Monday, December 31, 2012

The world welcomes 2013 in splendor and beauty

Major celebrations to welcome the new year have taken place in some of the world's most iconic locations throughout today.
Lavish and expensive fireworks lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai and even the once-isolated country of Myanmar - also known as Burma - joined the countdown party for the first time in decades.
Much of Europe joined in the celebrations with revellers taking to the streets for fireworks in Athens, Berlin, Warsaw, and Rome.
Celebrations have been planned for around the world, including the traditional crystal ball drop in New York City's Times Square, where 1 million people are expected to cram into the surrounding streets.
Daily Mail brings the excitement and color from different parts of the world.

Check it out: 

Rise of online sperm donor

Increasing numbers of women are turning to internet sperm donors to become mothers after failing to find the man of their dreams.
Scores of women in their early twenties are logging on to websites such as and to find fathers for their children.
Many women, some of whom are as young as 18 or 19, say they are frustrated with relationships and have decided to face the challenge of parenthood alone.

According to The Sunday Times of UK, women under 25 make up a quarter of women registering on some sites, where they post pictures or themselves, as well as private information allowing potential donors to get in touch.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A fatal gap between science and policy

A little more than 30 years ago, a major UN conference on science and technology for development held in Vienna, Austria, ended on an upbeat note with an agreement in principle to set up a US$250-million fund to finance capacity-building projects.

Sadly, the heady optimism among delegates, which I remember vividly, was short lived. No major donations were received and science slipped off the international aid agenda for the next two decades, during which time the gap in scientific capacity between rich and poor nations grew larger.
Is the same happening with climate change?
Science communicators in general — and science journalists in particular — have a key role in bridging this gap. We must present scientific evidence to politicians and the public in a way that means such evidence becomes the basis for sound decisions.
The latest negotiations, COP 18, ended in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month with a similar agreement to establish a mechanism to transfer money from rich to poor nations to compensate for the "loss and damage" caused by rich countries' addiction to carbon-based fuels.
Judging from media reports, this decision was met with an enthusiasm similar to that at the 1979 Vienna conference.
But there is no binding commitment, and the possibility of significant money becoming available looks remote given that rich nations have so far failed to act on the 2010 promise to raise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations cope with climate change.

Study links milk-producing protein to aggressive breast cancer

The discovery that a protein which triggers milk production in women may also be responsible for making breast cancers aggressive could open up new opportunities for treatment of the most common and deadliest form of cancer among women.
Found in all breast cells, the protein ELF5 tries to activate milk production even in breast cancer cells, which does not work and then makes the cancer more aggressive, according to scientists in Australia and Britain.
"The discovery opens up new avenues for therapy and for designing new markers that can predict response to therapy," said lead author Professor Chris Ormandy from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blackberrry usage in US plummet as it leads in Africa

Blackberry sales in the United States continues to plummet even as its makers, Research in Motion (RIM) explore new markets and expand reach in countries like Nigeria.  Nigeria
"Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry smartphones are still used by millions of people in the United States, but the smartphone market grew so quickly over the past year that RIM’s usage share has dwindled to almost nothing," writes Zach Epstein, an industry analyst.
An Ad firm, Chitika, recently conducted an 11-month study of RIM’s usage in the US.  Its findings suggest that mobile traffic from BlackBerry devices across its network plummeted 25% between September 2011 and July 2012. RIM’s smartphones and PlayBook tablet combined to account for as much as 5% of all mobile usage in the U.S. late last year but as of last month, that figure sank to just over 1%.
Writes Adams Thierer, a Forbes magazine contributor, in an article (Bye bye BlackBerry) on the dwindling fortunes of Blackberry in the US:
Just five years ago, “BlackBerry” was virtually synonymous with “smartphones.” It was well on its way to becoming a generic trademark, like Kleenex or Band-Aid, that would seemingly forever be associated with its entire sector. “For many, the Blackberry is a must-have gadget, a wireless hand-held computer that can send e-mail and make phone calls,” noted a 2005 NPR story on the “CrackBerry,” as some BlackBerry addicts referred to the device.
Today, however, Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the maker of BlackBerry smartphones, is a financial basket case that has come to symbolize just how turbulent life in the modern digital economy can be. 
Many Nigerians today like the blackberry because of such apps as the BB chat through which you can chat once have shared pin with the other person.  This enhances their capacity to communicate without necessarily being on the internet.
BB remains the choice phone for most young and middle class Africans. "Give me your BB pin" is often the first request after a new friendship has been struck in cities like Lagos, Abuja or Accra.
But I believe the excitement of BB will be short-lived once the android system gains ground in Nigeria.

Study suggests sperm numbers are falling in rich countries

As health scares go, the idea that sperm counts are plummeting across the industrialised world, probably as a result of chemical pollution that has an adverse hormonal effect, takes some beating. In 1992 a meta-analysis of 61 papers, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested they had fallen by half in the preceding half-century, from 113m per millilitre of semen to 66m. Since then, the decline has apparently continued. The most recent paper, just published in Human Reproduction, by Joëlle le Moal, Matthieu Rolland and their colleagues at France’s Institute for Public Health Surveillance, is also one of the most comprehensive yet.
Despite the apparent drop in sperm counts they found, there was no increase in the number of infertile men during the period of their study
Its conclusions are stark. The sperm count of the average Frenchman, say the researchers, fell by 32.2% between 1989 and 2005. At the same time, the proportion of properly formed sperm also fell, from 60.9% to 52.8%.

CFR launches Nigeria Security Tracker

New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent non-profit think tank has launched its Nigeria Security Tracker, an online project that documents and maps violence across Nigeria that are motivated by "political, economic, or social grievances.
"Different groups in Nigeria resort to violence. The militant Islamist movement Boko Haram is active in northern Nigeria. Violence among ethnic groups, farmers, and herdsmen sometimes acquires religious overtones," the group notes.
The project uses tableau to visually present statistics of the killings in the country by the Boko Haram sect and other militias.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Apps to help achieve New Year's resolutions

Whether it is improving health or managing finances better, about 87 per cent of Americans will make resolutions for next year and there are plenty of apps to help them achieve their goals.
Nearly half of New Year's resolutions are about setting health-related goals, which is the most popular category, according to a recent survey by online broker TD Ameritrade.
Rather than jumping into a rigorous fitness routine, a new app called 5K Runner suggests it might be better to ease into things slowly and focus on building sustainable habits. The iPhone app helps couch potatoes ramp up their running distance to 5 kilometres over the course of eight weeks.
"You're slowly building this routine into your daily life with a lot of success and after eight weeks you're literally running 5K, which is pretty big if (initially) you're not running at all," said Mr David-Michel Davies, the executive director of The Webby Awards, an annual ceremony honouring Internet companies.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Trojan-horse therapy 'completely eliminates' cancer in mice

A hollow Trojan horse filled with soldiers was
supposedly used to enter Troy      (c)

An experimental "Trojan-horse" cancer therapy has completely eliminated prostate cancer in experiments on mice, according to UK researchers.
The team hid cancer killing viruses inside the immune system in order to sneak them into a tumour.
Once inside, a study in the journal Cancer Research showed, tens of thousands of viruses were released to kill the cancerous cells.
Experts labelled the study "exciting," but human tests are still needed.
Using viruses to destroy rapidly growing tumours is an emerging field in cancer therapy, however one of the challenges is getting the viruses deep inside the tumour where they can do the damage.
"There's a problem with getting enough virus into the tumour," Prof Claire Lewis from the University of Sheffield told the BBC.

She leads a team which uses white blood cells as 'Trojan horses' to deliver the viral punch.

Mayan Apocalypse: The world didn't end after all

 Thousands of people around the world anxiously awaiting the end of the world on Friday have seen the predicted time of the world's end come and go without incident.
The end of the Mayan 'Long Count' calendar on December 21st was thought by many to herald the apocalypse, with the end expected by many at 11.11 GMT. The date marks the end of an era that lasted over 5,000 years, or 13 "bak'tuns", according to the calendar.
Fears of mass suicides, power cuts, a magnetic shift in the poles, and a collision with a previously unsighted planet hurtling toward Earth circulated on the Internet in the run up to the day.
Events around the world to mark the date included gatherings at Mayan ruins, holy sites in southern Mexico, a sacred mountain in France, Stalin's bunker in Moscow, and Bugarach in the French Pyrenees, where doomsday believers waited for aliens to whisk them to safety.
But dawn broke in Mexico and the morning passed peacefully in France, where journalists outnumbered those seeking salvation and a party atmosphere prevailed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nutrition watchdog urges Beyoncé to drop $50m Pepsi deal

...Or donate proceeds to treat diabetes, obesity

A nutrition watchdog has urged Beyoncé Knowles to rethink her $50 million deal with Pepsi as the soft drink's "brand ambassador."
In a letter to the pop star, the Center for Science in the Public Interest told Beyoncé that by lending her name and image to the product, she is linking her "positive attributes with a product that is quite literally sickening Americans" and is associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
"I imagine that it must be hard for anyone to turn away $50 million. But this endorsement deal strikes me as particularly inappropriate considering your popularity with America's young people and the extent to which Pepsi and other sugar drinks promote disease" 
Along with offering Beyoncé a raft of statistics linking sugary drinks to disease, the CSPI also made the argument that almost all of obesity-related health problems have a disproportionate impact on low-income, African-American and Hispanic communities.
If Beyoncé goes ahead with the deal (it is after all, a nice chunk of change), then Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director, suggested that she "consider donating your proceeds to a hospital, diabetes organization or another reputable charity involved in the prevention or treatment of soda-related diseases.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Who regulates the internet - the $100bn question

Hamadoun Touré is secretary-general of the ITU

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has always prided itself on being one of the most pragmatic organisations of the United Nations. Engineers, after all, speak a similar language, regardless where they come from. Even during the cold war they managed to overcome their differences and negotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), a binding global treaty that even today governs telecommunications between countries.
But the internet seems to be an even more divisive than cold-war ideology. The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, where the ITU met to renegotiate the ITR, ended in failure in the early hours of December 14th. After a majority of countries approved the new treaty, Terry Kramer, the head of the American delegation, announced that his country is “not able to sign the document in its current form.” Shortly thereafter, at least a dozen countries—including Britain, Sweden and Japan—signalled that they would not support the new treaty either. Of the 144 countries which had the right to sign the new treaty in Dubai, only 89 have done so.
America’s willingness to stand up for the internet should be welcomed. But it has to be said that in doing so it also defended its interests: no other country benefits as much from the status quo in the online world.

Adam Lanza: The medicalisation of evil

Lindsey Fitzharris, a medical historian at Queen Mary, University of London, did a very interesting article on the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  Fitzharris worries why "we are so quick to assume that to commit such a crime Lanza must be 'sick'?"
Fitzharris' perspective is as thought-provoking as the blog posted recently by Liza Long, a mother of a mentally ill child in Idaho who recently wrote the article 'I am Adam Lanza's mother'.  Interestingly too it presents the other side in the debate.
"Anyone who has been watching the news over the past few days will have heard the gunman, Adam Lanza, described as "sick," "disturbed" and "defective". The perpetrator may indeed have suffered from mental conditions that led to his homicidal attack, but even before anything was known about Lanza (including his name), many people in the media assumed a crime of this magnitude could only be committed by a mentally unstable individual. Very little discussion – if any – was given to the role of personal responsibility in this tragic event. 
             Our concepts of deviant behaviour have changed over time, first being seen as a sin, then a crime and now a medical problem
It is an age-old question: what is evil? The answer, of course, is subjective. Many scholars have argued that our concepts of deviant behaviour have changed over time, first being seen as a sin, then a crime and now a medical problem.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Al-Shabaab fires recruiter over internet videos

Al-Shabaab fighters                                       (c) AFP

It turns out al Qaeda has the same problem as ordinary companies with employees who spout off on the Internet, making their bosses look bad.
Al-Shabaab, the Somali branch of al Qaeda, booted Abu Mansour al-Amriki out of the group after he posted video messages contrary to the terrorist organization's teachings.
Al-Amriki, who was born Omar Hammami in a suburb of Mobile, Alabama, had become a highly visible member of the group that once dominated central and southern Somalia.
For a time, al-Amriki was a key recruiter for the group, attracting Americans of Somali heritage to the country to fight for the terrorist group.
But things changed in March when al-Amriki posted a video saying he felt like he was at risk. "I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the sharia and matters of strategy."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Regular tea can lower odds of ovarian cancer

Drinking tea seems to lower odds of ovarian cancer, Australian research involving 1,000 women says.
Dada Su from Curtin University co-authored the study in China, involving 500 patients of ovarian carcinoma and the other half being unaffected, who completed a questionnaire about tea consumption. They drank a mixture of green, black and oolong tea.
"It's not just the duration of tea drinking but also quantity of tea and the frequency of intake as well"
Andy Lee, professor at the Curtin School of Public Health, who led the study, said a dose-response relationship has also been established.
It is not just the green tea but also the oolong and black tea drinking, which has a similar effect

Obesity killing three times as many as malnutrition

With the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, eating too much is now a more serious risk to the health of populations than eating poorly, found the Global Burden of Disease study, published in a special edition of The Lancet.
Across the world, there has been significant success in tackling malnutrition, with deaths down two-thirds since 1990 to less than a million by 2010.
"We have gone from a world 20 years ago where people weren’t getting enough to eat to a world now where too much food and unhealthy food – even in developing countries – is making us sick"
But increasing prosperity has led to expanding waistlines in countries from Colombia to Kazakhstan, as people eat more and get less everyday exercise.
Dr Majid Ezzati, chair of global environmental health at Imperial College London, and one of the lead authors of the report, said: “We have gone from a world 20 years ago where people weren’t getting enough to eat to a world now where too much food and unhealthy food – even in developing countries – is making us sick.”
Between 1990 and 2010 overall global life expectancy at birth rose by about five years. The ‘average’ boy born in 2010 can expect expect to live to 67.5 and the ‘average’ girl to 73.3.

Americans living longer, but not healthier - study

Americans have longer, but not necessarily healthier, lives due to high rates of preventable chronic disease, according to an annual report on the nation's health released on Tuesday.
Gains in life expectancy contrast with Americans' unhealthy behaviors, which have led to a 28 percent adult obesity rate, a diabetes rate of nearly 10 percent and a high blood pressure rate of more than 30 percent, according to United Health Foundation's 2012 America's Health Rankings.
All three conditions are considered risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
"As a nation, we've made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health"
Since 1990, premature deaths have declined by 18 percent, cardiovascular deaths have fallen 35 percent, and cancer deaths have slipped by 8 percent, the report said.
Americans' life expectancy was 78.5 years in 2009, 1.7 years above the level in 2000, the report said.
"As a nation, we've made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health," said Dr. Reed Tuckson, a medical adviser at the United Health Foundation and chief of medical affairs at the UnitedHealth Group.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

World end by Dec 21, SA man says "establish Dept of Esoteric Sciences"

It's another doomsday prediction in South Africa.
The country's Constitutional Court has received an “extremely urgent court application” for the appointment of an “investigative task team” to prepare for the end of the world on December 2, according to a SAPA report.

Robert Sefatsa, 38, a Soweto resident, also stated in papers handed in at court that the government needed to form a new department to prepare for judgment day next Friday.
He suggested that the new state department should be called the “department of paranormal and esoteric sciences”.
Sebatsa pointed out that according to the Mayan calendar, judgment day would be on December 21, and it was therefore a matter of extreme urgency that South Africa and other countries make their preparations for the apocalypse.
A commission of inquiry should include geologists, statisticians, astronomists, economists and extra-terrestrial technologists, and should be competent to cope with evacuation procedures, sea and air logistics, and resettlement, he said.

FBI arrest Facebook 'cybercrime ring' after they 'stole £525m'

Facebook has helped the FBI to bust an international hacking ring that stole more than £525million from unsuspecting computer users.
The gang are said to have infected 11million computers with spyware that stole credit card numbers and bank details to net one of the largest cybercrime hauls in history.
They used 'Yahos' malicious software to steal the financial details and other personal information.
Ten suspects have been arrested by FBI agents in connection with the hacking.
One of the people in custody lives in Molesey, in Surrey.
The social networking site's security team helped the agents snare the gang after 'Yahos' targeted its users between 2010 and October 2012, the agency said in a statement.

Doctors defeat leukemia with modified HIV

US doctors say they have saved a 7-year-old girl who was close to dying from leukemia by pioneering the use of an unlikely ally: a modified form of the HIV virus.

After fighting her disease with chemotherapy for almost two years and suffering two relapses, the young girl "faced grim prospects," doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said.
So in February this year they agreed to take her on in an experimental program that fought fire with fire.
Helped by a genetically altered HIV virus -- stripped of its devastating properties that cause AIDS -- doctors turned the girl's own immune cells into a superior force able to rout the "aggressive" leukemia.
Emily Whitehead was the first child and is one of only a handful of people in total to be given what's officially known as CTL019 therapy. The hospital stressed this could not yet be called "a magic bullet."
However in her case at least the success was dramatic.

Pope Benedict sends first tweet to over 1m followers

The Catholic pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet today signaling one of the most high profile endorsement of the social media revolution in recent times.
According to Guardian of UK, "future generations of theologians will look back on today with a mixture of awe and reverence. For on the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year of the millennium, Pope Benedict XVI made his foray on to Twitter."
Although the pope may not send out each tweet -- an assistant will do it for him -- the Vatican insists that these "sparks of truth" will all have his input and approval. The pope is expected to tweet weekly and during papal ceremonies and feast days.
The pope's first @Pontifex tweet -- which was typed by an assistant but sent by Benedict -- already has nearly 35,000 retweets. According to the Vatican, papal tweets will from here on out be typed and sent by assistants, but written with Benedict's guidance.

Egypt court jails blogger for blasphemy

Alber Saber

Associated Press reports that a Cairo court today convicted Alber Saber, a Coptic Christian blogger who shared an 'anti-Islam' film on social networking sites and sentenced him to three years in prison for blasphemy and contempt of religion.
The case of Saber is one of several seen by rights advocates as a campaign led by Egypt's ultraconservative Islamists to curb free expression. 
Many of those targeted in the campaign are Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 85 million.
Saber was arrested Sept. 13, after neighbors complained he had shared on Facebook the amateur film made in the United States that sparked protests across the Muslim world. His arrest came during a wave of public outrage over the film, produced by an Egyptian-American Copt.
At the time, an angry mob surrounded Saber's house, calling for his death and accusing him of heresy, atheism and of promoting the "Innocence of Muslims" – the short film that portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and buffoon.

Ghana solar energy plant set to be Africa's largest

A UK firm has announced plans to build what it claims is the biggest photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant in Africa.
The Nzema project, based in Ghana, will be able to provide electricity to more than 100,000 homes.
Construction work on the $400m (£248m) plant is due to start within 12 months.
The developers say that they are optimistic that finance for the project will be confirmed within six months.
Fully cooked
The initiative is being developed by Blue Energy, a UK-based renewable energy investment company.

Dozens of solar projects have been announced across Africa in recent years but few have been on this ambitious scale says industry analyst Ash Sharma at IMS Research. He says the 155 megawatt plant will increase Ghana's generating capacity by 6%.
"It is the biggest single project that's going ahead at the moment," he told BBC News.
"It is not the biggest in the world, but if it goes ahead it will be the biggest in Africa."
He says that a key element in helping the project go ahead has been Ghana's renewable energy law under which the plant has been awarded a feed-in tariff for 20 years. These are premium prices, guaranteed for the working life of the site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Groups want Boko Haram designated FTO

A coalition of civil society organizations and christian groups are putting pressure on the US Department of State to designate Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization as the Islamic fundamentalist group continues to unleash terror on innocent Nigerians.
Those who wantonly commit genocide against Christians solely because of their faith should not be tolerated when available steps can be taken to thwart this kind of terror
 "Boko Haram is responsible for killing an estimated 3,000 Nigerians and citizens of 11 other countries—primarily Christians—in the last three years and has acknowledged it has ties to Somalian terrorist groups and Al Qaeda," the coalition noted in a release.
“Those who wantonly commit genocide against Christians solely because of their faith should not be tolerated when available steps can be taken to thwart this kind of terror,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull. “Few organizations are as qualified to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization as Boko Haram is, and we encourage the State Department to make that designation as quickly as possible.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Boko Haram grows more deadly

The radical Islamist fighters gather around piles of weapons and ammunition they've stolen and shout praises to God as they shoot into the expanse of the African desert.
Those depicted in this video don't come from long-lawless Somalia, nor from al-Qaida North Africa branch. These extremists are from Boko Haram, the Islamist group in Nigeria that turned to wide-scale violence in 2009 over local grievances and largely focused their assaults in Maiduguri, the city where the sect started.
Now, Boko Haram seems to be growing more violent with a record number of people killed this year and slowly internationalizing its stance, a possible danger for the rest of West Africa.
More than 770 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks so far this year making 2012 the worst year of violence attributed to the group.
"Weak border security as well as corruption — and even membership of immigration officials in Boko Haram — could facilitate the travel of militants between northern Mali and Nigeria," warned analyst Jacob Zenn in an October publication by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "The insurgency is likely to become more diverse and complex over time, which will limit the efficacy of negotiations."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Happy 20th birthday, text message

It was 20 years ago today that the first text message was sent. It was Dec. 3, 1992, and Neil Papworth, an engineer working in the UK, sent the world's first short message service or SMS. It read "Merry Christmas."
But while most are entering their prime at age 20, the text message might just be past its glory years.

The History -- In More Than 160 Characters 
Papworth, however, was in his prime when he hit the send button on that first text. At the age of 22, Papworth was working for a company called Semea Group Telecoms, which had been working on a mobile messaging project for Vodafone, a European cellular carrier.

"It happened that day that Vodafone wanted to try sending a message to Richard Jarvis, one of the directors there, who was at a Christmas party. So we sat at the computer and typed him a message and then sent him the message 'Merry Christmas,'" Papworth told ABC News. "For me it was just another day's testing, it didn't seem to be anything big at the time."

News Corps to stop iPad only publication The Daily

 The Daily, News Corp.’s attempt to create a newspaper for the iPad era, is shutting down after less than two years. The media giant said it will “cease standalone publication” of the app on Dec. 15.
It says that “technology and other assets from The Daily, including some staff, will be folded into” News Corp.’s New York Post tabloid.
The app/newspaper has approximately 120 employees.
News Corp. made the announcement in the midst of other organizational changes in advance of the company’s upcoming breakup, which will spin off the company’s publishing assets into a new, separately traded company. Here’s Murdoch’s take on The Daily, via a press release:
From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term. Therefore we will take the very best of what we have learned at The Daily and apply it to all our properties. Under the editorial leadership of Editor-in-Chief Col Allan and the business and digital leadership of Jesse, I know The New York Post will continue to grow and become stronger on the web, on mobile, and not least, the paper itself. I want to thank all of the journalists, digital and business professionals for the hard work they put into The Daily.
Jesse Angelo, The Daily’s editor-in-chief, will become publisher of the Post; Daily publisher Greg Clayman will get a job heading up digital at the new publishing company. Earlier this year, The Daily cut a third of its staff.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Six young people get 100 lashes in Mali for mingling

The Islamist extremists who took over northern Mali months ago are making progress in their enthronement of Sharia law in the region even as ECOWAS and allied forces are gearing up to re-unite the country.
The extremists publicly whipped six young people, males and females aged 16 to 22 years, who each received 100 lashes for having talked with each other on the streets
Timbuktu residents say that Islamist extremists controlling the region publicly whipped six young people, males and females aged between 16 to 22 years, who each received 100 lashes for having talked with each other on the city streets, according to the Associated Press.
Aboubacrine Yattara, who lives in Timbuktu and witnessed the whippings, told AP over the phone that the young people were arrested last week by the Islamists were convicted Wednesday of comingling. He said they were flogged Thursday in Timbuktu's small market.
The head of the Islamist brigade responsible for customs in Timbuktu, Mohamed Ag Mossa Intoulou, did not deny the whippings when contacted by AP but said he did not have authorization to speak to the press.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Good sleep linked to improved vocabulary in children

Children who get good sleep at night are more likely to have good vocabulary as they can learn and retain new words better than kids who don't get enough sleep.
A new study has found that the mechanism that the adults use to learn is the same mechanism that enables children to develop vocabulary.
Children's ability to recall and recognise new words improved approximately 12 hours after training, but only if sleep occurs
"These are truly exciting results which open up a new dimension of research in our understanding of language development. Our work provides the first evidence that sleep is associated with the integration of newly-learned words into the mental dictionaries of children," said Dr Anna Weighall from the psychology research group at Sheffield Hallam.
Children with disturbed sleep or those who snore a lot while sleeping are more likely to have problems with learning and behavior
Researchers found that new words began assimilating with other words in the brain after a cycle of 12 hours. But, this process happens only if the child has slept during the period. Sleep provides an environment that helps the brain start consolidating learned material that it shifts from short-term memory to long-term memory.

Unemployed men are more likely to divorce - study

Once upon a time, men worked, women didn’t and that appeared to be the equation for a harmonious family life. Now, new research shows how much that truism has changed for women but stayed the same for men.
While attitudes about women working have evolved considerably, social pressure on men to be breadwinners is still strong, according to the study, which was published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Sociology. The study shows that unemployment, more than unhappiness in the relationship, predicts divorce — at least for men.
"For men, not having a job increases the risk he will initiate leaving the relationship, and it also increases the risk women will leave the relationship"
“It’s still unacceptable for men to stay home and take care of the kids,” says Liana Sayer, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
Sayer found that a woman who was very unhappy in her marriage was more likely to begin divorce proceedings if she was working than if she was unemployed. Whether or not a woman worked had no bearing on the chance that her husband would leave the relationship, however.

Job loss raises threat of heart attack

 Unemployment increases the risk of heart attack, a new study reports, and repeated job loss raises the odds still more.
In a prospective analysis from 1992 to 2010 with interviews every other year, researchers tracked job history and heart attacks among more than 13,000 people ages 51 to 75. The study, published online Nov. 19 in The Archives of Internal Medicine, recorded 1,061 heart attacks over the period.
After adjusting for well-established heart attack risks — age, sex, smoking, income, hypertension, cholesterol screening, exercise, depression, diabetes and others — the researchers found that being unemployed also increased the risk of a heart attack, by an average of 35 percent.
Losing one job was linked to a 22 percent increase in heart attack risk, losing two jobs with a 27 percent increase, three jobs with a 52 percent increase, and a loss of four or more jobs with a 63 percent increase.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cyber Monday set to be the biggest online shopping day ever

Black Friday is a distant memory. Small Business Saturday is long gone. Now, it's Cyber Monday's turn.
Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed a spike in online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving when people returned to work, is the next in a line of days that stores are counting on to jump-start the holiday shopping season.
Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row
This year's Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row.
According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up from $1.25 billion last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers ramp up deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.

Read more

Boko Haram dares the military, bombs St. Andrew Military Church, Jaji

A church bombed recently in Kaduna
Forty eight hours after it announced a ransom of $1.8 million for information that could lead to the capture of 19 leaders of the Boko Haram terrorist group, the Nigerian military became the latest victim of the group's suicide bombing activities.
Two cars loaded with explosives ran into a military church in Jaji, Kaduna state killing at least 12 people and injuring over 30 others.

This attack in Jaji on Sunday, however, happened inside a barracks home to the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, one of the country’s most important military colleges.

It also showed a new dangerous sophistication as the second explosion appeared timed to target responders rushing to aid the wounded 10 minutes after the first blast, officials said.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nigeria places $317,000 ransom on Boko Haram leader

Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram leader
Nigeria's military on Friday offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in rewards for information leading to the capture of leaders of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.
A statement listed 19 alleged senior members of the extremist group blamed for hundreds of deaths in connection with its insurgency in northern and central Nigeria.
The rewards ranged from 50 million naira ($317,000, 245,000 euros) for the suspected leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, to 10 million naira for various Boko Haram "commanders".
"They are wanted in connection with terrorist activities particularly in the northeast zone of Nigeria that led to the killings, bombings and assassination of some civilians, religious leaders, traditional rulers, businessmen, politicians, civil servants and security personnel amongst others," a military statement said.
"They are also wanted for arson and destruction of properties worth millions of naira."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Iron Dome: The technology that stops missiles like no other

 International news the last few days has been dominated with reports of renewed fighting between Isreal and Hamas.  Casualties are rising by the day as the two sides trade missiles and rockets.  At least 91 persons have been killed according to latest reports.  Tensions are rising as world leaders scramble to fashion last minute solution to the crisis before it spirals beyond control.
As the fighting continues, both sides voice fears about a full scale war.  According to Los Angeles Times, "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has signaled that a ground invasion could be imminent if cease-fire talks in Cairo falter. More than 45,000 reservists have been called up and troops are massing along the border area in southern Israel."
It is destroying about 90% of the rockets and missiles that Hamas, the Palestinian political party governing Gaza, is firing into southern Israel
One new technology that has been a feature of this latest uprising in the Middle East is the Iron Dome. It is the clear difference between the casualties in Hamas and Isreal.  Hamas fired 100 missiles on Israel Sunday, 30 of which Israel says it shot down.  "It is destroying about 90% of the rockets and missiles that Hamas, the Palestinian political party governing Gaza, is firing into southern Israel, Israeli officials say," reports Times magazine.

“In one of the recent exchanges, one of the batteries was 100% [successful]. That means, to me, that Iron Dome is capable of 100% [across the board] — I don’t think it was entirely a fluke,” Times quotes an Isreali official as saying. "The bottom line: the more rockets Hamas fires, it seems, the better at stopping them Iron Dome becomes," the magazine notes.
The system appears to be less effective at very close ranges. And the existence of Iron Dome seems to have prodded Hamas to increase the rocket launchings and expand its radius of attack to areas Israel would not have thought to deploy the missile battery, including Jerusalem
On the other hand, almost all missiles fired by Isreal have hit targets.  The Israeli military says its strikes are surgical, and are finding their targets. Attempts by Hamas to build and launch drone aircrafts is being checked by Isreal which clearly has the technology edge.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Losing belly fat can help you sleep better: study

A new study finds that not only can weight loss improve your sleep, but losing belly fat in particular enahnces the quality of your zzzs.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US enrolled 77 overweight or obese subjects who had type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes in a six-month program.
The subjects were then randomly assigned to one of two groups, one group went on a weight-loss diet with exercise training, while the second group only had diet intervention. Before the study, subjects also were interviewed about their sleep issues, such as insomnia, daytime fatigue, and sleep apnoea.
"We found that improvement in sleep quality was significantly associated with overall weight loss, especially belly fat"
After six months, both groups lost about 15 pounds/6.8 kilos and about 15% of their belly fat. Also, interestingly, both groups also improved their overall sleep score by about 20% with no differences between the groups.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sex addiction is a diagnosis-worthy disorder, study suggests

Is sex addiction a real disorder— or just an excuse for bad behavior?
The condition—now labeled “hypersexual disorder”— is up for consideration as a diagnosis to be included as a research topic in the next edition of psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-5. A new study provides support for its inclusion.
In a paper published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine researchers studied 207 people who had visited outpatient clinics and reported problematic sexual behavior.  The clinics offered either specific counseling and treatment for sexual addiction or more general treatment for drug addiction or psychiatric problems. The participants were randomly selected among those seeking admission whose problems included at least some compulsive sexual behavior.
sex addiction may threaten health and social relationships: 28% of those diagnosed contracted an STD at least once, 39% had lost relationships and 17% had lost jobs because of their condition

Monday, November 5, 2012

In online poll, China votes Romney as the world prefers Obama

Most of the world — 81 percent — would vote for Barack Obama, according to a new MSN poll, which surveyed 570,000 people in 36 countries.
But perhaps the most surprising result is that Romney might have an unlikely international ally: The People’s Republic of China. Fifty-two percent of the online readers polled by MSN there preferred the GOP candidate, even after he accused the country of being a nation of “cheats” and of stealing intellectual property.
In 34 of the 35 countries where MSN quizzed its online readers, the current US president won well over half of the votes. 
The results of MSN's survey poses something of a dilemma for Romney, who would not want to be seen as being popular in China. Throughout this year's presidential campaign Romney has tried to talk tough towards the country, accusing it of being a nation of "cheats" and of stealing "intellectual property".

How Hurricane Sandy convinced Bloomberg to back Obama

 If scientists are right about the implications of human-caused climate change, almost every intelligent person will, sooner or later, undergo a eureka moment in which the magnitude of the problem sinks in. For some cerebral types, reading an IPCC report or watching Al Gore drone on over a series of glorified PowerPoint slides may have been sufficient. For others, it will take a more personal blow.
For Michael Bloomberg, it seems, that moment was Hurricane Sandy. The New York City mayor, whose backing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both sought, announced today that he was endorsing Obama. His No. 1 reason: the president’s stance on climate change.
Below are the first three paragraphs of his endorsement, which you can read in full here:
  1. The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast—in lost lives, lost homes and lost business—brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.
  2. The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods—something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.
  3. Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be—given this week's devastation—should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

Bloomberg, whose business-friendly, tech-savvy, socially tolerant policies have made him one of the nation’s most influential centrists, is not new to the climate change bandwagon. But it seems that being forced to watch powerlessly as a freak storm brought his city to its knees prompted him to up the urgency a bit.
I don’t read Bloomberg’s endorsement primarily as an opportunistic or strategic act, as Klein seems to. Call me naive, but I read it as a genuine call to action from a man who has just been brought face-to-face with one of the most serious threats to the nation’s long-term security and prosperity

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bloomberg endorses Obama, citing climate change

 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today endorsed President Obama, citing the urgent need to address climate change.
"The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast -- in lost lives, lost homes and lost business -- brought the stakes of Tuesday's presidential election into sharp relief," the mayor wrote in the opinion section of his eponymous news operation, Bloomberg News. "Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week's devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
"We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption"
New York City was forced to evacuate neighborhoods twice in just 14 months because of hurricanes, Bloomberg noted. While the city has taken steps toward sustainability, the mayor said cities can't do it alone.
"We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption," he wrote, citing the higher fuel efficiency standards the president set, as well as the tighter controls for mercury emissions.
An independent known for backing centrist politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, Bloomberg for months had declined to endorse a candidate. In an interview with The Atlantic magazine last month, Bloomberg said Mr. Obama's biggest accomplishment in his first term was "just getting elected" because it served as evidence of greater racial unity in the country.
After Sandy left millions without power and crippled New York City's transportation system, Mr. Obama offered to visit the city and assess the storm damage, but Bloomberg turned down the offer. The president instead toured storm damage in New Jersey with Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Climate change has received little attention on the campaign trail, although Mr. Obama often pledges during campaign rallies to keep pursuing clean energy technology, declaring that climate change is "not a hoax."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy damage may exceed $20bn

A man on rescue operation                         (c)
 Hurricane Sandy’s economic toll is poised to exceed $20 billion after the biggest Atlantic storm slammed into the Eastern U.S., damaging homes and offices and flooding subways in America’s most populated city.
The total would include insured losses of about $7 billion to $8 billion, said Charles Watson, research and development director at Kinetic Analysis Corp., a hazard-research company in Silver Spring, Maryland. Much of the remaining tab will be picked up by cities and states to repair infrastructure, such as New York City’s subways and tunnels, he said.
“I think it is disproportionate going into the public sector side,” Watson said by telephone. The real extent of the damage won’t be known until the flood recedes and workers can inspect subway and utility tunnels.
Wave crash against a previously damaged pier  (c)
Sandy, spanning 900 miles, slammed into southern New Jersey at about 8 p.m. New York time and brought a record storm surge of 13.88 feet (4.2 meters) into Manhattan’s Battery Park. U.S. airlines have grounded about 12,500 flights, stranding travelers, and U.S. stock trading is closed again today in the first back-to-back shutdown for weather since 1888.
The real extent of the damage won’t be known until the flood recedes and workers can inspect subway and utility tunnels
Record tides from the storm combined with hours of pounding wind and rain to flood electrical substations and shut down New York’s financial district. Consolidated Edison Inc., the city’s utility, killed power last night to parts of downtown Manhattan, including Wall Street, and Brooklyn, as the storm surge, boosted by high tide, sent saltwater pouring into its underground power network.

Science is the key to growth

Mitt Romney said in all three presidential debates that we need to expand the economy. But he left out a critical ingredient: investments in science and technology.
Scientific knowledge and new technologies are the building blocks for long-term economic growth — “the key to a 21st-century economy,” as President Obama said in the final debate.
So it is astonishing that Mr. Romney talks about economic growth while planning deep cuts in investment in science, technology and education. They are among the discretionary items for which spending could be cut 22 percent or more under the Republican budget plan, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The private sector can’t do it alone. We rely on companies to translate scientific discoveries into products. But federal investment in research and development, especially basic research, is critical to their success. Just look at Google, which was started by two graduate students working on a project supported by the National Science Foundation and today employs 54,000 people.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the plan, which Mr. Romney has endorsed, could cut overall nondefense science, engineering, biomedical and technology research by a quarter over the next decade, and energy research by two-thirds.
Mr. Romney seems to have lost sight of the critical role of research investments not only in developing new medicines and cleaner energy sources but also in creating higher-skilled jobs.
Research conducted at universities and national labs underpins the new innovations that drive economic growth
The private sector can’t do it alone. We rely on companies to translate scientific discoveries into products. But federal investment in research and development, especially basic research, is critical to their success. Just look at Google, which was started by two graduate students working on a project supported by the National Science Foundation and today employs 54,000 people.
If the United States is to remain strong and prosperous and a land of rewarding jobs, we need to understand this basic investment principle in America’s future: no science, no growth.
Richard K. Templeton, chief executive of Texas Instruments, put it this way in 2009: “Research conducted at universities and national labs underpins the new innovations that drive economic growth.”