High gold prices dampen wedding demand

Gold ornaments displayed at a jewellery shop in Hyderabad

The ongoing volatility is also keeping the prospective buyers at bay as they are unable to decide whether its the right time to invest in jewellery or not.

The wedding season is considered the best time for gold jewellers but with the yellow metal soaring to a record nearly Rs 18,000 per ten gm, city jewellers have reported a 25 per cent drop in demand.

Even those reaching out to jewellery showrooms at the peak of the marriage season are putting a cap on their purchases, jewellers rued.

They said soaring prices have adversely affected their business as demand for ornaments has witnessed a fall by at least 25 per cent this season.

During the course of the year, the marriage season tends to be at its peak from mid-November to February, barring a few weeks in December with over 25,000 marriages scheduled during the period in Delhi only.

On the recent hike in gold prices, an official at state-run trading firm MMTC said, “While jewellery buying is low, there is a positive influence in buying of gold coins and bars. People are investing more in solid gold expecting the market will rise further and they would be able to get good returns for their investments.”

Market watchers believe that high prices are due to an unprecedented rush of investors into the bullion market, as also high global prices.

The city’s leading gold retailers in Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh said they are flooded with requests for cheaper necklaces, rings, earrings and bangles.

“Till last year, people used to give 10 or 15 tolas (100 or 150 gm) of jewellery to the prospective brides, but now they are buying only after deciding the amount of money they will spend on ornaments,” said Nitin Malik, owner of Malik Jewellers Pvt Ltd, an MMTC franchise here.

Atul Jain, a jeweller from Chandni Chowk said, “Sale has gone down by almost 25 per cent. People are buying only for brides and grooms,” adding a gold ring now costs around Rs 9,000 as against Rs 5,000 last year.

The ongoing volatility is also keeping the prospective buyers at bay as they are unable to decide whether its the right time to invest in jewellery or not. Families are cutting costs and buying new sets only for the bride. The others are just getting old jewellery polished, Mr. Jain said.

According to a shop manager at a Tanishq outlet, the trend of using gold in smaller quantities picked up after 2004, when the price of the precious metal began rising.

“We are now trying to satisfy customers by showing big pieces with less gold and a low price tag,” he said.

Karan Kriplani, owner of Girdhari Lal Co in Connaught Place here said, “A mild sentiment exists among customers.

They are hesitant in buying over the counter.”

A K Chhabra, sales manager with Phulkari in Connaught Place, said people might be buying less jewellery but they are investing in solid gold — bars and coins

“Jail broken” iPhones hacked by new virus

Hackers have built a virus that attacks Apple Inc’s iPhone by secretly taking control of the devices via their Internet connections, security experts said.

The virus has been detected in the Netherlands and can only attack iPhones whose users have disabled some pre-installed security features, according to analysts monitoring the progress of the virus.

The hackers are trying to use the virus to obtain passwords to banking sites, according to Graham Cluley, a researcher with anti-virus software maker Sophos. When an iPhone user tries to access a bank website, the Duh Worm directs the browser to a look-a-like site controlled by the hackers, Cluley said.

A spokeswoman for ING Group said the Dutch banking giant discovered a criminal network that attempted to steal banking credentials via hacked iPhones. Dutch clients of ING have been targeted, but there was no indication that clients outside the Netherlands have to worry, she said.

ING has not received any reports from clients that their credentials have been lost, but the bank was monitoring client accounts for suspicious transactions, the spokeswoman said.

The only iPhones that are vulnerable to the Duh Worm are “jail broken” phones, where users disable key Apple security features to get around the terms of usage agreement that they are designed to enforce, analysts said.

For example, Apple prevents users from switching service providers to unauthorized carriers and limits users to the approximately 100,000 programs that the company has vetted for installation on the device. There are thousands of unauthorized programs covering areas including Internet phone calls, WiFi access and pornography.

“The vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones, and for good reason. These hacks not only violate the warranty, they will also cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably,” said Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison.

Three independent security experts said that it is best for iPhone users not to jail break their devices because the security risks are greater than the benefits.

“They’re leaving their back door open. Every one else knows what the key is to open that door,” Cluley said.

The ING spokeswoman said: “People who use their iPhones in a regular way have nothing to fear.”

The case, which was widely reported by security experts on Monday, is the first in which iPhones have been recruited into a “botnet,” or army of infected devices that hackers can control from a central “command and control center.”

Early this year an unknown criminal gang built a botnet with millions of PCs using a worm known as Conficker. Security researchers feared that it might wreak havoc on April 1 based on code in the worm’s software, but that date passed with little fanfare.

Since then, security researchers say that a limited number of Conficker-infected PCs have been used to spread spam, sell fake anti-virus software and perpetrate identity theft.

Mikko Hypponen, an expert on Conficker and chief research officer for security software maker F-Secure, said that Duh could spread from the Netherlands to other countries.

Like the authors of Conficker, the hackers who wrote Duh are motivated to spread the worm because they too are looking for a payoff from their work, he said.

“It’s clearly written to make money. That’s a first on the mobile side,” Hypponen said.

To be sure, iPhones that have not been jail broken face their own security challenges. Yet so far Apple has been able to stay ahead of the hackers.

In July the company issued a software patch to fix a critical bug uncovered by two researchers that made the device susceptible to secret attacks using the SMS system, which mobile devices use to send text messages.

Apple shares rose 3 percent on Monday to $205.88 on the Nasdaq.

Murdoch courts trouble if he blocks Google on news

Rupert Murdoch has spent months complaining that Google is ruining the newspaper business, and now he wants to do something about it.

But, his proposal is a gamble, and one that could hurt News Corp instead of helping it.

Murdoch is considering removing News Corp’s news from Google’s Web search results, and is talking to Microsoft Corp about listing the stories with its Bing search engine instead. Microsoft would pay for the privilege, sources have told Reuters, but it was not clear how much.

If Murdoch pulled this off, he will likely be followed by other newspaper publishers looking for ways to make money when all the old ones are waning in the digital age.

Newspaper owners resent Google because the Internet company makes money from the advertisements that it displays next to news search results.

News Corp’s proposal is a way to get a cut of the action. Risks include destroying ad revenue most news websites depend on if traffic goes down because Google users can’t find the stories. It’s also not clear how regulators would feel about such a move.

“You’re immediately cutting off audience,” said Jeff Jarvis, media blogger and author of the book “What Would Google Do?”

Google brings as much as 14 percent of incoming traffic to News Corp’s U.S. news websites, including the New York Post and Fox News, Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay estimated.

If News Corp blocked access to Google, he wrote in a note to investors, it would hurt only News Corp.

Many people find their news on Google, which has 65 percent of the U.S. search market according to comScore. Newspaper publishers whose websites depend on advertising sales want lots of visitors, and need Google to supply them.

Google provides news organizations about 100,000 clicks a minute, said company spokesman Gabriel Stricker. “Each of those visits offers a business opportunity for the publishers to show ads, win loyal readers and sell subscriptions,” he said.

Making Microsoft’s Bing search engine the only way to look for news would slice away visitors and lower the amount of money news websites could charge advertisers.

There is little chance people will abandon Google, which has become such a giant that its name is also a verb.

“Consumers do not expect search engines to be exclusive,” Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk wrote. “If they can’t find something through search, it may as well not exist.”


Sambhavi’s caretaker Usha probed

Kurnool: Government officials have interrogated Sambhavi’s caretaker Usharani in the Nandyal revenue divisional office in the Kurnool district on Tuesday, after some atheists complained to the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) over denial of child rights to Sambhavi, by propagating her as a goddess.
Sambhavi did not attend the enquiry team on medical grounds and her caretaker attended on her behalf.
A tense environment prevailed for a while during the enquiry when supporters of Sambhavi and the atheists argued in front of the RDO’s office.
The enquiry team comprising the Nan-dyal revenue divisional officer, Ms Madhavi Latha, the deputy superintendent of police, Mr Samayjohn Rao and the Integrated Child Development Scheme project director, Ms Zubeida Begum questioned Usharani for four hours from 11 am to 3 pm. After enquiry, Ms Usharani spoke to mediamen and said that some jealous persons had complained against them to the SHRC. She said that she was teaching Sambhavi in Suryanandi.
Speaking on the occasion, the Nandyal RDO said that entire enquire episode had been recorded on video camera.
She said that it was not possible to disclose details of the enquiry which would be submitted to the district collector. She said that they would enquire with Sambhavi in two days.
Meanwhile, some activists raised slogans in
favour of Sambhavi and some others raised slogans against Ms Usharani.
The police arrested the activists and send them to the police station. The RDO took memorandums from both groups.

“India a key player in international biomedical research”


MoU exchange between Sri Ramachandra University and CITI, University of Miami, USA at Indo-US CITI workshop at the University auditorium on Tuesday

 Melody Lin, deputy director of National Institutes of Health – Office for Human Research Protection, US, said that training research teams on basic ethical practices in research followed globally within the country will increase the world’s interest in India as a venue for clinical trials

India has become one of the key players in international biomedical research, with its IT capabilities, willingness of the government to start reforms and trained technicians, Melody Lin, deputy director, National Institutes of Health – Office for Human Research Protection, U.S., said.

Training research teams on basic ethical practices in research followed globally within the country will increase the world’s interest in India as a venue for clinical trials, she said. Dr. Lin was speaking at the inauguration of Indo-US CITI workshop on ‘Promoting Research Ethics Education in India’ organised at Sri Ramachandra University (SRU), here, on Tuesday.

Talking about the varsity’s partnership with University of Miami, U.S., its Pro-Chancellor (research) S.P. Thyagarajan said it was significant that these two institutions had come together to launch the ‘Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI)’ Research Ethics programme in the country. It will fulfil a great need, even as India emerges as a hot destination for clinical research involving human subjects and patients.

He added that clinical trials in India were growing at an annual aggregated growth ratio of 60 per cent. In 2004, the budget for clinical trials in India had crossed USD 100 million and it is being predicted that by 2010, the industry will spend USD 300 million or more. At present there are over 150 research organisations that are co-ordinating and conducting clinical trials on behalf of and in association with multinationals.

The reasons why India’s popularity in the circuit included a comparative cost advantage, the availability of a huge pool of trained manpower, a large population base with a diverse disease spectrum, he added. “While it is definitely an opportunity for India, we should be extremely careful to ensure that we do no harm,” Prof. Thyagarajan explained. It was in this context that an orientation on the ethics governing bio medical research would be timely.

SRU also hopes to emerge as a CITI centre of excellence, taking the training to other medical and research institutions. Paul Braunschweiger, director, Office of Research Education, University of Miami, said most funding for scientific research is being supported by public funding by the government. Therefore, without public trust, there will be no research on public health and consequently, no prosperity. Stressing on didactic training on ethics for the entire research team, he said that the CITI programme’s online modules would provide high quality of research ethics education.

V.Kumaraswami, director, Tuberculosis Research Centre and National Institute of Epidemiology, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) institutions, said the ICMR has tried to address the issues relating to medical research as early as in the 1980’s. A more formal guide was published in 2000 and it was followed up by a revised set of guidelines in 2006. These guidelines govern social sciences research, stem cell research and animal research.

The ICMR was also interested in capacity building at all levels for medical research in partnership with the NIH. There was also a partnership with the Indira Gandhi National Open University for distance learning modules for ethics, he added.

V.K.Subburaj, Principal Secretary, Health, said the State government and its research institutions would be keen on participating in such training programmes for medical research ethics. S.Thanikachalam, chairman and director, Cardiac Care Centre, SRU, released the ethics education material on the occasion.

Blood samples yield clues to help fight cancers

FIGHTING CANCER: Blood samples from bone marrow transplant patients have yielded clues that could help fight cancer

A study of blood samples from patients of bone marrow transplants has yielded clues that could help fight cancers and auto-immune diseases.

B cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies, start their development in the bone marrow and complete it in blood and tissues.

The developmental process in humans can be studied in those who have had their bone marrow destroyed and then reconstituted from donors, because clinical samples are collected at defined periods of time following the transplant.

Doctoral student Santi Suryani and Stuart Tangye from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (GIMC) have identified the process where the body gets rid of rogue B cells which see ‘self’ as the enemy and so allow the body to attack itself – as in autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

“By identifying exactly where B cells are in their stage of development, you can better understand and target specific B cell diseases,” said Tangye, according to a GIMC release.

These findings are online in the journal Blood.

Friends go online at Foursquare to meet offline

Laura Fitton’s ascent has been staggering: In less than a year, she’s become mayor of nine different places in several different states, all without giving any speeches or kissing any babies.

Instead, Fitton has gone out. A lot. And that’s allowed her to build an empire in the world of a rapidly growing Internet startup called Foursquare, which rewards users with points and virtual “mayorships” for checking in on their cell phones when they’re out and about.

Foursquare is the brainchild of Dennis Crowley, 33, and Naveen Selvadurai, 27. The two friends decided to roll out their service after learning in January that Google was shutting down Dodgeball — a similar tool for connecting with friends through text messages. Crowley had started Dodgeball in 2000 and sold it to Google in 2005 for an undisclosed amount.

Released in March, Foursquare lets you share your whereabouts with friends, no matter if you’re at a hot bar or a neighborhood pet store. Once you’ve checked in somewhere — through Foursquare’s Web site or its applications for the iPhone or Android phones — your friends can see where you are and decide whether to meet up with you.

If you want to check in on an iPhone, for example, you’d see a main tab showing your favorite and nearby businesses, and another tab showing where your friends have recently checked in. You can search for venues, leave tips for other users about things they might want to try at a bar or restaurant, or send a “shout” — a message that goes to all your friends.

Checking in is done on the honor system, so technically you can check in at dessert destination Serendipity 3 in Manhattan even if you’re really sitting in an office in San Francisco.

There are plenty of applications that let you share your location with friends, such as Loopt, Glympse and Google Latitude. What’s different about Foursquare — and what users say keeps them coming back — is that it includes a reward system familiar to video gamers.

You get five points for checking in somewhere for the first time, for example, and if you visit a place three times in a week you’ll earn a “local” badge that appears on your Foursquare profile. Check in somewhere more than others do and Foursquare will dub you the mayor. (You’ll have to keep visiting, though, or you might be overthrown by somebody else). A leaderboard lets you see how you stack up against your friends and other users in your area.

Since Foursquare launched, it has gained more than 100,000 users and added more than 100 cities worldwide to its roster (New York has the most Foursquare users, followed by San Francisco.) It recently launched in such European cities as Berlin, Paris and Madrid.

Foursquare isn’t yet harnessing its users to make money, but Crowley says it plans to eventually. It might ask businesses to pay to display specials to users (some are doing this for free) or let the businesses sponsor site badges that users get for, say, going to a concert.

Some users attribute Foursquare’s popularity partly to the success of Twitter and Facebook. The constant sharing with friends that is encouraged on these sites has trained people to be open to doing so elsewhere.

But while the definition of a friend on Facebook or Twitter can range from your grandmother to a guy you once spoke with at a party, Foursquare users tend to use it to connect with their actual friends.

“My rule there is that these are people I’d let sleep on my couch,” says Patrick Reilly, a software architect in San Francisco whose mayoral holdings include a local Best Buy store and a bar.

This attitude makes sense to Robbie Blinkoff, a cultural anthropologist and managing partner at Context-Based Research Group in Baltimore. He believes people are itching for more in-person meet-ups, while social sites like Facebook are geared more toward connecting on the Web.

Reilly says Foursquare has led him to hang out more with his friends.

“It definitely creates more connectiveness,” he says.