Saturday, March 31, 2007

Chocolate Christ: Is it art or a mockery?

Sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro, 45, well known for his large-scale installations, has created a 6ft representation of Jesus Christ out of chocolate. It failed to get resurrected because of pressure from religious groups - including Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist with a combined reach of millions.

This only demonstrates the insensitivity and the pervasive culture of mocking that exists in the United States.

Anything goes, if money can be made. That seems to be the mantra driven by greed for making money and by a lack of respect for religion.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Violin maker strikes good with reverse mortgage

A reverse mortgage, also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a relatively new product.

A reverse mortgage provides unique benefits for its target market: someone over 62 who lives in his/her primary residence, who has substantial equity in his/her home, and who has little or no income.

Australian violin maker Robinson, 70, and his partner,66, needed some extra money to ride through a lean period. Robinson was able to get a reverse mortgage against his property for $100,000.

He decided to take $60,000 immediately - via a fixed-rate mortgage over 20 years.

They intend to pay it off sooner, but first they want to do some extensive work around the property and buy a second car.

It will also allow them to take a holiday without unnecessary pressure.

"Instruments are starting to sell again and we are going to reduce the loan," Robinson says.

The idea of having $40,000 in reserve appeals to Robinson, who is always on the lookout for an undiscovered bargain.

"Supposing a great violin appears at an auction room and it costs $10,000 to buy but may be worth $2 million? It has happened before.

"If something like that were to come up I can draw down."

Robinson has struck the right chord and it is excellent business.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Free trade isn't so free?

Lou Dobbs the managing editor of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, a lifelong republican has now turned to be a strongly populist critic of the "excesses of capitalism," which he identifies as globalization and offshore outsourcing of valuable American jobs as stated in his book, WAR ON THE MIDDLE CLASS.

Lou appeared before a Congressional committee and testified about American foreign policy on trade.

Three million more jobs have been lost to cheap overseas labor markets as corporate America campaigns relentlessly for "higher productivity, "efficiency," and "competitiveness," all of which have been revealed to be nothing more than code words for the cheapest possible labor in the world.

Lou has Charged that the Clinton and Bush administrations have waged "class warfare" on the American middle class. He criticizes their free trade policies which he believes has eliminated manufacturing jobs in the U.S., either outright or by outsourcing them.

Lou argues that Corporate America and the US political elites have combined to put the country's middle-class working men and women into direct competition with the world's cheapest labor.

If the figures tell the story as Lou contends, this isn't a good picture for the American middle class.

Lou reiterates that he is not seeking protectionism, as being accused of. He wants reciprocity in the US trade policies that should take the domestic and national interests in all international agreements.

Here is LOU on CNN tonight on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Britain marks the abolition of slave trade

Britain commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade last Sunday.

A solemn Westminster Abbey service marking the event, attended by the Queen and Tony Blair, was almost over when human rights campaigner Toyin Agbetu began shouting: "This is an insult to us." The lone protester who apparently wanted the Queen to apologise was subdued and taken out without further incident.

Around 20 million Africans died during the brutal process of the transatlantic slave trade, a trade that flourished for economic reasons between the 15th century to the 19th century.

What is astounding is that even after all the horror of the past transatlantic slave trade, this criminal inhuman practice is still rampant in today's modern world.

According to Anti-Slavery International, at least 12 million people worldwide, including in the UK, are in slavery 200 years after Britain abolished the trade by act of parliament. This is a staggering figure showing that the legacy of the slave thriving well.

We no longer see galley slaves chained to the rowing oars of their boat and fed barely enough for them to do the job. As we saw in the epic film Ben Hur, when the boats were sinking, nobody unchained the galley slaves and they sank with their boat, as if they were equipments of the boat.

Today's slaves do not come in this gruesome manner on a boat. Neither are they branded or shackled and not all of them come from Africa. In fact most of them come into Britain legally and on their own, usually lured by promises of a good job.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Realising the Islamic Financial Value

Islamic Banking or Shariah Finance, a 15-20 year old industry, is surging in the past 3-4 years in financial capitals of the world like London over and above Islamic geographies like Indonesia, Malaysia and Middle East countries.

Islamic Finance is growing at a rapid pace of 15-20% per annum globally, currently estimated to be worth approximately USD $ 400 Billion today.

Islamic banking is guided by Islamic law. The heart of the system is the prohibition of collecting interest.

Islamic banking is expanding beyond Arab and Muslim countries. According to a study by the International Monetary Fund, the number of Islamic institutions rose from 75 in 1975 to over 300 in 2005, in more than 75 countries.

The video below gives a perspective by CNBC.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Global citizens make their mark

A new kind of citizenship has gained recognition in the 21st century. The multicultural citizenship or the global citizenship legitimizes the rights and needs of citizens to maintain commitments both to their resident communities and the culture of their origin.

India has always valued its Non-resident Indians or the NRIs for their financial contributions to the community they left behind when they ventured out for better prospects.

Indra Nooyi, an American citizen born to Indian parents is CEO and chairperson-designate of PepsiCo, the world's second largest beverages company. She was chosen as the India Abroad Person (IAP) of the Year 2006, on March 23 at a gala event held at the Roosevelt Hotel, New York City. This is the 5th year of the IAP awards.

In her acceptance speech, Nooyi, the highest ranking Indian in corporate America spoke about the joys of belonging to two lands -- India which gave her her heritage and America to which she owed tremendously for her future.

Nooyi credited her family- her mother, husband and daughter- that enabled her to scale incredible heights in a foreign land that she made her own some 29 years ago.

Salman Rushdie, famous for the novels that he has written, was given the first India Abroad Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his writing work.

Globalisation is helping the global citizens overcome the cultural, ethnic, racial, language, and religious barriers that exist in most nations in the world. In today’s increasingly interdependent global economy, each one of us can make a useful contribution as a global citizen.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Genteel cricket's dark side

A Pakistan cricket fan pays tribute to Bob Woolmer, in Pakistan's final game which they won and dedicated to their late coach. photo AFP

The cricketing world is horrified to hear that the Jamaican police are treating last Sunday's death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, the former Kent and England all-rounder regarded as one of the game's finest coaches, as murder.

Pakistan as one of the strong contenders to make the last eight, was ijected out of the tournamnet by debutant Ireland last weekend and angry fans took to the streets of the cricket-crazy Pakistan. This defeat was one of the biggest upset in the history of the 32- year old cricket tournamnet.

Emotions ran wild and Pakistani fans burnt coach Woolmer, 58, and captain Inzamam ul Haq in effigy. Hours later, the team's coach, was found dead in his Jamaican hotel room.

Now the police suspect foul play. A massive murder hunt is on in order to find out the perpetrators of this heinous crime. There was no forced entry into Woolmer's room and there is speculation that Woolmer was about to expose a match-fixing scandal. Stories about five bookmakers who have flown from the cricket-crazy sub-continent to Jamaica have also emerged fuelling conspiracy theories about the motive of the gruesome murder. The rumour mill is running on overtime last five days.

A former Scotland Yard detective is leading the investigation for the Jamaican police.

A devastated widow Jill described Woolmer as "a wonderful husband and a great father." She said Woolmer had a cheerful nature and a positive outlook on life and had a never-give-up attitude.

Speculation is rife that Woolmer's murder was the result of information he had on the mafia-style industry that makes billions of dollars from betting on international cricket matches. He was eliminated before he could blow the whistle.

The gentleman's game of cricket that the English introduced to its former terrories has lost its soul some time ago. The cricket's governing body the International Cricket Council, the ICC has not been able to clean up the corruption which has mired the game. Big money in the dark underworld of gambling and betting has also haunted this game. Nationalistic fervour and unfounded passion has made this game to be worshippied as a quasi-religion in the sub-continent.

It is time to do a reality check. The ICC president and others have said that the world cup should continue, for a disruption would send a signal of weakness to the criminals. So the world cup of cricket should continue for what it is worth. But has the ICC and others explained the worth of this sad spectacle? Is it worth the life of a human being, be it a coach, player or anyone else? Those who have the responsibility to run this sport have failed to provide adequate security to avoid such a tragedy, knowing very well that top players have been involved in match fixing in the past.

The game cannot be bigger than the life of a single individual. It is time for the organisers of this event to take a step back and put their house into order making sure that criminal elements have been rooted out. Woolmer's death has put a dampener on the World Cup, which will always be remembered for an awful tragedy.

Cricket has lost a sporting hero and and innovative coach.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dancing with one leg

Following her high profile divorce from Paul McCartney, the former model and human rights activist Heather Mills was vilified by the press especially in Britain. The tabloids portrayed Mills who has lost one of her legs to an accident as greedy, demanding a disproportionate settlement from the popular ex Beatle Paul McCartney.

Now she is getting kudos for her dance performance as the first ever contestant to appear on the American hit tv programme 'Dancing with the Stars,' with a prosthetic leg. Mills and her dancing partner Apolo Anton Ohno, danced the foxtrot to ‘Cheek to Cheek’ - the Irving Berlin classic.

More than 20 million US viewers tuned in to see Heather Mills foxtrot on the dancefloor yesterday, the biggest audience ever for a season premiere of the ballroom dancing show and clearly the most watched show of the night on US television.

She has overcome an adversity with a never-give-up attitude. She practised vigirously and received a standing ovation when she completed her dance without a fall. She got respectable marks from the judges who were very impressed with her effort. She said that she wanted to prove to the world that a handicapped, publicly despised person could come out on national television, overcome adversity and win.

All the money that she makes from this event is going to the charities she is involved with. Though she still has many skepics who continue to write negative publicity, this is an inspirational effort which is contributing to a good cause.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anti-malaria mosquitoes emerge

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have created Genetically Modified or GM mosquitoes by giving them a gene that makes it impossible for them to pass on the plasmodium that causes malaria.

"What we did was a laboratory, proof-of-principle experiment; we're not anywhere close to releasing them into the wild right now," revealed Dr Jason Rasgon of Johns Hopkins University.

The research provides evidence that engineering mosquitoes to resist the parasite could help to control a disease that takes up to 2.7 million lives each year, chiefly in Africa. Malaria infects between 300 million and 500 million people each year. Only HIV/ Aids causes more deaths from infectious disease.

The idea of the experiment is to release large numbers of GM mosquitoes where malaria is common, where they would interbreed with wild ones. Over several generations, resistance should spread through the mosquito population, so that fewer insects carry malaria.

Scientists are playing a deadly game with nature. In the past, killer bees were made in another such experiment and now they dominate in some parts of the world. Time will only tell whether the GM mosquitoe came out as result of a fool-hardy experiment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Survival of the prettiest

“Survival of the Prettiest” is an interesting book which takes an evolutionary view and searches for what it is in nature that makes us susceptible to beauty and what qualities people possess that evoke these responses.

Many critics point a finger at the media for glorifying beauty, for the world's obsession with beauty.

In “Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty”, Dr. Nancy Etcoff attempts to portray an entirely new idea. She believes that appreciating beauty is not learned, but rather is a biological adaptation.

There is much more to beauty than the age-old cliché “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Different cultures view beauty or the objects of beauty in different perspectives.

Beauty is a subjective experience, beauty being the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind. Many in the English speaking world would remember the classic fairy tale of the sleeping beauty.

We equate beauty with what is desirable and good, the opposite of this being in ugly things that provoke our dispeasure. Therefore, we are attracted to appreciate beauty and Etcoff's book seems to suggest that this quality is imbedded in our genes.

Beauty has inspired humans throughout history, but it is in the recent history that the quest for the outer beauty has gained more recognition and fame over and above the important values of decency and morality.

Huge industries of different types of fashion and plastic surgery have emerged to cater for people who want beautify their pysical body and appearance. The look of youth and vitality commands a very high premium, leading some people to develop eating disorders due to their craving to look thin.

Instead of looking only to the outer beauty, we should look to the beauty of the inner person. When we identify only the external beauty, we discriminate people on the basis of their outer appearance. It will then become the survival of the sexiest.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tributes flow for Bob Woolmer

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer died on Sunday, a day that the cricket-crazy Pakistani fans were baying for his blood after the shocking elimination of Pakistan from the cricket world cup. Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room just hours after his team suffered a shocking loss to rank outsider Ireland.

Mass outrage at the loss in Pakistan overnight soon turned to mourning when team officials announced Woolmer, 58, died within an hour of being rushed to University Hospital in Jamaica.

Commenting on Woolmer's death Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Naseem Ashraf said, "He was a thorough gentleman who instilled team spirit in the team. He was a very popular personality in our cricket team."

Former Pakistan cricket captain turned politician Imran Khan has said that Bob Woolmer died just because of the team’s loss against Ireland. Imran Khan blamed the captain Inzamam-ul-Haq squarely for the loss. He said Woolmer had played his part but it was uninspirational leadership that brought the defeat.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, visibly distraught after Woolmer's death, has announced his retirement from one-day cricket and resigned as Test captain. He took responsibility for the team's loss.

The passing of Bob Woolmer in Jamaica has cast a sad shadow over the 2007 Cricket World Cup . Tributes have poured in from all across the cricketing world. Read them here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Irish march on St. Patrick's Day

The Irish cricket contingent at the Caribbean started the festival of St. Patrick's day, the anniversary to honour saints' deaths by crashing Pakistan out of the world cup.

Cricket is a quasi-religion in the Indian subcontinent. The day Pakistan was demolished by Ireland was also the day India lost to a weaker team, Bangladesh playing to its full potential.

The cricket mad nation of Pakistan is in mourning and the jury is out to decide the fate of the coach and the captain. Pakistan's captain, the affable Inzaman-ul-haq's illustreous career may be brought to an end. There will be no shortage of public opinion about the ineffective Packistan Cricket Board. Heads will certainly roll and discipline will have to be restored before fortune will bring back the past glory.

Knives are being sharpened in India whose fanatic cricket supporters see their team's back against the wall after their shock defeat to Bangaldesh. For India to advance to the knock-out phase it has to beat Bermuda on March 19 and Sri Lanka on March 23.

India knows beating Sri Lanka will not be a walk in the park. Rahul Dravid and co will have to pick themselves up and get the job done while millions are praying for their success.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Easing arthritis

Read the benefits of this yoga.

A fitting swansong for Larsson

In a highly competitive world that glorifies the virtue of material benefits, loyalty is no longer a prized asset.

It is, therefore, somewhat surprising to hear so much praise of the Swedish footballer Henrik Larsson after he completed ten weeks with Manchester United and declined to extend his contract further.

Larsson provided three valuable goals for United in 12 appearances keeping Alex Fergusion's team in contention for three titles: the English premier league, the FA cup and the European championsip.

Fans and the media are pouring credit to a rare example of a footballer whose sense of loyalty, to both Helsingborg, his Swedish club, and to his family, outweighs even his sense of ambition. It is the 35-year-old’s attitude, as much as his talent, that has so endeared him to Alex Fergusion.

To hear Larsson talk of honouring his contract to his Swedish club and turn his back to the possibilty of treble titles with a great club like Manchester United, is a reflection of the the measure of a great man.

Larsson was given an emotional send-off from the United players in the dressing room after his last game. The Swedish forward ended his brief journey to Manchester United when he played as captain of a European team against United for the charity match played at Old Trafford.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Investing for the long haul

Placing a value on the stock of a company is an important factor for every stockholder or for every investor who wants to buy or sell the stock. Such a valuation will show the market worth of the company.

Valuation is the first step toward intelligent investing. When an investor attempts to determine the worth of shares based on the fundamentals, the investor can make informed decisions about what stocks to buy or sell.

The stock market is a highly illogical place where greed and fear are strong market driving forces.

One of the most intelligent and disciplined investors who is a close second to the world's richest billionaire Bill Gates is Warren Buffet.

Buffet uses a techinique called value investing or growth investing wherein he looks for stocks that trade for less than their intrinsic value. Value investors actively seek stocks of companies that they believe the market has undervalued. They believe the market overreacts to good and bad news, causing stock price movements that do not correspond with the company's long-term fundamentals.

Typically, value investors select stocks with lower-than-average price-to-book or price-to-earnings ratios and/or high dividend yields. Value investors look for securities with prices that are unjustifiably low based on their intrinsic worth.

Intrinsic value is a tricky subject because there is no universally accepted way to obtain this figure. Most often intrinsic worth is estimated by analyzing a company's fundamentals. Two investors can be given the exact same information and place a different value on a company.

For this reason, another central concept to value investing is that of "margin of safety". This just means that you buy at a big enough discount to allow some room for error in your estimation of value.

The fundamental and technical debate:

Investors have been debating the success of investing on the basis of fundamental analysis versus the technical analysis. Fundamentalists look for the stocks consistent earnings improvement, strong profit margins and a high return on equity. Technical analysts use charts to study the movement of the market. Investors using either of this method would swear that theirs is the more profitable method.

Value or growth investors focus on the market rather than get worked up by what is happening with the DOW or S&P 500 index. Savy investors know how to decimate the clutter of noise in the 24/7 news media and select under valued stocks and keep track of them.

As the saying goes in the market, invest like a tortoise and profit like a hare.

As a growth investor, take a long-term view of investing without worrying over the day-to-day fluctuations of the economy, interest rates, and the overall market. In the longer term, these changing variable will have little impact on the growth stocks.

More on Value Investing.

Selecting stocks at the right time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Separating the his-and-her bedroom

A new trend is setting in as usual in the United States, a trend that will soon race across the Atlantic to Britain and Europe and to the rest of the world.

In a survey in February by the National Association of Home Builders, builders and architects predicted that more than 60 percent of custom houses would have dual master bedrooms by 2015, according to Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president of research at the builders association. Many new projects already do.

Couples and sociologists interviewed said this trend has nothing to do with sex. It may have something to do with snoring or children crying. The need for privacy and space is more important when both partners have different careers and independent lifestyles. One may want to sound the alarm clock and rise up for the early morning gym, while the other may want to sleep late after working late into the night.

It started with the his-and-hers closet ... now the demand is for the his-and-hers bedroom. It's a market-driven demand that's catching on fast. It is a sign of the times, a statement of fashion and a reflection of the desires of an affluent society.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pakistani Cricketers promoting tourism

The Cricket World Cup is upon us and 16 cricketing nations have gathered at the West Indies for what promises is to be an exciting tournament.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) well known for their poor managment and disarray have come up with an ingenious idea to promote tourism for Pakistan.

Pakistan team's premier fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif both tested positive for nandrolone last September but had lengthy doping bans quashed on appeal in December after claiming they had not knowingly taken the banned substance.

The Pakistan cricket team has been banned from speaking in English at World Cup news conferences to prevent players from being misquoted.

"This decision was taken by the Pakistan Cricket Board because it is our national language and because 2007 is our National Tourist Year so we are promoting Pakistan as well," said a team spokesman.

Skeptics say this a way for the PCB to control the players even more. One of the PCB officials will be acting as tranlator in chief.

Pakistan plays West Indies in the World Cup curtain raiser at Sabina Park, Jamaica on Tuesday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

There's no secret in "The Secret"

This is the latest buzz among people who want guaranteed success in life.

"The Secret" is a rehashed book about the power of positive thinking that has been around for ages. Norman Vincent Peale and many others have written self-books on this concept.

The publisher Rhonda Byrne tells us that in 'The Secret' we can learn how to use every aspect of our life—money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction there is in the world.

A some what emotional critique of this book points out some very pertinent facts.

The Secret is defined as the law of attraction, which states that like attracts like. The concept says that the energy you put into the world—both good and bad—is exactly what comes back to you. This means you create the circumstances of your life with the choices you make every day.

Does this work in every aspect of our life? If a ntural disaster were to happen, did the person who suffered will it to happen? It is wrong to suggest that it is the case. It is equally wrong to suggest that anyone can do anything if the person thinks, feels and takes action.

What is possible and what is achievable would be the goal a person has thought about and passionately takes action to attain it.

Hence from this book that is promoted as a self-help gospel, we should take what is workable for us and forget about the rest.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Redefining hypocrisy

Republican Newt Gingrich, who led the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Bill Clinton in a sex-and-perjury scandal, has told a Christian radio program he was cheating on his second wife at the same time as he was fighting for the impeachment of former president Bill Clinton.

Gingrich, who is testing the waters for his presidential ambition, is making an attempt to make peace with Christian conservatives ahead of a possible presidential campaign.

Gingrich confessed to Dr. James Dobson, a conservative radio host who runs a nationally syndicated program and spoke at length about past infidelity and his two divorces.

Gingrich argued that he wasn't a hypocrite for pushing for Clinton's impeachment while having an affair.

The impeachment spectacle that Newt Gingrich headed costing $7 million to the American tax payers failed to convince the majority of the Americans that the republicans are neo-puritans above personal indiscretions. Instead it exposed the family-values and hypocracy of the twice divorced Gingrich, while his foe Clinton though condemned for his personal indiscretion was spared.

Gingrich resigned as speaker of the House in disgrace and Clinton completed his presidency with very high public approval of his job rating.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rampant poverty in richest year

Forbes magazine has given out the head count, the number of billionaires has skyrocketed over the past year to 946 men and some women. There were 178 newcomers, including 19 Russians, 14 Indians, 13 Chinese and 10 Spaniards, as well as the first billionaires from Cyprus, Oman, Romania and Serbia.

Steve Forbes, the founder of the Fordes magazine has said that this is the richest year in human history. Forbes also said the best way to create wealth is to have free markets and free people, and more and more of the world is realising it.

JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, has made it to the super rich club, making her the UK's sole female billionaire. Innovation will be the trend to develop ideas for future wealth creation.

In the 20 years since it began compiling the list, Forbes said, "old world powers like Japan and Germany - and the billionaires who dominate their businesses - have given way to the latest global hotspots such as booming China, India and Russia. Yoshiaki Tsutsumi was the world's richest person in our inaugural year, but the Japanese land baron fell off the list this year."

In a world of unprecedented wealth, a UNDP report shows almost 2 million children die each year for want of a glass of clean water and adequate sanitation. More than 2.6 billion people do not have access to safe water.

According to a World Bank report, 1.1 billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day. This is the measurement for extreme poverty.

Why is poverty still so endemic inspite of the potential and the continued creation of the gigantic wealth? Is there more to it than just blaming the poor for their plight? When the rich are soaring upto the sky why are the poor languishing so far behind?

For these numbers to be relevant, there is something radically wrong with a system that continues to deprive such a large segment of humanity. There must be critical issues that needs to be addressed in the interest of global peace and a sustainable economic development.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Naomi Campbell-super model to super mopper

Naomi Campbell, the leggy beauty will change her glamourous outfits for a broom, gloves and safety vest when she begins mopping floors at New York's Sanitation Department on March 19, a court official confirmed on Tuesday. She has to clean up the mess she has brought on herself.

The British 36-year-old model was sentenced to community service as punishment for throwing her mobile phone at her housekeeper.

She is a recovering cocaine addict who is reputed to have a quick temper, with several tabloid stories involving violence against her staff as well as verbal abuse.

She is now included among the stars brought down to earth, like singer Boy George who attracted huge media attention when he swept streets in a court-ordered punishment in August last year.

She is estimated to have so far acquired a wealth of US$28 million from modelling.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rule of Law wins in high political trial

Here is a case that has gripped Washington last few years, a trial that demonstrates the power of checks and balances in the American political system and an astounding victory for the rule of law.

The criminal conviction of one of the Bush administration's most powerful figures, Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty on four counts of obstructing justice and lying to the FBI and a grand jury during an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Much of the perjury case hinged on the flawed intelligence for the case for war and the White House's campaign to justify the Iraq conflict. As Mr Cheney's former chief of staff and ex national security adviser, Libby was one of the architects of the Iraq invasion.

The offenses carry possible sentences of more than 20 years in prison, but because he is a first-time offender, Libby will probably receive substantially less under federal sentencing guidelines. His lawyer said he would move for a new trial and, if the motion is denied, would appeal.

The implications of this trial are likely to be far-reaching and long-lasting. There were few officials with greater influence or power during the first four years of the Bush administration than Libby.

Libby is one of the most well-connected neoconservatives in the US that advocated for an invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before the 9/11 attack .

This incident shows that the rule of law, though imperfect and sometimes slow typically prevails over a particular elected official or political movement.

American politics has seen high political drama before. Richard Nixon was reelected in 1972 with the largest landslide in American history, but he spent the next two years watching as his closest aides were hauled off to criminal proceedings in the Watergate scandal.

In 1974, Nixon himself was forced to resign from office and president Gerald Ford gave him a pardon that avoided the humiliation of having dragged him through the courts.

Widely considered the most investigated US President ever, Bill Clinton was impeached on December 19 1998 by the House of Representatives and subsequently acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. The charges were perjury and obstruction of justice, arising from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ghana's lavish anniversary

Ghana is marking the 50th anniversary of liberation from Britain, the first black African nation to gain political independence.

Thousands of ordinary Ghanaians, as well as heads of state and other dignitaries have gathered Tuesday in Ghana's Independence Square in the capital, Accra, to celebrate the event.

Independent Ghana, like many sub-Saharan African countries, has had a checkered political history marked by a series of military coups, which ended in 1992. But the country is now seen as a model democracy in the region.

Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, gracing the occasion as the guest of honour said that Africa's biggest problem was sustaining political stability.

"We substituted military rule for colonially handed down democracy and socialism for capitalism without a productive capital base," he said.

He said what is required is a clear understanding of the best way for Africans to bring political development and economic growth to the continent.

Ghanaian authorities have spent $20m (£10.4m; 15.2m euros) on the commemorations, which are due to continue for the next 12 months.

Critics have questioned the wisdom of holding such lavish celebrations while many in the country remain without basic services.

Accomplishing goals

This a reccurring theme that we hear over and over again. The capitalistic economic system is dominating the world and we are always competing with one another. Individuals, corporations and nations compete to derive a competitive advantage and increase profitability of business and services.

In this system, setting goals and attaining goals is an important benchmark for success. As individuals we can improve by our own efforts and in collaboration with other people. In order to continue succeeding in this 'fighting for survival' system, we need to be alert to the rapidly changing conditions around us.

We have to focus our energy and our efforts to achieve what we desire by making the choices that can help us advance. We have to associate with people who can positively contribute to us and strenghten our efforts.

We should not worry on things that are inconsequential and we should not try to get even with our enemies, for it will drain us of the much needed energy.

When we do things for other people, we should do them without expecting any gratitude but because it is the right thing to do.

Click here to read on attaining goals.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Avoid hot baths to improve male fertility

A three-year pilot study of infertile men in the United States has shown that wallowing in hot baths or Jacuzzis may be part of the problem.

It has been believed for decades that wet heat exposure is bad for fertility, as an old wives’ tale, but now we have some proof.

Other research from the Brazilian Society of Urlology reports that heat from laptop use and wearing tight underwear can also reduce fertility.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Being cool and getting addicted

The BBC Click programme highlights the 'rise of technology addiction', an addiction arising out of using cool gadgets which makes many people especially the younger generation feel fashionable to do so.

It was revealed at a technology conference in Geneva, Switzerland that "technology overload" is the price people have to pay for always-on communication, where the line between work and play has become blurred.

One major consequence of this phenomenon is that the line between work and private life is also much more blurred, and individuals highly dependent on techology to get by are reducing their capacity for social interaction.

It has become an important feature of business to inject fun into their products and services and the environments they operate in. In our lives, we will have to live with more technology which gives tremendous benefits to the people who can derive them without getting addicted.

Another East Asian Financial crisis?

After a two-day meeting of finance officials in Bangok, Mr. Kim Hak-Su, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), has invoked the grim reminder of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis.

He said that Asian economies face new threats that could destabilise the region, despite the current boom that resulted from success in overcoming the 1997 financial crisis.

The East Asian financial crisis was a period of economic unrest that started in July 1997 in Thailand and affected currencies, stock markets, and other asset prices in several Asian countries.

Thailand was the epicentre of the 1997 meltdown when excessive borrowings in US dollars coupled with high interest rates forced the Thai government to float the currency, which then promptly collapsed along with the economy.

Many economists believed that the Asian crisis was created not by market psychology but by macroeconomic policies that distorted information which in turn created the volatility that attracted speculators.

The crisis had significant macro-level effects, including sharp reductions in values of currencies, stock markets, and other asset prices of several Asian countries.

Many businesses collapsed, and as a consequence, millions of people fell below the poverty line in 1997-1998. Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand were the countries most affected by the crisis.

The economic crisis also led to political upheaval, most notably culminating in the resignations of Prime Minister Chavalit of Thailand and brought an end to Indonesian president Suharto's 30-year autocratic regime.

There was a general rise in anti-Western sentiment, with George Soros and the International Monetary Fund in particular singled out as targets of criticisms.

What some of these leaders failed to realise was that investors who sepeculated in their stock markets didn't owe a living to the citizens of the countries where they traded. It is upto the leaders of these countries to regulate their markets, control their fiscal and monetory policies in a manner that can continue their economic growth without undue burden on the society.

Globalisation, along with its many benefits, exposes economies to quick and harsh reality of the constantly shifting international environment as we saw what happened last week when the former US Fed boss Alan Greenspan made a comment about 'recession' in Hong Kong.

The herd mentality quickly follows bad news when there is a rush to sell stocks as happened in China followed by the US and much of the global markets last week. In an an interconnected world, if economies are not operated on sound principles, the social consequences of a financial meltdown can be devastating.

Money is the lifebood of any economy, it also has the power to bring it to an abrupt standill.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Defining Moments and Turning points

Most successful people can define the 'turning points' in their lives - single events that eventually shaped their future success.

All of us can probably remember some turning points in our own lives.

It is always difficult to know the most defining moment in one's life, though one can look back and see the different trajectories that extend across the life course. In many instances, a life transition such as getting married, the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one brings out a defining moment.

Life is full of transitions from starting school, graduating school, getting a job and getting retired. Important decisions are made at each of these turning points. The quality of decisions we make can have a profound effect on how we live out our lives.

We do not have to grope in the dark to look for these defining moments and turning points. Life will always throw up unexpected challenges but we can always plan and prepare to face them head on when they occur. We can get a good education, we can be gainfully employed, become a responsible member of the community and live a balanced lifestyle.

By planning to live our best life and setting out achievable goals, we can maximise our chances for success. We can also minimise having to react to external events.

Gates calls for greater accountability

Washington Post broke the story of revelations about problems at the US top medical hospital, where wounded veterans get long-term care, and heads have started rolling on. Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered neglect, bureaucratic intransigence and infestations of rats, cockroaches and mould, it emerged.

Robert Gates, Mr Bush's new Defence Secretary, won considerable praise for the swiftness with which he demanded accountability - and a resignation letter Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey has abruptly resigned on Friday, the latest fallout from the Walter Reed outpatient housing scandal.

In the past, when scandals broke out such as the torture in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Mr. Gates' predecessor Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department did its best to stop potentially incriminating information from coming out and only low level officers paid the price. Although the problems with the medical facility have been insidious, Robert Gates determined leadership will help to restore the shaken public confidence.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Glamour, Money and a Sad Saga

Anna Nicole Smith, 39, was buried in the Bahamas yesterday after a gripping court drama that saw two men claim paternity of her 5-month baby and her estranged mother versus her legal partner boyfriend who wanted the court to decide her place of burial.

The emotional court 'circus' as described by some reporters ended when a crying judge declared that she be buried in Bahamas next to her son Daniel, 20, who died five months ago.

In life, Anna Nicole Smith was a Playboy model and reality TV star. Her marriage to a 89-old billionaire, 63 years her senior who died 14 months after her marriage and her still-continuing court battles claiming $500 million of his estate always made tabloid headlines.

She came from a humble beginning. She wanted to make it big in life. She earned money and achieved fame but her life was also a turbulent one when she was overcome by episodes of substance abuse. She craved media attention and their pursuit of her was relentless. Her life unfolded as a real life soap opera; it had beauty, money, drugs, scandals and a tragic end.

In life, everyone around her used her to make money. She became a marketing tool and the media was in a curious way fascinated with every bit of her out-of-control life. It appears this trend is still continuing after her death. Anna Nicole Smith's mother has accused Howard K. Stern, her attorney boyfriend of selling the TV rights to her funeral for $1 million.

In life Anna Nicole Smith idolised another tragic celebrity, Marilyn Monroe. Ironically, they both shared a similar end after living their life in the public eye.

Green Tea benefits continue to rise

Most other beverages like coffee seem to have their ups and downs in terms of their contradicting nutritional value always based on some latest research. It seems there is no sinful side for green tea- so far.

Latest research now shows that a major component in green tea may short-circuit the cancer process more extensively than scientists had earlier realized.

Researchers also find that green tea may actually help prevent Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative brain disorder that leads to dementia and eventual death.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Worldwide explosion of fake drugs

A BBC report quotes a United Nations warning that fake prescription medicines are swamping developing nations with sometimes deadly consequences.

The International Narcotics Control Board report says up to 50% of the medicines in these markets are fake and the abuse of prescription drugs is said overtake that of illegal narcotics worldwide soon.

The Vienna-based UN drugs watchdog has said prescription drug abuse had outstripped heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy in some parts of Europe, Africa and South Asia. Only cannabis was more abused than prescription drugs in the US, it said.

This is an alarming trend and urgent action is called for to combat the spread of this low quality or illegal medicines which poses deadly health risks. No effort should be spared to stop these drug runners making money in this lethal trade.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bernanke reassures jittery investors

You earn your stripes in battle and the US Fed Chairman Bernanke is earning his in the world's largest economic landscape of the United States.

At the start of his tenure, Bernanke, took some missteps. In his third month on the job, Bernanke testified to the Joint Economic Committee that the Fed might pause hiking rates for a month or two, even if it determined that inflation still posed a greater threat than an economic slowdown. To the markets, that seemed clear enough, and stock prices rose.

But in a casual conversation the following weekend, Bernanke told CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo at a Washington party that markets misinterpreted his remarks before Congress. Bonds and the dollar tumbled when CNBC reported the conversation.

Bernanke has been careful not to repeat that gaffe. "In the future," he promised the Senate Banking Committee, "my communications with the public and the markets will be entirely through regular and formal channels."

Apart from this one gaffe, Bernanke has given a stoic performance to steer the US economy forward and keep inflation low. But following his illustreous predecessor Alan Greenspan who has broken tradition by being outspoken, is not an easy act.

Bernanke's carefully worded reassurances at a question-and-answer period during congressional testimony Wednesday enhanced his stature with investors, one day after the stock market's biggest slump following Greenspan's "recession" comments in Hong Kong.

This isn't a clash of the titans. The former Fed chairman and the current central bank chief might not be as far apart on the state of the economy. In Hong Kong, Greenspan was responding to a question by saying it was "possible" the U.S. economy would go into recession.

A senior economist at Bearns and Sterns noted that Greenspan's other recent comments have actually been more upbeat, not less, than Bernanke's. If you were to ask any economist if there was a possibility of recession, they're going to say yes.

So this time the speculators as usual got it all wrong.

Paper airline tickets to go extinct

Some traditions die hard, but not this one. If the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has its way, airlines will issue only electronic tickets by the end of 2007, sending paper tickets into oblivion.

The migration to electronic ticketing, which could save millions of dollars, has been underway for more than 10 years. Budget airlines or the no frills airlines use electronic ticketing and they provide no free meals, passing the cost benefit to the passenger.

IATA, which supplies paper tickets to most airlines outside the United States, wants to discontinue that service at the end of this year. Airlines that want to maintain paper ticketing beyond 2007 can do so on their own but is likely to increase the cost.

The IATA estimates the potential savings associated with electronic ticketing at $3 billion a year globally. On average, an airline spends $10 to process a paper ticket compared with $1 to process an electronic ticket. Electronic tickets also encourage self check-in, which saves airlines money.