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Computer Wins on 'Jeopardy!': Trivial, It's Not
@ Feb 27, 2011
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/science/17jeopardy-watson.html

Carol Kaelson/Jeopardy Productions Inc., via Associated Press

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Two “Jeopardy!” champions, Ken Jennings, left, and Brad Rutter, competed against a computer named Watson, which proved adept at buzzing in quickly.

By JOHN MARKOFF

Published: February 16, 2011

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — In the end, the humans on “Jeopardy!” surrendered meekly

Facing certain defeat at the hands of a room-size I.B.M. computer on Wednesday evening, Ken Jennings, famous for winning 74 games in a row on the TV quiz show, acknowledged the obvious. “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords,” he wrote on his video screen, borrowing a line from a “Simpsons” episode.

From now on, if the answer is “the computer champion on “Jeopardy!,” the question will be, “What is Watson?”

For I.B.M., the showdown was not merely a well-publicized stunt and a $1 million prize, but proof that the company has taken a big step toward a world in which intelligent machines will understand and respond to humans, and perhaps inevitably, replace some of them.

Watson, specifically, is a “question answering machine” of a type that artificial intelligence researchers have struggled with for decades — a computer akin to the one on “Star Trek” that can understand questions posed in natural language and answer them.

Watson showed itself to be imperfect, but researchers at I.B.M. and other companies are already developing uses for Watson’s technologies that could have a significant impact on the way doctors practice and consumers buy products.

“Cast your mind back 20 years and who would have thought this was possible?” said Edward Feigenbaum, a Stanford University computer scientist and a pioneer in the field.

In its “Jeopardy!” project, I.B.M. researchers were tackling a game that requires not only encyclopedic recall, but also the ability to untangle convoluted and often opaque statements, a modicum of luck, and quick, strategic button pressing.

The contest, which was taped in January here at the company’s T. J. Watson Research Laboratory before an audience of I.B.M. executives and company clients, played out in three televised episodes concluding Wednesday. At the end of the first day, Watson was in a tie with Brad Rutter, another ace human player, at $5,000 each, with Mr. Jennings trailing with $2,000.

But on the second day, Watson went on a tear. By night’s end, Watson had a commanding lead with a total of $35,734, compared with Mr. Rutter’s $10,400 and Mr. Jennings’s $4,800.

Victory was not cemented until late in the third match, when Watson was in Nonfiction. “Same category for $1,200,” it said in a manufactured tenor, and lucked into a Daily Double. Mr. Jennings grimaced.

Even later in the match, however, had Mr. Jennings won another key Daily Double it might have come down to Final Jeopardy, I.B.M. researchers acknowledged.

The final tally was $77,147 to Mr. Jennings’s $24,000 and Mr. Rutter’s $21,600.

More than anything, the contest was a vindication for the academic field of computer science, which began with great promise in the 1960s with the vision of creating a thinking machine and which became the laughingstock of Silicon Valley in the 1980s, when a series of heavily financed start-up companies went bankrupt.

Despite its intellectual prowess, Watson was by no means omniscient. On Tuesday evening during Final Jeopardy, the category was U.S. Cities and the clue was: “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest for a World War II battle.”

Watson drew guffaws from many in the television audience when it responded “What is Toronto?????”

The string of question marks indicated that the system had very low confidence in its response, I.B.M. researchers said, but because it was Final Jeopardy, it was forced to give a response. The machine did not suffer much damage. It had wagered just $947 on its result. (The correct answer is, "What is Chicago?")

“We failed to deeply understand what was going on there,” said David Ferrucci, an I.B.M. researcher who led the development of Watson. “The reality is that there’s lots of data where the title is U.S. cities and the answers are countries, European cities, people, mayors. Even though it says U.S. cities, we had very little confidence that that’s the distinguishing feature.”

The researchers also acknowledged that the machine had benefited from the “buzzer factor.”

Both Mr. Jennings and Mr. Rutter are accomplished at anticipating the light that signals it is possible to “buzz in,” and can sometimes get in with virtually zero lag time. The danger is to buzz too early, in which case the contestant is penalized and “locked out” for roughly a quarter of a second.

Watson, on the other hand, does not anticipate the light, but has a weighted scheme that allows it, when it is highly confident, to hit the buzzer in as little as 10 milliseconds, making it very hard for humans to beat. When it was less confident, it took longer to  buzz in. In the second round, Watson beat the others to the buzzer in 24 out of 30 Double Jeopardy questions.

“It sort of wants to get beaten when it doesn’t have high confidence,” Dr. Ferrucci said. “It doesn’t want to look stupid.”

Both human players said that Watson’s button pushing skill was not necessarily an unfair advantage. “I beat Watson a couple of times,” Mr. Rutter said.

When Watson did buzz in, it made the most of it. Showing the ability to parse language, it responded to, “A recent best seller by Muriel Barbery is called ‘This of the Hedgehog,’ ” with “What is Elegance?”

It showed its facility with medical diagnosis. With the answer: “You just need a nap. You don’t have this sleep disorder that can make sufferers nod off while standing up,” Watson replied, “What is narcolepsy?”

The coup de grâce came with the answer, “William Wilkenson’s ‘An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’ inspired this author’s most famous novel.” Mr. Jennings wrote, correctly, Bram Stoker, but realized that he could not catch up with Watson’s winnings and wrote out his surrender.

Both players took the contest and its outcome philosophically.

“I had a great time and I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Mr. Jennings. “It’s not about the results; this is about being part of the future.”

For I.B.M., the future will happen very quickly, company executives said. On Thursday it plans to announce that it will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.

“I have been in medical education for 40 years and we’re still a very memory-based curriculum,” said Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University who is working with I.B.M. on the physician’s assistant. “The power of Watson- like tools will cause us to reconsider what it is we want students to do.”

I.B.M. executives also said they are in discussions with a major consumer electronics retailer to develop a version of Watson, named after I.B.M.’s founder, Thomas J. Watson, that would be able to interact with consumers on a variety of subjects like buying decisions and technical support.

Dr. Ferrucci sees none of the fears that have been expressed by theorists and science fiction writers about the potential of computers to usurp humans.

“People ask me if this is HAL,” he said, referring to the computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “HAL’s not the focus; the focus is on the computer on ‘Star Trek,’ where you have this intelligent information seek dialogue, where you can ask follow-up questions and the computer can look at all the evidence and tries to ask follow-up questions. That’s very cool.”

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ICC World Cup 2011 schedule chart (Feb 19 to Apr 02)
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-schedule/series/228/icc-world-cup-2011

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Click on the above link to see the chart. Click on any part of the circumference and you will get the needed information.

A wonderful compiled chart for cricket lovers! You can search it by date, team, venue and match.

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ICC 2011 cricket match chart (go to the link to access the chart).

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World's Smartest Dog Knows More Than 1,000 Words
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/12/23/worlds-smartest-dog-knows-words/

Published December 23, 2010

| FoxNews.com

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Mark Olencki

A border collie named Chaser has learned over 1,000 words -- more than any other animal

If you thought Rover or Sparky was smart, think again: Chaser just took him to school.

A border collie named Chaser has learned the names of 1,022 individual items -- more than any other animal, even the legendary Alex the parrot. But it's all in a day's work for these researchers. 

Psychologists Alliston Reid and John Pilley of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., wanted to test if there was a limit to the amount of words a border collie could learn, so they taught Chaser the names of hundreds of toys, one by one, slowly and patiently, for three years.

"We put in a lot of work on it," Pilley said in a conversation with FoxNews.com. While border collies are an especially smart breed, he said, the research doesn't allow them to conclusively call it smarter than, say, pit bulls or dachshunds.

"We can't say anything definitive about this, but there is agreement among breeders," he said, citing decades of breeding for herding that makes the dogs particularly attuned to learning words. "The hypothesis is that they do have a special propensity to language, they listen to the farmer."

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Chaser the border collie's mountain of toys -- all 1,022 of them -- and a group of Wofford College students.

Pilley stressed that the training technique more than anything resulted in the incredible skills of the dog.

"In the first experiment where we talk about the learning of proper nouns, the procedure we use is one where she was taught in a way that she couldn't fail," Pilley said. "We would place the object right on the floor, somewhere the dog couldn't miss." 

Then after a period of several months, Pilley and Reid would work with a different object, slowly training the dog on each one.

"Most people when they try to teach a dog, they put too many objects on the ground. That's called simultaneous training," Pilley explained. "Our method was a successive technique."

The pair regularly tested Chaser on her vocabulary by putting random groups of 20 toys in another room and having her fetch them by name. Chaser, now 6, never got less than 18 out of 20 right, in 838 (!) separate tests over three years.

It takes 16 plastic tubs to hold all the toys.

Watch Pilley give Chaser some impressively complex commands -- combining three verbs with three nouns -- in the video below. She understands the verbs “nose,” “get” and “paw.” Her reward is playtime with “Blue,” a little ball she chases across the room. For a whole collection of Chaser videos, click here.

She learned common nouns that represented categories, such as “ball,” and she learned to infer the names of objects by their association with other objects.

Rico the border collie, from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, was previously top dog — he had a vocabulary of about 200 words. Chaser’s feats are chronicled in the journal Behavioural Processes.

Watch YouTube Video:

Chaser responding to the combination of verb noun phrases071410.mpg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbI13nbDRRI&feature=player_embedded

Popular Science contributed to this report.

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Look what I made, mum! Teenager builds 'death-ray' which can burn through almost anything
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1351935/Eric-Jacqmain-invented-Death-ray-dish-intensity-5-000-suns.html

By John Hutchinson

Last updated at 4:40 PM on 31st January 2011

While many teenagers are content to sit at home playing computer games, this one has set his sights on something a little more ambitious.

Eric Jacqmain, from Indiana in the US, covered an ordinary fibreglass satellite dish with 5,800 tiny mirror tiles - and made his very own 'death ray'.

When aligned correctly it can generate a heat spot a couple of centimetres across, with an intensity of 5,000 shining suns, the 19-year-old claims.

Scroll down for the video...

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Solar power: Eric Jacqmain labelled his 'death ray' dish his 'latest and greatest solar invention' - and he is working on further developments

The inventor then posted video of his invention on YouTube, with people commenting in awe of the power of the satellite.

The ray generates enough power to melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant.

It stands at 5ft 9ins and measures just 42 inches across.

Jacqmain, commenting on YouTube said : 'I drilled a small hole in the dish and glued a piece of PVC pipe on the back.

'Light shines through the hole and hits the translucent plastic on the end of the pipe. All I had to do was aim the dish once and mark the spot.

'As long as the target doesn't conduct heat away too fast it will melt or vaporize just about anything eventually.

'I have vaporized before carbon, which occurs above 6,500 Fahrenheit.'

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Next up: The paint can lid is next to feel the power of the satellite

...but as a hole appears in the lid, the 'death ray' emerges as the easy victor

The American teenager called his invention the R5800 solar 'death ray'.

Putting it into context, just the tiny fraction of the Sun's energy that hits the Earth (around a hundredth of a millionth of a percent) is enough to meet all our power needs many times over.

In fact, every minute, enough energy arrives at the Earth to meet our demands for a whole year - if only we could harness it properly.

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Sturdy stuff? Up steps the rock to take on the solar beast

....but it's the same result as the rays melt through the tough substance

Unfortunately for Jacqmain, his 'death ray' dish met it's own grisly end when it was destroyed in a shed fire.

Jacqmain added: 'Yeah. It "committed suicide". It's very likely that it was the cause of the fire. Nothing left of it but half melted wagon parts and the adjustable mount.'

If there was ever a case of self-destruction, this was it.

But Jacqmain's despair at the death of his 'death ray' has simply spurred him on to develop a yet more powerful alternative.

'Plans already in place for the new one, he added.

'The goal is to use about 32,000 mirrors this time.'

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Impressive: Jacqmain's invention was made from an ordinary fibreglass satellite dish and covered in about 5,800 mirror tiles

Watch YouTube Video:

Solar "Death Ray": Power of 5000 suns!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtzRAjW6KO0&feature=player_embedded

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Unknown, Uncontacted Tribe Photographed in Brazilian Jungle
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/uncontacted-tribe/

# By Brandon Keim Email Author # February 1, 2011 | # 12:16 pm | # Categories: Anthropology

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A previously uncontacted tribe has been found in Amazon jungle, with aerial photographs giving a glimpse of people who've had no known contact with anyone except their tribal neighbors.

Taken by Brazil's Indian Affairs department, the photographs were released Jan. 31 by Survival International, a tribal-advocacy group.

About 100 uncontacted tribes are believed to exist worldwide. They live in remote, resource-rich areas, and are threatened by invasive development. The last such discovery was made in 2008, also in the Amazon. This tribe was spotted at the mouth of the Envira river in western Brazil, not far from the Peruvian border.

"We're trying to bring awareness to uncontacted tribes, because they are so vulnerable. Governments often deny that they exist," said Tess Thackara, Survival International's U.S. coordinator. "We're releasing these images because we need evidence to prove they're there."

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Photos and videos:

http://www.uncontactedtribes.org/

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Topics- Business & Economy
Is Your Job an Endangered Species?
@ Feb 27, 2011
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703439504576116340050218236.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

FEBRUARY 17, 2011

Technology is eating jobs—and not just obvious ones like toll takers and phone operators. Lawyers and doctors are at risk as well.

By ANDY KESSLER

So where the heck are all the jobs? Eight-hundred billion in stimulus and $2 trillion in dollar-printing and all we got were a lousy 36,000 jobs last month. That's not even enough to absorb population growth.

You can't blame the fact that 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed on lost housing jobs or globalization—those excuses are played out. To understand what's going on, you have to look behind the headlines. That 36,000 is a net number. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in December some 4,184,000 workers (seasonally adjusted) were hired, and 4,162,000 were "separated" (i.e., laid off or quit). This turnover tells the story of our economy—especially if you focus on jobs lost as a clue to future job growth.

With a heavy regulatory burden, payroll taxes and health-care costs, employing people is very expensive. In January, the Golden Gate Bridge announced that it will have zero toll takers next year: They've been replaced by wireless FastTrak payments and license-plate snapshots.

Technology is eating jobs—and not just toll takers.

Tellers, phone operators, stock brokers, stock traders: These jobs are nearly extinct. Since 2007, the New York Stock Exchange has eliminated 1,000 jobs. And when was the last time you spoke to a travel agent? Nearly all of them have been displaced by technology and the Web. Librarians can't find 36,000 results in 0.14 seconds, as Google can. And a snappily dressed postal worker can't instantly deliver a 140-character tweet from a plane at 36,000 feet.

So which jobs will be destroyed next? Figure that out and you'll solve the puzzle of where new jobs will appear.

Forget blue-collar and white- collar. There are two types of workers in our economy: creators and servers. Creators are the ones driving productivity—writing code, designing chips, creating drugs, running search engines. Servers, on the other hand, service these creators (and other servers) by building homes, providing food, offering legal advice, and working at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many servers will be replaced by machines, by computers and by changes in how business operates. It's no coincidence that Google announced it plans to hire 6,000 workers in 2011.

But even the label "servers" is too vague. So I've broken down the service economy further, as a guide to figure out the next set of unproductive jobs that will disappear. (Don't blame me if your job is listed here; technology spares no one, not even writers.)

Sloppers are those that move things—from one side of a store or factory to another. Amazon is displacing thousands of retail workers. DMV employees and so many other government workers move information from one side of a counter to another without adding any value. Such sloppers are easy to purge with clever code.

Sponges are those who earned their jobs by passing a test meant to limit supply. According to this newspaper, 23% of U.S. workers now need a state license. The Series 7 exam is required for stock brokers. Cosmetologists, real estate brokers, doctors and lawyers all need government certification. All this does is legally bar others from doing the same job, so existing workers can charge more and sponge off the rest of us.

Martin Kozlowski

 

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But eDiscovery is the hottest thing right now in corporate legal departments. The software scans documents and looks for important keywords and phrases, displacing lawyers and paralegals who charge hundreds of dollars per hour to read the often millions of litigation documents. Lawyers, understandably, hate eDiscovery.

Doctors are under fire as well, from computer imaging that looks inside of us and from Computer Aided Diagnosis, which looks for patterns in X-rays to identify breast cancer and other diseases more cheaply and effectively than radiologists do. Other than barbers, no sponges are safe.

Supersloppers mark up prices based on some marketing or branding gimmick, not true economic value. That Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Two-Tone Date for $9,200 doesn't tell time as well as the free clock on my iPhone, but supersloppers will convince you to buy it. Markups don't generate wealth, except for those marking up. These products and services provide a huge price umbrella for something better to sell under.

Slimers are those that work in finance and on Wall Street. They provide the grease that lubricates the gears of the economy. Financial firms provide access to capital, shielding companies from the volatility of the stock and bond and derivative markets. For that, they charge hefty fees. But electronic trading has cut into their profits, and corporations are negotiating lower fees for mergers and financings. Wall Street will always exist, but with many fewer workers.

Thieves have a government mandate to make good money and a franchise that could disappear with the stroke of a pen. You know many of them: phone companies, cable operators and cellular companies are the obvious ones. But there are more annoying ones—asbestos testing and removal, plus all the regulatory inspectors who don't add value beyond making sure everyone pays them. Technologies like Skype have picked off phone companies by lowering international rates. And consumers are cutting expensive cable TV services in favor of Web-streamed video.

Like it or not, we are at the beginning of a decades-long trend. Beyond the demise of toll takers and stock traders, watch enrollment dwindle in law schools and medical schools. Watch the divergence in stock performance between companies that actually create and those that are in transition—just look at Apple, Netflix and Google over the last five years as compared to retailers and media.

But be warned that this economy is incredibly dynamic, and there is no quick fix for job creation when so much technology-driven job destruction is taking place. Fortunately, history shows that labor-saving machines haven't decreased overall employment even when they have made certain jobs obsolete. Ultimately the economic growth created by new jobs always overwhelms the drag from jobs destroyed—if policy makers let it happen.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge fund manager, is the author most recently of "Eat People And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs," just out from Portfolio.

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How Dell conquered India
@ Feb 13, 2011
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http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/02/10/how-dell-conquered-india/

February 10, 2011 8:30 AM

The U.S. computer maker got serious in India only a few years ago -- and then proceeded to thrash HP and everyone else. Now India is Dell's fastest-growing market, with 55% growth.

By Anurag Prasad, contributor

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Mahesh Bhalla, general manager of consumer and small business for Dell India.

In the U.S., Dell originally became a market leader through its online and direct made-to-order sales model. When the computer maker decided to enter India, however, it needed a change of strategy.

In the B.D. era -- Before Dell -- India's computer market was ruled by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Chinese computer maker Lenovo (LNVGY). HP had arrived in 1989, when its only competition was IBM -- a business that was later acquired by Lenovo. It quickly established itself as the market leader by focusing on price and after-sales service, and its 2001 merger with Compaq added to its product range. Both HP and Lenovo had factories in India, and their products were available off the shelf through a vast retail network. More importantly, because dealers had huge inventory (the companies supplied machines whether there was demand or not), they offered customers hefty discounts. Sales rose.

To buy a Dell in those days, Indian customers had to wait up to a month for delivery while the computers were manufactured in Dell's factory in Penang, Malaysia. Little wonder, then, that Dell sold just 79,244 laptops and desktops in India in 2007, its first year of full-fledged Indian operations. In that same year, HP sold 1 million to Indian consumers.

Yet today, Dell has surpassed all the others, selling over 1.1 million desktops, laptops and notebook computers in India in 2010, compared to HP's 1 million and Lenovo's 600,000. According to the International Data Corporation, in the third quarter of 2010, Dell (DELL) led in India with a 15.3% overall market share, ahead of HP with 14.7%.

While Dell's India revenue of more than $1 billion is less than 2% of the company's global sales, India is emerging as the fastest-growing market for the company. In the third quarter of 2010, India reported year-on-year growth of 55% -- the highest for any Dell market.

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How Dell did it

The first step was to set up a factory in India. "Manufacturing locally cut delivery time by almost 50% and improved profitability," says M.R. Sundaresan, general manager of operations for Dell India. It also reduced waiting time to less than eight days.

Dell also changed the way it sold computers. While buying online remained an option, the company set up exclusive outlets across the country, à la Apple (AAPL) -- the first time it has experimented with the retail model -- and hired a battery of sales affiliates. Dell ensured that these affiliates, or channel partners, were given incentives to sell. The company also made virtually no investment in warehousing and delivering products right to customers' doors upon demand. Once customers could touch and feel the product, it was easier for Dell to convince them to buy. And buy they did.

This wasn't technically Dell's first foray into the country. Dell had quietly entered India back in 2000, focusing on large enterprise and government business. By 2007, Dell's business was worth $250 million in this segment. It also cashed in on the outsourcing wave, and had set up four customer care and tech support centers in India for its global customers. But, of course, Dell wanted a slice of the increasingly lucrative personal computers space.

"There was no charter or blueprint and we could not copy our competition. We were asked to go and figure how to build the India business," recalls Dell India's former country general manager, Rajan Anandan, who was sent to India from Dell in the U.S. in 2006. (Anandan left Dell in 2008 and joined Google India as vice president of sales and operations earlier this year.) He set an aggressive revenue target of $1 billion within three years – a milepost he believed would catapult Dell to the No. 1 spot in the market. "Such targets were not heard of within the company and never in the industry," he says. "Dell China took five or six years to become a billion dollar business." Dell India ultimately achieved the $1 billion revenue target in 2009-10, a year behind schedule due to the economic downturn.

The India growth story was powered by a "billion dollar core team," which came together in the first six months after Anandan's relocation. The team consisted of people from rivals HP and IBM (IBM), and even Hindustan Unilever, Whirlpool of India, and Airtel India. Sundaresan, for instance, left Whirlpool to set up Dell's first India factory, in Sriperumbudur near the southern city of Chennai, which he got up and running in just eight months. The industry average for a plant that size is at least 12 to 18 months.

Adopting the insurance agent model

On the distribution front, Dell divided the Indian market between 35 master sales affiliates. It sidestepped the established national, regional, and retail distribution model to instead follow a model typically used for insurance agents. Thousands of registered individual sales affiliates would reach out to retail customers in person and give them a first-hand product experience at their doorstep. Had Dell followed the strategy adopted by its competitors, it would have been forced to change its built-to-order model. The result would have been squeezed margins, extended credit lines, and rigid incentive structures.

Simultaneously, Dell opened 38 exclusive stores across India, and joined hands with retailers such as the Tata group's Croma and Future Group's eZone for a shop-in-a-shop counter for its products. These outlets are franchised to the sales affiliates, who are also responsible for supporting field affiliates. "In a way, these affiliates became an extension of Dell offices in their region," says Mahesh Bhalla, executive director and general manager for consumer and small and medium business for Dell India.

Dell backed this hybrid retail model by extending onsite service (technicians coming to individuals' homes) in 650 cities to retail and small business customers as well. Previously this service was offered only to enterprise and government accounts. The new distribution model worked for Dell, giving it access to even rural areas, where customers would not be able to easily order online, and where setting up retail outlets was not viable.

The India team realized that both the consumer and small business segments are driven by strong distribution networks, especially in emerging markets. They looked at Lenovo's distribution model in China, for example, and found that it used its strong channel relationships to penetrate beyond smaller provincial cities into rural markets. There were also complaints in India of Lenovo's margins being under pressure due to the overcrowding of distributors, delayed incentives, and dumping of products in the existing partnerships between national and regional distributors and local retailers. It was good news for Dell.

Analysts say these factors converged at the right time to give Dell an edge. "While Dell reorganized itself for challenges in emerging markets like India, it also benefited from the fact that the competition was grappling with its own problems," says Diptarup Chakraborti, a former analyst with research firm Gartner.

Advertising followed, with the company opting for real-life entrepreneurs instead of celebrities to endorse its products. A "Take Your Own Path" campaign in 2008 featured corporate role models such as Raman Roy, considered the father of India's back-office processing industry, and P. Rajendran, co-founder and chief operating officer for the Indian technology company NIIT. "They didn't have the glamour quotient but were inspirations to many," says Amit Midha, president of consumer and small and medium business for Dell Asia-Pacific/Japan.

Competitors gird for battle

However, the competition is not ready to let market share slip that easily. Globally, HP and Acer have gained market share to push Dell down to No. 3, while Lenovo continues to dominate China. It's Dell India that is moving against the tide.

Analysts expect the fight to intensify in the coming quarters as the competition reorganizes and fights for a comeback. "HP cracked the Indian retail market long back, and Lenovo has a very strong channel strategy," notes Bryan Ma, associate vice president of Asia Pacific for the research firm IDC. "They are facing a temporary setback (Dell's rise) and will return with a vengeance."

HP has made changes in its distribution and retail network. From a one-size-fits-all strategy, it is now paying more attention to what's selling and what's not. "We are increasing our product portfolio according to market demand," says Vinay Chandra Awasthi, director of personal systems groups for HP India Sales. Lenovo, for its part, will neither change its three-layered channel model—which includes a national distributor, a regional distributor and a retailer—nor will it opt for end-to-end services. But it is working toward better relationships and improved trust among partners. "We will increase engagement with 400 select partners for better customer focus, and in the next 12 months to 18 months add 1,000 low-cost exclusive stores in smaller towns and suburbs to expand our reach," says Amar Babu, managing director of Lenovo India.

Both HP and Lenovo have factories in India: HP's plant in the far northern state of Uttarakhand has a capacity of 5.7 million units (personal computers as well as servers); Lenovo's factory in southern Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry) can produce 3 million units. Both companies shuttered a plant each during the economic slowdown, having overestimated the potential of the Indian market.

Globally, Dell has also closed factories as part of its plan to save $4 billion in operating costs. "The thrust is to get a more profitable revenue market share," says Sameer Garde, vice president of OEM solutions at Dell in the U.S. He was part of the team that chalked out the India plan and was managing director of India operations before moving to a global role in the Dell headquarters. The next step is to try to lower costs in India as well. Sundaresan regrets the lack of a supplier ecosystem in India, which could make pricing competitive. Dell globally sources around 1,300 components worth $26 billion from China, including components that arrive at the facility in India. Sundaresan says that if India had manufacturers who could make even 10% of components that Dell alone buys, "it will have a huge multiplier effect on the sector and the entire economy."

Dell is betting on opportunities due to increased data access and demand for solutions around mobility, virtualization, and cloud computing. It has been renewing its products and services portfolio since 2007 and has diversified into areas such as smartphones, tablets, and printers. The Vostro range of notebook computers was specifically designed for the Indian small business segment. The strategy worked to Dell's advantage, and now competitors are following suit. In the last two years, Dell has invested almost $600 million to add new skill sets, service capabilities, and intellectual property through 14 acquisitions. Dell execs say there's more to come. "We are open to partnerships and acquisitions, whatever it takes to bring the cost down, at each level of our offering," says Garde.

For Dell, India has emerged as a local and global service delivery hub. It is the only market outside the U.S. with all business functions—customer care, financial services, manufacturing, R&D, and analytical services—operational at the local level and giving global support. "We evaluated market trends and growth potential, enabling us to invest ahead of the curve in India, resulting in our phenomenal growth," says Midha. It is a growth story that resonates around the world.

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Topics- PC, Internet & Information Technology
Wireless advances could mean no more cell towers
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110211/ap_on_hi_te/us_tec_wireless_everywhere

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer– Fri Feb 11, 4:42 pm ET

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AP – In this undated photo provided by Alcatel-Lucent, Wim Sweldens, the president Alcatel-Lucent's wireless …

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson, Ap Technology Writer – Fri Feb 11, 4:42 pm ET

NEW YORK – As cell phones have spread, so have large cell towers — those unsightly stalks of steel topped by transmitters and other electronics that sprouted across the country over the last decade.

Now the wireless industry is planning a future without them, or at least without many more of them. Instead, it's looking at much smaller antennas, some tiny enough to hold in a hand. These could be placed on lampposts, utility poles and buildings — virtually anywhere with electrical and network connections.

If the technology overcomes some hurdles, it could upend the wireless industry and offer seamless service, with fewer dead spots and faster data speeds.

Some big names in the wireless world are set to demonstrate "small cell" technologies at the Mobile World Congress, the world's largest cell phone trade show, which starts Monday in Barcelona, Spain.

"We see more and more towers that become bigger and bigger, with more and bigger antennas that come to obstruct our view and clutter our landscape and are simply ugly," said Wim Sweldens, president of the wireless division of Alcatel-Lucent, the French-U.S. maker of telecommunications equipment.

"What we have realized is that we, as one of the major mobile equipment vendors, are partially if not mostly to blame for this."

Alcatel-Lucent will be at the show to demonstrate its "lightRadio cube," a cellular antenna about the size and shape of a Rubik's cube, vastly smaller than the ironing-board-sized antennas that now decorate cell towers. The cube was developed at the famous Bell Labs in New Jersey, birthplace of many other inventions when it was AT&T's research center.

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Conventional cell tower

In Alcatel-Lucent's vision, these little cubes could soon begin replacing conventional cell towers. Single cubes or clusters of them could be placed indoors or out and be easily hidden from view. All they need is electrical power and an optical fiber connecting them to the phone company's network.

The cube, Sweldens said, can make the notion of a conventional cell tower "go away." Alcatel-Lucent will start trials of the cube with carriers in September. The company hopes to make it commercially available next year.

For cell phone companies, the benefits of dividing their networks into smaller "cells," each one served by something like the cube antenna, go far beyond esthetics. Smaller cells mean vastly higher capacity for calls and data traffic.

Instead of having all phones within a mile or two connect to the same cell tower, the traffic could be divided between several smaller cells, so there's less competition for the cell tower's attention.

"If it is what they claim, lightRadio could be a highly disruptive force within the wireless industry," said Dan Hays, who focuses on telecommunications at consulting firm PRTM.

Rasmus Hellberg, director of technical marketing at wireless technology developer Qualcomm Inc., said smaller cells can boost a network's capacity tenfold, far more than can be achieved by other upgrades to wireless technology that are also in the works.

That's sure to draw the interest of phone companies. They've already been deploying older generations of small-cell technology in areas where a lot of people gather, like airports, train stations and sports stadiums, but these are expensive and complicated to install.

In New York City, AT&T Inc. has started creating a network of outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots, starting in Times Square and now spreading through the midtown tourist and shopping districts. Its network has been hammered by an onslaught of data-hungry iPhone users, and this is one way of moving that traffic off the cellular network.

Smaller cells could do the same job, but for all phones, not just Wi-Fi enabled ones like the iPhone. They could also carry calls as well as data.

San Diego-based Qualcomm will be at the Barcelona show with a live demonstration of how "heterogeneous networks" — ones that mix big and small cells, can work. A key issue is minimizing radio interference between the two types of cells. Another hurdle is connecting the smaller cells to the bigger network through optical fiber or other high-capacity connections.

"That's an impediment that we're seeing many operators struggling with right now as data volumes have increased," Hays said.

LM Ericsson AB, the Swedish company that's the largest maker of wireless network equipment in the world, is also introducing a more compact antenna at the show, one it calls "the first stepping stone towards a heterogeneous network."

Small cellular base stations have already penetrated hundreds of thousands of U.S. homes. Phone companies like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. have for several years been selling "femtocells," which are about the size of a Wi-Fi router and connect to the phone company's network through a home broadband connection.

The cells project radio signals that cover a room or two, providing five bars of coverage where there might otherwise be none.

British femtocell maker Ubiquisys Ltd. will be in Barcelona to demonstrate the smallest cell yet. It's the size of a thumb and plugs into a computer's USB drive. According to Ubiquisys, the idea is that overseas travellers will plug it into their Internet-connected laptops to make calls as if they were on their home network, but there are potential problems with interference if used that way.

According to Rupert Baines, marketing head of Picochip Ltd., a more realistic application for a tiny plug-in cell is to make it work with cable boxes or Internet routers, to convert them into femtocells.

A key part of the "small cell" idea is to take femtocells outside the home, into larger buildings and even outdoors.

Picochip, a British company that's the dominant maker of chips for femtocells, will be in Barcelona to talk about its chips for "public-access" femtocells, designed to serve up to 64 phone calls at a time, with a range of more than a mile. They could be used not just to ease wireless congestion in urban areas, but to fill in dead spots on the map, Baines said.

For instance, a single femtocell could provide wireless service to a remote village, as long as there's some way to connect it to the wider network, perhaps via satellite.

Analyst Francis Sideco of research firm iSuppli pointed out a surprising consumer benefit of smaller cells: better battery life in phones.

When a lot of phones talk to the same tower, they all have to "shout" to make themselves heard, using more energy. With a smaller cell, phones can lower their "voices," much like group of people moving from a noisy ballroom to a smaller, quieter room.

"Ultimately, what you end up with is a cleaner signal, with less power," Sideco said.

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Computer pioneer Ken Olsen dies at age 84
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110208/ap_on_hi_te/us_tec_obit_olsen

By JOELLE TESSLER, AP Technology– Tue Feb 8, 11:28 am ET

Kenneth Olsen, a computer industry pioneer and co-founder of Digital Equipment Corp., has died. He was 84.

His death Sunday was announced by Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., where he was a trustee and benefactor. The college did not release a cause of death.

DEC, which Olsen launched in 1957, is considered an icon in technology circles today. The company attracted top engineers and helped usher in a technology revolution that changed the way people interact with computers.

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AP – FILE - In this 1992 file photo, Digital Equipment Corp. co-founder Ken Olsen is shown. Olsen, a computer …

In the 1960s and 1970s, Digital played a central role in creating the market for "minicomputers," powerful, refrigerator-sized machines that appealed to scientists, engineers and other number crunchers who did not need the bigger, multimillion-dollar mainframes used by big corporations. At its peak in the 1980s, DEC was the second-largest computer maker behind International Business Machines Corp.

"In the heady days of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, it's too easy to forget that it was Ken Olsen's vision of interactivity that took computing away from the centralized mainframe and into the hands of the people," said Gordon Bell, who joined DEC in 1960 and headed the company's engineering operations for more than 20 years.

Ultimately, DEC lost its way in the Internet-era transformations of the technology industry, which shrunk computers down to pocket-sized gadgets that people carry wherever they go. And Olsen is still remembered for his 1977 prediction that "there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home." He later insisted the quote was taken out of context and that he simply meant he could not envision a day when computers would run people's lives.

Born in Bridgeport, Conn., Olsen grew up in the neighboring town of Stratford. His father designed machine tools and Olsen and his brothers spent hours tinkering with gadgets in the family basement. After being drafted during World War II, Olsen attended the Navy's electronics school, where he learned how to maintain radars, sonars and navigation systems. He went on to earn undergraduate and masters degrees in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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At MIT, Olsen worked in the university's Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research center created in 1951 to develop technology to improve the nation's air defense system. That technology, powered by MIT's advanced Whirlwind computers, grew into the Air Force's Semi-Automatic Ground Environment defense system, which was used to track and intercept enemy aircraft. One of Olsen's roles at Lincoln Laboratory was to serve as a liaison with IBM, a major contractor on the project. Olsen also worked on Lincoln Lab's TX-2 computer, which helped break new ground in computer-aided drafting.

In 1957, Olsen teamed with MIT colleague Harlan Anderson to start Digital Equipment Corp. with $70,000 from American Research and Development, an early venture capital firm. The company was headquartered in an old wool mill in Maynard, Mass.

DEC named its first computer the PDP-1, for Programmed Data Processor. But it was the PDP-8, which was introduced in 1965 and became a building block for computer systems made by other companies, that really established minicomputers as a major new industry.

The PDP-11 — and later DEC's Virtual Address eXtension, or VAX, series — offered a serious alternative to IBM's central mainframe approach. By the mid-1980s, many other companies had tried to enter the business. Digital was also a pioneer in the use of networking technology to link its computers together and enable DEC engineers around the world to communicate electronically almost instantly.

DEC's innovative machines helped bring computers out from glass-enclosed rooms inside big corporations, where they were operated by men in white lab coats, and made them accessible to small and medium-sized operations and even individual users.

"The computers we built were of a cost and size that they brought computing down a level," said Bell, now a principal researcher in Microsoft Corp.'s Silicon Valley Research Group.

DEC computers also trained and influenced many key players in the technology industry. Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen used the PDP-10 to create the first version of the BASIC programming language for a personal computer. And Dave Cutler, who developed several key operating systems for DEC, went on to develop the Windows NT and Azure operating systems for Microsoft.

For many years, the company's sophisticated technology drove rapid corporate growth and inspired deep loyalty. That growth came even as Olsen discouraged his salesmen from selling products that customers didn't need and shied away from traditional advertising, convinced that good products would sell themselves.

In 1986, Fortune Magazine called Olsen "America's most successful entrepreneur." By the late 1980s, DEC had more than 120,000 employees worldwide. Sales peaked at $14 billion in 1992.

According to Edgar Schein, an emeritus professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of "DEC is Dead, Long Live DEC," Olsen had a distinctive management philosophy. His corporate culture valued creativity, ingenuity and open communication. And while he had a legendary temper and demanded top-notch work, Olsen empowered his employees with enormous freedom and responsibility.

"Ken Olsen built a company that encouraged innovation and rewarded people with good ideas," said Win Hindle, a former DEC senior vice president who spent 32 years at the company.

Olsen was also fiercely loyal to his employees and he abhorred the prospect of layoffs.

Dan Tymann, executive vice president of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., where Olsen was a trustee, said Olsen's management style reflected a devout Christian faith. Olsen constantly implored his employees to "do the right thing," Tymann said.

Digital's fortunes had begun to decline by the early 1990s. The company was late to recognize the growing popularity of smaller personal computers and desktop workstations for business use. DEC also resisted the market's shift away from proprietary technology to open systems, including PCs powered by Intel microprocessors and generic servers running UNIX software.

"Olsen continued to believe in innovation while the market became more of a commodity market," Schein said. "People wanted simpler, cheaper desktop computers, while DEC continued to produce sophisticated computers for the technical market."

Even as DEC tried to catch up with new products, including a line of personal computers, it never regained its footing. The company posted its first quarterly loss in 1990. Faced with struggling product lines, Olsen had no choice but to start cutting Digital's work force through buyouts, early retirements and eventually layoffs.

In 1992, Olsen left the company at the request of the board. Robert Palmer, a DEC vice president, took over and set about trying to turn things around. But the heyday of the minicomputer — and Digital Equipment Corp. — was over. In 1998, Compaq Computer Corp. bought what was left of DEC for $9.6 billion. Four years later, Compaq and the remnants of DEC were acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co.

A memorial service at Gordon College is set for May 14.

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Web Running Out of Addresses
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704254304576116401267588510.html

FEBRUARY 1, 2011

By BEN WORTHEN and CARI TUNA

Internet Sites, Carriers Are Laying the Groundwork for a New Routing System

The Internet is about to run out of new addresses, a milestone that is spurring Web giants like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. to develop new versions of their sites and prompting carriers like AT&T Inc. and others to upgrade networks.

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This week, the last batch of existing Internet protocol addresses is set to run out. The solution to the dilemma? A new addressing scheme that tech companies like Facebook and Google are planning to test. WSJ's Ben Worthen reports.

This week, the organization that oversees Internet addresses is expected to dole out its last batch of existing Internet protocol addresses, a step akin to telephone companies running out of numbers to give customers.

Internet protocol addresses are numerical labels that direct online traffic to the right location, similar to the way a letter makes its way through the postal system. Such routing is generally invisible to users—when they type in www.facebook.com, for instance, they are actually connected to a computer located at the numerical address 66.220.149.32. It is those numbers that are in dwindling supply.

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While there is a new Internet addressing system ready to go that greatly expands the number of addresses, it isn't compatible with the existing system. So in June, Google, Facebook, Yahoo Inc. and others will switch over to the new addresses for one day in the first wide-scale test of the new network, dubbed IP version six, or IPv6.

A permanent shift to a new Internet addressing system is still years off. But it is now inevitable, said Lorenzo Colitti, an engineer at Google who is helping to oversee the search company's transition to IPv6. Switching to the new network, "is critical to preserving the Internet as we know it," he said, adding it's the only way that Google will be able to be accessible to future users of the Internet.

The shift—similar to the move to 10-digit telephone dialing—is necessary because of a quirk in the way the Internet is designed. The Web is made up of networking equipment like routers and servers that decode electronic signals using an addressing system developed more than 30 years ago.

That addressing system is called IP version four, or IPv4, which allows for about 4.3 billion possible addresses. In the 1970s, that number of IP addresses was more than enough as the Internet only connected a small number of government and university researchers.

But now all sorts of devices connect to the Internet as does an ever-growing percentage of the world's population. That has caused the number of available addresses to drop from more than 1 billion in June 2006 to just 117 million in December 2010, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

More than a decade ago, the Internet's founding fathers developed the much longer IPv6 addressing system that allows for a near-infinite number of websites and devices. Still, less than 0.25% of people currently access the Internet with IPv6 connections, Google says.

If the changeover to IPv6 goes well, the transition—likely to happen gradually over a number of years—won't have a big impact on consumers. Some older operating systems and home routers won't work with the new addresses, but ones bought in the last couple of years should, according to networking experts.

Businesses need to install networking gear compatible with the new addresses and build connections to their websites for people using the new addresses. Above, an Asustek Eee Slate EP121 tablet computer.

Telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have been upgrading their Internet and cellular networks. For instance, over the past few years, AT&T has spent "hundreds of millions" of dollars retooling its Internet network for large companies, in addition to regularly buying networking equipment that's compatible with the new addressing system, said Dale McHenry, vice president of enterprise network services.

When Verizon Wireless begins adding cellphones to its new 4G network later this year, every device will be given one of the new breed of addresses, though the phones will work with websites addressed under the old system, too."It's part of our device requirements," said Chris Neisinger, executive director of technology at Verizon Wireless. "It has to be IPv6 compatible to be on the network."

Businesses, however, need to install networking gear compatible with the new addresses and build connections to their websites for people using the new addresses.

Last year the federal government's chief information officer said all new technology purchases made by government agencies must be compatible with the new addressing scheme and ordered the agencies to upgrade websites amd equipment.

Companies like Cisco Systems Inc., which makes routers and switches, stand to benefit. "It's a gold mine because everybody eventually has to upgrade" to equipment that is compatible with IPv6, which Cisco began selling several years ago, said Joel Conover, a Cisco senior marketing manager.

At Facebook, the company said it began planning for a transition to IPv6 three years ago, steadily upgrading its equipment with gear that supports both the new and the old addressing scheme. It launched its IPv6 website last summer, though it is rarely visited.

That site, www.v6.facebook.com, needs to be typed in manually and can only be viewed by people with an IPv6 connection, meaning that more than 99% of Facebook visitors who use the old addresses would get an error message.

Facebook, Google and others announced the June test last month along with the Internet Society, a nonprofit focused on Internet policy, in order to test how well their IPv6 sites work.

Up to now, the new addressing scheme has been stuck in a chicken-and-egg problem: No one wants to develop services using the new scheme until there's a network for accessing them; no one wants to build the network until there are services to drive demand.

One of the reasons Facebook is participating in the June test, dubbed World IPv6 Day, is to try to break that standoff, says Jonathan Hellinger, Facebook's vice president of technical operations.

Other companies haven't yet begun revamping their websites. Bryan Panovich, manager of network services for Eaton Corp., said the Cleveland maker of electrical and hydraulic partsis in the process of securing IPv6 addresses, but isn't planning to update its websites until more customers and other visitors to the sites are using IPv6 connections.

Running out of the old addresses should help hasten the switchover. "The handing out of the last space is irreversible," said Leslie Daigle, chief internet technology officer for the Internet Society, adding that it should show "those who have to move that this is not a hypothetical."

Write to Ben Worthen at ben.worthen@wsj.com and Cari Tuna at cari.tuna@wsj.com

_____________________________________________________________________________

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Topics- Science & Technology
Scientists, telescope hunt massive hidden object in space
@ Feb 27, 2011
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http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/15/scientists-telescope-hunt-massive-hidden-object-in-space/

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Some scientists think a brown dwarf or gas giant bigger than Jupiter could be at the outer reaches of the solar system. In this image showing relative size, the white object at the upper left edge represents the sun.

You know how you sometimes can sense that something is present even though you can't see it? Well, astronomers are getting that feeling about a giant, hidden object in space.

And when we say giant, we mean GIANT.

Evidence is mounting that either a brown dwarf star or a gas giant planet is lurking at the outermost reaches of our solar system, far beyond Pluto. The theoretical object, dubbed Tyche, is estimated to be four times the size of Jupiter and 15,000 times farther from the sun than Earth, according to a story in the British paper The Independent.

Astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette think data from NASA's infrared space telescope WISE will confirm Tyche's existence and location within two years.

The presence of such a massive object in the solar system's far-flung Oort Cloud could explain a barrage of comets from an unexpected direction, according to a December article at Space.com.

Its 27 million-year orbit could also explain a pattern of mass extinctions on Earth, scientists say.

Brown dwarfs are cold "failed" stars; their dimness and lack of heat radiation can make them hard to detect. Gas giants are huge planets like Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune that are made up of gases and may lack a solid surface like Earth's.

Whitmire told The Independent that Tyche will probably be composed of hydrogen and helium and have colorful spots, bands and clouds like Jupiter.

"You'd also expect it to have moons," he said. "All the outer planets have them."

Tyche was first hypothesized in 1984 as Nemesis, a dark companion star to the sun. It's been the subject of astronomical research and debate ever since. In July, another Space.com article said the celestial evidence suggests Tyche could not possibly exist.

To distinguish it from the Nemesis star theory, Matese and Whitmire are calling their object Tyche, after the good sister of the goddess Nemesis in Greek mythology.

Their research is published in Icarus, the International Journal of Solar System Studies.

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Topics-Art, Literature, Politics. Life Style, etc.
Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa -- country by country
@ Feb 27, 2011
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http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/02/21/mideast.africa.unrest/

February 21, 2011

By the CNN Wire Staff

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(CNN) -- Two months ago, a Tunisian fruit vendor lit a match that started a fire that has spread throughout the Arab world. Muhammad Bouazizi's self-immolation prompted anti-government protests that toppled the regime in Tunisia and then Egypt. The demonstrations have spread across a vast swath of the Middle East and North Africa. Here are the latest developments, including the roots of the unrest.

Monday's Developments:

MOROCCO Five people were found dead Monday, a day after protests were held in cities across Morocco calling for political reform, the nation's interior minister told reporters. The bodies were found in a bank in the town of Al Hoceima in northern Morocco, Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said Monday. Thousands demonstrated Sunday in towns across the country, according to Human Rights Watch. Several groups -- labor unions, youth organizations and human rights organizations -- demonstrated in at least six cities. Police stayed away from the marches and demonstrations, most of which were peaceful, Human Rights Watch reported.

Roots of unrest

Protesters in Morocco are calling for political reform. Government officials say that such protests are not unusual, and that the protesters' demands are on the agenda of most political parties.

EGYPT

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Egypt for meetings with that country's military leaders, the prime minister's office said.

Protesters in Egypt have issued a reminder to the military that they are watching the ongoing reform process. They celebrated the one-week anniversary of President Hosni Mubarak's ouster Friday in a "Day of Victory" rally at Tahrir Square, epicenter of the protests. Mubarak stepped down February 11 following 18 days of unrest in Egypt. The military has been in charge since Mubarak resigned. Meanwhile, G20 leaders concluded a two-day meeting in Paris Saturday with pledges to support the new emerging governments of Egypt and Tunisia.

Roots of unrest:

Complaints about police corruption and abuses were among the top grievances of demonstrators who forced Mubarak from office last week. Demonstrators were also angry about Mubarak's 30-year rule, a lack of free elections and many economic issues, including high food prices, low wages and high unemployment.

LIBYA

Early Monday morning, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, appeared on state television to warn demonstrators that if their protests do not subside, the country could fall into a civil war.

Tripoli residents said state-run al-Shababiya TV was attacked Sunday evening by anti-government protesters. One eyewitness told CNN the network was off the air from Sunday evening until about 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Ongoing unrest has left at least 233 people dead, according to Human Rights Watch, citing information from hospital sources. CNN is not able to independently confirm the figure, as the network has not been granted access to report on the ground, but has been in communication with medics and eyewitnesses in Libya whose accounts corroborate closely with information from Human Rights Watch.

Roots of unrest:

Protests in Libya, ruled by Moammar Gadhafi since a 1969 coup, began in January when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi's government responded with a $24 billion fund for housing and development. A month later, more demonstrations were sparked when police detained relatives of those killed in an alleged 1996 massacre at the Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment has also fueled the protests, as have anti-Gadhafi groups.

YEMEN

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected demands Monday that he step aside, comparing the anti-government protests in his country to a virus sweeping through the region. "This is a virus and is not part of our heritage or the culture of the Yemeni people," he told reporters.

Between 3,000 to 3,500 anti-government protesters demonstrated peacefully in the Yemeni capital Sanaa for the 11th consecutive day Monday. A day earlier, protesters chanted, "First Mubarak, now Ali," referring to Hosni Mubarak, who recently resigned as president of Egypt after nearly 30 years in power, and Saleh. Seven people have been killed in clashes in the city of Aden, hospital and government officials said. One prominent human rights organization put the number of dead as high as 12.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978. The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water. As in other countries, high unemployment fuels much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty. The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom.

Here's a look at some key recent events related to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa:

UNITED NATIONS

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been in "continuous contact" with regional leaders in northern Africa and the Middle East, his office said late Sunday night. Ban has been deeply concerned by escalating violence and bloodshed during pro-reform demonstrations, the office said, adding: "This is the time for broad-based dialogue and for genuine social and political reform."

ALGERIA

Protesters have demanded government reform, prompting authorities to say they will soon lift a state of emergency that was imposed in 1992 to quell a civil war that led to the deaths of more than 150,000. The rule was used to clamp down on Islamist groups, but critics say the insurgency has long since diminished and the law exists only to muzzle government critics.

Roots of unrest:

Protests began in January over escalating food prices, high rates of unemployment and housing issues. They started in Algiers, but spread to other cities as more people joined and demonstrators toppled regimes in neighboring Tunisia, and later Egypt. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would lift the state of emergency law in what analysts said was an attempt to head off a similar revolt.

BAHRAIN

About a thousand protesters remained at the Pearl Roundabout, which has become this island nation's equivalent of Egypt's Tahrir Square. Opposition groups are considering a list of demands, which include an independent investigation into the deaths of at least 10 protesters. They also want answers about people unaccounted for since security forces moved in to clear the Pearl Roundabout in last week, using tear gas, pellet guns and clubs. On Saturday, joyous Bahrainis retook the Pearl Roundabout after Crown Prince Salman ordered the military to vacate.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama last week to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century. Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged violent protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights says authorities launched a clampdown on dissent in late 2010. It accused the government of torturing some human rights activists.

DJIBOUTI

Thousands of people have marched in protest through Djibouti. On Friday, riot police charged the crowd after the call to evening prayers, shooting canisters of tear gas at the demonstrators, according to Aly Verjee, director of the international election observation mission to Djibouti, who witnessed the event. Djibouti is home to Camp Lemonnier, the only U.S. military base on the African continent.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for President Ismail Omar Guelleh -- whose family has ruled the country since its independence from France in 1977 -- to step down ahead of the elections scheduled in April. Guelleh has held the post since 1999 and is seeking a third term. Economic stagnation is also a source of anger among the people of Djibouti.

IRAN

Protesters have been met with force in several major Iranian cities. In Tehran, thousands of security officers patrolled Revolution Square, at times striking at throngs of protesters with batons and rushing others on motorcycles. Opposition websites reported that security forces opened fire on protesters in Hafteh Tir Square, killing one person. Several were reported injured and detained. In Isfahan, protesters were met with batons and pepper spray in one square while another peaceful march took place elsewhere under the watch of security agents.

Roots of unrest:

Opposition to the ruling clerics has simmered since the country's 2009 election, when hundreds of thousands of people filled Tehran streets to denounce the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as fraudulent.

IRAQ

Demonstrators in Iraq have clashed with Kurdish security forces in Sulaimaniya in Northern Iraq. Most of the demonstrators opposed Kurdistan regional president Massoud Barzani and the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Roots of unrest:

Demonstrations in Iraq, unlike in other parts of the Mideast and North Africa, have usually not targeted the national government. Instead, the protesters are angry over corruption, the quality of basic services, a crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment, particularly on a local level. They want an end to frequent power outages and food shortages.

JORDAN

Protesters in Jordan have called for reforms and for abolishing the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. On Friday, about 200 people clashed with pro-government demonstrators in downtown Amman. Several people were reported injured. Anti-government protesters who participated in Friday's demonstration included leftists and independent activists demanding political and economic reforms.

Roots of unrest:

Jordan's economy has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and rising commodity prices, and youth unemployment is high, as it is in Egypt. Officials close to the palace have told CNN that Abdullah is trying to turn a regional upheaval into an opportunity for reform. King Abdullah II swore in a new government following anti-government protests in his country. The new government has a mandate for political reform and is headed by a former general, with several opposition and media figures among its ranks. Some protesters have also called for the abolishment of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

KUWAIT

Protesters in Kuwait have clashed with authorities on at least two occasions. A second straight day of demonstrations occurred on Saturday in Sulaibiya, just north of Kuwait City, according to witnesses and a government official. Hundreds of protesters are demanding greater rights for longtime residents who are not citizens of the country demanded the release of people arrested in demonstrations Friday. The protesters attacked the security forces, who managed to disperse the people and make arrests, he said. The forces used tear gas on the demonstration involving between 200 and 400 protesters.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters are seeking greater rights for longtime residents who are not Kuwaiti citizens, an issue the country has been grappling with for decades. There are believed to be 100,000 non-citizens living in the country.

SUDAN

Demonstrators have clashed with authorities on several recent occasions in Sudan. Human Rights Watch has said that "authorities used excessive force during largely peaceful protests on January 30 and 31 in Khartoum and other northern cities." Witnesses said that several people were arrested, including 20 who remain missing.

Roots of unrest:

Demonstrators seek an end to the National Congress Party rule and government-imposed price increases, according to Human Rights Watch. It accuses the government of being heavy-handed in its response to demonstrations, and using pipes, sticks and tear gas to disperse protesters.

SYRIA

As protests heated up around the region, the Syrian government pulled back from a plan to withdraw some subsidies that keep the cost of living down in the country. President Bashar al-Assad also gave a rare interview to Western media, telling The Wall Street Journal last month that he planned reforms that would allow local elections and included a new media law and more power for private organizations. A planned "Day of Rage" that was being organized on Facebook against the al-Assad government failed to materialize, The New York Times reported.

Roots of unrest:

Opponents of the al-Assad government claim massive human rights abuses and an emergency law has been in effect since 1963.

TUNISIA

An uprising in Tunisia prompted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14, after weeks of demonstrations. Those demonstrations sparked protests around North Africa and the Middle East.

Roots of unrest:

The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income. Protesters complained about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Hundreds of Palestinians rallied for unity in Ramallah, calling on Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions to heal their rifts amid arguments over elections scheduled for September in the Palestinian territories. "Division generates corruption," was one of several slogans written on banners held up by the demonstrators Thursday, who flooded the streets after calls went out on social networking sites, as well as schools and university campuses, for them to attend.

Roots of unrest:

The Palestinian territories have not seen the kind of demonstrations as in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel. Negotiations toward a resolution of

the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict have since collapsed. Palestinian protests, largely in support of Egypt and Tunisia, were generally small and poorly attended, and in some cases the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority rulers of the West Bank actively tried to stifle protests. The split between Hamas and Fatah hampers internal change in the territories, although calls for political change are growing louder among Palestinians. Large-scale protests, as seen elsewhere in the Arab world, have failed to materialize, as many Palestinians believe their problem remains the Israeli occupation.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Hundreds of Palestinians rallied for unity in Ramallah, calling on Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions to heal their rifts amid arguments over elections scheduled for September in the Palestinian territories. "Division generates corruption," was one of several slogans written on banners held up by the demonstrators Thursday, who flooded the streets after calls went out on social networking sites, as well as schools and university campuses, for them to attend.

Roots of unrest:

The Palestinian territories have not seen the kind of demonstrations as in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel. Negotiations toward a resolution of

the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict have since collapsed. Palestinian protests, largely in support of Egypt and Tunisia, were generally small and poorly attended, and in some cases the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority rulers of the West Bank actively tried to stifle protests. The split between Hamas and Fatah hampers internal change in the territories, although calls for political change are growing louder among Palestinians. Large-scale protests, as seen elsewhere in the Arab world, have failed to materialize, as many Palestinians believe their problem remains the Israeli occupation.

SYRIA

As protests heated up around the region, the Syrian government pulled back from a plan to withdraw some subsidies that keep the cost of living down in the country. President Bashar al-Assad also gave a rare interview to Western media, telling The Wall Street Journal last month that he planned reforms that would allow local elections and included a new media law and more power for private organizations. A planned "Day of Rage" that was being organized on Facebook against the al-Assad government failed to materialize, The New York Times reported.

Roots of unrest:

Opponents of the al-Assad government claim massive human rights abuses and an emergency law has been in effect since 1963.

TUNISIA

An uprising in Tunisia prompted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14, after weeks of demonstrations. Those demonstrations sparked protests around North Africa and the Middle East.

Roots of unrest:

The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income. Protesters complained about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Hundreds of Palestinians rallied for unity in Ramallah, calling on Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions to heal their rifts amid arguments over elections scheduled for September in the Palestinian territories. "Division generates corruption," was one of several slogans written on banners held up by the demonstrators Thursday, who flooded the streets after calls went out on social networking sites, as well as schools and university campuses, for them to attend.

Roots of unrest:

The Palestinian territories have not seen the kind of demonstrations as in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel. Negotiations toward a resolution of

the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict have since collapsed. Palestinian protests, largely in support of Egypt and Tunisia, were generally small and poorly attended, and in some cases the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian

Authority rulers of the West Bank actively tried to stifle protests. The split between Hamas and Fatah hampers internal change in the territories, although calls for political change are growing louder among Palestinians. Large-scale protests, as seen elsewhere in the Arab world, have failed to materialize, as many Palestinians believe their problem remains the Israeli occupation.

TUNISIA

An uprising in Tunisia prompted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14, after weeks of demonstrations. Those demonstrations sparked protests around North Africa and the Middle East.

Roots of unrest:

The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income. Protesters complained about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Hundreds of Palestinians rallied for unity in Ramallah, calling on Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions to heal their rifts amid arguments over elections scheduled for September in the Palestinian territories. "Division generates corruption," was one of several slogans written on banners held up by the demonstrators Thursday, who flooded the streets after calls went out on social networking sites, as well as schools and university campuses, for them to attend.

Roots of unrest:

The Palestinian territories have not seen the kind of demonstrations as in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel. Negotiations toward a resolution of

the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict have since collapsed. Palestinian protests, largely in support of Egypt and Tunisia, were generally small and poorly attended, and in some cases the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian

Authority rulers of the West Bank actively tried to stifle protests. The split between Hamas and Fatah hampers internal change in the territories, although calls for political change are growing louder among Palestinians. Large-scale protests, as seen elsewhere in the Arab world, have failed to materialize, as many Palestinians believe their problem remains the Israeli occupation.

_____________________________________________________________________________

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Sudan Leader to Accept Secession of South
@ Feb 13, 2011
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/world/africa/08sudan.html?src=twrhp

726b-Sudan crowd.png

In the southern Sudanese capital of Juba on Monday, people celebrated the decision of voters to form a new country.

By JOSH KRON

Published: February 7, 2011

KAMPALA, Uganda — With the announcement of final voting results, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan said Monday that his government would accept the choice of the long-embattled region of southern Sudan to separate from the north, setting the stage for the creation of the world’s newest country this summer.

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Philip Dhil/European Pressphoto Agency

Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

According to the final count, announced in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, 98.83 percent of the more than 3.8 million registered voters in southern Sudan chose to separate from the north. In many parts of the country the vote was over 99 percent.

Sudan has endured two long and brutal civil wars between the Arab north and the mostly animist and Christian south, in a period from the early years of independence from Britain to 2005, when a peace agreement was signed, setting the stage for the referendum.

Both President Bashir and the southern region’s president, Salva Kiir, were in attendance for the announcement as street celebrations spread through the southern capital, Juba.

“Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people,” Mr. Bashir said in a statement on state television, according to Reuters.

He also said that along with southern independence would come an Islamist renaissance in the north.

726b-south sudan map.png

http://econwatson.blogspot.com/2011/01/understanding-isaiah-in-south-sudan.html

In Washington, the White House released a statement by President Obama congratulating the people of southern Sudan and announcing “the intention of the United States to formally recognize southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011.”

Mr. Obama also offered to the government of Sudan the prospect of improved ties with the United States, saying, “For those who meet all of their obligations, there is a path to greater prosperity and normal relations with the United States, including examining Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

With the referendum vote now official, actual independence is expected to be declared July 9, when the peace agreement that set the stage for the vote expires.

Across the vast, African, oil-producing south, voters overwhelming chose to secede from the Arab north, which through conflict and marginalization helped keep the south one of the poorest and least-developed regions in the world.

In the frontier Unity State, nearly 500,000 people voted — but only 90 voted for unity with the north.

In Juba the day was met with jubilation. “This is what people have been expecting, and longed for, and have achieved it,” said Aleu Garang Aleu, a spokesman for the southern referendum bureau. “People will party. There will be disco. There will be dances. People are warming up for the celebration now.”

Thousands of Sudanese from around the world, particularly the United States, who fled during the years of war, have returned home to rebuild the south, and Juba is considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.

Now the south will have to focus on the intricate process of formally disentangling itself from the north.

On Monday the government said that it had plans to build a brand-new capital for the soon-to-be-country, and that designs had already been submitted. The southern information minister, Benjamin Marial, said: “The present capitals of Africa were established by colonial administrations. It was not established by the citizens themselves.”

Last month the government announced that an official name for the country — South Sudan — had been proposed.

But issues regarding citizenship, oil-revenue rights and the contested and volatile region of Abyei remain unresolved. Furthermore, both the southern and northern armies have failed to demobilize tens of thousands of soldiers.

According to the 2005 agreement that ended the civil war, integrated units of soldiers from both the north and south patrol particular points in the region.

But last week, clashes exploded between soldiers within some of the integrated units stationed in the frontier state of Upper Nile, killing at least 50. Mr. Bashir, who has been in power nearly 18 years, faces many of the same economic pressures as does President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, where protests threaten his government.

Protests broke out in Khartoum on Jan. 30, and plans for more have appeared on Facebook.

Mr. Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Sudan.

______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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Mubarak steps down, prompting jubilation in Cairo streets
@ Feb 13, 2011
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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/11/AR2011021106711.html

By Craig Whitlock

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, February 12, 2011

CAIRO - The popular uprising in Egypt triumphed Friday as President Hosni Mubarak surrendered to the will of a leaderless revolution and stepped down after 30 years of autocratic rule over the Arab world's most populous nation.

Mubarak became the second Arab leader in a month to succumb to his people's powerful thirst for freedom. His resignation sparked joyful pandemonium in Cairo and across the country, but the next steps for Egypt were unclear as the armed forces took control and gave little hint of how they intend to govern.

726a-Egypt.png

For the moment, however, Egyptians were suffused with a sense that they had made world history, on par with chapters such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. In a region long devoid of democracy and stifled by repression, Egyptians celebrated with fireworks, a cacophony of horns and a sea of red-white-and-black national flags.

"I feel Egyptian, like I am a new person," said Mustafa Sayed, 52, among tens of thousands of protesters who marched to Mubarak's presidential palace to demand that he leave. "I feel as though my handcuffed wrists and my sealed lips are now free."

Mubarak's abrupt abdication came just 13 hours after the 82-year-old leader had appeared on national television to declare defiantly that, despite the swelling protests against his rule, he had no plans to quit. He left it to his handpicked vice president, Omar Suleiman, to announce his resignation; Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, then left Cairo, apparently bound for internal exile in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

While Egypt's new military chiefs pledged to allow "free and honest" elections, it remained unclear how and whether power might be ceded to civilians, after six decades in which the army has been the country's dominant force.

It was also unclear whether demonstrators' success in winning Mubarak's removal might be followed by a quest for retribution against the former president, his wealthy family or members of his notoriously brutal security services. A group of Egyptian lawyers said they would submit a complaint to the country's attorney general seeking the prosecution of the Mubarak family on corruption charges.

But for at least one day, Egyptians were able to celebrate, backed by international statements of support. "Egypt will never be the same," President Obama said at the White House. " . . . And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region, but around the world."

In Tahrir Square, the plaza in central Cairo where the protests began Jan. 25, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians jumped up and down, pumped their fists, waved their flags, hugged and cried. If the people were nervous about their nation's uncertain future, they submerged their anxieties for the moment.

"I feel free," shouted Nihal Shafiq, a 30-year-old film director. "This is a great moment and it hit us by surprise. It is a new beginning for Egypt after 30 years of suffering."

726a-Hosni Mubarak.png

President Hosni Mubarak steps down after 30-years of rule

The uprising came soon after the ouster of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from Tunisia. Ben Ali, 74, fled the North African country Jan. 14, after four weeks of steadily escalating riots protesting his 23 years in power.

Angered by Mubarak's refusal to resign Thursday night, Egyptians responded early Friday with their biggest demonstrations yet. Ignoring fears that Mubarak might order a brutal crackdown, people of all ages and classes calmly gathered in central squares across the country and in unison demanded a change.

As they did, demonstrators made common cause with thousands of soldiers who had been deployed to maintain order but stood by and allowed Egyptians to express themselves peacefully.

The soldiers' sympathies became clearer as Mubarak's end drew near. In front of the presidential palace, soldiers draped posters of martyred protesters over their tanks. Senior officers served juice and tea to the crowds.

Egypt's military chiefs, who had pledged not to hinder the protests as long as they remained nonviolent, said they were taking political control reluctantly. In a statement, they said they were "studying" what to do next, but assured the people that "there is no alternative to the legitimacy you demand." They also guaranteed "free and honest" elections, without specifying when they would be held or under what conditions.

The statement was read on television by an unidentified military spokesman in uniform. The spokesman paid homage to the estimated 300 Egyptian civilians who were killed during the 18-day revolution, extending a formal salute. He also said that the Egyptian military "pays our respects" to Mubarak for his long service to the country but did not salute the former commander in chief, who had earlier agreed not to seek reelection in September.

The armed forces are led by Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, 75, and the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Sami Enan. Neither spoke publicly during the revolution. It is unclear how much power they will reserve for themselves, or if they will hand control to transitional leaders.

Also unclear was the fate of Suleiman, a former general and chief of Egyptian intelligence until he was appointed as vice president by Mubarak last month in an early concession that failed to stifle the protests.

Nabil Fahmy, Egypt's former ambassador to the United States, said there was no evidence that the military had carried out a coup. "The army did not take control," he said. "They were handed this power which suggests that this power is not in their ambition and they do not consider themselves to be an alternative."

Fahmy and other members of Egypt's civilian elite have called for creating a temporary government of national unity, or a small council to oversee the transition until elections can be held.

"It is difficult to predict exactly how things will turn out, for after all this is a completely new situation that we have not experienced before," he said. "There will be a lot of details and negotiations through a complicated process that will require time and the inclusion of all."

Essam el-Erian, a leader of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement, banned under Mubarak, called for the chief of Egypt's constitutional court to oversee a transition to new elections and civilian rule.

Some protest organizers said the demonstrations in Tahrir Square will continue, albeit on a smaller scale, until the military agrees to formal negotiations. Others expressed optimism that the army will agree to their terms.

"Egypt is going to be a democratic state," Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who was detained for 12 days by Egyptian security forces for encouraging the protests, told CNN. "We are much stronger than all these guys."

The military chiefs pledged to repeal Egypt's repressive state-of-emergency law as soon as calm was restored, but did not offer specifics. Mubarak imposed the law in 1981 after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and used it as a tool to restrict political opponents.

Sarah Lee Whitson, Middle East executive director for Human Rights Watch, estimated that 5,000 people are detained in Egypt under the state-of-emergency law on the basis of political affiliation or political views. Despite the military's pledge, she said there is no indication that the law will be repealed soon.

Special correspondents Sherine Bayoumi and Samuel Sockol contributed to this report.

_______________________________

726a-Cairo crowd.png

People celebrate in Cairo streets as Hosni Mubarak steps down after 30-year of rule

___________________________________________________________________________

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Topics-Education
Ex-IITian starts world-class school in Bihar village
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ex-iitian-starts-world-class-school-in-bihar-village/articleshow/7420827.cms

4 Feb, 2011, 12.34AM IST, Madhuri Kumar, TNN

PATNA: In a remote corner of the state, at Chamanpura village of Gopalganj district, a story is unfolding of unique enterprise and innovative methods in school education.

Situated about 30 km from Gopalganj, this school, known as Chaitanya Gurukul Public School, was founded in 2009 by an ex-IITian, Chandrakant Singh, now based in Bangalore.

725b-chandrakant singh.png

Chandrakant Singh

Bereft of electricity till date, about 450 children, both boys and girls, are imparted lessons in physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer through Skype, video conferencing and Internet. Eight of Singh's associates, sitting in various corners of the world, have joined hands to teach children right from Class I to Class VII, through video-conferencing. Apart from distance learning, 16 teachers, who reside on the campus, are helping the students in their studies. Here, teachers mark their attendance using a biometric finger-printer and students too log their attendance in computers.

The computers run on gensets owned by the school. Once computers were in place, the teaching did not have to wait. Pankaj Kumar of NTPC, a technocrat, teaches physics from Singrauli. Working with HAL, Sanjay Rai, an alumnus from BITS, Pilani, teaches chemistry from Korwa in UP, while M Vats, a US-based technocrat teachers math.

"With a view to providing world-class, technology-enabled education to the children of this backward village, where I was born and where I had my primary schooling, I set up this institution," said Singh.

The push came when the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was attacking Bihari migrants in Mumbai. Singh then decided to do something immediately for his home town. "I was greatly disturbed, and wanted to arrest the migration of students from Bihar in my small way," he said.

He then sought the advice of Surya Narayan, dean of IIT, Bombay, who was his teacher also. Narayan suggested him to make a plan for revenue-generating, self-sustaining model instead of taking the charity route. Singh then prepared a blueprint and e-mailed it to 3,000 friends, eight of whom agreed to fund it.

After the state government approved the proposal, the friends, who formed a trust, met the villagers and convinced them about the school. Within three months, they had 13 acres of land -- from 100 villagers, who sold plots from 3 decimals to an acre in the area. Soon a big building started coming up, a part of which is still under construction.

With quality class rooms and campus, tuition fee starts from Rs 300 for Class I and is increased annually by Rs 100 as a child goes to a higher class. However, the school is run on self-sustaining basis, and not for profit. Chandrakant himself is doing his job, but takes classes through video-conferencing. Every year, one more class is sought to be opened at the school.

____________________________________________

Chaitanya Gurukul Public School, Chamanpura village, Gopalganj district, Bihar

http://chaitanyagurukul.co.in/about.html

725b-gurukul school.png

____________________________________________________________________________

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Tri-Valley University (California), So-Called 'Sham University,' Probed For Visa Fraud
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/31/trivalley-university-soca_n_816623.html

725a-trivalley.png

Tri-Valley University, California (a sham university)

TERENCE CHEA   01/31/11 10:34 PM

SAN FRANCISCO — The government of India is urging the United States to show leniency toward Indian students who were enrolled at a "sham university" in California that U.S. authorities say was a front for illegal immigration.

The U.S. attorney's office alleges the owner of Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton used the unaccredited school to charge foreigners millions of dollars in tuition fees and help them obtain student visas to stay in the U.S.

Officials at Tri-Valley did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

There were 1,555 students enrolled at Tri-Valley last fall and about 95 percent of them were from India, according to a complaint filed Jan. 19 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Many of those students, who took Tri-Valley courses online, could be deported if they are found to be in violation of their immigration status.

Indian officials say the students are being "treated like criminals" by U.S. Immigration Enforcement and Customs agents even though they were issued valid U.S. visas by American consular officials in India.

"I don't think any of them had any idea this was a sham university," said Susmita Gongulee Thomas, consul general of India in San Francisco. "I don't think any of them had the motivation to defraud any rules of the U.S. government ... These students came here genuinely to improve their prospects and they should not be criminalized or victimized."

Students told Indian consulate officials that they were searched, treated rudely and handcuffed before being taken into immigration offices for questioning, Thomas said.

Many have been forced to wear ankle bracelets to track their movements with radio frequency signals, and they must report to immigration officials regularly while they go through deportation proceedings, Gongulee Thomas said.

Story continues below

Indian officials are asking the U.S. government to stop requiring the students to wear the ankle monitors.

"They felt threatened and intimidated by the ICE officials," Thomas said. "We in India do not treat anyone other than criminals with anything that resembles ankle bracelets or handcuffs."

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday the use of radio monitors is widespread and standard for investigations and "does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity."

"It allows for freedom of movement and is a positive alternative to confinement during a pending investigation," Crowley said.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Agency is establishing a help line for the Indian students affected by the school's closure, Crowley said.

Indian officials are asking that the students be allowed to transfer to other U.S. universities or be allowed to return to India without being deported, which would prevent them from returning to the U.S. and hurt their employment prospects back home, Thomas said.

___

Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

______________________________________________________________________________

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Topics-Health & Life Sciences
New research raises hopes in quest to find universal flu vaccine
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/02/07/universal.flu.vaccine.research/index.html

By Susannah Palk for CNN

February 8, 2011 6:12 a.m. EST

723c-flue virus.png

Scientists have successfully tested a flu vaccine which could protect against all strains of the virus, including bird flu cells.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Scientists at Oxford University have successful tested a universal flu vaccine on humans
  • The vaccine works by targeting protein cells inside the flu virus, which are less likely to mutate
  • The treatment could protect against flu pandemics such as H1N1 (swine) flu and bird flu

London, England (CNN) -- Researchers hope a new treatment developed in the United Kingdom will prove vital in controlling future flu pandemics such as H1N1 (swine) flu, bird flu as well as ending the need for annual flu jabs.

Developed by scientists at Oxford University, the new vaccine works by targeting protein cells inside the influenza A virus, instead of current vaccines that attack proteins on the outside of the flu virus.

According to Sarah Gilbert, head of the project at Oxford's Jenner Institute, this method is effective because proteins inside the virus are far more similar across all the influenza strains and are less likely to mutate.

In the first successful trial on humans, 11 healthy people were vaccinated and infected with the seasonal flu strain along with 11 non-vaccinated volunteers.

Flu kills every year. It's not just swine flu. Normally it's the very old or very young that dies from flu, but every year there are deaths from influenza A.
--Sarah Gilbert from Oxford University's Jenner Institute.

The results, say Gilbert, are important in developing a new form of protection that researchers hope could spell the end of flu vaccination supply problems.

The most recent global pandemic was the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, in which the estimates of deaths ranged as high as 12,500 in the U.S. alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gilbert explained: "With the swine flu pandemic it took four months before the first doses of the vaccine were available and there was only a small amount available," Gilbert explained. "It took a further six months before it was possible to vaccinate a large number of people.

"With this type of vaccine, you would at least be able to start using the vaccine as soon as you knew a new pandemic was starting. You could stockpile the vaccine and wouldn't have this wait to make a new pandemic-specific vaccine," she said.

The vaccine would be an important step in treating seasonal flu, not just pandemics.

"Flu kills every year. It's not just swine flu. Normally it's the very old or very young that die from flu, but every year there are deaths from influenza A," said Gilbert.

In the U.S alone it's believed about 36,000 people die from seasonal flu-related causes in an average year, according to the CDC.

The initial results are positive, says Peter Palese, professor and chair of microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, but more research is needed before the new treatment is approved.

"I think it's a very interesting and very elegant approach and the data so far looks very, very good," he said.

"But although the vaccine has been give to humans, unfortunately there is no evidence presented to say if it really results in protection against infection."

Gilbert agrees more work is required before the vaccine becomes available, estimating a wait of at least five year, but says the results are a fundamental next step in the treatment of flu.

"It's fairly certain flu vaccines are going to change a lot in the next few years," she said.

"Whether it's this vaccine or another one someone else develops, I don't think we'll be continuing with the type of flu vaccines that we have at the moment."

______________________________________________________________________________

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Are brains shrinking to make us smarter?
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/healthussciencebrain#mwpphu-container

By Jean-Louis Santini – Sat Feb 5, 9:03 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Human brains have shrunk over the past 30,000 years, puzzling scientists who argue it is not a sign we are growing dumber but that evolution is making the key motor leaner and more efficient.

The average size of modern humans -- Homo sapiens -- has decreased about 10 percent during that period -- from 1,500 to 1,359 cubic centimeters, the size of a tennis ball.

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AFP/File – Photo illustration of a brain scan. Human brains have shrunk over the past 30,000 years, puzzling scientists …

Women's brains, which are smaller on average than those of men, have experienced an equivalent drop in size.

These measurements were taken using skulls found in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

"I'd called that a major downsizing in an evolutionary eye blink," John Hawks of the University of Michigan told Discover magazine.

But other anthropologists note that brain shrinkage is not very surprising since the stronger and larger we are, the more gray matter we need to control this larger mass.

The Neanderthal, a cousin of the modern human who disappeared about 30 millennia ago for still unknown reasons, was far more massive and had a larger brain.

The Cro-Magnons who left cave paintings of large animals in the monumental Lascaux cave over 17,000 years ago were the Homo sapiens with the biggest brain. They were also stronger than their modern descendants.

Psychology professor David Geary of the University of Missouri said these traits were necessary to survive in a hostile environment.

He has studied the evolution of skull sizes 1.9 million to 10,000 years old as our ancestors and cousins lived in an increasingly complex social environment.

Geary and his colleagues used population density as a measure of social complexity, with the hypothesis that the more humans are living closer together, the greater the exchanges between group, the division of labor and the rich and varied interactions between people.

They found that brain size decreased as population density increased.

"As complex societies emerged, the brain became smaller because people did not have to be as smart to stay alive," Geary told AFP.

But the downsizing does not mean modern humans are dumber than their ancestors -- rather, they simply developed different, more sophisticated forms of intelligence, said Brian Hare, an assistant professor of anthropology at Duke University.

He noted that the same phenomenon can be observed in domestic animals compared to their wild counterparts.

So while huskies may have smaller brains than wolves, they are smarter and more sophisticated because they can understand human communicative gestures, behaving similarly to human children.

"Even though the chimps have a larger brain (than the bonobo, the closest extant relative to humans), and even though a wolf has a much larger brain than dogs, dogs are far more sophisticated, intelligent and flexible, so intelligence is not very well linked to brain size," Hare explained.

He said humans have characteristics from both the bonobo and chimpanzee, which is more aggressive and domineering.

"The chimpanzees are violent because they want power, they try to have control and power over others while bonobos are using violence to prevent one for dominating them," Hare continued.

"Humans are both chimps and bobos in their nature and the question is how can we release more bonobo and less chimp.

"I hope bonobos win... it will be better for everyone," he added.

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Here's why you're right-handed or left-handed
@ Feb 12, 2011
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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41390382/ns/technology_and_science-science/

Predisposition is tied to preference of one eye over the other, study finds

By Jennifer Viegas

Discovery Channel 

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Updated 2/2/2011 1:31:10 PM ET

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Francisco Viddi

Some birds, like humans, have a tendency to use either their right or left limb more than the other.

When a southpaw shakes hands, his left eye and the right portion of his brain are working hard to process the other individual, suggests a new study. The research helps to explain why hand and limb preferences exist across numerous species.

The predisposition, as it turns out, are tied to ocular dominance, or the tendency to prefer visual input from one eye over the other, according to the study, published in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters.

Ocular dominance, in turn, is driven by cerebral lateralization, which refers to how information processing is divided and coordinated between the brain's left and right hemispheres.

In recent U.S. history, the majority of presidents have been left-handed (Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William Clinton and Barack Obama), but scientists haven't yet found a link between hand preference and an individual's abilities.

"At this stage we have no reason to think that left- or right-brained animals are superior or analyze information differently, except that it's the mirror image," co-author Culum Brown told Discovery News.

Brown, director of Advanced Biology at Macquarie University, and colleague Maria Magat studied the phenomenon in Australian parrots. These birds, like humans, have a tendency to use either their right or left limb more than the other.

The researchers recorded the eye and foot preferences of the parrots while the birds investigated small pieces of fruit and brightly colored wooden blocks. The majority of the birds showed a clear tendency to investigate the objects using either their left or right eye.

This eye preference was found to directly correspond to the foot that each parrot used to manipulate the food or block. If one of the birds focused on the fruit with its right eye, for example, then it would tend to use its right foot to grasp and move around the food. This provides a better view in front of the preferred eye.

Since the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere control's the body's right side, the eye and limb preferences also reveal which side of the individual's brain dominates, at least during visual investigations.

Genetics, combined with personal experience, likely help to control cerebral lateralization. Sulpher crested cockatoos are all left footed, and prior research on these birds found that they start off experimenting with both feet, but eventually settle on the left.

A similar course of action likely happens in humans. As infants, we don't know that we are destined to prefer one hand over the other. Experience determines which hand works best and is the most comfortable to use, setting into place a more permanent practice.

Although right-handedness is the norm for most people, with only 10 percent of humans being left-handed, the key to individual success appears to be how strongly the individual is lateralized, since other studies show that offers significant cognitive advantages.

"If we use one hemisphere for analyzing some information, and the other for analyzing different information, we effectively have two processes occurring simultaneously, (which) is a bit like having a computer with two processors," Brown explained.

"Moreover, practice makes perfect," he added. "The more you train on one task using one side of the body (brain) the more efficient you become."

Lesley Rogers, an emeritus professor in the University of New England's School of Science and Technology, agrees with the findings. She said she proposed the hypothesis in a 2009 paper, extending the conclusions to amphibians and other tetrapods, including primates.

"It is pleasing to see that the research on birds supports this hypothesis," Rogers told Discovery News.

Some mysteries still remain about handedness, however, such as why in certain species all individuals show very similar hand or foot preferences and, in others, anything goes.

Some species and individuals are also not lateralized much at all, indicating that handedness has some as-of-yet undefined cost, in addition to its advantages.

© 2011 Discovery Channel

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