for mistakes made by them. This type of capitalism takes a huge toll on poor people when corporate or political tyrants take advantages and oppress workers and squander wealth to satisfy personal greed without thinking of the good of the society.

There is no need to glorify being unreasonable just because one can make money by adopting such tactics. IBM failed to maintain their dominance in the PC market not because they did not become unreasonable, but because they failed to innovate and meet the rising competition. They were arrogant and believed that they will always remain ahead of the rest. In the end IBM was forced to compete to remain in business.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A victory for anti-piracy movement

A court in the United States has ordered a woman to pay $220,000 yesterday. She is fined for illegally sharing a total of 1,702 songs.

Jammie Thomas, a Native American from Minnesota, is one of 26,000 people whom the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued over the past four years for alleged use of music “file-sharing” software.

The 30-year-old made legal history after refusing to pay an out-of-court settlement, as all others challenged over their behaviour before her had done, but her failure to carry the case is likely further to embolden the music industry in its attempts to protect copyright.

Most defendants of the lawsuits have opted to settle privately by paying damages amounting to a few thousand dollars. Jamie contested the charge and has now lost almost a quarter of a million dollars. The record companies have made no decision yet what they would do, if anything, to pursue collecting the money from Jamie who is living from pay cheque to pay cheque. The record companies believe that they have sent a strong message against illegal file-sharing of copyright materials.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Teaching teamwork

Teamwork is important for good business. For people in countries where the sport rugby is played, teamwork in sports is common news. France is currently hosting the world cup rugby.

The Grenoble School of Management in the south-eastern France, has just signed a deal with the city's rugby team for a series of events and programs intended to benefit both parties.

The rugby club will assist the business school in creating a series of programs connected to marketing and sport, with club executives even presenting a series of case studies to students.

In rugby for a player to get a try, he needs more teamwork than individual inspiration. While in play, the ball cannot be thrown forwards, only behind, meaning tries are generally scored through a complex series of sideways passes, each player running forwards a few yards before bringing a team mate into play.

Another well-known feature of the game, the scrum, also requires careful co-operation, as players crouch and link arms to push against the other team in a carefully choreographed circle, into which the ball is thrown.

As a result of teamwork, each individual is able achieve more than an isolated individual combining the knowledge and skills of the team. Whether in sports or in a corporate set up, the principle of this co-operative action is the same.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blogs are the no spin medium for Corporations.

The list of boardroom bloggers is setting a new marketing trend, a self-promoting PR exercise in the world of the blogosphere. Examples include Bob Lutz, vice president of General Motors; Randy Baseler, vice president of Boeing; Jonathan Schwartz, president of Sun Microsystems; Jacques Kemp, CEO of ING Asia-Pacific; and Colin Byrne, CEO, Weber Shandwick.

Blogs are unofficial and is seen as straight talking. It is open communication about the company, its employees and its culture humanises the organisation. Blogs can be thought-provoking and deliver instant feedback. Readers don't hold back, and an advantage is that problems or criticisms can be picked up on and solved quickly.

Here is the opening speil of Australia Telstra's Phil Burgess, group managing director and head of marketing and communications, where he writes how Telstra aims to facilitate an independent debate about the future of telecommunications in Australia.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Are you waiting for success?

If you are waiting for success to seek you out, you are headed for a big disappointment. Success is rarely forced upon anyone, and it will never overtake you unexpectedly.

You must prepare for it and actively seek it out if you ever plan to achieve any measure of success in your life. Constantly be alert to changes in your business or profession.

Subscribe to trade magazines and professional journals, join industry associations or professional societies, and get to know the experts in the field in order to keep abreast of new developments.

Source: Napoleon Hill Foundation.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

American men are happier than women?

A team of researchers released new findings on something known as a time-use survey.

According to a New York Times article, men are more relaxed and happier than women.

The research shows some interesting facts.

Since the 1960s, men have gradually cut back on activities they find unpleasant. They now work less and relax more.

Over the same span, women have replaced housework with paid work — and, as a result, are spending almost as much time doing things they don’t enjoy as in the past.

Two new research papers, using very different methods, have both come to this conclusion. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economists at the University of Pennsylvania (and a couple), have looked at the traditional happiness data, in which people are simply asked how satisfied they are with their overall lives. In the early 1970s, women reported being slightly happier than men. Today, the two have switched places.

This is quite paradoxical in that the women in the United States are doing more and have improved over the last thirty five years than they did before but yet they are feeling more unsatisfied.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chris Gardener: From Homeless to a Millionaire

Chris Gardener with his young son was homeless. But he was determined to give a better life to his son. He never gave up on his will to do better. As Gardener and his son struggled with homelessness, he worked to become a top trainee at Bear Stearns. He would work long hours, persistently making calls to prospective clients.

In 1987, Chris Gardner established the brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, in Chicago, Illinois, an "institutional brokerage firm specializing in the execution of debt, equity and derivative products transactions for some of the nation’s largest institutions, public pension plans and unions."

Chris Gardener published his biography which has now been turned into the movie 'The happyness purpose', starring Will Smith, and Smith's own son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. The unusual spelling of the film's title comes from a sign Gardner saw when he was homeless. In the film, "happyness" is misspelled outside the daycare facility Gardner's son attends. The film focuses on Gardner's nearly one-year struggle with homelessness.

Today Chris Gardner is a philanthropist who sponsors charitable organizations, primarily the Cara Program and the Glide United Methodist Church in San Francisco, where he and his son received desperately-needed shelter. He has helped fund a US$50 million project in San Francisco that creates low-income housing and opportunities for employment in the area of the city where he was once homeless.

As well as offering monetary support, Gardner donates clothing and shoes. He makes himself available for permanent job placement assistance, career counseling and comprehensive job training for the homeless population and at-risk communities in Chicago.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cyberbullying is a growing problem

Bullying in a school is an important social concern that has received increased serious attention in recent years. Its causes and effects have been under investigation by a number of researchers in the social and behavioral sciences. A new permutation of bullying, however, has recently arisen and become more common: Tech savvy students are turning CYBERBULLIES.

Cyberbullying is made a computer crime in several countries. For example, in the United States it is a federal crime to anonymously "annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person" via the Internet or telecommunication system, punishable by a fine and/or up to two years imprisonment.

The British Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said cyber bullying was "insidious" and had grown with technology and changes in society.

Schools in the United Kingdom are being sent a guide that explains the tactics used in cyberbulling and suggesting precautions to be taken.

It has been suggested by the BBC that cyberbullying may be influenced by videos that are uploaded to video sharing websites online which contain offensive content or examples of acts of bullying.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Freedom of speech and the power of Internet

A US student, Andrew Meyer, who was well-known on campus for his practical jokes, was tasered after jumping the queue to ask former presidential candidate US senator John Kerry a series of questions in a Florida University lecture hall on Monday.

The anguished cries Andrew Meyer, who was subdued using a Taser stun gun at a political meeting in Florida, has resonated worldwide in a matter of hours.

"Don't Tase me, bro!" was uttered by Andrew Meyer as he was pinned to the floor by police. 'Don't tase me' T-shirts are now being sold in the United States, earning Andrew Meyer a place in the American pop culture.

After a video of the incident was posted on the Internet, the officers responsible have been suspended on full pay while the debate rages over whether the student was a victim of police brutality or an attention-seeking prankster who got what he deserved.

Students at the university organised a protest yesterday and marched on the police station shouting “Don’t Tase me, bro” and demanding that stun guns were banned from campus.

Critics of Andrew Meyer have suggested that the entire incident was a planned attempt to win attention for Meyer who has already posted dozens of videos of himself on his website

Meyer has instantly become an Internet star for interrupting a political meeting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Killing off small business

Pharmacist Dave Redden stands for a photo outside his closed store in Sweet Home, Ore., Friday, Sept. 14, 2007.

Redden joined a growing trend among small-town pharmacists this past summer and closed down Home Town Drugs and Gifts after 25 years--he largely credits the Medicare drug benefit program for the demise of his business. (Credit AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Dave Redden as the proud owner of Home Town Drugs and Gifts in Sweet Home, Oregon, United States, closed down due to competition from mail-order pharmacies and larger retailers played a role in his decision.

Redden, 62, said before the Medicare drug benefit started on Jan. 1, 2006 many customers paid cash.

Now the insurance companies who pay him demand bigger discounts and often payments came after months. Hence it was better for him to give up ownership of his store and go behind the counter as an employee.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Simpson's killer saga

O.J. Simpson (born July 9, 1947) is a retired American football player who achieved stardom as a running back, subsequently as an actor and broadcaster.

Simpson achieved notoriety for having been tried for the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994. He was acquitted in criminal court in 1995 after a lengthy, highly publicized trial, called the "Trial of the Century" in America.

In 1997, Simpson was found liable for their deaths in civil court, but to date has paid little of the $33.5 million judgment. He gained further notoriety in late 2006 when he wrote a book titled 'If I Did It', withdrawn by the publisher just before its release, which purports to be a first-person fictional account of the murder had he actually committed it.

Human morality could not have been brought to a lower standard than this. For Simpson to write a book on how he would have killed his ex wife with whom he has two children and profit from publishing the book, brings this man's bizarre behaviour to a dangerously pathological level. Because of the public furore in America, the publisher decided last minute not to publish the book.

In August 2007, a Florida bankruptcy court awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family to partially satisfy an unpaid civil judgment. The title of the book was expanded to If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, and comments were added to the original manuscript by the Goldman family. The book has become No.1 on the Barnes and Noble best seller list.

Simpson's criminal and civil trials saw some of America's best lawyers battling it out in the court with the American public and the world watching every move in the court. The power of the media was on full display, with Simpson having considerable pull of public opinion in his favour because of his celebrity status and adoring fans.

On September 14, 2007, Simpson was questioned with regard to missing memorabilia at Palace Station Casino. He admitted taking the items, which he said had been stolen from him, but denied breaking into a room, as well as the allegation that he or people with him carried weapons. Now Simpson has been arrested and this morbid saga continues after ten years.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Greenspan's Memoir critical of Bush

Alan Greenspan who retired in early 2006 after 18 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve has some harsh words for his fellow republicans especially the Bush White House in his memoir 'The Age of Turbulence.' He had served under six presidents as either Fed chairman or adviser. He now runs a private consulting company; his only formal public role is adviser to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

From the 1980s stock market crash to the bursting of the tech bubble – he used a deft hand in managing the US economy. But some economists have begun to question his wisdom of cutting short-term interest rates to 1% in mid-2003 and keeping them there for a year, the cause that they attribute helped foster a housing bubble that is now bursting.

In his book, Greenspan defends the policy. "We wanted to shut down the possibility of corrosive deflation," he writes. "We were willing to chance that by cutting rates we might foster a bubble, an inflationary boom of some sort, which we would subsequently have to address....It was a decision done right."

Greenspan, who was the leading Republican economist for the past three decades, levels unusually harsh criticism at President Bush and the Republican Party in his new book, arguing that Bush abandoned the central conservative principle of fiscal restraint.

While condemning Democrats, too, for rampant federal spending, he offers Bill Clinton an exemption. The former president emerges as the political hero of "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," Greenspan's 531-page memoir, which is being published Monday. He describes Bill Clinton as "a fellow information hound" with "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Surrogate parenting by fish

A salmon embryo gets a dose of immature trout reproductive cells. Credit: Science

Japanese researchers have taken a step closer on surrogate parenting as they engineered one fish species to produce another, in a quest to preserve endangered fish.

The new method is "one of the best things that has happened in a long time in bringing something new into conservation biology," said University of Idaho zoology professor Joseph Cloud, who is leading the U.S. government-funded sockeye project.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Knowledge and globalisation

Nayan Chanda's book 'Bound Together' attempts to show that globalization stems, among other things, from a basic human urge to seek a better and more fulfilling life and that it has been driven by many actors who can be classified, for the sake of simplicity, as traders, preachers, adventurers, and warriors.

Listen to the podcast of an interview with Nayan Chanda.

Answering a question put to him by Manuel Gilberto Rosas, Columbia, he relpied:

Throughout history, knowledge has been power that its owners have always guarded jealously. The Chinese learned how to make silk from cocoons and paper from tree bark and succeeded in keeping that know-how secret for several centuries. Yemen lost its centuries-long monopoly in the coffee trade and Brazil its rubber when those plants were spirited out by competitors. The American industrial revolution was launched with stolen textile technology from Britain. But in recent decades, patents and copyrights have been protected more tightly than ever.

The consequence has been hard for developing countries, especially in the arena of pharmaceuticals. This knowledge gap has been growing, caught as it is in a vicious cycle. The technology needed to bridge the gap is itself out of the reach of many because it contains proprietary information.

While the originators of technologies are right to demand that they be paid for the time and money invested in developing them, there have to be limits to how much and how long they can carry on claiming an exclusive right.

Alternatives also have to be found to bridge the digital divide, and make certain basic technologies like computers and the Internet available to people of developing countries. One such effort comes from the non-profit One Laptop Per Child project, which plans to sell computers with wireless capability for $100 in developing countries.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boutique hotels make good business

Small luxury hotels with individual character are beating the big chains and small gems seem destined to go from strength to strength, as described in an article on showing the Pita Maha Spa and Resort in Bali in the picture.

Small luxury hotels are becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourist industry.

They set standards, without imposing uniformity.

These trends suggest that the big boys can no longer take the needs of their customers for granted. Discerning travellers are spoilt for choice now.

"There's no doubt about the trend against standardised hotels, especially at the luxury end," comments Sydney-based Select Hotels & Resorts International founder Richard Rosebery. "Bland is no good any more. People want to feel they're in Thailand or Fiji, or wherever they might be."

Internet marketing plays an important role in connecting potential customers with the small hotels who do not have the kind of budgets that big chains can afford. Thus technology has helped to bring about a promising change where the customer is emerging as the king.

The direct online marketing will continue to be the main focus for hoteliers in the next several years. The industry as a whole has realized that not only has the Internet become the preferred channel for travel consumers to plan and book lodging, but the direct online channel is the cheapest form of distribution.

The same Internet can be used to raise awareness about social issues, help mentor children or provide information to further education and find productive opportunities aimed at improving the quality of life of the people who are struggling in poverty.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Big companies win on US patent reform

This is a fight between the big companies and the small companies who make their living licensing patented inventions to larger firms or directly to the public.

Big companies in information technology depend on squashing small companies, buying intellectual property on the cheap from small companies, and buying pioneering companies on the cheap. They can easily do this when the small companies either don’t protect their intellectual property (a problem in many small software companies) or open source their technology in unwise ways.

Big companies are now trying to weaken the patent system before the small companies wake up to its value.

The House of Representatives on Friday passed 225 to 175 with strong bipartisan support, the most comprehensive patent reform in half a century. It delivered a victory for computer technology and financial services companies and leaving drug companies, small inventors, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office bracing for a bigger fight before the bill hits the Senate floor.

The legislation, would make patents harder to obtain and easier to challenge and is intended to curtail litigation by limiting where patent owners can file suit and how much they can collect in damages.

"This patent reform will help speed up patent decisions, clear up disputes and clarify the jurisprudence behind these lawsuits," said Jonathan Yarowsky, policy counsel for the Coalition for Patent Fairness, the powerful lobby group which represents technology companies such as Microsoft and Google as well as financial services companies, including Capital One. "This will streamline innovation."

Microsoft, Intel and Cisco Systems have been lobbying for changes for more than five years. They say they have been under siege from lawsuits seeking high royalties on small features.

These companies are subjected to “legalized extortion,” said one sponsor of the bill, Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas. “Too many patents of questionable integrity have been approved, and owners of these patents have found a unique way to make money.

The creation of inventions and intellectual property is a vital element of the development of the US economy to become a global economic superpower.

Experts in the intellectual rights field argue that America’s economic future depends on creating and licensing intellectual property. Strong worldwide patent rights are the foundation for American economic survival in a fast changing globalised world.

One sticking point passed by the House is the new set of guidelines for calculating patent infringement damages.

Currently, damages can be awarded based on the entire value of a product that includes a component that infringes on a patent. Under this legislation, judges can instruct juries in certain cases to award damages only for the value of the component. If a computer contains a chip that is patented, for example, the chip patent's owner would be awarded damages based on the value of the chip rather than the computer.

The bill would also change the rules at the Patent and Trademark Office so patents would go to the first person to file an application, not necessarily the first inventor.

Intense lobbying has surrounded the patent issue, reflecting the importance of patents to the American economy. Intellectual property in the United States, dominated by patents, is valued at as much as $5.5 trillion, more than 40 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to a 2005 study by USA for Innovation, a Washington group that advocates free trade.

The US has the best patent system in the world, and is the world’s leader in innovation. As the bill passes through the Senate, opponents of bill the are horrified against the implications of the bill. The consequences of the bill will become clearer after the dust settles down.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Overzealous prosecutor is jailed

"Justice works!" a woman shouted.

"I hope your family gets what you gave those families, you scumbag,'' a man said loudly.

These highly charged emotions were directed at the former district attorney for Durham County, North Carolina in the United States of America.

Nifong who pursued sexual assault charges made by Crystal Gail Mangum, an African American woman who was working as an escort and stripper, against members of the Duke University lacrosse team has been barred since he with held material evidence in a widely publicised case.

Now Mike Nifong has walked into jail to serve a 24-hour contempt sentence on Friday, soon after it was revealed that the three players he falsely accused of rape are seeking $30 million from the city.

The three falsely accused players are now seeking a $30 million settlement and reforms in the legal process, two people close to the case told The Associated Press on Friday.

If the terms aren't met, they will sue early next month, the sources said on condition of anonymity because the proposed settlement wasn't complete.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Too big to send to jail

The chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, Chung Mong-Koo, arrested in South Korea early this year on embezzlement charges has escaped jail ... for cash.

Chung and three other Hyundai Motor executives were accused of setting aside 103.4 billion won without proper accounting and of using 69.6 billion won for illegal political donations, undeclared employee bonuses and to attract an international expo to the city of Yeosu. There were also charges of manipulating share prices of an affiliate to benefit the Chung family, which founded the conglomerate. He was found guilty of all charges by a lower court.

The verdict was appealed and now the appeal court has ruled that his imprisonment would badly damage South Korea's economy, so it was better to let him go free.

Chung was allowed to go free on the promise of restitution, to be paid by building a concert hall and opera house in Seoul and 12 cultural centers in other provinces over the next seven years.

The suspension of a three-year prison sentence for Chung Mong Koo, convicted of embezzlement in February, if he donates $1 billion to charity, is the latest and most dramatic example of a uniquely Korean form of justice.

South Korea has an unusual system of justice. The ultra rich pay large sums of money to a variety of causes that “aid society,” and are able to escape jail terms because they are too important for the national economy.

Chung is Korea’s second-richest man and heads Hyundai, which appeared to be sliding down and losing customers until the court freed him. The logic is that now he can have more time to concentrate on winning customers from Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., Hyundai's rival competitors.

“Sending Chung to prison is not necessarily the best solution. He must be ordered to pay for the wrongdoings he actually committed,” presiding Judge Lee Jae-hong of the three-judge panel ruled. “If the ruling is criticized for showing leniency to white-collar crime, I will accept it.”

It was not immediately clear if prosecutors planned to appeal to the supreme court.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pavarotti, king of tenors passes on

Luciano Pavarotti, The world famous Italian opera singer who used his unforced tenor voice to become a 20th-century celebrity, died Thursday at his home in Modena, Italy, after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer, according to The Associated Press. He was 71.

The maestro took opera outside the concert hall: performances before 150,000 people, including the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, in London's Hyde Park in 1991; 500,000 on the Great Lawn of New York's Central Park in 1993; and 300,000 in 1994 at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Pavarotti shared the stage with rock and pop singers, including Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Bono of U2, to raise money for charities.

The portly bearded singer at times 300 pounds or more retired from staged opera in 2004, but was on a "farewell tour" of concerts when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006 and underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumor.

Pavarotti was planning to resume his singing in 2007, but to the sad loss of millions of his fans around the world, his farewell tour has now turned out to be his swan song.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tension in US-China relationsip over espionage

Incidents of espionage are as old as human history itself. Traditional methods mostly included human spies and wire tapping for eavesdropping purposes.

Now technology is helping in this age-old industry. Satellite surveillance of all electronic transmissions including cell phone logs, voice mail, email, packet sniffing, trace routing and wireless transmissions are standard techniques. The boundaries are pushed farther by the advances in new technology.

Computer hackers believed to be associated with the Chinese government are being blamed for a breach of computer security at the Pentagon in which some information may have been stolen.
China denies the allegations, but it's the second time in recent weeks that the Chinese government has been linked with cyber-spying allegations. Two weeks ago, an attack on German government computers was attributed to China.

The robust Chinese response followed a front-page report in the Financial Times saying Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) hackers broke into a US defence department network in June, taking data and causing the shutdown of a system serving the secretary of defence, Robert Gates.

Although Chinese authorities blame US of going back to the cold war thinking, it is believed that both the Chinese military and the U.S. defense bodies are active in probing into one another.

The compromise of the U.S. defense system has forced officials to reconsider the type of information that is transmitted via email or with BlackBerry mobiles.

US and China have differing ideologies and values. Fundamental ideals such as promoting democracy, good governance, and rule of law, upholding human rights, encouraging the spread of free market ideals and institutions, which form the basis for U.S. alliances with Great Britain, Japan, and Australia, as well as cooperation with other democratic security partners, are not shared by China.

Foreign policy analysts believe that in the absence of a greater convergence of values and agreement of the international system, a comprehensive strategic security partnership with China is fraught with difficulties.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Teaching hard lessons

Malaysia has announced on Monday it is considering re-introducing the previously banned act of public caning in schools as a way of disciplining wayward students.

Malaysia's Education Ministry is to issue specific guidelines on how teachers should discipline students following an outcry over several recent cases that were condemned as student abuse.

Currently, school principals are allowed to cane trouble-making students but only in a private room with another teacher present as a witness.

Today, in most countries rather than punishing students for their bad behavior a reward system is being used as a tool to promote good behavior in the classroom. The classroom reward system was designed to be an effective tool that helps students to focus, get work done, and behave favorably.

In some cases, punishments such as canning are still neceassry as a deterent measure to reinforce the value of good conduct.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Republican's failing private virtue

American Idaho Senator Larry Craig (Republican) opposes gay marriage and has a strong record against gay rights.

A fiscal and social conservative, Craig sometimes broke with his party, notably on immigration, where he pushed changes that many in his party said offered “amnesty” to illegal immigrants.

For the last one week, Sen. Craig's name has been linked to a bathroom sting operation and the senator has succumbed to calls for his resignation from members of his own party.

Craig, 62, said he would resign effective Sept. 30, ending a career in Congress spanning a quarter-century.

Craig was arrested June 11 in a police undercover vice operation. Craig is accused of trying to solicit an undercover officer in an adjoining stall, using signals "used by persons wishing to engage in lewd contact," including tapping his toes, moving his foot over to touch the officer's foot and swiping his left hand under the stall divider.

Craig has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s. He has called assertions that he has engaged in gay sex ridiculous.

Other lawmakers who broke foul of the law include former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., quit last fall over sexually explicit Internet communications with male pages who had worked on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., resigned in 1995 amid allegations he had made unwanted sexual advances to 17 female employees and colleagues and altered his personal diaries to obstruct an ethics investigation.

These incidents reveal the hypocrisy and dishonesty of those who legislate on personal conduct, and ironically fall victims of seeking sexual encounters from the very men they actively legislate against.

America is a secular country but the republican conservatives have always portrayed them holding a higher moral ground over the liberal democrats and these incidents show the human failings regardless of the party affiliation. These scandals also bring out their double standards and homophobia.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Internet has given a new life to a 95-year-old blogger

Maria Amelia, the lively 95-year-old Spanish grandmother has achieved global fame as the oldest of the world's 63.2 million bloggers.

She was introduced to the world of blogging by one of her grandchildren just eight months ago, and now she receives posts in languages as strange and impossible for her to understand as Russian, Japanese and Arabic.

At 95 years old and with a worldwide following that has seen more than 340,000 hits on her blog, Spaniard María Amelia López has achieved the kind of status that millions of younger internet chroniclers can only dream of.

"My name is Amelia and I was born in Muxía (A Coruña - Spain) on December the 23rd of 1911," she wrote as her first post on "Today it's my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog."

With a mix of humour, warmth, optimism, nostalgia and feisty outbursts of leftwing polemic, she has won a regular readership of people keen to find out just what this Spanish great-grandmother is going to say or do next.

"You have to live life," the silver-haired blogger said in her most recent post. "Not sit around in an armchair waiting for death."

Her blog tracks not just a nonagenarian's day-to-day battles against aches, but offers musings on everything from politics and religion to broadband and death.

Among her chief hates are old people's homes, which she criticises for drugging their clients so they spend their final days snoozing quietly in front of the television.

"I blame the children, who don't want to help them," she said yesterday from the house beside the Atlantic Ocean in Muxía, in the rugged north-western corner of Spain, where she stays during the summer.

Some of her own words

"Old people need to wake up a bit. Get your act together!"

"Life has to be lived. Don't take pills and fall asleep in the armchair."

"Scientists and inventors should try to create something to help the workers rather than inventing cannons and machines that kill and destroy."

Friday, August 31, 2007

Venezuelan oil politics with Cuba

Fidel Castro, the iconic communist dictator has outlived several American presidents, survived American sanctions and in spite of losing the Soviet financial support after its collapse, is still managing to find new allies with countries like the left-leaning Venezuela.

Cuba has dispatched more than 20,000 doctors, as well as thousands of other specialists such as sports trainers and therapists, to Venezuela. Hugo Chavez's government has paid for the service by providing Cuba with nearly 100,000 barrels of oil a day, filling the void left by the Soviet Union, Havana's longtime benefactor during the Cold War.

Bringing medical personnel to once-forgotten shantytowns of Venezuela has been among the more popular of Chavez's many social programs, and has helped consolidate Venezuela's self-styled revolutionary government. Working from small brick modules, the Cubans examine newborns, provide care for the elderly and make house calls -- all for free.

Showing us remnants of the vestiges of the revolutionary socialist movement of Karl Marx and Lenin that brought the world decades of cold war, Cuban leader Castro is selling his tactics of indoctrination to willing buyers like Venezuela who are strongly opposed to the US policies.

But all is not going well in the two way deal. Recently, in Venezuela some 400 doctors and medical staff protested dressed in white medical gowns and bearing national flags, carried banners reading 'No More Cubanisation!' as they marched.

They claimed that while the Cuban-staffed clinics are equipped with medicines and modern machines, Venezuelan public hospitals often lack basic medical equipment. They say that Venezuelan doctors are underpaid and many are unemployed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What was Vick thinking?

Michael Dwayne Vick (born June 26, 1980 in Newport News, Virginia) is an American football quarterback and he had everything going well for him. He is a contracted player with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

Now he has been suspended indefinitely following allegations of his involvement in unlawful interstate dog fighting.

The Atlanta Falcons informed Michael Vick and his representatives in a letter yesterday that they intend to force the quarterback to return a portion of the $37 million in bonuses that his 10-year, $130 million contract contains.

Falcons have not released Vick from their contract, but it is thought that he will be dismissed after the tussle for his complex money matter is over. That may be the end of his NFL career.

Dog fighting which is done for gambling is a brutal contest. The dogs are made to fight till death or until one is fatally wounded.

It is not easy to understand why Michael Vick who came from humble beginnings and rose to become a prestigious NFL star will throw everything away for his involvement in this barbaric activity.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Floating houses: a lesson for living in rising water

The lesson is from Dutch Housing Minister Sybilla Dekker who recently said: "You cannot fight water. You have to learn how to live with it."

Or in this case, float on it.

With scientists predicting sea-level rises of up to 110 cms (43 inches) by 2100, and catastrophic weather events becoming ever more common, the floating house could be the only realistic way for people to continue living in low-lying areas without fear of losing their homes, possessions and even lives to flooding.

The Netherlands famously known for its windmills, half the country lies below mean sea level. Flooding has long been a fact of life and extensive range of dikes and dunes protects the land from the rising tides.

Now a construction and engineering company Dura Vermeer has come up with a novel and, when you think about it, obvious solution to the problem: houses that float.

"These type of homes offer a good way of dealing with the effects of climate change," Dura Vermeer spokesman Johan van der Pol said.

"Unlike normal houses, they are extremely flexible when it comes to flooding, able to deal with a sea level rise of up to five metres.

The company has developed two variations on the same theme: a floating house which, as the name suggests, sits permanently on the water like a boat; and an amphibious house that stands on dry land but, in the event of floods, is able to rise with the water.

Both employ a large hollow concrete cube at their base to provide buoyancy, and are "moored" in pairs to huge steel piles to keep them anchored in one place, the piles enabling them to withstand currents as strong as you would find on the open seas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

2o Rules to get rich

Here are the timeless rules given by By Carla Fried, Money Magazine.

1. Be humble
When you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it--this is knowledge.

2. Take calculated risks
He that is overcautious will accomplish little.
--Friedrich von Schiller

3. Have an emergency fund
For age and want, save while you may; no morning sun lasts a whole day.
--Benjamin Franklin

4. Mix it up
It is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow and not to venture all his eggs in one basket.
--Miguel de Cervantes

5. It's the portfolio, stupid
Asset the overwhelmingly dominant contributor to total return.
--Gary Brinson, Brian Singer and Gilbert Beebower

6. Average is the new best
The best way to own common stocks is through an index fund.
--Warren Buffett

7. Practice patience
It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It was always my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight!
--Edwin Lefevre

8. Don't time the market
The real key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.
--Peter Lynch

9. Be a cheapskate
Performance comes and goes, but costs roll on forever.
--Jack Bogle

10. Don't follow the crowd
Fashion is made to become unfashionable.
--Coco Chanel

11. Buy low
If a business is worth a dollar and I can buy it for 40 cents, something good may happen to me.
--Warren Buffett

12. Invest abroad
The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
--St. Augustine

13. Keep perspective
There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.
--Harry Truman

14. Just do it
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

15. Borrow responsibly
As life closes in on someone who has borrowed far too much money on the strength of far too little income, there are no fire escapes.
--John Kenneth Galbraith

16. Talk to your spouse
"In every house of marriage there's room for an interpreter."
--Stanley Kunitz

17. Exit gracefully
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
--Pablo Picasso

18. Pay only your share
The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward.
--John Maynard Keynes

19. Give wisely
The time is always right to do the right thing.
--Martin Luther King Jr.

20. Keep money in its place
A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.
--Jonathan Swift

Monday, August 20, 2007

Using reverse psychology against Hilary Clinton

White House strategist Karl Rove who successfully campaigned to bring Texas Gov. George W. Bush into white House, sees Hilary Clinton as a formidable opponent and is going after her even before she is nominated.

The decision to focus on the New York senator to the exclusion of other potentially formidable Democratic standard-bearers such as Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois offered a rare glimpse into a world where things are not always what they seem -- the world of modern-day electioneering.

In this case, Rove's weeklong broadside against Clinton -- which he is expected to repeat in multiple appearances on television talk shows today -- looks suspiciously like an exercise in reverse psychology that his team employed three years ago when it was preparing for President Bush's reelection bid.

In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when it was not yet clear who Bush's opponent would be that November, Rove and his aides had begun to fear that their most dangerous foe would be then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

With his Southern base, charismatic style and populist message, Edwards, they believed, could be a real threat to Bush's reelection.

But instead of attacking Edwards, Rove's team opened fire at Kerry.

It seems the Democrats, in a knee-jerk reaction to GOP attacks, would rally around Kerry, whom Rove considered a comparatively weak opponent, and make him the party's nominee. Thus Bush would be spared from confronting Edwards, the candidate Republican strategists actually feared most.

Karl Rove has decided to quit by the end of this month, nearly one year after Republicans lost control of both houses of the U.S. Congress.

Polls also show President Bush with the lowest approval ratings of his administration and little optimism among Republicans as the party prepares to compete in next year's presidential and legislative contests.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Threshold of clinical depression too low

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Prof Gordon Parker -senior psychiatrist said, depression had become a "catch-all" diagnosis, driven by clever marketing from pharmaceutical companies and leading to the burgeoning prescription of antidepressant drugs. Too many people are being diagnosed with depression when they are merely unhappy, he said.

He said the drugs were being marketed beyond their "true utility" in cases in which people were unhappy rather than clinically depressed.

The psychiatrist, of the University of New South Wales, Australia, said the "over-diagnosis" of depression began in the early 80s, when the diagnostic threshold for minor mood disorders was lowered.

His 15-year study of 242 teachers found that more than three-quarters met the current criteria for depression.

Qualifying symptoms included "feeling sad, blue or down in the dumps" for two weeks, or appetite change, sleep disturbance, drop in libido and tiredness.

The psychiatrist said these symptoms were so common that most people would have them at some point in their lives. Under the current diagnosis guidelines, around one in five adults is thought to suffer depression during their lifetime.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's the problem with US subprime lending?

Subprime lending is a highly controversial financial transaction.

Opponents have alleged that the subprime lending companies engage in predatory lending practices such as deliberately lending to borrowers who could never meet the terms of their loans, thus leading to default, seizure of collateral, and foreclosure.

Proponents of the subprime lending maintain that the practice extends credit to people who would otherwise not have access to the credit market.

Research by the Centre for Responsible Lending has predicted that one in five of the sub-prime mortgages made in the past two years will end in foreclosure, resulting in the biggest crisis for the mortgage market in modern times.

The centre said 2.2m sub-prime home loans had already failed or would end in foreclosure and that the losses to homeowners could be as high as $164bn.

Although the turmoil in the sub-prime mortgage market is nothing new, the most recent signs of stress at investment bank Bear Stearns have increased speculation that the Fed may soon have to cut rates.

But most analysts say Mr Bernanke and his Fed colleagues will want to see real signs of economic damage before they respond with cheaper money. For now, they think, the main danger to the US economy remains inflation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Social networking among fastest internet trends

Social networking has become one of the fastest-growing Internet trends of the past two years.

According to Internet metrics firm Comscore, Facebook saw users increase 270% from June last year to June this year. It now has more than 52 million users worldwide.

MySpace registered lower growth of 72% but still leads the market with 114 million users. Bebo, with a majority of users in Europe, grew 172% to more than 18 million users.

Now mobile phone companies are after the social networking sites.

The mobile phone companies reckon the people who are using sites like Facebook are exactly the sort of people likely to be interested in using the Internet on a mobile phone.

Revenues from putting user-generated content - i.e: content such as videos and blogs created by consumers rather than media organisations - onto mobile phones is expected to rise more than tenfold over the next five years, according to estimates by Juniper Research published yesterday.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Indian film industry is evolving

Rakesh Roshan, a well-known independent film maker says independent producers will still be able to compete even if the Indian film industry moved towards a studio model.

While there is an increasing number of corporates entering the film industry, they face one disadvantage. They lack experience. Of course, as time goes by, it is something they can gain. Even after so many years in the industry, I am still learning. I still face dilemmas as to what will work and what will not, Rakesh said.

India is the largest producer of feature films in the world - about 1,000 films a year, most of them are made in India's main language Hindi. The term ‘Bollywood’ applies to the Mumbai-based Hindi language film industry in India, but the foreign usage implies the overall film industry of India.

India’s media and entertainment industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, according to a latest study by P ricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest accounting firm.

Content of the film industry is now aimed at different audience demographics. Now the success of a movie depends on - script and story, director’s vision, on screen talent, marketing and positioning and release date of the film - and only the star cast is dependent on studios.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Stock markets plunge as investors panic

Global finacial markets are in turmoil. The Dow was down more than 212 points at its lows; closed at 13,239.54 on Friday.

We are all affected by stock market falls even if we have never owned a share or investment fund. The disruption affects us through our employers, our pension funds' holdings of financial assets or our mortgages.

The world's central banks have now injected $326bn on Thursday and Friday into the money markets to fend off the threat of a credit crunch, where the availability of loans dries up and interest rates soar.

Investors continue to worry that that the U.S. subprime loan problem might be turning into a full-fledged global financial panic.

The subprime woes, related to the fallout from losses on US mortgages for people with poor credit records, again took centre stage in US markets on Tuesday while related losses at Australia's top investment bank shows that the impact has global implications.

A few years back, most people in the world's financial markets believed in the old adage that when the US sneezed the rest of the world caught a cold. This no lnger holds true.

While the US economy may have softened, the rest of the world has stormed ahead, led chiefly by the emerging economies. For those countries with weak domestic consumer spending - apart from Japan, Germany is the other obvious example - the strength of emerging market demand has provided a welcome economic shot in the arm through higher exports.

The US is Japan's most important export destination. The Japanese worry about the implications of the US housing slowdown and the fallout from the sub-prime market.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Future stars on dance floors : Dancing Robots

The robot in the picture copies the moves of a human dance teacher.
Japanese researchers have created a dancing robot capable of imitating a routine at a moment’s notice, with no need for time-consuming and costly rehearsals.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have used software allowing their robot HRP-2 to copy the moves of a human dance teacher through video motion capture technology.

HRP-2 then watched dance instructor Hisako Yamada performing a Japanese folk routine called Aizu-Bandaisan, before accurately reproducing her performance just minutes later.

Some dancers have commented that robot dancers will always have some human element missing. While that is true, there may be some humans who may prefer a robot dancer.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Concern over social networks

A social network is a social structure which generally comprises of individuals, groups or organizations that are tied by one or more specific types of relations, such as values, visions, ideas, friends, kinship, business, or even web links.

Research by a number academics has shown that social networks operate on many levels, from families up to the level of nations, and play a critical role in determining the way problems are solved, organizations are run, and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals.

Friendship networks tend to be larger in younger groups, but they have weaker ties with those they talk with. But as they get older, the networks are smaller and they have stronger ties.

Some experts worry that cellphones will replace face-to-face contact, said Scott Campbell, who teaches communication studies at the University of Michigan, USA.

But what was set up as a purely business strategy is having an unintentional social effect. It is dividing the people who share informal bonds and bringing together those who have formal networks of cellphone “friends.”

Maybe they should blame the cellphone carriers. The carriers, after all, set up plans that encourage subscribers to talk mainly to people in the same network. The companies say they are simply trying to recruit and retain customers.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Success secrets from India's top entreprenur Ambani

Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani, one of India's top entrepreneur, a rags-to-riches story, reveals on Rediff the secrets of how he built the Reliance Industries.

* True entrepreneurship comes only from risk-taking.

* Pursue your goal, even in the face of difficulties. Convert difficulties into opportunities. Keep your morale high, in spite of setbacks. At the end you are bound to succeed.

* My advice to young entrepreneurs is not to accept defeat in the face of odds. Challenge negative forces with hope, self-confidence and conviction. I believe that ambition and initiative will ultimately triumph. The success of the young entrepreneur will be the key to India's transformation in the new millennium.

* Dhirubhai will go one day. But Reliance's employees and shareholders will keep it afloat. Reliance is now a concept in which the Ambanis have become irrelevant.

* I have trusted people and they have put their trust in me. I have encouraged youth, and they have never let me down. I have asked my people to take initiative and to take risks. It has paid me rich dividends. I insist on excellence. This helps us to be leaders. Reliance is built on some of these principles.

* The secret of Reliance's success was to have ambition and to know the minds of men.

* Growth has no limit at Reliance. I keep revising my vision. Only when you dream it you can do it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The wayward son of non-violence preaching Gandhi

A scene from Gandhi My Father, a new film that explores the turbulent relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his first-born son. Photo- Telegraph UK.

To Martin Luther King, he was "the little brown saint of India - the first person to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction". Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, compared him to Buddha.

The world has heard a lot about Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement that eventually gained independence for India from the British. But we know little about his family life.

A new film 'Gandhi My Father' depicts the Mahatma as a difficult patriarch whose ideals shaped a nation but hurt his family.

As one commentator points out: "He loved his son and family, but he loved the nation more." It's a distinction that makes for a compelling film.

The film traces the disintegrating relationship between the Mahatma or ‘Bapu’ (father) as he was fondly known, with the eldest of his four sons, Hiralal.

What emerges is the uneasy tensions in the family’s South African residence where Gandhi practised as a barrister up to 1915. The patriarch’s firm insistence that Hiralal abandon his education and wife Gulab in order to assist him in his fight against the inequitable apartheid system, leads to resentment by the young Hiralal.

Post 1915, the entire family relocates to India where resistance to British imperialism is gaining momentum. Hiralal tries to assert his own independence but he is thwarted by opportunists who use the Gandhi name to establish fraudulent companies and discredit the freedom movement. The Mahatma publicly disowns his wayward son and Hiralal sinks into alcoholic depression.

Supporters of Gandhi in India have tried to ban the film unsuccessfully as it portrays their revered hero in poor light. The contrast of human strength and weakness lies in the fact Gandhi almost single handedly with no military force at his disposal mobilised the masses through his non-violent means and won against the imperialistic British, but failed to help his own son with understanding, love and care when he needed most.

This is a gut-wrenching story that would have affected the man who carried a larger-than-life persona.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Polluting printers

This printer in a Brisbane, Australia, office building contributed to higher particulate matter concentrations indoors than those outside near a freeway.Photo:Lidia Morawska.

This study has appeared in the online edition of the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) journal, measured particulate output of 62 laser printers, including models from name brands such as Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Ricoh. Particle emissions, believed to be toner -- the finely-ground powder used to form images and characters on paper -- were measured in an open office floor plan, then ranked.

The research underscores the importance of printer emissions. Read more here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Competing with the richest cricket organisation

The Board of Control for Cricket in India,or BCCI is among the richest sporting organizations in the world, and the richest cricketing body by far.

The immense popularity of the game in India as well as the continuous growth of the Indian economy have armed BCCI with some of the most lucrative TV and sponsorship contracts in world sports.

The global media rights for international cricket to be held in India between March 2006 and March 2010 were awarded to production house Nimbus for a mind-boggling sum of US$612 Million.

The BCCI's membership generally includes the State cricket associations, though some states have more than one association. Maharashtra state, for instance, has Maharashtra cricket association, Mumbai Cricket Association and Vidarbha cricket association and Gujarat state has Gujarat cricket association, Baroda cricket association and Saurashtra cricket association. Railways and Services are also members.

Now the richest league BCCI is under threat, following the disappointment of Indian cricket fans with the poor performance of their cricket team in the World cup and the South African tour prior to that.

Indian team's failure in World Cup has led to lower earnings to Cricket broadcasters, advertisers, cricket sponsors and; tour operators. These defeats also caused massive disappointment to India's millions of fanatical cricket fans.

A new private cricket league, the Indian Cricket League (ICL) has been formed that will run parallel to the existing cricket league managed by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The format of ICL will be Twenty20.

Australia's national cricket team captain, Ricky Ponting who is the highest ranked Test batsman and the highest ranked ODI batsman in the International Cricket Council, or ICC ratings has come out against the nascent ICL league.

"It's only a concern if there is huge money involved in it," Ponting said. "If this sort of stuff gets off the ground, these guys won't even be playing with their mates, they'll be thrown into made-up teams. You'll be out there by yourself and trying to win some money," he was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.

Ponting's fear and apprehensions, while understandable is quite off the mark. Whether it is cricket or any other sport, it is the capitalist's big money that drives the game and motivates players. So having more competition cannot be bad for the game. If the ICI can poach contracted players of BCCI, it shows that ICCI is superior to BCCI. In a free market it bound to happen and it is part of the game.

The super star players who are under performing, yet having a cushy life are called to wake up.