Jan 16, 2009

India - Kashmir;There's no third option

Ramachandra Guha

In the course of a sceptical account of the recent assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Economist remarked: “Many Kashmiris… are deeply unhappy to be in India. Given an opportunity to determine their future — as India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, falsely promised they would — they would probably vote to secede.” The Economist’s man on the spot then spoke of how, as an Indian military convoy drove by, young men pelted mud at the passing vehicles, while “daring jeers turned into an angry chant of ‘Azadi!’.”

This ostensibly ‘objective’ report is based on some misleading, and even false, assumptions. It is necessary to deconstruct them, not least because these assumptions are very widely shared by the Western press and Western politicians, by quite a few Indians, and by the majority of the residents of the Kashmir Valley.

The principal reason that, some 60 years ago, India offered to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir was that it had promoted a similar exercise in the princely state of Junagadh. Here, the ruler of the state was a Muslim; but the majority of his subjects were Hindus. On August 14, 1947, the Nawab of Junagadh, without consulting his subjects, chose to join Pakistan. Indian forces moved into the state. Then, to confirm the legitimacy of their action, they held a plebiscite in which an overwhelming majority expressed their wish to be part of India.

Junagadh was, as it were, a Kashmir in reverse. In the last week of October 1947, the Maharaja of Kashmir (a Hindu) acceded to India; this when the majority of his subjects were Muslims. The action was vigorously contested by Pakistan. The contestation was not merely verbal; for the massed armies of the two new nations were fighting each other on the high mountains. In the beginning of 1948 the dispute was referred to the United Nations, where India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, agreed to hold a plebiscite to discover the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Hindutva ideologues continue to criticise Nehru for making the offer. They should be reminded that after Vallabhbhai Patel had overseen a similar exercise in Junagadh, there was really no other option before India. In any case, as a new nation, and an aspiring democracy, India had to abide by the rule of law and the wishes of the international community.

Among the preconditions of the plebiscite were the demilitarisation of the part of Kashmir then controlled by Pakistan. In turn, Pakistan insisted that so long as the National Conference was running the administration in the Indian part of Kashmir, no vote would be free or fair. Neither side would yield, leading to a stalemate. Various UN missions came and went, but the deadlock remained. By the early 1950s, Nehru himself had resiled from his earlier commitment to a plebiscite.

The historical background thus sketched in, let me come now to the often forgotten terms of the plebiscite. Had it been held, the residents of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir would have had to choose between joining India or joining Pakistan. There was no third option. This was in keeping with the Indian Independence Act, under which each princely state had the choice of joining either India or Pakistan.

The Economist, along with other Western and Indian papers, writes of Kashmir as if the third option exists or existed.
However, secession or azadi for Kashmir is emphatically not a legal option. Can it still be achieved through military means? The prospects are bleak. In the past half a century, only one new nation has come into existence as the result of an armed struggle. This is Eritrea, which successfully broke away from Ethiopia. Some Kashmiris (and more Pakistanis) take heart from the example of Bangladesh, which achieved its independence through third-party intervention. But the hope is illusory, for the Indian Army is far stronger in 2009 than the Pakistan Army was in 1971.

Azadi for the Kashmiris is not permissible under the law, and cannot be achieved through armed struggle, either. There is a third alternative, provided by the example of Eastern Europe, where some new countries were created in the 1990s after the larger nations, of which they were previously part, voluntarily ceded their sovereignty. A fourth possible path is that of East Timor, where the United Nations and powerful Western powers supervised a separation from Indonesia. However, neither alternative is open to the people of the Kashmir Valley. It is impossible to conceive of India giving up the territory voluntarily, or under pressure from the UN or the United States.

The one thing the Economist is right about is that many Kashmiris are unhappy in India. This is a consequence of the callous and corrupt attitude of successive Indian governments. How this unhappiness might be remedied is the subject of another column (not necessarily to be written by this columnist). My object here has been merely to demonstrate that legally, militarily, and diplomatically, azadi is not an option for the Kashmir Valley. Those writers, Western or Indian, who persist in claiming that it is are being economical with the truth. Whether out of ignorance or malevolence, they are providing encouragement and endorsement to a form of politics that has no legal basis, and that can only lead to more violence and suffering in Kashmir.

(Ramachandra Guha is a historian andthe author of India After Gandhi)

Lifestyle - Talks that may trigger 'sex'

Monika Rawal

A prolonged foreplay, a sexy bedroom surprise, a scintillating candle lit dinner and out-of-the-box seduction techniques – couples use all the All it takes is a subtle conversation to trigger off a steamy sex session. (Getty Images)
above methods to woo their partner in bed.

But very few couples know that sometimes all it takes is a subtle conversation to trigger off a steamy sex session. Conversations that lead to sex act are like potent launching platforms that work towards altering your partner's mindset to match yours. If executed correctly, your partner will want to finish the discussion soon and move on towards getting more physically intimate.

You may wonder how simple conversational topics with your partner can stimulate your senses for an intimate session, but one must remember that a wholesome sexual experience is about a physiological trigger, rather than a physical trigger.

Conversing about subjects like pornography, virginity, sexual preferences, sexual fantasies, sex positions and aphrodisiacs help build the pleasure mood.

Dr. Avdesh Sharma, a clinical psychiatrist explains, "Most human beings react emotionally while talking to others. Only a few behave logically. Since most sexual conversation topics bear hidden double meanings, they evoke our sexual senses and leave us feeling gently aroused. Moreover, it's not only the subject of conversation, but also the tone, voice and body language of the person that gives subconscious signals that aid in creating a sexual mood."

Dr. Aruna Bruta, a psychologist adds, "While having a normal conversation, there is a tendency that you make a caring statement and that certainly triggers a feeling of affiliation, which in turn makes a slow yet sure way towards a fulfilling sexual experience. Surprisingly even the most serious topics related to sexual preferences like virginity and pornography can create an atmosphere congenial for being intimate."

Here are a few conversations that may push your libido and get you going for action in bed.

Fantasy forum : Everyone nurses unique fantasies, tastes and preferences when it comes to sex. From playing with your partner's earlobes to caressing their ankles, hairline and hips to indulging in your fetishes and wild sexual kinks, let these topics become interesting topics to share with your beau sans any inhibitions.

Dr. Amita Mishra, a sex and relationship expert feels, "Once a couple starts sharing their sexual fantasies candidly with each other, it is likely to generate a significant amount of curiosity in both of them and they will naturally wish to try the things which they've just spoke about. Also, once you know about your partner's special turn-ons, you can make the most of them in bed."

Poke at porn : Though watching porn is a sure shot and a commonly known foreplay technique, discussing intimate details of a popular porn flick or talking about the latest cover of a porn magazine may also act as a turn-on.

"It completely depends on how you talk about 'porn' as a subject. The essence is candidness and forth-rightedness and not vulgarity. Also, if couples discuss a porn film and later compare their sexual act and partner's performance with what was shown in the movie, it will generate a lot of intimacy and naughtiness that is much needed in a sexual relationship," asserts Dr. Aruna.

Virginity vows : Moral talks are not enticing enough for couples, but they have a propensity to build the heat. Whether virginity is a virtue or a curse remains a debatable subject and if you get lucky enough to talk the issue out with your beau, you may just become willing to put your vows on the test by getting involved in a passion play.

Dr. Avdesh says, "Talking of virginity can lead to both emotional and physical intimacy and once the conversation is kicked off, it totally depends on the ambiance which will then make the mood conducive for sex. You may not feel aroused when you watch such a debate on television, but when you discuss it with your partner, there are chances that an aura gets created for you to get blissfully passionate."

Subtle seduction : Couples spend endless hours trying their luck to seduce their partners, but often they fail to strike the right moan zones. In such cases, it's important to realise that before implementing your seduction techniques, discuss them as verbal foreplay often gives you the much needed push towards the bedroom.

"It's good to let your partner know about the ways in which you like to get seduced. You may start off telling them which wooing techniques turn you on. As the conversation progresses, the couple will be charged up to slip between the sheets," adds Dr. Amita.

Aphrodisiac action : It may sound like a boring topic to discuss with your partner, but it's talking about favourite foods including aphrodisiacs like chocolates, strawberries and caviar may tempt your partner. Dr. Aruna, elucidates, "Talking about passion foods can heighten the feeling of sexiness. In the process of showing concern towards your partner's favourite foods, you make them feel nice, reassured and being taken care of and this comfort zone surely calls for some more intimacy."

Wicked and wild : It may not be on purpose, but the moment you get dirty in your talks and gestures, chances are that you will get carried away and end up making love.

Dr. Avdesh, states, "Though couples hesitate in talking dirty, such lewd talks act as prelude to an intimacy as they evoke sexuality in your partner. Initiating a conversation on these lines is like a beginning to get the other person interested and if he/she responds well, it can lead to greater sexual intimacy. So, it's similar to playing a game of words that automatically leads to sizzling between the sheets action."

Mktg - Akki's unique promotion strategy

Amid loud Punjabi drum beats, firecrackers going off and squeals of joy from the eager audience, Bollywood actors Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone descended at a shopping mall here from a huge hot air balloon to promote their action-adventure film Chandni Chowk To China, releasing Friday.

Thousands of fans who had been waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of the two stars went ballistic when they arrived Thursday evening. Kids, teenagers, men and women ran forward to wave out to Deepika and Akshay, who reciprocated with equal enthusiasm.

"I came here sometime back too. At that time about 100-200 people came to see me. And today, I see almost 5,000 people here. I am so overwhelmed. I have no words to say or describe how good I feel," Akshay said at the event held at the Ambience Mall here.

On her experience of travelling in a hot air balloon, Deepika said: "Though it was nothing compared to the stunts we have done in the film, it was quite a distinct way of arriving for the film's promotion and it was fun."

Co-produced by Ramesh Sippy Entertainment, People Tree Films and Hollwyood-based studio Warner Bros, Chandni Chowk... is about an Indian cook, Sidhu, played by Akshay, who goes to China and is mistaken for a martial arts expert. Deepika plays Akshay's love interest.

The film has attracted attention for its daredevil action sequences that have been choreographed by international action director Dee Dee Ku.

It is being aggressively promoted across the world and after grand international premieres in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London, Bangkok, Dubai, the lead actors and director Nikhil Advani came here with this unique promotional gimmick of flying in a hot air balloon.

"The crowd here is phenomenal. It makes my heart beat faster and makes me realise that we have to live up to the expectations of these thousands of people who came here and lots of others too. We have a huge responsibility on our shoulders," Advani told reporters.

Entertainment - Sex and sensuality hit Bollywood!

Deepa Gahlot

Kangana Ranaut’s bath-tub scene is made into a controversy of sorts. Censors should pass it with an ‘A’ certificate. Heroines in bikinis make news, Emraan Hashmi’s lips are always twitching for a kiss.

Magazine cover shoots get bolder. Calendars get lustier. But which of our movies have really treated sex and sensuality with some sense and sensibility? Most of them are golden oldies which must be seen on the big screen, DVD, VCD, whatever..but a must they are:

If sex is on the mind, then the best films would be:

Guide (Vijay Anand): It dealt with a relationship between a man and a woman — not married to each other— with adult sensuality. Raju Guide and Rosie live together and their love is certainly not platonic. A man wouldn’t sing Din dhal jaaye with such pain and a woman wouldn’t sing Saiyan beimaan with such grief, if all they were sharing was a bank account.

Amar Prem (Shakti Samanta): Sharmila Tagore played an abandoned woman sold to a kotha; Rajesh Khanna played a rich and deeply lonely man, who finds solace with the reluctant whore. Did they actually go to bed? Hardly matters! The two didn’t even have to touch each other. The erotic charge was there to see.

Phool aur Patthar (O P Ralhan): Dharmendra took his shirt off and the screen practically crackled with his raw sex appeal. The rumour that he and Meena Kumari were having a real-life affair added fuel to the fire.

There was erotica in Madhubala’s eyes in Accha ji main haari (Kaala Pani), in Waheeda Rehman’s gait in Jaane kye tune kahi (Pyaasa), in Vyjayanthimala’s face in Amrapali, Mumtaz’s upturned nose in Apna Desh, and Meena Kumari’s feet in Pakeezah; in Shammi Kapoor’s swaying neck, Dev Anand’s ‘puffed’ hairstyle, Shashi Kapoor’s crooked smile. Mallika Sherawat and Salman Khan have a lot to learn!

Maithili Rao
Utsav: Girish Karnad’s free adaptation of the Sanskrit classic Mrichchakatika sets it safely centuries away in the comfort zone of Indians who are apparently wary of contemporary eroticism.

Vatsayana, researching material for his Kama Sutra, adds a satiric zest to the ornate recreation of an age where Rekha breathes the mood of erotic sculpture.

Asoka: The once upon a time theme works again. Santosh Sivan’s stunning cinematography makes the warrior prince Asoka a seeker of beauty and Kaurawaki’s wood nymph is passion incarnate – be it as a fiery fighter or possessed lover.

Daaera: Amol Palekar’s film made it to the 10 best list of Time magazine for its complex narrative. A performing artiste, playing women’s roles, teaches a girl the meaning of love and passion. The subtext of gender politics did not detract from the eroticism.

Hindi films in general shy away from full-blown eroticism, content with a few sensuous passages at best — the celebrated scene with the feather in Mughal-e- Azam; the first view of Chhoti Bahu in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam followed by the Piya aiso jiya mein samaye gayo re song in which Meena Kumari adorns herself for her husband; sublimated passion of Pyasa’s Aaj sajan mohe ang lagale; a couple of songs in Sagar.

Business - UB Group gets nod to amalgamate Shaw Wallace

MUMBAI: Vijay Mallya-promoted United Spirits has said that it has received approval from the High Court at Calcutta for merger of Shaw Wallace &
Company with itself.

In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, UB Group flagship company United Spirits said that the High Court at Calcutta on January 16, 2009 has sanctioned the scheme of merging both the companies.

Earlier, the company had received approval from the Karnataka and Bombay High Courts for the scheme of amalgamation of Shaw Wallace & Company and Primo distributors with the company vide their orders dated May 29, 2008 and July 18, 2008, respectively.

"With this, the company have received all the necessary court approvals", the filing added.

Shaw Wallace, after its acquisition by the UB Group, would now come under a common entity known as United Spirits Ltd, which has 140 brands under its wings out of which, there are 15 millionaire brands growing at a rapid pace.

World - Thailand plans to waive visa fees for tourists

BANGKOK: Thailand is considering waiving visa fees for three months in a bid to revive its key tourism industry, which has been battered by
political turmoil that culminated in the occupation of Bangkok's two airports late last year.

The measure, already approved by the government's economic ministers, will be proposed to the full Cabinet next week, Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said Friday.

``We hope this will be one of many measures that will boost the tourism industry in Thailand amid the global slowdown and following the political crisis,'' Juthaporn said.

Residents of many neighboring and Western countries already enjoy visa-free entry privileges for short visits, but those planning longer stays must obtain visas in advance for a fee of at least $30 per entry.

Earlier this week, Thailand's new government allocated 1 billion baht ($28.6 million) of its 115-billion-baht ($3.3 billion) fiscal stimulus package to rejuvenate the tourism industry, which accounts for about 5 percent of the country's economy.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who took office last month, earlier said the government will also consider discounts on aircraft landing fees.

Anti-government protests last year included the weeklong seizure of Bangkok's airports at the end of November, stranding more than 300,000 travelers.

The Bank of Thailand has estimated the country would lose 290 billion baht ($8.3 billion) as a result of the protests, which called for the ouster of the previous government led by allies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They accused Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power.

The central bank forecast that tourist arrivals this year would drop by 8.8 percent from 12.8 million in 2008.

Deputy government spokesman Puttipong Punnakan said the Cabinet plans to discuss other measures as well, including a short-term reduction in interest rates and property tax for hotel operators, and a reduction of airport surcharges, as well as discounts on air tickets.

Sport - Cricket;South Africa beat Australia by 3 wickets

MELBOURNE: South Africa rode on twin half centuries by Neil McKenzie and JP Duminy and some late fireworks by Albie Morkel to edge past Australia by
three wickets in the opening One-dayer of the five-match series on Friday.


Chasing 272 for a win, the Proteas survived a middle-order collapse to romp home with three deliveries to spare in a thrilling floodlit contest.

JP Duminy (71) and Neil McKenzie set the foundation for the visiting side before Morkel played a brilliant 40-run cameo, also sharing a 50-run eighth-wicket stand with Johan Botha (11) to seal the win for the South Africans.

Opting to bat first after winning the toss, the Australians were left to rue a slow batting start and shoddy bowling at the death in the see-saw contest.

Shaun Marsh top-scored for the hosts with a 97-ball 79. David Hussey's 50-ball 52 and under-fire skipper Ricky Ponting's 46 were the only other notable contributions in the Aussie total after a slow start left them 146 for three in 31 overs.

He didn't take any wicket but Jacques Kallis' stifling 10-over spell conceding just 35 runs coupled with an equally economical 1/49 by Dale Steyn never allowed the Aussie batsmen to flourish.

Among the wicket-takers, Botha and Morne and Albie Morkel shared two scalps apiece to restrict Australia to 271 for eight in their 50 overs.

The Australians clearly missed the kind of flying start they were used to during the heydays of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist -- both retired now.

If the Aussie innings lacked spark all through, the South African chase was no less subdued to start with and they lost their first wicket with just four runs on board when Hashim Amla departed for just one run after Shaun Tait crashed through his defences.

With Herschelle Gibbs (22) also gone with the team score at 36, the visitors looked in real trouble but Kallis steered them out of the crisis with a 49-ball 41.

After the all-rounder's dismissal in the 19th over, Duminy and Mckenzie laboured on, sharing a 123-run partnership to take South Africa past 200 in the 40th over.

Then came a mini-collapse that sent their chase haywire and it started with Duminy's fall at the hands of Nathan Bracken. Duminy flicked a Bracken off-cutter to the mid-wicket where Cameron White took an easy catch.

Mark Boucher (0), Vaughan van Jaarsveld (4) and McKenzie departed in the space of just four overs to leave the Proteas reeling at 221 for seven in the 45th over before Morkel's late heroics saved the day for them.

With the South Africans needing 38 runs off the last four overs, Morkel clobbered Bracken for a massive six to reduce the gap between the run and ball remaining.

He continued the assault in the next over and this time it was Ben Hilfenhaus at the receiving end as he hammered him for three fours. The Proteas needed seven runs off the last two overs and Morkel guided them home easily despite Bracken reducing the gap to five off seven deliveries.

World - UN to partner Kerala festival

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The United Nations will partner Kerala at a week-long Nishagandi Festival beginning here January 20.

"This is the first time that the UN is partnering an event in South India," State Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters.

The UN Cultural Dialogue on the promotion of Indian culture is partnering Kerala's festival, which is also called "heart beats".

"They have a project wherein they promote classical musicians who have spent long years in this profession. This time here, they will be sponsoring the famed vocalist Pandit Keshav Raghunath Talegaonker from Agra and his family who are all into music," Balakrishnan said.

The festival would be a cultural extravaganza featuring various dance forms of the state and artistic wealth of India.

Lifestyle - Oral contraceptives carry risks

WASHINGTON: Although 80 percent women in the US have used oral contraceptives at one time or another since the sixties, these could carry unknown
long-term risks.More so when women's lifestyles change and new forms of contraceptives become available, according to specialists in women's heart disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre(C-SMC).

"As women use these therapies more frequently and for longer periods of time, there is an urgent need to better understand and minimise associated cardiovascular risks," said C. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Women's Heart Center(WHC)at the C-SMC.

Women at high risk for cardiovascular problems, especially those who smoke, should consider alternative forms of contraception.Those with other cardiac risk factors, such as hypertension or elevated cholesterol, can consider using hormonal contraceptives if they are carefully monitored by their health care provider, said Bairey Merz, who is also professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai.

Any woman considering the use of contraceptives should be evaluated for cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, kidney problems, obesity and other vascular diseases, including migraines.

Healthy, non-smoking women who are 35 or older can continue taking a low dose oral contraceptive until 50 to 55 years after reviewing the risks and benefits.
Bairey Merz co-authored the study that provides an overview of the known cardiovascular risks and benefits of hormonal contraceptives while pointing out areas that require further research.

Reproductive hormones affect the tone and function of blood vessels as well as lipid (fat) levels in the blood. Low oestrogen levels have been found to increase risk of coronary atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of artery walls) and "adverse cardiac events", such as heart attacks and strokes.

But the use of supplemental oestrogen in hormone replacement therapy has been linked to an elevated risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
"Health care providers must evaluate each woman's risk factors, especially those related to cardiovascular health, prior to starting any contraceptive therapy," she said.

"Although pre-menopausal women have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease, routine screening for potential problems and follow-up is important," said Chrisandra L. Shufelt, assistant director of the WHC and co-author of the study.

The earlier contraceptives used higher levels of oestrogen than the newer formulations, which are now available not only in pill form but in patches and vaginal rings.
Newer formulations use lower doses of oestrogen, safer in terms of lowering the risk of blood clots, and they tend to use a progestin, a synthetic version of progesterone that may slightly reduce blood pressure, said Bairey Merz, according to a Cedars-Sinai release.

Since 2000, death rates have increased in women between the ages of 35 and 44, while all other age groups have seen a decline. These findings are slated for publication in the Jan 20 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Business - Citigroup to split into two units after huge losses

Citigroup, the embattled US banking giant, said on Friday it would split the company into two separate businesses in a bid to restore profitability after posting a larger than expected fourth-quarter loss.

"Today, we announced that we would separate the company, for management purposes, into two separate businesses -- Citicorp and Citi Holdings," said Vikram Pandit, Citi chief executive.

"We are setting out a clear roadmap to restore profitability," he said.

Entertainment - Pamela Anderson steps in to save Mumbai dogs

US actress Pamela Anderson has appealed to the authorities in Mumbai not to put down nuisance stray dogs, instead calling for them to be sterilised.

"It is well established that killing stray dogs is not a permanent solution to controlling their populations," the former "Baywatch" star said in a letter to the municipal commission of Greater Mumbai.

"Dogs cannot use condoms, but with the municipality's help, they can be 'fixed' -- painlessly, quickly and permanently," she added in the letter, made public by activist group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

There are thought to be some 70,000 stray dogs in India's financial and entertainment capital, and there are widespread concerns about their role in spreading disease, including deadly rabies.

Anderson's letter, which cited World Health Organisation and Animal Health Board of India support for mass sterilisation, comes after a legal ruling here to destroy nuisance dogs.

Expressing her concern at the court decision, the 41-year-old called instead for civic authorities to promote a sterilisation programme for stray dogs and those adopted and bought from animal shelters and pet shops.

India - MTNL 3G in 10 Days

NEW DELHI: Ending the long wait over next generation telecom services, MTNL on Friday said it will commercially launch its 3G services in the nati
onal capital within 10 days.

"We will launch 3G operations in Delhi in next 10 days," MTNL CMD R S P Sinha said.

In Mumbai the 3G services would be launched in the first week of February, he added.

However, as of now the company has not entered into any tie-up with content providers.

Currently, our IPTV providers would give us content, going forward we may tie up with other firms. At present, it has 15,000 IPTV subscribers in Delhi

World - Best Job in World crashes online

SYDNEY: The chance to be the caretaker of a tiny tropical island in Australia has sparked so much interest around the world that a rush of applica
tions crashed the website advertising the post.

The job, which offers a salary of $105,000 to spend six months on the Great Barrier Reef island of Hamilton, has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of prospective candidates.

An official from the state of Queensland, which is offering the position, said the job was created as an antidote to the global economic slump and was being advertised in 18 countries including the United States and China.

Local media said technicians had to restore the website (www.islandreefjob.com) after it could not cope with the volume of interest and crashed for several hours. Some sections are still not up and running.

Duties for the so-called "best job in the world" include feeding ocean fish, cleaning a pool and collecting deliveries of mail that arrive by plane.

The successful candidate will have to go scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking and enjoy at least 25 nearby island resorts. Thrown in is a luxury three-bedroom home and transportation to and from the island.

No skills, nor experience is needed, and there is no age requirement. The job starts in July.

Business - India;Telecom services must focus on value addition

The Strategy Analytics Emerging Markets Communications Strategies (EMCS) service report, “Mobile Value Added Services (MVAS) in India,” suggests that established Indian mobile operators risk losing some of the $1.2 billion in MVAS revenue predicted for 2012 if they continue to focus their efforts on gaining new subscribers, and fail to respond to the requirements of the MVAS market.

At present ringtones and caller ringback tones account for two thirds of the MVAS mix, but their growth is slowing. Building a healthy market for newer offerings like mobile TV, video on demand, music and games will require a thriving content development community, lower data tariffs, and extensive service marketing and user education.

“So far,” says Rahul Gupta, manager, for EMCS and principal author of the report, “mobile operators seem more focused on the race to gain new voice subscribers than they are on building a solid MVAS ecosystem. This may prove short-sighted.”

With operators retaining 60-80 per cent of end user MVAS spending, many content providers express reluctance to invest in new product development, and some are starting to investigate off-deck delivery. The pace of 3G deployment is expected to accelerate in 2009, and along with it the ability to deliver advanced services.

According to the report, MVAS in India are growing at a fast pace, with 20 per cent CAGR projected for consumer spending between 2007 and 2012. MVAS companies came into existence approximately seven years back and have gained significant importance in the telecom space.

Due to their differentiated service offerings MVAS companies have helped the mobile operators in attracting new subscribers. Currently, MVAS contribute about 10 per cent of the total revenues of India’s mobile telecom service providers.

The report notes that the growth in MVAS is primarily driven by declining data service tariff rates, availability of cheap handsets with innovative features and declining prices of VAS services. Service pricing will continue to be under downward pressure as new subscriber growth will increasingly have to come from lower-tier users in rural areas and secondary cities.

P2P SMS and ringtones are revenue generators for MVAS companies but in future, entertainment services such as mobile gaming, mobile radio, mobile Video and utility based services such as information on location, e-learning and mCommerce are likely to impact MVAS revenues.

“Mobile operators are depending on VAS to improve the state of ARPU (average revenue per user) in India which is declining due to the rise of low end subscribers. However, owing to high revenue share of operators, VAS companies intend to offer their services off deck,” the report noted.

The MVAS market has been highly fragmented, with limited restriction on entry of new players, but the market has started the first phase of consolidation, most recently with Bharti Telesoft’s acquisition of Jataayu Software.

Historically, MVAS has been a largely unregulated market. However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has called for comment on the issue of bringing VAS companies under a licensing regime.

“Although MVAS usage continues to rise, there are certain barriers such as revenue split, limited awareness of VAS services, complex VAS applications, high content prices and localisation of content in all rural languages which are restricting the growth of MVAS in India,” the report highlighted.

Entertainment - India;Kids’ genre has a new player – Spacetoon TV

Kids Media India, a subsidiary of Dubai-based Spacetoon Media Group, launched its first free-to-air kids edutainment Hindi channel, Spacetoon Kids TV, in India on January 14. The channel will be marketed through numerous on-ground activities. The channel would be available in other languages later on.

Spacetoon TV is based on a ten-planet programming concept, creating a perfect blend of education plus entertainment that covers a spectrum of children’s interests, ranging from pre-school to teens. Every hour of the day is dedicated to a planet according to viewing patterns of the age group and the kids can have ‘Appointment Viewing’ with their favourite content in the respective planet. These ten-planet programming line-up include Action Planet, Zomorroda Planet (Girls’ planet), Comedy Planet, Bon Bon Planet (Baby planet), Adventures Planet, Alphabet Planet, History Planet, Science Planet, Movies Planet and Sports Planet.

Spacetoon TV claims to own one of the world’s largest animated content libraries with a mix of historical and contemporary animation figures.

Spacetoon Media Group has already acquired a library of 4,200 episodes from various producers and studios throughout Europe, Asia and North America, and will also be looking at creating an hour of localised content produced in India.

Speaking on the launch, Rajiv Sangari, MD and CEO, Kids Media India, said, “With the launch of Spacetoon Kids TV in India, we aim to bring a distinctiveness with our unique proposition of providing edutainment for our Indian viewers. Though we are the 9th entrant in the market, we are confident that it will be well accepted by the audience and will create a niche in the world of kids’ entertainment. India is one of the largest children markets, which has a huge growth potential for Spacetoon products and services. We look forward to some exciting times ahead.”

Elaborating on the marketing initiative, Sangari said, “The channel would be supported by a lot of on-ground activities. This is an absolute effective way to reach out to kids. The process of reaching kids has been already commenced. We are targeting 3,000 schools where we will go and educate kids about the channel.”

He further said, “The channel is now available in Hindi, but over the period of time it would be available in other languages as well. The channel will be free-to-air for nearly three years. The target is to create demand and not push by purchase, to reach about 15 million homes by mid-2009 and to acquire 10 per cent share in the viewership by the end of 2010.”

On the content strategy, Sangari said, “90 per cent of the content would be sourced internationally, while 10 per cent would comprise local content of animated and live action. Local animation content will essentially be on the folk tales of India and the SAARC region. Live action will have exciting formats like involving kids from all schools for sports and cultural competitions and sponsoring all India drawing competitions, among other things.”

Mktg - Beware!Virgin is keeping a watch on you

Rohit Nautiyal

Outdoor has been an integral part of Virgin Mobile's campaign since its launch in March 2008. Two months ago, it relaunched its mobile handset, vKewl, with a new pricing. The message was to be conveyed to its target group (TG) – youngsters in the age group of 18-25 years. To accomplish this, the company has launched a novel outdoor campaign in Delhi.

The vKewl mobile comes with features such as video recording, a 1.3 mega pixel camera, FM radio, colour screen, MP3 player, speaker phone and headset – all for Rs 3,499. The outdoor innovation aims to grab the attention of its TG, convey the multiple features of the mobile and continue the brand's philosophy of 'Think Hatke'.

At a bus shelter close to Dayal Singh College in New Delhi, a CCTV camera has been fitted strategically to capture the expressions and actions of passers by.

Close to the shelter, an MUPI (multi photon ionisation) unit has been placed, which resembles the handset. Instead of the handset's static screen, the MUPI display has a 32 inch plasma screen. The footage captured by the CCTV is played simultaneously on the plasma screen, leaving the audience pleasantly surprised and sometimes embarrassed. The front panel of the shelter has the proposition from Virgin Mobile: 'Now make your own moves'.

Another innovation has a large 3D replica of the vKewl mobile mounted on a billboard at the Ashram flyover in New Delhi, with an LED screen fitted at the back. The screen runs candid viral videos for some quick and light-hearted entertainment.

The outdoor campaign has been ideated and executed by Bates 141.

Prasad Narasimhan, chief marketing officer, Virgin Mobiles, says, “For us, Delhi is a growing priority market and was thus ideal for unique, innovative communication. Also, thanks to its high student population, which is our core TG, it was a preferred place for this campaign.”

He adds, “We also saw a need for feature-rich handsets amongst the youth, especially camera and video recording. Our new handset comes equipped with the video recording feature and is positioned on this plank.”

The CCTV innovation was supposed to be executed in Mumbai as well, but could not be because of some regulatory issues.

The outdoor campaign is supported by television. Both 25 and 35 second ad spots have been aired across youth oriented channels such as MTV, Zoom, HBO and STAR Movies, along with a mix of general entertainment channels and news channels, including Colors, Sony, IBN7 and SET Max.

An innovative online campaign has been initiated to highlight the video recording feature. The shoot at sight microsite engages users by prompting them to shoot their own viral content, upload it and share it with friends. The campaign will be supported by a special application for the social networking site, Facebook, and an innovative banner ad campaign aimed at driving and generating traffic to the microsite.

Entertainment - Colors to share Jai Shri Krishna with Nick

Sumantha Rathore

Viacom's channels, Colors and Nick, have decided to share content, but with a different touch. Nick will telecast a modified version of Colors' popular soap, Jai Shri Krishna, starting next Sunday. Colors is a general entertainment channel and Nick is a children’s channel, so the content has been customised to suit Nick's target group.

Jai Shri Krishna is a mythological soap aired on Colors at 8.30 pm from Monday to Friday. The show is based on the life of Krishna, a Hindu god and a character in the mythological epic, Mahabharata. Along with commanding a family audience, it also has a substantial following amongst children. Airing it on Nick was thus a strategic decision.

Starting January 18, Jai Shri Krishna will be aired on Nick at 9 am every Sunday. A repeat telecast will be aired on the following Saturday.

The differentiator is that Nick will showcase a faster-paced, crisper and simpler version of the original show. It will be free of violence, with new packaging to which kids can relate easily.

Each episode of the hour-long show will be narrated by a grandmother, who will introduce the characters and demystify the mythology for the viewers.

Talking to afaqs! about the redesigned epic show, Nina Elavia Jaipuria, senior vice-president and general manager, Nick India, says, “We wanted to include a mythology show to the channel's programming mix. That’s how we came up with the idea of airing Jai Shri Krishna minus the violence.”

“The show will narrate an uncomplicated story – from a kid's point of view,” she adds.

Nick has re-edited and customised the show to make it more engaging for children. “True to the standards of Nick, we have deleted all the bloodshed and violence from the show. With this show, kids will be able to relate to a real-life kid rather than a cartoon character,” says Jaipuria.

Nick has also come up with a catchy music video and a contemporary title song created exclusively for the show and sung by a young boy. The background score of the song has also been altered to suit kids’ tastes. The show has a new montage as well.

Facing a global meltdown, Nick is adopting a strategy to leverage the resources of its network. Jaipuria says that in order to provide good content, the channel plans to optimise resources and leverage the strength of its network.

Business - Madoff's fund may not have made a single trade

Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) – Bernie Madoff's investment fund may never have executed a single trade, industry officials say, suggesting detailed statements mailed to investors each month may have been an elaborate mirage in a $50 billion fraud.

An industry-run regulator for brokerage firms said on Thursday there was no record of Madoff's investment fund placing trades through his brokerage operation.

That means Madoff either placed trades through other brokerage firms, a move industry officials consider unlikely, or he was not executing trades at all.

"Our exams showed no evidence of trading on behalf of the investment advisor, no evidence of any customer statements being generated by the broker-dealer," said Herb Perone, spokesman for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Madoff's broker-dealer operation, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, underwent routine examinations by FINRA and its predecessor, the National Association of Securities Dealers, every two years since it opened in 1960, Perone said.

Madoff, a former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market who was a force on Wall Street for nearly 50 years, allegedly confessed to his sons the firm's investment-advisory business was "basically a giant Ponzi scheme" and "one big lie," according to court documents.

He estimated losses of at least $50 billion from the Ponzi scheme, which uses money from new investors to pay distributions and redemptions to existing investors. Such schemes typically collapse when new funds dry up.

Each month, Madoff sent out elaborate statements of trades conducted by his broker-dealer. Last November, for example, he issued a statement to one investor showing he bought shares of Merck & Co Inc, Microsoft Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp and Amgen Inc among others.

It also showed transactions in Fidelity Investments' Spartan Fund. But Fidelity, the world's biggest mutual fund company, has no record of Madoff or his company making any investments in its funds.


"We are not aware of any investments by Madoff in our funds on behalf of his clients," Fidelity spokeswoman Anne Crowley said in an e-mail to Reuters.

Neither Madoff nor his firm was a client of Fidelity's Institutional Wealth Services business, their clearing firm National Financial or a financial intermediary client of its institutional services arm, she said.

"Consequently, his firm did not work with our intermediary businesses through which firms invest their clients' money in Fidelity funds," she added.

There also appear to be discrepancies between monthly statements sent to investors and the actual prices at which the stocks traded on Wall Street.

For example, his November statement showed he bought software maker Apple Inc's securities at $100.78 each on November 12, about a month before his arrest.

But Apple's stock on that day never traded above $93.24. The statement also showed he bought chip maker Intel Corp at $14.51 on November 12, but Intel's highest price on that day was $13.97.

"You could print up any statements you want on the computer and send it out to a client and the chances are the client wouldn't know, because they are getting a statement," said Neil Hackman, president and chief executive of Oak Financial Group, a Stamford, Connecticut-based investment advisory firm.

To some, the numbers did not add up.

About 10 years ago, Harry Markopolos, then chief investment officer at Rampart Investment Management Co in Boston, asked risk management consultant Daniel diBartolomeo to run Madoff's numbers after Markopolos tried to emulate Madoff's strategy.

DiBartolomeo ran regression analyses and various calculations, but failed to reconcile them. For a decade, Markopolos raised the issue with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has come under fire in Congress in recent weeks for failing to act on Markopolos's warnings.

(Additional reporting by Muralikumar Anantharaman; Editing by Andre Grenon)

World - US;Obama tells daughters he ran for president for them, all children

Slideshow: President-elect Barack Obama Play Video Video: Michelle Obama under the spotlight AP Play Video Video: Obama in wax Reuters WASHINGTON (AFP) – In an open letter to his young daughters, US president-elect Barack Obama said Thursday that he entered the race for the White House "because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation."

"When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me -- about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world," Obama said in the letter published in Parade magazine, a weekend newspaper color supplement.

"I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfilment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation," wrote the soon-to-be Dad-in-chief.

Obama's wish-list for children includes challenging and inspirational schools; equal opportunity to go to university, regardless of their family's financial standing; and well-paid jobs with benefits such as health care and a pension plan that will allow them to "retire with dignity."

The 47-year-old father of Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, said he wants to "push the boundaries" of discovery to encourage the development of new technology and inventions that improve lives and protect the environment.

And he spoke of his vision of a United States that has reached "beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other."

He would strive to send young Americans to war "only for a very good reason", trying first to settle differences with other nations peacefully.

"These are the things I want for you -- to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world," wrote Obama.

"And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure," wrote Obama, who on Tuesday will move into the White House with his two daughters and wife, Michelle.

Lifestyle - Mind your workplace manners -- it pays

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Manners maketh the businessman, with a global survey finding Americans and Britons to be the most easily insulted by lack of workplace etiquette, while Australians are among the most offensive.

The survey, by Australian-based international office space provider Servcorp, listed the top five most offensive workplace behaviors as not saying hello or good morning, not offering office guests a beverage, speaking loudly across the room, using swear words and taking calls on mobile phones.

The use of stationery without permission and asking colleagues about their personal lives were also deemed insulting.

The poll then revealed the United States and Britain to be the most sensitive nations in the world, despite 60 percent of respondents believing Japan has the strictest work etiquette.

English and American businessmen were also more easily offended than their colleagues in the Middle East, Japan and China, nations with cultural traditions spanning centuries.

Almost 25 percent of Australians, however, thought it was perfectly acceptable to swear -- something the majority of Japanese and Middle Easterners found deeply offensive.

Nearly all Australians polled also said they would not think twice about addressing their boss by their first name, something Chinese business people found very rude.

Australians also regularly talk loudly at work, take personal calls and ask too many personal questions, the survey showed.

"Being aware of potentially offensive behavior is a key factor to Australian business success abroad," Taine Moufarrige, Servcorp's executive director, said in a statement.

"Australians are very natural in their business style, perhaps more so than any other country in the world," she said, adding that the survey, which was sent to some 700 businesspeople in 13 countries, was commissioned to help Australians.

The survey found that although they are not easily offended, Australians were more ticked off than their international colleagues by business people who don't buy drinks and who don't offer guests beverages.

(Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by David Fox)

Tech - US, Chinese researchers engineer invisible cloak: study

WASHINGTON (AFP) – In a breakthrough that could signal a new era for human technology, US and Chinese researchers announced they are a step closer to creating an invisibility shield.

In a development made possible by advances in designing complex mathematical commands known as algorithms, engineers at Duke University, North Carolina were able to create what they call "metamaterials."

These materials can "guide electromagnetic waves around an object, only to have them emerge on the other side as if they had passed through an empty volume of space," according to the team, whose work was published in the January 16 edition of the journal Science.

The cloaking phenomenon is similar to mirages seen at a distance on a hot day, according to senior researcher David R. Smith.

"You see what looks like water hovering over the road, but it is in reality a reflection from the sky," Smith said.

"In that example, the mirage you see is cloaking the road below. In effect, we are creating an engineered mirage with this latest cloak design."

The team, who were backed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation of China among others, worked off their 2006 prototype that proved the project's feasibility.

But Smith said their latest cloak is far superior to the original design, Smith said.

"The new device can cloak a much wider spectrum of waves -- nearly limitless -- and will scale far more easily to infrared and visible light," he said.

"The approach we used should help us expand and improve our abilities to cloak different types of waves."

The breakthrough has the potential of advancing numerous technologies that already exist, and ideas that have yet to be devised.

"By eliminating the effects of obstructions, cloaking devices could improve wireless communications, or acoustic cloaks could serve as protective shields, preventing the penetration of vibrations, sound or seismic waves," said the team.

The cloak, measuring 20 inches (50.8 centimeters) by four inches (10 centimeters) and less than an inch (2.5 centimeter) high, is constructed with 10,000 fiberglass pieces arranged in parallel rows, 6,000 of which are unique.

The unique algorithms that can affect electromagnetic waves determined the shape and placement of each piece, the team indicated.

World - Zimbabwe unveils 100 trillion dollar note

HARARE (AFP) – Zimbabwe will introduce a 100 trillion dollar note, in its latest attempt to keep pace with hyperinflation that has left its once-vibrant economy in tatters, state media said Friday.

The new 100,000,000,000,000 Zim-dollar bill would have been worth about 300 US dollars (225 euros) at Thursday's exchange rate on the informal market, where most currency trading now takes place, but the value of the local currency erodes dramatically every day.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is introducing three other notes in trillion-dollar denominations of 10, 20 and 50, the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper said.

"In a move meant to ensure that the public has access to their money from banks, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has introduced a new family of banknotes which will gradually come into circulation, starting with the 10 trillion Zimbabwe-dollar," the bank said in a statement quoted by the Herald.

Just last week, the bank had introduced billion-dollar bills in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 with the same goal, but those notes are no longer large enough to keep up with hyperinflation.

The last official estimate put inflation at 231 million percent in July, but outside experts now believe it is many times higher.

When Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe first took power in 1980, following independence from Britain, the local unit was worth about the same as the British pound.

With the local currency in freefall, everyone from streetside vegetable vendors to mobile phone service providers are pegging their prices in foreign currency to hedge against losses.

Zimbabwe's central bank has licensed at least 1,000 shops to sell goods in foreign currency in a move aimed at helping businesses suffering from a chronic shortage of foreign currency to import spare parts and foreign goods.

Other shops and service providers have followed suit although they have not been authorised by the government and have done so despite warnings that those arrested for flouting foreign exchange regulations would be prosecuted.

Even basic commodities are scarce in Zimbabwe, driving up their prices in US dollar terms and making life here more expensive than in neighbouring countries, while an estimated 80 percent of the population has been driven into poverty.

The crisis has left Zimbabwe's health services in tatters, with government doctors and nurses on an indefinite strike to demand higher wages after hyperinflation turned their salaries into pittances.

Even if the doctors were on the job, public hospitals and clinics have no money to buy medicine or equipment, no clean water, and often scant supplies of electricity.

Most teachers have left the classroom to eek out a living elsewhere, and end-of-year examinations taken in November have yet to be graded after the markers demanded their wages in foreign currency, the Herald said Friday.

Schools were supposed to re-open this week for the new academic year, but government has already pushed back the start of classes by two weeks since students don't yet know if they passed.

The breakdown in the national infrastructure has allowed a cholera epidemic to spread across Zimbabwe, claiming more than 2,100 lives, according to UN estimates.

Meanwhile chronic shortages of food are starting to bite again this year, as rural households' supplies from last year's harvest are running out months before the new crops will be ready.

The World Food Programme says five million people -- nearly half the population -- are dependent on food aid.

The crisis shows little sign of abating with government deadlocked after disputed elections last year. Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal four months, which has yet to be implemented.

Lifestyle - Obama returns night-owl presidency

Carrie Budoff Brown

Barack Obama is bringing back the night-owl presidency.

With the metabolism of a White House set by its occupant, Obama's team is preparing for a return to long nights, heavy weekend shifts – and a boss who will venture into Washington far more than the place's current resident.

It’s a throwback to Bill Clinton’s cramming-for-an-exam style, a shift from George W. Bush’s early-bird routine. Aides expect the workload to be so intense, at least for the early months, that they’re trying to formalize ways to help staffers stay in touch with spouses and kids – with ideas under consideration that include inviting family members into the White House for casual after-hours meals.

Another possibility: urging aides to go home for dinner, as long as they come back to finish the night.

Obama aides say there are no specifics so far, but hinted that staffers' children may be seeing the inside of the White House like never before – as way to stay in touch with Mom or Dad.

“Family is very important to the Obamas and while the challenges ahead will require long hours, hard work and sacrifice for everyone in the incoming administration they hope to make the White House a place that is open and welcoming to the families of White House employees,” said Jen Psaki, an Obama spokeswoman.

Bush famously arrives at the Oval Office by dawn, leaves by 6 p.m. and goes to bed by 10 p.m. Dinners out are as rare as a lunar eclipse.

Obama, by contrast, stays up late. He holds conference calls with senior staff as late as 11 p.m., and often reads and writes past midnight. Ahead of the Democratic National Convention, he spent consecutive nights holed up in a Chicago hotel room, working on his speech until 2 a.m.

And in the 10 days alone, Obama stopped by a Senate cocktail party, dined out with foreign policy types, and made a visit Saturday to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a Washington institution and pillar in the African-American community. He stayed out until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at a dinner with conservative columnists.

“The expectation is that it will be a lot of hours, and hours we were used to working before the transition,” one Obama aide said. “Everybody is comfortable with that. There is an expectation that the first few months will set the tone.”

Michelle Obama often speaks of using her new role as First Lady to highlight the struggles of balancing work and family. But she need look no further than her husband’s White House, where not just the incoming president – a father of two daughters – will feel torn.

The senior ranks include several parents of young children, including incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, press secretary Robert Gibbs, and Jackie Norris, chief of staff to the First Lady.

In his attempt to maintain balance, Obama would routinely divert his lumbering campaign apparatus back to Chicago simply to be present for important events: picking out a Christmas tree, taking the girls to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, attending a dance recital. His staff would take their own timeouts, too. Gibbs flew home less than five days before the election so he could spend Halloween with his son.

“There is a great deal of respect and importance for being there for your children,” the aide said.

Still, the White House will no doubt foster an unforgiving pace, particularly now that late nights may be more normal than they were under Bush. Emanuel, for example, doesn’t think twice about dialing up his staff as early as 6 a.m. He schmoozes after work at Washington hot spots, and emails late into the night.

Bush and his top aides prided themselves on promoting a family-friendly White House, as much as 12-hour days and a Blackberry-wired existence can count as healthy. The first White House chief of staff, Andy Card, initially started the senior staff meetings at 6:30 a.m. But when several of the working moms told Bush the time was too early, Card moved it to 7 a.m.

Parents could cut out for family events. The work day ends between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., although they were expected to be available by Blackberry. And staff even made time for afternoon workouts at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building three days a week, a break in the work day that Bush “highly endorsed,” said Mary Matalin, a former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“The working culture was mature,” Matalin, a mother of two daughters, said in an email. “The culture of staying late just to stay late was discouraged, even frowned upon. The operating principle was to pace yourself to be able to provide peak performance.”

"Both the president and vice president insisted we try to have integrated family lives," Matalin said.

"Balance is not possible in a White House job, but if you had a family deal, you went and were never remotely made to feel awkward about it."

Karen Hughes, a longtime adviser and close confidant to Bush, established what she called a “Midweek Moment.” She would try to leave the office early – at 5:30 p.m. – once a week so she could spend time with her teenage son, who was usually sleeping when she left in the morning and in bed when she got home.

“I made it half the time,” Hughes said of her “Midweek Moment.”

Even with the family-friendly mantra, both Matalin and Hughes stayed in the White House for less than two years. Like the Obama team, they arrived in Washington after an extended and grueling presidential campaign that makes burnout all the more likely.

“It is very difficult to meet your responsibilities to both your family and job,” Hughes said.

The Clinton White House, on the other hand, offered no pretense of normalcy.

“I fully admit that we may have overdone it,” said Michael Feldman, a partner at The Glover Park Group who served in the White House for eight years as an adviser to Vice President Al Gore. “We took the campaign mentality directly into the White House. … It was a direct extension of the campaign. People worked literally around the clock and slept in their offices. There never seemed to be enough hours.”

Clinton set the tone, staying in the Oval Office until 10 p.m. That meant others felt like they couldn’t leave until he did.

Hughes said the Obama White House might want to consider shift work – a day shift and a night shift – to lighten the load.

“You don’t want to burn people out,” Hughes said. “You don’t want them to become so busy that they can’t function to their maximum potential. After 12- or 14-hour days, I was mentally shot. It was hard to do anything effectively.”

Business - Bank of America gets 20 billion to help absorb Merrill Lynch

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Bank of America will receive 20 billion dollars in fresh capital and a 118-billion-dollar asset guarantee program to help shore it up after acquiring Merrill Lynch, the US Treasury Department announced early Friday.

The Treasury said in a joint statement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that it "will invest 20 billion dollars" in BofA from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) "in exchange for preferred stock with an 8 percent dividend to the Treasury."

The Treasury and the FDIC will also "provide protection against the possibility of unusually large losses on an asset pool of approximately 118 billion dollars of loans, securities backed by residential and commercial real estate loans, and other such assets, all of which have been marked to current market value," the statement read.

Bank of America has already received 25 billion dollars (19 billion euros) in capital injections from the TARP, a US financial bailout fund that helped rescue mostly banks reeling from financial turmoil triggered by a home mortgage meltdown.

That included 10 billion dollars for the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America bought in a deal that closed January 1.

In return for the aid, Bank of America must meet strict restrictions on executive pay and compensations, and implement a mortgage loan modification program.

"The objective of this program is to foster financial market stability and thereby to strengthen the economy and protect American jobs, savings, and retirement security," Treasury said.

The announcement came just hours ahead of the bank's release Friday of its fourth-quarter earnings

Tech - YouTube Mutes Copyrighted Music, Angers Users

Jennifer LeClaire

In a move to balance the needs of music copyright holders and its content-generating users, YouTube on Wednesday said it's offering more options to users who violate copyrights. The result is hundreds of videos without sound.

The move seems to be in response to a Warner Music Group demand in December that YouTube cut off access to videos that contain Warner music. The demand came after negotiations on licensing agreements stalled.

At that time, YouTube warned users that they "may notice videos that contain music owned by Warner Music Group being blocked from the site." YouTube is no longer threatening. It has moved to block the music content while trying to appease users. Many users, however, are up in arms about the change.

YouTube's Compromise

Previously, when a music label or other rights owner issued a copyright claim to block audio, YouTube automatically took the video down. Uploaders had two choices: dispute the claim -- in the case of fair use, for example -- or use YouTube's AudioSwap tool to replace the track with one from a library of approved music.

"Music licensing can get very complicated, but we try to make your experience as simple as possible," YouTube's blog said. "We want you to have options when uploading videos with music in them. And if your video is subject to a copyright claim, you should have some choices, too."

YouTube has been fingerprinting audio tracks and informing users when they infringe on copyrights. The copyright owner got the option of having the video removed or letting it stay up along with revenue-generating ads.

Now instead of a video being removed, users have an option to modify the video by removing the disputed music and posting a new version. YouTube reports that many of its users are taking that option.

"Our content-management tools have revolutionized the ways in which users and content owners are distributing, marketing and making money from video online," YouTube said. "As we continue to build out this system, we are working to find the right balance between encouraging creativity and free expression and respecting the rights of copyright holders and the law."

YouTube Users Angry

But some YouTube members aren't thrilled with the option. A user named KariWolf wrote on YouTube's blog, "Okay, so YouTube is going to suck more now. First they put ads on a bunch of good music videos ... They already were horrible at deleting the right videos, deleting videos that did nothing wrong. And while all that goes on, they leave videos that should be deleted, alive. Now this ..."

Other YouTube members are calling for a boycott of the music industry. "We can't stand by silently while the music industry continues its decades-long effort to lock up our culture!" a user named HispanicImpression wrote on the blog. "Only buy audio CDs secondhand from now on ... Don't download from online music stores anymore. Support self-marketing bands. Spread this message here on every muted video you encounter."

But according to Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media, YouTube's move was inevitable. "The copyright has to be respected. The people that have been putting stuff up on YouTube and not respecting copyrights don't have much of a basis for complaints. Sites like YouTube will continue to take steps to honor copyrights in every way they can."

Science - Fish digestions help keep the oceans healthy

LONDON (Reuters) – The digestive systems of fish play a vital role in maintaining the health of the oceans and moderating climate change, researchers said on Thursday.

Computer models showed how bony fish produced a large portion of the inorganic carbon that helps maintain the oceans' acidity balance and was vital for marine life, they said.

The world's bony fish population, estimated at between 812 million and 2 billion tons, helped to limit the consequences of climate change through its effect on the carbon cycle, University of British Columbia researchers reported in the journal Science.

"This study is really the first glimpse of the huge impact fish have on our carbon cycle -- and why we need them in the ocean," researcher Villy Christensen and colleagues wrote.

Calcium carbonate is a white, chalky material that helps control the acidity balance of sea water and is essential to the health of marine ecosystems and coral reefs.

It helps regulate how much carbon dioxide oceans would be able to absorb from the atmosphere in the future, the researchers said.

Until now, scientists believed calcium carbonate came from microscopic marine plankton. The new findings suggested between 3 percent and 15 percent of the material comes from bony fish, said Rod Wilson of the University of Exeter in Britain, who worked on the study.

Bony fish, which include about 90 percent of marine species but not sharks or rays, produce calcium carbonate that forms crystals in the gut and is then excreted in chalky solids.

"Because of the impact of global climate change, fish are likely to have an even bigger influence on the chemistry of our oceans in the future," Wilson said in a statement.

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Nick Vinocur)

Business - Intel sees more hard times in 2009

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Intel Corp. appears to be playing it safe with an ugly first-quarter forecast.

The chip maker reported Thursday that profit plunged 90 percent and sales slipped 23 percent during the last three months of the year, matching analysts' subdued estimates.

Wall Street was braced for the bad news: Intel had lowered its fourth-quarter guidance twice, including once just last week, warning that weaker-than-expected PC demand was hammering down demand for its microprocessors.

So what about 2009? Intel said it doesn't know when demand will pick back up, so the Santa Clara-based company set the bar low and offered first-quarter guidance at the low end of what analysts were expecting.

Intel said it 2009 sales will likely be around $7 billion, which translates to a decline of more than 25 percent from the first quarter of 2008. Gross profit margin should also sink sharply, falling from more than 50 percent of sales to the low-40 percent range, it said.

Gross profit is a key measure of how well a company is controlling its costs, but falling demand, heavy investment in factory upgrades and big costs for running factories at less than full throttle will all take their toll on Intel's bottom line.

Intel said the financial crisis has made it so difficult to predict revenue that the company wouldn't offer a precise estimate. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting $7.3 billion in sales, on average, but estimates ranged from $6.6 billion to as high as $9.3 billion.

The profit forecast was below many estimates, but was good enough to send Intel's shares up 3.8 percent in after-hours trading.

"I don't think they're good numbers, but they're good numbers to start from," said Cody Acree, senior semiconductor analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. "We all knew they would be bad, and that they'd come down, but they've set a base to work from."

Intel's Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith said in an interview that computer-makers' inventory levels fell in the fourth quarter and continued falling into the first quarter, which means they're not buying as many new chips. He said Intel's product lineup positions the company well to take advantage when demand starts rising again, but Smith cautioned that no one knows yet when that might be.

"It's very difficult to precisely call when we'll hit the bottom," he said.

In the fourth quarter, Intel's net income was $234 million, or 4 cents per share, compared with $2.3 billion, or 38 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Profits were squeezed by a freeze in information-technology spending and a shift toward low-margin processors for a class of little laptops known as "netbooks." A big reason for the severity of the fourth-quarter drop, though, was a $1 billion writedown of the value of Intel's investment in Internet provider Clearwire Corp.

Clearwire specializes in a new type of wireless broadband technology called WiMax that Intel is building into its chips, and has stumbled on fears the credit crunch will derail its ambitious network buildout plans.

Intel's sales were $8.2 billion, a 23 percent shortfall from last year.

For all of 2008, Intel earned $5.3 billion, 24 percent lower than a year ago, on sales of $37.6 billion, a 2 percent decline.

PC demand is sinking fast, which takes its toll on Intel because Intel owns 80 percent of the market for microprocessors, the brains of personal computers. Market research firms IDC and Gartner Inc. reported this week that PC sales growth in the fourth quarter was the worst it's been in six years, with the slump expected to drag out until possibly 2010.

Bobby Burleson, managing director of equity research for Canaccord Adams, called Intel's profit forecast disappointing, but said it likely indicates that Intel has "come clean with what sounds like a worst-case scenario for this year."

One area where Intel shines is controlling its manufacturing costs, where it enjoys a big advantage over smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Intel's quicker transition than AMD to 45-nanometer manufacturing technology, which shrinks the size of the chips' circuitry, has made each chip cheaper to produce. That has helped cushion the blow of falling sales.

AMD — which has lost billions of dollars over the past two years, recently changed CEOs, and is spinning off its factories to save money — warned that its fourth-quarter sales will likely come in 33 percent lower than last year. AMD reports quarterly results Jan. 22.

During the regular trading session before the earnings report, Intel stock rose 21 cents, 1.6 percent, to close at $13.29. The shares hit $13.85 in after-hours trading.

Tech - An Internet era ends as technology icons exit

Glenn Chapman

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Steve Jobs exiting the Apple stage, perhaps not to return, signals a close to an Internet Age era with roots stretching back to the radical hippie movement of the 1960s.

His departure for health reasons comes some seven months after his renowned rival Bill Gates retired from Microsoft to devote himself to philanthropic work.

The two culture-changing men were seen as leaders of rival camps: personal computer lovers versus the cult of Macintosh computers.

Technology allegiances were the stuff of fierce debates in coffee houses and other Silicon Valley social settings, with vitriol spewed by all sides.

Macintosh devotees were passionate underdogs standing up to PC faithful whose confidence was cemented by the fact more than 90 percent of the computers in the world are PCs running on Microsoft operating systems.

The dueling technologies had faces at which people aimed praise of scorn. Gates was the PC. Jobs is the Macintosh.

Jerry Yang, the very public face of Internet pioneer Yahoo!, was replaced as chief executive this week by Carol Bartz and it seems he has already faded into the purple and gold woodwork at the firm's California headquarters.

"In many ways we are stepping out of the age where the people are defining the company," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

"We talk about the Google kids, but are the founders truly icons. I argue not. We seem to be moving away from the age where there is a face behind the company; a larger than life human component."

Ironically, while Google and other modern Internet superstars use private data about their millions of users to target ads, their founders tend to vigilantly protect their privacy.

"In many ways, Internet companies are losing their personalities," Enderle said. "Ever changing brands in a constant sea of surging names."

Jobs and Gates, both born in 1955, grew up during the socially rebellious 1960s and bear its mark, according to Peter Friess, a historian who is president of The Tech Museum of Innovation in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Gates and Jobs both dropped out of college to pursue dreams of building computers for people.

Before Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak made the first Apple computer, they crafted a "blue box" to get around paying for long distance telephone calls.

"They came out of a time when culture meant a lot to all of us," Friess said.

"It was a revolutionary time. It is always a time that creates people. Now, Google, Facebook and others align much more with the system. Social networks don't change the world like Jobs and Gates did."

Bringing personal computers to the masses fulfilled a hippie mantra of "Power to the people," according to Friess.

While the first PCs and "Macs" were sold by Gates and Jobs before there was a Web to surf, the men led their respective companies to glory in the Internet Age.

"In time, I suppose we might look back at the leaders of big search companies in a similar way, but it really feels like a thin comparison," said University of California, Berkeley, information school assistant professor Coye Cheshire.

"If only because all these fantastic information services only became practical and truly useful once we had the PCs, Macs, iPods, Xboxes, Zunes, iPhones, etc in our lives."

Crises with climate change and wars fought for control of oil have set the stage for new iconic visionaries in the molds of Gates or Jobs to rise in the area of renewable energy, says Friess.

"Putting personal computers in the hands was really giving power to the people," Friess said.

"I'm waiting for someone in the renewable energy world with the same vision Jobs had in the computer world."

In a rare joint appearance, Jobs and Gates reminisced on stage at an All Things Digital conference in California two years ago. The men joked that their rivalry was misunderstood.

"We've kept our marriage secret for over a decade now," Jobs quipped, eliciting raucous laughter from the audience.

While Jobs and Gates "personified the dispute" between Apple and Microsoft, the two companies are unlikely to change their ways without their iconic founders, according to analyst Michael Cherry of Directions On Microsoft.

"No one wants to die ... and yet death is the destination we all share," Jobs told a stadium packed with students during a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

"Death is possibly the single best invention in life. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

World - US;All 155 survive as pilot ditches plane in Hudson


NEW YORK – A cool-headed pilot maneuvered his crippled jetliner over New York City and ditched it in the frigid Hudson River on Thursday, and all 155 on board were pulled to safety as the plane slowly sank. It was, the governor said, "a miracle on the Hudson."

One victim suffered two broken legs, a paramedic said, but there were no other reports of serious injuries.

US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., struck a flock of birds just after takeoff minutes earlier at LaGuardia Airport, apparently disabling the engines.

The pilot, identified as Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III of Danville, Calif., "was phenomenal," passenger Joe Hart said. "He landed it — I tell you what, the impact wasn't a whole lot more than a rear-end (collision). It threw you into the seat ahead of you.

"Both engines cut out and he actually floated it into the river," he said.

In a city still wounded from the aerial attack on the World Trade Center, authorities were quick to assure the public that terrorism wasn't involved.

The plane was submerged up to its windows in the river by the time rescuers arrived, including Coast Guard vessels and commuter ferries that happened to be nearby. Some passengers waded in water up to their knees, standing on the wing of the plane and waiting for help.

Helen Rodriguez, a paramedic who was among the first to arrive at the scene, said she saw one woman with two broken legs. Fire officials said others were evaluated for hypothermia, bruises and other minor injuries. An infant was on board and appeared to be fine, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"We had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a miracle on the Hudson," Gov. David Paterson said.

The crash took place on a 20-degree day, one of the coldest of the season in New York. The Coast Guard said the water temperature was 36 degrees.

Dave Sanderson, who was flying home to Charlotte after a business trip, said the sound of an explosion was followed by passengers running up the aisle and people being shoved out of the way.

As the plane descended, passenger Vallie Collins tapped out a text message to her husband, Steve: "My plane is crashing." He was desperately trying to figure out whether she had been on the downed plane when the message arrived.

Another passenger, Jeff Kolodjay, said people put their heads in their laps and prayed. He said the captain instructed them to "brace for impact because we're going down."

"It was intense. It was intense. You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," Kolodjay said.

Witnesses said the pilot appeared to guide the plane down. Barbara Sambriski, a researcher at The Associated Press, watched the water landing from the news organization's high-rise office. "I just thought, 'Why is it so low?' And, splash, it hit the water," she said.

As water slowly filled the cabin, Sanderson said he and another passenger helped people out onto the wing. One woman had a 3-year-old child, he said, and safely tossed the toddler onto a raft before climbing on herself.

One commuter ferry, the Thomas Jefferson of the company NY Waterway, arrived within minutes of the crash, and some of its own riders grabbed life vests and lines of rope and tossed them to plane passengers in the water.

"They were cheering when we pulled up," ferry captain Vincent Lombardi. "We had to pull an elderly woman out of a raft in a sling. She was crying. ... People were panicking. They said, 'Hurry up, hurry up.'"

Paramedics treated at least 78 patients, fire officials said. Coast Guard boats rescued 35 people who were immersed in the frigid water and ferried them to shore. Some of the rescued were shivering and wrapped in white blankets, their feet and legs soaked.

Two police scuba divers said they pulled another woman from a lifeboat "frightened out of her mind" and lethargic from hypothermia. Another woman fell off a rescue raft, and the divers said they swam over and put her on a Coast Guard boat.

The plane took off at 3:26 p.m. for a flight that would last only five minutes. It was less than a minute after takeoff when the pilot reported a "double bird strike" and said he needed to return to LaGuardia, said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He said the pilot apparently meant that birds had hit both of the plane's jet engines.

The controller told the pilot to divert to an airport in nearby Teterboro, N.J., but it was not clear why the pilot did not land there.

Church said there was no mayday call from the plane's transponder. The plane splashed into the water off roughly 48th Street in midtown Manhattan — one of the busiest and most closely watched stretches of the river.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker said 150 passengers, three flight attendants and two pilots were on board the jetliner.

An official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still ongoing identified the pilot as Sullenberger. A woman answered and hung up when the AP asked to speak with Sullenberger's family in Danville.

Sullenberger, 57, described himself in an online professional profile as a 29-year employee of US Airways. He started his own consulting business, Safety Reliability Methods Inc., two years ago.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo said they had employees on the plane. Charlotte is a major banking center.

Eric Doten, a Florida aviation safety consultant, said he could not recall another example of a modern jetliner water crash in which everyone survived. He said many things had to go right to avert catastrophe: The plane didn't cartwheel when it hit, the fuselage remained intact, and the fuel did not ignite — in fact its buoyancy probably helped the plane stay afloat.

The plane sank slowly as it drifted downriver. Gradually, the fuselage went under until about half of the tail fin and rudder was above water. A Fire Department boat tugged the plane to the southern tip of Manhattan and docked it there.

The Federal Aviation Administration says there were about 65,000 bird strikes to civil aircraft in the United States from 1990 to 2005, or about one for every 10,000 flights.

"They literally just choke out the engine and it quits," said Joe Mazzone, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot. He said air traffic control towers routinely alert pilots if there are birds in the area.

The Hudson crash took place almost exactly 27 years after an Air Florida plane bound for Tampa crashed into the Potomac River just after takeoff from Washington National Airport, killing 78 people. Five people on that flight survived.

On Dec. 20, a Continental Airlines plane veered off a runway and slid into a snowy field at the Denver airport, injuring 38 people. That was the first major crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since Aug. 27, 2006, when 49 people were killed after a Comair jetliner took off from a Lexington, Ky., runway that was too short.


Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan, Joan Lowy and Michael J. Sniffen in Washington; Richard Pyle, Adam Goldman, Colleen Long and Deborah Hastings in New York; and Harry R. Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Business - Music industry still faces huge online piracy: report

LONDON (AFP) - The global music industry is making progress in clamping down on online piracy by evolving radical new ways of selling tunes, but 95 percent of downloads remain illegal, a report said Friday.

New business models helped the legal online music sector balloon for a sixth straight year in 2008, growing by 25 percent to 3.7 billion dollars (2.8 billion euros) in trade value, it said.

But some 40 billion music files were still illicitly shared last year, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in its annual report on the state of digital music.

"The music sector is still overshadowed by the huge amount of unlicensed music distributed online," it said, citing studies in 16 countries showing that only one in 20 downloads are via legal channels.

Cutting pirates' Internet connections is an increasingly-used option for dealing with persistent offenders, rather than threatening people with fines or other criminal sanctions.

But overall, things are looking up online: digital outlets -- as opposed to CDs and other traditional forms of music -- now account for some 20 percent of recorded music sales, up from 15 per cent in 2007, said the 30-page report.

Sales of single tracks continues to drive the digital music expansion, and were up 24 percent in 2008 to 1.4 billion sales, while online album sales also grew by 36 percent, according to the IFPI's Digital Music Report 2009.

New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" was the biggest-selling digital single worldwide last year, with 9.1 million copies sold -- a figure 1.8 million bigger than the best-selling single in 2007.

But new methods of selling are exploding, including a a new generation of music subscription services, social networking sites and new licensing channels, led by services like Nokia Comes With Music and MySpace Music.

Partnerships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also opening up as a new sales route, including TDC in Denmark, Neuf Cegetel in France, Sweden's TeliaSonera and BSkyB in Britain.

"The recorded music industry is reinventing itself and its business models," said IFPI chairman John Kennedy.

"There is a momentous debate going on about the environment on which our business... depends. Governments are beginning to accept that... doing nothing is not an option if there is to be a future for commercial digital content."

The music industry body welcomed the way governments were collaborating with Internet providers to curb piracy.

"In 2008 a tipping point was reached, with governments in France and the UK leading the way in looking to ISPs to help bring piracy on their networks under control," it said.

In particular ISPs are cooperating in cutting Internet access for offenders.

"The momentum for ISP cooperation extends beyond France and the UK. New Zealand will start requiring ISPs to implement a policy of terminating the accounts of repeat infringers in February," it said.

Authorities in the United States, Italy, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea are also thinking of such a move, according to IFPI.

There is also evidence that the digital expansion is having a negative effect on locally-produced music, reducing the number of home-grown artists, who struggle due to easy availability of music from around the world.

In France, album releases by new artists fell by 16 per cent in the first half of 2008, and home-grown music accounted for 10 per cent of albums, compared to 15 per cent in the first half of 2005.

In Spain, just one new local artist featured in the Top 50 albums from January to November 2008, compared to 10 in 2003.

Overall, though, the IFPI report was positive, saying it "shows an industry that has shifted its approach from one based only on unit sales of music to 'monetising' access to music across a multitude of channels and platforms

Sport - Lakers star Bryant to write blog for Chinese web site

Greg Heakes

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has signed a lucrative marketing agreement with Internet giant SINA.com to write a blog for their Chinese website.

The 30-year-old Bryant enjoys a huge following among the 1.3 billion people in China where his popularity rivals that of Houston Rockets star Yao Ming.

"As a kid growing up I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have this big fan base half way around the world in Beijing and Shanghai," said Bryant during a red-carpet reception Thursday at the Club Nokia bar to announce the launch of his new Chinese-language web site.

"They know everything about me and my family. We had such a great time at the Beijing Olympics. They treated us very well."

The blog will be featured on a website dedicated to Bryant and the Lakers. Under the terms of the agreement, the blog would be translated into Chinese and exclusive to SINA's readers.

"The only English version will be the one I type into my BlackBerry," said Bryant.

Upon his introduction Bryant appeared wearing a traditional Chinese-style jacket. He then stood in front of red-doored Oriental facade framed by hanging imitation firecrackers that lit up and crackled amid a swirl of confetti.

The only aesthetic glitch was the bandage over Bryant's right eye which covered a cut he sustained in a recent game against the Miami Heat that took four stitches to close.

The site will include interviews, pictures and video of Bryant. SINA and Bryant declined to reveal financial details of the agreement.

Bryant is the second National Basketball Association star to launch a website on SINA, following Chinese player Yi Jianlian. Bryant already has his own website in English, called kb24.com. SINA says 40 percent of the readers who go to its sports section are NBA fans.

SINA chief executive Charles Chao estimates there are 300 million NBA fans in China almost the entire population of the United States.

"It is hard to compare the two. But if you set aside Yao, then Kobe is the most important basketball player in China," Chao said. "He will have to come to China more often."

Bryant said he would like expand his online home and do something similar websites in other languages. A third-culture kid, Bryant was born in Philadelphia but moved to Italy at a young age where his father played professional basketball.

"We have been thinking about it," Bryant said. "I would like to do one in Italian. Italy is my home away from home. I have a great time going there to do basketball camps and I get to spend time catching up with my friends."

Bryant said growing up overseas has taught him to appreciate learning about other cultures and speaking different languages.

"I love it," he told AFP. "It is part of me. That's how I grew up. I take underprivileged kids on all-expense paid trips to Italy.

"Kids in Europe speak two languages. They get to see other cultures but our kids here in the United States don't get that.

"When I was growing up in Italy it opened up a whole new world to me and I thought anything was possible."

Except maybe learning Chinese. While Bryant is fluent in Italian, his Chinese is a work in progress.

"I am trying to learn to speak some Chinese," Bryant said. "I have a teacher who is teaching me one new word a day. But, now that I think about it, it seems like it is the same word each day."

Bryant said he's not worried about Chinese censors changing the meaning of his blog reports. Even though he won't be able to read the finished product he trusts that the translation will be accurate.

"You need to have respect for their culture and history and what their guidelines are," Bryant said.

SINA.com is the largest Chinese language information web portal with an estimated 94 million registered users.

Health - Postnatal depression can be treated, prevented: studies

PARIS (AFP) – Many women struggling with the post-baby blues may expect only a hug or a couple of pills, but in new studies published on Friday, doctors say counselling can not only treat this risky condition but prevent it, too.

Professional counsellors can reduce rates of postnatal depression by 40 percent, while support from fellow mothers can reduce the risk of developing this dangerous disorder by half, they say.

In one paper, a team led by Jane Morrell of the University of Sheffield, northern England, divided more than 4,000 new mothers into three groups.

In the first two groups, the volunteers each received a weekly session of psychological counselling over eight weeks, using either of two techniques.

The so-called "cognitive behaviour approach" focuses on unhelpful behaviour patterns and thoughts in the mother, and helps overcome them by pointing out that these reflexes are a common part of the post-natal experience.

The "person-centered approach" emphasizes empathy and unconditional support for the mother's feelings.

The third group was a "control" group of women who received standard health care treatment.

Women who were diagnosed with depression six weeks after giving birth were 40 percent less likely to have the same symptoms six months later if they had either form of counselling, the investigators found.

The second trial, likewise published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), identified 701 pregnant women in Ontario, Canada, who were estimated to be at risk of developing postnatal depression.

Half of the group were given standard post-natal care while the other half were given telephone support by a peer volunteer -- a woman with first-hand knowledge of post-baby blues.

Getting this peer support halved the risk of depression at 12 weeks after birth, the report said.

"These trials add to the growing evidence that postnatal depression can be effectively treated and possibly prevented," said lead researcher Cindy-Lee Dennis of the University of Toronto.

The barriers to treatment, however, remain high, she said.

Women are often unaware of the syndrome and are apt to deny or minimise its symptoms. And even when they do feel they need help, they may be unaware of treatment options or unwilling to reveal emotional distress.

"They fear being labelled mentally ill, having their children taken away, or being perceived as not fulfilling their maternal role," she said.

Postnatal depression affects one in eight women in diverse cultures around the world, and is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality, usually through suicide.

The generally short-term but devastating mental disorder can also have a serious impact on infants and children, affecting cognitive, emotional and social development.