Welcome to the ITBHU Chronicle, September 2009 Edition Chronicle Extra Section.
Blogs
Nobel Prize winners for 2009 announced
@ Sep 05, 2009
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Official Website of Noble Prize Organization

http://nobelprize.org/index.html

a) India-born scientist wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/India-born-scientist-wins-Nobel-Prize-in-Chemistry/articleshow/5099608.cms

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN 8 October 2009, 01:27am IST

WASHINGTON: An India-born structural biologist whose quest for scientific excellence took him from undergraduate schools in India to graduate and post-doc studies in US and research in UK was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for work on proteins that control life.

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(Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan)

Dr Venkatraman ''Venky'' Ramakrishnan, 58, who had his early education in the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, and Vadodra, Gujarat, before he made tracks to the United States, joined the long list of peripatetic Indians who had early education in India but thrived in the western academic eco-system, to have won the Nobel. Also with a chemistry Nobel, Indians or those with an India-connect figure in all prize categories.

The Swedish Nobel Committee awarded the Prize to Dr Ramakrishnan, who is currently affiliated with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, for his work on protein-producing ribosomes, and its translation of DNA information into life. He will share the Prize with Dr Thomas Steitz of Yale University, Connecticut, and Dr Ada Yonath of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

In a statement following the announcement of the award, Dr Ramakrishnan expressed gratitude to ``all of the brilliant associates, students and post docs who worked in my lab as science is a highly collaborative enterprise.'' He credited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the University of Utah for supporting his work and the collegiate atmosphere there that made it all possible.

``The idea of supporting long term basic research like that at LMB does lead to breakthroughs, the ribosome is already starting to show its medical importance,'' he said.

The practical importance of Dr Ramakrishnan's work arises from ribosomes being present in all living cells, including those of bacteria. Human and bacterial ribosomes are slightly different, making the ribosome a good target for antibiotic therapy that works by blocking the bacteriums ability to make the proteins it needs to function.

Ramakrishnan, Steitz and Yonath demonstrated what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at an atomic level using a visualisation method called X-ray crystallography to map the position of each of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome, according to the MRC.

``This year's three Laureates have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering,'' the Nobel citation explained.

Scientists say growing knowledge of the ribosome has created targets for a new generation of antibiotics. The instruction manual for the creation of proteins is DNA, but the ribosome is the machine which takes information transcribed onto messenger RNA and turns it into proteins.

Elaborating, the MRC said Dr Ramakrishnan's basic research on the arrangement of atoms in the ribosome has allowed his team not only to gain detailed knowledge of how it contributes to protein production but also to see directly how antibiotics bind to specific pockets in the ribosome structure. Dr Ramakrishnan will share the 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.4 million) Nobel Prize money (1/3rd each), in a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.

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Visit: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2009/

http://www.mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk/ribo/homepage/ramak/index.html

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2009/press.html

The ribosome translates the DNA code into life

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2009 awards studies of one of life's core processes: the ribosome's translation of DNA information into life. Ribosomes produce proteins, which in turn control the chemistry in all living organisms. As ribosomes are crucial to life, they are also a major target for new antibiotics.

This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry awards Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath for having showed what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level. All three have used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome.

Inside every cell in all organisms, there are DNA molecules. They contain the blueprints for how a human being, a plant or a bacterium, looks and functions. But the DNA molecule is passive. If there was nothing else, there would be no life.

The blueprints become transformed into living matter through the work of ribosomes. Based upon the information in DNA, ribosomes make proteins: oxygen-transporting haemoglobin, antibodies of the immune system, hormones such as insulin, the collagen of the skin, or enzymes that break down sugar. There are tens of thousands of proteins in the body and they all have different forms and functions. They build and control life at the chemical level.

An understanding of the ribosome's innermost workings is important for a scientific understanding of life. This knowledge can be put to a practical and immediate use; many of today's antibiotics cure various diseases by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes. Without functional ribosomes, bacteria cannot survive. This is why ribosomes are such an important target for new antibiotics.

This year's three Laureates have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering.

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http://publications.nigms.nih.gov/moleculestomeds/biology.html

Cell Biology and Biophysics

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The first structural snapshot of an entire bacterial ribosome. Detailed studies of this structure will help researchers better understand how proteins are made. They may also lead to new or better antibiotic medicines.

Ribosome structure courtesy of Jamie Cate, Marat Yusupov, Gulnara Yusupova, Thomas Earnest, and Harry Noller. Graphic courtesy of Albion Baucom, University of California, Santa Cruz.

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b) Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091009/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nobel_peace

 By KARL RITTER and MATT MOORE, Associated Press Writers Karl Ritter And Matt Moore, Associated Press Writers   – October 09, 2009

OSLO – President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.

  

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AP – File - Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks during a rally in this Feb.

The stunning choice made Obama the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and shocked Nobel observers because Obama took office less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline. Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons.

"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play," the committee said.

Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson won in 1919. Former President Jimmy Carter won the award in 2002, while former Vice President Al Gore shared the 2007 prize with the U.N. panel on climate change.

The Nobel committee received a record 205 nominations for this year's prize.

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, he said the peace prize should be given out by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Sweden and Norway were united under the same crown at the time of Nobel's death.

The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel's guidelines, expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat poverty, disease and climate change.

Associated Press Writer Ian MacDougall contributed to this report.

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Photo Gallery
Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan on Oprah Show (28 September)
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090826-tows-aish-rai-ab-bachchan

 

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http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090826-tows-aish-rai-ab-bachchan

 

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Before they were man and wife, Ash and Abhi were co-stars. After working with Ash in a few films, Abhi says he developed feelings for the actress who's been called the most beautiful woman in the world.

"I was filming in New York for a movie," he says. "And I used to stand on the balcony of my hotel room and wish that, 'One day, wouldn't it be nice if I was together with her, married.'"

Years later, the co-stars returned to New York City as a couple. They were there for the premiere of Guru, a film they worked on together, but Abhi had something special in store.

"After the premiere, we were back in the hotel," he says. "So I took her to the very same balcony, and I asked her to marry me."

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Watch the above Oprah show video on YouTube

The Oprah Show 09/28/2009 -Aishwarya Rai & Abhishek Bachchan - Bollywood Love Story

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qRAIbuiNVM

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India's lunar mission finds evidence of water on the Moon
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/space/article6846639.ece

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September 24, 2009

Dreams of establishing a manned Moon base could become reality within two decades after India’s first lunar mission found evidence of large quantities of water on its surface.

Data from Chandrayaan-1 also suggests that water is still being formed on the Moon. Scientists said the breakthrough — to be announced by Nasa at a press conference today — would change the face of lunar exploration.

The discovery is a significant boost for India in its space race against China. Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, the mission’s project director at the Indian Space Research Organisation in Bangalore, said: “It’s very satisfying.”

The search for water was one of the mission’s main objectives, but it was a surprise nonetheless, scientists said.The unmanned craft was equipped with Nasa’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, designed specifically to search for water by picking up the electromagnetic radiation emitted by minerals. The M3 also made the unexpected discovery that water may still be forming on the surface of the Moon, according to scientists familiar with the mission.

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Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) to host 2016 Olympics
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/more-sports/others/Obama-loses-Rio-to-host-2016-Olympics/articleshow/5082005.cms

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Brazil's Rio de Janeiro will host the 31st Summer Olympic Games in 2016 after knocking out of contention Madrid, Tokyo, and Chicago -- the last one despite President Obama's personal pitch in favor of his home town, the first time an American President has ever staked his prestige in the matter.

(2012 Olympics Games will be hosted in London).

http://www.olympic.org/

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(Source:http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-55058/Rio-de-Janeiro-Brazil)

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Rio de Janeiro bid committee celebrates after winning the host city contract for the 2016 Olympics

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G-20 Summit at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA in September 24-25, 2009
@ Sep 05, 2009
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(City of Pittsburgh. http://www.pittsburghsummit.gov/)

 

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(G-20 summit leaders. Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2nd row)

www.daylife.com/photo/06K5b0xa6Ag0A

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 http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world_business/view/1007396/1/.html

 G20 makes bold move to balance global growth

Posted: 26 September 2009 1120 hrs

Excerpts from the article

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania - If the G20 is to implement a promise to redress global imbalances, China's export machine must slow, Americans must learn to save more and borrow less, and Japan and Germany must puncture their ever-fat surpluses, experts say.

Leaders of the Group of 20 developing and developed economies agreed Friday that they must tackle front-on the imbalances in global economic growth that many say fuelled the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

They launched "a framework that lays out the policies and the way we act together to generate strong, sustainable and balanced global growth," according to a joint statement after a two-day summit in the US city of Pittsburgh.

Washington strongly campaigned for the move, saying it would help prevent another global crisis exacerbated by the wide gap between reserve surplus-rich Asian nations led by China and the mostly deficit-hit Western nations.

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Earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia-3,000 feared dead
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/6250838/Indonesia-earthquake-thousands-feared-killed-in-massive-quake-in-Sumatra.html?image=15

Wednesday (September 30) afternoon's 7.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings and led to fires in Padang, home to nearly a million people on the coast of Sumatra, which was left largely without power and communications. About 3,000 are feared dead.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/01/second-earthquake-sumatra-indonesia

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Map of Sumatra, Indonesia. (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/asia/indonesia/)

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Topics
Topics- Business & Economy
Jobs Report Highlights Shaky U.S. Recovery
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/03/business/economy/03jobs.html?ref=business

By PETER S. GOODMAN

Published: October 2, 2009

After several months in which the American economy flashed tentative signs of improvement, a sobering report on the national job market released on Friday amplified worries that a lengthy period of lean times lay ahead.

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 (Jerry Lamirande, an unemployed technology systems engineer, stands in the doorway of his home in Amarillo, Tex. For millions of people, the jobs report merely confirmed something they had learned through the discouraging process of seeking work.)

Jerry Lamirande, a systems engineer in Amarillo, Tex., has been jobless since April 2008 and has searched nationwide.

The economy shed 263,000 jobs in September, and the unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent in August, according to the Labor Department’s monthly snapshot of the employment picture.

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 2009

US monthly unemployment rate (9.8% in September 2009)

Though the job market worsened, the pace of deterioration remained markedly slower than during the early months of the year, when roughly 700,000 jobs a month were disappearing. That improvement seems consistent with the widespread belief that the recession has given way to economic growth. Yet the report also buttressed fears that economic expansion would be weak and hesitant, with scarce paychecks and economic anxiety remaining prominent features of American life well into next year.

“This is a weak report,” said Stuart G. Hoffman, chief economist at the PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh. “The rate of job loss has tapered off, but we still haven’t reached the point where businesses are willing to hire.”

The Labor Department also made a preliminary revision in its survey of private employers that indicated the job market shrank even more during the recession. The department disclosed that in March this year the economy held 824,000 fewer jobs than previously reported, making an already bleak picture worse.

The endurance of hard times seems likely to increase pressure on the Obama administration and Congress to consider another dose of spending aimed at stimulating the economy, even as the government grapples with deficits projected by some economists to exceed $10 trillion over the next decade.

Despite a $787 billion stimulus package adopted early this year and aimed in part at shoring up state and local coffers, government jobs slipped by 53,000 in September.

“That’s the budget crunch hitting,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “We’re still losing jobs at a very rapid pace. We’re still looking at an economy with a lot of weakness.”

For millions of unemployed people, the latest data merely confirms something they have come to understand intimately, through the discouraging process of seeking work.

“There’s nothing out there,” said Jerry Lamirande, a technology systems engineer in Amarillo, Tex., who has been without a job since April 2008.

During the technology boom of the late 1990s, Mr. Lamirande, 62, worked for I.B.M., where he drew a salary of about $130,000. After a layoff seven years ago, he has earned about $70,000 a year as a technology consultant working on contract.

Since the spring, he and his wife have lived on her modest salary as a public school teacher and on hardship withdrawals from his retirement account. He has searched nationwide for his next contract, willing to relocate.

“I’ve got to go where the opportunities are,” he said. “The problem is, there aren’t many opportunities.”

The latest jobs report lent credence to that contention. The unemployment rate continued to inch toward double digits, a level last seen in June 1983. The so-called underemployment rate (which includes people whose hours have been cut, and those working part-time for lack of full-time positions, along with the jobless) reached 17 percent, the highest level since the government began tracking it in 1994.

More jobs were lost last month, at 263,000, than were lost in August, as the Labor Department revised the August decline to 201,000 jobs from the 216,000 it initially reported.

Health care remained a rare bright spot, adding 19,000 jobs in September, but construction jobs slipped by 64,000, manufacturing declined by 51,000 and retail lost 39,000 jobs.

Most economists assume the economy expanded at an annual pace of about three percent from July through September. But debate focuses on the vigor and staying power of the recovery.

Optimists anticipate a robust bounce-back from what now stands as the longest recession since the Great Depression. But most economists expect a sustained slog through high rates of joblessness.

The economic improvement in recent months largely stems from businesses cutting inventories at a slower pace. As some companies begin to rebuild stocks, the impact could wash through the economy for a few more months, adding jobs and moderating the overall decline.

Then the underlying weakness of the economy will probably reassert itself, say experts. After years of borrowing against homes and cashing in stock to spend in excess of their incomes, many Americans are tapped out. Austerity and saving have replaced spending and investment in many households, constraining the economy.

As many Americans transition from living on home equity loans to sustaining themselves on paychecks, weekly pay continues to effectively shrink: Over the last year, average hourly earnings for rank-and-file workers — some 80 percent of the labor force — have increased by 2.5 percent. But average weekly earnings have expanded by only 0.7 percent, less than the increase in the cost of living, because employers have slashed working hours.

In September, the average workweek edged down by one-tenth of an hour, to 33 hours.

For those out of work, the job market looks harsher now than at any point in the recession. The number of people who have been jobless for more than six months increased in September by 450,000, reaching 5.4 million.

“We have a truly massive crisis of long-term unemployment,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project in a statement, adding that nearly 400,000 jobless people had exhausted their unemployment benefits by the end of September. “Today’s employment report is a marching order for Congress to pass unemployment benefit extensions to all states, quickly.”

The first signs of improvement are likely to be seen among temporary workers, say experts, as companies now hunkering down in the face of uncertain prospects take tentative steps to expand.

But temporary help services lost 1,700 jobs in September.

“Companies are extremely cautious,” said Roy G. Krause, chief executive of Spherion, a recruiting and staffing company based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

All of which translates into continued apprehension in many households.

“It’s terrifying,” said Stephanie Wheeler, 56, of Elizabeth, N.J., who has drained her savings to $800 in the year since she lost her job at a data-processing company, rendering her ability to pay the rent on her apartment uncertain.

“I’ve been here for eight years,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m petrified of being set out on the street.”

Jack Healy contributed reporting.

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Topics- PC, Internet & Information Technology
Google rolls out preview of Wave
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.watoday.com.au/technology/google-rolls-out-preview-of-wave-20091002-gffg.html

October 2, 2009 - 8:29AM

Google is about to hit a milestone for a product that the search giant hopes will transform how people communicate and collaborate online, and perhaps hook more users on Google's menu of web based services.

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Google Wave, which combines elements of email, instant messaging and social networking to allow groups of people to collaborate on a task in real time, will be previewed starting to more than 100,000 developers and users who have signed up to try Wave and give Google feedback on how well it works.

Developed by a small engineering team led by Lars and Jens Rasmussen, the brothers who engineered Google Maps, the idea behind Wave is to move toward a kind of universal inbox - where email, video, maps, photos, text messages and even voice conversations can all become data objects to be shared and manipulated in real time by a group connected to a wave.

Wave is a platform, which is a series of services, on top of which developers can create applications that supplement it.

Google has been working hard to engage outside software developers to write applications that will run on Wave, creating services that will lure users and provide a potential source of revenue.

Executives pumped up expectations when Google first revealed Wave at its annual developer conference earlier this year, using words like "magical'' and "unbelievable'' to describe the impact they said Wave could have on internet communication.

Developers such as Ribbit, a startup bought last year by BT that bills itself as "Silicon Valley's First Phone Company,'' have already written applications for Wave that Google featured on its official blog.

"If you have an email and an instant message and a voice call, that can all be navigated in the same wave,'' Ted Griggs, Ribbit's CEO, said.

"It's no longer email is one container and SMS is one container, and all these things are silos. Wave is breaking those silos down.''

Wave users running Ribbit's applications could, for example, hold a telephone conference that would connect through any kind of voice communication - a mobile phone, a land line or voice-over-internet - and then store a recording of the resulting conversation as an audio file or transcribe the conversation into a text document embedded in the Wave.

Another application Google demonstrated on its blog included a group of friends in scattered locations using the online version of the Lonely Planet guides to plan a trip to Australia through Wave, searching out attractions in Melbourne with Google maps, reading Lonely's Planet's description of those places, messaging their thoughts with the rest of the group, and collectively writing up a day-by-day itinerary, within one wave.

Real-time collaboration on the web ``is a natural evolution'' for how people use the internet, said Rony Zarom, founder and CEO of Watchitoo, a startup that allows people to view video and other web content simultaneously with their friends, and that plans to soon offer video conferencing and real-time document editing to companies and schools.

"It started as email being the major platform for communication, moved on to instant messaging, and you can see social networking taking those broad approaches as the major communication platform,'' Zarom said.

"I think the next trend is basically collaboration.

"I think more and more companies see that as the next trend on the internet.''

Zarom doesn't see the more complicated Wave replacing the simplicity and clarity of email, however, for Google, there's another hitch.

Wave won't run well on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, by far the most widely used web browser because Wave uses the newest HTML standard, which has not yet been incorporated into Microsoft's browser.

Internet Explorer users will first have to install a ``frame'' - essentially a browser within a browser - from Google's Chrome browser to use Wave.

Google says Wave runs fine on Apple's Safari 4 browser, Mozilla Foundation's new Firefox 3.5 browser, and on its Chrome browser.

The Chrome frame, Google says, will be invisible to Internet Explorer users but will greatly improve the performance of a Microsoft browser.

Microsoft, however, is warning users not to install the Chrome frame because of security concerns.

Other critics also are warning of problems.

"The overall effects of Chrome Frame are undesirable,'' Mitchell Baker, chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, wrote on his blog.

"I predict positive results will not be enduring and - to the extent it is adopted - Chrome Frame will end in growing fragmentation and loss of control for most of us, including web developers.''

Others have speculated that because Wave won't run on Internet Explorer, it is a kind of a Trojan horse in Google's browser war with Microsoft - a backdoor play to switch people to Chrome.

(Microsoft declined to comment on that scenario, and a Google spokesman denied it.)

But Ronald Gruia, an analyst who follows emerging teleco trends said Google's play is probably much broader than getting people to try its browser.

If Wave helps introduce users to other Google software that resides online - Google docs competes with Microsoft Office products like Word and Excel, while Google calendar competes with Microsoft's Outlook - Gruia said it could indirectly bolster the value of Google's advertising, the company's primary source of revenue.

"The better Google can get to know you as a person, the more targeted their advertising can become and the more they can charge for it,'' Gruia said.

"The more Google products you use, the stickier you are for Google, and the more they will also get to know about you.''

WHAT IS GOOGLE WAVE?

Google bills its new communication software as one part document and one part conversation. Friends or colleagues can work simultaneously on a task - planning a trip, charting a business strategy - wrapping in multiple facets of the web, including email, digital maps, video, photos and even voice communication. A demonstration is available at wave.google.com.

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Additional Link:

Google Wave: What is it & how it works

http://infotech.indiatimes.com/quickiearticleshow/4438744.cms

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Facial recognition face-off: Three tools compared
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-10363727-248.html

September 30, 2009 4:00 AM PDT

by Josh Lowensohn

Excerpts from the article:

Last week's Picasa software update from Google brought with it a neat trick--facial recognition. But it wasn't the first free consumer photo-editing software to find faces. In January, Apple unveiled the latest version of iLife, which included an updated version of iPhoto that could detect and recognize faces in your photos. And this time last year, Microsoft released an updated version of its Windows Live Photo Gallery desktop software that could find faces inside of photos, though it couldn't (and still can't) recognize who's in them.

So, how do these three stack up? To figure that out, we put them to the test. Using 500 sample photos on fresh installs of each program, we tracked around how long each of the tools took to process all the photos, as well as some notable hits and misses from each.

To be fair, our results may not scale, or match the experience you will have. For one, we're using a test bed of photos that's almost entirely 12-megapixel JPEG files, whereas some people may be shooting smaller or larger files that may be in different formats and contain large groups of people--something that can slow these programs down. You're also likely to have a whole lot more than 500 photos sitting around on your computer; we certainly do.

Note: Adobe's PhotoShop Elements software (for Windows | Mac), which also includes a facial recognition feature was not included in this roundup since it's a paid application. Technically iPhoto is as well, but we included it since it comes free on all Macs.

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The apps and workflows

iPhoto

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iPhoto is the only product of the bunch that's Mac-only. It comes bundled with all new Macs, but the latest version (which includes face detection) must be purchased as a software upgrade if you've got iPhoto '08 or lower. We've included it in this roundup as a free product since it comes bundled with all new Macs.

Face scanning in iPhoto happens automatically, but it's largely a manual process, requiring users to "train" the system to recognize certain faces. The program took around nine minutes to scan through our 500 test photos and when it was done it didn't offer up any suggestions of photos with faces in them.

Instead, users are required to click on a photo with a face in it and hope the program picked it up. If it has, users can simply type the name in--which will auto complete if the person is in your Mac address book. If someone's face was not found, but you can see it in the photo, you can manually contain the face inside of a box, then tag it with their name.

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iPhoto's system offers up suggestions of faces it thinks belong to certain people.

(Credit: CNET)

After you add names to just few photos, iPhoto's system begins to piece together others that look the same--although it doesn't learn as fast as it does for photos where it already found the faces. In my testing, it only took two photos to get it to offer up some more suggestions. If those suggestions are correct, continuing to add them was just a matter of a few clicks.

iPhoto's system for doing this isn't perfect though. As far as workflows go, iPhoto's requires a fair number of steps. As it offers up suggestions, you need to click an additional button to get into the "confirm name" mode. There's also not a way to skip directly to its suggestions without first scrolling down past the photos you've already confirmed as that person.

Its one grace is that like Picasa, it's fairly easy to bulk accept or reject iPhoto's suggestions--but doing so isn't made immediately evident from the software. The normal system requires one click to accept the person as a match, whereas two clicks reject it. This works great for a handful of photos, but if you're going through hundreds of shots it's a pain. Apple's solution is to have you drag your mouse around the photos you want to accept, while holding the option key while you do it sets all of the photos to be rejected. This makes it easy to blow through a handful of photos at once.

Picasa 3.5

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Google's Picasa 3.5 is the first software version of Picasa to feature facial recognition and sorting. It's also one of the easiest programs to use out of the three we tested.

Picasa begins to scan for photos as soon as you fire it up for the first time, as well as any time new photos are added. For us, it took 14 minutes once it started scanning to when it finished, however having recently tested this on a larger library, those times don't necessarily scale. Some users may have to leave the program running for a few days for it to finish scanning.

Once it's done, it presents you with an array of faces that can be claimed by name. These names can be created on the fly, or if you're signed into your Google account--pulled from your Google Address Book.

Picasa offers up suggestions of faces it thinks may be that person, along with notifications on when it finds new matches (seen as the orange question marks on the left).

(Credit: CNET)

Now here's where Picasa offers one of the best user workflows out of all of these services. Once you've identified a few photos as the same person, it begins offering up suggestions of other photos where they may have appeared. And instead of making you click through one at a time, it has speedy ways to bulk accept or deny its suggestions.

It does this two ways: one is to give you a little alert with an orange question mark next to their name. It also lets you skip directly to those recommendations while ignoring the items that you've already confirmed as that person--something iPhoto does not. It also lets you bulk confirm all of them at once, which can be a huge time saver instead of clicking the little yes and no buttons that sit below each suggested photo.

Windows Live Photo Gallery

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Windows Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft's free Web-enabled desktop photo library management, editing, and sharing software. It's largely the same as the Windows Photo Gallery software that ships with Windows but adds a few extra features like a photo syncing between computers, a panoramic stitching tool, batch resizing tools, and facial detection.

Being the oldest software with facial detection in this bunch did not mean Windows Live Photo Gallery was the slowest. In fact, in our tests, the software came out the fastest, scanning through our test photos in just under eight minutes.

That was unfortunately the fastest part of the process though, since "detection" is about all it does. As for recognizing who is in those photos and putting them into groups, the legwork gets put entirely on the user. This wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that built-in tools for organizing require that you go through each photo one at a time to name each face it's found.

You can click on multiple photos with the same person and drag them over to your source list of "people tags," but this does not automatically assign whatever face the program found to that person. This leaves you with an additional tag the system has not yet assigned.

Windows Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft's free Web-enabled photo editing and organization software. It can detect faces, although isn't able to recognize the same person across multiple photos.

(Credit: CNET)

As for manually assigning people tags to faces it's found, if you're signed into your Windows Live ID it can pull in names from your online address book. This speeds up the process (assuming you have the people in there already), but here again, the user workflow has not been well thought out.

Instead of surfacing recently-used contacts to the top when beginning to type a name, it consistently puts things in alphabetical order. If you have a large address book, or friends with slightly similar names this really stinks. It's also annoying if you're going through a "roll" of photos from an event where you have many of the same people.

One thing Windows Live Photo Gallery does well is offer users a way to categorize their friends into folders. Actually, this needs to be done from somewhere like Hotmail, or another service that lets you access or edit your address book. But the results are great. You can very quickly sort out friends and family from business contacts and coworkers. In Picasa and iPhoto you're stuck with an alphabetical source list.

Winner: Picasa

If we were to choose one of these apps to help churn through an enormous library, Picasa is the way to go. It has, hands-down, the best workflow for finding faces, as well as alerting users to when it had found people in new photos. It's also the only program out of the three we tested that's cross platform, meaning you can use it on either a PC or Mac and have an identical face recognizing experience.

Face detection hits and misses

Hits

Something surprising that just kept happening with all three pieces of software was it picked up small faces in photo frames and posters, as well as people behind reflective glass surfaces.

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All three software apps were able to find faces in the background of this photo of CNET News Senior Writer Erica Ogg.

(Credit: CNET / Josh Lowensohn)

This happened on a number of occasions but was most apparent when using Picasa since it shows you all of the possible faces it picked up inside of one menu. Many times these were people far off in the background, or in spots so dark that the photo had to be brightened up a bit for us to see that there was a person there.

Also impressive was that all three pieces of software did not pull up photos of the pets that were included in some of the photos from our batch of test shots, as well as from an auxillary test done with 20 photos of the same cat. Blog MacLife had a different experience--at least for iPhoto, and was able to get the software to discern between two cats.

Misses

It should be noted that all three of these programs (and facial recognition in general) has an incredibly hard time with sunglasses, hats and hooded sweatshirts, and to a lesser degree, things like regular glasses and facial hair.

Just like the Unabomber, hiding half of your face with large sunglasses and covering up your hair with a hood is a surefire way to have all of these apps be unable to identify you. That was certainly the case for some of our test photos. We threw in more than 50 shots that included large sunglasses--none of which were picked up as recognizable.

Also problematic were features that were face-like that got picked up by the software, as well as facial expressions. Wide smiles, open mouths, and upturned eyebrows threw off all three pieces of software. Again, this is one of those areas where the software's workflow can make these misses less bothersome.

What was more of a problem though, were the programs not being able to pick up people's faces if turned sideways--be it a profile shot, or someone with a tilted head. For posed snapshots this isn't a big deal, but a good number of our photos featured people who weren't looking at the camera. Out of three programs, Picasa handled that the best, simply highlighting them as faces, even if it was unable to tell whose they were.

Other things to look out for include slightly obscured faces, like people in mid-bite at a meal, as well as faces that are slightly out of focus. This isn't a big problem with point-and-shoot cameras, but if you have an SLR and are using a lens with a shallow depth of field, someone just slightly out of focus can render their face undetectable to the software.

Conclusions

These three pieces of software each offer different approaches to photo management and organization, and face detection is just a small part of the many things they do. It's also hard to truly stack them together, since two of them can only be run only on one kind of operating system (iPhoto for Mac and Windows Live Photo Gallery for Windows).

That said, what matters in the end is the workflow--or how you're able to go through the suggestions it comes up with and use it to help organize and categorize your photos. For that Picasa is the clear winner.

Out of all three products Picasa required the least amount of time and effort for us to properly go through our photos and feel confident that we had tagged them all. It also had one of the best systems for accessing and editing information about stored online contacts by basically sticking the Google contact manager into the program as its own window.

In second place is Apple's iPhoto, which can also make tagging large batches of photos relatively easy, but in the end it lost out to Picasa due to the training required to even begin the tagging process. It also got taken down a notch on the user friendliness scale for not providing more notice when it had come up with more possible face matches.

And in last place was Windows Live Photo Gallery, which to be fair, is limited to face detection and not recognition. My hope is that future versions will take a page from Google's efforts and focus less on the feature itself as much as what users need to do in order to use it for organizational purposes. As it stands the tagging process is just too manual, and without the quick tagging shortcuts and optimizations like Picasa and iPhoto have, users just get muddled down with too many button presses to make it worth their while.

Has your experience differed from ours? Let us know in the comments.

Note: The machine used for testing was a late-2008 Apple MacBook with a 2.4GHz Intel processor and 4GB of RAM. For testing on Windows, the same machine was used but in Boot Camp running an RTM build of Windows 7 Ultimate.

Correction: This post initially misstated the lack of a feature to bulk accept or reject facial recognition matches in iPhoto. The software does contain the feature.

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Oldest "Human" Skeleton Found--Disproves "Missing Link
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091001-ardipithecus-ramidus-ardi-oldest-human-skeleton-fossils.html

Jamie Shreeve

Science editor, National Geographic magazine

Updated 6:44 p.m. ET, October 1, 2009

Move over, Lucy. And kiss the missing link goodbye.

Scientists today announced the discovery of the oldest fossil skeleton of a human ancestor. The find reveals that our forebears underwent a previously unknown stage of evolution more than a million years before Lucy, the iconic early human ancestor specimen that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago.

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The centerpiece of a treasure trove of new fossils, the skeleton—assigned to a species called Ardipithecus ramidus—belonged to a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female nicknamed "Ardi." (See pictures of Ardipithecus ramidus.)

The fossil puts to rest the notion, popular since Darwin's time, that a chimpanzee-like missing link—resembling something between humans and today's apes—would eventually be found at the root of the human family tree. Indeed, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior—long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors—is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.

(Interactive time line: how the Ardipithecus ramidus discovery changes human evolutionary theory.)

Ardi instead shows an unexpected mix of advanced characteristics and of primitive traits seen in much older apes that were unlike chimps or gorillas (interactive: Ardi's key features). As such, the skeleton offers a window on what the last common ancestor of humans and living apes might have been like.

Announced at joint press conferences in Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the analysis of the Ardipithecus ramidus bones will be published in a collection of papers tomorrow in a special edition of the journal Science, along with an avalanche of supporting materials published online.

"This find is far more important than Lucy," said Alan Walker, a paleontologist from Pennsylvania State University who was not part of the research. "It shows that the last common ancestor with chimps didn't look like a chimp, or a human, or some funny thing in between." (Related: "Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils Found, Experts Say" [June 11, 2003].)

Ardi Surrounded by Family

The Ardipithecus ramidus fossils were discovered in Ethiopia's harsh Afar desert at a site called Aramis in the Middle Awash region, just 46 miles (74 kilometers) from where Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis, was found in 1974. Radiometric dating of two layers of volcanic ash that tightly sandwiched the fossil deposits revealed that Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago.

Older hominid fossils have been uncovered, including a skull from Chad at least six million years old and some more fragmentary, slightly younger remains from

While important, however, none of those earlier fossils are nearly as revealing as the newly announced remains, which in addition to Ardi's partial skeleton include bones representing at least 36 other individuals.

"All of a sudden you've got fingers and toes and arms and legs and heads and teeth," said Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, who co-directed the work with Berhane Asfaw, a paleoanthropologist and former director of the National Museum of Ethiopia, and Giday WoldeGabriel, a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"That allows you to do something you can't do with isolated specimens," White said. "It allows you to do biology."

(Related: Rediscover the original Ardipithecus.)

Ardi's Weird Way of Moving

The biggest surprise about Ardipithecus's biology is its bizarre means of moving about.

All previously known hominids—members of our ancestral lineage—walked upright on two legs, like us. But Ardi's feet, pelvis, legs, and hands suggest she was a biped on the ground but a quadruped when moving about in the trees.

Her big toe, for instance, splays out from her foot like an ape's, the better to grasp tree limbs. Unlike a chimpanzee foot, however, Ardipithecus's contains a special small bone inside a tendon, passed down from more primitive ancestors, that keeps the divergent toe more rigid. Combined with modifications to the other toes, the bone would have helped Ardi walk bipedally on the ground, though less efficiently than later hominids like Lucy. The bone was lost in the lineages of chimps and gorillas.

According to the researchers, the pelvis shows a similar mosaic of traits. The large flaring bones of the upper pelvis were positioned so that Ardi could walk on two legs without lurching from side to side like a chimp. But the lower pelvis was built like an ape's, to accommodate huge hind limb muscles used in climbing.

Even in the trees, Ardi was nothing like a modern ape, the researchers say.

Modern chimps and gorillas have evolved limb anatomy specialized to climbing vertically up tree trunks, hanging and swinging from branches, and knuckle-walking on the ground.

While these behaviors require very rigid wrist bones, for instance, the wrists and finger joints of Ardipithecus were highly flexible. As a result Ardi would have walked on her palms as she moved about in the trees—more like some primitive fossil apes than like chimps and gorillas.

"What Ardi tells us is there was this vast intermediate stage in our evolution that nobody knew about," said Owen Lovejoy, an anatomist at Kent State University in Ohio, who analyzed Ardi's bones below the neck. "It changes everything."

Against All Odds, Ardi Emerges

The first, fragmentary specimens of Ardipithecus were found at Aramis in 1992 and published in 1994. The skeleton announced today was discovered that same year and excavated with the bones of the other individuals over the next three field seasons. But it took 15 years before the research team could fully analyze and publish the skeleton, because the fossils were in such bad shape.

After Ardi died, her remains apparently were trampled down into mud by hippos and other passing herbivores. Millions of years later, erosion brought the badly crushed and distorted bones back to the surface.

They were so fragile they would turn to dust at a touch. To save the precious fragments, White and colleagues removed the fossils along with their surrounding rock. Then, in a lab in Addis, the researchers carefully tweaked out the bones from the rocky matrix using a needle under a microscope, proceeding "millimeter by submillimeter," as the team puts it in Science. This process alone took several years.

Pieces of the crushed skull were then CT-scanned and digitally fit back together by Gen Suwa, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Tokyo.

In the end, the research team recovered more than 125 pieces of the skeleton, including much of the feet and virtually all of the hands—an extreme rarity among hominid fossils of any age, let alone one so very ancient.

"Finding this skeleton was more than luck," said White. "It was against all odds."

Ardi's World

The team also found some 6,000 animal fossils and other specimens that offer a picture of the world Ardi inhabited: a moist woodland very different from the region's current, parched landscape. In addition to antelope and monkey species associated with forests, the deposits contained forest-dwelling birds and seeds from fig and palm trees.

Wear patterns and isotopes in the hominid teeth suggest a diet that included fruits, nuts, and other forest foods.

If White and his team are right that Ardi walked upright as well as climbed trees, the environmental evidence would seem to strike the death knell for the "savanna hypothesis"—a long-standing notion that our ancestors first stood up in response to their move onto an open grassland environment.

Sex for Food

Some researchers, however, are unconvinced that Ardipithecus was quite so versatile.

"This is a fascinating skeleton, but based on what they present, the evidence for bipedality is limited at best," said William Jungers, an anatomist at Stony Brook University in New York State.

"Divergent big toes are associated with grasping, and this has one of the most divergent big toes you can imagine," Jungers said. "Why would an animal fully adapted to support its weight on its forelimbs in the trees elect to walk bipedally on the ground?"

One provocative answer to that question—originally proposed by Lovejoy in the early 1980s and refined now in light of the Ardipithecus discoveries—attributes the origin of bipedality to another trademark of humankind: monogamous sex.

Virtually all apes and monkeys, especially males, have long upper canine teeth—formidable weapons in fights for mating opportunities.

But Ardipithecus appears to have already embarked on a uniquely human evolutionary path, with canines reduced in size and dramatically "feminized" to a stubby, diamond shape, according to the researchers. Males and female specimens are also close to each other in body size.

Lovejoy sees these changes as part of an epochal shift in social behavior: Instead of fighting for access to females, a male Ardipithecus would supply a "targeted female" and her offspring with gathered foods and gain her sexual loyalty in return.

To keep up his end of the deal, a male needed to have his hands free to carry home the food. Bipedalism may have been a poor way for Ardipithecus to get around, but through its contribution to the "sex for food" contract, it would have been an excellent way to bear more offspring. And in evolution, of course, more offspring is the name of the game (more: "Did Early Humans Start Walking for Sex?").

Two hundred thousand years after Ardipithecus, another species called Australopithecus anamensis appeared in the region. By most accounts, that species soon evolved into Australopithecus afarensis, with a slightly larger brain and a full commitment to a bipedal way of life. Then came early Homo, with its even bigger brain and budding tool use.

Did primitive Ardipithecus undergo some accelerated change in the 200,000 years between it and Australopithecus—and emerge as the ancestor of all later hominids? Or was Ardipithecus a relict species, carrying its quaint mosaic of primitive and advanced traits with it into extinction?

Study co-leader White sees nothing about the skeleton "that would exclude it from ancestral status." But he said more fossils would be needed to fully resolve the issue.

Stony Brook's Jungers added, "These finds are incredibly important, and given the state of preservation of the bones, what they did was nothing short of heroic.

But this is just the beginning of the story."

__________________________________________________________________________

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Brave Kashmir girl fights off militants, kills commander
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8279929.stm

By Binoo Joshi

BBC News Jammu

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Rukhsana Kauser said she 'fired endlessly'

A teenage girl says she killed a militant with his own gun after insurgents attacked their home in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Three militants stormed into Rukhsana Kauser's home in a remote village in Jammu region on Monday and started beating her parents in front of her.

Ms Kauser, 18, and her brother turned on the gunmen, killing one and injuring two more. Police praised their courage.

One of the militants wanted to marry Ms Kauser against her will, police said.

The militants escaped and are now being sought by police who are using their blood trails as clues.

'Fired endlessly'

The insurgents went to the house looking for Ms Kauser but her father, Noor Hussain, resisted their demands, Rajouri district senior police superintendent Shafqat Watali told the BBC.

Three gunmen then entered the house and attacked Ms Kauser's parents, while four other militants remained outside.

"My parents told me to hide under the bed and then opened the door," Ms Kauser told the BBC.

"Without saying anything they [the militants] started beating my parents and my uncle. They beat them so badly that my parents fell on the ground. I could not see that and pounced on one of the militants while my brother hit him with an axe," she said.

"I thought I should try the bold act of encountering militants before dying."

Ms Kauser said she grabbed one of the militants by the hair and banged his head against the wall. When he fell down she hit him with an axe, before snatching his rifle.

"I fired endlessly. The militant commander got 12 shots on his body."

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Her brother, Eijaz, 19, grabbed one of the other militants' guns and also began shooting.

Ms Kauser said the exchanges of gunfire with the militants had gone on for four hours.

"I had never touched a rifle before this, let alone fired one. But I had seen heroes firing in films on TV and I tried the same way. Somehow I gathered courage - I fired and fought till dead tired."

'Bravery'

Police identified the militant commander as Abu Osama, who they say was a member of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba group and had been active in the Rajouri area for the past five years.

Local residents told police that he wanted to marry Ms Kauser - and was prepared to do so forcibly.

Rajouri police superintendent Shajqat Watali praised what he said was the "exemplary bravery" of Ms Kauser and her brother.

"The reaction by these teenagers was extraordinary."

There are now fears the family could face retaliatory attacks, so they have been given police protection.

But Ms Kauser wants more: "We cannot live here in this village. They should relocate us to a safer place in Rajouri town or elsewhere. The militants are not going to leave us after this embarrassment in which a top commander was killed."

_____________________________

Additional Link

Brave girl Rukhsana's family shifts to Rajouri

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Brave-Rukhsana-s-family-shifts-to-Rajouri/H1-Article1-460742.aspx

___________________________________________________________________________

 

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Topics-Health & Life Sciences
2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You- Questions & Answers
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/qa.htm

2009 H1N1 Flu

September 24, 2009 10:00 AM ET

What is 2009 H1N1 (swine flu)?

2009 H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. On June 11, 2009, the World Health OrganizationExternal Web Site Icon (WHO) signaled that a pandemic of 2009 H1N1 flu was underway.

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Why is 2009 H1N1 virus sometimes called “swine flu”?

This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs (swine) in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and bird (avian) genes and human genes. Scientists call this a "quadruple reassortant" virus.

2009 H1N1 Flu in Humans

Are there human infections with 2009 H1N1 virus in the U.S.?

Yes. Human infections with the new H1N1 virus are ongoing in the United States. Most people who have become ill with this new virus have recovered without requiring medical treatment.

CDC routinely works with states to collect, compile and analyze information about influenza, and has done the same for the new H1N1 virus since the beginning of the outbreak. This information is presented in a weekly report, called FluView.

Is 2009 H1N1 virus contagious?

CDC has determined that 2009 H1N1 virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human.

How does 2009 H1N1 virus spread?

Spread of 2009 H1N1 virus is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something – such as a surface or object – with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

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What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in people?

The symptoms of 2009 H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, including 2009 H1N1 and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.

How severe is illness associated with 2009 H1N1 flu virus?
Illness with the new H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe. While most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred.

In seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with this 2009 H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing people at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.

One thing that appears to be different from seasonal influenza is that adults older than 64 years do not yet appear to be at increased risk of 2009 H1N1-related complications thus far. CDC laboratory studies have shown that no children and very few adults younger than 60 years old have existing antibody to 2009 H1N1 flu virus; however, about one-third of adults older than 60 may have antibodies against this virus. It is unknown how much, if any, protection may be afforded against 2009 H1N1 flu by any existing antibody.

How does 2009 H1N1 flu compare to seasonal flu in terms of its severity and infection rates?

With seasonal flu, we know that seasons vary in terms of timing, duration and severity. Seasonal influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Each year, in the United States, on average 36,000 people die from flu-related complications and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related causes. Of those hospitalized, 20,000 are children younger than 5 years old. Over 90% of deaths and about 60 percent of hospitalization occur in people older than 65.

When the 2009 H1N1 outbreak was first detected in mid-April 2009, CDC began working with states to collect, compile and analyze information regarding the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, including the numbers of confirmed and probable cases and the ages of these people. The information analyzed by CDC supports the conclusion that 2009 H1N1 flu has caused greater disease burden in people younger than 25 years of age than older people. At this time, there are few cases and few deaths reported in people older than 64 years old, which is unusual when compared with seasonal flu.  However, pregnancy and other previously recognized high risk medical conditions from seasonal influenza appear to be associated with increased risk of complications from this 2009 H1N1. These underlying conditions include asthma, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, heart disease, kidney disease, neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders and pregnancy.

How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?

People infected with seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu shed virus and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems and in people infected with the new H1N1 virus.

Prevention & Treatment

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against 2009 H1N1 virus.  However, a 2009 H1N1 vaccine is currently in production and may be ready for the public in the fall. As always, a vaccine will be available to protect against seasonal influenza
There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza.

Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.*

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

*Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.

Other important actions that you can take are:

* Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

* Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs * (for when soap and water are not available), tissues and other related items could help you to avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.

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What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

Keep away from others as much as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

If I have a family member at home who is sick with 2009 H1N1 flu, should I go to work?

Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with 2009 H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and take everyday precautions including washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, they should use an alcohol-based hand rub.* If they become ill, they should notify their supervisor and stay home. Employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness. For more information please see General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Flu in Workers.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. CDC recommends that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used.* You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you live in areas where people have been identified with 2009 H1N1 flu and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people. CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.Staying at home means that you should not leave your home except to seek medical care. This means avoiding normal activities, including work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.

If you have severe illness or you are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider or seek medical care. Your health care provider will determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

* Fast breathing or trouble breathing

* Bluish or gray skin color

* Not drinking enough fluids

* Severe or persistent vomiting

* Not waking up or not interacting

* Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

* Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

* Sudden dizziness

* Confusion

* Severe or persistent vomiting

* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Are there medicines to treat 2009 H1N1 infection?

Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with 2009 H1N1 flu virus. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. During the current pandemic, the priority use for influenza antiviral drugs is to treat severe influenza illness (for example hospitalized patients) and people who are sick who have a condition that places them at high risk for serious flu-related complications.

What is CDC’s recommendation regarding "swine flu parties"?

"Swine flu parties" are gatherings during which people have close contact with a person who has 2009 H1N1 flu in order to become infected with the virus. The intent of these parties is for a person to become infected with what for many people has been a mild disease, in the hope of having natural immunity 2009 H1N1 flu virus that might circulate later and cause more severe disease.

CDC does not recommend "swine flu parties" as a way to protect against 2009 H1N1 flu in the future. While the disease seen in the current 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak has been mild for many people, it has been severe and even fatal for others. There is no way to predict with certainty what the outcome will be for an individual or, equally important, for others to whom the intentionally infected person may spread the virus.

CDC recommends that people with 2009 H1N1 flu avoid contact with others as much as possible. If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.

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Scientists See Numbers Inside People's Heads
@ Sep 05, 2009
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http://www.livescience.com/health/090925-brain-numbers.html

By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

Posted: 25 September 2009 09:36 am ET

723b-brain.png

(Human Brain)

By carefully analyzing brain activity, scientists can tell what number a person has just seen, research now reveals.

They can similarly tell how many dots a person was presented with.

Past investigations had uncovered brain cells in monkeys that were linked with numbers. Although scientists had found brain regions linked with numerical tasks in humans — the frontal and parietal lobes, to be exact — until now patterns of brain activity linked with specific numbers had proven elusive.

Scientists had 10 volunteers watch either numerals or dots on a screen while a part of their brain known as the intraparietal cortex was scanned — it's a region of the parietal lobe especially linked with numbers. They next rigorously analyzed brain activity to decipher which patterns might be linked with the numbers the volunteers had observed.

When it came to small numbers of dots, the researchers found that brain activity patterns changed gradually in a way that reflected the ordered nature of the numbers. For example, one might be able to conclude that the pattern for six is between that for five and seven.

In the case of the numerals, the researchers could not detect this same gradual change. This suggests their methods simply might not be sensitive enough to detect this progression yet, or that these symbols are in fact coded as more precise, discrete entities in the brain.

"Activation patterns for numbers of dots seem to be stronger — are more easily discriminated — than those for digits, suggesting that maybe still more neurons encode specifically numbers of objects — the evolutionary older representation — than abstract symbolic numbers," said researcher Evelyn Eger at the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay, France.

Given that numbers "are in principle infinite, it is very unlikely that the brain can have, or we can detect, a signature for each number," Eger noted. "There is some hint in our data that smaller numbers have a clearer signature, which may be related to their frequency of occurrence in daily life, but further work would be needed to say something more definite about this and about how the brain deals with larger numbers."

The methods employed in this research could ultimately help unlock how the brain makes sophisticated calculations and how the brain changes as people learn math, the researchers said.

"We are only beginning to access the most basic building blocks that symbolic math probably relies on," Eger said. "We still have no clear idea of how these number representations interact and are combined in mathematical operations, but the fact that we can resolve them in humans gives hope that at some point we can come up with paradigms that let us address this.”

The scientists detailed their findings online September 24 in the journal Current Biology.

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