What is a Geo Sitemap?

Google Geo Sitemaps is an extension of the Sitemap protocol that enables you to publish geospatial content (geo content) to Google, in order to make it searchable in Google Earth and on Google Maps.

With Geo Sitemaps, you can tell Googlebot about your geo content, rather than waiting for us to discover it “in the wild”. While we cannot guarantee when or if your geo content will be added to our GeoSearch index, we are continuously working to improve the coverage, freshness and quality of our index.

There are several formats for specifying geo content, including KML and GeoRSS. Google currently supports both of these formats, and we plan to add support for more popular geo formats in the future.

You create and add Geo Sitemaps in the same way as you create regular Sitemaps.

More information about creating Geo Sitemaps.

GM food: How safe is it?

 gm_tomato1

In India the elongated, deep purple ovoid is considered one of the humblest of vegetables. The Bengalis call it ‘Begun’ which means a vegetable that has no virtue. But now the lowly brinjal has become the eye of the storm that is forcing you to sit up and take notice as you sit down to eat.

 For if the Union Government accepts an expert committee report that last week cleared a genetically modified (GM) brinjal for commercial cultivation, it may open the floodgates for a host of such technologically engineered vegetables and fruits that will hit market shelves and eventually your dining table.

gm

 At the core of the acrimonious debate is just how safe these foods are for you and for the environment. The final nod may well remain elusive as the Government is in a bind with consumer and environmental activists joined by politicians of different hues taking sides fired by emotion and, in some cases, informed opinion on issues of safety.

 “There are strong arguments for and against the introduction of GM brinjal and it will take a lot of time to study them and the final decision would not be taken under the influence of any company or any NGO,” says Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh. He plans to hold a series of consultations with scientists, agricultural experts, farmer’s organisations, consumer groups and NGOs before finalising his views.

 The brinjal brouhaha

 

brinjal-1

 – A genetically modified (GM) brinjal that promises high yield and is the first of its kind in the world is likely to be cleared for commercial crop cultivation in India.

brinjal-diversity

 – NGOs vehemently oppose such transgenic foods, saying they are unsafe for human consumption and would adversely impact the environment.

 – The Union Government has called for a national debate and opened the research to scrutiny.

 It is not as if genetically engineered crops are new to India. In 2002, after an equally divisive debate, the government permitted the commercial cultivation of genetically engineered cotton called Bt cotton. Despite the widespread criticism that greeted the first cultivation of Bt cotton, it has been an unqualified success.

 Transgenic cotton is grown in 90 per cent of the cotton growing areas in the country, increasing yields by as much as 50 per cent in certain regions.

 Globally, since its introduction 12 years ago, Bt cotton now occupies over 40 per cent of the total cotton sown area and has been adopted by countries such as the US, China, South Africa and Australia. Disputes, however, continue about its efficacy, safety and environmental damage.

 The criticism, about the safety and utility of genetically modified food products, is focused on the assumption that altering the genetic make-up of a food item is bound to have consequences, which could prove to be deadly. No adverse effects on health have been reported for any transgenic product introduced anywhere in the world so far.

 Besides, it is a myth that traditional food has no toxic effects. But there are worries like allergic reactions as well as fears posed by gene transfer and out-crossing that may lead to unforeseen consequences like resistance to antibiotics.

 This springs from the worry that GM foods would cause genetic modification in those who eat them. While that is the consumers worry, farmers concern is that when GM crops get mixed with traditional crops, these may get destroyed.

bt-brinjal-mela-teaser

 The reason why the clearance of a GM brinjal has raised a fresh squall is that apart from it being the first time India would be clearing a GM food crop for commercial cultivation, it is the first time in the world that a genetically engineered brinjal is being introduced. GM crops are those in which the genetic material (DNA) is altered for some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer.

 In the case of the brinjal, the problem farmers faced is a particularly pesky and resilient insect called the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) that eats into tender shoots and fruits retarding growth, making the brinjals unsuitable for the market and unfit for human consumption. Heavy doses of pesticide just didn’t seem to help.

dsh-brinjal

 That’s when Maharashtra Hybrids Seed Company (Mahyco) combined forces with the US seed giant Monsanto to come up with a GM brinjal variety that would become resistant to the borer. Both these companies had in the past jointly developed the genetically modified Bt Cotton to successfully tackle the bollworm problem that had devastated cotton crops in the past.

 The claim

 – The Government says all studies put on website and clearance took nine years

 – Extensive trials done by public sector laboratories, like ICAR, cleared Bt Brinjal

 – Expert committee cleared all trials and was satisfied with governmental controls

 The refutation

 – NGOs charge lack of transparency and undue haste in GEAC clearance for Bt brinjal

 – GEAC poorly equipped to address bio-safety concerns and favours industry lobby

 – No independent evaluation mechanism and Government depends on the multinational

 They did this by introducing into the cotton seed a gene of the common soil microbe called Bacillus thuringiensis that encoded an insecticidal protein lethal to the bollworm hence the name Bt Cotton. When the companies found that the Bt gene was as effective in tackling the brinjal borer they decided to develop the transgenic Bt brinjal.

 Estimates are that Bt brinjal could add to the current annual production of 80 lakh tonnes by more than 50 per cent-that is as much destroyed by pests-with Bt brinjal. This offers a win-win situation both for farmers and consumers. Brinjal is grown in around 5.5 lakh hectares and is a critical cash crop for more than 1.4 million small and marginal farmers. The area under cultivation has gone up by 15 per cent in the last 10 years but production has barely increased because of repeated borer attacks.

 Sadly, despite a range of brinjal varieties, India, which is also the second largest producer in the world after China, has not been able to check the virulence of the FSB that is responsible for the pockmarks on the vegetable’s peel. “It will help millions of brinjal farmers who have been suffering from the havoc caused by FSB and it will help farmers tackle this pest in an environment friendly manner and increase yields and farm income,” says Raju Barwale, managing director, Mahyco.

 About safety concerns, Mahyco points out that the company fulfilled the series of trials both for its efficacy and safety including the toxicity tests on animals that the Genetically Engineering Approval Committee, (GEAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had ordered. Two expert committees formed by the GEAC had extensively reviewed the bio-safety data and had cleared Bt brinjal after large-scale field trials were done in public sector research laboratories.

 While the Indian Council of Agricultural Research did multi-location agronomic trials in 2004 and 2005, the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research did large-scale trials in 2007 and 2008. “Rigorous scientific tests, including toxicity and allergenicity evaluation as well as nutritional studies have confirmed that Bt brinjal is as safe as its non-Bt counterpart,” claims Mahendra Kumar Sharma, Mahyco’s general manager.

 Such assertions do not wash well with civil society groups and NGOswho have vehemently oppose the introduction of GM foods. They charge the GEAC with relying much too heavily on the trials and findings of Mahyco, without adequate independent testing and verification. “It is unacceptable and a shame that the regulator in the country has put the interests of corporations over the interests of ordinary citizens,” says Kavitha Kuruganti of the Kheti Virasat Mission.

 Greenpeace, the global environmental activist group, says that it is shocking that the GEAC has mindlessly gone ahead and approved Bt brinjal even when informed scientists and citizens of the country raised serious concerns on the nature of the safety studies. “The GEAC is hand-inglove with the industry lobby and is not on the side of the public. It has failed the country,” says Rajesh Krishnan, campaigner (sustainable agriculture) at Greenpeace.

GM_food

 The concerns and controversy spring from the initial failure of the GEAC over addressing issues of transparency, making public the nature and details of the trials carried out, the bio-safety of the products-there are four varieties of brinjals on the table for approval-and the conflicting interests of the experts in the committee reviewing the studies.

 Denying that they have held back information, Ranjini Warrier, member secretary, GEAC, says: “We have put out everything that the public and experts want to know about the entire process of granting approval for Bt brinjal on our website. We have nothing to hide.” Sajiv Anand, director, All India Crop Biotechnology Association, concurs and says, “The GEAC has looked at every possible bio-safety issue before clearing the crop. It is unlikely that Bt brinjal will not get approval from the Government.”

 Other opponents raise larger issues. “There is also the threat to future seeds and Indian agriculture coming under the control of multinational companies and charging of exorbitant prices for the seeds from Indian farmers,” says the All India Kisan Sabha.

 “The monopoly of MNCs like Monsanto over the seeds is another major concern, as seeds are no longer in the public domain as these are now the intellectual property of these multinationals.” The irony is that this argument may not hold good in the case of Bt brinjal as several Indian research institutions are closely associated with the research and testing.

 There is valid scepticism about the integrity of the approval process. This is why renowned molecular biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava, the member appointed to the committee by the Supreme Court, in the light of public interest litigation on the functioning of the GEAC, to oversee matters of the GEAC, emphasises that its proceedings fall far short of the rigour required before passing something as contentious and complex as a genetically modified food crop.

 “It is a disaster. It is unethical. No time was given to us as members to review the findings. Why was it rushed? I had suggested to them to invite all stakeholders and have a scientific discussion on the matter. But they avoided it,” says an enraged Bhargava.

 Under trial

 The GM crops that are being tested in India for release

 CAULIFLOWER: Sungro Seeds and Nunhems India.

 RICE: Bayer Bioscience, Avesthagen, Mahyco and Metahelix Life Science.

 TOMATO: Avesthagen, IARI and Mahyco.

genetically-modified-foods

 GROUNDNUT: ICRISAT

 CABBAGE: Nunhems

 POTATO: Central Potato Research Institute

 CORN: Monsanto, Pioneer Overseas and Dow Agrosciences

pharmcorn1

 SORGHUM: National Research Centre for Sorghum

 OKRA: Mahyco

 BRINJAL: Mahyco, Bejo Sheetal Seeds, Sungro Seeds, University of Agricultural Sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Univ.

 MUSTARD: Delhi University

 What the moderates among the critics argue is that not enough is known at this point in time about the all round impact of GM crops to clear their release into the environment. Much more rigorous testing is needed before this can be done. They also point out that studies on Bt crops show that there are potential health hazards in bio-engineered foods.

 Animals ingesting GM food have shown problems in growth, organ development and immune responsiveness. Studies in other countries have found allergies, disturbance in immune system responses, damage to organs like kidneys and liver, alterations in blood chemistry, slower growth and development.

 In real life instances in India, there is the phenomenon of animals falling sick after grazing in Bt cotton fields and, in some cases, dying, and workers reporting allergies. But these cases have not been investigated fully by the health authorities.

 Some NGOs have raised concerns about the absence of labelling laws in India. Groups like the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have warned that without a regulatory regime in place, it would be impossible to monitor the impact of such new food products.

 “In India, there is no labelling regime for genetically modified foods which will give consumers a choice to make a decision whether they want to consume genetically modified food or not. Till the time this is done, regulators should not clear edible GM crops,” says CSE Director Sunita Narain.

 Whatever needs to be done, whether it is clearing doubts NGOs and activists have about the independence of the GEAC or addressing health and safety concerns, the Government now needs to do it swiftly.

 The country cannot afford to ignore biotechnology options to increase agricultural productivity as it does hold the promise of a second green revolution.

organic

 But, for the moment, it has to evolve stringent and transparent testing before GM foods are released into the market to ensure these are safe for human consumption. For want of a proper regulation in place, an opportunity to meet food security needs must not be lost.

 Amarnath K. Menon

 

Kashmir pre-paid mobile ban leaves 20,000 jobless

Srinagar  — The ban on use of pre-paid SIM cards for mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir has not only created difficulties for about 3.8 million users but has rendered more than 20,000 people, mostly youth, jobless. This was stated by Bashir Ahmad Dar, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir STD and PCO Owners Association. “I think the ban was part of the political package which the Prime Minister offered the people of the state,” he said sarcastically. On October 31, the home ministry, citing security concerns, had announced that new pre-paid SIM cards would not be issued in the state and old ones would not be renewed. The ban came into effect a few days after the Prime Minister offered fresh talks with Kashmiris. “On an average, each person (dealing in pre-paid SIM cards and recharging them) used to earn Rs 8,000-10,000 a month. Now they are on the street. Unemployment in the state is at its peak. How can the government do this?” Bashir said. He said the instructions of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India were followed strictly while verifying credentials of users. “For pre-paid and post-paid cards, the verification process is the same. How then are pre-paid cards a security threat and post-paid cards are not?” Bashir asked. Mushtaq Ahmad, 29, who lives on the outskirts of Srinagar said, “I had taken a loan from a bank to start an outlet selling SIM cards and recharge coupons. How will I repay the loan? I am a graduate and there are no jobs in Kashmir. How can I earn for myself and my family? Where do they (government) want to push us?”

 

In Jammu, home minister P. Chidambaram said on Wednesday, “Don’t hype the issue as it is in the interest of security of the country and don’t send an alarming picture. We have called for a meeting with service providers and we have to reconcile the security of the country and the interest of service providers and whatever decision is in the interest of the country will be taken.”

 Hindustan Times

 

India Inc on the road to recovery

 India Inc is on the road to recovery from the global downturn struck the world economy, with companies showing buoyancy on hiring and salary increases, a survey by global HR consultancy Mercer says.

 Corporate India is expected to witness an average eight per cent salary increase this year and as much as 50 per cent of companies have strong hiring plans for the next three months.

 India Inc’s hiring activity has picked up 4.1 per cent with IT, BPO and real estate sectors turning bullish after a long time, according to a report by job portal naurkri.com. Meanwhile, officials from several colleges say that firms such as TCS, Wipro, Infosys, HP, Cisco, Sapient, IBM, Convergys BPO and Symphony Services plan to hire in a big way.

 Infosys has announced an across-the-board salary hike and promotions with effect from October 1. When domestic salaries have risen by 8 per cent, onsite remunerations have gone up by 2 per cent. This is expected to reduce the company’s margins by 2 per cent in the next two quarters. Wipro is also looking forward to campus hiring by the end of the year.

 Outsourcing giant Accenture and India’s largest IT firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) have approached HR firms for large scale recruitment. In response to a rebound in IT outsourcing contracts, IT services provider iGate has also announced it plans to hire 1,500 people in the calendar year 2010.

 India’s fourth-biggest software exporter, HCL Technologies, said its revenues for the first quarter ended September 30, 2009, rose almost 29 per cent and is planning to hire 2,600 software engineers in October-December quarter to cope with a growing demand by expanding its existing service lines.

 The ITeS/BPO sector saw an increase of 18.3 per cent in hiring activity in September, while real estate and retail saw a rise of 36.8 per cent and 12.2 per cent, respectively.

 However, students are aware of the weak dollar and the impact of the credit crisis, and are ready to get placed with salaries ranging between Rs 1.8 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.

 Yahoo! India News

Google gets a googly

 Imagine opening a website, keying in a few search terms and presto! You are on the page of a rival website. Users may not mind such an occurrence, but the website in question surely will. That’s exactly what happened recently when Consim India, owners of bharatmatrimony.com and indiaproperties.com, petitioned the Madras High Court against Google.com for “infringing on its trademark. In its petition, Consim said Google ads were being used in Bharat Matrimony’s platform to sell space to the latter’s competitors. For instance, if a user keys in “Tamil matrimony in the Google search field on Bharat Matrimony, the websites thrown up include competitors such as shaadi.com.

 According to cyber law expert Pavan Duggal, Google Adwords has been the subject of different litigations in the US as well. The thrust of the subject matter in those cases has been Google’s supposed infringement of the trademark of third parties. “In some cases, Google has been able to show that its usage of trademarks in Google Adwords does not constitute any confusion. However, different cases have different facts, says Duggal.

 Legal experts say the court will have to examine whether Google has used a mark that is deceptively similar to the trademark of Bharat Matrimony. It will then be imperative for Google and the others involved to demonstrate that the usage of the trademark is in accordance with honest practices in industrial and commercial matters.

 According to Duggal, companies can guard against such situations by writing to Google to specifically exclude their registered trademarks from the ambit of Google Adwords. ‘If even after that there is no response, and a case is made out for infringement of registered trademark, then the company could take appropriate legal steps’, he says.

 Wordsmith (New words in business)

 Freemium

 What: A business model where 90 per cent customers receive a company’s basic products and services for free, and the other 10 per cent choose to pay for advanced, special features.

 Where: American venture capitalist Fred Wilson coined the term in 2006. He described the model and asked readers for suggestions of what to call it; Jarid Lukin, from one of Wilson’s portfolio companies, came up with the winning ‘freemium.

 Why: According to Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson, freemium has become a hugely popular model with Web 2.0 companies like Flickr, LinkedIn and Skype. The model works because the cost of serving the majority of non-payers is so close to zero, thanks to technological advances, that online companies still make a profit from the paying minority

Murdoch finds it tough to tax readers for browsing newspapers

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Chinese President Hu Jintao, third from right, walks to the opening ceremony of the World Media Summit with President of The Associated Press, Tom Curley, second from left, and Chairman of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, third from left, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on October 9. The leaders of two of the world’s major news organizations said it is time for search engines and others who use news content for free to pay up.

Media Moghul Rupert Murdoch is finding it harder than expected to introduce “pay walls”, a business model to charge readers for browsing his newspaper websites in a bid to shore up revenue for the struggling print media.

Newspapers are struggling with plunging print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

Mr. Murdoch, who controls the Times, the Sun, the New York Post and the Australian, had previously outlined plans to erect pay walls around his vast newspaper empire by the end of News Corp.’s current fiscal year in June but he indicated that was now unlikely.

News Corp. chairman and chief executive Murdoch admitted last night that the schedule was slipping. “I wouldn’t promise that we’re going to meet that date,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper today.

He declined to comment on the reasons. “It’s a work in progress and there’s a huge amount of work going on,” Mr. Murdoch said in the report by the British daily.

A plunge in Mr. Murdoch’s newspaper revenue was checked in the first quarter by strong results from News Corp.’s movie, cable television and book publishing divisions as the company posted an 11 percent rise in quarterly net profit, the report said.

Operating income soared 56 percent in the film division to 391 million dollars largely on the strength of 20th Century Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which has grossed more than 880 million dollars at the box office, the report said.