Welcome to the ITBHU Chronicle, November 2011 Edition Chronicle Extra Section.
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World's oldest car sells for $4.6 million
@ Nov 18, 2011
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By Peter Valdes-Dapena October 10, 2011: 4:57 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A steam-powered car, billed as the oldest car in the world that still runs, was sold at a Hershey, Pa. auction late Friday for $4.6 million.

The auction company, RM Auctions, had estimated that the car would sell for about half that much. It represents the highest price ever paid for an early automobile at auction. The price includes a 10% "buyer's premium" which goes to the auction company.

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127 year old car sold for $4.6 million

The name of the buyer has not been made public.

The car was built in France in 1884, about a year before Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz of Germany, who went on to found the carmakers that would become Daimler (DDAIF), maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, built their first experimental gasoline-powered cars. (The two were working independently of one another.) Henry Ford finished his first garage-built car 12 years after this one. He later went on to found the Ford Motor Company (F, Fortune 500) and incidentally, he also founded the carmaker that would ultimately become the Cadillac division of General Motors (GM, Fortune 500).

The four-wheeled De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux, nicknamed "La Marquise," was originally built for the French Count De Dion, one of the founders of the company that built it.

Fueled by coal, wood and bits of paper, the car takes about a half-hour to work up enough steam to drive. Top speed is 38 miles per hour. The car came close to that speed during what has been billed as the world's first automobile race in 1887, according to RM Auctions.

The car had last been sold in 2007 for about $3.5 million at a Pebble Beach, Calif. auction. To top of page


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Topics- Business & Economy
Kingfisher Airlines seeks govt help, Jet Airways swings to loss
@ Nov 18, 2011
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TNN | Nov 11, 2011, 07.07PM IST

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Jet Airways, India's top airline by market share, on Friday said it swung to a net loss, compared with a profit a year ago, hurt by rising fuel prices and a forex loss in the quarter.

For the quarter ended September, Jet Airways reported a net loss of 7.13 billion rupees for July-Sept, compared with 124 million rupees a year ago.

Total income rose to 32.93 billion rupees from 30.67 bilion. "Tough pricing environment, lean season impact and high fuel prices impacted the results," the carrier said in a statement.

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Jet Airways, India's top airline by market share, on Friday said it swung to a net loss, compared with a profit a year ago, hurt by rising fuel prices and a forex loss in the quarter.

Earnings were also hit by an exceptional forex loss of $52.7 million due to depreciation of the rupee amounting. Fuel prices went up by 41 percent on year, hitting profitability.

Despite placing huge orders worth $50 billion with Boeing and Airbus, India's airlines are struggling to make money. Jet's rival Kingfisher Airlines has been forced to cancel scores of flights this week to cut losses as it does not have money to fly full capacity. State-run Air India is operating on government life support.

In the scenario, Jet Airways has managed to ensure it remains competitive through stringent cost control, strategic code shares that offer greater connectivity via a wider network, route rationalization and fiscal prudence, Jet Airways said.

"All of these non-payroll initiatives will augment well for the airlines performance in second half of current fiscal".

The airline will be doing a sale and lease back of some of its aircraft to repay existing high cost working capital loans.

The airline also said it was exploring options to raise finances to meet various short term and long term obligations including financial support to its unit, JetLite.

Kingfisher Airlines seeks govt help, more flights cancelled

Facing serious financial turbulence, Kingfisher Airlines has sought government help for a bailout even as it continued its flight curtailment spree for the fifth consecutive day on Friday and its stocks plummeted by over 19 per cent to an all-time low but recovered slightly later.

The seriousness of the crisis was underlined by the urgent request Kingfisher owner Vijay Mallya made to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi to help Kingfisher in infusion of funds through banks at low interest rates, besides other concessions in line with what Air India was getting, sources said.

However, there was no official word immediately on whether any step was being taken on Mallya's request made earlier this week.

Some 50 pilots and cabin crew did not turn up for duty by reporting sick as over 40 flights were cancelled across its network today.

Innumerable passengers across the country cancelled Kingfisher flight tickets to travel by other airlines, though after paying 20-40 per cent higher at the last moment.

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The airline, which had earlier said it would restore its flights after October 19, has now indicated that it would take a few more weeks to normalise the flight schedule, that would go into the peak winter season air traffic.

Apart from taking aircraft off flights to reconfigure and install business class seats in them, airline CEO Sanjay Agarwal told PTI, "We decided to reduce frequency in some of the routes where we had multiple flights like Delhi-Mumbai or low passenger load like Nanded-Mysore."

This exercise was part of route rationalisation to improve profitability and revenue productivity of the flights, he said.

Asked whether they had responded to the show-cause notice issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Agarwal said, "We are in close touch with them. We are explaining to them that these cancellations are temporary in nature. We are keeping them informed."

DGCA has issued the notice under Rule 140(A) of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, asking Kingfisher why it had not taken the regulator's prior approval to curtail its flight schedules as required by this rule. It has also sought to know whether the airline had taken any step to facilitate the passengers inconvenienced by the cancellations.

Meanwhile, all the oil PSUs -- HPCL, IOC and BPCL -- have denied extending credit line to the liquor baron Mallya-owned airline and asked it to pay for lifting jet fuel on a daily basis.

The airline has suffered a loss of Rs 1,027 crore in 2010-11 and has a mounting debt of Rs 7057.08 crore.

To questions on alleged exodus of pilots and cabin crew from the airline, Agarwal, "There is a process of natural attrition. Pilots and other staff come and go. If you put the number of pilots who have left in over 7-8 months, it could be 100.

"This has not happened all of a sudden as is being projected. Not a single Kingfisher flight has been cancelled due to shortage of crew as is being reported. We have over 650 pilots on our rolls now," the airline CEO maintained.

Industry sources said the lessors of Kingfisher's leased turboprop ATR aircraft fleet have put the airline on notice and want urgent payments for the lease.

The cash-strapped carrier also has unpaid dues to the operators of airports and other agencies, which have also been putting pressure on it to expedite payment.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher's shares slumped by over 19 per cent to an all-time low on the bourses, before recovering some ground. (With inputs from Reuters, PTI)


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Europe's Debt Crisis G20 agree to 'action plan' for global economy
@ Nov 18, 2011
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By Ben Rooney @CNNMoney November 4, 2011: 3:36 PM ET

CANNES, France (CNNMoney) -- After a summit dominated by concerns about Europe, the world's most powerful political leaders produced a two-page "action plan" for the global economy that builds largely on existing policies previously stated goals.

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World's top economic leaders stand together for a 'family portrait' at the G20 summit in Cannes.

The Group of 20 Summit in Cannes, France, ended on a rainy Friday with broad promises from leaders to work together on economic challenges that must be addressed in different ways by different countries.

In their official communiqué, the G20 leaders welcomed the plan European leaders agreed on last month to address the debt crisis in the eurozone. They also praised Italy for agreeing to have the International Monetary Fund oversee the nation's progress on fiscal reforms.

But the official statement made only passing mention of Greece, which has dominated behind-the-scenes talks here over the last few days.

Greece caused a stir before the summit even started by announcing a controversial referendum, only to reverse course a few days later. The government of Prime Minister George Papandreou faces a confidence vote Friday.

President Obama acknowledged the political drama in Greece, but sounded optimistic about the ability of European leaders to get the crisis under control.

"I think that there are going to be some ups and downs along the way," he said. "But I am confident that the key players in Europe -- the European political leadership -- understand how much of a stake they have in making sure this crisis is resolved."

Italy has also been the source of much hand-wringing here. The nation has seen its borrowing costs rise to unaffordable levels recently amid concerns in the global financial markets about the government's ability to get out of debt.

The G20 urged "rapid elaboration and implementation" of the so-called comprehensive plan to address the debt and banking crisis threatening the euro currency and global economy.

"We welcome the euro area's determination to bring its full resources and entire institutional capacity to bear in restoring confidence and financial stability, and in ensuring the proper functioning of money and financial markets," the communiqué states.

European leaders were expected to unveil details of the plan, agreed to after an all-night meeting that ended Oct. 27, at this week's summit. But key aspects of the agreement remain unresolved and there are concerns about policymakers' ability to follow through.

The G20 also pledged to ensure that the IMF has sufficient resources to support economies that get into financial trouble.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said that the IMF has sufficient resources to achieve its objectives. But the increasing threat of a government default in Europe has raised calls to beef up its capacity.

The leaders tasked their finance ministers to explore "various options" to increase the fund's flexibility, including bilateral contributions, the use of Special Drawing Rights -- a currency like instrument administered by the IMF -- and creation of a trust fund for voluntary contributions.

Meanwhile, the action plan is made up of broad policy prescriptions for the global economy, many of which have already been discussed by G20 members.

It starts with Europe implementing the Oct. 27 plan, including debt relief for Greece, new capital requirements for banks and a stronger "firewall" to protect vulnerable euro area economies.

To ensure a "balanced" global recovery, the G20 called for advanced economies to continue with "appropriate" fiscal consolidation programs.

The United States agreed to support its economy through government investments, tax reforms and job creation programs. At the same time, the U.S. government will continue to take steps to cut deficits and reduce debt under its "medium term fiscal consolidation" program.

G20 nations that have large budget surpluses, such as China, "will take steps to support domestic demand," according to the action plan.

China also agreed to move towards "gradual convertibility" of its currency, the yuan, and will slow the rate at which it accumulates reserves.  To top of page

First Published: November 4, 2011: 11:22 AM ET


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Business in India - Adventures in capitalism
@ Nov 18, 2011
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Indian businesses are rewriting the rules of capitalism in a distinctive and unexpected way, says Patrick Foulis

Oct 22nd 2011 | from the print edition

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ON AUGUST 1ST India’s finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, gathered the country’s senior businesspeople for a pep-talk in New Delhi. The event (pictured) was notable for two reasons. First, the subject of discussion was the wobble in confidence that has taken place over the past year. Although a mini-industry has arisen of India optimists who predict that the country’s entrepreneurial spirit will make it an economic superpower over the next two decades, many business folk on the ground feel disillusioned. They worry that India’s notorious red tape, graft and lack of infrastructure are finally catching up with it. Largely unnoticed abroad and eclipsed by the rich world’s sovereign-debt crisis, the Indian economy has hit a sticky patch, with investment slowing, inflation high and growth expected to dip to perhaps 7%, from a peak of 10%. After two and a half hours, needless to say, the bosses emerged and expressed boundless optimism with the gruff air of men in the grip of a half-Nelson.

The second surprise, given India’s reputation as a land of red-hot start-ups and new entrepreneurs, was the dynastic nature of those captains of industry. They included Ratan Tata, the fifth-generation head of Tata Sons, a conglomerate; Anand Mahindra, the chief executive of the Mahindra group, which was co-founded by his grandfather; and Anil Ambani, who inherited a chunk of the Reliance empire built by his father. The main representatives of first-generation entrepreneurs were Shashi Ruia, who built the Essar group with his brother and who has handed day-to-day management to his son; and Sunil Bharti Mittal, who controls India’s biggest mobile-phone operator, and whose son recently joined the firm after a stint as an investment banker in London. True, not all Indian firms are dynastic: Y.C. Deveshwar, a veteran business leader, attended in his capacity as chairman of ITC, a firm controlled by institutional investors, rather than a family. But ITC has become the kind of conglomerate that Western textbooks advise against, spanning everything from stationery, cigarettes and spice-grinding to noodles and hotels.

Amid the barons and conglomerate bosses, the only man who represented a recognisably contemporary Western vision of the corporation was N.R. Narayana Murthy, the lead founder of Infosys. It is focused on one business line, computer services, which are mainly sold to rich countries. And it is owned by diffuse institutional shareholders, has gold-standard corporate governance and accounting, and in the next four years is expected to wave goodbye to the last of its founders still playing an executive role. It is a corporate fairy tale: in a single generation Infosys has leapt from a start-up, founded by a handful of engineers with $250, to global blue-chip company. The Infosys vision of Indian capitalism was popularised by Thomas Friedman, an American journalist who had an epiphany after playing golf in Bangalore and meeting Infosys’s chief executive. Mr Friedman went on to write the 2005 bestseller “The World Is Flat”. It described an India of buzzing entrepreneurs and start-ups, turbocharged by the internet, outsourcing and global communications—a kind of giant Silicon Valley with worse roads and spicier food. In the years since, perhaps reflecting the woes of the West and the rise of China’s state-backed approach, some observers have been less restrained, celebrating a reassuring India of a billion innovators who, through a bottom-up revolution, would propel their country to prosperity.

Cheerleaders hoped India could leap from sclerotic socialism towards a Western form of institutionally run capitalism. But that is not how things have turned out

Just as Lenin hoped Russia could skip a Marxist phase or two and jump from agriculture to communism, so these cheerleaders hoped India could leap from sclerotic socialism, which prevailed between independence in 1947 and liberalisation in 1991, towards a Western form of institutionally run capitalism. But that is not how things have turned out. Infosys has just been overtaken as India’s most valuable computer-services firm by TCS, part of the 143-year-old Tata group. Look at India’s leading 100 firms by market value and you will not see any others like Infosys—blue-chip, focused, diffusely owned, created in the past three decades and run on non-hereditary principles—bar a few financial firms. And whereas Mr Friedman cited “software, brainpower, complex algorithms, knowledge workers, call centres, transmission protocols [and] breakthroughs in optical engineering” as the new sources of wealth, many of the latest generation of Indian oligarchs made their cash from old-fashioned things like roads, mines, energy and property. In short, India has not conformed to anyone’s template. It has gone its own way.

What does this new kind of capitalism look like? An immense, often unrecorded informal sector employs the majority of Indians. But in terms of value added—a crude way of measuring activity that is used by economists—Indian capitalism is concentrated. In 2007 a government survey of almost 200,000 services firms, formal and informal, concluded that the top 0.2% of them accounted for almost 40% of output, and that companies in two states, Maharashtra and Karnataka, which host the commercial hubs of Mumbai and Bangalore, collectively accounted for about half of output.

Next, look at the stockmarket. It is not an ideal proxy for India Inc, but it is the only reliable one. About 70% of its value sits in the BSE 100 index of the largest firms, the smallest of which is worth just under a billion dollars, below which a firm is considered a tiddler by global standards. As a group, these businesses have a return on equity that has declined in recent years but remains solidly in the mid-teens, making Indian firms more profitable than many of their Asian peers, reckons Anirudha Dutta of CLSA, a brokerage. Debt levels are low and growth has been strong, with profits rising sixfold since 2001 in dollar terms to $64 billion.

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That makes India big, but not that big. It accounts for about 3% of the world’s stockmarket value. Cheered, feared and jeered at home, India’s giants are mere middleweights on the global stage. State Bank of India, India’s largest lender, is a tenth of the size of China’s biggest, measured by profits. Reliance Industries, a family-run conglomerate with a skew towards chemicals and energy that is the subcontinent’s most valuable firm, is only a third as big as Total of France. If all goes to plan and India’s economy grows quickly it will still be a decade before its firms begin to challenge those of the rich world and China by size. After two decades in which sunrise industries such as mobile telecoms, media, health care and finance have thrived, India’s distribution by sector now looks pretty conventional by global standards (see graphic).

What makes India unusual, aside from its rapid growth, is its form of ownership. Its evolution can be crudely split into three periods. Until 1991, when liberalisation began, Indian businesses that had not been nationalised were family affairs that survived in a world of micromanagement and official targets—the “licence raj”, a surreal mix of Soviet stupidity, British pedantry and Indian improvisation. Firms responded by branching out into any activity where they could find room to breathe, while facing little serious competition in their main businesses. Many enjoyed close links with the Congress Party that formed India’s first post-independence government and dominates the ruling coalition today. By the time an economic crisis brought on liberalisation in 1991, though, most business folk were utterly fed up.

The pattern of ownership in the second period, between liberalisation in 1991 and 2003 (when the economy’s growth rate moved up another gear) was far more turbulent, as lazy old family groups were exposed to fierce competition at home and from abroad and the prices of everything from machines to India’s currency were freed up. Many firms didn’t survive. Of the largest 20 listed on the stockmarket in 1990, only five remain in a recognisable form in the top 20 private firms today, ranked by market value. The big textiles houses that dominated the scene in 1990 were much diminished over the next decade (although Bombay Dyeing is, despite its name, still in business), and some of the grand families behind them such as the Mafatlals dropped from the upper ranks of capitalist clans. Indian business in its first decade of freedom, then, did destruction and creation. Indeed, as the economy took off in 2003 the possibility that the old, oligarchic form of capitalism might be obliterated altogether, perhaps even to be replaced by a freewheeling approach that had more than a whiff of America about it, seemed a sensible prediction.

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Sensible, but wrong. For if an alien investor landed in Mumbai today and ignored every aspect of life there other than the structure of the stockmarket, the closest thing would not be New York’s bourse, but a weird mix of São Paulo, Seoul and Shanghai. Some 41% of India Inc, measured by the profits of the biggest 100 firms, sits in the hands of state-controlled companies, from big oil firms to Coal India, with its vast empire of opencast mines, its own corporate song and 377,932 loyal workers. Blue-chip firms controlled by institutional owners, such as ITC, and a handful of subsidiaries of foreign firms such as Unilever, together account for only 18% of overall profits. The remainder, some 41% of earnings, are made by firms under some form of family or founder control. This special report will include Tata Sons in this category even though the present fifth-generation boss is likely to be the last family member in charge and most of its shares are owned by family trusts that are meant to be independent.


Within this broadly defined category of family or founder firms it is also possible to find examples of every kind of fresh success. Gautam Adani, a strapping billionaire with a habit of watching share prices on television as he talks, has used brawn and guile to build from scratch an empire of ports, power and coal centred in Gujarat, a western state. In a Mumbai suburb Dilip Shanghvi, a soft-spoken scientist, has turned Sun Pharmaceutical from a minnow into a global generic-drugs firm worth $10 billion. Yet the older family firms, toughened up by 20 years of competition, matured by bitter feuds and splits, and still with remarkable reserves of animal spirits, have at least held their own.

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India’s economy is one of the world’s most dynamic. Some industries, such as media and aviation, are unrecognisable from ten years ago. There has been a fair amount of turnover among the leading firms. But overall, India’s form of ownership has barely changed over the past decade. The division of profits made by family firms between those in their first, second and third or older generations has stayed pretty constant. The new kids on the block have made gains but not won the day. Nor has the profit share of family firms overall, of whatever vintage, changed much. The mix of state, blue-chip, foreign and family owners has been remarkably stable.

In the past decade Indian business has not been on a journey towards someone else’s economic model, whether Chinese, European or American. It has not been growing out of an immature phase, or shaking off a simpler way of doing things. Instead it seems to have established its own equilibrium—what might be called “capindialism”—in which profits are controlled not by institutional shareholders but mainly by the state, or by entrepreneurs and their descendants. Outside the state firms, the fiddly conglomerate is the favoured form of organisation. This special report will try to answer the big questions all this raises. Why has Indian business developed in this way? Will it continue to? Can the aspirations it has raised be met? And is this new form of capitalism good for India—and the world?


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Indian technology firms - Seeking to avoid a mid-life crisis
@ Nov 18, 2011
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India’s most dynamic, but no longer so youthful, industry tries to reinvent itself

Nov 5th 2011 | MUMBAI | from the print edition

INDIA’S technology firms are no longer spring chickens. Infosys had its 30th birthday this year and its lead founder retired, hailed as a visionary by his colleagues and celebrated as the man who kick-started the country’s first world-class industry. Yet judged by their share prices of late, the three big firms, TCS, Infosys and Wipro, are still giddy, uncertain things. Last month TCS’s shares, which had swaggered earlier in the year, slumped as it posted disappointing quarterly figures. Wipro’s shares are well down on the year and this week’s news of quarterly profits little changed from a year ago sent them a bit lower still.

The volatility partly reflects investors’ fears of a depression in the rich world, where the three make the bulk of their money. But it is also a symptom of mild paranoia about whether these firms can in their dotage still deliver perky growth. The worry is that they might go the way of Nokia: for years the Finnish handset firm maintained high margins, in defiance of its many doubters. Then, suddenly, the naysayers were proved right.

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Regarding the slump in rich economies, the recent past does offer a chilly precedent. During the Wall Street crisis in mid-2009 the IT firms’ revenue growth slowed almost to zero as customers, especially financial ones, slashed spending. But activity bounced back smartly (see chart) as clients recovered their nerve and redoubled efforts to cut costs through outsourcing and reorganising their back offices.

Today the hope is that customers will be less panicky. All of the big three insist there has been no sudden slowdown in spending and are continuing their colossal hiring programmes in India (together they now employ almost half a million people, almost all in their home country). Natarajan Chandrasekaran, TCS’s chief executive, has visited more than 100 customers worldwide in the past three months and says they are resolute. “They are going about their business in a systematic way. They realise the situation in the US and Europe is going to take time to sort out.”

But even if “Financial Armageddon: The Sequel” does not happen, what about the industry’s long-term growth potential? “I don’t think it is over by a long stretch,” says K.V. Kamath, the chairman of Infosys. “Indian IT is just starting to come of age.” Optimists point to a steady widening of the boundaries of outsourcing and argue it will continue. Pioneers such as General Electric turned to India’s firms first, followed by the banks; the public sector in the West may be next. Hospital bosses in Ohio may not yet be thinking about running their diagnostic-test results from India, but clever people in Mumbai are. Likewise the habit of outsourcing should expand further from its core geography of rich English-speaking countries to places like southern Europe, Japan and emerging markets. India’s IT-industry body, NASSCOM, reckons the total potential market will triple between 2008 and 2020.

There have long been questions about whether the three firms are becoming unmanageably big. Yet so far they have doubled in size every few years without exhausting the supply of passable warm bodies from India’s lousy education system. Even so, large numbers may catch up with them in other ways. Nimish Joshi, an IT analyst at CLSA, a broker, says their biggest clients are themselves approaching the limits to growth. Citigroup is thought to fork out $350m-400m to TCS a year: is it really going to increase that at 20% a year?

The Indian firms have survived the decline of clients before: BT Group, a British phone company that used to be a big customer, is now but a shadow of its former self. Still, it is likely that the biggest spenders—the top ten customers typically account for 20-25% of each IT firm’s sales—will grow more slowly than the rest, bringing down overall growth.

There is a second consideration: that high unemployment and economic distress in the rich world may impose political limits to outsourcing there. In an interview in May, S. Gopalakrishnan, one of Infosys’s top brass, noted that the boom in labour mobility over the past 30 years had coincided with strong growth. Now, at a time of stagnation in the West, worries about a backlash were “not going to go away”. Since his prescient comments, the Indian IT firms have found it harder to get visas to send staff out to America to liaise with clients on big projects there. One firm says the rejection rate for its visa applications has doubled, to 40%. Political pressure over unemployment is surely a factor.

More than just cheap

The law of large numbers; the sense that big clients may have matured; the political limits of outsourcing; not to mention wage pressures in India. All these explain a second pillar of Indian IT firms’ strategy: to go beyond exploiting lower labour costs back home and become creators of intellectual property and purveyors of consultancy.

The industry has evolved before. It began in the 1990s simply maintaining software and systems designed and owned by others. Then came the Y2K bug, in which Indian firms helped save the world from the disaster-that-never-quite-was, boosting their profile. For the past five years the quest has been to evolve again, beyond just competing on price. The latest, slightly woolly, incarnation of this is to offer “solutions”; a package of services, sold on a continuing basis for fancy prices, ranging from the design and operation of software applications to advising customers on restructuring their businesses.

Using a narrow definition, such high-end activity probably accounts for less than a tenth of revenues today, says Noshir Kaka of McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm. Western firms such as IBM and Accenture can be sniffy about their Indian rivals’ sophistication. Yet customers seem to be getting more promiscuous about whom they buy their “solutions” from: witness the rise of salesforce.com, a web-based, off-the-shelf product that helps companies manage their sales staff. This suggests that barriers to entry have fallen. The three Indian firms certainly hope so, and are throwing resources at muscling into higher-value services. If they get the formula right, their sales from this line of business “could go up fast”, says Mr Kaka.

To make the leap into the top league of global IT services, India’s three giants may have to hire many more people in rich countries. That is partly because the required skills are scarce in India, and partly because a physical presence is needed for some tasks, especially in consulting. Japan’s carmakers were pilloried in America until they shifted some production there, hiring locals and thus creating local loyalty. India’s IT firms are now following their footsteps, as our next article explores.


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India's Road to Financial Freedom
@ Nov 18, 2011
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  • NOVEMBER 1, 2011

A key interest rate is deregulated, but bank lending is still skewed.

The decades-long grand bargain between New Delhi and Indian banks ended last week. Since the 1970s, the central bank has fixed the rate banks pay on deposits, keeping profit margins stable and limiting competition for customers. In return, bankers took direction from the government on their lending decisions. As happened in Japan and many other Asian economies, savers earned miserable returns and suffered poor service, capital went to unproductive uses and bad debt accumulated.

So it's good news that the Reserve Bank of India is ending a key part of this system of financial repression. The announcement last Tuesday that the interest rate on savings accounts would be freed should have knock-on effects that increase the efficiency of the entire economy. Not least, it will bring higher income and increased access to banking services for the lower and middle classes.

The RBI has been chipping away at administered interest rates for the last 20 years. The rate on savings accounts, which make up a quarter of all deposits, was the last domestic rate to still be regulated. The effects of the previous reforms are already visible. Unlike in China, credit is generally priced by the market. While some Asian peers have suffered property bubbles because savers found no other investment avenues, India has seen little malinvestment.

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Associated Press

Yet distortions persisted because the reforms were incomplete. Inflation raging above 8% for nearly two years convinced depositors earning the fixed 3.5% in savings accounts to pull their money out of the banks last year. The liquidity shortage in the banking system combined with a surplus of cash held in hand made it difficult for the RBI to tighten overall monetary policy. The central bank injected liquidity into the market in December, which worsened inflation.

That kind of problem may not recur, though the new environment will pose another challenge and push regulators to undertake yet more reform. Once they lose the guaranteed spread between deposit and lending rates, banks will look for ways to boost their return on assets. But the government still stands in the way.

First, all banks must hold 24% of their assets in government bonds, a handy way to monetize New Delhi's spendthrift budget. This suppresses bank margins by a whole percentage point according to the Boston Consulting Group. Second, banks have to meet quotas in servicing areas of the economy deemed "priority," such as agriculture. These mandated areas account for some 40% of total lending. These regulations are clearly hampering the ability to channel savings fruitfully.

Another drag on financial intermediation is the presence of state-owned behemoths, which control 70% of total assets and are often used as vehicles of patronage. Last month, Moody's downgraded State Bank of India, the country's largest bank, citing concerns about the quality of its loans. The cure to this problem is letting the private sector own these assets, but the Congress Party-led government is resisting. Its latest rationale: a state-dominated banking system somehow saved India from the global financial crisis.

Freeing up lending will probably now require directives from the government, if not legislation from parliament. If that deregulation or privatization isn't pushed, India's banking system will continue to underperform and hold back the country's growth.




  • Posted: Mon, Oct 31 2011. 1:00 AM IST
  • Published on page 8

Hours after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) freed savings bank rate last week, Yes Bank Ltd raised the rate by 2 percentage points and Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd followed suit over the weekend. No other banks have responded yet to this move, but many fear there will be a rate war to woo savings bank depositors. If indeed that happens, consumers will benefit and banks’ cost of funds will rise. This will affect their net interest margin, or the difference between the cost of funds and earnings on the deployment of funds, the key to their profitability.

Since Yes Bank has only about Rs.700 crore worth of savings deposits, which is less than 2% of its total deposits, a 2 percentage point hike in rate will raise its interest cost by Rs.14 crore a year. At this point, the Indian banking industry has a deposit base of Rs.56.25 trillion and roughly 22% of this, or Rs.12.38 trillion, is saving bank deposits. If all banks raise their savings bank deposit rate by an identical margin, the annual cost for the industry will be Rs.24,760 crore. Even if they decide to raise the rate by 1 percentage point, the interest cost will go up by Rs.12,380 crore, about 20% of the industry’s net profit in fiscal 2011. Will that happen?

A savings account is the most common operating account for individuals and others for non-commercial transactions—a hybrid of current account and term-deposit account, providing the convenience of easy withdrawals, writing of cheques and an avenue to park short-term funds that earn interest. Banks generally put a ceiling on the total number of withdrawals permitted and stipulate a certain minimum balance to be maintained in such accounts.

In the past decade, the composition of savings accounts has not changed and the household sector continues to have a share of about 85% of such deposits despite a reduction in interest rates. This essentially means that even though the average inflation rate is higher and the real return from savings accounts is negative, Indian households continue to keep money in such accounts. This helps banks lower their average cost of money and this is why the focus of all banks has all along been to push up the proportion of current and savings accounts in their overall deposit portfolios. Banks do not pay any interest on current accounts.

The savings account rate was last changed in April, after a gap of eight years, and raised from 3.5% to 4%. Until the fiscal 2010, the average cost for banks for such accounts was even lower—at around 2.8%—because they used to pay interest only on the minimum balance kept between the 10th and the end of a month. From April, they have been paying interest rate on a daily average basis.

Regulations of deposit rates came into being from September 1964 and before that the rates were governed by voluntary agreements between large public sector banks and foreign banks operating in India. The only exception was a short period of six months, between September 1960 and February 1961, when RBI regulated the interest rates of deposits up to 14 days. Eight years later, in September 1969, RBI banned interest payment on current accounts and deposits of up to 14 days. From 1979 onwards, almost all deposit rates were administered.

In April 1992, banks were given the freedom to fix interest rates on term deposits of 46 days to three years and more within the ceiling prescribed by RBI. In October 1995, the deposit rate structure was made more flexible by giving banks the freedom to fix rates on domestic term deposits over two years, and finally in October 1997 interest rates on term deposits were completely deregulated. In April 1998, the minimum maturity of term deposits was reduced from 30 days to 15 days and it dropped further to seven days in 2002, only for wholesale deposits of at least Rs.15 lakh. Now even retail customers can keep any amount for seven days.

Savings bank deposit was the last bastion of administered rates in Indian banking. Non-resident Indian deposits are the only other banking product that offer mandated rates, but they are related to the external sector and till India embraces capital account convertibility, they will probably continue to be regulated as RBI would need to have the lever to regulate the foreign money flow.

RBI first seriously explored the option of freeing the savings bank rate in 2006, but couldn’t in the face of stiff resistance put up by the national bankers’ lobby, the Indian Banks’ Association. Will the Yes Bank move trigger a rate war and shake the system? I am not sure about that. When rates were freed for term deposits, which account for about 65% of the overall deposits, there was no shake-out in the system. One can argue that competition was less intense at that time but the counter-argument is that the banking system is more mature now.

Not too many banks are expected to match the Yes Bank offer as they are not as starved of savings bank deposits as Yes Bank is, but one thing for sure is that they will be forced to innovate. Consumers will gain little extra interest income now when inflation is high, but at the cost of convenience as banks will try to limit the number of transactions and other peripheral stuff such as accounts statements and cheque books, etc., for low-value customers to cut cost. They will also discourage branch visits of customers as the cost per transaction in a bank branch is the highest. Alternative channels such as automated teller machines, Internet banking and phone banking will be encouraged to lower cost of transactions. Finally, freeing of savings bank accounts will encourage foreign and new private banks to enter rural India, the traditional stronghold of state-run banks, to raise relatively cheap money.

Tamal Bandyopadhyay keeps a close eye on all things banking from his perch as Mint’s deputy managing editor in Mumbai. Your comments are welcome at bankerstrust@livemint.com


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Topics- PC, Internet & Information Technology
11 Tips: Dealing with Information Overload
@ Nov 18, 2011
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Submitted by Rebecca Kearley on Sun, 02/10/2011 - 23:00

Need to have constant access to news? Crave being the first to share gossip? Get a feeling of satisfaction from knowing more than others? You may be addicted to information, warns Caitlin Mackesy Davies


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Image via Wikipedia

I challenge you to read this article all the way to the end, without stopping to respond to an SMS, checking your email inbox or getting distracted by that Google alert you just set up to track mentions of your name.

If it sounds easy, and you find it simple to ignore electronic temptation, great. You probably don’t even need to read on. For most of us, however, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep our focus for more than a few moments, largely because we just can’t resist the gadgets that were supposed to make us productive but are now helping to turn some of us into e-addicts.

Research commissioned by harmon.ie*, a social email software provider, reveals that nearly half of us are interrupted by electronic distractions every 15 minutes. As a result, a third of us have trouble getting our work done and a quarter can’t think creatively about our work, which means that our productivity aids may be doing more harm than good.

Need help dealing with distraction: Try these interventions

  1. Shut down

The harmon.ie report says half of us go to bed connected. Setting aside what this means for our marriages, consider our mental health. Unless it’s a professional necessity, switch off and focus on family and friends once you close your front door.

  1. Block the way

Set aside reasonable blocks of time during the day to concentrate on one task, project or decision at a time. Leave your desk and go off site so that you can get out of the loop.

  1. Clear the decks

Something we are actively ignoring – an email we’d rather not deal with or an unpleasant task – can steal attention from the activities we choose to do. Vaporise the elephant stomping around your head to make mental space for other tasks.

  1. Take two

Take social interruptions out of the equation by using a separate device for personal business and real business.

  1. Time change

If your office is routinely quiet at a certain time of the day, consider changing your work habits or even your working hours to take advantage of the quiet times when you won’t be disturbed.

  1. Use cues

If interruptions are inevitable, writing a one or two-word mental “placeholder” on a Post-it® note when you leave one task for another is an easy way to help yourself snap back into the previous task when you return to it.

  1. Keep tabs

Track how well you keep your focus by jotting down each task when you sit down to do it, and then logging interruptions and distractions that got in the way (be honest!). This will give you a view of what keeps you from being productive so you can tackle the offenders.

  1. Take a break

Counterintuitive? Not really. It’s easy to reach overload on a project if you are giving it your full attention. Allow yourself a break to recharge, maybe even check your email, but set a limit so you get back on track.

  1. Work together

When you sit down and share a task with a colleague you get the benefits of constant feedback face-to-face instead of online, and can stand a better chance of staying on-message.

  1. Have respect

As a manager, create an atmosphere in which people allow others to focus by respecting time they take on a task. That means assigning them hours, days even, where they are allowed to give work their full attention and are interrupted only in emergencies.

  1. Extreme measures

LeechBlock is a Firefox browser add-on that lets you block or limit access to websites that you just can’t resist. Choose your access limit by day, hour or minute. It also reports your usage so you can identify online bad habits. For Google Chrome users, StayFocusd offers a similar service.


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The Seven Personality Types on Social Media
@ Nov 18, 2011
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Posted October 25, 2011

Posted by: 

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Chris Street

So, as the force that is social media drives onwards and upwards, more and more newbies are entering the online foray that is Facebook, Twitter, personal blogging and the myriad of other social spaces available for us to live, work, and play on.

And with it, they bring their personalities into the social media spectrum, too. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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It’s important to understand the different personalities at work on social media platforms – so you can better understand how to connect, engage and build relationships with them. Or, on occasions, how to avoid the difficult and negative types out there.

These personality types can be found hanging out on pretty much all social media platforms – and for truly effective social media engagement, you’ll need to be able to spot them. Quickly.

Nobody wants to spend time engaging with a personality type on Facebook, for example, to find they are actually not beneficial, positive, genuine, open, honest and useful for forging a decent, long-term social media-based relationship.

So, and in no particular order, the seven main personality types are:

* The Sponge

This personality type is to found all over social media platforms, and they are worth connecting with. Like a sponge, they soak up content and pass it on. Constantly looking for more information, they take on huge amounts of useful, interesting and cool content – and then spread it as they go along their social journey. Brilliant folk.

* The Drain

This personality type is unfortunately out there, too. They suck up the good stuff, then regurgitate it. But not positively. Hyper-critical, negative, draining and rarely with anything original, constructive, or complimentary to add to the social debate, they are to be monitored. You can’t avoid them, but you can minimise their draining influence on your valuable social media network.

* The Guru

They’re everywhere, it seems. Contaminating Facebook, Twitter, blogging nonstop, and actually saying…nothing. Nothing useful, beneficial, just broadcasting and spouting. You’ve seen them, you know the type. And you must, must, must avoid them. The self-proclaimed Gurus will move on, and in 12 months be experts at something else. Grasshoppers in Business and Life.

* The All-rounder

These are one of my favourite social media personalities to be around. Smart, sharp, intuitive, sassy and direct. They observe, add value, and are nice people all-round. They give, share, contribute, and clearly love to be in the middle of the positive social conversations. These types are also excellent networkers offline, too, so find them, nurture them and stick with the winners.

* The Chameleon

This personality type are tricky, because they don’t actually have a personality to show on social media. They fit into whatever conversation at the time, and agree, agree, agree. You’ll never find them being questioning, or starting a debate – they are too concerned with everybody liking them to actually engage in a meaningful way. Watch the Chameleon, they’ll drag you down.

* The Observer

This personality type sees social media as a threat and an opportunity. They observe, but don’t engage. They listen, note, but never contribute. Then they’ll often take the best content and use it elsewhere as a part of their service offer. This personality type regards the open, genuine sharing of ideas and concepts on social media a waste of valuable selling time. Beware!

* The Maverick

This is another of my favourite social media personality types. Highly creative, witty, intelligent, alternative, they take a non-conformist approach and speak their own mind – always. Not one of the herd, the maverick will be in the middle of it all, sparking debate, making connections, and sharing great content. Don’t try to keep up with them, just enjoy their ride.

So – which type are you?


Where Should You Post Your Social Media Status – Step By Step Guide

Facebook, Foursquare, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter


Sep 7, 2011 8:00 am

Status conscious? Check out this social media flowchart.

Clever thoughts bubble up constantly, but what’s the right venue for all of them? Now you can consult this handy graphic to help make those hard choices among Google+, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Dilemma solved!

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(This is an update to a chart I created last year for my old blog, History Eraser Button.)

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Infographics, Social Media, Wide


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Topics- Science & Technology
11 Amazing Things NASA's Huge Mars Rover Can Do
@ Nov 26, 2011
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by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer

Date: 20 November 2011 Time: 08:00 AM ET

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This artist's concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity is slated to launch toward the Red Planet on Nov. 25, 2011.


NASA is getting set to launch its next Mars rover this week, a 1-ton robotic beast that will take planetary exploration to the next level.

The car-size Curiosity rover is the centerpiece of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, slated to blast off Saturday (Nov. 26) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Curiosity's main goal is to assess whether the Red Planet is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life.

The rover will employ 10 different science instruments to help it answer this question once it touches down on the Red Planet in August 2012. Here's a brief rundown of these instruments (and one more on the rover's heat shield):

Mast Camera (MastCam)

The MastCam is Curiosity's workhorse imaging tool. It will capture high-resolution color pictures and video of the Martian landscape, which scientists will study and laypeople will gawk at.

MastCam consists of two camera systems mounted on a mast that rises above Curiosity's main body, so the instrument will have a good view of the Red Planet environment as the rover chugs through it. MastCam images will also help the mission team drive and operate Curiosity. [Photos of NASA's Curiosity Rover]

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)

MAHLI will function much like a high-powered magnifying glass, allowing Earthbound scientists to get up-close looks at Martian rocks and soil. The instrument will take color pictures of features as tiny as 12.5 microns — smaller than the width of a human hair.

MAHLI sits on the end of Curiosity's five-jointed, 7-foot (2.1-meter) robotic arm, which is itself a marvel of engineering. So mission scientists will be able to point their high-tech hand lens pretty much wherever they want.

Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)

MARDI, a small camera located on Curiosity's main body, will record video of the rover's descent to the Martian surface (which will be accomplished with the help of a hovering, rocket-powered sky crane). [Video: Curiosity's Peculiar Landing]

MARDI will click on a mile or two above the ground, as soon as Curiosity jettisons its heat shield. The instrument will then take video at five frames per second until the rover touches down. The footage will help the MSL team plan Curiosity's Red Planet rovings, and it should also provide information about the geological context of the landing site, the 100-mile-wide (160-km) Gale Crater.

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Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)

SAM is the heart of Curiosity; at 83 pounds (38 kilograms), it makes up about half of the rover's science payload.

SAM is actually a suite of three separate instruments — a mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph and a laser spectrometer. These instruments will search for carbon-containing compounds, the building blocks of life as we know it. They will also look for other elements associated with life on Earth, such as hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.

The SAM instrument suite is located in Curiosity's main body. The rover's robotic arm will drop samples into SAM via an inlet on the rover's exterior. Some of these samples will come from the interior of rocks, powder bored out by a 2-inch (5-centimeter) drill situated at the end of the arm.

None of Curiosity's predecessors could get deep into Martian rocks, so scientists are excited about the drill.

"For a geologist that studies rocks, there's nothing better than getting inside," said MSL deputy project scientist Joy Crisp, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin)

CheMin will identify different types of minerals on Mars and quantify their abundance, which will help scientists better understand past environmental conditions on the Red Planet.

Like SAM, CheMin has an inlet on Curiosity's exterior to accept samples delivered by the rover's robotic arm. The instrument will shine a fine X-ray beam through the sample, identifying minerals' crystalline structures based on how the X-rays diffract.

"This is like magic to us," Crisp told SPACE.com. X-ray diffraction is a leading diagnostic technique for Earthbound geologists, she explained, but it hasn't made it to Mars yet. So CheMin should help Curiosity provide more definitive mineral characterizations than previous Mars rovers such as Spirit and Opportunity have been able to achieve. 

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam)

For sheer coolness, it's tough to beat ChemCam. This instrument will fire a laser at Martian rocks from up to 30 feet (9 meters) away and analyze the composition of the vaporized bits.

ChemCam will thus enable Curiosity to study rocks that are out of reach of its flexible robotic arm. It will also help the mission team determine from afar whether or not they want to send the rover over to investigate a particular landform.

ChemCam is composed of several different parts. The laser sits on Curiosity's mast, along with a camera and a small telescope. Three spectrographs sit in the rover's body, connected to the mast components by fiber optics. The spectrographs will analyze the light emitted by excited electrons in the vaporized rock samples.

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Curiosity's ChemCam instrument can vaporize rocks from up to 30 feet (9 meters) away with a laser. Three spectrographs will analyze the composition of the vaporized bits.


Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)

APXS, which sits at the end of Curiosity's arm, will measure the abundances of various chemical elements in Martian rocks and dirt.

Curiosity will place the instrument in contact with samples of interest, and APXS will shoot out X-rays and helium nuclei. This barrage will knock electrons in the sample out of their orbits, causing a release of X-rays. Scientists will be able to identify elements based on the characteristic energies of these emitted X-rays.

Spirit and Opportunity were outfitted with a previous version of APXS and used the instrument to help elucidate the prominent role water has played in shaping the Martian landscape. [Latest Mars Photos From Spirit and Opportunity]

Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN)

DAN, located near the back of Curiosity's main body, will help the rover search for ice and water-logged minerals beneath the Martian surface.

The instrument will fire beams of neutrons at the ground, then note the speed at which these particles travel when they bounce back. Hydrogen atoms tend to slow neutrons down, so an abundance of sluggish neutrons would signal underground water or ice.

DAN should be able to map out water concentrations as low as 0.1 percent at depths up to 6 feet (2 m).

Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD)

The toaster-size RAD is designed specifically to help prepare for future human exploration of Mars. The instrument will measure and identify high-energy radiation of all types on the Red Planet, from fast-moving protons to gamma rays.

RAD's observations will allow scientists to determine just how much radiation an astronaut would be exposed to on Mars. This information could also help researchers understand how much of a hurdle Mars' radiation environment might have posed to the origin and evolution of life on the Red Planet.


A photo of Mars from NASA's Viking spacecraft, which launched in 1975.
CREDIT: The Viking Project/NASA

Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS)

This tool, which sits partway up Curiosity's mast, is a Martian weather station. REMS will measure atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, air temperature, ground temperature and ultraviolet radiation.

All of this information will be integrated into daily and seasonal reports, allowing scientists to get a detailed look at the Martian environment.

MSL Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation (MEDLI)

MEDLI isn't one of Curiosity's 10 instruments, since it's built into the heat shield that will protect the rover on its descent through the Martian atmosphere. But it's worth a few words here.

MEDLI will measure the temperatures and pressures the heat shield experiences as the MSL spacecraft streaks through the Martian sky. This information will tell engineers how well the heat shield, and their models of the spacecraft's trajectory, performed.

Researchers will use MEDLI data to improve designs for future Mars-bound spacecraft.

You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter: @michaeldwall. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases
@ Nov 18, 2011
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By SETH BORENSTEIN - AP Science Writer | AP – 23 hrs ago (November 04, 2011)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.

"The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing," said John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

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(FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 17, 2010 file photo, workers cycle past a coal-fired power plant on a tricycle cart in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province. The world's emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide took the biggest jump on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming. The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than...)

The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That's an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries — China, the United States and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

"It's a big jump," said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over."

Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

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India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.

"The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?" Reilly said Thursday. "Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world."

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.

Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC's worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

Chris Field of Stanford University, head of one of the IPCC's working groups, said the panel's emissions scenarios are intended to be more accurate in the long term and are less so in earlier years. He said the question now among scientists is whether the future is the panel's worst case scenario "or something more extreme."

"Really dismaying," Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures. "We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren."

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.

In 1990, developed countries produced about 60 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, now it's probably less than 50 percent, Reilly said.

"We really need to get the developing world because if we don't, the problem is going to be running away from us," Weaver said. "And the problem is pretty close from running away from us."



Government carbon dioxide info center: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/



134 pages, PDF



In the lead-up to the UN climate negotiations in Durban, the latest information on the level and growth of CO2 emissions, their source and geographic distribution will be essential to lay the foundation for a global agreement. To provide input to and support for the UN process the IEA is making available for free download the “Highlights” version of CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion.

This annual publication contains:

• estimates of CO2 emissions by country from 1971 to 2009,

• selected indicators such as CO2/GDP, CO2/capita, CO2/TPES and CO2/kWh,

• CO2 emissions from international marine and aviation bunkers, and other relevant information.

The seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 17), in conjunction with the seventh meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 7), will be meeting in Durban, South Africa from 28 November to 9 December 2011. This volume of “Highlights”, drawn from the full-scale study, was specially designed for delegations and observers of the meeting in Durban.



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Topics-Art, Literature, Politics. Life Style, etc.
Army likely to recruit one lakh soldiers for China border
@ Nov 18, 2011
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Josy Joseph, TNN Nov 2, 2011, 12.45AM IST

NEW DELHI: Faced with growing Chinese military presence along the border and other complex security challenges in the region, the government is planning to increase the strength of the Indian Army by almost one lakh soldiers over the next five years.

Authoritative sources told TOI that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved a Rs 64,000-crore (approximately $13 billion) military modernization plan that would include raising four new divisions along the India-China border. Two of these would be part of a Mountain Strike Corps dedicated to offensive operations. The plan also includes raising two independent brigades, one in Ladakh and the other in Uttarakhand.

Once cleared, this would be the biggest ever modernization and expansion package for the army. It would also be the largest increase in deployment along the China border seen since the immediate aftermath of the 1962 war.

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(A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla.)

Two weeks ago, MoD sent its plan to the finance ministry for scrutiny and approval, authoritative sources said. Once cleared, the proposal would be put up before the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval and financial sanction.

A senior MoD official said, under the proposal, the army will induct 90,000 more soldiers over the next five years during the 12th five-year plan period from 2012 to 2017-all of them for deployment along the China border. In the 11th Plan, the army's strength was augmented by 36,000 for two new divisions.

The proposed modernization plan includes a comprehensive overhaul and upgrade of the army's fire-power, logistical capabilities and other aspects of the China border deployment.

The army's projected requirement for ultra-light Howitzers for mountains would double, while it would also require a major addition to its helicopter capabilities, sources said.

A senior MoD source said while the proposal was focused on the India-China border, some military expansion is planned in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. At present, the army has just a brigade of soldiers in the islands. This is expected to be stepped up to the strength of a division, he said. There are also plans to increase air force and naval capabilities in Andaman and Nicobar as well as along the China border, he said.

The MoD had raised some initial concerns about the cost involved in a comprehensive military upgrade plan and the file was returned to the army headquarters a couple of months ago. But after a few rounds of consultations within the MoD, the defence acquisition council headed by minister A K Antony cleared the plan early last month, sources said.

Sources said the projected expansion budget of Rs 64,000 crore includes the cost of new helipads and air strips, and also last-mile road linkages. It would also include the cost of implementing new concepts of military transformation, which are now being tested, including the capability to operate in smaller units and providing logistics in an integrated manner.


Additional links:

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Indo-China Border – Nathula (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rinxing/3783631327/)

1-Aug-2009 - At a height of 14,500-feet, Nathu La must be one of the most gentle Passes to cross. There is no sharp gradient; the road just meanders naturally into Chinese territory from Sikkim.


Special Series: Indo China border Dispute




US forces had orders to target Indian Army in 1971


Josy Joseph, TNN | Nov 6, 2011, 04.17AM IST

NEW DELHI: A set of freshly declassified top secret papers on the 1971 war show that US hostility towards India during the war with Pakistan was far more intense than known until now.

The documents reveal that Indira Gandhi went ahead with her plan to liberate Bangladesh despite inputs that the Nixon Administration had kept three battalions of Marines on standby to deter India, and that the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target Indian Army facilities.

The bold leadership that the former PM showed during the 1971 war is well known. But the declassified documents further burnish the portrait of her courageous defiance.

The documents show how Americans held back communication regarding Pakistan's desire to surrender in Dhaka by almost a day.

That the American establishment had mobilized their 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal, ostensibly to evacuate US nationals, is public knowledge. But the declassified papers show Washington had planned to use the 7th Fleet to attack the Indian Army.

They also show that Nixon administration kept arming Pakistan despite having imposed an embargo on providing both Islamabad and New Delhi military hardware and support.

They suggest that India, exasperated by continuing flow of American arms and ammunition, had considered intercepting three Pakistani vessels carrying war stores months before the war. The plan was dropped against the backdrop of the Indian foreign ministry's assessment that the interception could trigger hostilities.

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Pakistani Army Commander in the Eastern Command, Lt General AAK Niazi, signing the Instrument of Surrender in front of General Officer Commanding in Chief of India and Bangladesh Forces in the Eastern Theatre, Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora on December 16, 1971.

The pro-Pak bias of the then US President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is vividly brought out by their decision to keep three battalions of Marines on standby: a decision which has so far not found mention in any record of the 1971 war.

Documents blame Richard Nixon for Pakistan tilt

A six-page note prepared by India's foreign ministry holds then American president Richard Nixon responsible for the pro-Pakistan tilt during India's 1971 war with her neighbour.

"The assessment of our embassy reveal (sic) that the decision to brand India as an 'aggressor' and to send the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal was taken personally by Nixon," says the note. The note further says, the Indian embassy: "feel (sic) that the bomber force aboard the Enterprise had the US President's authority to undertake bombing of Indian Army's communications, if necessary."

As early as June 1971, New Delhi weighed the possibility of intercepting three Pakistani ships loaded with US weapons. This leaves only two other courses regarding interception: That India may intercept the ships before they reach Karachi, or impose a blockade of the Bay of Bengal. Either of these might involve the use of force and would be treated as acts of war, wrote the director (legal and treaties) of MEA.

On December 14, Gen A A K Niazi, Pakistan's military commander for erstwhile East Pakistan, told the American consul-general in Dhaka that he was willing to surrender. The message was relayed to Washington, but it took the US 19 hours to relay it to New Delhi. Files suggest senior Indian diplomats suspected the delay was because Washington was possibly contemplating military action against India.


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Topics-Health & Life Sciences
Is Your Dog Smarter Than a 2-Year-Old?
@ Nov 28, 2011
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723c-dog and child.png

Nishant Choksi


Published: November 19, 2011

“I heard that, in intelligence, dogs are like 2-year-old children.”

One of my psychology students recently lobbed this statement at me. It’s an assertion I have heard — and dismissed — dozens of times, the reiteration of what must seem a profound, pithy truth about dogs’ mental abilities. From my perspective as a researcher of canine cognition, it at once overstates and understates dogs’ abilities to claim that they are equal in some unifying, cross-species “intelligence” to 2-year-olds.

But then the other day, sitting at home with my family, I was reminded of why the dog-child comparison is so often made. There was my 2-year-old child. Next to him lay our 4-year-old dog. There are undeniable similarities in their behavior.

For instance, they are both moderately impolite: my son stares unyieldingly at the large hairdo on an obese man on the sidewalk; my dog greets my friend at the door with a sniff right in his crotch. They both love many of the same things — squeaking objects, bagels, other dogs — and share a hatred of loud noises.

So I decided to get fully quasi-scientific about it. How are dog and child alike? How are they not? Herewith I report anecdotal instances of their behavior over one week, with some cherry-picked research to complete the story.

MONDAY Child (hereinafter “C”) rolls over in bed and into the dog (hereinafter “D”), also in bed, causing both to jump out of bed and commence running down the hall. In the bathroom, we all look in the mirror together: “Who’s that?” I ask. C identifies himself with a smile. D stands behind us, alert to his own reflection, but not, research indicates, identifying it as himself. Dogs don’t pass the “mirror mark test,” which examines if a subject looking in the mirror can identify that a secretly placed colored spot on his reflection’s head is actually on his own head.

Children pass this test around 18 months of age; it is part of their growing sense of self, of an “I” who is different from other people. C found the sticker I placed on his head one day by looking in the mirror and then touching his head. Dogs either do not care about the mark, or do not realize that the dog in the mirror is themselves.

On the other hand, more ecologically appropriate research — studying a dog’s response to yellow snow — has found that dogs spend less time sniffing their own urine than the urine of others. This may reveal a sense of “me” if not a sense of “I.” Whether a child would recognize his own urine has yet to be scientifically investigated.

TUESDAY Playing at home, playing in the park. Both C and D engage in lots of play, though of different varieties. Dogs favor rough-and-tumble play, tussling with, chasing and biting other dogs. In this play, dogs follow a basic code of behavior: do not bite too hard or before sending a “play signal,” or your playmate will respond with aggression. This morning in the park, D tries out a new play behavior: mounting another dog. It does not go over well. He sits out the next bout.

At home, C excitedly throws a block into my face. He has little idea this is bad behavior, and stops only when the blocks are placed out of his reach: he doesn’t know the rules of play yet. On the other hand, he has begun sipping imaginary water from a cup: a kind of “pretend” that is an early stage of developing a theory of mind, the understanding of others’ perspectives. D never drinks imaginary water out of a water dish, unless I forget to fill his bowl.

WEDNESDAY One evening when he had just turned 2, C proclaimed “half moon up!” at the half moon rising in the dusk sky. By their second birthdays children may have vocabularies of hundreds of words. Impressed? Recently Chaser, a border collie, was trained to retrieve, nose or paw 1,022 objects by name. Still, Chaser, like all dogs, utters nary a word. C, like many 2-year-olds, speaks a blue streak. It might be that D has told me about the half moon; I just don’t understand his dialect.

In the mornings, C not only speaks, he also babbles — a fantastical, meaningless stream of sounds that plays with his burgeoning language. When C toddles off down the hall in search of breakfast, D gives me a look. I know the look: I get it when C is playing too roughly with him or taking all of my attention. I imbue C’s babble and D’s look with great meaning, based more on my familiarity with them than any evidence of their signifying anything at all.

THURSDAY Until six months ago, C and D were identical in one respect: they both used their mouths as exploratory organs — a habit that C has happily relinquished. Now, on finding a ladybug in the house, D sniffs at it, then grabs it with his mouth. C does not: he points at it, then turns to me. Who got more information from his exploration? It’s hard to gauge: I doubt that any of us knows what the taste of ladybug can tell us about it.

What this difference reveals is the divergence, growing more profound by the day, in how the dog and the child see the world. And this reflects the fact that the dog’s olfactory ability dwarfs ours; just what this means for how they see (smell) the world is only now beginning to be understood. D has located the places that his friends — human and dog — live in the neighborhood entirely by smell. More than once on a walk I have found myself standing at the entrance to a strange building, waiting for my dog to finish sniffing the doorjamb, when someone I know from the dog park walks out.

C, by contrast, is all about vision, and vision leads to visual attention, which leads to communication we can understand. In infants, this burgeoning interest in where people have (visually) gone is what makes peekaboo fun: when I disappear behind a scarf, maybe it really is the case that I am long gone! But then pop! there we both are.

For his part, D is bemused by peekaboo.

FRIDAY My son has taken to kissing the scar left by my back surgery. My dog licks my tears when I cry. Neither wants to see me angry. In all cases they are not exhibiting a fully developed, adult understanding of injury, sadness or anger — but something recognizable.

This sure feels empathetic. Do D and C see others as having qualities like sadness or anger — or selfishness? The research suggests they do. Two recent canine studies showed that dogs who eavesdropped on experimenters who were generous or selfish in sharing food with other people chose to interact with the generous ones.

Human infants appear to do something similar as young as 6 months old. By 18 months they may spontaneously, without solicitation, help an adult who is facing a problem in a task, like trying to reach an object that is out of reach or open a door when his hands are full. Dogs can be trained to do this, but they do not appear to see our problems, our intents, the way that infants do.

On the other hand, what dogs may lack in full understanding of us, they make up for in their tolerance of us. Dogs are infinitely patient. C will wait a minute if I request he do so while I finish pouring boiling water. (A “minute” lasts, variably, 6 seconds or 60.) D will wait for hours upon hours for me to return home.

One study found that dogs were able to delay gratification — waiting to trade food-in-mouth for better food — for as long as 10 minutes. This compares favorably with even 4-year-old children, who, as psychologists showed by asking them to wait to eat a marshmallow placed tantalizingly in front of them, averaged about five minutes.

In the end, the dog and the child overlap in many behaviors. They overlap, for that matter, in their roles in our lives. Mine overlap in my lap on the couch right now. But there are myriad subtle differences between them, the summation of which indicates that to equate their intelligences makes no sense. The child is on his way to something else; the dog is, fairly quickly, there. That is why he is “the dog” and the child is “the 2-year-old.”

There is no ruler that measures both dogs and little boys and girls. Just as a child is more than a young adult, a dog is more than — and much different from — a simple human. You are no more doing your dog a kindness by treating him as a child than you would be in treating your child as a dog. Unless your kid really loves liver treats.

The author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know” and a term assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College.


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Why does eyesight deteriorate with age?
@ Nov 18, 2011
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(This is an old-January 2006-article.)


January 9, 2006 | 3

David Zacks, a retina specialist and assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, explains.

Many of us think that as we grow older our eyesight is destined to deteriorate. We talk about "tired" or "old" eyes as if we are fated to have the gift of vision taken from us simply because we have aged. For example, in what might be the earliest reference to cataracts in the Bible (Genesis, Chapter 27, Verse 1) we learn that, "And it came to pass, that Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim..." The truth is that, with today's treatment options, there is no intrinsic reason for our vision to worsen with time. In theory, we should be able to retain undiminished our capability to accept, process and experience visual sensory input.

But, as with most conventional wisdom, there is an element of truth to the notion that age-related processes can affect our eyesight. The good news is that identifying and treating these processes can often result in the preservation or restoration of excellent vision for an entire lifetime.



A good understanding of vision loss requires a brief foray into the basic structure of the eye. Although it might be considered a clich, it is still useful to compare the eye to a video camera. Thus, as light enters the eye--or the camera--it travels through four main structures. By understanding this basic eye anatomy we can begin to understand the ways in which the light signal can be degraded or distorted, resulting in poor vision.

The entry point for light is the cornea, the transparent tissue in the very front of the eye that functions as the window through which all light has to pass on its way to forming a visual perception. Next, the light signal encounters the lens, which focuses it finely on the third structure of the eye: the retina. The retina is analogous to the film in the back of the camera. It is on the retina that the light is converted into a neural signal that is ultimately interpreted by the brain as an image. Finally, the optic nerve, which carries these signals to the brain, functions like a cable that connects the video camera to the television screen. The deterioration of our vision with age is invariably the result of a problem with one of these four structures.

The integrity of the corneal surface is very important for the reception of a clear image. If its surface is not smooth and intact the image will suffer, much like the image from a scratched camera. A very thin layer of tears coats the surface of the cornea. This tear surface, produced by various cells, some of which line the inner surface of the eyelid, is vital to maintaining the corneas smooth surface and precise optical characteristics. Any condition that disrupts this tear film can lead to a breakdown of the corneas surface and, thus, degradation of the image.

With age, this smooth surface can be damaged by conditions such as blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids. If the inflammation is severe enough, then the cells that produce the tears can be damaged, with an attendant impact on the tears coating the cornea. In this situation an individual may experience symptoms such as the sensation of a "film" over the eye, which is usually transient and relieved with blinking. More serious symptoms can also occur, such as blurry vision, which is due to evaporation of the tears and drying out of the corneal surface. This condition can become chronic and is known as dry eyes. Treatment options for blepharitis and dry eyes depend on the cause of the inflammation of the lid surface but can include warm compresses, artificial tears, oral antibiotics and even topical immunosuppressive agents to decrease the inflammatory response leading to the degraded tears.

The lens is also subject to the aging process, and the resulting conditions--cataracts and presbyopia--will eventually affect just about everyone. When we are born our lenses are crystal clear, meaning that the image entering the eye is not degraded by any opacity. They are also very pliable, meaning that the lens can change its shape to help focus images that are very far away as well as very close. Unfortunately, as we grow older two things happen to the lens: it clouds up and it becomes less pliable. The clouding of the lens--or cataract--forces an image to travel through a distorted medium, resulting in diminished vision. Similarly, when the lens loses its pliability it also loses its ability to focus over a wide range of distances. A hardened lens becomes more fixed on distant objects and cannot focus as well on nearby objects or vice versa. This hardening often occurs in middle age, when people notice the need to hold the newspaper farther away in order to read the print, and is known as presbyopia from the Greek words presbus, meaning old man, and opia, meaning eye.

Fortunately, there are treatments for both these conditions. A lens that has developed a cataract can be removed surgically and replaced by an artificial one. The implanted lens is clear and allows the image to pass through the eye nondegraded. As for presbyopia, the solution is even simpler--reading glasses or bifocals.

Finally, the retina and the optic nerve work in tandem and deterioration in either can lead to serious, even blinding, conditions. The retina is an extremely complex tissue that converts the light image entering the eye into a neural signal. This signal is then transmitted to the brain by extensions of the ganglion cells. It is the extensions of these cells that form the optic nerve so, in a sense, the optic nerve is an extension of the retina. Numerous studies have shown that, in the absence of disease, there is no significant age-related deterioration in visual capacity of the retina or optic nerve. Unfortunately, age-related diseases of the retina and optic nerve are not entirely rare. Macular degeneration (loss of central retinal function) and glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve due to increased intraocular pressure) lead the list. Early detection of these diseases can often prevent or minimize the extent of vision loss, particularly as new and improved therapies become available.

In summary, as our population ages, society is not fated to having millions of people with "dim" eyes. Rather, with proper proactive ophthalmic care and an emphasis on the development of new therapies for blinding diseases we can continue to make "great vision" a reality for those past the first blush of youth.



David N. Zacks, M.D., Ph.D.

Retina and Uveitis

Associate Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

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Specialty Interests

Diseases and surgery of the retina and vitreous, including retinal detachments, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, retinal vascular disease, ocular trauma, ocular inflammation, macular and submacular surgery, surgical management of complex retinal detachments

Kellogg Eye Center - Ann Arbor

Appointments and Clinical Services: 734-763-5874

Clinic Fax: 734-647-3555

Academic Office: 734-763-7711

Academic Office Fax: 734-936-2340

Map and directions

E-mail: davzacks@umich.edu


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Is Sitting Too Long a Major Cancer Risk?
@ Nov 18, 2011
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Study Shows Inactivity and Excess Sitting Linked to an Estimated 100,000 Cancer Cases a Year

By Kathleen Doheny

WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 3, 2011 -- Here's a new risk for cancer a lot of us can relate to -- simply sitting too long.

"It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk," Neville Owen, PhD, of Australia's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, says in a news release.

Owen presented the research at a news conference today at the American Institute for Cancer Research annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Regular exercise has long been linked with reducing the risk of certain cancers.


Now, experts say they have a better strategy. Get regular exercise and avoid prolonged periods of sitting.

Higher activity could prevent nearly 100,000 cases of breast and colon cancer in the U.S. each year, says Christine Friedenreich, PhD, research scientist and epidemiologist at Alberta Health Services in Canada. "These are just estimates," she tells WebMD.

Friedenreich presented the estimates at the news conference today.

Being sedentary has been linked with an increase in inflammation and other indicators of cancer risk. More recently, so has prolonged sitting.

"We'd like Americans to think about physical activity in a different way," Alice Bender, RD, a dietitian for the American Institute for Cancer Research, said at the news conference. 

The focus, Bender says, should be on finding time for regular exercise while also reducing prolonged sitting. "We would like people to think about 'make time' and 'break time' and that equals cancer protection."

The American Institute for Cancer Research now recommends that adult Americans who sit most of the day take one- or two-minute ''activity'' breaks every hour.

Sitting Time and Cancer Risk

"Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right," Owen says. The link is not dependent, he says, on body weight or the level of exercise done.

In his research, Owen measured waist circumference, inflammation, and other indicators of heart disease and cancer risk. "We found that even breaks as short as one minute can lower these biomarkers."

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.

Along with less sitting, Friedenreich updated the evidence linking physical activity with reduced cancer risk by reviewing more than 200 studies.

"We can now say there is convincing evidence that activity reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer and probably endometrial," she tells WebMD.

There is weaker evidence for the effect of exercise on lung, prostate, and ovarian cancer risk, she says.

For colon cancer, studies showed that people who exercised the most (and the amount varied from study to study) had a 30% or 35% risk reduction compared to people who were least active, she says.

In studies on exercise and breast cancer, the most active people reduced their risk 20% or 30%, compared to the least active.

For endometrial cancer, the risk reduction was also 30% to 35% for the most active.

Because each study had different categories of most or least activity, "we can't say, 'this is how many hours [of activity are needed],'" she says. She is addressing that in a current study.

To calculate the effect of activity on cancer risk, Friedenreich turned to the SEER Program (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) database of the National Cancer Institute.

A total of 141,210 colon cancers and 230,480 breast cancers were reported for 2011. She estimated that about 30% of the colon cancers, or nearly 43,000, could be prevented with activity. About 21% of breast cancers, or about 49,000, might be avoided.

In her research, Friedenreich recently found that women who began to exercise had much lower levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation and possibly cancer risk, than those who did not.

She randomly assigned half of 320 women, ages 50 to 74, to the exercise group. They worked up to exercise five days a week for at least 45 minutes. The program lasted a year. The study is published in Cancer Prevention Research.

Second Opinion

The bottom line for reducing health risks, including cancer? "Exercise is good, but you can't sit all the time," says Leslie Bernstein, PhD, professor and director of the division of cancer etiology at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, Calif. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

Bernstein and colleagues published a study in 2010 about the dramatic effects of "sitting time" on the likelihood of dying.

The study was led by Bernstein's former doctoral student, Alpa Patel, PhD, now an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society. They found the likelihood of dying during the 14-year follow-up was higher in those who spent six or more hours a day sitting, compared to those who spent less than three hours. The risk was 37% higher for women sitting six or more hours and18% for men.

The link was strongest for death from heart disease. The sitting time was linked with death risk, regardless of the amount of physical activity, Bernstein tells WebMD. The study is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"All our messages before [to reduce disease risk] were 'exercise, exercise, exercise,''' Bernstein says. Now, growing evidence suggests it is also important to avoid prolonged periods of sitting, she says.

Tips for Office Workers

Bender says it's possible even for a commuting, desk-bound office worker to avoid long periods of sitting.

Her tips:

  • Set the timer on your computer to alert you every 60 minutes to take a break. A short walk down the hall is enough.
  • Ask a colleague to walk with you to talk about a problem instead of sitting.
  • During a phone call in your office, stand up and walk around if possible.


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Topics-World Affairs
Occupy Wall Street After 2 Months: A Scorecard
@ Nov 26, 2011
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By Dan Beucke | BusinessWeek – Fri, Nov 18, 2011 6:19 PM EST

It began on Sept. 17 with a few hundred people gathering in lower Manhattan. The protest — against banks, moneyed influence in Washington, corporate power, and a host of other loose causes — rated only sparse mention at first, even in the local press. Their targets saw them as goofy.

No more. Police this week rousted protesters from their Zuccotti Park encampment in a maneuver planned with military precision. Today the Occupiers — this time, by the thousands — were back on the march, swarming the streets around the New York Stock Exchange, clashing with police, and enraging stock exchange employees.

So at two months, what are Occupy Wall Street’s wins and losses?


Bank fees: Every time you use your Bank of America debit card and don’t pay $5, thank Occupy Wall Street. The decision by big banks earlier this month to roll back their debit-card fees marks the first successful popular uprising by consumers against fees. And, considering the banks’ years-long success in loading them up, that’s no small achievement. Yes, much of the pressure came from the Bank Transfer Day effort, led by Kristen Christian, a Los Angeles art gallery owner who isn’t a direct supporter of OWS (that’s her logo to the right). But the debit fees never would have been rolled back — and 40,000 people wouldn’t have transfered accounts to credit unions — without the accelerant provided by OWS.

Changing the national conversation: Coming out of the summer, the economic debate in Washington was dominated by talk of cutting the deficit — not jobs, not the wealth disparity in America, and certainly not the role of money in politics. Today that has shifted. Part of my job here each morning is to aggregate stories about the wealth debate; the volume of candidates is impressive. You can see the change in a Google Trends chart of web searches and news references for the term “income inequality.” An analysis of the #OWS Twitter hashtag (thanks to my colleague Dan Fletcher) shows a rise over the past month, spiking ahead of the Zuccotti police action.

There’s been a more subtle shift. Note the number of times that Occupy Wall Street is used as a reference point in analyses of issues ranging from mortgage relief to student loans to taxation. It has lent urgency and weight to what may have seemed like dry policy discussions. In Washington, the GOP in general remains dismissive of the protests. Some on the right support the criticism of corporate bailouts, though they see the protesters as misguided. President Obama first mentioned (as best I can tell) OWS on Oct. 6, going to great lengths to frame the movement around his own policy proposals. His press secretary has taken questions on the movement at nearly every press conference since then.

Getting Wall Street’s attention: Perhaps even more impressive is how OWS has seeped into Wall Street’s own conversation. This is partly due to the early attention paid by a few influential financial bloggers, such as bank critic Barry Ritholtz. But bankers were clearly stung by the 1% tag and angered by suggestions they hadn’t earned their bonuses. An Oct. 11 march to the Upper East Side Manhattan homes of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and hedge fund chief John Paulson got moguls’ attention. OWS even began popping up as a “risk factor” in several corporate financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and in analyst briefings. As Footnoted.org pointed out, in the financial world this is as good an indication as any that a movement has “truly arrived.”


Public perception: The increasing seediness of the “permanent” OWS encampments — and a handful of highly publicized acts of violence in or near the camps — provided a basis for the police crackdowns in Oakland, Portland, and New York. It wasn’t just the New York Post and its energetic efforts to link OWS to street crime everywhere. Small businesses around Zuccotti Park may have grumbled at first about protesters filling their bathrooms and police blocking foot traffic, but many supported the right to demonstrate. By the end, some businesses were planning their own protest against the city’s failure to clear the camp.

If the movement becomes centered more around symbolic marches and other protest actions, a bigger concern may become the potential for violence — by protesters or police — and how that comes to be perceived. In New York on Thursday, police said five protesters were charged with felony assault, and several officers and protesters were injured. In Oakland, the Occupiers’ successful march to shut down the city’s huge cargo port was marred by the subsequent window smashing and other acts of property violence by a small number of protesters. Organizers have stressed non-violence. Whether they can keep a lid on their angriest protesters may well determine the movement’s staying power.

Zuccotti Park: How important is it to have a home base — or, as my colleague Mark Gimein puts it, a stage from which to perform? When the city cleared away the tents at Zuccotti Park, it may have done the movement a favor, giving its first act a dramatic (non-violent) climax and freeing it to move on to more focused actions. Or it may mark the point where the media loses interest.

The bottom line: Those “occupy” web searches may have peaked, and the public may prove to have little stomach for street clashes. But it’s hard to see the big issues raised by the Occupiers fading anytime soon. Especially as the real street theater — the 2012 presidential race — wheels into view.


UC President "appalled" at UC Davis pepper spray incident


November 20, 2011 |  4:32 pm

Two UC Davis campus police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave over their controversial use of pepper spray on student protesters, university officials announced Sunday as the UC system president said he was “appalled” by the incident and promised a review of police procedures at all 10 University of California campuses.

Mark G. Yudof, the UC system president, said he would be talking to the 10 campus chancellors, as well as experts and other campus groups, “to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes.”

“Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history,” Yudof said. “It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”

Yudof said he was prompted to seek the review by the UC Davis spraying as well as by how campus police at UC Berkeley used their batons to jab protesters at a recent demonstration there.

A video that showed an officer spraying a group of UC Davis students who were huddled on the ground Friday quickly went viral, drawing outrage and calls for the chancellor's resignation.

UC Davis spokeswoman Claudia Morain said the two officers placed on leave were the only officers they were able to identify as having deployed pepper spray.

The officers, whose names were not released, will remain on paid leave indefinitely.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi initially did not criticize police, but on Saturday said she would convene a task force to look into the incident. On Sunday, she said the faculty, students and staff who will serve on the task force will be chosen immediately and that they will have 30 days  to complete their report.

“I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage,” Katehi said in a statement. “I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Police said officers were trying to get out of the protest area when they used the pepper spray. UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told reporters Saturday that the decision to use the pepper spray was made at the scene. “The students had encircled the officers,” she said. The officers "needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”

But the school said in a statement, “Videos taken during Friday’s arrests showed that the two officers used pepper spray on peacefully seated students.”

The incident occurred as police were attempting to clear an overnight encampment of 25 tents associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ten protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse. Eleven were treated for the effects of pepper spray, including two who were taken to a hospital. The students were treated and released.

Video on YouTube

Police Pepper Spray Peaceful UC Davis Students


727a-pepper spray.png

In this image made from video, a police officer uses pepper spray on a line of peaceful Occupy demonstrators sitting on the ground at the University of California, Davis, on Friday. Thomas K. Fowler/AP



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Occupy Wall Street protesters

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Occupy Wall Street protesters camping out at Zuccotti Park, New York

(Photo: http://www.frugal-cafe.com/)


OccupyWallSt.org is the unofficial de facto online resource for the growing occupation movement happening on Wall Street and around the world. We're an affinity group committed to doing technical support work for resistance movements. We're not a subcommittee of the NYCGA nor affiliated with Adbusters, anonymous or any other organization.

Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.

The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organize your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.

Solidarity Forever!


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