Cooperation only way forward for energy security: Krishna

India and other countries in Asia can achieve energy security only with regional cooperation as opposed to competition to satisfy the growing demand given the backdrop of constraints, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has said.

“Energy security is an issue of great importance for the development, progress and well-being of our peoples,” Krishna said, inaugurating the Delhi Dialogue-II conference on regional security and cooperation.

“A regional approach on energy matters can accommodate competing demands and constraints while shifting the focus from competition to cooperation based on mutual interests,” the external affairs minister added.

“In the wake of the recent global financial and economic crisis, which was not of our making, it is imperative to develop greater cooperation among developing countries, so that we have an effective voice in the international financial architecture.”

The event was organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in association with the external affairs ministry and a host of think tanks from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Krishna said cooperation between India and ASEAN was varied and functional, and included sectors such as trade, investment, science, technology, health, pharmaceuticals, space, agriculture, IT, communications, infrastructure, tourism and culture.

“The India-ASEAN Trade-in-Goods Agreement under a Free Trade Agreement, which came into force on Jan 1, has opened new possibilities for the expansion of trade with the region. We hope agreements on trade-in-services and investment will be concluded soon.”

He said bilateral trade between India and several members of ASEAN, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, had crossed $10 billion each.

“India since the early 1990s has been closely pursuing closer relations with South East Asia and the Pacific regions as envisioned in our ‘Look East Policy’. It is our belief expanding our dialogue and cooperation would greatly contribute to our common endeavour for inclusive socio-economic development of our peoples.”

India ready for ‘any eventuality’ in case of another 26/11: Krishna

A day after the US warned Pakistan of the limits to India’s patience in the event of another Mumbai-like attack, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Thursday on said the government would have to be prepared to meet any eventuality.

“Yes, that is a worrying development because having been a victim of an earlier attack, gone through the anguish, the agony, the trauma, I think India certainly will have to be prepared to meet any such eventuality,” he told reporters.

Krishna was responding to a question on US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ remarks Wednesday that it would be extremely difficult for India to show “restraint and statesmanship” if another 26/11 attack was repeated.

“Of course, the defence forces and the home ministry are in close touch and coordination with the external affairs ministry and it will be our endeavour to maintain peace and tranquility within India,” he said.

Gates Wednesday had warned India about the possibility of more terror strikes from the Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Appreciating India’s restraint after the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Gates had said: “The situation is complicated in the region. The terrorists operations intend to destabilise the region and a 26/11 type of attack on India will test New Delhi’s patience.”

“The LeT which is operating in league with the Al Qaeda is dangerous for the whole region of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India,” he had said.

At the height of tensions between the two neighbours following the Mumbai massacre, allegedly masterminded and executed by Pakistani militants, India had ruled out war as an option. Instead New Delhi has asked Islamabad repeatedly to punish the terrorists linked to the Mumbai carnage and dismantle the larger anti-India infrastructure on its territory.

Hyd not a terror hub: A.K. Khan

It was improper to term Hyderabad as a terror hub, the city’s new police commissioner Abdul Khayyum Khan said Thursday.

“Terrorism is not confined to Hyderabad alone. Every city has this problem. It is not correct to say that whatever happens in other parts of the country is planned here or terrorism has its roots here,” Khan told reporters after taking charge.

Khan, the second Muslim to become the city’s police chief in nearly three decades, said very few “elements” in Hyderabad were involved in terror activity.

“We have identified them and are keeping a watch on their activity. In the past, some modules and sleeper cells were busted and a continuous vigil on such activities will be a priority for the police,” Khan, who succeeded B. Prasada Rao, said.

Khan, earlier an additional director general of police, is a 1981 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer.

Khan, who is from the Rayalaseema region, said police would perform its duties professionally while handling “ongoing movements”. He was referring to the campaign for and against a Telangana state.

“For the last two to three months, the intensity of different movements has affected civic life in the city but I am confident that the city will pass through this phase. The police have the responsibility to bring normalcy as quickly as possible.”

Khan, who served in the city in different positions for the last six years, said he was taking over as the police chief of the historic city with a sense of humility and pride.

Telangana issue: CCS to investigate student’s death

Investigations into the death of K Venugopal Reddy, an MCA student who allegedly committed suicide for the cause of separate Telangana state, have been handed over to the Central Crime Station (CCS), a top official of Hyderabad police said today.

“As the local police were busy maintaining law and order, the case has been handed over to CCS. The autopsy and a report of the Forensic Science Laboratory are awaited. The CCS will conduct field inquiries and whatever will be the facts…we will bring out,” Hyderabad’s new Police Commissioner A K Khan told reporters here.

CCS is a wing of Hyderabad City Police.

The charred body of Venugopal was found near Tagore Auditorium in the Osmania University campus on Tuesday sparking off violent protests from students.

U.S. lifts ban on Muslim scholar

The U.S. administration has lifted a ban on a planned visit by a leading European Muslim critic of the Iraq war, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, in a move hailed by a rights group as a victory for civil liberties.

The scholar, Professor Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University, said the decision showed what he called a new U.S. willingness to permit critical debate. He had been barred from the United States due to alleged terrorism ties, which he denies.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the State Department had also decided to end the exclusion of another prominent scholar, Professor Adam Habib of Johannesburg University, who had been critical of U.S. counter-terrorism policies.

“The orders ending the exclusion of Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan are long overdue and tremendously important,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, saying this was “a major vistory for civil liberties”.

“For several years, the United States government was more interested in stigmatizing and silencing its foreign critics than in engaging them. The decision… is a welcome sign the Obama administration is committed to facilitating rather than obstructing the exchange of ideas across international borders.”

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision about Ramadan meant that if he applied for a visa in future “he will not be found inadmissable based on the facts that led to the previous denial.”

The official said the decision was based on a “specific exemption” to U.S. immigration rules after consultation with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

ARAB COUNTRIES

“Professor Ramadan remains subject to all other standards of eligibility” should he apply for a U.S. visa, the official said.

Ramdan, who has Swiss citizenship, told Reuters that as a result of the decision he would apply soon for a visa to visit the United States.

Campaigners have championed the case of Ramadan and Habib as part of a pattern of scholars and writers being excluded due to unwarranted or unspecified U.S. national security grounds.

The United States has revoked Ramadan’s visa several times since 2004.

India outsourcers hiring staff as US demand grows

India’s top three outsourcing companies are ramping up hiring and increasing pay as global corporations, mainly from the U.S., send more work offshore to cut costs as they emerge from the downturn.

Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro expanded their global workforces by an average of 5.1 per cent last quarter, together adding 16,701 employees, company documents show – an early sign that the Great Recession may ultimately benefit India as cost-conscious companies outsource more work, just as they did after the dot-com bust.

“Our expectations are for flat to marginally stronger IT budgets with a greater share of offshore spend,” Wipro chairman Azim Premji said in a conference call Wednesday. “Our customers remain focused on cost reduction.” he added.

The employment revival in India’s outsourcing sector, which counts on the U.S. for about 60 per cent of global sales, comes as unemployment in the U.S. stagnates around 10 per cent near a 26-year high. Inflation-adjusted wages in the U.S. last year fell 1.6 per cent, the biggest decline since 1990.

“When there is a downturn the compulsion to control costs increases,” said Dipen Shah, an analyst at Mumbai’s Kotak Securities. “The demand for off-shoring will increase. That will play to the advantage of Indian IT companies.” he added.

He argues that the cost savings from off-shoring has helped U.S. companies survive – and that’s good for the American worker.

“You might say jobs in the U.S. are getting displaced by jobs in India, but because of the value provided by Indian companies and lower costs, there are firms who are able to keep their heads above water and continue to employ their existing employees,” he said.

TCS, Infosys and Wipro, which can do everything from call center management and claims processing to software development and consulting, all reported stronger than expected results for the December quarter. Revenues and volumes grew, signalling that the cost-cutting imperative of this last, lean year may be over for India’s $60 billion software services industry.

After about a year of hiring slowdowns, all three companies are sweetening compensation as the fight to hold on to talented employees in India heats up.

Infosys offered its Indian employees an average 8 per cent pay hike in October, their first raise since April 2008, and executives said last week they are considering another raise to combat rising attrition.

“The market is heating up and we want to retain talent,” human resources director Mohandas Pai told reporters.

Infosys last week raised its gross hiring target for the second time this fiscal year, to 24,000 people.

Wipro executives said they plan to offer staffers a raise in February.

Tata Consultancy Services has paid out 150 percent of performance-lined pay – which amount to 20 to 45 per cent of compensation – for the last two quarters, and executives say they will raise salaries next quarter, after a year-long wage freeze.

As demand for workers revives, employers have begun to worry about rising staff turnover. Employees who sat tight during the downturn have started to shop around for better jobs and better salaries.

Attrition at Wipro jumped to 13.4 per cent last quarter, up from an average of 8.9 per cent over the prior three quarters. Attrition at Infosys rose to 11.6 per cent last quarter from 10.9 per cent the prior quarter. Attrition at TCS has been stable, at around 11.5 per cent, though executives say they expect that number to rise.

Indian firms say they are increasing global hiring, including in the U.S., as they pursue higher-end work like consulting. But U.S. employees remain a fraction of total staff.

TCS, for example, recently finished hiring 250 Americans for its Cincinnati campus, but U.S. employees still account for less than 0.5 per cent of the company’s global workforce.

Twitter’s Growth Slows Dramatically

hubspot_logo_jan09.jpgAfter news about the landing of US Airways 1549 in the Hudson first broke on Twitter in January 2009, the microblogging service quickly captured the imagination of a new group of potential users. Throughout the first months of 2009,  Twitter grew at a rapid pace, peaking at a growth rate of 13% in March 2009.

Now, however, according to the latest data from HubSpot, Twitter’s growth is slowing dramatically. In October 2009, Twitter’s growth rate had fallen to 3.5%. On a positive note, though, the average active user on Twitter today is more engaged than six months ago.

hubspot_twitter_growth_jan09.jpg

Most Twitter users, however – even if they are now more engaged on average – still have fewer than 100 followers. Only 18% of all Twitter users have more than 100 followers. A total of 81% of all users are currently also following less than 100 people. Just six months ago, the average user was just following around 40 accounts.

hubspot_twitter_follower_counts_jan09.jpg

HubSpot’s analysis also shows that more Twitter users now include bios (54%), links (65%) and location data (41%) in their profiles.

International Footprint Increases

As we pointed out earlier this month, social media analytics firm Sysomos also noted that most of Twitter’s growth is currently happening internationally. According to HubSpot’s analysis of over 5 million Twitter accounts, 40% of the top 20 Twitter locations are now outside of North America. In July 2009, only 15% were from outside North America.

For Twitter, this means that its current user base is making better use of the service, but the company also has to worry that its growth is slowing down. Maybe some of the earlier high growth rates were inflated by spam accounts, but a 3.5% growth rate is very low and the overall trend is only pointing down at this time.

Cellphones don’t cause brain cancer

It is official: cellphones don’t increase the risk of brain cancer.

A long-term study has found there is no link between brain tumor and the use of cell phones. The study among Scandinavian people from 1974 and 2003 has found that the use of cell phones did not increase brain tumour risk among users.

“We did not observe (notice) an effect of mobile phones on the incidence of brain tumours,” study leader Isabelle Deltour of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen told a Canadian television network here Thursday.

As part of this extensive study, 16 million people in Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were tracked for what happened to rates of glioma and meningioma brain tumours among them over 30 years.

But the researchers found that only 60,000 of them developed brain tumours. This rate of brain tumour was not higher than that seen before the use of cell phones began.

The study found that there was no increase in risk. If there was any increase in risk, it was too small to be observed or the period needed for cell phones to cause brain tumours was longer than the period studied.

The Scandinavian study commenced just when cell phones were introduced.

“If there was a connection, we would have expected a sudden marked increase in the rates, especially among younger males, which were the first to use cells phones.

We didn’t see that,” Deltour told CTV.

However, the researchers stressed that more longer-term studies are needed to prove that the use of cell phone does not raise the risk of brain cancer. They said they will continue monitoring to see if it takes longer to detect changes in tumour rates.

Another international study on the link between cell phone use and brain cancer is likely to come this year.

The Scandinavian study has appeared in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

‘New York Times’ to charge for Web access in 2011

A screengrab of The New York Times Website. The Times has announced that it would charge readers for full access to its Website starting in 2011.

The New York Times says it will charge readers for full access to its Website starting in 2011, a risky move aimed at drawing more revenue online without driving away advertisers that want the biggest possible audience.

The potential pitfalls have made most other major newspapers hesitant to take a similar step. But after months of deliberation, the Times said on Wednesday it will use a metered system, allowing free access to a certain number of articles and then charging users for additional content.

The Times did not disclose how many articles will be available for free and what it will charge to read more. Subscribers to the printed version of the Times would still have free access to the Website.

It would not be the first time the newspaper has tried to charge for its online articles.

It charged for its Website in 1996 but attracted only about 4,000 subscribers. Another experiment called Times Select, which required a $50 annual subscription to read Times columnists, drew 221,000 customers but was scrapped in 2007 because it dented ad sales. Advertisers generally pay more for higher Web traffic.

The new approach resembles the one used at The Financial Times. The idea is to draw casual readers with free articles while getting fees from people who want to go deeper on the site.

The plan would not stop search engines from cataloguing the newspaper’s Website, so its articles would still benefit from the traffic generated by search results.

The Times said it will use 2010 to build a new online infrastructure for charging readers on different platforms, not just personal computers. For instance, the newspaper can be read for free through an application on Apple’s iPhone. But the Times did not say specifically what its plans are for mobile editions.

In a statement, New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson said the company is “guided by the fact that our news and information are being featured in an increasingly broad range of end-user devices and services, and our pricing plans and policies must reflect this vision.”

POLL – Growth, inflation to quicken in 2010/11

India’s economy will grow at rates of 7 percent and above in the coming quarters, helped by a recovering global economy and rapid expansion in domestic industrial output, a Reuters poll showed.

Analysts expect Asia’s third-biggest economy to grow 7 percent in the 2009/10 fiscal year that ends in March, and 8 percent in 2010/11, up from forecasts of 6 percent and 7.5 percent in a similar Reuters poll three months ago.

“Growth drivers like industry and services and an improving business environment can support an economic growth of over 8 percent,” said Shubhada Rao, Chief Economist at Yes Bank.

India’s economy grew 6.7 percent in 2008/09, slowing from rates of 9 percent or more in the previous three years as the global credit crisis hit business activity.

Analysts expect the central bank to start lifting interest rates to tackle rising inflationary pressures as the economy rebounds, although they were divided over the timing of the first move.

Half of the 12 participating analysts said they expected the Reserve Bank of India to raise the repo rate at which it lends short-term funds to banks, by at least 25 basis points by end-March. The rest, with one exception pencilled in a rate rise in the following quarter.

The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now

In December, Facebook made a series of bold and controversial changes regarding the nature of its users’ privacy on the social networking site.

The company once known for protecting privacy to the point of exclusivity (it began its days as a network for college kids only – no one else even had access), now seemingly wants to compete with more open social networks like the microblogging media darling Twitter.

Those of you who edited your privacy settings prior to December’s change have nothing to worry about – that is, assuming you elected to keep your personalized settings when prompted by Facebook’s “transition tool.” The tool, a dialog box explaining the changes, appeared at the top of Facebook homepages this past month with its own selection of recommended settings. Unfortunately, most Facebook users likely opted for the recommended settings without really understanding what they were agreeing to. If you did so, you may now be surprised to find that you inadvertently gave Facebook the right to publicize your private information including status updates, photos, and shared links.

Want to change things back? Read on to find out how.
1. Who Can See The Things You Share (Status Updates, Photo, Videos, etc.)

Probably the most critical of the “privacy” changes (yes, we mean those quotes sarcastically) was the change made to status updates. Although there’s now a button beneath the status update field that lets you select who can view any particular update, the new Facebook default for this setting is “Everyone.” And by everyone, they mean everyone.

If you accepted the new recommended settings then you voluntarily gave Facebook the right to share the information about the items you post with any user or application on the site. Depending on your search settings, you may have also given Facebook the right to share that information with search engines, too.

To change this setting back to something of a more private nature, do the following:

1. From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
2. Click “Profile Information” from the list of choices on the next page.
3. Scroll down to the setting “Posts by Me.” This encompasses anything you post, including status updates, links, notes, photos, and videos.
4. Change this setting using the drop-down box on the right. We recommend the “Only Friends” setting to ensure that only those people you’ve specifically added as a friend on the network can see the things you post.

2. Who Can See Your Personal Info

Facebook has a section of your profile called “personal info,” but it only includes your interests, activities, and favorites. Other arguably more personal information is not encompassed by the “personal info” setting on Facebook’s Privacy Settings page. That other information includes things like your birthday, your religious and political views, and your relationship status.

After last month’s privacy changes, Facebook set the new defaults for this other information to viewable by either “Everyone” (for family and relationships, aka relationship status) or to “Friends of Friends” (birthday, religious and political views). Depending on your own preferences, you can update each of these fields as you see fit. However, we would bet that many will want to set these to “Only Friends” as well. To do so:

1. From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
2. Click “Profile Information” from the list of choices on the next page.
3. The third, fourth, and fifth item listed on this page are as follows: “birthday,” “religious and political views,” and “family and relationship.” Locking down birthday to “Only Friends” is wise here, especially considering information such as this is often used in identity theft.
4. Depending on your own personal preferences, you may or may not feel comfortable sharing your relationship status and religious and political views with complete strangers. And keep in mind, any setting besides “Only Friends” is just that – a stranger. While “Friends of Friends” sounds innocuous enough, it refers to everyone your friends have added as friends, a large group containing hundreds if not thousands of people you don’t know. All it takes is one less-than-selective friend in your network to give an unsavory person access to this information.

3. What Google Can See – Keep Your Data Off the Search Engines

When you visit Facebook’s Search Settings page, a warning message pops up. Apparently, Facebook wants to clear the air about what info is being indexed by Google. The message reads:

There have been misleading rumors recently about Facebook indexing all your information on Google. This is not true. Facebook created public search listings in 2007 to enable people to search for your name and see a link to your Facebook profile. They will still only see a basic set of information.

While that may be true to a point, the second setting listed on this Search Settings page refers to exactly what you’re allowing Google to index. If the box next to “Allow” is checked, you’re giving search engines the ability to access and index any information you’ve marked as visible by “Everyone.” As you can see from the settings discussed above, if you had not made some changes to certain fields, you would be sharing quite a bit with the search engines…probably more information than you were comfortable with. To keep your data private and out of the search engines, do the following:

1. From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
2. Click “Search” from the list of choices on the next page.
3. Click “Close” on the pop-up message that appears.
4. On this page, uncheck the box labeled “Allow” next to the second setting “Public Search Results.” That keeps all your publicly shared information (items set to viewable by “Everyone”) out of the search engines. If you want to see what the end result looks like, click the “see preview” link in blue underneath this setting.

Take 5 Minutes to Protect Your Privacy

While these three settings are, in our opinion, the most critical, they’re by no means the only privacy settings worth a look. In a previous article (written prior to December’s changes, so now out-of-date), we also looked at things like who can find you via Facebook’s own search, application security, and more.

While you may think these sorts of items aren’t worth your time now, the next time you lose out on a job because the HR manager viewed your questionable Facebook photos or saw something inappropriate a friend posted on your wall, you may have second thoughts. But why wait until something bad happens before you address the issue?

Considering that Facebook itself is no longer looking out for you, it’s time to be proactive about things and look out for yourself instead. Taking a few minutes to run through all the available privacy settings and educating yourself on what they mean could mean the world of difference to you at some later point…That is, unless you agree with Facebook in thinking that the world is becoming more open and therefore you should too.

Obama to target excessive financial risk-taking

President Barack Obama, reeling from an election defeat in the U.S. Senate, will propose stricter limits on financial risk-taking on Thursday in a move that may recall Depression-era curbs on banks.

The president will announce a series of measures to cut down on excessive risk-taking as part of a revamp of the country’s financial regulatory system, a senior Obama official said on Wednesday.

The move could also help the White House tap into public rage over Wall Street excess after Obama’s Democratic Party was rebuffed by voters in Massachusetts, who elected Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. senate.

“The proposal will include size and complexity limits specifically on proprietary trading and the White House will work closely with the House and Senate to work this into legislation,” the official said.

Proprietary trading refers to a firm making bets on financial markets with its own money, rather than executing a trade for a client.

The White House has blamed the practice for reckless gambling on the U.S. property market which resulted in massive losses that almost destroyed the financial system in 2008.

This forced taxpayers to provide a $700 billion bank bailout to prevent the most severe U.S. recession since the 1930s from getting even worse.

China downplays Internet feud with United States

BEIJING  – China sought to contain tension with the United States over online censorship and hacking, saying Google’s dispute with Beijing should not be over-stated, ahead of a possible challenge from Washington on Internet freedom.

Comments by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei on Thursday appeared to be part of an effort to downplay disputes and avoid further straining ties with Washington. Relations are already troubled by quarrels over trade, Taiwan and human rights.

A speech by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Internet freedom planned for Washington on Thursday could be seen in Beijing as throwing down a gauntlet, a week after search engine giant Google Inc said it had been the target of sophisticated cyber-spying from China.

“The Google incident should not be linked to bilateral relations, otherwise that would be over-interpreting it,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted He as telling Chinese reporters.

“In the year that Obama has been in office, the development of China-U.S. relations has been basically stable,” He added.

He seemed to be seeking to play down potential fallout from the Google dispute, which could compound tensions with Washington as Congress heads into an election year.

“He’s comments show the government’s caution, in that it does not want the Google case to complicate relations with the United States,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University.

“This is not a political problem, it is a commercial one. It’s about the issues a company operating in China has come up against, and nothing to do with bilateral relations.”

Mishra spins India to victory over Bangladesh

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh – Leg-spinner Amit Mishra grabbed four second session wickets as India completed a 113-run victory over hosts Bangladesh in the first test on Thursday.

Bangladesh wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim (101) was last man out following his maiden test century, Mishra having him caught by substitute fielder Pragyan Ojha at long-off as the hosts were all out for 301.

Mushfiqur’s century, in which he struck 17 fours and a six, was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing batting performance by the hosts.

Bangladesh resumed the final day on 67-2 chasing an unlikely 415 for victory but they were reduced to 136-5 at lunch after Virender Sehwag dismissed Tamim Iqbal for 52 and Ishant Sharma claimed the wickets of Mohammad Ashraful and Raqibul Hassan.

Mishra (4-92) then set to work wrapping up the bulk of the tail.

First he had Shakib Al Hasan (17) caught by Sehwag at silly point after the ball popped up off the shoulder of the bat, then Shahadat Hossain (24) clean bowled and Shafiul Islam (8) went after he drilled a catch back to the bowler.

Zaheer Khan claimed the other wicket of Mahmudullah for 20 after he was caught by Dinesh Karthik

India, the number one ranked test team, can wrap up a series win in the second and final test which begins in Dhaka on Jan. 24.

Facial expressions ‘indicate nature of men, women’

Men are perceived to angry and dominant and women smiling and caring. But why? The answer may lie in the interpretation of facial expressions, a study says.

Researchers in Canada have based their findings on an analysis of two experiments carried out to identify the sex of a series of faces.

In the first experiment, androgynous faces with lowered eyebrows and tight lips (angry expressions) were more likely to be identified as male, and faces with smiles and raised eyebrows (expressions of happiness and fear) were often labelled feminine.

The second experiment used male and female faces wearing expressions of happiness, anger, sadness, fear or a neutral expression. Overall, subjects were able to identify male faces more quickly than female faces, and female faces that expressed anger took the longest to identify.

“The present research shows that the association between anger and men and happiness and women is so strong that it can influence the decisions about the gender of another person when that person is viewed briefly,” said Prof Ursula Hess of the University of Quebec at Montreal.

Hess said that the same cues that make a face appear male — a high forehead, a square jaw and thicker eyebrows — have been linked to perceptions of dominance. Likewise, features that make a face appear female — a rounded, baby face with large eyes — have been linked to perceptions of the individual being approachable and warm.

“This difference in how the emotions and social traits of the two sexes are perceived could have significant implications for social interactions in a number of settings.

“Our research demonstrates that equivalent levels of anger are perceived as more intense when shown by men rather than women, and happiness as more intense when shown by women rather than men. It also suggests that it is less likely for men to be perceived as warm and caring and for women to be perceived as dominant,” he said.

Four kidnappers killed in encounter, boy rescued

Four persons allegedly involved in the kidnapping of a 11-year-old boy were on Thursday killed in an encounter with police and special task force (STF) on the outskirts of the city and the boy was rescued, a senior police officer said.

“Four persons were killed in an encounter in Malihabad area and the kidnapped boy Gaurav Mishra was rescued,” Senior Superintendent of Police Prem Prakash said.

Gaurav, a class seven student of CMS school here, was kidnapped by his driver Surendra Yadav and his three accomplices from Aliganj area on Wednesday, police said, adding the driver was among the four killed in the encounter.

The kidnappers had telephoned Gaurav’s uncle Shivanand Mishra and demanded a ransom of Rs 1.5 crore, they said, adding that the call was traced to Sitapur in the state.

The SSP said that during a joint operation police and STF tracked down the location of the kidnappers in Malihabad area.

The biggest gap exists in the Internet access space

Are the telecom players a happy lot, considering the low ARPU (average revenue per user) in the country? With this question begins my telephonic interaction with Neeraj Jain, Director, Strategic and Commercial Intelligence, Transaction Services, KPMG.

“The telecom players are certainly not a happy lot!” he observes. Intense competition and scramble for new subscribers are the main factors responsible for the historical/ continued decline in ARPU, he continues. “In the past, new subscriber volumes helped to more than counteract the negative impact of decline in ARPU and ensured robust revenue growth of the industry. This is no longer the case.”

The decline in tariff/ ARPU is now so steep (triggered by Tata DOCOMO’s per second billing and RCOM’s Simply Reliance plan) that despite continued robust growth in new subscriber additions, the recent reported figures of the industry suggest a flat or a decline in revenues, notes Jain.

How is this likely to pan out, I ask? “Things are only likely to get tougher with the commercial launch of services by new operators like Telenor, Etisalat, Datacom etc. and availability of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) facility at a low fee (capped at Rs 19). The general consensus is that this trend would stabilise/ reverse in about 2 years’ time,” he opines. Our conversation continues over the email…

Excerpts from the interview.

Is there a future for landline?

India has given the go-by to landline in favour of wireless. As a result, over the last several quarters, the number of landline connections have either declined or remained stable at best. The future for landline is contingent on whether or not it can evolve to retain its relevance in today’s context.

Today, new residential landline connections are principally taken for broadband access with voice being a secondary criterion. Within the existing landline connections, only 7 million (about 20 per cent) of the installed connections have the capability of supporting broadband owing to legacy landline network constraints.

With the launch of 3G and WiMax services and anticipated consolidation in the Local Cable Operator (LCO) space, landlines are going to lose their monopoly of being the principle recourse to providing last mile access to subscribers for broadband and related high speed services.

In addition, MoUs are getting migrated to wireless. So whilst landline will not completely disappear, the proportion of landline to total telephony both from a volume and revenue perspective is likely to continue to decline.

Do you see significant differences between the Indian and foreign telecom players operating in the country, in terms of operational efficiencies and customer service?

I don’t think that significant differences exist between Indian and foreign telecom players. Most of the established players with multi-circle/ pan-India presence have been around for the last 10 years (or more) and have evolved processes and procedures in place.

Cut-throat competition has ensured that any innovative approach by one player to lower costs or improved service standards is quickly replicated across the industry – outsourcing of network maintenance and sharing of passive infrastructure are two such examples.

In addition, job-hopping by senior and middle level telecom professionals between various telecom players and the fact that telecom is a big spender on consultancy services ensures that best practices and processes are followed across the industry.

In what key aspects is the Indian telecom market different from comparable countries?

There are several factors that differentiate the Indian telecom market. The Indian telecom market is today characterised by the highest subscriber growth but lowest tariffs. Both these trends are expected to continue going forward.

The Indian consumer is very much value-for-money driven and overwhelmingly prefers the pre-paid product. The industry landscape is characterised by 7 established players (with 4-5 more players to follow), focus on Quality of Service is either low or non-existent – both these characteristics are at variance to mature markets.

On both capex and opex front, telecom players have done a great job. Capex costs @ 40-50 USD per subscriber line (for telecom equipment) is a fraction at which networks were deployed in the developed or even developing countries whilst the emergence of the passive infrastructure sharing has allowed the establishment of a low opex model.

How do you anticipate the rural and urban markets for telecom products and services growing in the near to mid term?

Latest TRAI estimates suggest a 1 billion subscriber base by CY2015. With high mobile penetration (80 per cent) in the urban areas, growth in voice traffic is expected to be driven by increased penetration and increased usage in rural areas. This increase is expected to be aided by continued fall in handset prices, increased rural coverage, benefits of increased prosperity as the fruits of the growth in rural economy trickle down, network multiplier effect etc.

Growth in rural telecom is also expected to be aided by migration to cities and towns as migrants become subscribers and use telecom as the tool to stay in touch with near ones back home.

In urban areas, apart from increased penetration, I expect increased uptake of Value Added Services (VAS) as operators increasingly focus on VAS to lift revenues and service providers shift from entertainment VAS to applications that enrich life (commerce, health, location based services for example). The launch of 3G, and WiMAX are expected to be the other key drivers of telecom services in the medium term.

Where are the big gaps in the services space for telecom, between the potential and absorption?

My sense is that the biggest gap exists in the Internet access space. Internet per se has tremendous potential to grow in India both from an e-governance as well as dissemination of information perspective. Today, the realisation of potential is limited by low penetration of PCs, lack of last mile access, lack of suitable local content etc. The government has taken some steps to alleviate the situation but these haven’t had the desired impact.

Your views on the regulatory changes that are likely soon.

With MNP and 3G and BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) licence auctions on course to get implemented soon, the Government is likely to consider other regulations to give further fillip to the telecom market. One such policy that might be announced soon is regarding voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP). This technology provides low-cost call rates since it uses Internet and does not require a dedicated channel unlike other telephone technologies. However, high speed connectivity is a pre-requisite to ensure voice quality in VoIP.

In 2005, the DoT allowed unlimited Internet telephony to all telephone service providers in India. Later in 2006, limited access was also given to Internet service providers – they were not allowed to terminate or carry calls within India. So far, there has been limited success of VoIP – these services have not been started by many operators and some 34 licence-holders are legally reporting Internet telephony revenues.

With high-speed and good connectivity Internet becoming plausible post launch of 3G and BWA services, the Government intends to move forward with the policy, which would also curb the growth of illegal use of VoIP. An entry fee of Rs 430 million has been proposed by DoT for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) wanting to offer VoIP-based telephony services within the country; such ISPs might also be asked to share 9 per cent of their annual service revenues with the Government.

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Healthy mind really does live in a healthy body

A new study has proved an old saying ‘healthy mind lives in a healthy body’.

Researchers from University of Gothenburg in Sweden have revealed that regular exercise boosts brain power of young adults.

It improves blood flow to the brain that could help build new brain cells.

The study involving nearly all Swedish men born between 1950 and 1976, scientists discovered that cardiovascular fitness was linked with overall intelligence.

The participants also scored on tests of logical, verbal, technical and visuospatial capabilities and even socioeconomic status and educational attainment later in life.

Researcher Georg Kuhn, a neuroscientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow to the brain, supplying it with more oxygen and nutrients. Moreover, during exercise, growth factors are produced that could improve brain structure over time. This not only includes more and stronger connections between nerve cells, but also more neurons and supporting cells. “From animal experiments we know this is the case especially in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important for learning and memory,” Live Science quoted him as saying.

Past research has suggested that cardiovascular fitness can benefit the minds of older adults. For instance, it can delay or reduce the onset and progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

‘Decision to merge Air India and Indian Airlines taken in haste’

A Parliamentary Committee has stated that the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines caused many problems concerning financial, administrative and operational factors

A Parliamentary Committee today said the decision to merge national carriers Air India and Indian Airlines was taken in haste, without the required consultation and home work.

“As a result, the entire process has, in fact, been unduly delayed, if not derailed,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture has noted.

The Committee looked into the merger of the two airlines and its impact on the domestic aviation industry.

“In the process, it has given rise to so many problems concerning financial, administrative and operational, which could not be foreseen by the people who took this decision,” the Committee said.

The Committee, headed by senior politician Sitaram Yechury, felt these inherent contradictions of human resources and aircraft type existing within National Aviation Company of India, the entity formed after the merger, have become a major stumbling block in achieving the required economies of scale and increased leverage.

While Air India has a Boeing-based fleet, Indian Airlines primarily has Airbus jets and the engineers and operating crew of the two carriers are not equipped to service both aircraft types.

Both Air India and Indian Airlines had drawn their own aircraft acquisition plans before the decision on the merger was taken, further impeding the process, the Committee noted.

India, Pakistan trade diplomatic barbs over cricket

A spat over cricket has sparked diplomatic mudslinging between India and Pakistan in the latest setback to efforts to improve relations between the two nuclear rivals, at loggerheads since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

An auction of players at the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world’s richest cricket tournament, ended with no bids for 11 Pakistanis this week amid fears Indian teams could have visa problems for the cricketers.

Pakistan, always sensitive to any hint of a snub by its neighbour, was furious. Some of the Pakistani players who failed to get a bid from the Indian sides are considered world class cricketers, such as all-rounder Shahid Afridi.

Indian TV stations aired pictures of straw effigies of IPL chief Lalit Modi burning on Pakistani streets on Thursday.

“I want to make it clear that whether it is India or any other country in the world, their citizens would have to face (the) same behaviour as meted out to our people,” Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik was quoted by Pakistan’s state-run APP news agency as saying on Wednesday.

The Indian government dismissed Pakistan’s concerns.

“The government has nothing to do with the IPL,” Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said on Thursday. “So Pakistan will have to draw that line between where government of India is connected, where government of India is an actor.”

Tensions have mounted in recent weeks following a spate of border skirmishes and a spike in separatist violence in Indian Kashmir by Pakistan-based militant groups.