Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Listening to music has been known to be one of the best stressbusters. But a new study has now claimed that reading works better and faster when it comes to claiming frazzled nerves.

Researchers have carried out the study and found that reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes could be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two-thirds, The Daily Telegraph reported.

According to the researchers, this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tension in muscles and the heart.


Language and vision are among the areas in which the human brain is ahead of most advanced computers, a neurologist said.

“These (areas) pertain to the means by which we derive meaning from the world, and are perhaps best exemplified by two phenomenal capacities of the human mind,” said Mriganka Sur, HOD of brain and cognitive sciences, Newton Professor of Neurosciences, Cambridge.

“One of these is language --- it is nothing short of a miracle that the sounds I am uttering as a steady stream are being understood by you as conveying some meaning,” she said.

“Another is vision --- the fact that we can recognize objects and scenes from the pattern of light that comes into our eyes, and that we can often do so in a few tens if milliseconds, at a single glance,” she said.

When asked as to how the human brain possesses these capacities, Sur said “The answer lies in understanding how the brain is wired. Some one has to wire a computer and programme it. But the brain wires itself.”


A spying operation that infiltrated computers - many of them belonging to governments - in 103 countries has been uncovered by a group of Canadian researchers, the New York Times reported Sunday.

Victims of the malicious software, or malware, include computers in the offices of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan exile centres around the world, NATO headquarters in Brussels, and the Indian embassy to the United States.

In all, 1,295 computers might have been accessed and had documents copied by the system, which the researchers dubbed GhostNet.

In addition, the malware could also be used to turn the computers' own camera and audio systems into observation devices for the malware's operators. The researchers, however, could not confirm if this application was put into practice.

The report, to be released this week by the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, says the spying system was controlled by computers based almost entirely in China.

The researchers were careful not to accuse the Chinese government of being behind the security breach.

'We're a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,' researcher Ronald J. Deibert was quoted as saying. 'This could well be the CIA or the Russians. It's a murky realm that we are lifting the lid on.'

Gao Wenqi, spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York, gave an unequivocal denial of Chinese government involvement, saying: 'These are old stories and they are nonsense. The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cyber crime.'

However, the New York Times reported several instances where Chinese officials reacted to data that was picked up by GhostNet.

In one case, a foreign diplomat was advised by the Chinese government not to meet with the Dalai Lama after the Tibetan leader's office emailed him an invitation.

The center began its investigation after a request from the Dalai Lama's office to check its computers for potentially damaging software.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

America's recession "probably" will end this year if the government succeeds in bolstering the banking system, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a rare television interview.In carefully hedged remarks in a taped interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," Bernanke seemed to express a bit more optimism that this could be done.Still, Bernanke stressed — as he did to Congress last month — that the prospects for the recession ending this year and a recovery taking root next year hinge on a difficult task: getting banks to lend more freely again and getting the financial markets to work more normally."We've seen some progress in the financial markets, absolutely," Bernanke said. "But until we get that stabilized and working normally, we're not going to see recovery."But we do have a plan. We're working on it. And, I do think that we will get it stabilized, and we'll see the recession coming to an end probably this year."Even if the recession, which began in December 2007, ends this year, the unemployment rate will keep climbing past the current quarter-century high of 8.1 percent, Bernanke said.A growing number of economists think the jobless rate will hit 10 percent by the end of this year.Asked about the biggest potential dangers now, Bernanke suggested a lack of "political will" to solve the financial crisis.He said, though, that the United States has averted the risk of plunging into a depression."I think we've gotten past that," he said.
It's rare for a sitting Fed chief to grant an interview, whether for broadcast or print. Bernanke said he chose to do so because it's an "extraordinary time" for the country, and it gave him a chance to speak directly to the American public. (A transcript of the interview was provided in advance of the broadcast.)Bernanke spoke at a time of rising public anger over financial bailouts using taxpayer money. Battling the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, the government has put hundreds of billions of those dollars at risk to prop up troubled institutions and stabilize the banking system.Institutions that have been thrown lifelines include American International Group Inc., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and others.Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have questioned the effectiveness of the rescue efforts and have demanded more information about how taxpayers' money is being used.Bernanke's TV interview seemed to be part of a government public relations offensive. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared on PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show" last week, discussing the financial crisis and the Obama's administration's relief efforts.The Fed chief on Sunday's broadcast repeated his ire over the AIG bailout, saying that over the past 18 months, that was the case that angered him the most. He says he "slammed the phone more than a few times on discussing AIG."The government's four efforts to save the troubled insurance giant total more than $170 billion. A collapse of AIG would have wreaked havoc on the global economy, the Fed has said.AIG ignited fresh outrage over the weekend with news that it's making $165 million in bonus payments to executives on Sunday, most of them in the unit that sold risky financial contracts that caused huge losses for AIG. When the financial crisis intensified last fall, Bernanke and President George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson rushed to Capitol Hill for help. That led to the swift enactment of a $700 billion bailout package in October. Since then, banks have received billions in capital injections in return for government ownership stakes in them. Looking back, Bernanke said the world came close to a financial meltdown. Asked how close, Bernanke responded: "It was very close." Bernanke admitted that the Fed could have done a better job of overseeing banks. Critics say lax regulatory oversight contributed to the crisis. Bernanke said he believes all the big banks the Fed regulates are solvent. Big banks won't fail under his watch, Bernanke said — though, if necessary, the government should try to "wind it down in a safe way."
In the midst of its worst recession in decades, President Barack Obama says it would be better to create new jobs that can't be outsourced instead of bringing back such low paying jobs from other countries.'Not all of these jobs are going to come back,' he told a questioner during an 'Online Townhall' from the White House who asked when would jobs outsourced to other countries come back and be made available to the unemployed workers in the US.'And it probably wouldn't be good for our economy for a bunch of these jobs to come back because, frankly, there's no way that people could be getting paid a living wage on some of these jobs - at least in order to be competitive in an international setting.'The online meeting - a new take on President Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats - was streamed on the Internet from WhiteHouse.gov.Obama said a lot of the outsourcing has to do with the fact that 'our economy - if it's dependent on low-wage, low-skill labour, it's very hard to hang on to those jobs because there's always a country out there that pays lower wages than the US.'And so we've got to go after the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future,' he said. 'That's why it's so important to train our folks more effectively and that's why it's so important for us to find new industries - building solar panels or wind turbines or the new biofuel -that involve these higher-value, higher-skill, higher-paying jobs.'So what we've got to do is create new jobs that can't be outsourced,' Obama said.The president also asked Americans 'to be patient and persistent about job creation because I don't think that we've lost all the jobs we're going to lose in this recession.''I don't want people to think that in one or two months suddenly we're going to see net job increases,' he said striking a note of caution. 'It's going to take some time for the steps that we've taken to filter in.'Other questions - some of which came from the live audience - focused primarily on health care, job loss, mortgage payments and energy.

Famous astrologers agree upon one aspect of the 2009 general election in India. And if they are right, the opposition BJP could be in for tough times.
According to ace astrologer Mr.Panicker whose clients include former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumarathunga, former premier Ranil Wickramasinghe and a host of other international and Indian political leaders and celebrities, said that stars are not at all supportive of BJP and said the prospects of Congress is on the best phase.
Not only Mr. Panicker but also many other astrologers are of the same opinion.

Friday, March 13, 2009


A Medical Engineering student from the city of Bangaluru (INDIA), inspired by age-old processes used by Bengali sweet makers (also from India), is set to bring the smiles back on the faces of millions who suffer from renal failure worldwide.

Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, 23, a student from Dr. Ambedkar institute of Technology (AIT), India, has developed a transplantable artificial kidney (TAK), which can help do away with the need for painful dialysis or expensive and risky organ transplantation.

The TAK is slightly larger than the natural human kidney, and two of them make an artificial kidney system that resembles the human kidney.

The system provides round-the-clock purification of blood, just like natural kidneys, thus keeping down the toxicity level in cells due to metabolic waste.

The devise won Budhaditya his first international patent from the World Intellectual Property Organization in March last.

He has presented papers on TAK at several international conferences, including at a European Renal Association meet in Sweden, and has published in the renowned Oxford NDT journal. He is in talks with medical equipment companies to start producing it.


Deeply conservative Gaza isn’t exactly fertile ground for New Age practices. But women in head scarves and men in suits flapped their arms with gusto while breathing in rhythm in what looked like a yogic chicken dance.

The recent scene in a hotel ballroom broke several cultural taboos, such as not letting loose in public, particularly in mixed company. But the dozens of counselors and social workers stressed and overworked since the recent Gaza war, eagerly cast convention aside to learn about relaxation techniques.

“We are teaching very simple tools of self-care,” said Dr. James S.Gordon, a psychiatrist who runs the Centre for Mind-Body medicine in Washington D.C. and offers a parallel trauma programme in Israel.

Since 2005, he’s taught 90 Gaza health professionals who have reached thousands of patients with meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback and support groups in which participants express their feelings in words, drawings and dance.

“My house became like an asylum after the war,” said Naima Rawagh, who works with abused women and said she was flooded with requests for help after the Israeli offensive.


It may soon be possible to erase bad memories from the human brain.

Canadian scientists at the University of Toronto and the local hospital for sick children have found a link between a given memory and specific neurons -- the cells in the brain that transmit information – that store it.

The human brain has over 100 billion neurons, but memories are stored in only small number of them. Scientists have been trying to identify these precise neurons that encode a given memory.

Now, in their experimental study, the Toronto research team has succeeded in identifying precise neurons that carry a particular memory.

In its previous experiments, the same research tem had found evidence that, fear memories are stored in specific neurons within a brain structure known as the lateral amygdale (LA) that have a high amount of specific protein (CREB). This means that CREB levels helps dictate which neurons are involved in storing a memory and now it will be possible to remove those neurons which store bad memories instead of removing or deleting an entire brain region.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Amid speculation that there would be reduction in number of H1-B visas, which has attracted large number of Indian and International professionals, a top US immigration expert has said that the quota of 65,000 will get capped as the filling opens in April 1 2009.

“This year, with the economy in a recession and in view of widespread layoffs, the general expectation is that there may not be as many petitions as the previous years,” said immigration attorney Morley J Nair.

Even with a drastically reduced number of petitions, Nair said there is the likelihood that the quota would get capped in the first couple of days.


Belief in God helps reduce anxiety and minimize stress, says a new Canadian study. The study by Toronto University researchers say that brains of believers and non-believers work differently under stress. Belief in God has a calming effect on the brain which helps it block anxiety and minimize stress, it says.

As part of their study, researchers led by psychology professor, Michael Inzlicht performed a Stroop task -- a test of cognitive control -- on participants while hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain activity, a university statement said.

Compared to non-believers, religious participants showed significantly less activity in the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) of the brain. ACC is that portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed, particularly during events like making a mistake.

The stronger their religious zeal and more they believed in God, the less their ACC fired in response to their own errors, and the fewer errors they made, the university statement said.

“We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They are much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error.” said Prof.Inzlicht

“These correlations remained strong even after controlling for personality and cognitive ability,” he said, adding that religious participants made fewer errors on the Stroop task than their non-believing counterparts.

From flying around the world a la Superman to watching yourself plant kiss on none other than Jessica Alba – ever wondered why dreams are so weird? Why the rules of reality do not apply in your fascinating world of dreams?

Well, experts claim dreams are very much connected with your own ‘reality’. Mysterious and fascinating as they may seem, you can learn about your deep secrets and hidden feelings if you know how to analyze your dreams.

Good news is you can now figure out what your dreams mean. Just go online and browse through the many dream dictionaries available on the internet. These online dictionaries, along with your personal experiences and circumstances, will serve to guide you through a meaningful and personalized interpretation. With practice, you can gain an understanding of the secrets your dreams are trying to tell you.

So the next time you have a puzzling dream, google it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

As many as 100 thousand Indians and nearly the same number of Chinese will return to their native countries in the next three to five years, a move that will boost their economies and undermine technological innovation in America, a new study warns.

The study in immigration by a team at Duke, Harvard and Berkeley universities led by Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian-American technology entrepreneur turned academic, says, “America’s loss is the world’s gain”.

There are no hard numbers available on how many have returned, but anecdotal shows that this is in tens of thousands, says Wadhwa, executive-in-residence for the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and fellow at the Labour and Worklife Programme at Harvard Law School.

“With economic downturn, my guess is that we’ll have over 100 thousand Indians and as many Chinese return home over the next three-five years” he says.

“This flood of western educated and skilled talent will greatly boost the economies of India and China and strengthen their competitiveness. India is already becoming a global hub for research and development. This will allow it to branch into many new areas and will accelerate the trend.” The study released on Monday by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, Montana, indicates that placing limits on foreign workers in the United States is not the answer to America’s rising unemployment rate.

In fact, it may undermine efforts to spur technological innovation. “We are effectively exporting our economic stimulus,” Wadhwa warned.


The Indian information technology industry has reacted with a mix of hope and caution after President Barack Obama said last week that he will not allow US companies that send jobs away to enjoy his tax breaks.Obama is presumably talking about industry-specific tax breaks, though the details are not clear yet. But it is clear that he cannot go very far.For instance, the US plan can affect General Motors, which is getting government help. Every one know that GM is doing advanced design for its next generation of automobiles using aviation-standard materials in Bangalore (India). Does Obama's budget mean that GM will stop using India as a base for innovation? How will GM keep a global edge?Now, take Accenture, which many think is a US company. It is actually incorporated in Bermuda. Will a US-based retail company (like J.C. Penney, for instance), handing over IT work to Accenture suffer from Obama's moves? If it does, and rival IBM gets a deal that Accenture might have had, remember that IBM has tens of thousands of employees in India, doing work for US clients. The simple point is that US has itself led efforts in making the world economy in an inter-connected web. The nitty-gritty of crunching IT spending is going to be painful.US firms have already lost the game of efficiency in automobiles to the Japanese and in overall manufacturing to the Chinese. In pharmaceuticals and services, Indian firms can shake the US in everything but blockbuster product development. If you take new products, IT and distributed global research and development are at the heart of whatever remains of American capital efficiency, innovation and competitiveness.In other words, US firms are no longer US firms, but effectively global firms. By doing harm to what Americans call outsourcing, Obama may be axing a branch he is sitting on. Which is why many see his speech as little more than symbolic post-election posturing? If the benefits of tax breaks are outweighed by the gains of outsourcing, US firms will do what makes more sense to them.


Four suspects were arrested here on Tuesday for their alleged involvement in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team that left six policemen dead and six players and their assistant coach injured, a media report said.
Geo TV reported that police in Model Town have arrested four suspects after the attack. "Arms have been recovered from two of them," the report said.
The police also seized an explosive-laden jacket and weapons from a rickshaw.
Six policemen were killed and at least six Sri Lankan cricketers injured on Tuesday when heavily armed gunmen attacked the team cavalcade when it was on its way to the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore. The cricketers were later evacuated by an army helicopter as Sri Lanka cancelled its Pakistan tour.
Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, said the attack in the heart of Lahore was the handiwork of the same terrorists who struck in Mumbai in November last year.
"It was a planned terrorist act on the pattern of the attack on Mumbai. I believe the same terrorists are involved in both the incidents," Taseer told reporters.