Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wealthiest Nations not so child-friendly

According to a United Nations report, the United States and Britain are at the bottom of a U.N. survey of child welfare in 21 wealthy countries that assessed everything from infant mortality to whether children ate dinner with their parents or were bullied at school.

The Netherlands, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Finland, finished at the top of the rankings. According to the study, children fared worse in the U.S. and Britain — despite high overall levels of national wealth — because of greater economic inequality and poor levels of public support for families.

One of the studies researcher, Professor Jonathan Bradshaw of social policy at the University of York in Britain said that both United States and Britain did not invest as much in children as continental European countries do.

"What they have in common are very high levels of inequality, very high levels of child poverty, which is also associated with inequality, and in rather different ways poorly developed services to families with children," said Bradshaw.

The combination of a high rate of single mothers in both countries, and a decided lack in services to assist them has made it so that children often bear the brunt of inequalities and lack of effective social programs.

The world's wealthiest nation, the United States and Britain may not like the results. But the fact remains that the US and the UK have some serious work to do on child poverty.

In general, northern European countries with strong social welfare systems dominated the upper half of the rankings. Southern European countries, such as Spain, Italy and Portugal, ranked higher in terms of family support and levels of trust with friends and peers.

Greenspan still moves financial markets

Yesterday the financial markets plunged into the "correction," the euphemism for sharp decline in stock prices after the former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan made a statement at a business conference in Hong Kong.

Greenspan is reported to have said, "When you get this far away from a recession, invariably forces build up for the next recession."

Greenspan who left the Federal Reserve over a year back also said it was possible the U.S. market could slip into recession toward the end of this year. His remarks hit markets in Asia.

The Wall Street still takes notice of Greenspan, after having got used to taking economic cue by dissecting his words over 20 years.

The Dow Jones industrial index fell more than 416 points, or 3.29 percent, in trading Tuesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was off by 3.86 percent, and the S&P 500 was off by 3.47 percent.

It was the largest one-day drop for markets since Sept. 17, 2001, the first day trading resumed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks

Tuesday's drops mirrored a global decline in stock markets as the investor mood turned bearish. Investors, who have been murmuring about a coming "correction" for weeks, are concerned that the U.S. and Chinese economies may be entering a period of cooling.

The former Fed chief's recession comment came just weeks after Ben Bernanke, the current Fed chairman, gave Congress a mostly upbeat assessment of the economy's prospects.

Economists who give Bernanke good marks for his handling of the economy thus far don't believe Greenspan's recession remark undermines the new chairman's credibility.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

At last Martin Scorsese wins the oscar

A happy Martin Scorsese accepts his Oscar for best director for The Departed at the 79th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. photo by Reuters.

It's payback time for Martin Scorsese who finally won Hollywood's greatest prize on his eighth nomination after 26 long years.

Righting an injustice that had swelled with each snub of his illustrious career, on Sunday the Academy honored him with the best-directing Oscar for "The Departed."

Scorsese, 64, took the stage to an outpouring of emotion and when he accepted the golden statue from presenter Steven Spielberg. He joked in disbelief: "Could you double-check the envelope?"

In Hollywood crime pays. The story of rival mob and police moles remade from the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs" was the most popular film at the box office making more than $131 million. The Departed was announced as the best picture. It also won for best adapted screenplay and best editing.

The filmmaker who had a childhood of ill health had an initial desire to be priest. But he developed a passion for cinema and has persued his dream. Today he has gained the highest recognition from his peers many of whom say it was long coming.

As "The Departed" arrived in theaters last year, he talked about the elusive honour that evaded him for so long, "I guess it's all right. I'm disappointed, of course. But you don't make pictures to win Oscars."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Shakespeare on travel

"A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad: I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's; then, to have seen much and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands."
--William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

Sorry for slavery after 400 years

The state of Virginia in United States, the birthplace of slavery has issued the first official apology for slavery and the exploitation of native Americans by the country's white settlers.

In a non-binding resolution that passed unanimously in both chambers of the state general assembly in Richmond, legislators offered their "profound regret" for the enslavement of millions of Americans.

"The moral standards of liberty and equality have been transgressed during much of Virginia's and America's history," the resolution says. It calls the enslavement of millions of Africans and the exploitation of native Americans "the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history".

The injustice was not entirely righted with Abraham Lincoln's proclamation of emancipation in 1865, the resolution acknowledges. "The abolition of slavery was followed by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding."

Clash between believers and non-believers

This article in The Guardian says Britain's new cultural divide is not between Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Jew. It is between those who have faith and those who do not.

As tensions between Muslim and Western world continues to grow, the intolerance between the different ideological segments in the secular west seems to have been overlooked. Dealing with the threat of terrorism has become the highest priority across the world.

The Guardian article points to fundamentalism that is becoming pervasive in the predominantly secular west. The secularists and the faith-based groups are on an uncompromising collision path, making everyone feel threatened.

Even in United States, the two dominant idelogical forces, Conservatives and liberals take a fundamentally different approach to politics. Conservatives believe they are battling evil. Liberals believe they are struggling to overcome human frailties. Tolerance is the watchword for liberals. Punishment is the watchword for conservatives.

As the Guardian artice suggests, "We are witnessing a social phenomenon that is about fundamentalism," says Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark. "Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England. Most of them would regard each other as destined to fry in hell."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lady Chatterley's lover wins French oscar

Lady Chatterley, a French film version of D.H. Lawrence's groundbreaking novel of sexual passion, beat the Oscar-nominated wartime drama "Days of Glory" to claim the award for best film at the Cesars, France's version of the Academy Awards.

Lady Chatterley, directed by Pascale Ferran, tells the story of the wife of a wealthy paralysed landowner who falls in love with a gamekeeper on her husband's estate.

The film took home five Cesars in all, also winning best adaptation, best costumes and best cinematography.

In 1959, the movie Lady Chatterley was the subject of attempted censorship in New York State on the grounds that it promoted adultery. The Supreme Court held that the law prohibiting its showing was a violation of the First Amendment's protection of Free Speech.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sophistication in early Islamic designs

Researchers in the United States have found that muslim artists were 500 years ahead of their western counterparts.

The discovery is published in the journal Science.

The researchers believe that muslims used tessellating, a technique that was developed around the start of the thirteenth century. By the fifteenth century, it was sophisticated enough to make complex patterns now described as quasi-periodic.

These patterns were 'discovered' in 1973 by the British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. In 1984, they were found in metal alloys called quasi-crystals that seemed to break the geometric rules of atomic packing.

This show that the early muslims had the capacity for ideas, on which they worked hard and had produced amazing results such as the pyramids, the islamic art and a culture of learning.

Today, the muslims are in disarray and their capacity to produce astounding world-class inventions have also diminished.

Friday, February 23, 2007


(1) The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.
-John Maynard Keynes

(2) Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.
-Milton Friedman

(3) Inflation is thought of as a cruel, and maybe the cruelest, tax because it hits in a many-sectored way, in an unplanned way, and it hits the people on a fixed income hardest.
-Paul A. Volcker

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why are children getting fatter?

Blame the fast foods. Blame the toys. Blame the age of electronica. Children from America to Australia and all across the developed world are getting fatter. Obesity has begun to sound off the alarn bells.

Rising rates of obesity and weight problems among children is now a major health issue as more than a million children under 16 in the UK are now classified as obese.

A report by the National Audit Office of UK , says that more and more British children each year are obese.The economic impact of obesity is starting to be felt in the UK. Estimates put the economic cost at $4 billion a year, while the National Health Service is reeling under an annual bill of $1.8 billion.

If children are becoming obese and overweight, when they come into adulthood they are much more likely to suffer from serious chronic diseases such as diabetes II, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Obese people also have a much higher risk of developing cancer. Obese cancer patients have a much higher death rate than non-obese cancer patients.

Nutritionally, developing countries are turning into little Americas. There are fast food centres everywhere, children are much less physically active then their parents were. With increasing affluency, the well-to-do children get chauffeured by the parents everywhere, while in the past they would walk, take a bus or cycle.

Rather than getting out to play on the field or park with friends, children opt to stay indoors and play video games or spend time in passive TV watching.

Australia's green idea

The Australian government has announced plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs across the country.

Australia is enacting legislation that calls for the standard household bulb, the incandescent, (which wastes 95% of the energy it uses), to be phased out within three years.

In what will be touted as a world first, this effort to phase out the standard incandescent light bulb demonstrates Australia’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Federal Government figures suggest energy used for household lighting in Australia contributes up to 12 per cent of coal-energy greenhouse gas emissions and around 25 per cent of emissions from commercial and public lighting.

It is felt the change to fluorescent lighting could cut greenhouse gas emissions by the order of 800,000 tonnes a year by 2012.

Environmentally, Australia has taken a step in the right direction. Get rid of the light bulb. What next for the sake of the environment!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hikkomori: Japan's reclusive youth

When Japan's economic bubble burst, it had a severe depressing effect on some young people who isolated themeselves by locking in their rooms and separating from their own families and friends.

The Japanese term for this social problem is hikikomori , a term that refers to young people who shut-in and who withdraw from society, preferring to stay in their rooms and refusing to leave the house for months at a time or sometimes years.

This strange phenomenon is becoming more and more prevalent in countries like Japan and South Korea, aided by the growth of the Internet and vibrant all-online communities. This has become such a big psychological and cultural problem, it is causing national concern.

This problem of introverted behaviour suggests that a segment of the Japanese youth are putting their real-life work in jeopardy by not adopting a balanced lifestyle and getting addicted to watching the anime stuff all the time.

Although this issue is affecting a minority of the youth, it is a cause for concern as Japan is a society with strong conformist traditions. Perhaps, a younger generation is moving away from the beaten path, being influenced by the internet and the ever changing lifestyles.

According to estimates by Japan's leading hikkomori psychiatrist Tamaki Saito, who first coined the phrase, there may be one million hikikomori in Japan, twenty percent of all male adolescents in Japan, or one percent of the total Japanese population.

Surveys done by the Japanese Ministry of Health as well as research done by health care experts suggest an estimate between 500,000 and 1,000,000 hikikomori in Japan today.

Dr Tamaki Saito, believes the cause of the problem lies within Japanese history and society. Traditional poetry and music often celebrate the nobility of solitude.

Great changes in a country's social structure have always caused stresses. These, in turn, can create new forms of neurosis.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Conservatives versus Liberals in US politics

United States, seen around the world as the bastion of democracy and capitalism is going through a phase of bitter political partisanship between the two main political parties; the republicans largely representing the conservative view and the democrats representing the liberal view.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and disappearance of the Soviet Union as a super power in the world, the United States has become the world's policeman.

With the events of 9/11 and the Bush administration's foreign policy of pre-emtive war, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq has bitterly divided world public opinion. As the war in Iraq drags out, the goodwill on America also is declining.

With the next US presidential election in November 2008, the world is watching the political moves of the aspiring presidential candidates from the dominating parties.

News media, the means through which information is transmitted to a large audience play a vital role in any democracy. Common forms of media includes newspapers, television, radio, and more recently the internet.

For the media to be most effective for its intended function, it has to be independent and report news objectively so that the public can make informed decisions.

Amongst the political bickering and mud slinging, even some of the mainstream media seems to have lost its independece or its objectivity. Some of them are seen to favour one ideology over the other.

Political pundits potificate their views which manipulate public opinoin and make it impossible to differentiate news from commentary. The issues being debated are and higly charged.

Let's take the case of abortion as an example. This is a bitterly divisive issue with the conservatives backed by the evangelicals who want to adopt an extreme an anti-abortion position as possible, even ruling out exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

On the other hand the liberals support and demand it as a constitutional right, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe versus Wade permiting abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

Information and misinformation is being thrashed to the public consciousness intended to further an idelogical bias. What is happening reflects a cultural war, with deep mistrust that is unrelenting.

Create your best team for success

Success in any business is not always attained individually. In fact, most of the time we achieve our successes as part of a team.

Great teams are the teams that are committed to excellence. In everything they do, their goal is to achieve at the highest level.

Their commitment is held throughout the team and at every level. A successful team cannot have members who are not committed to excellence because in the end they will become the weak link.

Employee involvement helps to create an environment in which people have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their jobs.

Employee involvement and empowerment has become the new management and leadership philosophy on how people are able to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their organization.

Some quotes on teamwork

1)Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.
-Andrew Carnegie

2)The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
-Vincent Lombardi

3)The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
-Thoedore Roosevelt

4)The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.
-Napoleon Hill

5)There is one rule for industrialists and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.
-Henry Ford

6)Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More

Monday, February 19, 2007

Frankenstein's monster in Idi Amin film

The Oscar-nominated film "The Last King of Scotland," premeiered in Kampala on Saturday and Ugandans got a haunting opportunity to see a realistic portrayal of their blood-thirsty former dictator, Idi Amin.

Forest Whitaker, tipped to win an Oscar for his performance, brings out Amin's complex character -- lurching between being warm and fun-loving to being a sadistic monster, fueled by paranoia of even his closest aides.

Describing Amin's character Whitaker said, "There was this deliberate instability, something about him that unnerved people when he did the unexpected. It was as if he were able to step outside of himself and observe, taking a measure of the other individual, then gain advantage on them by suddenly switching from anger to laughter or vice versa."

Idi Amin was a brutal dictator and up to 400,000 people are believed to have been killed under his rule.

Tanzanian troops outsted the blood-thirsty dictator in 1979. Amin fled to Libya, then Iraq, before finally settling in Saudi Arabia, where he was allowed to remain till he died in 2003.

He never faced trial for the crimes he committed against humanity.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Choosing beef with cloned meat

How about ordering your beef steak from the meat of a cloned animal? Either beacuse of ethical or religious concerns or mistrust of the meat industry, the idea of cloned meat still elicits distaste even in many confirmed carnivores.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a risk assessment asserting that food (including milk) from cloned cattle, swine and goats is "likely to be as safe as" that from non­cloned animals. So now it appears it is just a matter of time before we find that cloned meat has hit the super market shelves.

Scientists have succeeded in producing clones of cows, goats, and other animals—even cats and dogs—have been hailed as amazing advances in biotechnology.

The fact that the first cloned mammal, a sheep named Dolly died prematurely of a lung disease has shown that more research needs to be carried out before cloned animals will be widely as accepted as safe for human consumption, whatever the reasons for skepticism maybe.

Like in the United States, public opinion in other countries, including the European Union and Canada, is equally or even more strongly opposed to the idea of food from animal clones.

Major grocery food chains in Britain have already announced that they will refuse to sell the products. In the event that the sale of meat and milk from animal clones is actually permitted in the United States, other countries would be likely to refuse to import these products, especially in the absence of appropriate labeling.

One of the largest natural and organic grocery chains in the United States,'Whole Foods' says it will not sell meat or milk from cloned animals or their offspring.

Whole Foods believes any food derived from cloned animals should be required to be labeled as such to allow consumers to make informed decisions on the meat and milk that they buy.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Havidol: The fake drug too real for some

New York artist Justine Cooper promoting a campaign for a fake drug to treat a fictitious illness is causing a stir because some people think the illness is real.

The magic blue pill treats Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder. It's available in 20mg tablets and suppositories. Look up what this magic pill, Havidol can do by clicking their site here.

This is all done in the name of art. The exhibit at the Daneyal Mahmood Gallery in New York, which includes a Web site, mock television and print advertisements and billboards is so convincing people think it is authentic.

It seems this whole thing took off over the Internet. In the first few days after the Web site ( went up, it had 5,000 hits. The last time he checked it had reached a quarter of a million.

This shows not only the power of internet, both on the positive and negative side but also the force of corporate marketing that influence public opinion.

Counterfeit drugs are already flooded in some international markets and it's the poor and the vulnerable who in their plight and desperation get caught to scams.

A survey conducted with the World Health Organisation found more than half the drugs on sale in Nigeria were fake or sub-standard.

Although the exhibit in New York is considered satire or parody, it also unfortunately adds to the existing problems in the countereit market.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Eto'o's ego got the better of him

Buddies again: Ronaldinha hugs Eto’o (back to camera) during Barcelona’s training session on Wednesday. The two had been caught in a war of words since Sunday. –Photo:Reuters

The Cameroon striker and Barcelona player Sameul Eto'o has created a row by blasting both his manager Frank Rijkaard and team-mate Ronaldhino and has revealed he would love to play for Arsenal.

After coming back from a 4 month knee injury, Eto'o was seen warming up but refused to come on when he was asked to do so with 5 minutes of play remaining in Sunday's match.

Eto'o, the top scorer in Spain last season, said: "I don't have to give any explanations to anyone. I will only give an explanation to the club if they ask me to."

Eto'o is sending the wrong message to many youngsters who may aspire to emulate his success. He owes an expalnation to his manager and since he is part of a team, he also has an obligation to his team mates.

In an attempt to close ranks, Barcelona haven’t punished Eto’o and the club is hoping that with the exchange of public hugs, the damaging rift has been diffused.

The top football clubs in the world are multi million dollar businesses and players face enormous competive pressure. Highly paid football agents scout for fresh talent and arrange to move players among clubs making the transfer market a lucrative industry.

With Eto'o publicly expressing discontent some of the super rich clubs like Chelsea and Liverpool may already be working to strike a deal with Barcelona n Eto'o.

World Bank can't stand transparency?

According to this Fox report,the World Bank which is on a global crusade to instill “transparency” in governments that receive its poverty aid is unable to accept the same standard of transparency for itself.

Paul Wolfowit is the president of the World Bank who 19 months ago, was U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary and one of the trusted member of the Bush team that raced for war against Saddam Hussein.

The perjury trial of Scooter Libby, the US vice president's former chief of staff has shown the world how selective leaks are given out to the media to further a cause. Leaking information to the media is nothing new in Washington.

Confidential boardroom information that Fox has obtained illustrates the explosive level of animosity currently focused on Wolfowitz and his management by the World Bank board.

At the heart of the world’s largest and most influential anti-poverty agency, which spends about $20 billion a year on aid, lies a deep-rooted problem of transparency -- a concept that Wolfowitz is aggressively trying to sell to the World Bank’s borrowers, who are mainly the world’s developing nations.

It appears that for most of its history, World Bank officials ignored complaints about corruption. The bank managers worried that confronting those involved in graft would be an improper intrusion into domestic af fairs of sovereign states.

Since the World Bank's challenge is to alleviate poverty, it must confront corruption head on, for corruption is a cancer and it must be rooted out. Only then can the full benefit of the bank's aid pass on to the most needy and empower the poor and help them to come out of the poverty trap.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Robbie Williams in rehab

The popular English singer Robbie Williams celebrated his 33rd birthday Tuesday by checking into a United States rehab center.

"Robbie Williams has today been admitted into a treatment center in America for his dependency on prescription drugs," spokeswoman Bryony Watts said. "There will be no further comment on this matter."

Williams, who has been living in the Los Angeles area the past few years. He has a history of drug addictions. He was treated for drug and alcohol addiction after his boy band Take That split up in 1995.

Williams spoke about his experience with depression and drugs in a BBC documentary on bipolar disorder last year. "My first drug of choice was probably fantasy," he said. "Fantasising about being an actor or being a singer, going to the moon, whatever. And I don't know if that was to escape a depression.

"Cocaine gave me a twitch and drink just made me ill. So all the props I had just had to be removed."

While he admitted to overcome the binge use of alcohol and cocaine that sent him into the Clouds rehab centre in Wiltshire after his band 'Take That' split, now anti-depressants appears to have resurfaced the familiar demons again.

While publicists refused to disclose his location, Williams is widely believed to be at the exclusive Meadows clinic in Arizona, a multidisorder facility, that serves individuals seeking treatment for and recovery from toxic and abusive living.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Siestas good for the heart

Taking a midday nap helps to relieve stress as demonstrated by the working pair snoozing on their table.

People who take at least three daytime naps a week lasting 30 minutes or longer cut their risk of dying from a heart attack by 37 percent, according to a study by a team of U.S. and Greek researchers.

Regular siestas apparently lower stress, which is frequently associated with heart disease, the scientists report in Monday's edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a leading medical journal.

The study appears in the February 12, 2007 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine.

Globalized politics

Australia's conservative prime minister John Howard, a staunch ally of the current US Republican President and his policy on Iraq war on Sunday said al-Qaeda would be praying for a Democratic win at the next US election in 2008 and in particular a win for wildly popular Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Accusations are flying wild that the Australian prime minister has stooped so low to interfere with US politics and influence the outcome of US presidential elections.

US democrats are lashing back saying if Mr Howard is so strongly supportive of the war in Iraq then he should send another 20,000 Australian troops into battle.

John Howard is defending his statement saying it is in Australia's national interest to stay engaged in Iraq and fight terror.

It is important to fight and defeat the terrorists. There is no argument on this point.

But to take a Machiavellian approach on national interest and slant intelligent public discourse is a questionable tactic which leads to inflammatory reactions.

This sort of attitude does not serve to enhance mutual respect and co-operation which is also important for national interest, the very issue that John Howard wants to protect.

Supporters of John Howard say that he has free speech. But can such free speech be used to interfere with another country's presidential election?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dixie shines in Grammys

The Dixie Chicks comprising of the Texas trio completed a defiant comeback on Sunday night, winning five Grammy awards after being shunned by the country music establishment over the group's anti-Bush comments leading up to the Iraq invasion.

As they accepted the honours, the Dixie girls, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robinson did not use the stage this time as a platform for its well-known opposition to the war in Iraq.

But by the time the group accepted the evening-closing album-of-the-year award for Taking the Long Way, singer Natalie Maines who is the firebrand in the group said that members of the Recording Academy were clearly using their votes as a show of support, if not political expression, in favour of a band that has received death threats after its initial criticism of the U.S. President at a concert in Britain in early 2003.

Even amidst the bitter partisan political divide, freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, does seem to prevail.

A historic first for Harvard

Harvard University on Sunday nominated historian Drew Gilpin Faust as its first female president, creating a milestone in gender equality and ending Lawrence Summers short tenure which was dogged by controversial remarks he made about women.

Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning still operating in the United States. It is one of the eight members of the Ivy League.

The seven-member Harvard Corporation elected Faust, a noted scholar of the American South and dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as the university's 28th president. The board of overseers recommended her for the post.

Faust, 59, recognized the significance of her appointment.

"I hope my appointment can be one symbol of an opportunity that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago," she said at a news conference.

Some professors have quietly groused that — despite the growing centrality of scientific research to Harvard's budget — the 371-year-old university is appointing a fifth consecutive president who is not a scientist.

No scientist has had the top job since James Bryant Conant retired in 1953; its last four have come the fields of classics, law, literature and economics.

In another break with Harvard tradition, Faust was never a Harvard student. She earned her undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia and her doctorate from University of Pennsylvania, where she taught for 25 years.

Faust pivots from managing Radcliffe, a think-tank with 87 employees and a $17 million budget, to presiding over Harvard's 11 schools and colleges, 24,000 employees and a budget of $3 billion.

Her major challenges include uniting nine powerful, highly decentralized faculties, steering the biggest undergraduate curriculum changes in three decades and presiding over an ambitious multi-billion dollar campus expansion, according to students and faculty familiar with Harvard's administration.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chaotic Iraq and a media frenzy

Millions of dollars were wasted by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that ran Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, a former official has said. Huge cash payments were made to Iraqi contractors out of the back of pick-up trucks, in scenes reminiscent of the "Wild West."

Paul Bremer the former head of the CPA summoned in front of a Congressional committee investigating allegations of waste and fraud told that he had done his best to kick-start Iraq's economy.

"Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone? But that is exactly what our government did," Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said during the hearing last Tuesday.

The Democrats, who took control both houses of the US Congress last month, are overwhelmingly critical of the Bush administration's decision to go to war.

Indeed, $9bn in cash was flown in pallets from the US - and as revealed in the Senate hearings, some of this cash may have ended up in enemy hands. This is a pathetic situation and just shows what the lack of oversight on unbridled executive power can do with appalling consequences.

The week also saw the unravelling of a superstar, the tabloid’s dream come true - a diaper-clad, wig-sporting space shuttle astronaut travelling 900 miles by car to confront her perceived rival in a juicy NASA love triangle.

And at the center of it all was an attractive, 43-year-old married mother of three, a rocket scientist no less. Lisa Nowak had flown on the Discovery as recently as July.

She was the ultimate high achiever whose credentials were impeccable: a U.S. Naval Academy grad with master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering; a decorated Navy vet and test pilot, and an astronaut since 1996.

Before the authorities were able to determine the causes of Nowak's affection that seemingly turned into obsession, comes in another headline grabbing tragedy.

On Thursday, the entertainment industry mourned the sudden and shocking celebrity death of Anna Nicole Smith, the topless dancer who made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992.

Even as the coroner continues to investigate the causes of her death, details coming from the bouncers, waiters and others at her hotel depict Smith as a hard partying, falling-down drunk who could barely walk herself back to her drug-filled hotel room.

Controversy followed her in life and even more controversy is following her in death. At 26 years-old she married J. Howard Marshall, the 89-year-old billionaire who died 14 months after marrying Anna Nicole Smith. Marshall has left an inheritance case that is wide open even after ten years.

Now that Smith has died, there are three men who have come forward to claim paternity on Smith's 5-month old daughter. Whoever will be proved to be the father of the child, will not only get the custody of the child but will eventually inherit a multimillion inheritance, after the legal battles run out in the courts.

Antioxidants: disease fighting foods

Blueberries may be the poster children for antioxidant abundance, but a new study suggests the Blackberry may be a more deserving candidate.

Antioxidants stabilize harmful by-products of the body’s energy-making machinery. These by-products, known as free radicals, can damage DNA, make LDL (bad) cholesterol even worse, and wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

An international team of researchers did just that for more than a thousand foods that Americans commonly eat. Topping the list were blackberries, walnuts, strawberries, artichokes, cranberries, coffee, raspberries, pecans, blueberries, and ground cloves (see “Antioxidant-rich foods”).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Motivational tip

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals.. that is, goals that do not inspire them.::: Tony Robbins :::

Friday, February 09, 2007

Why do celebs kill on drugs?

The world of narcotics is in the US breaking news, this time for the shocking celebrity death of Anna Nicole Smith, the topless dancer who made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992.

Anna Nicole Smith, the voluptuous blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale _ jeans model, widow of an octogenarian oil tycoon, reality-TV show subject, tragic mother _ died after collapsing at a hotel.

She did not have any known medical problems and just five months ago, Smith's 20-year-old son died suddenly in the Bahamas in what was believed to be a drug-related death.

There are questions being asked whether she died of a drug overdose? Autopsy and forensic studies will reveal answers to this tragic end of an American living soap opera.

Her strange life seemed to veer from one outsized struggle to another. She struggled famously with her weight and with her family.

"With Anna Nicole, she was pathetic but at the same time you thought, 'Gosh, if I could just scoop you up and fix things, it would be OK,'" said Jerry Herron, a professor of American culture at Wayne State University. "You wouldn't want to scoop up Paris Hilton.'"

"Anna Nicole was," Herron noted, "in both her actions and her physical being, such an over-exaggerated version of what we both lust for and loathe in our society. Bombshell blonde? Family feuds? Lots and lots of money? Weight troubles? Obscene self-revelations on TV? She had it all."

She came from humble origins and achieved celebrity and wealth, one way or another. She was a perfect pop culture icon.

The compelling mix of beauty and vulnerability is just one quality that has led to comparisons with Marilyn Monroe, another sexy, tragic blonde who Smith liked to compare herself to. The comparison is tempting, and ironically the ending is similar.

Although she fought a good fight in this life, Anna Nicole Smith's candle burned out at only 39. One can say that she was dealt a certain hand; in which she could always have played her cards to make her best contribution without giving in to self-destructive behaviour. .

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Shahid Afridi hits a super performance

In international cricket, Shahid Afridi is always a crowd favourite. He is an explosive batsman who seems to lack patience in batting but on his day the crowd can never have enough of his monster hitting.

Indeed, his has an approach to batting that can change the outcome of the game as happened in 2nd ODI no. 2513, Pakistan versus South Africa played at Kingsmead, Durban, on 7 February 2007 in which Afridi raced to 77 off 35 balls.

So if anyone has written off Afridi during his lean spell, his performance here proves them wrong. Afridi is a talented player
and his fans and those who admire his ability will certainly hope that he has the kind of discipline which can keep him shining for many more years.

It is a tremendous joy to watch a player like him when he is in form.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Effective Communications & Human Relations

In time, we lose our freshness and spontaneity of true conversation. These are areas in which everyone interested in self-improvement will seek to improve.

Here are some of Dale Carnegie's courses that can help the following.

Develop increased flexibility through the use of expression, gestures, and voice modulation

Demonstrate ownership of unfamiliar material

Present written material in a captivating manner

Improve your delivery of written material

Overcome barriers that restrict your flexibility

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mises' magnum opus: Human Action

"It is impossible to understand the history of economic thought if one does not pay attention to the fact that economics as such is a challenge to the conceit of those in power.

An economist can never be a favorite of autocrats and demagogues. With them he is always the mischief-maker, and the more they are inwardly convinced that his objections are well-founded, the more they hate him."

-- Ludwig von Mises -(1881-1973) Economist and social philosopher
Source: Human Action. A Treatise on Economics (1949), Third Revised Edition (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1963), p. 67

Monday, February 05, 2007

Brainman amazes scientists

Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Daniel can describe how he does it.

Daniel can speak at least English, French, Finnish, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Estonian, Icelandic, and Esperanto. He likes Estonian very much because it is rich in vowels. He claims he can learn a new language within a week.

Daniel was recently profiled in a British documentary called “Brainman.” The producers posed a challenge that he could not pass up: Learn a foreign language in a week – and not just any foreign language, but Icelandic, considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn.

In Iceland, he studied and practiced with a tutor. When the moment of truth came and he appeared on TV live with a host, the host said, "I was amazed. He was responding to our questions. He did understand them very well and I thought that his grammar was very good. We are very proud of our language and that someone is able to speak it after only one week, that’s just great."

Daniel has never been able to work 9 to 5. He says it would be too difficult to fit around his daily routine. For instance, he has to drink his cups of tea at exactly the same time every day.

I like to do things in my own time, and in my own style, so an office with targets and bureaucracy just wouldn't work, says Daniel.

Instead, he has set up a business on his own, at home, writing email courses in language learning, numeracy and literacy for private clients. It has had the fringe benefit of keeping human interaction to a minimum.

Daniel believes he can make a difference even in his condition. Many believe that he is a genius and indeed for his talent he can make a unique contribution.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Unfaithful's star is accused of being unfaithful

After persistent rumours by the British tabloids about the infidelity of Olivier Martinez who had played the star of the 'Unfaithful", Kylie Minogue has finally dumped the French love rat.

Kylie Minogue, the 37-year-old Australian singer, who recently declared Martinez was the "most honourable man I have ever met", issued a joint statement with the heart-throb actor confirming they had split after four years together.

The British tabloids thrive on salacious stories and scandalous innuendos about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars.

When one earns a living as a celebrity or star, their private lives are dissected in the public eye with no regard to personal privacy.

Tabloids from Britain claim that Kylie's family and friends had long held reservations about Martinez.

"He is what they call a typical Frenchman -- too smooth for his own good as they say," an unnamed source close to Kylie said in The Sun newspaper.

The Frenchman, 41, has been accused of cheating on Kylie with, among others, Angelina Jolie, Celine Balitran and Salma Hayek.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Final warning on earth's warming

According to a just-released UN report, the world will be a much hotter place by 2100.

In a conference in Paris, officials from 113 countries agreed that global warming was "very likely" caused by human activity.

As the delegates held their evening session, the Eiffel Tower, other Paris monuments and concerned citizens in several European countrie switched off their lights for five minutes to call attention to energy conservation, heeding a call by French environmental campaigners.

The Americans who lead as the world's largest polluter, had walked away from the Kyoto pact which required the commitment of the rich industrialised countries to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases, sparking widespread criticism.

The impact of the catastrophic human suffering and financial losses of shutting down oil refinaries caused by hurricane Katrina and Rita on the US Gulf Coast together with the increasing ferocity of other hurricanes and tornadoes seems to have woken up the Americans.

The Bush administration has said the human role in climate change is no longer debatable following the report. ``Human activity is contributing to changes in the Earth's climate,'' Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said at a press conference in Washington. ``That issue is no longer up for debate.''

At long last, common sense which isn't too common is prevailing. The humans are beginning to be convinced that the rising temperature of the earth has to be a consequence of the action the humans.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dirty Harry is a decent guy

The iconic 1970s film star Clint Eastwood who played the role of a tough-guy police detective in Dirty Harry is to receive an humanitarian award from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

MPAA chairman Dan Glickman said the Dirty Harry star had "for decades" exemplified "decency and goodness of spirit in his moviemaking".

Eastwood will be the first ever recipient of the prize, to be presented in Washington next week.

Eastwood recently won a Golden Globe for best foreign language film Iwo Jima.The movie is a Japanese-language companion piece to the director's other film of 2006, Flags of Our Fathers.

Both focus on the battle for the island of Iwo Jima in 1945, which left 21,000 Japanese and 6,800 US soldiers dead in a single month.

"These films exemplify the true power of movies to tell human stories and inspire national conversation," said Glickman.

These are accolades to the 76-year-old American star who has had a remarkable film career of acting, producing, composing and directing. He had a short stint in politics when he served as the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea (Carmel), California.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Entrepreneurship or a top job

What's more suitable to you, entrepreneurship or a top job? The answer would depend on a person's inclinations.

Nowadays, more and more people are looking towards entrepreneurship as their future.

Some people feel that it is better to start and run their own business than work as an employee in a corporate set up.

There are tremendous rewards and perils of running your own business. You make money, you are able to create opportunities for employment and you gain respect and status in society.

However, not everything is positive and so easy. After risking your own capital or raising money to start the business, you have to face fierce competition to sell your products or services to the customers.

It is a continous process to satisfy your customers by always being on the look out to identify their needs. The products and services will have to add value to the customers who have a range of options to choose from.

Thought it has its challenges, it is an immensely exciting job for people who always scan the market and whose adrenaline would rush to seize any opportunity that might come their way.

For the less enterpreneural persons, a top job in a corporate set up is much better. Such individuals do not have worry constantly about market changes. They are renumeration and benefits are fixed and there is a feeling of security of holding a good job.

But such a sense of security only lasts until a person is laid off from the company or the company ceases its operations. Even in markets like Japan where lifelong jobs existed before, they are no longer the norm because of competitive pressures and rapidly changing technologies.

Acquiring an MBA from a top college is no longer a lifelong guarantee of employment unless a person is prepared to carry on a continuous learning experience to acquire new skills and new knowledge.

As a consequence, employees are better empowered and employers are finding it difficult to keep top employees without offering higher compensation and additional benefits. In the process, loyalty of employees to a company seems to have died and is being consigned to the graveyard.

Some companies are getting creative to retain top talent. Now you can hold a top position in a company and still be working like an entrepreneur. We have come a full circle around.