IIM-B bags number one ranking in India

STAYING ON TOP: The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. IIM-B has been ranked number one by Eduniversal, a unit of French consulting firm SMBG

The Indian Institute of Management Bangalore has, for the second consecutive year, been recognised as the number one business school in India, part of the Central Asia region, as per the 2009 worldwide business school ranking by Eduniversal, a unit of French consulting firm SMBG.

In the Eduniversal Palmes 2009, IIMB has been awarded ‘5 Palmes’, the highest recognition under the evaluation, accorded to “Universal Business Schools with major international influence”.

The Award effectively positions IIMB among the 100 best business schools worldwide, an IIMB release said.

Notably, the Deans of the 1000 best business schools from 153 countries have voted for IIMB with a recommendation rate of 395 per thousand, followed by IIM Ahmedabad (345).

The Eduniversal Palmes uses a comprehensive methodology that takes into account all the aspects of a business schools’ influence on three different levels.

“We are delighted to once again receive this recognition as India’s top management school”, said IIMB Director Pankaj Chandra. “We are making several efforts to enhance the quality of learning and impact of our research so that IIMB remains the preferred management school for students with global aspirations”.

The process of the Eduniversal Official Selection involves a global mapping system meeting the criteria of universality and the international reputation of each academic institution.

The purpose of the ‘Palmes’ is to compare objectively a school of a given country or continent to another one

Is ‘common man’ safe in the country, asks Kavita Karkare

Kavita Karkare at the launch of a music video album about corruption in the police force, in Mumbai on Tuesday.

 The wife of slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare expressed her concern over the security of ‘common man’ when she talked of her husband’s tragic death while he was facing Pak terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

Kavita Karkare, wife of slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the 26/11 terror attack, believes if the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief is not safe in India then there is no security for the common people.

“It is so funny that the ATS chief is not safe and had to be killed like this. How will common people feel safe then in this country?” Ms. Kavita questioned at the launch of a music video album about corruption in the police force.

The album ‘Yahi Sach Hai’ has been directed and produced by former IPS officer Y. P. Singh and his wife Abha.

“I fail to understand what is wrong with our security system. How could ten terrorists armed with weapons and explosives enter the country,” a tearful Kavita said.

She further said the memorial and tribute services do not help reduce the sorrow of the families who have lost their loved ones in the terror attack.

Parents of Additional Commissioner of Police, Ashok Kamte who also lost his life while on duty on November 26, were also present at the launch. They, however, refused to comment.

“Mumbai police do not care about their own brethren and are indulging in several wrongdoings since long. The bullet-proof jackets that are being used are sub-standard,” Y P Singh told reporters.

‘I own a tree’ campaign to save Bangalore’s greenery

A view of the Cubbon Park in Bangalore

 A silent “green revolution” is in the making in India’s tech hub Bangalore as citizens come together to sponsor trees to save the city’s “green heritage” which has of late come under threat owing to development activities.

The unique programme christened “I Own a Tree”, started by Bangalore-based environment group Eco Club, allows a person to sponsor and own a tree for two years.

So far 300 Bangaloreans and a few corporate houses, including Nokia, have come together to plant around 4,000 trees in various parts of the city — such as Bangalore University (BU) Jnanabharati campus, Bannerghata Road, and the Kanakpura area. The plantation drive was started six months ago.

Chiddalinga Prasad, one of the founder members of Eco Club, told IANS: “The concept of sponsoring of trees by Bangaloreans is to connect people with the trees by establishing a special emotional bond through ownership.”

The programme allows a person to sponsor and own a tree for two years by paying Rs.365.

“During the first two years of the sapling’s life, Eco Club will take care of the sponsored tree. The sponsor can come and visit the tree whenever he wishes. One can also volunteer and help in planting saplings,” informed Prasad.

Eco Club is a joint green initiative by the voluntary organisations Kshiti Foundation and Rotary Midtown. Its members plan to plant around 100,000 trees in Bangalore every year.

Bangaloreans who are part of the plantation drive have been issued a special sticker which says “I OWN A TREE”.

“The sticker can be proudly displayed on vehicles, homes, offices, etc. Individuals will be provided with complete information about the type of the tree planted in his/her name and all necessary education required for caring and nurturing the tree they own,” said Prasad.

Those who are interested to become a part of “I own a tree” movement can log on to http://www.iownatree.org.

Raman Singh, an IT professional who has sponsored a tree, said that now he cares more about the environment.

“The concept of ‘I own a tree’ has been designed to bring in the much—needed bonding of people with the environment. I am a proud owner of a tree and am trying my level best to save Bangalore’s lost green heritage,” said Singh.

Bhaskar G.S., chairman of Eco Club, said that the club would not be complaining about trees being uprooted in the name of infrastructure, but instead will go on planting more trees around the city. “For each uprooted tree, we will plant 10 trees,” he said.

In the past two to three years alone, Bangalore has lost around 50,000 trees, states a report of the Environment Support Group (ESG), a Bangalore-based NGO and part of Hasiru Usiru (Greenery is Life), a conglomeration of community organisations.

Hasiru Usiru has been at the forefront to protest the “illogical destruction” of Bangalore’s greenery for developmental works.

Construction for the upcoming metro rail in central Bangalore has recently led to the uprooting of 279 trees near the legislative assembly building, Vidhana Soudha, and the Central College Road.

Microsoft told to stop some Windows sales in China

A Beijing court has ordered Microsoft Corp. to stop selling some versions of its Windows operating system in China in a licensing dispute with a local supplier.

The order, which came on Monday, said Microsoft exceeded its rights under licensing agreements with Zhongyi Electronic Ltd., a Beijing company that developed Chinese character fonts used in the software.

Microsoft must stop selling versions of Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 with Zhongyi’s fonts, the Beijing People’s No. 1 Intermediate Court said in its ruling, a copy of which was released by Zhongyi.

Microsoft said it would appeal.

“Microsoft respects intellectual property rights. We use third party IPs only when we have a legitimate right to do so,” the company said in a statement. “We believe our license agreements with the plaintiff cover our use of the fonts.”

Microsoft did not respond to a question about what proportion of its products sold in China use Zhongyi fonts or how many copies might be affected.

Zhongyi said its agreement with Microsoft allowed the Seattle-based software producer to use its fonts only in Windows 95 and they were added to later products without permission.

China is a leading source of pirated copies of software, movies and other goods and its government has long been accused of failing to do enough to stop the thriving underground industry.

China’s small but ambitious technology companies say they are among the biggest victims of piracy and are turning to the courts to help defend their intellectual property.

In December, a group of 11 people who were convicted of selling unlicensed copies of Microsoft software were sentenced by a Chinese court for up to six and a half years in prison.

On the Net:

Zhongyi Electronic Ltd.: www.china—e.com.cn/en/profile/ZhongYiProfile.htm   

Microsoft Corp.: www.microsoft.com

Contemporary Indian satellite television

Is the sound bite closer to the Indian argumentative tradition than verbiage, characteristic of most Indians?

This volume is part of a series called ‘Routledge Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia’. Nalin Mehta, in his Introduction, seeks to provide a socio-cultural perspective on contemporary Indian satellite television, which is really a post-1991 phenomenon.

In a country where there is a well-established diverse and free press, it is perhaps surprising that state-regulated radio (All India Radio) and television (Doordarshan) have dominated the air waves for the most part of the 20th century. While news continues to be the preserve of AIR, “private industry broke down the barriers of statist control through a confluence of economic, technological and political factors in the 1990s,” as far as television was concerned.

There are reasons for the state’s dogged monopoly of broadcast news. According to Robin Jeffrey, the factors that contributed to this phenomenon included the legacy of Gandhian austerity and the elitist fear of freely-dispensed information inflaming passions among a largely illiterate populace. But once the barriers came down, India experienced the rise of more than 300 satellite networks and 50-odd 24-hour satellite news channels.

A catalyst show

Much in the way that popular cinema theorists have analysed the unifying factors of the Bollywood movie, Mehta discusses the way in which the ‘Indian Idol’ show in Sony Entertainment Television acted as a catalyst in 2007 for national integration in the troubled region of the North-East, following the selection of two of the show’s finalists — a Gorkha from Darjeeling and a Bengali from Meghalaya.

The overwhelming popular support for these two young men had great symbolic value in terms of Indian-ness, since the contest was all about selecting an Indian Idol. In his own contribution to the volume, Mehta is slightly less successful in proving his point that the lively oral forms of communication of argumentative Indians find resonance in many Indian television talk shows and public debates. He quotes NDTV President Prannoy Roy as saying: “I want a three-sentence reply. I don’t want an 18-sentence reply.” That, presumably, is the reason why news channels prefer an Arun Jaitely or a Sitaram Yechury to a Sundhar Singh Bhandari or a Harkishen Singh Surjeet. This begs the question: Is the sound bite closer to the Indian argumentative tradition than verbiage, characteristic of most of our countrymen and women? There is no answer provided here.

Media in U.P.

Maxine Loynd’s contribution is an interesting account of the refusal of Uttar Pradesh’s Dalit leader Mayawati to engage with the mainstream media — which has little or no Dalit representation — given the fact of high poverty and illiteracy in her constituency. Her Bahujan Samaj Party has, over the last 25 years, developed its own counter-public sphere, comprising Dalit myths, symbols, and oral histories.

In her essay, Roshni Sengupta points out that even though there are quite a few Muslim journalists working in the mainstream media, it does not necessarily follow that Muslim-related issues are dealt with in a sensitive manner.

Maya Ranganathan’s article is among the weakest, in terms of analysis, in this volume. The author fails to explain the connection between politics and cinema in Tamil Nadu. Part of the problem is that she views Dravidian parties and politicians in a homogenous and unhistorical manner. The reality is far more complex and nuanced. Furthermore, it is not at all clear why or how popular interest in cinema is transferred to satellite television, just because a few political parties own television channels.

The two articles on cricket and television — by Boria Majumdar and Peter Hutton, respectively — are long on news reporting and short on analysis. Equally uninspiring is Sharmistha Gooptu’s piece that speaks about how, in the 1980s, the Bengali television got the middle classes to watch films on the small screen, leaving the movie houses to be patronised by the subaltern classes. This, according to Gooptu, is the reason for the decline in Bengali movie standards. Like the proverbial curate’s egg, this volume is good in parts.

TELEVISION IN INDIA — Satellites, Politics and Cultural Change: Edited by Nalin Mehta, Pub. by Routledge. Distributed by Foundation Books, 4381/4, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 695.

Pets can help patients minimise medication

LOVABLE PETS: Pets help us, not only in relieving the day’s stress, but also in improving the quality of our life

 The presence of pets can help adult patients, particularly those recovering from total joint-replacement surgery, minimise medication, according to a new study.

“Evidence suggests that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) can have a positive effect on a patient’s psycho-social, emotional and physical well being,” said Julia Havey, senior systems analyst, Loyola University Health System (LUHS).

“These data further support these benefits and build the case for expanding the use of pet therapy in recovery,” she added.

Animal lover Havey and Frances Vlasses began raising puppies to become assistance dogs more than a decade ago through a programme called Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).

The non-profit organisation provides highly trained assistance dogs to people with physical and developmental disabilities free of charge.

“As nurses, we are committed to improving the quality of life for others,” said Vlasses, associate professor at the University School of Nursing.

“This service experience has provided us with a unique way to combine our love for animals with care for people with special needs,” said Vlasses.

Besides the financial obligations that go along with raising a puppy, Havey and Vlasses take the dogs to class and teach them house and public etiquette until they are old enough to enter a formal training programme.

“You might see our four-legged friends around Loyola’s campus from time to time,” said Havey, also a registered nurse at LUHS.

“Part of our responsibility as volunteers, is to acclimate these dogs to people. The Loyola community has so graciously supported this training and the use of service dogs on campus,” added Havey.

When the dogs are approximately 15 months of age, Havey and Vlasses return them to CCI’s regional training centre for six to nine months where they are trained to be one of four types of assistance dogs.

Facebook fails to protect children

 

Social networking sites Facebook and MySpace were slammed for not introducing help button to protect children from online bullying

 

Popular social networking websites Facebook and MySpace have come under fire for failing to introduce a help button for children being bullied online.

The outrage comes after rival networking site Bebo adopted the button that allows users to contact trained child protection officers and also provides details of local police and links to 10 other sources of help.

Jim Gamble, from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), criticised MySpace and Facebook for not following the same example of Bebo.

He said there was “no legitimate reason” for not doing so and that social networking sites were raking in money through advertising by attracting children and teenagers to join. “We applaud that but do not forget while you do that there is a responsibility, a duty of care, to the young and the vulnerable,” The BBC quoted him as saying.

He added: “[The button] is tiny and does not take up any significant real estate. The bottom line is there is no legitimate reason for not taking it and placing it on a site.” Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, also said: “I can see no reason why other sites would not consider adopting the same approach and would encourage them to embed the Ceop Report button for the benefit of all users.”

A Facebook spokesman, on the other hand, explained: “The safety of Facebook users is the top priority for the company, which is why we have invested in the most robust reporting system to support our 300 million users.

“We also work closely with police forces in the UK and around the world to create a safe environment. Our teams are manned by trained staff in two continents giving 24-hour support in 70 languages. “We look forward to hearing about the experience of Bebo using the Ceop button and will take account of their experience in any future evaluation of our reporting systems.”

Stress can cause diabetes

According to popular perception the most common causes of diabetes are hereditary factors (family history), overeating or lack of exercise leading to obesity. While this is true, we often tend to forget an important cause — stress.

 Stress is defined as “a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes physical or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” Several diseases can be caused or worsened by stress and diabetes is one of them.

 Blood sugar levels are controlled mainly by two groups of hormones. The first group reduces blood sugar but insulin is the only member of this group. The second group called counter-regulatory hormones, opposes the action of insulin and increases the sugars.

 There hormones include cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline, glucagon and growth hormone. Stress tends to increase the levels of these hormones, particularly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. If these levels are persistently elevated, this can precipitate diabetes in a predisposed individual or worsen it in someone who is already diabetic.

 I recently treated a 52-year-old woman with abnormally high blood sugar levels of 600 mg/dl. Despite efforts to control her sugar levels with high doses of insulin and tablets, it remained above 350 mg/dl. But suddenly two months later the sugar levels began dropping and soon she was off medication as well.

 It turned out that the lady’s husband had been cheating on her, which put her under tremendous stress. But once the affair ended, she was more at peace and gradually her stress levels reduced and so did her sugar levels. This may sound like a script from a movie but truth is stranger than fiction.

 It is important to detect high stress levels in a patient, since the blood sugars will come down only if the former is controlled. Reduction of stress often leads to a dramatic improvement or even cure of diabetes.

 Very often, individuals do not realise that they are under stress and even if they do, they deny it. The first step in stress management is to make the patient understand that everyone in the world is exposed to some stress or the other at some time in their lives.

 But it should be kept in mind that a mild degree of stress can actually do us a world of good by raising our performance levels. It is important that a diabetic learns to manage stress. A healthy social life, taking time out to relax with friends and family is vital in reducing stress levels, thereby reducing the risk of developing diabetes and helping people with the problem take control of their condition.

 The writer is chairman,

Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai and Hyderabad

 Bust that stress

* Try to come to terms with a situation.

* Practice better time management.

* Improve your organisational skills.

* Try and resolve all conflicts.

* Ensure that you include some form of exercise in your daily routine and also practice yoga (pranayam) regularly.

* Eat moderately and at proper intervals.

* Try and practice relaxation techniques and also get adequate sleep.

 

Virginia varsity runs serial blog on 26/11

 

Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel guarding Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where trial of the the lone survivor of the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab, is taking place

 

The four-part blog by a Virginia University alumnus, a multimedia journalist who covers conflicts around South Asia, on Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) website would run through Thursday.

“Sixty Hours of Terror: Ten Gunmen, Ten Minutes”, a serial blog covering the Nov. 26 terror strike in Mumbai, has started running on a Virginia University website to mark the first anniversary of the worst terror attack in India.

The four-part blog by Virginia University alumnus, Jason Motlagh, a multimedia journalist who covers conflicts around South Asia, on Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) website would run through Thursday.

Mr. Motlagh made multiple trips to Mumbai, interviewed survivors, pored over pages and pages of police records, reports in the Indian media and transcripts of intercepted phone communications between the gunmen and their handlers, and watched video from closed-circuit security cameras, VQR said.

“New journalism”

The online report is more than 19,000 words long and features 24 unpublished photographs of the attacks and aftermath. Mr. Motlagh’s work fills in the absence of “a single, thorough accounting of what exactly had happened on those fateful days”, editor Ted Genoways writes in the introduction.

Mr. Genoways said publishing Mr. Motlagh’s “amazing piece of original journalism” was a milestone for VQR.

“We soon hit upon the idea of something that would be closer to literary non-fiction than traditional journalism — or even ‘new journalism’ This would not be the story of Jason’s journey in the wake of disaster, but a straightforward narrative of what happened in Mumbai,” Mr. Genoways said.

The first instalment recounts the attacks at five sites in the city and describes the Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT) or the “Army of the Pure” behind these and other fatal incidents where dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured.

The Pakistan-based terror group claims it wants to “liberate” Kashmir from India and expand an Islamist state, including Pakistan.

VQR, a national journal of literature and discussion, was founded at the University of Virginia in 1925. Over the years it has published the work of such luminaries as H.L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, Katherine Anne Porter and D.H. Lawrence.

Recent issues have featured essays, stories, poems and art by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rita Dove, Cormac McCarthy, Adrienne Rich and Art Spiegelman, among others.

Pak has more n-weapons than India: US experts

Pakistan is estimated to have more nuclear warheads than India and the two Asian neighbours along with China are increasing their arsenals and deploying weapons at more sites, two eminent American atomic experts have claimed.

While Pakistan is estimated to possess 70-90 nuclear weapons, India is believed to have 60-80, claims Robert S Norris and Hans M. Kristensen in their latest article ‘Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009’.

The article published in the latest issue of ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Science’ claimed that Beijing, Islamabad and New Delhi are quantitatively and qualitatively increasing their arsenals and deploying weapons at more sites, yet the locations are difficult to pinpoint.

For example, no reliable public information exists on where Pakistan or India produces its nuclear weapons, it said.

“Whereas many of the Chinese bases are known, this is not the case in Pakistan and India, where we have found no credible information that identifies permanent nuclear weapons storage locations,” they said.

“Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not believed to be fully operational under normal circumstances, India is thought to store its nuclear warheads and bombs in central storage locations rather than on bases with operational forces. But, since all three countries are expanding their arsenals, new bases and storage sites probably are under construction,” the two nuclear experts said.

Gold rises, touches Rs 17,300

 Gold prices on Tuesday surged by Rs 200 and touched an all-time high of Rs 17,300 per 10 gram in the bullion market in New Delhi on frantic buying by jewellers for the ongoing marriage season amid firming global trend.

Silver rose by Rs 1,000 to Rs 28,350 per kg.
Marketmen said that gold spurted on buying by stockists and jewellery fabricators, indulged in enlarging their positions to meet seasonal demand.

“The precious metals are on a record setting spree on all-round buying for marriage season at a point of time when gold in international markets climbed to a record high on weakening dollar,” said Delhi-based bullion merchant, Mr Ravi Jalan.

 

 

Pandit stays at Citi with $1 annual salary

Banking giant Citigroup’s Indian-American Chief Executive Vikram Pandit will continue to work for an annual salary of $1 even as the group raised the annual base salary for two of its executives.

Pandit, who in January voluntarily agreed to accept $1 per year until the bank returned to profitability, also didn’t receive stock awards, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

Chief Financial Officer, John Gerspach was bumped from $400,000 to $500,000, annually and its Co-Head of Global Markets, James Forese received a boost from $225,000 to $475,000. The bank said both increases were approved by administration’s compensation czar, in an Oct 22 letter to the Citi.

The two executives also received company stock, with $2.92 million going to Gerspach and $5.44 million awarded to Forese. Vice Chairman Stephen Volk also received $3.4 million, according to the filing.

The stock awards were also compliant with the government’s compensation guidelines for banks participating in the Troubled Asset Relief Programme, the New York-based bank said.

The awards, termed a “stock salary,” are restricted until 2011. A third could be sold then, another third in 2012 and the remaining third in 2013.

Citigroup, which received a $45 billion government bailout last year, has pledged to keep paying employees competitively. Treasury paymaster Kenneth Feinberg on Oct 22 approved a total of $118.4 million of payouts to 21 executives, or an average of $5.6 million each. They got $390.2 million, or $18.6 million each in the previous year.

Not included in Citigroup’s filing on Tuesday were separate “long-term restricted stock” bonuses approved by Feinberg that will be made early next year based on 2009 performance.

Under that programme, Forese may get as much as $2.85 million extra, Gerspach may receive $1.67 million and Volk may get $1.95 million, documents released by Feinberg show. The bonus shares can’t be sold until Citigroup repays its bailout money.

 

 

Smokers vulnerable to bladder cancer

Smokers face a five times higher risk of developing bladder cancer compared to non-smokers, according to a new study.

 Researchers found that among individuals who smoked the same total number of cigarettes over their lifetime, smoking fewer cigarettes per day for more years may be more harmful than smoking more cigarettes per day for fewer years.

 It is well known that cigarette smoking causes bladder cancer, but the influence of various parameters of smoking history, including trends in risk over time, is unclear.

 Dalsu Baris of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Maryland in the US and her colleagues from Dartmouth Medical School and others, examined bladder cancer risk in relation to smoking practices based on data from a large, population-based case, from 2001 to 2004.

 The researchers found that “the observed relationship between smoking and bladder cancer risk was stronger than reported in earlier studies, with statistically significant trends in risk with increasing duration, intensity, and pack-years for both men and women,” according to an NCI release.

 These findings were published online in the Monday edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute

39 suicides a day in AP

Andhra Pradesh now has the dubious distinction of ranking second in the country in the number of reported suicides. On an average, 39 people a day end up killing themselves in the state.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of 1.22 lakh suicides every year in the country, Andhra Pradesh records around 14,224.

The large number of suicides among students and employees of IT companies has to do with increasing competition in the education and employment sectors, say experts.

NCRB analysts observe that while social and economic causes lead to most of the suicides committed by men, women are driven to suicide by emotional and personal causes.

According to the NCRB, in the past decade, there has been a 28 per cent increase in the number of suicides. Maharashtra accounts for the largest share at 12.4 per cent, followed by Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal at 12.1 per cent each.

Dr V. Pramod Kumar, the superintendent of the Mental Health Hospital, Erragadda, says, “Due to the changing economic scenario in the South, there is more competition to grab employment opportunities. Disappointed youth are developing suicidal tendencies. Mental illness can also cause people to commit suicide. The reason can also be genetic.” The NCRB report says that AP has been recording higher numbers of suicides in the past few years. The causes can vary from unemployment, to not being able to have children, to problems at work and non-settlement of marriage.

Osmania Medical College forensics department head, Dr M. Narayana Reddy, says that stress in students, failure in love affairs among the youth, poverty of farmers, unemployment, as among weavers, are “leading to frustration and the person takes recourse to death rather than life.”

Within the state, Karimnagar district has recorded the highest number of suicides, with 1,363 persons ending their lives in 2008, and 840 till September 2009. Adilabad registered 1,334 suicides and next was Kurnool. Srikakulam with 158 suicides was the lowest.

The problems that Gulf immigrants face could account for the large number of suicides in Karimnagar which has a large population of men employed in the Gulf, surmises CID IGP, Mr S. Umapathi.

IBM takes a step toward thinking machines

Scientists say they’ve made a breakthrough in their pursuit of computers that “think” like a living thing’s brain — an effort that tests the limits of technology.

 Even the world’s most powerful supercomputers can’t replicate basic aspects of the human mind. The machines can’t imagine a wall painted a different color, for instance, or picture a person’s face and connect that to an emotion.

 If researchers can make computers operate more like a brain thinks — by reasoning and dealing with abstractions, among other things — they could unleash tremendous insights in such diverse fields as medicine and economics.

 A computer with the power of a human brain is not yet near. But this week researchers from IBM Corp. are reporting that they’ve simulated a cat’s cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer. The computer has 147,456 processors (most modern PCs have just one or two processors) and 144 terabytes of main memory — 100,000 times as much as your computer has.

 The scientists had previously simulated 40 percent of a mouse’s brain in 2006, a rat’s full brain in 2007, and 1 percent of a human’s cerebral cortex this year, using progressively bigger supercomputers.

 The latest feat, being presented at a supercomputing conference in Portland, Ore., doesn’t mean the computer thinks like a cat, or that it is the progenitor of a race of robo-cats.

 The simulation, which runs 100 times slower than an actual cat’s brain, is more about watching how thoughts are formed in the brain and how the roughly 1 billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses in a cat’s brain work together.

 The researchers created a program that told the supercomputer, which is in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to behave how a brain is believed to behave. The computer was shown images of corporate logos, including IBM’s, and scientists watched as different parts of the simulated brain worked together to figure out what the image was.

 Dharmendra Modha, manager of cognitive computing for IBM Research and senior author of the paper, called it a “truly unprecedented scale of simulation.” Researchers at Stanford University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were also part of the project.

 Modha says the research could lead to computers that rely less on “structured” data, such the input 2 plus 2 equals 4, and can handle ambiguity better, like identifying the corporate logo even if the image is blurry. Or such computers could incorporate senses like sight, touch and hearing into the decisions they make.

 One reason that development would be significant to IBM: The company is selling “smarter planet” services that use digital sensors to monitor things like weather and traffic and feed that data into computers that are asked to do something with the information, like predicting a tsunami or detecting freeway accidents. Other companies could use “cognitive computing” to make better sense of large volumes of information.

 Jim Olds, a neuroscientist and director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, called the new research a “tremendous step.” Olds, who was not involved in IBM’s work, said neuroscientists have been amassing data about how the brain works much like “stamp collectors,” without a way to tie it together.

 “We’ve made tremendous advances in collecting data, but we don’t have a collective theory yet for how this complex organ called the brain produces things like Shakespeare’s sonnets and Mozart’s symphonies,” he said. “The holy grail for neuroscientists is to map activity from single nerve cells, which they know about, into how billions of nerve cells act in concert.”

 Modha says a simulation of a human cortex could come within the next decade if Moore’s Law holds. That’s the rule of thumb that the number of transistors on a computer chip tends to double every two years.

 Yet Olds cautioned that simulating the human brain is “such a complex problem that we may not be able to get to an answer, even with supercomputing.”

 “There are no guarantees in this game because the sheer complexity of the problem really dwarfs anything we’ve tried to do,” he said.

 

MySpace in talks to buy imeem

Online social hub MySpace is in talks to acquire struggling free music streaming site imeem, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because talks are confidential.

An announcement could be weeks away, and terms are still being negotiated, but MySpace is trying to revamp itself and its MySpace Music joint venture with the major recording companies.

An acquisition could bolster the unit of News Corp. by adding imeem’s approximately 4.5 million users, its technology and its executives, including founder and CEO Dalton Caldwell.

MySpace recently bought music recommendation service iLike for $20 million and gave the founding Partovi brothers new executive roles.

News of the talks was reported earlier by the blog TechCrunch.

San Francisco-based imeem launched its advertising-supported free music business in 2007, but the company is having trouble making ends meet. Users create profiles and can recommend music to others or find out what they’re listening to, similar to users of MySpace Music.

As a unit of media giant News Corp., MySpace would be better able to support any losses at the company stemming from royalties owed to recording companies than it could on its own. It’s unclear what price MySpace would pay for the service, but one person said it was unlikely to be as much as MySpace paid for iLike.

In May, Warner Music Group Corp. wrote off its entire $16 million investment in imeem and also forgave $4 million it was owed by imeem in exchange for a small, minority equity stake. The company is majority owned by private equity firm Morgenthaler Ventures.

The music industry continues to experience falling sales of CDs, while digital revenues have not yet made up the difference, in part because consumers tend to buy singles rather than full albums when they do pay for music.

The potential acquisition suggests the difficulty that companies have had making a business that relies almost entirely on advertising.

 

Can magnets relieve pain?

THE CLAIM

Magnetic therapy can ease arthritis pain.

 THE FACTS

For people with arthritis who seek an alternative to painkillers, magnetic straps and bracelets have become a popular option. The devices are said to work by stimulating the release of the body’s natural painkillers or by increasing blood flow to the tissue. Though considered safe, studies have found little evidence that they provide any real benefit.

 One that did find some benefit was published in 2004 in BMJ and involved 194 people with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. The scientists found that subjects randomly assigned to wear a full-strength magnetic bracelet for 12 weeks had greater improvements than those wearing a dummy bracelet.

 But an analysis of several studies, also in 2004, found that the evidence swung against magnetic therapy for pain relief, and added that while it could not exclude “a clinically important benefit” in the treatment, further research was needed.

 Then, in a well-designed 16-week study published this year, British scientists found that magnetic and copper bracelets are generally ineffective for managing pain, stiffness and physical function in osteoarthritis.

 THE BOTTOM LINE

The evidence supporting magnetic therapy for arthritis pain is limited.

Service lets users build mobile applications

A startup is now offering to take the hard work out of creating mobile applications and even of porting them to the iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile platforms, all through an online service that gives novice developers simple templates for various types of businesses and organisations.

 With an eye to software novices, Mobile On Services’ BuildAnApp service tackles a problem that has plagued professional mobile developers for years: Unlike on the Web and in the world of PCs, there are many different platforms to write for if you want to reach many mobile users.

 Once a customer has gone through the steps on the BuildAnApp site to create a new application, Mobile On uses its proprietary software to package the app for three of the major smartphone platforms and also develop a mobile-optimised Web site, said company co-founder Scott Pearson.

 Users get 30 days free to design the application and populate it with content such as news, restaurant menus and click-to-dial phone numbers. After that, they pay to bring new content into the application. Mobile On will submit it to Apple’s App Store for US$19.99, including resubmissions if it is rejected.

 The Minneapolis company designed BuildAnApp for small businesses, retail stores, nonprofit organizations and professionals such as doctors.

 To build an application, users simply pick the template for their type of organization, choose from among typical types of pages to put within the app, and populate the app with information.

 Then they can select people they want to alert to the application, and Mobile On will send e-mail messages to those people with a link to a download page. Users with a supported phone can then download the application directly. The applications can be kept private with access passwords.

 Mobile applications are getting a lot of attention, but much of the capability a small business needs to offer customers can be delivered via a mobile Web site, which can be updated with new information for no additional charge, industry analysts said Tuesday.

 However, Mobile On’s Pearson pointed out a few advantages to having an app instead of relying solely on a Web page to reach customers.

 Apps let consumers access and use information even when they are out of range of the cellular data network, they tend to look better than mobile Web sites because they are optimized for the hardware platform, and they usually move faster than the mobile Web because they operate locally, Pearson said.

 For most small businesses, a mobile application will be primarily a tool for keeping existing customers loyal rather than attracting new ones, Pearson acknowledged.

 Apart from sending out the notification e-mails to current contacts, Mobile On Services won’t handle marketing of the apps against the growing tide of mobile software, such as the more than 100,000 applications now on Apple’s App Store.

 Analysts liken the emergence of a service such as BuildAnApp to the evolution of Web development from pure HTML coding to easy-to-use design services such as GeoCities and Blogger.

 “It’s certainly a signal that mobile applications have arrived,” said Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. However, a mobile app still isn’t as critical to a small business as a Web site, he said.

 Unlike a Web site, a mobile app sits on the home screen (or extended home screen) of the consumer’s phone, In-Stat’s Allen Nogee pointed out. An application can create more presence and recognition than a mobile Web site to which a user has to navigate in a browser, he said.

 A pizza restaurant and a small clothing store created applications during BuildAnApp’s closed beta test, which just concluded, Pearson said. The pizza place’s application includes, among other things, the menu and a button for clicking to call the shop and place an order, he said. The clothing store shows pictures of new items in the shop.

 BuildAnApp’s 16 templates include ones for a real estate agent, a school, a sports league and a religious organization. There is also a template for “other” that includes a wide range of page types selected from the other templates.

 The company is also developing a “pro” version of the service for skilled developers creating more sophisticated applications, Pearson said.

 However, Mobile On doesn’t plan to support the kind of sophisticated development provided by companies such as Rhomobile and Appcelerator, he said. Those companies offer online app development for developers working in languages such as Ruby, JavaScript and HTML.

 “Our intent is to provide mobility to the masses,” Pearson said. “It gives these small organizations a way to have a mobile presence without spending a lot of money.”

 By the end of the year, Mobile On plans to add Google’s Android platform. Other plans include adding support for Nokia, Symbian and Palm; adding APIs (application programming interfaces) to bring existing Web and database content into the applications; and letting customers integrate their applications with online services such as Facebook, Twitter and the OpenTable restaurant reservation system.

 Though BuildAnApp has just entered its open beta test, which is likely to continue into the first quarter of next year, Mobile On is now charging after a customer’s 30-day free trial. Users can pay $7.99 for a one-time content or application update or pay $14.99 per month to make as many updates as they wish. Unlimited updates for six months are available for $59.99.

 

Mega handicrafts mela to be held from November 26

VIJAYAWADA: Shoppers eager to grab some real ethnic stuff have a pleasant surprise in store. A mega handicrafts exhibition-cum-sale will open for them the doors to ethnic India at the sprawling Swaraj Maidan next week.

The 10-day event will commence on November 26, providing glimpses of unique images of Indian handicrafts, the traditional art techniques and the reason for their attractiveness and utility. Housewives tired of mall-hopping to lay their hands on ethnic designs in bed spreads, photo frames, Indian paintings, wall hangings, jewellery, sculptures, pottery, handcrafted furniture, home decoration and other accessories can sit back and wait for a few more days before lapping up stuff of their choice.

“The idea behind the mega show is to provide access to the people to a treasure of handicrafts designed by skilled workers who continue the legacy of their forefathers primarily to prevent fading of these splendid art forms into oblivion,” V. Venkataramaiah, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Corporation (APHDC) said on Tuesday.

The Handicrafts Development Corporation has invited artisans from across the country to be part of this major event. “We hope to attract participation of artisans from at least 20 states, including the North-eastern states such as Mizoram and Assam, besides Kerala, West Bengal and other places. The 150-odd stalls at the expo will serve as speckled vignettes of the diverse India,” he said. The APHDC will also pay TA and DA to artisans travelling beyond a distance of 500 km.

Service centre

About the proposed community service centre at Kondapalli village to create a common facility for the toy-makers, Mr. Venkataramaiah said proposals to this effect had been submitted for approval.

TTD plans ultra modern kitchen

 

Cost of building estimated at Rs. 1.50 crore

Pilgrims to be supplied with two meals, breakfast

20,000 devotees will avail of free meals on weekends


TIRUMALA: Plans are foot to construct a highly modernised kitchen in the open space available behind the second Vaikuntam queue complex here. The construction cost is estimated at around Rs.1.50 crore.

The ultra modern kitchen is being built to meet the catering requirements of the waiting devotees at both the queue complexes.

Here, it may be mentioned that the TTD has resolved to supply all the food including two meals, breakfast , beverages and milk free of cost to all the waiting devotees particularly in the second Vaikuntam queue complex besides to all those in the darshanam queue lines.

‘Seeghra darshan’

The privilege is also being extended to the devotees waiting in the ‘seeghra darshan’ queue which at present is being operated from the first Vakuntam complex.

According to a rough estimate the TTD is additionally burdened with the responsibility of providing free food packets and breakfast to over 20,000 devotees on the weekends.

The TTDs engineering officials have also readied proposals for providing cement roofing on the footpath leading to Tirumala from the Mokallamitta point at an outlay of Rs.90 lakh besides developing the road leading to Balajinagar at a cost of Rs.80 lakh.