Dec 6, 2008

Business - In Conversation with Nokia's Robert Anderson

India, after emerging as the second largest market for the world’s largest handset maker Nokia (by volumes), is steadily working its way up on the value chain also. This is because the Indian market is perhaps the last of the high growth markets left in the world.

Besides, the country is adding over 10 million new users a month, the highest in the world, which translates into robust handset sales. ET spoke to Nokia’s executive VP (devices, finance, strategy and sourcing) Robert Anderson on his take on both the domestic market as well as the global scenario.

Do you feel that the global slowdown in handset sales will have a similar impact in emerging markets such as India? How important is the market here for you?

We still maintain that handset sales will be up by 10% this fiscal. This is good, but lower than last year’s figures. But emerging markets, where communication devices are fast becoming a daily necessity, the sales will continue to grow. We are doing our part to make the handset attractive to customers in emerging markets even during such times (of slowdown). This is the primary reason why we offer solutions and services (and not just handsets). For instance, we have just unveiled ‘Nokia life tools’, an agricultural information and education service for emerging markets today. The fact that we have chosen India yet again for the global launch of our new handset offerings for emerging markets is a reflection of the importance of this country. India will add 229 million new users over the next three years, of which 60% will come from rural India.

The new handsets focus on bringing internet to the customers via these devices. Nokia has always talked about internet on the mobile as the next biggest challenge. How do you plan to address this?
Nokia cannot change the internet, but we can definitely change the way you access the net on the handset. We can give you the internet on mid and lower end handsets and ensure that this facility is not restricted to those customers who use high-end handsets. For instance, in the case of rural India, Google may not be the most relevant site. Instead, the users will need a handset that will allow them to use services like weather forecasts in a format comfortable to them. Therefore, the handset, the interface and services, which includes content, must all be addressed together before the masses will use internet on their mobiles and we are working to make this a reality. In emerging markets such as India, the biggest challenge for Nokia is to get people to buy mid- and high-end phones.

Currently over 60% of your volumes are driven by entry level handsets. How important a challenge is it for you to change this ratio?
Yes, entry level handsets drive sales here, but it is crucial to note that this is a market that is also driven by aspirations. We have added an aspirational aspect to our products. This is best illustrated by the fact that for the first time ever, the replacement market is now larger than the entry market in countries such as India. We are also adding attractive designs and features to all our mid level handets to make them attractive to even first time users. The results will come over time.

What is your take on Near Field Communications (NFC) or the mobile wallet? Do you see this as the next big revolution on the mobile handsets? By when do you see mass adoption of this, where people can swipe their handsets on buying products or services?
We believe that NFC has the potential to be a technology that can change the way we do things today. We are very bullish on this will work with potential partners on this platform. There are several applications that become attractive if you look at from an NFC point. Recently, we launched some handsets that has the NFC feature to some extent.

In the UK, you recently gave unlimited music downloads with certain handset models. Will you replicate this business model in India?
We will offer unlimited music downloads when Nokia launches its music phones in India sometime next year. We are in talks with all major music labels in India to enter into deals with them. We have not signed any deals here yet. Globally, we have agreements with all major music labels.

Business - Q&A SAP India CEO

Jessica Mehroin Irani & Santanu Mishra

MUMBAI: The global slowdown may have affected almost all industries. But SAP India CEO Ranjan Das told ET that it has no impact on the sales of enterprise products as companies continue to spend on IT. Excerpts:

How does the fourth quarter looks like for SAP India?

We all know there is a slowdown and it has impacted India. In third quarter, we grew by 46% in India alone, which is huge in itself. However, it is hard for me to predict how we will perform in Q4. I think in mid and long-term, India is expected to grow at a faster rate than other regions.

What impact will slowdown have on your licence sales?

There is a lot of credit crunch, but companies need to maintain their business processes. However, the revenue stream is drying up and has also lowered confidence. This will definitely impact IT spending if revenues go down. But software is less likely to get hit than hardware as replacing hardware systems can be put off for a while.

Also, CEOs want to know where they can invest their shrinking pool of funds, how can they cut costs without weakening their business and how they can defend their market share or increase it. So chances are less that license sales would come down significantly.

Are there any large SAP implementation deals that are happening?

This is a great time for companies who are planning transformations and to go ahead with it. Some companies have already realised this and more will follow up by January-February next year. Recently, a company which is shutting down some of its plants told us they wanted to implement SAP across all its existing systems.

Their IT systems were built 10 years ago and when they complete this transformation process, they will be able to compete better as their operating efficiency will be better. Companies in regulated space will also have to compete with global players by 2010. They too will have to undertake this transformation process.

Which industry has the potential for large-scale SAP implementation?

I think, the public sector has huge potential and is catching up steadily. There is immense need for automation and optimisation in utilities, government organisations and defence among others. The government companies have to invest in products like SAP on their own for better efficiency and if they don’t, citizens will force them to do so.

With many Indian IT companies looking at acquisitions in the SAP consulting space, do you feel threatened?

I think it is great as it validates our status in the market. Everybody expects us to have a bigger footprint and we have lots of customers.

In fact, this is not a threat to us since major chunk of our revenue comes from license sales and not from consulting practise. Many a times, the IT service companies partner with us during the course of such consulting.

Also, there is a real shortage on the number of people who can implement our software. If the IT players in India build SAP practice, it is great news for us as this would increase the number of people with expertise in SAP.

Would CEOs incur additional costs for SAP products to attract more customers when the demand itself has slowed down?

If you are going out of business, you will invest neither in IT nor in anything else. That is the case for some small and medium enterprises, but majority are still in business. They might be hunkering down during this storm, but this storm will recede. Though, nobody knows when.

IT spending will definitely go down, but it won’t go to zero. In times of crisis, you cut down on things, but you don’t entirely stop them

Business - Chanda Kochhar tipped to succeed Kamath

George Smith Alexander

MUMBAI: ICICI Bank, the country’s second-largest bank, will soon announce MD & chief executive KV Kamath’s successor. While joint MD &CEO Chanda Kochhar
Chanda Kochhar is the fronrunner for the top post, banking circles said ICICI Prudential Life Insurance’s MD & CEO, Shikha Sharma, has also been shortlisted by the bank. There is a distinct possibility that the bank’s board will consider the succession issue at its next meeting on December 19.

Mr Kamath, whose term comes to an end next April, is expected to become the non-executive chairman. Current chairman N Vaghul’s term too comes to an end next year. Mr Kamath took over as the CEO from Mr Vaghul in 1996. For the past few years, the bank has been running a process to shortlist candidates for the CEO’s job. An announcement was expected last month, but sources said this was postponed due to the credit crisis and financial turbulence.

Other than finance, Ms Kochhar is also responsible for the global treasury, principal investments & trading, risk management and legal functions. She joined the erstwhile ICICI as a management trainee in 1984, and has handled major business streams like retail, corporate and international banking in the past few years.

The appointment of the next CEO would free up a board berth, and among the senior officials who could be considered for the slot are ICICI Lombard ED Vishakha Mulye, and NS Kannan and Bhargav Dasgupta, EDs of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance. The bank had chosen a long and unconventional process of picking the new CEO. Mr Kamath had taken the help of professor Wayne Brockbank of University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business to obtain independent data on the leadership attributes of senior officials shortlisted for the job.

Initially, Mr Vaghul, along with Mr Kamath, had created a list of 12 senior officials in the ICICI group who were perceived as potential candidates.

Other than Ms Kochhar and Ms Sharma, the shortlisted officials included ICICI Lombard General Insurance’s MD & CEO Sandeep Bakhshi; ICICI Ventures MD & CEO Renuka Ramnath; the three EDs of ICICI Bank — V Vaidyanathan, Madhabi Puri-Buch and Sanjoy Chatterjee; Ms Mulye, Mr Kannan and Mr Dasgupta. ET had, on October 3, explained the selction process for the new chief.

Mr Brockbank, along with ICICI Bank officials, had helped in creating a detailed profile of these officials which were placed before the bank’s governance committee. The committee members include Mr Vaghul, Anupam Puri, MK Sharma, PM Sinha and Marti G Subrahmanyam.

Business - Microsoft still interested in Yahoo search: CEO

NEW YORK: Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said Friday the US software giant remained interested in acquiring Yahoo's search business and
would rather do a deal "sooner than later."

"I think a search deal makes great sense for Microsoft, and Yahoo," Ballmer said in an interview published in the online edition of The Wall Street Journal. "I think I've been very open about that."

"I think good ideas are usually better done quickly than slowly, so it would probably be better for both us, and certainly for Yahoo, if we were to do it sooner than later," he said.

"But at the end of the day, that would have be something Yahoo would be as interested in as I have expressed our interest."

Asked by the newspaper whether the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo were in talks, Ballmer replied: "The answer is no, but I wouldn't tell you if there were."

Ballmer, who hired former Yahoo executive Qi Lu this week to be Microsoft's online services chief, said if Microsoft and Yahoo tied up on search, market leader Google "would have perhaps a real credible competitor sooner."

But, he added, Microsoft is "fully prepared to compete without any partnership with Yahoo."

Google dominates online search with more than 60 percent of the market. Yahoo has around 20 percent of the market while Microsoft is a distant third with under 10 percent.

Microsoft has been trying to boost its online clout and Ballmer said the company was ready to put up the money needed.

"We are prepared to invest significant amounts of money in our online business, five to 10 percent of operating income if we had to, for the next five years," he said, repeating remarks made to shareholders.

Yahoo co-founder and chief executive Jerry Yang earlier this year rejected a 47.5-billion-dollar bid by Microsoft for his company, earning the disapproval of many shareholders.

Yang announced last month that he was stepping down as chief executive.

It appears unlikely that any deal between Microsoft and Yahoo would go ahead until his replacement as CEO has been found.

World - Oil could fall to $25 a barrel: Merrill Lynch

In a research report published on Thursday, it said oil prices should begin to rally in the second half of 2009.

Merrill Lynch recently cut its forecast for the average price of US crude oil futures and North Sea Brent crude oil to $50 a barrel from a previous estimate for both crudes of $90.

"With demand vanishing across all key oil consuming regions, benchmark crude oil prices continue to plummet," it said. "In the short-run, market participants will focus on both OPEC and perhaps even non-OPEC producer responses to balance the market."

"A temporary drop below $25 is possible if the global recession extends to China and significant non-OPEC production cuts are required," it said.

"In our view, oil prices could find a trough at the end of Q1 2009 or early Q2 2009 with the seasonal slowdown in demand. Then, as economic activity starts to strengthen, we see oil prices posting a modest recovery in the second half of 2009."

Oil prices hit a peak above $147 a barrel in July but have fallen more than $100 since then as the severity of the global economic downturn has become clear.

Merrill Lynch said a combination of high oil prices and high leverage had proven dangerous for the global economy.

"On October 1, we lowered our average crude oil price forecast in 2009 to $90 per barrel based on a global GDP growth forecast of 3 percent. Since then, our economists have revised their 2009 global GDP growth forecast down to 1.3 percent, a scenario consistent with a global recession.

"As a result, we are now lowering our average WTI and Brent crude oil price forecast to $50 per barrel for 2009."

It said the major downside risk to its price forecast would be a revision of economic growth assumptions for China, which are currently at 8.6 percent for next year.

"In the short-run, global oil demand growth will likely take a further beating as banks continue to cut credit to consumers and corporations," it said. "We now expect an outright contraction in global oil demand in 2009."

Mktg - One iPhone in Obama's tech arsenal(G.Read)

NEW YORK: The brains behind Barack Obama's Internet campaign revealed they had just one smartphone between them the day their unlikely high-tech
revolution began.

In a first public discussion since last month's historic election, new media director Joe Rospars, online director Scott Goodstein and blogging supremo Sam Graham-Felsen all referred to a "tidal wave" of online voter activism.

After the 2004 campaign of presidential hopeful Howard Dean pioneered the online political revolution, voters in this election cycle were ready to experiment.

Internet technology was rapidly developing, and with emerging tools such as networking site Twitter, Obama's long-shot bid for the presidency got underway.

"We were a very small organisation. It was just three of us," said Rospars -- who worked on Dean's influential Blog for America movement -- at the Alliance of Youth Movements conference in New York.

"Sam, I think, was the only one on the campaign that had an iPhone," Goodstein said. "I used to tease him."

From that humble start, the three whizzes went on to mastermind a campaign that put the first truly Internet-friendly president in the Oval Office.

They did this by embracing the gamut of new media tools, from YouTube to e-mail lists, from blogs to Facebook, and by putting an Obama platform on iPhones so that users could recruit contacts to the cause.

The result, says Micah Sifry, co-founder of politics blog TechPresident, was a "mass participation revolution" that appears set to continue after Obama is inaugurated on January 20.

The country was already ripe for putting politics online when Obama launched his fight for the Democratic nomination, then took on Republican J
ohn McCain.

Ninety per cent of people younger than 29 use the Internet, one in three Americans have posted a comment or rating, and one in five have posted something they created themselves, Sifry said.

The Obama team brilliantly exploited that culture, amassing 13 million email addresses, 3.95 million individual donors and 3.2 million friends on the Obama Facebook page.

Backers were encouraged to post photos, videos and opinions on, while armies of volunteers ensured that every message on the blog or on Facebook was answered.

High-tech innovations also allowed Obama's Web warriors to set new standards for the old political arts of tailoring messages and responding to attacks.

Mass emails were modified to reflect targets, depending on gender, age group, and location, right down to the neighborhood.

The rapid response unit blogged or posted YouTube videos "pretty much instantaneously" when an article or TV segment was deemed negative, Graham-Felsen said.

"If the McCain campaign put out an ad that had inaccuracies in it, say on tax policy, I'd run over to our deputy economic policy advisor, take my video or have him film himself, and we'd put it on YouTube and instantly rebut," he said.

Obama has made clear he wants to continue his e-connection to the people as president, using YouTube to broadcast addresses, allowing debate on his transition site, and maintaining a steady flow of mass emails to supporters.

Goodstein said that new media is in politics to stay. "I think the cat's out of the bag."

World - Zimbabwe to introduce 200 million dollar note

HARARE: Inflation-wracked Zimbabwe plans to introduce a 200 million dollar note just days after a 100 million dollar note came into circulation, 10 nations with high inflation
the government announced on Saturday.

The 200 million dollar note, announced in a notice in the government gazette, will bring to 28 the number of notes put into circulation by the central bank this year alone, as the country struggles with the world's highest inflation rate of 231 million percent.

On Thursday the central bank introduced 100 million, 50 million and 10 million dollar notes while at the same time increasing withdrawal limits for individuals and companies.

The 100 million dollar note is worth only about 14 US dollars, and its value erodes by the day.

Cash can now only be withdrawn once a week from banks, according to the latest measures by the central bank.

Ordinary people can withdraw 100 million dollars a week while companies are permitted to withdraw 50 million dollars.

Prices of basic goods and services rose sharply on Thursday when the 100 million dollar note was introduced.

Long queues in banks and cash shortages are commonplace in Zimbabwe as people take hours to withdraw money which is still not enough to see them through the day.

The 100,000 banknote is worth only one US dollar on the widely-used parallel black market and is only half the amount needed to buy a loaf of bread.

Zimbabwe's political leaders are currently deadlocked over who should control key ministries in a power-sharing deal brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) after March elections thrust the country into crisis.

Once the region's breadbasket, the country is facing widespread food shortages while cholera has killed 575 people, the UN said on Friday.

Columnists - Barkha Dutt;Don't shoot the messenger

This time, this too shall not pass. And that’s the good part. The anger after the attacks in Mumbai is inflammable enough to start a fire. But as India demands answers, action and accountability, should we pause and wonder, for just a second, what sort of house we want to build on the ashes of this cathartic blaze?

All this rage and the energy of an enlightened citizenry will end up exhausting itself if not directed at specific ideas for change. So, while we demand the ouster of politicians, we need to look beyond the sense of easy power that it gives us and ask where we go from here. Will we learn our lessons or will the headlines lapse till the next attack, and the next?

The real tragedy of Mumbai is that we now know for sure that more lives could have been saved had the system not been bogged down by inertia, red tape and turf wars. What sort of country does not give its National Security Guard (NSG) commandos — iconic heroes for a new India — even one dedicated airc-raft? It is criminal that a proposal to this effect gathered cobwebs for three years. How do we explain that specific intercepts on a naval invasion (as first reported in HT) were ignored and are now dismissed as inputs that were not “actionable?” It is embarrassing to watch multiple agencies compete in public to defend themselves — leaving us feeling even more vulnerable than before. And the worst part is the horrible, horrible sense of déjà vu.

Nine years ago, when India emerged victorious from a conflict in Kargil, many of the same questions were asked. How had Pakistani infiltrators made their way 8 kilometers inside our territory? When would we have a centralised security apparatus that would end the internal bickering? When would our Army get the snowshoes and night-vision devices that are mandatory for any fighting force? In 2008, we are asking the same questions all over again as we wonder about the quality of the bullet-proof vests that failed to protect many bravehearts. It shocks us to know that four different reports submitted back then as part of a national security overhaul still await full implementation. It’s almost too painful to remember that the border management report had admitted that coastal security needed modern technology and infrastructure and even proposed a unified maritime agency. In 2001, a group of ministers approved all four reports on the intelligence apparatus, internal security, border management and higher management of defence. Yet, here we are, back at the drawing board.

These are the questions that we should be demanding answers to. Rage has to find a specific syntax so that it does not get lost in the anarchy of anger. Rage, for example, must not become an excuse for targeting another religious community.

Some of that rage has been directed at the media as well. And yes, one of the lessons that are still waiting to be learnt is that you need a centrally co-ordinated information dissemination system in place when such crises erupt. We admire our armed forces, but most of us were stunned when the Navy, while dismissing questions on intelligence inputs, held the media as a “disabling force”. Some people have raised questions about why we had to report on an ongoing operation. Many of the allegations are untrue and a case of shooting the messenger. Here are the cold facts: the security cordon on the site of encounters was determined by officials and was respected by journalists at all times. Had anyone asked us to retreat or switch off our cameras for tactical reasons, we would have done so.

In fact, we would have had no option but to consent. But even while the operations were on, we were briefed, on record, and off camera by multiple agencies, including at a press conference by the Navy’s marine commandos that was telecast live with their permission. Daily briefings by a central point of contact would have reduced any inadvertent confusion thrown up by media coverage. And yes, maybe the media did make some unwitting mistakes as did almost everyone involved in dealing with a terrorist attack of the kind India has never seen before. But the NSG thanked the media; the commandos called in to tell us they finally have their dedicated aircraft and the Home Ministry’s Special Secretary also complimented the media. So, how is it that some people are suddenly trying to push us on the other side of the enemy line?

I received a text message from a young woman whose brother died inside the Oberoi Hotel. She talks about how she is determined to find the strength to fight back. She also thanks journalists for giving her a sense that she could share what she was going through when it all felt frightening and isolating. Television, this past week, has tried to provide a larger sense of community to a city in grief. It may surprise some readers but many of those who had families trapped inside the two hotels wanted to talk. They wanted to express their pain, anger, grief, fear and sometimes hope. Of course, the privacy of those who wanted to retreat into solitude was respected at all times. But there were scores of others — both survivors and victims — who wanted to share. And we believe we tried our best to tell their stories.

The truth is that in the weeks and months to come, we’ll have much to learn from a week that could transform India forever. For starters, we need to find a language in which dialogue is possible without malice, hatred and communal prejudice. Otherwise, we shall lose the India we love. And the terrorists would have won.

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

Columnists - Khushwant Singh

I was reading Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals for the second time. It’s a highly readable series of essays on the role of intellectuals in Europe and the United States. The writings of some of them like Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Leo Tolstoy, Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell had a profound and lasting effect on generations of Europeans and Americans. India also produced intellects like Rammohun Roy, Sri Aurobindo and M.N. Roy. It has also some highly educated and perceptive thinkers today. But their impact on Indian society has been, and is, marginal. Why ?

I can assign two reasons for the failure of our intellectuals to change society. One is that all of them wrote in English that barely 10 per cent of educated Indians can read and comprehend. The masses never get to know about them. The second, and the more important factor in isolating intellectuals was, and is, the fact that the vast majority of our countrymen look up to their gurus or godmen for guidance because they speak their language.

It is oral and not written communication. Gurus have massive following but their learning is limited to churning out accepted religious concepts unaffected by occidental learning. Most of their pravachans (lectures) are accompanied by hymn singing and at times dancing in ecstasy. Their congregations return to their homes contented and at peace with themselves because they do not have to wrestle with new ideas. That is why caste distinctions persist, foeticide is widely practised and we continue to breed at a suicidal rate. Our gurus never deal with such social problems.

I am not sure if my reading of the ineffectiveness of Indian intellectuals in changing social attitudes is correct. I hope to have readers’ reactions.

World - US confirms Pakistan role in Mumbai attacks

NEW DELHI: The United States has confirmed to India that Pakistan's military and intelligence chiefs have effectively admitted that the terrorists
involved in last weeks terror attacks in Mumbai were Pakistani nationals and members of terrorist outfit the Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to a Times Now report. ( Watch )

Chairman of US joint chiefs of staff admiral Michael Mullen made the revelations to national security advisor MK Narayanan and defence minister AK Antony.

Mullen told Indian government officials that he had told Pakistan that the US had evidence that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks were Pakistani nationals and members of LeT.

Earlier, Mullen had asked Pakistan's top leadership to "investigate aggressively any and all possible ties to groups based in Pakistan", the US embassy said in a statement.

While taking note of the recent success of Pakistani security forces in operations against militants on the Afghan border, Mullen "also encouraged Pakistani leaders to take more and more concerted action against militant extremists elsewhere in the country", the statement said.

India has blamed Pakistan-based elements, including the outlawed Lashker-e-Taiba terror group, for carrying out the attacks and asked Pakistani authorities to act against them.

President Zardari has denied Pakistan's involvement in the attacks and called on India to furnish evidence to substantiate its accusations.

Pakistani media reported that Zardari and other leaders told Mullen that Pakistan is not involved in any way in the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan is ready to cooperate in the probe into the attacks provided India shares evidence with it, they said.

The US is concerned about the impact of tensions on the war on terror as Pakistan has threatened to divert troops from the Afghan border to the frontier with India if the situation worsens.

Pakistan is a key supply route for US troops in Afghanistan. American officials also fear that the diversion of troops from the Afghan border could fuel cross-border raids by the Pakistani Taliban.

India - Pigeons fly back to their Taj Nest

Rajiv Sharma

MUMBAI: Thousands of pigeons that had disappeared from their usual feeding spot outside the Taj Hotel following the recent terror attacks, have been
making a gradual comeback due to the efforts by animal activists.

According to Arvind Shah from Karuna, an NGO, at least 15,000 pigeons used to come to this spot to feed. "These grains were mostly provided by tourists and the general public who used to visit this area on a regular basis,'' he said.

However, the firing at the hotel scared the birds away. "The sound of crackers and gunfire is almost the same. Pigeons and other birds are scared of such noises,'' Shah said. With no food available in the area anymore, these birds were only flying around.

On Friday morning, animal activists managed to persuade the police to allow them to put birdseed outside the hotel. "We managed to put around 80 kg of grains, which would last a couple of days. This would help bring the birds back,'' he said.

People visiting the area, too, kept food for the birds. Akash Mehta, a visitor, said even animals like stray dogs were affected by the firing.

Science - Method to estimate time of death ?

WASHINGTON: Scientists have proposed a new method to estimate the approximate time of death, based on the analysis of several substances from the
vitreous humour of the eye of cadavers.

A team at the University of Santiago de Compostela has developed a piece of software which in fact makes it possible to establish precisely the post mortem interval, information that will make the work of police easier, the 'Statistics in Medicine' journal reported.

To apply this technique, the researchers analysed potassium, urea and hypoxantine concentrations present in the vitreous humour of the eye of the human cadaver, and then introduced the figures into a computer programme.

Subsequently, the software that has been invented by these Galician scientists uses this information and is capable of establishing the time at which death occurred.

"The equations we have developed now make it possible for us to estimate the PMI more precisely than before, and provide a useful and accessible tool to forensic pathologists that is easy to use," Jos Ignacio Munoz Bars, who led the team, was quoted by the 'ScienceDaily' as saying.

The traditional techniques for estimating the PMI are based on the study of parameters such as rectal temperature of the cadaver or one of the organs, such as the liver, in rigor mortis, or post mortem lividity examination.

These methods are complemented by biochemical analyses of the body fluids. One of these is the vitreous humour, the gelatinous liquid that is found behind the crystalline lens of the eye.

Lifestyle - Liplock is latest fad

Me - Have posted this article a few months back.

According to a British daily, London Fashion Week and awards ceremony functions were rife with the highly intimate kisses. “On the party scene, air kissing – that horrible ‘ mwaah, mwaah’ used by the kind of people who know your job title and dress size but forget your name – is out,” the paper said.

“Instead, there’s a far worse social plague doing the rounds: being kissed on the mouth,” the paper added. Australian body language expert Allan Pease, who has been lip-kissed by a stranger twice in recent weeks, said that the new trend was fast catching on. “I don’t know where it started but it’s certainly catching on. It’s big in Britain and it’s filtering through here too,” an Australian newspaper quoted Pease as saying.

Pease, who wrote The Definitive Book Of Body Language with his wife Barbara, said: “We’re definitely becoming more comfortable with our sexuality. While the origin of human mouth kissing was for force feeding your babies – whereby the mother would masticate her food and put it into her baby’s mouth with her tongue – the primary purpose these days of kissing on the lips is to stimulate the libido. Lip kissers might deny it, but it has to be sexual,” he added.

However, British behavioural expert Judi James disagrees with Pease’s views. “It’s not a sexual thing: there is increasing evidence of it between parents and sons and daughters, as well as heterosexual men,” she said. “It’s more about fast-tracking bonding and empathy,” she added.

Australian social etiquette coach June Dally-Watkins is horrified with the latest fad. “No. No. No. I’m not for that,” she said. “It’s far too intimate. I think it’s wrong. And I don’t think it’s healthy. My lips are special. Precious. Not even my children or grandchildren do I kiss on the lips. It should be reserved absolutely for that one special person.”

Tech - Top 10 free iPhone Apps

Pandora Radio

The most popular free app on iPhone is Pandora Radio. Pandora Radio is users own free personalised radio available to stream music on their iPhone. Just start with the name of one of your favourite artists, songs or classical composers and Pandora promises to create a "station" that plays their music and more music like it.

Pandora users on the Web can just log in. Pandora on the iPhone is fully integrated with Pandora on the Web. Users can listen to their existing stations -- and create new ones right from their iPhone or iPod Touch.


The second most popular free app on iPhone in 2008 was Facebook, which reportedly completed 1 million downloads in August this year. Termed as the pairing of the two most-hyped tech products of the year, Facebook released iPhone-customised website in August 2007.

The site uses javascript to avoid page refreshes, although there is still some lag in moving around the site. The main navigation tabs -- Home, Profile, Friends and Inbox -- are at the top of the site. Click on any person and see their profile, wall or photos via a horizontally scrolling interface.

Facebook is a social network that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

Tap Tap Revenge

Tap Tap Revenge is a music game in the tradition of Guitar Hero or Revolution that puts user's rhythmic skills to the test in all-new ways. Tap through the beats or shake left and right as the arrows fall.

Download exclusive tracks or take on your friends in Tap Tap Revenge's unique head-to-head two-player mode. Tap Tap Revenge comes with more than 40 free songs! The game was originally created by Nate True for hacked iPhones. Tapulous bought the game from True and added a number of features, like the two player mode.

Tapulous, which hired a team of "all-star" developers to create applications, raised $1.8 million in capital from a number of high profile angel investors. Tapulous launched in January of this year with the goal of crafting applications exclusively for iPhones and iPod Touch devices, which are essentially iPhones without the mobile telephone feature.


The concept behind Shazam is: whenever a user hears a song playing and can't identify it -- on the car FM or at a friend's house, just activate the Shazam application on his mobile phone. It "listens" to the song for about 30 seconds, and then sends a text message to the phone identifying the artist and title. Shazam's database contains audio fingerprints for nearly 5 million songs.

Downloading Shazam from the Apple App Store is free. No charges are mentioned in the terms see, but the company reserves the right to begin charging for its service later (after notifying users).

Labyrinth Lite edition

Labyrinth was one of the first iPhone apps to offer a light version of the game for people to play before coughing out cash for the full version. The game utilises the accelerometer to allow users the ability to tilt and move their iPhone in an attempt to guide a metal ball bearing to its end goal.

Along the way, there are pieces of the maze that stick out and block your path, pegs to keep you from sliding through a short cut, and plenty of holes that will bring you to the beginning of the maze.

Labyrinth is said to respond well to every slight tilt and turn, but users can't quite get the same effect out of nudging it that they can with the actual puzzle.

Once a user beats a level, he moves on and tries another. There are 10 levels to try in the free version.


Sixth most popular iPhone app of the year 2008 is Remote. Remote is a software application for iPhone and iPod touch that allows users to control audio and video playback in their iTunes library and on Apple TV.

When users first launch the Remote application on their iPhone or iPod touch, they need to complete a one-time pairing procedure to choose which iPhone or iPod touch controls which Apple TV or which copy of iTunes. When controlling an Apple TV or iTunes using Remote, user's iPhone or iPod touch's screen looks much like the mobile version of iTunes.

At the bottom of the screen are Playlist, Artists, Albums, Search, and More buttons; the latter displays a screen with Audiobooks, Composers, Genres, Movies, Music Videos, Podcasts, Songs, and TV Shows.

A neat feature in Remote which is not available in iTunes on the iPhone or iPod touch is Search. Users just need to Tap a few letters and they instantly get a list of all content-- artist names, tracks, movies, etc -- containing the search phrase. Tap on a track or video to play it, or tap on an artist or album to browse its contents. Remote also remembers the user's last search, so the user doesn't lose his results when he switches to another screen.

Google Earth

Google Earth came to iPhone as recently as October 2008, yet the free app has made its place in the top 10 free iPhone apps of 2008.

With Google Earth for iPhone and iPod touch, users can fly to far corners of the planet with just the swipe of a finger. Explore the same global satellite and aerial imagery available in the desktop version of Google Earth, including high-resolution imagery for over half of the world's population and a third of the world's land mass.

With Google Earth for iPhone, users can tilt their iPhone to adjust the view to see mountainous terrain. View the Panoramio layer and browse the millions of geo-located photos from around the world.

View geo-located Wikipedia articles, use the 'Location' feature to fly to their current location and search for cities, places and business around the globe with Google Local Search.

Lightsaber Unleashed

Lightsaber Unleashed is the official release from Lucasfilm Ltd. When users open the application they are taken to what looks like an ad for another StarWars game.

After selecting Lightsaber user is taken to a screen that allows him to either select one of the five characters or create his own. The five characters include Darth Vader, Rahm Kota, Maris Brood, The Apprentice and Shaak Ti. Users can view a full screen picture of their character as well as read a bio about them. The colour of their Lightsaber is displayed as a shadow to their picture.

Users can select their Name, Character Picture, Custom Lightsaber and Even write a Bio for them. Lightsaber customisation too is simple, just choose one of five handles and then scroll the colors till you have get the desired shade.

The application is quite entertaining. It also allows users to play StarWars music in the background as they wield their Lightsaber


AIM too makes its place among the ten most popular free apps pf 2008. Launched in early 2008, the software allows users to chat over the AIM network, switch among conversations, and upload user profile photos. It is the first `official' native Web chat application for iPhone.

With AOL's AIM chat application, iPhone users can: Send and receive messages over WiFi, EDGE, or 3G networks; connect to anyone on the AIM network worldwide, whether they're on AOL, AIM, ICQ, .mac or MobileMe; manage their Buddy List feature, choose Favorites, or add a new buddy any time -- all changes are automatically synced with iChat; and Send IMs and SMS text messages and take pictures with the built-in camera to use as their Buddy icon.


Another big hit on iPhone, the application provides users with many local options when choosing a restaurant.

Designed to find restaurants around, based on the user's location, it finds nearby cities, and a diverse pool of restaurants to choose from.

After using the phone's GPS to detect restaurants in the area, Urbanspoon presents the user with a slot machine-like listing of cuisine types and price.

To activate the slot machine, user needs to give the phone a hard shake (the accelerometers inside the phone will measure the movement). The dials will spin around a few times, and he will be presented with a suggested restaurant (you can shake again if you’re not happy with the option thrown. Urbanspoon also lists recent reviews of the restaurants it finds.

Lifestyle - Top 10 common dreams and their meanings

Vaibhav Chaudhury

Dreams have always been a mystery to us. The Association for the Study of Dreams has revealed that the majority of us have dreams with similar Dreams and their meanings (Getty images)

themes, and it is possible to gain better health (mental and physical), entertainment and even financial gains from such dreams.

A well known American psychic, Edgar Cayce claimed that through dreaming, people gain access to their spirit and all possible questions are answered by our inner conscious. Some dream interpretations are strange, while others are pretty understandable. We bring you ten most commonly experienced dreams to help you interpret their meaning within the context of your own life.

Car troubles

Description: This is a common nightmare among all ages, even for people who usually don't drive. In this dream, you are usually in or near a car or some other type of vehicle which goes out of control. The circumstances can vary, for example, you may find that you have no brakes, or that the steering wheel doesn't work, or that you have run out of fuel. You may also dream that you are going off the road, off a cliff, going through a red light, or crashing into an object or person. Vaibhav Jain, a sales manager with a leading telecom company, recalls "I don't remember my dreams. But a few years ago, when I was getting over a troubled relationship and going through an emotional turbulence, I used to have a recurring dream that I am driving a car and suddenly the brakes failed. It was an intense feeling."

Interpretation: A vehicle is the symbol of our life's path. This dream arises when things are not going well for you and you are unable to control the unpleasant events happening in your life. If the car in your dream has poor control or missing parts, it suggests that your sense of control over current conditions is being compromised. "A troubled car dream always means that you are going through a change - be it changing jobs or experiencing your first pregnancy," says Anuj Singh, a clinical psychologist.

Failing a test

Description: This dream is often seen by those who have been out of school for a long time. In this dream you are prevented from passing a test in diverse circumstances. In one scenario, you find that you are unprepared to undergo the test either because you have not prepared for it or because you are missing the necessary equipments needed to sit for the exam. In another scenario you may find that you can't answer any of the questions or that the test is in some unknown language. You can also not complete the exam within the stipulated time or find that you are late in arriving at the exam hall. All these factors contribute to you failing this test. Monika Tomar, a content writer with a MNC, says, "I get this dream periodically. It's usually college and I've blown a class off for almost the entire semester and once the finals come I have to find a map and locate the room like it's my first day there."

Interpretation: Such dreams highlight your frustration and depression. It usually means that you are feeling tested in life and may experience the fear of not being accepted. It could even imply not being prepared to face challenges or not being good enough. You are worried that you are not making the grade and measuring up to other people's expectations. "To dream that you are taking an exam indicates that you are being put to the test or being scrutinised in some way. These dreams also suggest that you are feeling unprepared for a challenge. These dreams are not about the content of the test, but rather how you are feeling while taking the exam," explains Anuj.

Illness or dying Dreams and their meanings (Getty images)

Description: A dream death is a moderately common nightmare and it involves deaths of famous people, your parents or children, a lover or even yourself. Occasionally, it occurs during the onset of an illness. According to American psychic, Edgar Cayce, when you dream about the accidental death of any person, that person's death symbolizes something in you that is no longer functioning. Manish Kumar, a senior engineer says, "I usually dream of goons breaking into my house and shooting at my father. I'm the only one who witnesses this in the dream"

Interpretation: This dream is related to your life and it means that you are emotionally hurt or are afraid of being hurt. "This dream may work as a warning for you to make you aware of an upcoming physical risk to yourself or a loved one. When it is someone else in the dream who dies, it can mean that you feel that part of yourself (that you see represented by that person) is also dead. It may also mean that you wish the person would go away or that you fear losing them," interprets Anuj.

Being chased

Description: Dreaming about being chased is also a commonly experienced nightmare. Most often the chaser in the dream is a monster or some person who is frightening; occasionally it may be an animal. Such dreams are not only horrifying and shocking, but often leave the dreamer with a lasting image of the dream. It is also worth noting that sometimes this dream is a replay of an actual event in your life. Atul Kulkerni, a student, says, "When I was young I used to have nightmares about being chased. Usually I was chased by two lions and I would be running away from them towards my house, but I could never reach the door no matter how hard I'd try."

Interpretation: This type of dream often results from stress. In this type of dream you feel frightened, attacked and in danger. If you dream of being chased by someone you know, this person is somehow contributing to your anxiety. If you dream of being chased by a stranger, it's possible that the stranger represents some aspect of yourself. "Running is an instinctive response to physical threats in our environment, therefore 'chase dreams' represent your way of coping with fear or stress. Instead of confronting the situation, you are running away and avoiding it", explains Anuj.

Bad or missing teeth

Description: Teeth dreams usually involve the discovery of extremely decayed or missing teeth in your own mouth. Common dream scenarios include having your teeth crumbling in your hands or your teeth falling out one by one with just a light tap. Priti Singh, a call centre executive, recalls, "Five years back, I would constantly dream about my teeth falling out. And not just falling: they actually crumble into much smaller pieces, and I end up spitting the pieces throughout my dream. I was seeing that dream so often that I actually went and talked to someone about it, and they told me it could mean that I wasn't feeling nurtured or loved by those around me."

Interpretation: What does it mean when we dream about missing teeth? At the most basic level it means that we are afraid of being looked upon as unattractive. At a deeper level, it can signify a fear of embarrassment or loss of power in real life. "Sadly, we live in a world where good looks are valued highly and our teeth play an important role in conveying that image. The dreams about your teeth reflect your anxiety about your appearance and how others perceive you. Another rationalization for falling teeth dream may be rooted in your fear of being embarrassed or making a fool of yourself in some specific situation", explains Anuj.

Falling or sinking

Description: We have all had falling dreams. This is the most common dream, and is sometimes accompanied by muscle jerks, which may jolt you awake. In such dreams we are usually falling through the air and are extremely frightened. Occasionally we may be sinking in water and in danger of drowning. Shradha Singh, customer care executive, says" I often dream that am floating or have the ability to levitate, sometimes with a great sense of power other times with powerlessness."

Interpretation: Dreams of falling often arise from the fear of losing control. A person who is having this dream is either insecure or lacks support in real life. If you have this dream you should evaluate your current situation and try to identify the problem. "Falling is an indication of insecurities, instabilities, and anxieties. Sometimes when we have these dreams, your whole body jerks or twitches and we wake up. This happens because falling or sinking dreams typically occur during the first stage of sleep and the dreams in this stage are often accompanied by muscle spasms of the arms, legs, and the whole body. This jerking action is part of an arousal mechanism that allows the sleeper to awaken and become alert and responsive to possible threats in the environment," says Dr. Anuj.

Missed a train, bus, boat or plane Dreams and their meanings (Getty images)

Description: In this type of dream you are rushing to catch a bus, train, plane or other type of public transport, but you miss it generally by a fraction of second. You feel frustrated rather than afraid in these dreams. In a variation of this theme, you arrive very late for a performance in which you are supposed to participate and find that the event has already begun.

Interpretation: "Travel images often signify an emotional journey of discovery and this dream usually means that you have missed out on an important opportunity in your real life. This dream often occurs when you are struggling over an important decision", explains Dr. Anuj.

Faulty machinery

Description: In the faulty machinery dream you dream of trying to operate some mechanical equipment while it malfunctions. Many such dreams involve telephones, with the dreamer having trouble dialing, getting disconnected or making a faulty connection. It can involve a lost Internet connection or a jammed or broken machine. Abhishek Srivastava, a web developer, says "I dream about the faulty connection most often. I can never dial the right number or get hold of the person I am trying to reach"

Interpretation: "This dream means that you are losing touch with reality or that a part of your body or mind is not functioning properly. You can also have such dream when you are feeling anxious about making a connection with another person in real life," says Dr. Anuj.

Lost or trapped

Description: In this dream you try to find your way out of an unknown territory such as a forest, city streets, a large building or any other maze-like structure. Another way this dream plays out involves you being trapped, buried alive, caught in a web or unable to move for some other reason. Ankur Srivastava, a bank employee says, "One recurring dream is of being on my way somewhere and taking a shortcut through a building. This turns into an endless series of stairs and doors that lead nowhere."

Interpretation: Dreaming about getting lost is very common and will usually occur when you are not able to decide on how to react to a certain situation in real life. "This type of dream will usually carry an element of fear or of frustration and it usually means that you are trapped in real life and you are unable to make the right choice," interprets Dr. Anuj.

Dreaming nudity

Description: In this type of dream you are in a state of undress, partial undress or inappropriate dress. For example you have gone to work wearing pyjamas. Occasionally you are the witness of another person who is naked while you are clothed. This is often accompanied by feelings of embarrassment and shame, but occasionally with the feeling of pride or freedom. Kumar Mohit, a software engineer, recalls "When I was young the most recurring dream was that I went to school wearing only pajamas and I am surprised that I still remember it"

Interpretation: As with all the dreams, the emotional tone of this one is important to the meaning. The meaning of this dream is that you are feeling exposed, awkward or you are afraid that you have revealed too much of yourself to someone who is not trustworthy. An interesting fact about this type of dream is that it occurs much more frequently in people who are involved in a wedding ceremony or event management in their real life. "Getting humiliated at the realisation that you are walking around naked in public, is often a reflection of your vulnerability or shamefulness. Finding yourself naked at work or in a classroom suggests that you are unprepared for a project at work or school. But if you are proud of your nakedness and not embarrassed or ashamed then it symbolises your unrestricted freedom", explains Dr. Anuj.

World - Choose your own Miss World!

Nona Walia

With just a few days left for the finals, the countdown to the Miss World pageant has begun in earnest. The spin in the story is: you, dear reader, Pantaloons Femina Miss India World 2008 Parvathy Omanakuttan. Vote for Parvathy here
are now empowered to choose the most beautiful woman in the world!

Vote for your favourite beauty online on and she will be crowned Miss People’s Choice at the Miss World Pageant.

India’s Parvathy Omanakuttan, the Pantaloons Femina Miss India World 2008, is vying for the support and attention of all Indians, as she tries to get the crown back to India after a gap of eight years. Voting for Parvathy is simple. You just need to go to the Miss World website at , register, select ‘Contestants’, choose India under ‘Visit contestant’s profile’, then select ‘10’ when asked to rate her as ‘Miss People’s Choice’. The higher the ratings Parvathy receives, the better her chances of winning.

Parvathy is competing with 111 contestants at the 58th Miss World final, which will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 13.

The stunning Indian beauty, Parvathy, is already a hot favourite in South Africa. She, along with the other contestants, have been on an adventurous safari in Limpopo. In an interview with South Africa’s The Times, she said, “We got to live in a typical tribal hut, which was an amazing experience. The huts were made in such a way that we were warm. There were no lights or air conditioners, but we felt at home... I’m a nature freak.”

Not only that, she’s actually captured South Africa’s attention wearing an apron and a white chef’s hat and helped whip up a traditional Zulu dish. Parvathy’s interested in “experimenting with world cuisines”. With her long, black hair and stunningly fit body, Parvathy has the potential to be a global beauty. Not only that, she can impress you with her sexy dance moves – be it Latin or classical ballroom.

It’s up to Indians now to make Parvathy the next Miss World 2008. Parvathy’s motto in life has been: dream with your eyes open. And she’s dreaming of bringing back the crown. Only you can help her fulfill that dream.

Sport Personality - Sourav Ganguly;A captain's legacy

B.L. Nguyen

For Sourav Ganguly, the final Nagpur Test against Australia was not only a chance to go out of the scene with a series win, but an opportunity to exorcise some demons.

Four years earlier, the old stadium was the scene of a debacle that started Ganguly’s inglorious fall from the captaincy and plunged Indian cricket into four years of indifferent performance. Trailing 0-1 after two Tests against Australia, India arrived to see a greentop, reputedly a payback from the Vidarbha Cricket Association to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for a lost political battle.
Ganguly mysteriously withdrew from the Test at late notice, with cynics contending that he had run away to avoid defeat. Amid the chaos, India ceded the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a crushing 342-run loss.
In 2005, India squandered the Test series against Pakistan with an insipid last-day collapse. Ganguly was then banned for slow over rates. With India struggling, Ganguly’s fading batsmanship came under scrutiny.
Then, Greg Chappell became coach. Struggling for runs, Ganguly privately asked him for a frank opinion. Told that his form did not merit selection, Ganguly angrily went public. The dispute turned into a soap opera encompassing leaked emails, orchestrated peace summits, riots and gag orders. Ganguly was humiliatingly stripped of the captaincy and dropped.
In a little more than a year, the verdict on Ganguly’s legacy had savagely turned. Ganguly became widely reviled and ridiculed. Amid the political machinations and a downturn in performance, his contributions to Indian cricket and his record 21 Test wins were forgotten.
Ganguly had taken the reins of the Indian team in the 2000 season after a ruinous match fixing scandal and five consecutive Test defeats. In his first season in control, India ended Australia’s famed run of 16 consecutive wins after being forced to follow on in the epic Eden Gardens Test in Kolkata. Against the odds, they won the series, primarily due to Ganguly protégé Harbhajan Singh, who had been resuscitated from disciplinary oblivion at the captain’s behest.

Ganguly then led India to the 2003 World Cup final, before overseeing a drawn series in Australia and a triumph over Pakistan. This yielded India’s first Test win in Australia for 22 years. The latter was India’s first series win in Pakistan.
Such results were symptomatic of Ganguly’s captaincy, which saw significant improvement in India’s away record. He instilled backbone into his troops, and India was no longer seen as a soft team that spontaneously unravelled amid alien conditions. This was typified by a stirring win at Headingley, England, in 2002, when Ganguly elected to bat on a greentop and declined the light so that he could force a result.

However, Ganguly’s fighting spirit was based not on cold ruthlessness and efficiency, but a mix of belligerence and brinkmanship in the mould of Sri Lanka’s Arjuna Ranatunga. He preferred angry young men, such as Harbhajan and Yuvraj Singh. Instead of trying to emulate and surpass rival pacesetters, he attempted to take them down through an attitude of defiance. This was exhibited in his testy rivalry with Steve Waugh, and his infamous shirt take-off at Lord’s.
When one is in decline, the limitations of such an approach tend to be magnified to such an extent that it appears grotesque, even ridiculous. Ganguly’s disregard for rational planning and attention to detail in favour of hairy-chested confrontation began to bite. Weighed down by inept fielding and fitness, an ageing ODI team was exposed.
Coupled with the intrigue that perpetually surrounds BCCI, Ganguly’s legacy was battered, dogged by accusations that he was destroying Indian cricket with a “divide and rule” strategy. Never one to accept defeat, Ganguly dug in. A year later, the youngsters fell upon hard times and Ganguly was resuscitated. He batted with a productivity not seen for years. Against Pakistan, he scored a century and double century to be named man of the series.
After India lost in Sri Lanka in August, rumblings about the seniors resurfaced. Ganguly appeared to be gone, but was retained for the Australia series. Prior to the first Test, he parried suggestions that the seniors were being forced out. As the journalists finished, Ganguly said: “Just one last thing...this is going to be my last series. I’ve decided to quit...hopefully we’ll go on a winning note.” Needless to say, it wasn’t the last theatrical twist in his career.
Ganguly was then quoted as saying that “every Tom, Dick and Harry is playing in the team...some…have changed their hairstyle more than they have scored”. Was he referring to Mahendra Singh Dhoni?
Despite the distractions, Ganguly batted productively, with a poise and serenity that belied the pressure on his position. His most influential contributions came in partnership with new captain Dhoni, whose batting had also been questioned, in the two victorious Tests, helping to consolidate India’s position

Towards the end of the final Test, Dhoni allowed Ganguly to marshal the troops for one last time. Harbhajan winkled out the winning wicket, LBW without offering a shot, the exact same ending to Ganguly’s most famous triumph at Eden Gardens seven years ago. The passing of the torch was a fairy tale finish for Ganguly, as though the rumblings in between had never happened.
As Ganguly heads into retirement on a high, Dhoni’s India has the chance to vie for supremacy. The series was largely won by younger players who display the attitude that Ganguly brought to the 21st century India, more confident of its place in the world.
Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan, the most prominent figures in India’s triumph, rattled Australia with bat and ball and attitude. They exhibited a Gangulyesque style of overt and primal aggression. Such an unsubtle style is limiting, not least through bans and fines.

Despite these limitations, Ganguly did what was needed at the time—galvanizing an uncertain group of skilful cricketers, giving them a sense of purpose that enabled them to fight outside their comfort zone and in foreign lands. Now that a foundation exists, a more sophisticated approach is needed for further progress. India will hope that Dhoni can channel the Ganguly-instilled fight in a more refined manner.
B.L. Nguyen is a freelance cricket writer based in Adelaide,
Australia. He blogs at

India - Kerala looks to use global yacht competition to promote tourism


Kochi: The second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race—from Cape Town to Kochi—concluded here when a Russian team, the last of eight, called at the port on Thursday night.
The third leg of the yacht race—held every three years that circumnavigates the earth—starts on 13 December when the competitors leave for Singapore. This is the first time the race has included an Indian port of call.

While the race is a high-profile marketing platform for global brands, such as telecom company Ericsson and sports goods manufacturer Puma, Kerala is looking to tap into it as a way to promote tourism at a time when the industry has been hit by a global economic slowdown and the Mumbai terror attack.
The Cochin Port Trust and the Kerala tourism department are co-hosts for the stopover, which has seen an influx of mostly domestic tourists. Officials here are hoping the presence of a number of sailing teams, officials and people associated with the race from across the globe will help them attract tourists.
“It’s a mix of sports, tourism and business,” said N. Ramachandran, chairman of the Cochin Port Trust.
The regatta around the globe that typically takes nine months to complete, started from Alicante in Spain on 11 October and will conclude at St Petersburg in Russia in late June. Formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, the race is expected to cover 39,000 nautical miles. One nautical mile is equal to 1.85km.
For now, however, it is companies that sponsor teams or otherwise promote themselves through the race which are the ones reaping the benefits.
“It makes sense to use this as a platform for us, a global player in the telecom industry, and turn this into an event for meeting our customers who can converge at a place,” said Richard Brisius, manager of the Ericsson racing team that has sponsored two yachts. The Ericsson 3 yacht emerged as the winner in the second leg, arriving at Kochi three days ahead of its expected arrival date of 3 December. Ericsson 4 came in third.
Brisius, who was part of the sailing team in the race in 1989 and 1992, said these stopovers are also spots where its customers gather and where sales and marketing activities are undertaken.
During the last race three years ago, the company met over 4,500 customers, most of them represented by senior officials. Planning for these marketing activities were started two years earlier.
Brisisus, however, admitted there are limitations since the stopover is just at one port in India. But rather than holding a series of meetings, linking marketing with the sport helps in adding value to its brand,he said.
In some of the countries such as Singapore, China, Brazil and the US, there is also a small race at the port, which will attract a lot of people, giving more promotion to the brand, he said.
For Puma, the sports goods manufacturer, which has brand ambassadors such as soccer player Pele and 2008 Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, the race is a platform to give credibility and visibility to the brand, said Rajiv Mehta, managing director of Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd. “Puma is among the very few firms that is also into manufacture of race and sail apparatus which is being used by most yachts and their sailors in this race. And this should give the company more credibility in its step to get into lifestyle business,” he said.

India - RBI slashes rates to shore up growth

V. Ramakrishnan and Swati Bhat / Reuters

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Saturday slashed its key short-term interest rates by 1 percentage point to boost growth and shore up investor confidence amid signs of economic slowdown and in the wake of terror attacks in Mumbai.
The central bank reduced its key lending rate, or repo rate, by 100 basis points to 6.5%, its lowest rate in two years, with effect from Monday.
The reverse repo rate, the rate at which the central bank absorbs excess cash from the system, falls to 5.0% from 6.0%, its lowest in more than three years.
“Industrial activity, particularly in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, is decelerating,” RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao told a news conference.

Subbarao said the central bank would closely monitor developments in global and domestic financial markets and would take swift and effective action as appropriate.
“The Reserve Bank’s policy endeavour will be to minimise the negative impact of the crisis and to ensure an orderly adjustment,” he said.
The main lending rate has now been cut by 250 basis points since 20 October, when the central bank made its first rate reduction in more than four years to shield the economy from the global financial crisis.
Saturday’s decision was the first change in the reverse repo rate since July 2006.

The cash reserve ratio, the proportion of deposits banks must keep with the central bank, was left unchanged at 5.5%.
Expectations of rate reductions have mounted ever since last week’s attacks in Mumbai in which gunmen brought the business district to a standstill as they holed up in two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre, killing 178 people.
The benchmark 10-year bond yield fell 8 basis points to 6.76% on Friday ahead of the central bank’s decision, which had been well flagged by government officials, and the rupee gained against the dollar.
The government is also expected to announce fiscal measures to give impetus to the economy, which data show may be decelerating more rapidly than anticipated from an annual rate of 9% in the fiscal year which ended last March.
The exact timing of the government’s expected steps is not known.

Business - Jet wants employees to take voluntary pay cut by 15 Dec

Mumbai: With losses mounting by the day, private carrier Jet Airways has reportedly asked its employees to take a voluntary pay cut and will wait till 15 December for their response.
The carrier, which fired 1,900 employees in October only to reinstate them under pressure from various quarters, has made the request to pilots, cabin crew and engineering staff, a source in the airline said on the condition of anonymity.
“Chairman (Naresh Goyal in an e-mail earlier this week) has asked the employees to take a pay cut volountarily and the management has given its employees time till 15 December for a decision,” the source said.
It is, however, not clear what the airline proposes to do if the employees do not agree for a voluntary pay cut.
A Jet Airways spokesperson, when contacted, refused to comment on the issue.
Jet operates a full-service airline as also a budget carrier - JetLite. Goyal had also announced earlier that his airline would cooperate with Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines to cut costs.

Columnists - Vir Sanghvi;Let's recall lessons from emergency

Those of you old enough to remember the early 1970s—and I hasten to add that even I was at school then!—may recall that as India reeled from the 1973 oil price hike, from global inflation and the civil disobedience of the JP movement, it became common for the educated middle class to say things like, “What India needs is a dictator.”

Then, of course, we got one.
In June 1975, Indira Gandhi suspended civil liberties, locked up the Opposition, censored the press and imposed her Neanderthal son, the thug-like Sanjay, on the nation. It was clear that if young Sanjay had his way, the institutions of democracy would never be reassembled again.
We’ve air-brushed the middle-class response to the declaration of Emergency out of the history books. But the truth is that people were delighted. There were no more strikes. Petty crime went down. Beggars were removed from the streets. And yes, the trains ran on time.
These developments worked mainly to the middle class’ advantage but of course they were justified at elite cocktail parties in terms of benefits to the poor. “How does democracy help a hungry man?” or “India’s poor have no interest in freedom of the press” etc., etc.
But, of course, the poor did need democracy. It was what kept the government’s sterilizers from dragging them out of their homes and lopping off their scrotal sacs. It was what made politicians—even Congress politicians—feel that they had a modicum of accountability towards the people of India. And it was what kept the police from locking up any poor, uninfluential person and then throwing away the key.

Indira Gandhi, of course, had no idea that the poor felt this way. Nor were there any uncensored newspapers to tell her the truth. And so, in early 1977, over the objections of her son, she called a general election. In her mind, this was the perfect solution. She would get democratic endorsement for her dictatorship.
We all know the rest of the story. The poor rose up against the Congress which suffered its first defeat in history and both Indira and thug-like son lost their own seats. The middle class quickly changed sides, decided that democracy was what made India great after all and embraced the new Janata regime (for two years, till Mrs Gandhi and the Neanderthal returned to power…).
I mention all this history to refresh your memory because in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks I am beginning to hear the same kind of middle-class murmurs and whines about the ineffectual nature of democracy and the need for authoritarian government.
The first part of the argument is framed in terms that are non- controversial enough. India’s politicians are greedy sods, incompetent buffoons who have let the country down.
So far, so good.

But then, it gets more complicated. The real heroes of 26/11 were the men in uniform, the navy commandos, the Army, the Mumbai police and the ATS. Therefore, we should put our faith in these people not in politicians.
Others simply say that democracy has failed India and that we need a strong leader. Some talk openly about a benign dictator (a commodity on par with virgin prostitutes) and some demand an abridgement of the universal franchise that, they say, has led us to this mess. Many (and I’m sure you’ve got the text messages too) demand that we refuse to cast our votes as a gesture of protest: “We should refuse to cooperate with these bloody politicians.”
I’m not saying that any of this is dangerous—no dictator is going to seize power because of discontent in Malabar Hill or Cuffe Parade—but it is certainly silly. Not only does it demonstrate that we have forgotten the lessons of the Emergency but it also shames the Indian middle class and shows up the cowards that are some of its most vocal members.
Like small children we crave the security offered by men in uniform every time we sense danger. We lose our nerve, abandon the only real functioning democracy in the populous states of the Third World and long for a leader who will fight the terrorists in the manner of Superman. Like frightened rabbits scurrying for cover, we lose all perspective and all common sense.
Contrast our responses to those from America after 9/11. The President was a dimwit, a man who had just stolen the election, and who reacted bizarrely to the news of the strikes and then took to his plane. But Americans did not abandon faith in their democracy. They came together and resolved to fight terrorism as one nation. It was the same in England after 7/7. Pressure was put on politicians and policemen and consequently there were no repeats of the terrorist bombings. In Spain, the government in power was defeated in the election held after the Madrid bombings and the terrorist attacks ceased.
I hold no brief for India’s politicians. Nor do I dispute that they have let our country down. But I think that those of us who long for superhero-style dictators are also letting the country down—they are certainly betraying our democracy, built over so many decades with so much sacrifice.
We have a right to expect better of our politicians. We have a right to abuse them. We have a right to pressure them. And we have a right to demand a change.
But these are democratic rights. Abandon democracy and we lose our rights. Nor do we necessarily succeed in the battle against terrorism.
Take the example of Pakistan where successive military dictatorships have nearly destroyed that nation. All those who think that a strong leader can fight terrorism should learn from the example of Pervez Musharraf who despite having the entire Pakistan army (and the Pentagon as well) behind him was unable to prevent terrorists from nearly killing him twice and taking Pakistan to the brink of chaos.
There are no quick fixes in the battle against terror. And there are no Supermen who can solve our problems. Of course, our government can do a better job. And of course our politicians have failed us.

Business - Foreign carmakers in India cut prices to lift sales

Foreign car makers in India have slashed prices as the once booming industry struggles to prop up falling sales amid tight credit conditions, high interest rates, and a slowing economy.

South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co's Indian unit is selling its compact Santro at its 1998 launch price of 299,000 rupees ($6,020), down from the regular price of around 333,000 rupees and is offering incentives such as insurance, accessories and exchange bonuses on other models in December.

Ford Motor Co's Indian unit has cut up to 91,000 rupees off its supermini Ford Fiesta for 10 days.

"There is a slowdown in the market place and consumer confidence is low. We had a situation here. So we are taking the opportunity to stimulate the market," said Nigel Warks, Ford India's executive director of marketing, sales and service.

"We thought... let's kick some life into the market and get the customers coming in."

Hyundai Motor India's domestic car sales in November fell 23.3 percent from a year earlier to 14,605 units, while Ford India sold 2200 cars in November, 40 more than a year earlier.

Maruti Suzuki, India's largest car maker, saw sales fall an annual 27 percent in November, and sales of Tata Motors' main brand Indica fell nearly 14 percent from a year earlier.

Tata Motors said that despite orders on hand, they could not be converted into sales due to lack of financing for customers.

Discounts are being offered at the top end of the market too. Last month, Honda Siel Cars India Ltd slashed the price of its Civic Hybrid by about 800,000 rupees for four days, and said it received more than 1,000 enquiries.

India - IIM-A to offer management course for school principals

Armed forces, working professionals, and officials from public and private organisations have all benefited from various courses offered by IIM-A. Now, it is the turn of principals of rural and municipal schools to draw some benefits from the premier B-School. If everything goes as per the plan, IIM-Ahmedabad will soon have a curriculum on strategic management and leadership for principals.

A curriculum is being devised to help these principals learn the basics of how to manage and motivate people from diverse fields be it politically-motivated sarpanchs, students' parents, teachers or leading from the front.

The Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF), a non-governmental organisation, came up with the idea to train principals. The aim is to bring about a change in the functioning of the schools and providing a better and motivated environment for children to study.

The curriculum will be divided into four parts- social, instructional, institutional and personal leadership. "The social part includes tips on how to deal with sarpanchs, students and their parents. The instructional aspect will include motivating teachers and other staff members to work towards a goal," said Aditya Natraj from KEF.

He added: "The institutional aspect will focus on creating a positive environment and culture for learning. The personal part will talk about how to lead an institution where children get inspired by their principals."

The duration of the programme in Rajasthan and urban municipal schools in Ahmedabad will be three years.

IIM-A Prof Rajeev Sharma, who is working on the curriculum, said, "We have visited Rajasthan where we have had a series of meetings with various school authorities."

KEF along with Bodh Shiksha Samiti has signed memoranda of understanding with about 100 schools in two districts of Rajasthan. "We have decided to have another such programme for principals of municipal schools in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat," Natraj added.

IIM-A is already conducting training programmes for CBSE school principals in 'strategic leadership and management'.

World - US to send 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Washington, Dec 6 (DPA) The US military is preparing for a build-up of as many as 20,000 troops next year in Afghanistan to step up the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency, a top US commander said Friday.

The military has started building housing, latrines and other infrastructure needed to support the increase, Major General Michael Tucker, the deputy commander of US forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference.

The first troops will begin arriving in January, Tucker said. Although the winter usually results in a slow down in fighting because it is more difficult for the insurgents to operate, US forces were anticipating 'a very active winter,' Tucker said.

'If he wants to continue to fight through the winter, we'll be here to fight him,' he said.

Pentagon officials have said they will begin shifting troops to Afghanistan as conditions in in Iraq continue to improve and forces begin leaving. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to move troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, which has seen an upswing in violence in the last two years.

US and NATO forces have been unable to snuff out the ability of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to slip across the rugged mountainous border with Pakistan to carry out attacks. Other NATO countries have been reluctant to send more troops and the stretched US military has fewer soldiers available to send.

The Pentagon is currently reviewing the strategy in Afghanistan and is expected to announce a revised approach in the weeks ahead designed for improved counterinsurgency operations, reaching out to tribal leaders and better tackle the cast rural areas of the country.

The new plan could be similar to the 'troop surge' strategy in Iraq that has helped to sharply reduce violence, but Tucker said the buildup was not modelled entirely after Iraq.

'It's not necessarily a surge as much as it is a reinforcement,' he said. 'Our intent is to shore up security so that we can set the conditions for governance to take hold.'

There are more than 30,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, about half of them are under NATO's command.

Entertainment - Priests sign 1.4M pounds record deal

Melbourne, Dec 5 (ANI): Three middle-aged Irishmen who called themselves the Priests, and signed a 1.4million pounds record deal, released their self-titled debut album in Britain two weeks ago.

The album by Eugene O'Hagan, his younger brother Martin, and their long-time friend David Delargy has entered the charts at No5, and it was released in Australia this week.

O'Hagan, who runs his parish of Ballyclare and Ballygowan in Northern Ireland, is very humble with the prospect of landing at the top of the British album charts.

"If that happens it will be another little miracle," the Australian quoted him as saying.

"We'll live with it if we are and we'll live it if we're not. We'll just be happy if people enjoy the record.

"It's a bit unusual and unexpected," O'Hagan said of their sudden fame.

"It's exciting and bewildering, too. It's not something we do every day of our lives but we're getting used to it," he added. (ANI)

Lifestyle - Emirates Airbus A380 'too quiet' to allow sleep to pilots!

London, Dec 5 (ANI): Emirates Airbus A380 pilots are finding it difficult to sleep during rest breaks in the crew rest area - because the aircraft is "too quiet".

The pilots are complaining that they cannot sleep in the crew-rest area in the rear of the main deck for they are constantly disturbed by sounds created by passengers.

The lack of engine noise in the A380's cabin compared with other long-haul airliners means they are constantly disturbed by sounds created by passengers, such as crying babies, flushing vacuum toilets and call bells.

Sometimes, passengers also mistake the rest area for a lavatory, and pull the door handle.

Emirates senior vice-president, fleet, Capt Ed Davidson said that the have has asked Airbus for a solution. They have ruled out insulating the walls of the rest area, situated at the rear of the all-economy main deck.

"We are expecting to hear back from them by the middle of the month," quoted Davidson as saying.

He said that one option could be installing lightweight generators to create ambient noise.

"We're getting a lot of complaints. It's not something we expected.

"On our other aircraft, the engines drown out the cabin noise. [On the A380] the pilots sleep with earplugs but the cabin noise goes straight through them," he added. (ANI)

Business - Reliance Retail forays into home

Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries Limited on Friday announced its entry into interior furnishing business under the banner of 'Reliance Living Furnishing' with its first store at Noida. The store offers a three-tiered private label range, Home One (basic), My Home (mid-tier) and My Home Premium (Lifestyle).

The home furnishing items, 80 per cent of which would be the company's own labels, are priced between Rs 199 to Rs 14,000. Reliance Retail, which operates 800 stores across 60 cities having a total retail space of 38 lakh square feet.

Briefly outlining the expansion strategy, senior vice president of Reliance Retail, Manu Kapur said, "the company plans to open 7 stores in next two months starting with Delhi and Hyderabad". "We have not put any target regarding the number of stores which we intend to set up.

Our turnover figures would be set once we receive adequate customer response," Kapur said.

Sport - India;Maradona gets a tumultuous welcome in Kolkata

Kolkata, Dec 6 (IANS) Thousands of torches and lamps dispelled the darkness of the night, as Kolkatans welcomed football legend Diego Armando Maradona to the city in a carnival atmosphere early Saturday.

Accompanied by girlfriend Veronica, the Argentinian soccer genius touched down at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport at 1.25 a.m. on a two-day trip to the city, as 50,000 people lined the roads and uncountable more sat glued to their television sets to catch the first glimpse of the football wizard on their home turf.

The diminutive new Argentina soccer coach, in great spirits despite the fatigue of a 48-hour flight, was welcomed at the tarmac by West Bengal sports minister Subhas Chakraborty and the organizers with flowers.

From the airport, Maradona and Vernonica were put into a specially designed bus that had transparent windows to enable the soccer buffs have a momentary glance of the player, whose heroic performance enabled Argentina win the World Cup in 1986.

People, wearing Argentine jerseys and carrying Maradona's cutouts and posters welcoming him in multiple languages - English, Hindi, Bengali and Spanish - ran alongside the bus, as it hit the streets on the way to the hotel.

Maradona fans waved flags of India and Argentina and danced to the tune of foot-tapping Latin American music, besides raising slogans eulogising the football legend who would spend the next two days in the city laying the foundation stone of a soccer academy, visiting Mother House - the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity - and attending a charity dinner.

The unbridled enthusiasm of the soccer aficionados proved infectious, and Maradona rose from his seat in the bus to wave back at the crowd, as two thousand people held aloft lighted torches on both sides of the road.

Giving more Indian traditional touches to the welcome, there were saree-clad women with well-lit earthen lamps and those blowing conch shells to usher in the prince of football, who rose from a shanty town - Villa Fiorito - on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires to reach the zenith of fame and fortune.

Passions ran high in Kolkata, cricket crazy India's soccer crazy hub, as old infirm men waited side by side with children not yet in their teens, able bodied youths and housewives for Maradona.

'I have been waiting for more than an hour.. I am a great fan of Maradona,' said housewife Ratna Sen, who had travelled 25 kms to be a part of the occasion.

Colourful processions also came from various districts, and blue-white balloons resembling the colours of the Argentina jersey were released.

'Maradona is a phenomenon. This is a momentous occasion. It's the raw passion for soccer which has brought so many people on the roads,' said former India international footballer and Arjuna awardee Prasun Banerjee, waiting on a city street.

More than 5000 policemen, including the Rapid Action Force and crack commandos were deployed on the entire route of Maradona's convoy to prevent any breach of peace.

A couple of over-enthusiastic teenagers were seen climbing lamp posts near the airports to hoist Argentine flags, forcing the security personnel to step in and bring them down.

On Saturday, Maradona would be felicitated at the Salt Lake stadium and would also call on communist patriarch Jyoti Basu.

Business - India;Nuke power sector to be opened to pvt players

India will open nuclear power sector to private players after talks on civil nuclear agreement with Canada and Russia conclude, minister for science and technology, Kapil Sibal said on Friday. He said the government is also working towards allowing foreign direct investments in the mining sector.

"Once the negotiations with Russia, and possibly Canada in nuclear commerce talks are done with, the government will soon open up the sector (nuclear power sector) for the private players to participate," Sibal said.

"The government is also drafting regulatory framework towards opening up the mining sector for FDI," he added. The minister called for innovative methods for generating renewable energy, agricultural optimisation, and innovations in technological upgrade. "Technology itself is not the solution, we need to develop parallel infrastructure to run the technology," he said.

The department of science and technology's head for international cooperation YP Kumar said, "Some 14 joint RandD projects have been identified, under the Indo-Canada and Indo-Israel cooperation agreements. This number can be further augmented with greater bilateral interactions."

Canadian high commissioner Joseph Caron said Canada is making efforts for increasing energy efficacy demands. For this, he said India and Canada are exploring the possibility of setting up joint nanotech and biotech centres, and a combined funding of $17 million has been received for this.

CII former president and Hero Honda Corporate Services chairman Sunil Kant Munjal lauded Canada for its work in the field of energy conservation, efficacy and production.

Highlighting the work done by Hero Honda toward preventing climate change, he said, "Hero Honda has setup a new plant at Haridwar, which might be the world's largest green roof. The need of the hour is to think beyond the currently addressed problems, and think about future. Industries in India have woken up a little late, but they are being proactive in addressing the environmental concerns."

Tech - World's fastest personal supercomputer unveiled

London, December 5 (ANI): An American company has unveiled the world's first personal supercomputer, which is 250 times faster than the average PCs.

David Kirk, chief scientist at the company NVIDIA, has revealed that the Tesla supercomputers will go on sale for more than 4,000 pounds.

Most consumers may consider that amount very hefty, but the company says that it is just a tiny fraction of what computers with similar capabilities usually cost.

The designers of the novel supercomputer believe that it should be able to help doctors process the results for brain and body scans much more quickly, allowing them to tell patients within hours instead of days whether they have a tumour.

Scientists also hope that they will be able to find cures for cancer and malaria faster than traditional research, as the novel personal supercomputer would enable them to run hundreds of thousands of simulations to create a shortlist of the most potent drugs.

"Pretty much anything that you do on your PC that takes a lot of time can be accelerated with this," Times Online quoted David Kirk, chief scientist at NVIDIA, as saying.

Unlike previous supercomputers that needed huge rooms for installation, Tesla personal supercomputers will look like the PC that many people already have in their homes.

"These supercomputers can improve the time it takes to process information by 1,000 times. If you imagine it takes a week to get a result [from running an experiment], you can only do it 52 times a year. If it takes you minutes, you can do it constantly, and learn just as much in a day," Dr Kirk said.

The new computers make innovative use of graphics processing units (GPUs).

They were first launched in the U.S. last month, and became available to British customers on December 4.

Tesla supercomputers will initially be sold to the scientific and research community and universities.

The PC maker Dell said that it would soon be mass-producing them for the general consumer market.

Eric Greffier, a Dell senior executive, said: "Before mobile phones were reserved for the few, now we can't live without them. It will be the same with these supercomputers. They are the building block for the computing of the future." (ANI)

Health - Two-drug BP therapy can prevent heart attack, stroke

Washington, Dec 4 (ANI): Doctors are usually advised to begin high blood pressure treatment with a diuretic-based strategy, but now an international study has shown that a different single-pill drug combination could be more effective at preventing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

The findings of the randomised study led by a University of Michigan Health System researcher, has actually challenged the way blood pressure is usually treated worldwide.

The researchers in the ACCOMPLISH study compared two drug combinations and the results turned out to be so significant that the trial was stopped early.

Both single-pill combination drugs helped more than 75 percent of people who had high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors get their blood pressure down.

In fact, more importantly, patients in the study taking the combination that included a calcium channel blocker had 20 percent fewer heart-related events than the patients taking the other combination.

For the study, a total of 11,506 study participants took a single tablet that includes two medications. One group received a tablet containing benazepril, which is a type of drug called an ACE inhibitor, and amlodipine, which belongs to a class of drugs known as calcium channel blockers or CCBs. The other pill combined benazepril and hydrochloro-thiazide, a type of diuretic or "water pill."

Scientists observed a 20 percent reduction in cardiovascular events with the ACE/CCB combination tablet.

Currently, national guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure (also called hypertension) call for patients who need medication to start out on a single pill, usually a diuretic, or water pill, and to add other drugs only as needed to bring pressure down.

However, the new results may actually change those guidelines. The new study suggests physicians no longer give diuretics preferred status in treating patients.

"This robust study showed us that switching patients to a single-pill combination meant that twice as many patients got to their blood pressure goal, regardless of previous therapy," said University of Michigan Health System's Kenneth Jamerson, M.D., the leader of the study.

He added: "The significant reduction in cardiovascular events we observed in patients will, I hope, show physicians that earlier use of a combination medication, especially with amlodipine, may be in the best interest of patients," he says.

The study results have shown that just six months of treatment with either drug combination was enough to bring the blood pressure of 73 percent of patients into an acceptable range.

The drop in blood pressure was despite the fact that two-thirds were already taking some other medication before they entered the study.

The study has appeared in the latest edition of New England Journal of Medicine. (ANI)

Science - Cleaner air will make buildings turn green with lichen and moss

London, Dec 5 (ANI): A new research into how stone facades will be altered by changes in the atmosphere has suggested that as pollution patterns change, iconic limestone structures like the Empire State Building and the Pentagon will turn green with lichen and moss in the future.

According to a report in New Scientist, cities will become more colorful as pollution patterns change and wind-swept rain washes away the black coal soot typical of the 20th century.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, cities in Europe and the US were dominated by dark grey and black buildings.

These were often made of cream-coloured stones like limestones, covered in a black crust of coal soot.

According to Peter Brimblecombe and Carlotta Grossi of the University of East Anglia in the UK, the era where atmospheric pollution determined the damage to building materials is over.

The pair recently completed an assessment of how damage to buildings in London has varied over the past 900 years and how it is likely to evolve over the coming century, when soot from coal-burning stoves is unlikely to be a concern, but climate change is.

They used historical climate and pollution data, combined with equations that describe how different climates and different types of pollution affect building materials.

For instance, archive tax records show how much fuel was used through the centuries, which can be used to estimate historical pollution levels.

With estimates of how much black carbon soot deposited on buildings at different times, the researchers can calculate the reflectivity of buildings, which indicates how black they were.

It turns out that for most of the 900 years, buildings were clean.

"It seems the past two centuries (of blackened buildings) were a bizarre anomaly," said Brimblecombe. "In a sense, we are now back in medieval England," he added.

A study on a limestone building known as the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, using pictures taken throughout its 20th century construction, shows that the cream-coloured facade was black even before the structure was completed in the 1930s.

In subsequent decades, however, air-quality regulations meant black crusts of soot became less of a problem, and parts of the building that get most soaked with rain have been naturally cleaned.

According to the researchers, the coming century will see iconic limestone structures like the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and the gothic cathedrals of Europe and the US turn yellow, reddish-brown, and even green with lichen and moss. (ANI)