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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Microsoft preps Windows 7 release

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By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website
A release candidate of Windows 7, the next major release of the world's most popular operating system, goes public in trial form in the next week. Microsoft is hoping it can avoid the negative press that surrounded the launch of Vista, the last major Windows release, almost three years ago. Windows 7 has been designed to be compatible with Vista so users do not have to invest in new hardware.

A commercial release of Windows 7 is expected in the next nine months. A test version of Windows 7 will be available to developers from Thursday, while the public can try it out from 5 May. John Curran, Microsoft UK's director, Windows Client Group, told BBC News that "shortfalls" in the Vista release had caused problems for some users. "There were challenges on hardware and application compatibility with Vista in the first couple of months - and that has left a little bit of an aftertaste for a segment of people."

When Vista was launched many users expressed frustration that the operating system did not work with all types of existing hardware and peripherals, or programs used commonly on PCs. And a Vista compatibility programme for hardware proved to be confusing and, in some cases, somewhat misleading. Mr Curran said Microsoft had "learned lessons" and had been working with partner developers to ensure the same mistakes would not be repeated.

Windows 7 will also have "comparable system requirements" to Vista, which should mean that if your PC is capable of running Vista it will also run the new version. Negative Mr Curran said Vista had proved to be a success for Microsoft, despite the negative press that surrounds the operating system. "Vista is the fastest selling operating system of all time and, in percentage terms, enterprise moved to Vista faster than it did to XP [an earlier version of Windows]," he said. He said satisfaction surveys for Vista showed 90% of people were either satisfied or very satisfied and 85-90% would recommend it to a friend. Microsoft embarked on a major advertising and marketing mission to improve the image of Vista after the muted reaction around its "The Wow starts now" campaign.
While Vista was released five months after the release candidate was made available, Mr Curran said Windows 7 would only be released when it is ready. Bottom line "Obviously in these times everybody is keeping an eye on the bottom line, but we are certainly taking a longer-term perspective here and always have done with Windows franchise. "The timeline stated all along is that we are targeting Windows 7 within three years of of the launch of Vista and that would be the end of January 2010. "We feel quite confident we are on trajectory that will deliver on that promise. But the exact timing will be based on quality." Windows 7 promises a major usability improvement on Vista, and a simplification of security measures which caused frustration for many users.

Mr Curran said Windows 7 would build on the security improvements in Vista, which have seen a fall in the number of malware attacks and critical vulnerabilities identified. Many beta testers of Windows 7 have reported that it is faster than Vista, especially in terms of start-up and shutdown sequence of the computer.
Mr Curran said that the Microsoft Windows team had been poring over every aspect of the operating system to make improvements. "We were able to shave 400 milliseconds off the shutdown time by slightly trimming the WAV file shutdown music.

"It's indicative of really the level and detail and scrutiny on Windows 7." A version of Windows 7 will also be available for netbooks, but with some caveats. The Windows 7 Starter Edition will have limitations on how many applications can be used concurrently on a machine in order to preserve performance.

What should you think during sex?

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The Times Of India

You might have read a lot about foreplay acts that can arouse your senses for a steamy romp, aphrodisiacs that can boost your sex drive, sex positionthat can bring the ultimate gratification in bed. But none would have actually paid attention to the thoughts that run through our minds while having sex.

It apparently remains a lesser known fact that ‘thoughts’ play a crucial role in evoking your sexual senses and can also enhance your bedroom performance. However it varies from one couple to another as to what they prefer envisioning while having sex. But it surely has to be something that tends to boost your sexual performance and adds to your lovemaking joy.

Dr. Amit Agarwal, a Mumbai-based sexologist explains, “Focused thoughts about sex-related acts make you feel sexually charged up and thus your performance also gets improved. It could be anything from thinking about an erotic novel to a porn film scene to recalling your best sexual experience so far. It might not be easy to keep thinking about the same thing, so bring variety into your thoughts and let them wander freely, but keep ‘sex’ as the main domain.”

Dr. Chirta Bakshi, a relationship counselor adds, “Couples must think only ‘sex’ while performing in bed. Keeping other things in mind including kids, workplace tensions, friends and household work etc. will just kill the passion and hence create troubles in your sexual relationship.”

So if a few little thoughts can heighten your love sensations like never before, then why not let them exist in your head each time you gear up for an intimate sack session.

Here we list some effective thoughts, thinking of which will certainly do wonders in your sexual paradise and will keep you sexually aroused for a night of passion... Scene from a porn flick : Visualising a sexually arousing and naughty film scene is bound to push you towards a steamier sex romp. It will not only induce your sexual senses to act wilder, but will let you get more intense in your performance as you keep thinking about that sensual porn scene.

Khajurao paintings : Apart from a movie scene, Khajurao art has the power to instill a feeling of sexual intimacy. Thinking and envisaging the sexually arousing paintings embedded on the walls of Khajurao detailing various sex positions is bound to add to your sex drive and bring in a temptation for you to try those acts.

Kamasutra teachings : It brings immense pleasure and knowledge to watch a Kamasutra film together with your partner. And it can be more helpful if you let those teachings be a part of your sex session. Think how the couple in the movie made love to each other, recall the passion with which they came closer and as you let the same mood build in your bedroom, try reacting the movie moves to make your night headier.

Sexually inclined literature : You might have read a romantic or sexual novel sometime in the past, but there's no use letting it be dumped in your mind. Bring out the erotica that it intended to create. While making love to your partner, think about some special excerpts and sentences from the novel, which lets you get more intimate with your lover. Reading some sex oriented stuff and then implementing the same in your bedroom will heighten pleasure.

The Big O : Reaching the climax is one thing and thinking about it during sex is even more enticing. While performing in bed and as you proceed towards the peaking moments, keeping the Big O moment in mind helps activate the passion like never before. Think how your partner moaned the last time when you had a gratifying orgasm and the mere thought of it will intensify your excitement.
Sexual fantasies : Sharing your fantasies enhances your sexual pleasure, but thinking about your fantasies during sex is the best way to add punch to your sexual performance. During sex, it’s good to let your sexual desires run through your mind and as you move towards fulfilling them, the degree of joy will surely be more than what you expected.

Past sex encounter : Recalling your most enjoyable sex-escapade helps in recreating an altogether different mood and you will be charged up in bed to perform better than before. Just thinking about what all you did on a particular night will make you feel happier and will add to the sexual experience as you try to add more to it. But be a bit extra cautious while thinking about a past sex encounter as it may backfire if you mistakenly compare your partner with someone else.
Romantic time spent together : Remembering the cherished moments has all reasons to add joy to your sex life. It’s not necessarily that you think only about the sexual time spent together, but also the special moments, memorable dates etc... that can be gratifying during a lovemaking act. It will let you strengthen the love bond you share with your partner, which in turn will lead to a potent sex romp.

World's fastest camera

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By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

The fastest imaging system ever devised has been demonstrated by researchers reporting in the journal Nature. Their camera snaps images less than a half a billionth of a second long, capturing over six million of them in a second continuously. It works by using a fast laser pulse dispersed in space and then stretched in time and detected electronically.
The approach will be instrumental in analysing, for example, flowing blood samples in a search for diseased cells. What is more, the camera works with just one detector, rather than the millions in a typical digital camera.

Gathering steam

Dubbed Serial Time-Encoded Amplified imaging, or Steam, the technique depends on carefully manipulating so-called "supercontinuum" laser pulses. These pulses, less than a millionth of a millionth of a second long, contain an enormously broad range of colours. Two optical elements spread the pinprick laser pulses into an ordered two-dimensional array of colours.

It is this "2-D rainbow" that illuminates a sample. Part of the rainbow is reflected by the sample - depending on light and dark areas of the illuminated spot - and the reflections travel back along their initial path. Because the spreading of the pulse's various colours is so regular and ordered, the range of colours reflected contains detailed spatial information about the sample. "Bright spots reflect their assigned wavelength but dark ones don't," explained Bahram Jalali, the University of California, Los Angeles professor who led the research. "When the 2-D rainbow reflects from the object, the image is copied onto the colour spectrum of the pulse."

The pulse then passes back through the dispersive optics and again becomes a pinprick of light, with the image tucked away within as a series of distributed colours. However, that colour spectrum is mixed up in an exceptionally short pulse of light that would be impossible to unpick in traditional electronics. The team then routes the pulse into a so-called dispersive fibre - a fibre-optic cable that has a different speed limit for different colours of light. As a result, the red part of the spectrum races ahead of the blue part as the pulse travels along the fibre. Eventually, the red part and blue part separate in the fibre, arriving at very different times at the fibre's end.

All that remains is to detect the light as it pops out of the fibre with a standard photodiode and digitise it, assigning the parts of the pulse that arrive at different times to different points in two-dimensional space. The result of all this optical trickery: an image that represents a snapshot just 440 trillionths of a second long. The researchers used a laser that fired more than six million pulses in a second, resulting in as many images. However, they say that the system can be improved to acquire more than 10 million images per second - more than 200,000 times faster than a standard video camera.
'Rogue cells'


While other cameras used in scientific research can capture shorter-lived images, they can only capture about eight images, and have to be triggered to do so for a given event. The Steam camera, by contrast, can capture images continuously, making it ideal for random events that cannot be triggered. Some applications that may benefit from the approach include observing the communication between cells, or the activity of neurons.
But the perfect example of an application for the Steam camera's specifications is analysing flowing blood samples. Because the imaging of individual cells in a volume of blood is impossible for current cameras, a small random sample is taken and those few cells are imaged manually with a microscope. "But, what if you needed to detect the presence of very rare cells that, although few in number, signify early stages of a disease?," asks Keisuke Gode, lead author of the study.

Dr Gode cites circulating tumour cells as a perfect example of such a target. Precursors to metastasis, they may exist as only a few among a billion healthy cells. "The chance that one of these cells will happen to be on the small sample of blood viewed under a microscope is virtually negligible." But with the Steam camera, fast-flowing cells can be individually imaged.

The team is working to extend the technique to 3-D imaging with the same time resolution, and to increase the effective number of "pixels" in a given image to 100,000. "Our next step is to improve the spatial resolution so we can take crystal clear pictures of the inner structure of cells," Professor Jalali told BBC News. "We are not there yet, but if we are able to accomplish this, then there is no shortage of applications in biology."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Russia mulls rocket power 'first'

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By Anatoly Zak
Science reporter Of BBC

Russia's next-generation manned space vehicle might be equipped with thrusters to perform a precision landing on its return to Earth. Engineers are considering a rocket-powered landing system for the successor to Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. If accepted, it would be the first time in history that a manned vehicle relied solely on rocket engines for touchdown. Previous manned missions have landed on Earth using a parachute or, in the case of space shuttles, a pair of wings. RKK Energia, Russia's prime developer of manned spacecraft, had to examine the feasibility of the rocket-powered landing as a result of conflicting requirements for the project set by the Russian government.

Currently, Russian cosmonauts are carried into orbit on the three-seat Soyuz capsule. Russia is developing the new craft as a replacement to this venerable spacecraft, which has been in service for more than four decades. The Soyuz does use small solid propellant motors to soften its touchdown, but the ship's parachute plays the main role in providing the vehicle and crew with a safe landing. New launch site In 2007, Moscow took the momentous decision to build a new launch site in the nation's far east, hoping to end Russia's dependency on the spaceport in Baikonur, which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ended up in the newly independent republic of Kazakhstan.

The new site, which has been dubbed Vostochny, or simply "Eastern", will be located almost as far south as Baikonur - an important orbital mechanics factor which determines the cargo-carrying capacity of rockets. However, the very same decision left only a narrow strip of land in the European part of Russia, near the city of Orenburg, where returning space capsules could touch down if they followed a straight ballistic trajectory. Not surprisingly, Russian engineers found themselves under political pressure to improve the manoeuvrability of the future spacecraft, so it could guide itself into a relatively small landing area.

The alternative - landing under a parachute - would put the craft at the mercy of the wind. Radical solutions like gliding wingless vehicles and "transformers" with deployable wings were deemed too expensive and technically risky giving the Kremlin's current requirement to have the new spacecraft ready for its first manned mission in 2018. Eventually, the idea for a rocket-assisted landing emerged as a winner, promising to keep the predicted touchdown to a patch of land of only two by five kilometres. Last July, Korolev-based RKK Energia released the first drawings of a multi-purpose transport ship, known as the Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS), which, at the time, Russia had hoped to develop in co-operation with Europe.

But the design of the spacecraft's crew capsule had raised eyebrows in some quarters, as it lacked a parachute - instead sporting a cluster of 12 soft-landing rockets, burning solid propellant. Combined with retractable landing legs and a re-usable thermal protection system, landing rockets promised to enable not only a safe return to Earth, but also the possibility of performing multiple space missions with the same crew capsule.

According to the presentation made by Nikolai Bryukhanov, the leading designer at RKK Energia, at the 26th International Symposium on Space Technology and Science in Hamamatsu, Japan, the spacecraft would fire its engines at an altitude of just 600-800m, as the capsule is streaking toward Earth after re-entering the atmosphere at the end of its mission. After a vertical descent, the precision landing would be initiated at the altitude of 30m above the surface.

Christian Bank, the leading designer of manned space systems at EADS-Astrium in Bremen, Germany, which at the time was responsible for the European side of the ACTS project, agreed with the validity of this novel Russian approach toward landing. "It was explained to us how it was supposed to work and, I think, from the technical point of view, there is no doubt that this concept would work," Mr Bank told BBC News.

However, inside Russia, the idea apparently has many detractors. Since the end of 2008, Moscow has shrouded the new manned spacecraft project - now known by the Russian abbreviation PPTS, for Prospective Piloted Transport System - in a veil of secrecy. But hints dropped by Russian officials and in anonymous postings on industry web forums have provided insights into a vigorous debate on the landing system raging within the Russian space industry.

Controversial system In April 2009, the semi-official RIA Novosti news agency quoted an unnamed RKK Energia official as saying that the future spacecraft would use an environmentally-friendly liquid propellant - such as alcohol - during its touchdown. The use of liquid propellants would also enable more control during landing thanks to variable thrust, while solid fuel would burn according to a pre-determined profile once it had been ignited.

Still, the switch to a liquid propellant did not silence the critics, who regard any rocket engines too complex and risky to rely on in the last minutes or seconds before touching down. As a result, an alternative concept has emerged, which would combine a high-precision rocket-powered landing under normal circumstances and a parachute in the case of an emergency. As with any compromise, it requires splitting the capsule into two parts - the crew cabin and the propulsion section.

If the craft's landing engines were to fail, the propulsion section would have to be jettisoned. Otherwise, the propellant-laden ship would be too heavy for a parachute to handle. As preliminary development of the PPTS vehicle would not be completed until mid-2010, only time will tell whether this compromise can silence the system's detractors.
Track record RKK Energia did not begin its work for the rocket-powered landing system on a blank sheet of paper. In the 1980s, the company worked on a highly classified project to develop a large manned capsule, called Zarya ("Down"), for a wide range of civilian and military missions. The bell-shaped vehicle was to use liquid propellant rockets for returning to Earth. Zarya was in an advanced stage of design when the project was shelved in 1989 on the eve of the Soviet Union's collapse.

Back then, the concept of a rocket-powered landing also produced plenty of controversy. During the formal defence of the project, one high-ranking official sceptical of the rocket-cushioned approach to landing reportedly used an unprintable expletive to describe what was going to happen to crew members unlucky enough to encounter a rocket engine failure a few seconds before touchdown. But if a rocket-powered landing was ever to be adopted for Russia's next-generation manned spacecraft, it would not be the first space vehicle to use such a system.

In the 1990s, the US tested an unmanned prototype of a re-usable launcher, know as DC-X, which would lift off and land vertically under rocket power. Conceived primarily for the needs of the US Star Wars missile defence programme, DC-X was abandoned after the end of the Cold War.

Details About Swine Flu And Its Prevention

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What is Swine Flu?;How To Prevent & Treatment Swine Flu ;History Of Swine Flu

Swine influenza (also swine flu) refers to influenza caused by any strain of the influenza virus endemic in pigs (swine). Strains endemic in swine are called swine influenza virus (SIV). Swine flu is common in swine and rare in humans. People who work with swine, especially people with intense exposures, are at risk of catching swine influenza if the swine carry a strain able to infect humans. However, these strains rarely are able to pass from human to human. Rarely, SIV mutates into a form able to pass easily from human to human. The strain responsible for the 2009 swine flu outbreak is believed to have undergone such a mutation.

In humans, the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general, namely chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort. The strain responsible for the 2009 swine flu outbreak in most cases causes only mild symptoms and the infected person recovers fully in a few days.

Of the three genera of human flu, two are endemic also in swine: Influenzavirus A (common) and Influenzavirus C (rare). Influenzavirus B has not been reported in swine. Within Influenzavirus A and Influenzavirus C, the strains endemic to swine and humans are largely distinct.

Background

The swine flu is a descendant of the infamous "Spanish flu" that caused a devastating pandemic in humans in 1918-1919. In less than a year, that pandemic killed more than 500,000 Americans and some 20 million people worldwide - the greatest number ever killed in so short a period by any natural or man-made catastrophe. It also killed and sickened large numbers of hogs. Within a decade, the disease stopped circulating among humans, but it has infected swine ever since. Although hogs had initially caught the virus from humans, it has undergone slight changes over the years, emerging occasionally to infect individuals who work closely with pigs. However, there have only been 12 cases in the U.S. since 2005 in which humans caught swine flu after being in contact with pigs and there is currently no requirement that pigs be vaccinated against swine flu.

The flu virus is perhaps the trickiest known to medical science; it constantly changes form to elude the protective antibodies that the body has developed in response to previous exposures to influenza or to influenza vaccines. Every two or three years the virus undergoes minor changes. Then, at intervals of roughly a decade, after the bulk of the world's population has developed some level of resistance to these minor changes, it undergoes a major shift that enables it to tear off on yet another pandemic sweep around the world, infecting hundreds of millions of people who suddenly find their antibody defenses outflanked. Even during the Spanish flu pandemic, the initial wave of the disease was relatively mild and the second wave was highly lethal.

In 1957, an Asian flu pandemic infected some 45 million Americans and killed 70,000. Eleven years later, lasting from 1968 to 1969, the Hong Kong pandemic afflicted 50 million Americans and caused 33,000 deaths, costing approximately $3.9 billion. In 1976, about 500 soldiers became infected with swine flu over a period of a few weeks. However, by the end of the month investigators found that the virus had "mysteriously disappeared" and there were no more signs of swine flu anywhere on the post. There were isolated cases around the U.S. but those cases were supposedly to individuals who caught the virus from pigs.
Medical researchers worldwide remain vigilant knowing that the swine flu virus might again mutate into something as deadly as the Spanish flu. They are carefully watching the latest 2009 outbreak of swine flu and making contingency plans for a possible global pandemic.
Classification

SIV strains isolated to date have been classified either as Influenzavirus C or one of the various subtypes of the genus Influenzavirus A.

Influenza A

Swine influenza is known to be caused by influenza A subtypes H1N1, H1N2, H3N1,H3N2, and H2N3. In swine, three influenza A virus subtypes (H1N1, H3N2, and H1N2) are circulating throughout the world. In the United States, the H1N1 subtype was exclusively prevalent among swine populations before 1998; however, since late August 1998, H3N2 subtypes have been isolated from pigs. As of 2004, H3N2 virus isolates in US swine and turkey stocks were triple reassortants, containing genes from human (HA, NA, and PB1), swine (NS, NP, and M), and avian (PB2 and PA) lineages.

Interaction with H5N1

Avian influenza virus H3N2 is endemic in pigs in China and has been detected in pigs in Vietnam, increasing fears of the emergence of new variant strains.[11] Health experts[who?] say pigs can carry human influenza viruses, which can combine (i.e. exchange homologous genome sub-units by genetic reassortment) with H5N1, passing genes and mutating into a form which can pass easily among humans.H3N2 evolved from H2N2 by antigenic shift. In August 2004, researchers in China found H5N1 in pigs.

Nature magazine reported that Chairul Nidom, a virologist at Airlangga University's tropical disease center in Surabaya, East Java, conducted an independent research study in 2005. He tested the blood of 10 apparently healthy pigs housed near poultry farms in West Java where avian flu had broken out. Five of the pig samples contained the H5N1 virus. The Indonesian government has since found similar results in the same region. Additional tests of 150 pigs outside the area were negative.

Signs and symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in humans the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The 2009 outbreak has shown an increased percentage of patients reporting diarrhea and vomiting.

Because these symptoms are not specific to swine flu, a differential diagnosis of probable swine flu requires not only symptoms but also a high likelihood of swine flu due to the person's recent history. For example, during the 2009 swine flu outbreak in the United States, CDC advised physicians to "consider swine influenza infection in the differential diagnosis of patients with acute febrile respiratory illness who have either been in contact with persons with confirmed swine flu, or who were in one of the five U.S. states that have reported swine flu cases or in Mexico during the 7 days preceding their illness onset." A diagnosis of confirmed swine flu requires laboratory testing of a respiratory sample (a simple nose and throat swab).
Pathophysiology

Influenza viruses bind through hemagglutinin onto sialic acid sugars on the surfaces of epithelial cells; typically in the nose, throat and lungs of mammals and intestines of birds (Stage 1 in infection figure).

Swine flu in humans

People who work with poultry and swine, especially people with intense exposures, are at increased risk of zoonotic infection with influenza virus endemic in these animals, and constitute a population of human hosts in which zoonosis and reassortment can co-occur.Transmission of influenza from swine to humans who work with swine was documented in a small surveillance study performed in 2004 at the University of Iowa.This study among others forms the basis of a recommendation that people whose jobs involve handling poultry and swine be the focus of increased public health surveillance. The 2009 swine flu outbreak is an apparent reassortment of several strains of influenza A virus subtype H1N1, including a strain endemic in humans and two strains endemic in pigs, as well as an avian influenza.

The CDC reports that the symptoms and transmission of the swine flu from human to human is much like that of seasonal flu. Common symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing, while runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It is believed to be spread between humans through coughing or sneezing of infected people and touching something with the virus on it and then touching their own nose or mouth.Swine flu cannot be spread by pork products, since the virus is not transmitted through food. The swine flu in humans is most contagious during the first five days of the illness although some people, most commonly children, can remain contagious for up to ten days. Diagnosis can be made by sending a specimen, collected during the first five days, to the CDC for analysis.

The swine flu is susceptible to four drugs licensed in the United States, amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir; however, for the 2009 outbreak it is recommended it be treated under medical advice only with oseltamivir and zanamivir to avoid drug resistance.The vaccine for the human seasonal H1N1 flu does not protect against the swine H1N1 flu, even if the virus strains are the same specific variety, as they are antigenically very different.

Prevention

Prevention of swine influenza has three components: prevention in swine, prevention of transmission to humans, and prevention of its spread among humans.

Prevention in swine

Swine influenza has become a greater problem in recent decades as the evolution of the virus has resulted in inconsistent responses to traditional vaccines. Standard commercial swine flu vaccines are effective in controlling the infection when the virus strains match enough to have significant cross-protection, and custom (autogenous) vaccines made from the specific viruses isolated are created and used in the more difficult cases.

Present vaccination strategies for SIV control and prevention in swine farms, typically include the use of one of several bivalent SIV vaccines commercially available in the United States. Of the 97 recent H3N2 isolates examined, only 41 isolates had strong serologic cross-reactions with antiserum to three commercial SIV vaccines. Since the protective ability of influenza vaccines depends primarily on the closeness of the match between the vaccine virus and the epidemic virus, the presence of nonreactive H3N2 SIV variants suggests that current commercial vaccines might not effectively protect pigs from infection with a majority of H3N2 viruses.

Prevention of spread in humans

Recommendations to prevent spread of the virus among humans include using standard infection control against influenza. This includes frequent washing of hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after being out in public.Vaccines against the H1N1 strain in the 2009 human outbreak are being developed and could be ready as early as June 2009.

Experts agree that hand-washing can help prevent viral infections, a surprisingly effective way to prevent all sorts of diseases, including ordinary influenza and the new swine flu virus. Influenza can spread in coughs or sneezes, but an increasing body of evidence shows little particles of virus can linger on tabletops, telephones and other surfaces and be transferred via the fingers to the mouth, nose or eyes. Alcohol-based gel or foam hand sanitizers work well to destroy viruses and bacteria. Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as a sudden fever, cough or muscle aches should stay away from work or public transportation and should see a doctor to be tested.

Social distancing is another tactic. It means staying away from other people who might be infected and can include avoiding large gatherings, spreading out a little at work, or perhaps staying home and lying low if an infection is spreading in a community.

Treatment

The CDC recommends the use of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir) for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses. The virus isolates that have been tested from the US and Mexico are however resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. If a person gets sick, antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and make the patient feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

Preparedness

To maintain a secure household during a pandemic flu, the Water Quality & Health Council recommends keeping as supplies food and bottled water, portable power sources and chlorine bleach as an emergency water purifier and surface sanitizer.
Epidemiology

Outbreaks in swine

2007 Philippine outbreak

On August 20, 2007 Department of Agriculture officers investigated the outbreak of swine flu in Nueva Ecija and Central Luzon, Philippines. The mortality rate is less than 10% for swine flu, unless there are complications like hog cholera. On July 27, 2007, the Philippine National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) raised a hog cholera "red alert" warning over Metro Manila and 5 regions of Luzon after the disease spread to backyard pig farms in Bulacan and Pampanga, even if these tested negative for the swine flu virus.

Outbreaks in humans

Swine flu has been reported numerous times as a zoonosis in humans, usually with limited distribution, rarely with a widespread distribution. The 1918 flu pandemic in humans was associated with H1N1, thus may reflect a zoonosis either from swine to humans or from humans to swine. Evidence available from that time is not sufficient to resolve this question. The "Spanish" influenza pandemic of 1918–19 infected one third of the world's population (or around 500 million persons at that time) and caused around 50 million deaths.
1976 U.S. outbreak
On February 5, 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix said he felt tired and weak. He died the next day and four of his fellow soldiers were later hospitalized. Two weeks after his death, health officials announced that swine flu was the cause of death and that this strain of flu appeared to be closely related to the strain involved in the 1918 flu pandemic. Alarmed public-health officials decided that action must be taken to head off another major pandemic, and they urged President Gerald Ford that every person in the U.S. be vaccinated for the disease.

However, the vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems. But on Oct. 1, 1976, the immunization program began and by Oct. 11, approximately 40 million people, or about 24% of the population, had received swine flu immunizations. That same day, three senior citizens died soon after receiving their swine flu shots and there was a media outcry linking the deaths to the immunizations, despite not having any positive proof. According to science writer Patrick Di Justo, however, by the time the truth was known — that the deaths were not proven to be related to the vaccine — it was too late. "The government had long feared mass panic about swine flu — now they feared mass panic about the swine flu vaccinations." This became a strong setback to the program.

There were reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a paralyzing neuromuscular disorder, affecting some people who had received swine flu immunizations. This syndrome is a rare side-effect of influenza vaccines, with an incidence of about one case per million vaccinations.As a result, Di Justo writes that "the public refused to trust a government-operated health program that killed old people and crippled young people." In total, less than 33 percent of the population had been immunized by the end of 1976. The National Influenza Immunization Program was effectively halted on Dec. 16.

Overall, about 500 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), resulting in death from severe pulmonary complications for 25 people, which, according to Dr. P. Haber, were probably caused by an immunopathological reaction to the 1976 vaccine. Other influenza vaccines have not been linked to GBS, though caution is advised for certain individuals, particularly those with a history of GBS.
2009 swine flu outbreak

The new strain of influenza involved in the 2009 swine flu outbreak is a reassortment of several strains of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 that are, separately, endemic in humans and in swine. Preliminary genetic characterization found that the hemagglutinin (HA) gene was similar to that of swine flu viruses present in United States pigs since 1999, but the neuraminidase (NA) and matrix protein (M) genes resembled versions present in European swine flu isolates. Viruses with this genetic makeup had not previously been found to be circulating in humans or pigs, but there is no formal national surveillance system to determine what viruses are circulating in pigs in the United States.

The origins of this new strain remain unknown. One theory is that Asian and European strains traveled to Mexico in migratory birds or in people, then combined with North American strains in Mexican pig factory farms before jumping over to farm workers.

The earliest known human case was at a Mexican pig farm whose nearby neighbors had been complaining about the manure smell and flies.Edgar Hernandez, 4, was thought to be suffering from ordinary influenza but laboratory testing revealed he had contracted swine flu. The boy went on to make a full recovery. The Mexican health agency acknowledged that the original disease vector of the virus may have been flies multiplying in manure lagoons of pig farms near Perote, Veracruz, owned by Granjas Carroll,a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, interim Deputy Director for CDC Science and Public Health, said that the American cases were found to be made up of genetic elements from four different flu viruses – North American swine influenza, North American avian influenza, human influenza, and swine influenza virus typically found in Asia and Europe – "an unusually mongrelised mix of genetic sequences."Pigs have been shown to act as a potential "mixing vessel" in which reassortment can occur between flu viruses of several species. This new strain appears to be a result of reassortment of human influenza and swine influenza viruses, presumably due to superinfection in an individual human. Influenza viruses readily undergo reassortment due to antigenic shift because their genome is split between eight pieces of RNA (see Orthomyxoviridae).

The current strain of swine flu can adapt to humans and spread more efficiently than previously known swine H1N1 strains. Moreover, co-infection of H1N1 swine flu and Oseltamivir resistant H1N1 season flu can lead to acquisition of H274Y by the swine flu via recombination or reassortment. Swine H1N1 with human H1 and N1 have been reported.

The 1918 pandemic strain has polymorphism from swine and human H1N1 in all eight pieces of RNA gene segments. Similar swapping of gene segments in humans co-infected with seasonal human influenza and swine H1N1 can lead to rapid evolution


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

US firms in China expect benefits in Beijing stimulus

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The Daily Star :

US firms in China expect benefits in Beijing stimulus


Two thirds of American companies operating in China expect to benefit from a huge stimulus package unveiled by Beijing to counter the global crisis, a US business association said Monday.

The figure was one of the findings in a 2009 report on the state of US business released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

"Two thirds of US companies in China expect to directly or indirectly benefit from China's four-trillion-yuan (584-billion-dollar) stimulus package," the chamber said in a press release.

The white paper was based on a survey of more than 400 US companies in China, the chamber said.

The chamber called on Beijing to ensure its package would also be open to US business participation, while saying the corresponding US package should do the same for Chinese enterprises.

"It is important that both the Chinese and American stimulus packages are implemented efficiently and openly to maximise their economic impact," it said.

Swine flu chills world economy

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The Daiy Star :

Swine flu chills world economy

Travel, tourism sectors take a hit; pharmaceutical shares rise


The global outbreak of swine flu sent shivers through financial markets on Monday just as some signs had appeared that the global economic crisis might be easing.

Travel and tourism took the brunt of uncertainty about how the threat of a pandemic might crimp economic activity, but the pharmaceutical sector rose as attention turned to defensive medical treatments and equipment.

The latest swine fever scare scythed through stock markets, cutting back gains made last week on some signs that the global economic crisis may be bottoming out.

But some pharmaceutical groups were in fine form on prospects for sales of their flu treatments and related supplies.

In Europe, Societe Generale analyst Patrick Bennett said: "The outbreak of swine flu in Mexico is a concerning development for the global economy."

At financial betting firm ETX Capital in London, trader Manoj Ladwa said: "Swine flu is ripping through the markets creating uncertainty in its wake."

Investors turned anxious where at the end of last week they had shown some optimism that the financial fever which has ravaged economies for the last 20 months may be abating.

The one flu-resistant sector was the pharmaceutical industry. Swiss giant Novartis said the World Health Organisation had contacted it about developing a vaccine.

And shares in Swiss drug giant Roche showed a gain of 3.51 percent on prospects of a surge in demand for its treatment Tamiflu.

An analyst at Vontobel in Switzerland, Andrew Weiss, said that shares in Roche had surged "when fear about bird flu really took hold in the fourth quarter of 2005" and the group's sales of Tamiflu had totalled 4.0 billion Swiss francs (2.65 billion euros, 3.49 billion dollars) in 2006 and 2007.

GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Shire all showed gains, and stock in Chugai Pharmaceutical, which sells the Tamiflu drug, climbed 14 percent.

A perception that the first sector to be hit would be the travel industry was given substance by EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou who urged people to avoid non-essential travel to flu-affected areas.

This provoked a sharp retort in the United States, where a state of public health emergency has been declared.

The bird flu epidemic that began in 2003 reduced the number of international travellers by 1.4 percent that year, data from the World Tourism Organisation shows.

In May of that year, traffic for airlines in the Asia-Pacific region where the crisis began, slumped by nearly 50 percent, the International Air Transport Association reported, costing those airlines six billion dollars in lost sales in 2003.

This swine fever scare, originating in Mexico, was likely to hit US and Latin American airlines hardest, followed by European airlines and notably the Spanish company Iberia, which operates most routes between Europe and South America, a French analyst who declined to be name, suggested.

The travel industry was already one of the sectors suffering greatly from the global economic crisis as businesses and consumers curtail expenditure.

The World Tourism Organisation had forecast zero growth to a contraction of 2.0 percent for international tourism this year after growth of 2.0 percent in 2008.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2

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TechGuru :Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2

While working its way to Office 14, Microsoft is also hard at work building the second service pack for the Office 2007 System. Back in October 2008 a member of the Office Service Pack team indicated that Service Pack 2 (SP2) for the 2007 Microsoft Office system is expected to be released in the near future. Although we arent yet announcing the exact release date, it will fall between February and April of 2009. Well, February has come and gone, and so did March. At the start of April the only download of Office 2007 Service Pack 2 comes from torrent trackers, namely the leaked Build 12.0.6416.1000. The bits offered for download were removed from at least one top torrent website and there is no confirmation at this point in time whether Build 12.0.6416.1000 is a legitimate release or not.


The second service pack for the Office 2007 System has slipped past the initial availability deadline announced by the Redmond company. At this point in time Microsoft has offered no information related to the progress done with the service pack. Although the software giant should have already released Office 2007 SP2 to manufacturing, Microsoft is mute on the progress of the development process.
Office 2007 SP2 Build 12.0.6416.1000 is labeled 012.0_B2TR_PRE.0_BTA_EN in the End User License Agreement, pointing out that the release is merely a Beta development milestone. Considering that the Redmond company was laboring to produce Office 2007 SP2 between February and April 2009, the service pack should have evolved further than the Beta stage, to at least Release Candidate or RTM-Escrow. Microsoft did serve a Beta of Office 2007 SP2 in 2008 to a select group of testers, but the testing program was not expanded, and the company offered no details on the development process of the service pack.


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Friday, April 24, 2009

Doctors welcome malaria microchip

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BBC News

Scientists from Glasgow University claim they have created a device which can detect malaria within minutes. Doctors have welcomed the development as more travellers go abroad without taking proper precautions against the disease. The flu-like symptoms can be missed until the patient is critically ill. Blood samples are placed in the microchip, which is designed to detect the strain of disease. This means the best drug can be used to treat it.

Last year a study revealed more cases of the most dangerous type of malaria than ever before are being brought back to the UK from trips abroad. The Health Protection Agency study identified 6,753 cases of falciparum malaria diagnosed between 2002 and 2006. Experts said many of the cases arose from visits to west Africa made by people visiting relatives and friends.

Project leader Dr Lisa Ranford-Cartwright said: "The current way of diagnosing is using a blood smear on a slide and examining it on a microscope. "That will take a good microscopist a good hour to reach a diagnosis, it's extremely difficult to make that diagnosis accurately. "The chip can give us a result in as little as half an hour." Dr Heather Ferguson, a malaria researcher, picked up the disease in southern Kenya and it was only spotted by chance when she was giving a blood sample. She said: "Had I not been diagnosed at that moment and caught it within the next 24 hours all those millions of parasites would have replicated one more time, making eight times as many as there had been before, which could very easily have been lethal."

Microsoft suffers first sales dip

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BBC News

Microsoft has said sales in the first three months of 2009 fell 6% from the previous year - its first quarterly drop in 23 years as a public company.

The world's largest software maker said profit dropped by 32% to $2.98bn (£2bn). Sales slipped to $13.65bn.

Microsoft makes most of its profit selling the Windows operating system and business software such as Office.

However demand has been hit by falling sales of personal computers as consumers and businesses trim spending.

"We expect the weakness to continue through at least the next quarter," said the firm's chief financial officer, Chris Liddell.

'On track'

Microsoft - which became a public company in 1986 - has been looking at ways of cutting costs.In January, it said it would cut up to 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months, including 1,400 immediately.

Microsoft's fall in profit was more severe than analysts had been expecting.

"There's stuff to be happy with - they're controlling costs and getting that under control," said Kim Caughey, a senior analyst with Fort Pitt Capital.

"The bad thing is demand and consumer preference seems to have affected their top line."

Shares in Microsoft rose by 4% in after-hours trading - possibly reassured by comments from the firm that it was on track to release the next version of its operating system, Windows 7, during its 2010 financial year.

Govt takes 5-year plan to revive Rupali Bank

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The New Age

The government is likely to revert from its decision of selling the public stake of the Rupali Bank as the finance ministry and the bank authority are now preparing a five-year plan for reviving its financial status through recapitalisation, official sources said.
‘We have jointly prepared the five years plan for recapitalisation of the commercial bank,’ said a senior official of the finance ministry.
A high powered meeting with senior officials including the managing director of the Rupali Bank was held at the finance ministry where the five-year recapitalisation plan was discussed and recommendations re-examined.
Another meeting will be required for reviewing the bank’s recapitalisation proposals, said the senior official.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Bank has rejected the proposal to turn the bank’s block loan of about Tk 1991.36 crore into bonds and issue them in the local bond market with 10 per cent interest, sources said.
The Rupali Bank will issue bonus shares instead of right shares in 2011 in the share market, sources added.
The Bank’s classified loans of Tk 498.21 crore would be considered as an accumulated loan and the guarantee period of the bank’s public loan of around Tk 93.33 crore would be extended.
The government would also provide guarantee of new public loan of Tk 222.61 crore, according to the five-year plan.
Earlier, the state-owned Rupali Bank had sought Tk 20 billion from the government to improve its capital base.
‘We require fresh fund and policy support for improved financial status,’ managing director Abdul Hamid Miah told the New Age.
The Rupali Bank was the centre of attraction during the past two years for its failed sales bid to a Saudi prince who offered a record US$ 450 million for the government stakes in the bank, but the caretaker government cancelled the sale bid after the prince failed to make the payment in time.

Credit flow to private sector on the decline

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The Financial Express

The credit flow to the private sector has been on the decline since October last year as businessmen are investing cautiously in the backdrop of global economic recession.

The private sector credit growth came down to 19.84 per cent in February from 20.94 in January this year, according to the central bank statistics.

Bankers, however, expects the credit flow to the private sector to grow from the fourth quarter of this fiscal as the fiscal and monetary government stimulus packages would help mitigate the immediate effect of the global recession.

On 19 April last, the government announced an interim package worth Tk 34.24 billion for agriculture, power and export sectors.

Under the fiscal support part of the package for the April-June period of the FY 2008-09, the rates of export subsidy have been raised for three sectors, namely, jute, leather and frozen food.

"We expect that the credit flow to the private sector will increase in the last two months of this fiscal," Managing Director of the National Credit and Commerce Bank Limited (NCCBL) Nurul Amin told the FE Thursday.

The credit flow to the private sector has declined in the last five months because of a 'go-slow' policy adopted by the businessmen to avoid any financial risk against the global economic recession, the central bank officials said.

The private sector credit growth came down to 24.72 per cent in October from 26.55 per cent in September 2008.

"The credit flow to the private sector has come down close to the target, fixed by the central bank earlier, for this fiscal," a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the FE.

The private sector credit growth will come down to 18.50 per cent by the end of June this year, according to the BB's latest monetary policy, announced on January 14 last.

The credit flow to the private sector increased by 19.84 per cent to Tk 343.50 billion in February last on a year-on-year basis from 19.36 per cent or Tk 280.87 billion of the corresponding period of the previous year, the BB's data showed.

The BB official also said the private sector credit growth may finally exceed the target to meet the demand of fresh loans to the country's business community.

On April 7 last, the central bank governor advised the commercial banks to boost investments in thrust sectors including agriculture and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to help mitigate the impact of the ongoing global economic meltdown.

Novartis profits slide 14pc

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Shine off ceramics exports

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The Daily Star

Local ceramic tableware makers feel the pinch of the global financial crisis, as exports have plummeted over the last few months.

Bangladesh exported ceramic tableware worth $23.66 million, 23 percent lower than the $30.68 million target for the July-February period of the current fiscal year, according to data from exporters and the Export Promotion Bureau. The export figure was $25.09 million for the same period in fiscal 2007-08.

The export target for the current fiscal year has been set close to $48 million.

“We are not getting new orders at the moment. Buyers seem reluctant to place orders," said Iftakher Uddin Farhad, chairman and managing director of FARR Ceramics Ltd, which exported products worth Tk 20 crore ($2.9 million) in 2008.

For Farhad, an Italian buyer was the latest to cancel his orders.

According to market players, about 60 ceramic factories have invested more than Tk 2,000 crore in the sector, which mainly produces tableware and tiles.

After meeting domestic demand, the industry exports to 50 countries, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Middle East.

Bangladesh Ceramic Ware Manufacturers' Association data shows domestic sales were around Tk 700 crore in 2008.

Despite all odds, the country's ceramic tableware market has a bright prospect because of an increasing demand from the developed countries in Europe and the US, where the production cost of the item has significantly increased due to high labour costs.

Bangladesh enjoys competitive labour costs and workers have been well trained, industry people said.

But exporters are worried about the slowing trend in exports because of the global recession.

The FARR Ceramics boss said his company's monthly export figure dropped to $2 lakh in the January-March period of 2009 from $3 lakh a year ago.

Shinepukur Ceramics Industries, the largest manufacturer in the country with a capacity to produce 2.4 crore pieces of tableware a year, is also facing a 30 percent reduction in export orders this year.

The company exported ceramic tableware worth Tk 150 crore in 2008, according to a senior official of the company.

Monno Ceramics Industries, which was set up in 1982 with a Tk 115 crore investment, also faces deteriorating export orders in the first quarter of 2009, said a top official of the company. Last year, Monno's export figures stood at Tk 80 crore.

Artisan Ceramics, which exported goods worth Tk 12 crore in 2008, is facing orders down by 40 percent so far this year, compared to last year.

According to the manufacturers' association, ceramic exports grew by 695 percent in the last decade.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eating fish cuts heart failure risk

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Times Of India

Eating salmon or other fatty fish just once a week can help reduce men’s risk of heart failure, says a new study. However, the effect of fatty fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids can be seen only in men. The study provided no evidence that taking food supplements containing marine omega-3 fatty acids made any difference. The men in this study, which is published in Europe’s leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal, obtained most of their marine omega-3 fatty acids from the food they ate.

Researchers in the USA and Sweden followed 39,367 Swedish men, aged between 45-79, from 1998 to 2004. They recorded details of the men’s diet and tracked the men’s outcome through Swedish inpatient and cause-of-death registers. During the period, 597 men without a history of heart disease or diabetes developed heart failure, of which 34 died.

The researchers found that men who eat fatty fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, whitefish and char, once a week were 12 percent less likely to develop heart failure compared to men who never eat fatty fish.

Although this association with fatty fish did not reach statistical significance, the researchers also found a statistically significant association with the intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids (found in cod livers and other fish oils); men who consumed approximately 0.36 grams a day were 33 percent less likely to develop heart failure than men who consumed little or no marine omega-3 fatty acids (0.15-0.22 grams a day).

The men were divided into five groups depending on their intake of fatty fish, with the first group consuming none, or very little, and the fifth group consuming the most - three of more servings of fatty fish a week. The researchers found that while the middle group, which eat one serving of fatty fish a week, had a 12 percent reduced risk compared to the men who never eat fatty fish, the men in the next two groups, who eat either two servings a week or three or more servings a week, had nearly the same risk as the men who eat none.

The researchers also divided the men into five groups based on their intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids. Again, the same U-shape was seen, with the middle group who consumed 0.36 grams a day of fatty acids having a 33 percent reduced risk of heart failure, while the men who consumed more (either approximately 0.46 grams per day or approximately 0.71 grams per day) had a risk similar to men who consumed none or very little.

Dr Emily Levitan, a cardiology research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, who led the research, said: "Our study shows that a moderate intake of fatty fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids is associated with lower rates of heart failure in men, but that the men did not gain a greater benefit by eating more of these foods.

"The apparent U-shaped relationship of fatty fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids with heart failure was unexpected. The higher rate of heart failure in men who consumed the most fatty fish or marine omega-3 fatty acids compared with moderate consumption may be due to chance. Alternatively, these may be men in poor health who ate more fish to try to improve their ill-health, and therefore the fatty fish and fatty acids appear to be risk factors for heart failure. I suspect this is the most likely explanation, but we cannot be certain from our data."

SRK defends his Knight Riders!

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Times Of India

Be it his films or his IPL franchisee Knight Riders, SRK puts his mouth where his heart is. Like in this interview to BT hours after the Knight Riders scored their first points in IPL-II on Tuesday, after winning against Kings XI Punjab courtesy the Duckworth-Lewis method. The turning point in that match, feels SRK, was that the entire team got into the act. “Dada getting quick wickets, Ishant Sharma doing his bit, and then Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum coming out and batting like that, it was heartening to see the team supporting one another,” says SRK. But even as he states that the Knight Riders were “deserving winners”, he admits that the Knights are also “spirited losers”. “We were cold at the start of the tournament,” SRK says it as it is, when asked about the team’s dismal first performance against Team Hyderabad, “but the first few matches are all about team building and team strengthening, and we’re getting there.”

Over to the team. Is there additional pressure on the Knights to perform, considering the team has been mired in controversies from the start? “What everyone says need not always be true. We have a thought process behind our decisions, be it the multi-captain theory or the change of captain. We aren’t bothered by controversy, in fact, it brings us closer, binds us more, when the world puts us down, we find confidence and support in each other. We stick to what we believe in, we Knights are married to each other,” says the ever-positive Khan.

The Knights will play against last year’s champs Team Rajasthan today, tough match? “Each match is tough, because the pitches are unknown to us. But we’ll give Shane Warne and his team an entertaining fight!” promises SRK. But the Bollywood star has a peculiar dilemma — he was born in Delhi, works in Mumbai and owns a Kolkata franchisee — how does he balance his loyalties?

“Kolkata is my playground, Mumbai, my home. It just shows I’m a true Indian, a walking, talking epitome of being a true Indian!” he laughs. But despite being the owner of the team, SRK knows when to step back and let others do the talking.

“When it comes to cricket, I am also an outsider. I let those who know the game make the decisions. I don’t know if a decision is good or bad, but I will support it nonetheless. I treat my team like I treat my children, and fans should support us in good times and bad. It should be from the heart...” No wonder, then, that King Khan is their Knight in shining armour!

$181m investment in KEPZ

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The Daily Star :$181m investment in KEPZ Extension hangs in balance

A Bepza suspension order on the construction works at the project sites at Karnaphuli EPZ (KEPZ) Extension in Chittagong and a fear of taking back the land by the food ministry have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of $181.2 million foreign investment.

The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) on March 25 sent a letter to the KEPZ asking it to suspend construction works of Bepza and other industries in the allocated industrial zone at the Halishahar CSD in the port city until further notice.

The order came at the time when around 70 percent of the construction works were complete with the investors already depositing around $500,000 to Bepza as security deposit, stamp duties and rents, said investors.

The construction works have remained suspended since March 28.

In a letter to the Bepza chairman on April 18, the investors demanded 'definite answer or offerings' before April 27, and said otherwise they would go for legal action, demanding compensation worth $100 million from the authorities.

The investors also sent letters to the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Metropolitan Chamber, American Chamber, foreign and industries ministries and Taiwan Trade Centre.

Investors including nine from Taiwan, two from South Korea, and one each from India, Sri Lanka and China are now thinking of withdrawing investment if Bepza fails to offer them any decision by this time.

“This decision (of suspending construction works) will create a 'negative impact' on foreign direct investment to the country,” said Jeff Chuang, managing director of Cosmos Shoes International Ltd that invested the largest amount in KEPZ.

“Foreign investors maintain good networks and potential investors always seek information from existing investors, embassies or investment promotion bodies of their countries,” he said.

“Furthermore, this decision has ruined my and other investors' reputation with customers as well as the reputation of both the Bepza and investment environment of Bangladesh,” said Chuang, who is acting on behalf of all the investors at KEPZ Extension CSD (Central Storage Depot).

“All the investors at KEPZ Extension suffered great losses during this suspension of construction works.”

He said the plants they were going to build in the abandoned CSD land in Halishahar would have created jobs for at least 24,000 people by 2010.

“We have long-term agreements with top global brands. Now if the deals are cancelled, we will have to face adverse impacts,” he said.

Bepza allocated 59.28 acres of land to the KEPZ Extension in December 2006, which was earlier an abandoned CSD warehouse of the government's food department, for transforming the area into an EPZ.

Fourteen foreign investors were given allotments and they signed 30 years' lease agreements with Bepza from June 2008 to January 2009.

There were 86 CSD buildings, of which Bepza demolished 53 unusable ones and spent Tk 33 million for developing infrastructure.

An engineers' committee has inspected the remaining buildings, and found that 25 are no longer suitable for neither industrial use nor storage use for food grains.

As the Halishahar CSD's 33 remaining buildings were not fit for food grain storage, the food ministry declared the CSD abandoned in 1997 and gave it to Bepza.

The CSD had the capacity to store 85,000 tonnes of food grains but was rarely used before the handover.

A committee headed by industries secretary suggested in 2008 that it was not possible to return the land to the food ministry and advised the government to set up a food depot with 15,000 tonnes of capacity at Dewanghat in Chittagong.

To compensate the food ministry, the finance ministry has taken away Tk 300 crore from Bepza fund and allocated the money for construction of a food depot at Dewanghat.

The present government has decided to take control of the abandoned CSDs and make more CSDs across the country to ensure food security.

The suspension order is a part of this concern and it is speculated that the land would be taken back to the food ministry, said a senior Bepza official.

He said the government recently sought explanation as to why the CSD land was allocated to Bepza. After that Bepza sent a letter to the Prime Minister's Office explaining all the factors.

Now the decision is under consideration of the prime minister.

Britain expects return to growth in 2009

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The New Age

Britain on Wednesday forecast a return to growth in late 2009 after its worst recession since World War II, as prime minister Gordon Brown seeks to boost his popularity before key elections.
Delivering the Labour government’s annual budget to parliament, finance minister Alistair Darling predicted the British economy would start growing again ‘towards the end of the year’, winning the praise of Britain’s biggest union.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Darling warned however that British gross domestic product would contract 3.5 per cent in 2009, far worse than a previous government estimate.
The economy will then grow 1.25 per cent in 2010, forecast Darling, whose Labour Party led by Brown is trailing the main opposition Conservatives in the polls ahead of a general election that must be held by the middle of next year.
Analysts had expected Darling to say that growth would not resume until 2010 amid the worst global downturn since the 1930s.
Darling on Wednesday also warned that public borrowing would balloon to a record 175 billion pounds ($256b) in 2009-10 from 90 billion pounds in 2008-09.
The government’s forecasts for 2009 growth contraction and public borrowing in the current fiscal year are in line with analysts’ expectations.
The budget included plans aimed at helping young people back into work and providing a boost to Britain’s struggling housing and auto sectors.
In line with Germany, France and other European countries, Britain will launch a car-scrapping scheme from next month worth 2,000 pounds per car.
The leader of Britain’s biggest union Unite, Derek Simpson, said Darling deserved credit.
‘Alistair Darling had to deliver the toughest budget in decades but he has positioned Labour as the party for jobs and social justice while exposing the Tories for being the party of cuts and inequality,’ Simpson said.
But ahead of the budget, official economic data showed worsening unemployment and soaring public borrowing as Britain struggles with the global financial crisis.
Labour, in power since 1997, is lagging behind the Conservatives by up to 19 points, according to recent opinion polls.
Conservative leader David Cameron attacked the soaring levels of borrowing unveiled by Darling, saying the chancellor had written himself into the history books and ‘written a whole chapter in red ink’.
Official data Wednesday showed Britain’s public borrowing had soared to a record 90 billion pounds in 2008-09 as the government bailed out banks and tried to tame the recession.
Elsewhere, it was announced that Britain’s unemployment rate jumped to 6.7 per cent in the three months to February from 6.1 per cent in the previous three months as people claiming jobless benefits rose to 2.1 million — the highest level for 12 years.
Compounding Britain’s woes are slumping tax revenues, due to rising unemployment and also the government’s decision late last year to slash sales tax on goods and services to boost consumer spending.
The VAT reduction is due to expire at the end of 2009.
The public purse has meanwhile been stretched by a series of costly bailouts in which the government has rescued some of the country’s biggest banks from the international credit crunch.
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday said the financial crisis would cost Britain’s banks the equivalent of 9.2 per cent of gross domestic product — or around 132 billion pounds — by the end of the year.
In his pre-budget report last November, Darling launched a 20-billion-pound economic stimulus package of tax cuts, including reducing the VAT rate.

Bank profits to go down in 2009

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The Daily Star

Banks are likely to pass through a tough year in retaining the profitability and productivity because of the falling domestic demand and commodity prices, top bankers fear.

They believe lending rate cuts and loan rescheduling without down payment would hurt bank profits significantly.

The banking industry, comprising 48 banks, heavily depends on the garments and spinning sectors for investment. Some 4,500 woven, 1,700 knitwear and about 350 spinners sprang up with the help of banks.

A severe slump in global economy and consumption has caused an investment- sluggishness in these industrial areas in the country. Even the existing factories do not go for any expansion, according to senior bank officials.

“We are not getting any new investment proposal this year as we had received previously,” said Kaiser A Chowdhury, president and managing director of AB Bank.

AB Bank, a 27 years old bank, had posted a 6 percent growth in advances in the first quarter of 2009.

United Commercial Bank's advance growth was within 3 percent. This bank has been in operation for the last 26 years.

“It will be extremely challenging this year to retain even the profit we earned in 2008, as the credit demand diminishes,” said Chowdhury.

Of the 48 banks, 30 are private commercial banks, nine foreign and nine state banks. Except five state-run specialised banks, all these banks were making profits riding on booming garments and spinning sectors and a rapid spike in the prices of commodities in 2007 and 2008.

Till the third quarter of 2008, the banking sector earned huge money from charges and commissions by financing commodity imports.

Meanwhile, bank share prices have already considerably come down. Market capitalisation of banking stocks was Tk 35,453.12 crore at the end of March 2008, which came down to Tk 27,155.16 crore as of March 23 this year.

Financial disclosures and dividends announced for 2008 performance have also failed to attract small stock investors.

The central bank has recently pressurised scheduled banks to cut the lending rate to maximum 13 percent, which the bankers believe would erode the profits significantly.

“A bank like us will profit around Tk 70 crore less this year because of such rate cut,” said Mahmud Sattar, managing director of The City Bank.

“Credit growth is very slow less than 3 percent so far in 2009,” said Shahjahan Bhuiyan, managing g director of United Commercial Bank.

Bhuiyan said: “Economy is in a stagnant position. We are getting no new loan proposal.”

He attributed the lesser profit this year to the rise in the cost of fund, less income from trade financing and lower business demand.

“Banks will be under a severe pressure this year. No doubt, this year's income will go down,” said Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank.

“We have to look for new avenues for investments, otherwise sustaining the business will be tough this year,” said Kaiser Chowdhury of AB Bank.

 

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