Monday, April 18, 2011

Missing the Gorilla: People Prone to 'Inattention Blindness' Have a Lower Working Memory Capacity

The answer: People who fail to see something right in front of them while they are focusing on something else have lower "working memory capacity" -- a measure of "attentional control," or the ability to focus attention when and where needed, and on more than one thing at a time.

"Because people are different in how well they can focus their attention, this may influence whether you'll see something you're not expecting, in this case, a person in a gorilla suit walking across the computer screen," says the study's first author, Janelle Seegmiller, a psychology doctoral student.

The study -- explaining why some people are susceptible to inattention blindness and others are not -- will be published in the May issue of The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

Seegmiller conducted the research with two psychology faculty members -- Jason Watson, an assistant professor, and David Strayer, a professor and leader of several studies about cell phone use and distracted driving.

"We found that people who notice the gorilla are better able to focus attention," says Watson, also an assistant investigator with the university's Brain Institute.

'The Invisible Gorilla' Test for Inattention Blindness

The new study used a video made famous by earlier "inattention blindness" research featured in the 2010 book "The Invisible Gorilla," by Christopher Chabris, a psychologist at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and Daniel Simons, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The video depicts six actors passing a basketball. Viewers are asked to count the number of passes. Many people are so intent on counting that they fail to see a person in a gorilla suit stroll across the scene, stop briefly to thump their chest, and then walk off.

Seegmiller, Watson and Strayer did a new version of the older experiments, designed to determine the reason some people see the gorilla and others miss it.

Why are the results important?

"You can imagine that if you're driving and road conditions aren't very good, unexpected things can happen, and individuals with better control over attention would be more likely to notice those unexpected events without having to be explicitly told to watch for them," Seegmiller says.

Watson adds: "The potential implications are that if we are all paying attention as we are driving, some individuals may have enough extra flexibility in their attention to notice distractions that could cause accidents. That doesn't mean people ought to be self-distracting by talking on a cell phone while driving -- even if they have better control over their attention. Our prior research has shown that very few individuals [only 2.5 percent] are capable of handling driving and talking on a cell phone without impairment. "

Strayer has conducted studies showing that inattention blindness explains why motorists can fail to see something right in front of them -- like a stop light turning green -- because they are distracted by the conversation, and how motorists using cell phones impede traffic and increase their risk of traffic accidents.

Linking Working Memory to Inattention Blindness

A key question in the study was whether people with a high working memory capacity are less likely to see a distraction because they focus intently on the task at hand -- a possibility suggested by some earlier research -- or if they are more likely to see a distraction because they are better able to shift their attention when needed.

The new study indicates the latter is true.

"We may be the first researchers to offer an explanation for why some people notice the gorilla and some people don't," Watson says.

Working memory capacity "is how much you can process in your working memory at once," Seegmiller says. "Working memory is the stuff you are dealing with right at that moment, like trying to solve a math problem or remember your grocery list. It's not long-term memory like remembering facts, dates and stuff you learned in school."

The researchers studied working memory capacity because it "is a way that we measure how some people can be better than other people at focusing their attention on what they're supposed to," she adds.

The Utah study began with 306 psychology students who were tested with the gorilla video, but about one-third then were excluded because they had prior knowledge of the video. That left 197 students, ages 18 to 35, whose test results were analyzed.

First, the psychologists measured working memory capacity using what is known as an "operation span test." Participants were given a set of math problems, each one of which was followed by a letter, such as "Is 8 divided by 4, then plus 3 equal to 4? A."

Each participant was given a total of 75 of these equation-letter combinations, in sets of three to seven. For example, if a set of five equations ended with the letters A, C, D, G, P, the participant got five points for remembering ACDGP in that order. After each set of equations and letters, participants were asked to recall all the letters of each set. A few participants scored a perfect 75 score.

Participants had to get 80 percent of the math equations right to be included in the analysis. That was to ensure they focused on solving the math problems and not just on remembering the letters after the equations.

Next, the participants watched the 24-second Chabris-Simons gorilla video, which had two, three-member basketball teams (black shirts and white shirts) passing balls. Participants were asked to count bounce passes and aerial passes by the black team. Then they were asked for the two pass counts and whether they noticed anything unusual.

To remove a potential bias in the study, the researchers had to make sure the people who noticed the gorilla also were counting basketball passes; otherwise, people who weren't counting passes would be more likely to notice the distraction. So only video viewers who were at least 80 percent accurate in counting passes were analyzed.

The Utah psychologists got results quite similar to those found by Simons and Chabris in their original study in 1999: of participants who were acceptably accurate in counting passes, 58 percent in the new study noticed the gorilla and 42 percent did not.

But the Utah study went further: Again analyzing only accurate pass counters, the gorilla was noticed by 67 percent of those with high working memory capacity but only by 36 percent of those with low working memory capacity.

In other words, "if you are on task and counting passes correctly, and you're good at paying attention, you are twice as likely to notice the gorilla compared with people who are not as good at paying attention," Watson says. "People who notice the gorilla are better able to focus their attention. They have a flexible focus in some sense."

Put another way, they are better at multitasking.

Future studies should look for other possible explanations of why some people suffer inattention blindness and others do not, including differences in the speeds at which our brains process information, and differences in personality types, the Utah psychologists say.

New Pollutants: Flame Retardants Detected in Peregrine Falcon Eggs

"The presence of 'dechlorane plus' and other related, chlorinated compounds used as flame retardants have been detected for the first time in the European biota (flora and fauna of the region)," explains Ethel Eljarrat, co-author of the study and scientist at the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC, Spain).

The researchers have found these substances in peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) eggs in both Spain and Canada. The flame retardants are often added to textiles, electronic circuits and other products to inhibit or resist the spread of fire, but can be transferred to the environment.

In nature these compounds are "bioaccumulating and bioconcentrating" all along the food chain, as evidenced by the research published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal. The international research team for this study was led by Begoña Jiménez of the Institute of Organic Chemistry (CSIC, Spain), and Environment Canada researchers, Kim Fernie and Mehran Alaee.

Having received the relevant permits, eggs that had failed to hatch from various active falcon nests in Canada and Spain, were collected. The collection involved 13 eggs from Spain (five in Guadalajara -- a territory representative of an inland habitat of the Iberian Peninsula -- and eight in Bilbao -- representing a coastal environment), and 12 eggs from Canada (Great Lakes Region and Eastern provinces).

The levels of some of the measured contaminants have been found to be somewhat higher in Bilbao than in Guadalajara, and the authors believe this may be due partially to the difference in the falcons' diet: more aquatic in the former and more terrestrial in the latter. In fact, if fish is highly contaminated, peregrines would accumulate more of the harmful substances. While peregrine falcons do not eat fish, they prey upon other birds, some of which may eat fish.

Selecting the peregrine falcon was no accident. This species was endangered in many areas of the northern hemisphere due to the use of organochlorinated pesticides, particularly DDT, though when this was prohibited in the 1970s the populations recovered. Furthermore, falcons are at the top end of the food chain and accumulate substances carried by their prey.

Highest levels in the Canadian samples

The results reveal that the concentrations of 'dechlorane plus' and some of the other chlorinated halogens were "significantly higher" in the Canadian falcons' eggs than in those of Spain. The reason for this could be that the industry that has manufactured these compounds for decades (although they are now also produced in China) is located in New York State close to the area where samples were collected. In addition, the use of these compounds has generally been higher in North America than Europe.

The researcher acknowledges that the effects that these flame retardants may have on the falcons' eggs or on their development are still unknown, "but their detection is a first step." These are emerging pollutants, which comprise both those which have appeared more recently and those that have been used for a long time but are just lately the subject of environmental interest.

Other flame retardants, including some brominated flame retardants, have already been confirmed as toxic endocrine disruptors, and their use has been prohibited in some of the commercial mixes in Europe and America. Furthermore, they are candidates for inclusion on a list of Persistent Organic Pollutants to be eliminated, a list compiled by the Stockholm Convention which includes other pollutants such as DDT or dioxins.

This study forms part of the doctoral thesis submitted this month by the researcher Paula Guerra from IDAEA on "The analysis of emerging halogenated flame retardants and their impact on the environment and on humans." All of the eggs were analyzed by her during her exchange studies at Environment Canada.

A research group at IDAEA led by Damià Barceló has also confirmed the presence of these compounds in sediment and fish in the rivers of the Ebro basin (Spain).

Office 365 goes into public beta

According to the company, it is next-generation cloud productivity service for businesses of all sizes. What that means is that Microsoft has brought, Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online to a constantly updating cloud service. The public beta will allow users in 38 markets and 17 languages to try out the software for the first time. The seems like the service will be mostly geared toward small businesses, since 70 percent of the people who signed up for the limited beta were small businesses.

Office 365 has its own app store, allowing user to add to the functionality as they see fit. This app store, called The Marketplace, currently has more than 100 apps and 400 professional services available to the users. New apps and services are expected to be added over time.

In conjunction with the public beta of the new service Microsoft has announced a new contest. The contest, named the Office 365: Ready for Work contest, and it is taking place on Microsoft’s Office 365 Facebook page. All business that want to enter have to do is share their experiences with the software on the page. The winner, which will be determined by a community vote, will win free access to Office 365 for a year, $50,000 in advertising and business services, and a Microsoft executive for a day to work at the business or charity of the winners choice.

Why RIM leaned on Google in its war with Apple

There are some 400,000 apps for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch lines. By comparison, there are just 25,000 for RIM’s BlackBerry. By designing the PlayBook to handle Android apps, RIM has just added 200,000 more to its mobile ecosystem.

The question is: At what cost?

The strategy – which marks a significant departure from RIM’s traditional “quality over quantity” approach to mobile apps – could have several-longer term implications, both positive and negative, for the company.

In the near term, the Android strategy is aimed at making the PlayBook a more appealing option compared to Apple’s iPad, which currently leads the industry, and other tablet competitors, such as the Motorola Xoom.

PlayBook users will be able to download software that effectively acts as an Android sandbox within the tablet’s new operating system, called QNX. (An operating system is the main piece of software on a device that allows all other software to function.)

The purpose of that design is to allow users to access Android apps, while still retaining the PlayBook’s security features, which are also present in the BlackBerry and are major selling point for corporate clients looking to keep their communication and data safe.

On its face, the Android strategy seems to clash with RIM’s philosophy, which is grounded in the concept of the “super-app.” The company defines such apps as pieces of software that take advantage of several of the BlackBerry’s (or PlayBook’s) strengths and functions, such as multimedia, e-mail or calendar services. The best example of a super-app is the BlackBerry Messenger, which has attracted tens of millions of users and is now a major reason why many consumers – especially younger consumers – choose the BlackBerry.

Indeed, even as RIM co-chief executive officer Jim Balsillie announced the Android strategy during a conference call with analysts on Thursday, he seemed torn between quality and quantity of apps, saying he was not a fan of the “app tonnage” argument, but that, nonetheless, users who wanted lots of apps to choose from will now be able to do so on the PlayBook.

Whether consumers respond to that pitch is yet to be seen. But the practical impact of RIM’s move is that the PlayBook now has one of the most broad developer environments of any mobile device.

“Opening up the PlayBook is a very significant shift,” said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy. “This opens them up to an entire slice of market that had been interested in Google's solutions and might now be interested in the PlayBook.”

The strategy does come with a risk, however – that developers of software applications will give up on designing apps that are made especially for RIM products and focus just on Android apps, which can also run on myriad competing devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy tablet.

“Ultimately, we believe it depends on the uptake of the PlayBook tablet,” said UBS analyst Phillip Huang. “If the tablet is as successful with enterprise customers as RIM claims due to the performance attributes of the … PlayBook, then perhaps developers will find enough reason to develop apps to run natively on the PlayBook.”

Mr. Balsillie sought to play down such fears on Thursday, and there are several trends that support his assertion. Though RIM’s sales have increasingly veered toward the consumer segment, it still maintains a dominant position in enterprise, or business, smart phones. Businesses tend to upgrade their devices according to certain cycles, and most are unlikely to alter those cycles significantly one way or another. RIM also has tens of millions of existing BlackBerry users, meaning developers will continue to have reason to build BlackBerry-specific apps.

In terms of app revenue, it is unclear just how much of a money-maker the Android strategy will turn out to be. Google doesn’t typically make money from app sales. Instead, about 70 per cent of revenues go to the app developers, with the remaining 30 per cent split between carriers, device manufacturers and processing fees. RIM also gives developers roughly 70 per cent of traditional BlackBerry app revenues.

In the short term, customers will look to see how well Android apps actually run on the PlayBook – both as a way to see if there’s a significant drop in the user experience and as a means to gauge the power of the tablet’s hardware and software. In the long term, RIM may well choose to outsource run-of-the-mill apps to Android developers, and concentrate on facilitating RIM-specific “super apps” as a way of differentiating its products – effectively trying to have the best of both worlds.

“RIM has chosen to tie itself to an established leader that has momentum [rather] than to go it alone and risk it,” Mr. Levy said. “It's a smart strategy by RIM because it hedges the company's fortunes as it moves away from the legacy BlackBerry system.”

India Bans Nokia E-mail Services

Nokia's new push e-mail services have been banned in India, as the country moves its sights beyond BlackBerry maker Research in Motion in its quest to monitor telecommunications. The Finnish phone maker's new push e-mail services are now barred by India's mobile operators, by orders of the government, which is waiting for a new monitoring system to be put in place.

India's Ministry of Home Affairs have ordered “Telecom Service Providers not to launch Nokia's proposed pushmail and powermail service without putting in place monitoring facilities."

Nokia's messaging services, which include push e-mail for companies and consumers, allows mobile users to manage multiple e-mail accounts via clients such as Yahoo, Gmail, Rediff and Sify.

Nokia representatives in India said they have not heard about the issue but strive to meet government and legal demands where they do business.

The move is part of increasing security activity by the Indian government on telecommunications it cannot monitor. Previously, Indian authorities have tussled with RIM's BlackBerry e-mail services, ordering RIM to come up with a solution that would allow government to intercept business-level e-mail services.

But while the pressure on RIM primarily affects its growth in the business market in India, Nokia's ban may prove more wide-ranging. While the Finnish company has been beleaguered by the rise of Apple and Android and the steady erosion of its market share to these rivals, Nokia is still the world's largest handset maker, partly based on its share in emerging global smartphone markets.

With nearly 50 percent of the E-Series business phones activated for push e-mail, India's ban could hit a crucial segment for the company. Nokia previously claimed it set up servers in India to enable local security agencies to monitor the Finnish company's enterprise e-mail services within the country.

India's home ministry doesn't look likely to let up on its national security efforts, however. It has already asked telecom and IT departments to broaden the meaning of telecom and Internet services within existing legal frameworks, which would make it mandatory for operators to have security systems in place to allow interception by national security agencies based on telephone numbers, device identity, e-mail IDs, IP addresses or keywords on a real-time basis.

Anaphylaxis- A Life Threatening Allergy

Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergy. It can develop in response to any allergen. It develops due to the systematic allergic reactions that are caused by an antibody known as immunoglobulin (IgE). Immunoglobulin is the allergen that attacks the body and as a result the histamines are released. Anaphylaxis is the most dangerous type of allergy and it is not very common.
Causes of Anaphylaxis

Basically anaphylaxis is caused due to any allergen. Human body has an amazing defensive system against dangerous bacteria and viruses. The immune system of some people is so sensitive that when they are open to the elements like animal dander, dust, peanuts, pollen or shell fish an antibody Immunoglobulin is produced in the body. These antibodies are attached to blood cells known as mast cells. When the allergic patients are open to an allergen the immune system assembles its defense and the chemical weapons are launched to attack the enemies. The allergens are sticking to the IgE and IgE are attached to the mast cells. This enhances reaction in which the mast cells release chemicals that includes Histamine. It causes the symptoms of an allergy. Histamines are attached to the receptors in the blood vessels. It also sticks to other receptors that causes swelling, itching, runny nose etc in this conditions unpleasant and the life threatening symptoms can also be occurred.

Penicillin, peanuts and bee sting can be allergens that can cause serious reactions in the whole body and can ultimately result in anaphylaxis. Sometimes the causes of anaphylaxis are unknown.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

The symptoms of anaphylaxis can be mild, moderate or severe.

1. Mild Symptoms
Mild symptoms affect the skin and the layers just underneath the skin and causes itchy and watery eyes.

2. Moderate Symptoms
Moderate symptoms affect the respiratory systems and cardiovascular system that causes difficulty breathing and the vomiting.

3. Severe Symptoms
Severe symptoms include low blood pressure, confusion and loss of consciousness.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergy. It causes drop in blood pressure and the bronchial tubes get narrow which causes slowness, confusion, difficulty breathing or even death.

Anaphylactic allergy can occur in minutes after exposure to the allergens and the symptoms may occur in 4-8 hours.
Treatment of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is generally treated by a medicine called Epinephrine. If it is injected at an initial stage, it acts as a life saving drug.
Managing Anaphylaxis

One should know the symptoms of allergy to respond quickly and effectively when allergic reactions take place. It is important to keep medications with you for an emergency situation. It is very important to take all preventive measures in order to be safe from life threatening allergens.

What is Coagulation? Or Clotting of Blood

Coagulation is process by which blood is clot and then heals a cut and stops the bleeding. It is also a complicated part of Hemostasis. It stops blood loss from damaged blood vessels. In Hemostasis a damaged blood vessel is blocked by a Platelet and clot of fibrin stops the bleeding and the damage is repaired.

Coagulation consists of Platelets and the Protein components.

When a lining of the blood vessel is damaged, Platelets form a membrane at the place of injury and proteins in the Blood Plasma chemically reacts to form fibrin that forms the Platelet covering.

There are two types of Hemostasis:

1. Primary Hemostasis
2. Secondary Hemostasis

Primary Hemosatsis
It occurs when the platelets appear at the site of injury to block it.

Secondary Hemostasis
In this process the Proteins chemically reacts to strengthen the blockage and begins the healing process.

It is a disc shaped element in the blood that helps in clotting of blood. They are also grouped as blood cells.

It is a protein that helps in blood clotting. It deposits around an injury in a form of net to strengthen the platelets. It dries and becomes hard to stop the clotting and then it heals the wound.

When platelets contacts with the damaged tissue then chemical reactions occur that forms the Fibrin from Fibrinogen.
Coagulation Factors (Clotting Factors)

Coagulation factors are proteins which are produced by liver. There are numbered in the order of their discovery. They are named after Roman Numerals from I-XIII. There are many proteins that help in blood clotting and they are not given numbers rather they are named as others.

When a wall of blood vessel is damaged or an injury occurs, much type of chemical reactions take place that involves coagulation factors.

The last step of chemical reaction Fibrinogen is converted in to Fibrin that forms a net like structure and transforms blood cells in to solid clot, blocking the hole and stops the bleeding.

Patients with hemophilia A have the deficiency of Factor VIII and patients with hemophilia B have deficiency of Factor IX.

Use of Strawberries can Prevent Esophageal Cancer

This research was conducted by Tong Chen, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor of medicine at Ohio State University, Cancer Center, Columbus. The financial support for this research was given by California Strawberry Commission.
The professor evaluated the use of freeze Strawberries in 36 males and females who had precancerous stage of Esophagus.
Prevention of Esophageal Cancer

The average age of patients was about 54 years. All had high risk of Esophagus cancer where Esophagus is a pipe that connects the throat with the stomach which allows the food to enter in stomach for the digestion process.

According to the study of American Cancer Society 16,640 new cases of Esophagus were discovered in year 2010 and out of which 14,500 people died of this disease.

The causes of Esophageal Cancer can be caused due to the reasons like smoking, drinking alcohol etc.

Treatment of Esophageal Cancer with the Help of Study

Chen suggested the patients to take about 2 ounce of freeze dried Strawberries daily. The Strawberries should be dried because it can concentrate its components that can enhance the fighting against cancer.
The patients were required to keep the daily check on their strawberry intake and the patients who were under observation had biopsies before and after the study. 31 patients had the mild pre cancerous conditions and 5 patients had moderate conditions.

The study showed that doctors forecasted the Precancerous injury will grow in to cancer. The 25% of patients with mild conditions will build up cancer in 15 to 20 years. The patients with modest conditions will build up cancer in next 15 to 20 years.

29 out of 36 patient’s precancerous injury decreased, 6 had no change and 1 patients experienced increase in precancerous conditions.

Researchers are further discovering about the best dose and duration for the use Strawberries in order to the treat the Esophageal Cancer.

Bala the change in Kollywood

At a time when actors in Tamil cinema consider it is unsafe to do multi-starrers, Arya and Vishal has chosen to do otherwise. They have come together for Avan Ivan and even after the shooting is completed, they remain good friends.

Says Arya, ' what's wrong in doing a multi-starrer? My comfort level with Bala is good and we enjoyed working in the project. Bala guided both of us well.'

Echoing the same, Vishal says, ' we are friendly and did what Bala told us to do'.

Interestingly after Pithamagan which brought Vikram and Suriya together comes Avan Ivan with Arya and Vishal in the cast. Expectations are running high for the movie that would hit the screens next month

Aamir Khan avoids the clash of the Khans

Aamir Khan has resorted to being peaceful when it comes to release of his films. It seems that he doesn't want any clashes at the box office this time.

He ensured that his movie which was due for release on December 25 along with SRK's Don is released when the Don fever dies. He postponed the dates for Reema Kagti's yet untitled film which will now be released in 2012.

Police Story

Dum Maaro Dum is Rohan Sippy's third film in 10 years after Kuch Na Kaho and Bluffmaster. Just one of those signs of a man in no hurry to prove himself.

At the end of a long day on the road promoting the film in Jaipur, he settles down for a telephonic interview. “It's not been a conscious thing to take my own time. I was also caught up producing Taxi 9211 and Chandni Chowk to China between that and looking for the right story. Shridhar Raghavan wrote the story two years back and from then on, we have been working on the production.”

Does the pressure of being the son of Ramesh Sippy, the man who made Sholay, have anything to do with it?

The real pressure

“The pressure is because there are so many good filmmakers today. The real pressure is just to try and do your best among your contemporaries, within the films releasing that year and stand out for your work within that period. And dad is very much part of the work we're doing. He's the producer and is involved from scripting to editing. We try to be as collaborative as possible.”

The slick promos for DMD have generated a lot of buzz with its stylised cuts and music. Rohan insists that all of that style came out organically. “The first thing I read is the 40-50 page novella that Shridhar came up with overnight. That was the starting point for my excitement. Then followed the combination of things — the backdrop of drugs, the characters we had, the setting of Goa. It was really nice to be able to react to all the material we put together. I would love to say I even know what style it is but I don't. I have to give a lot of credit to all the collaborators I have worked with, starting with Shridhar.”

The film that stars Abhishek Bachchan, Rana Daggubati, Prateik Babbar and Bipasha Basu took two years to make since the day Rohan read the novella. He started shoot a year back and wrapped it up by July last year. “The shooting days were only about 70. We went at a reasonably fast clip.”

One of the big decisions he had to take was to rewrite the title song derived from Dev Anand's Hare Rama Hare Krishna. “The context is as different as India in 1971 and India in 2011. It's obviously a different landscape and even within whatever this drug sub-culture is, that was the time of free love and hippies and turning on, tuning in and dropping out. Now, it is the rave culture, there's aggression and a completely different sub-culture at work. From the genre onwards, there's no similarity to that film. That really dictated the tone we wanted to take with the song. It was at a certain point in the script, just before the climax and it set up something what ACP Kamath (Abhishek) was going up against.”

Is it an anti-drug film?

“No, it's a suspense thriller, driven by a cop who is at the heart of investigating a drug mafia and trying to get to who is behind it. That really is the overriding arch of the film. It's not a film about tripping.”

Rohan initially wanted his buddy Abhishek to play the role that went to Rana. “But when he read the script, he tripped on the Kamath character, the cop. That also settled pretty well into my head. It's a well-balanced script that offers all the characters equal importance.”

As the film jumps from Prateik's story to Abhishek's to Rana's before becoming a linear narrative, Rohan wanted someone who starts as a mere presence in the film but, before we realise, has a much bigger role to play. Rana fit the bill perfectly, he says.

“We tend to put too much at the doorstep of actors. Abhishek gives everything in terms of effort, discipline and craft to any director and the rest is up to the director to choose the right material and exploit the talent. Abhishek puts himself in the director's hands and that's what he's guilty of. But that's the nature of the beast (the industry), we fail more than we succeed,” he says

Shouldn't a filmmaker make it a point to leave his fingerprints on his work? “No, No… I am chronically averse to that notion. Leaving that stamp is the least relevant thing to me. It's about telling the story as well as you can. For me, it's about bringing a story to life. If I was writing, there's lot more authorship I can claim. But given that it's Shridhar's script, you really try to play a part in making it work as a film. Taking that journey from one to the other is really what I see my role as. Luckily, I found enough people… Like this film would have been different if Midival Punditz wasn't there. At each stage, obviously there's a huge decision. There is so much in the hands of so many guys. I think I got lucky this time with the number of boxes I managed to check.”

Rohan does not see the need to write his own material. “I am not a writer. When you have a friend like Shridhar who is obviously much better at it than I am, it's good to put down that pen,” he laughs.

Aditya Birla Group buys Swedish pulp maker

The Aditya Birla Group has acquired Domsjo Fabriker, a leading Swedish speciality pulp and bio-refinery company, through its global companies Thai Rayon Public Company (Thailand) and Indo Bharat Rayon (Indonesia) for a consideration of $340 million from a Swedish consortium of six individuals.

The acquisition will be 70 per cent debt-financed and 30 per cent coming from internal accruals. The enterprise value of the business is $340 million and $180 million will be raised on the two group companies while $160 million will be as debt in a yet-to-be named special purpose vehicle (SPV). Domsjo's capacity expansion currently under way amounts to $75 million which is on Domsjo's books.

Addressing the media, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla group, said, “The acquisition of Domsjo Fabriker, marks a significant milestone for our pulp and fibre business. Its cutting edge technology and production process coupled with a state-of-the-art bio-refinery, add significant value to our pulp and fibre operations. Its high quality pulp will enable us to enhance the supply of top quality premium viscose staple fibre (VSF) to our customers.”

The Aditya Birla Group's VSF capacity, currently at 7.50 lakh tonnes, will go up to one million tonnes annually by 2013 with the completion of the Domsjo's expansion.

K. K. Maheshwari, Business Head, Pulp & Fibre, Aditya Birla Group, said, “This acquisition is in line with our strategy of having a substantive part of our specialty pulp for our consumption through our captive sources. With Domsjo Fabriker, we are closer to this goal”.

“As a large quality manufacturer of speciality pulp, Domsjo has a synergistic fit with us. There is a great opportunity to further grow the company. Domsjo has an extensive investment programme for capacity expansion from its current 2.10 lakh tonnes to 2.55 lakh tonnes per annum by 2012. We are fully committed to Domsjo's growth and going forward intend to expand the innovation and research and development efforts at Domsjo as part of our global R&D efforts,” he added.

Mr. Maheshwari said the group's VSF business was around $2 billion and would go up to $2.7 billion post-acquisition. The expansion of the VSF business is under way and it is adding a capacity of 1.20 lakh tpa to its Vilayat facility in Gujarat at a cost of Rs.1,850 crore, 36,000 tonnes to its Harihar unit in Karnataka at a cost of Rs.450 crore, and expanding its Indonesia facility by one lakh tpa involving an investment of Rs.850 crore. “The pulp business will mainly grow inorganically,” said Mr. Maheshwari.

The speciality pulp made by Domsjo finds primary use in the textile segment (VSF and viscose filament yarn). It employs around 400 people and around 25 per cent of the production is used in premium applications such as binding agents for medical products, particularly pharmaceutical tablets and in casing for the food industry. In addition, their bio-refinery enables the company to extract the full value from its operations by production of ethanol and lignosulphate as by-products. While ethanol is used in bio-fuel, paint and printing, Lignosulphate is used as an additive in concrete, ceramics and dye pigments.

Repositioning Infosys

Infosys Technologies, the IT industry bellwether, is now going through the pangs of change, some self-inflicted and some caused by factors well beyond its own control. The question whether the company is on the cusp of a fundamental transformation has been repeatedly raised since Friday when the company announced its financial results for 2010-11.

The recent media conference called by the company was unprecedented in that the announcement of the financial results was completely overshadowed by the resignations of two of its long-serving board members — T.V. Mohandas Pai, Head, Human Resource Development and Education and Research; and company co-founder K. Dinesh, Head, Quality, Information Systems and the Communications Design Group. Indeed, the company's Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director S. Gopalakrishnan admitted that the company was going through a “generational change” at the top.

Margin under pressure

The Infosys stock declined almost 10 per cent on Friday, its biggest intra-day drop in almost two years. While much of the excitement and over-the-top speculation focussed on the reasons for the resignations of the two key professionals, much less attention has been directed at examining how the company has fared in the face of pressures that have been building up since 2008, after the global economic crisis hit the offshoring business.

The relentless pressure on the company's margins — a metric that measures the relative movement of revenues and costs — has been a major worry for Infosys, just as it has been for the rest of the industry in the last three years. In the January–March 2011 quarter, revenues grew by just over one per cent when compared with the previous quarter, even as Infosys' volume of business declined by 1.4 per cent.

Three reasons

Infosys' margins have been under pressure for at least three major reasons. The first reason arises from the fact that the company has traditionally been known to be choosy about its clients, not only in terms of the deal-sizes they offer but also in terms of the margins they offer to the company.

The virtual extinguishment of the scope for such deals, given the extremely uncertain nature of the global economic environment, means that Infosys' strategy has hurt it more than it would have otherwise.

In fact, Mr. Gopalakrishnan, in response to a pointed question on whether the company was “refocusing” itself and willing to be more of a “volume player” in the days ahead, ruled this out.

The second factor that has had an impact on margins is the relative increase in wage costs. K.D. Shibulal, Chief Operating Officer, Infosys, admitted that wage costs had increased by about 10-12 per cent because of the salary increases and recruitment. However, the fact that the company's utilisation of its work force has not increased significantly in the last quarter points to the risk that the increased wage costs may not translate into higher revenues. And, if that happens in the days ahead, margins may well be hit further. Mr. Gopalakrishnan says the company is betting on better days ahead and that Infosys would like to be ready to take advantage of opportunities as and when they come in the future. But sceptics see risks associated with this strategy.

The other major reason for the decline in margins arises from the currency fluctuations. The appreciation of the rupee has had a significant impact on the company's margins.

Infosys has announced that it is in the process of “restructuring” its business units in order to remain more focussed.

Whether this will result in the transformation of one of India's most respected IT companies will be watched with interest in the IT world.

Supreme Court stays telecom tribunal order; raises rates for DTH operators

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the order of the broadcast tribunal TDSAT setting aside TRAI's notification fixing 35 per cent of the rates paid by cable operators for TV channels and raised the same to 42 per cent.

A Bench comprising Mr Justice R.V. Raveendran and Mr Justice A.K. Patnaik stayed the order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which had set aside TRAI's notification of July 21, fixing the price.

Passing an order on December 16, 2010, TDSAT had set aside sectoral regulator TRAI's notification mandating that broadcasters charge from DTH and IPTV providers only up to 35 per cent of rates paid by cable operators for their channels.

However, the Bench on Monday increased the price band and fixed it to 42 per cent of the cable price to be charged by the broadcasters from the DTH operators. The Bench also added that the agreements between DTH operators and broadcasters, which are already in place, shall prevail.

TRAI Petition

The apex court's direction came over a petition filed by TRAI, challenging TDSAT's order. Broadcasters were earlier charging DTH operators half of what they got from cable operators.

On July 21, 2010, TRAI had notified that a new wholesale tariff structure would be effective from September 1, 2010, whereby broadcasters can charge only at 35 per cent of rates that they charged from normal cable operators while supplying service providers on platforms such as DTH, IPTV and HITS.


On August 23, 2010, leading broadcasters, including Zee Turner, Viacom 18 Media and Sun TV, and Star Den Media Services had moved TDSAT challenging TRAI's tariff order to cap wholesale price of channels to service providers such as DTH and IPTV at 35 per cent of rates for normal cable operators.

In separate petitions filed with TDSAT, ESPN Software India, MSM Discovery, Zee Turner and Star Den Media Services said, the TRAI tariff was not commercially viable.

The broadcasters had submitted that while fixing the tariff, TRAI had acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner and did not consider the suggestions of the stakeholders. Broadcasters offer cheaper rates to operators such as DTH and IPTV as they can ascertain the number of subscribers of these players, which is not the case with cable services where under-reporting is believed to be very high.

The apex court's direction came over a petition filed by TRAI, challenging TDSAT's order.

Syrian Activists Begin Sit-In For Assad Ouster

Beirut : More than 5,000 anti-government protesters in Syria took over the main square of the country's third-largest city Monday, vowing to occupy the site until President Bashar Assad is ousted and defying authorities who warn they will not be forced into reforms.

The government, however, blamed the weeks of anti-government unrest in the country on ultraconservative Muslims seeking to establish a fundamentalist state and terrorize the people, in the latest official effort to portray the reform movement as populated by extremists.

The Egypt-style standoff in the central city of Homs followed funeral processions by more than 10,000 mourners for some of those killed in clashes Sunday that a rights group said left at least 12 people dead. It also brought a high-stakes challenge to security forces over whether to risk more bloodshed -- and international backlash -- by trying to clear the square.

In the past month, Syrian security forces in uniforms and plainclothes have launched a deadly crackdown on demonstrations, killing at least 200 people, according to human rights groups. Many Syrians also say pro-government thugs -- known as Shabiha -- have terrorized neighborhoods with tactics such as opening fire into the air.

The government has in the past blamed "armed gangs" seeking to stir up unrest for many of the killings, such as the ones who fatally shot seven people, including three army officers, on Sunday in Homs.

On Monday, the Interior Ministry identified the gangs as "armed Salafi groups," referring to an ultraconservative form of Islam that has its roots in Saudi Arabia and can be found all over the region.

The statement carried by the state news agency said they were seeking to establish "emirates" and were "abusing the freedoms and reforms launched in the comprehensive program with a timetable by President Bashar Assad."

Assad has been playing on fears of sectarian warfare as he works to quell any popular support for the uprising and has blamed the unrest on a foreign plot to sow sectarian strife -- echoing pronouncements from almost every other besieged leader in the region.

Earlier in the day, at least six coffins were carried by the massive funeral procession in Homs, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Damascus, said two witnesses. Security forces stayed away from the mourners in an apparent move to avoid confrontation, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

The witnesses' accounts could not be independently confirmed because Syria has placed tight restrictions on media outlets and expelled foreign journalists.

After the funeral, thousands of people marched to Homs' main Sa'a Jadida Square, or the New Clock Square, where they chanted "people want to bring down the regime" and "peaceful, peaceful," the witnesses said.

As protesters gathered, security personnel arrived in the area. Three tanker trucks, usually used by authorities to spray protesters with water, were also parked nearby.

"A sit-in until the regime is brought down," the protesters chanted.

Witnesses said the protesters are planning to set up tents and some residents donated water and food.

Also Monday, a group of Syrian students said in a statement posted on Facebook they will not attend classes for three days starting Tuesday to protests the recent deaths and last week's attack by security forces at Damascus University, where one student was killed.

In the northern city of Banias, about 300 children released balloons with slogans calling on Assad to leave power, witnesses said.

"Leave, uncle criminal," read one balloon. "Leave so that I can enjoy freedom," read another, witnesses added.

Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria's National Organization for Human Rights, said the death toll had risen to 12 from the Sunday shootings during protests and a funeral for an anti-government activist.

He said eight people died in Homs and a nearby village. He added that four protesters were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters in the northern cities of Latakia and Idlib.

Syria's state-run news agency, however, said one policeman was killed and 11 other policemen and security personnel were wounded when an "armed criminal gang" opened fire on them in Talbiseh on Sunday.

The latest killings were bound to increase pressure on Assad, who has tried to quell the popular uprising with a mixture of brute force and concessions. On Saturday, he promised to end nearly 50 years of emergency rule this week, a key demand of the protesters.

Syria's widely despised emergency laws have been in place since the ruling Baath Party came to power in 1963, giving the regime a free hand to arrest people without charge and extending state authority into virtually every aspect of life.

But he warned there will no longer be "an excuse" for organizing protests once Syria lifts emergency rule and implements reforms, which he said will include a new law allowing the formation of political parties. (AP)

China Objects to Tibetan Minister In Nepal Cabinet

Kathmandu : A diplomatic row has erupted between China and Nepal as Beijing expressed dissatisfaction over the appointment of a minister of Tibetan ethnic origin by the communist party-led government of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal.

Chinese embassy officials in Kathmandu have expressed dissatisfaction over the appointment Lharkyal Lama as State Minister for Finance who is allegedly connected with the 'free Tibet movement,' a CPN-UML party source said.

China is miffed with appointment of Lama who alleged holds two passports - Nepali and Indian - and also an identity card of Tibetan refugee, the CPN-UML party source was quoted as saying by Nagarik daily, a local newspaper.

According to a report in nepalnews online, it prompted Chinese officials to express their displeasure during informal conversations with the Prime Minister and other top communist party leaders.

Lama holds the nationality of Nepal, Tibet and India, according to a formal complaint filed against him at the home ministry six years ago, myrepublica online, the website of Republica newspaper said today.

Chinese officials have argued that Lama’s appointment has raised questions on Nepal's 'one China policy'.

Nepal supports 'one-China policy' that views Tibet as an integral part of China. It has repeatedly assured its giant northern neighbour that it will not allow its territory to be used against the communist nation.

Nepal is home to around 20,000 exiled Tibetans and the capital has been the scene of several anti-China protests since the failed uprising against the Chinese rule on March 10, 1959.

Despite tight security enforced by the Nepalese and Chinese government in the border areas, every year some 2,500 Tibetans cross the border on their way to meet the Dalai Lama in the Indian town of Dharamshala, where he is based since fleeing from his motherland in 1959. PTI

Gaddafi's Son Claims, Forces Have Not Committed Excesses

Washington : Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif has hit out at Western nations for air raiding his country on a premise he termed as false as Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, while insisting that his regime did not commit any crime against its people.

The world had gone to war with Libya based on nothing more than rumour and propaganda, the 38-year-old Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi, the second son of Gaddafi, said in an interview to the Washington Post.

He claimed the UN Security Council resolution for establishing a no-fly zone over Libya was based on claims that Libyan air force was bombing Tajoura and Fashloom districts in Tripoli and killing thousands, but there was “zero” evidence of such a bombardment.
“Show me one trace, one evidence that we bombarded Tajoura. Zero,” Saif said.

“So you go there and ask anybody. So everything was based on rumours. It’s exactly like the WMD. WMD, WMD, WMD, go and attack Iraq. Now, civilians, civilians, civilians, go and attack Libya. It’s the same thing, it’s a repetition of history,” he said.

Blaming the rebellion against his father’s regime on al Qaeda, Saif said the Americans, should have rather helped Libya root out the “terrorists”.

A defiant Gaddafi scion also said he had been betrayed by his friends who defected to join the rebels, and said nobody in the Middle East had thought that “one day President Barack Obama will attack Libya or an Arabic country”. Saif said he had brought many reformers into the government in the past decade, as part of a promise that Libya would move towards democracy and freedom of expression.

Several of those men have since defected and played leading roles in the rebel Transitional National Council, a fact that could help explain the younger Gaddafi’s keenness to emphasise his nationalist credentials, the paper said.  Dismissing accusations against the Gaddafi government, Saif said the army was fighting terrorists, “just as the Russian army did in the Chechen capital, Grozny, just as Americans did in Fallujah in Iraq”.

“It’s exactly the same thing,” he said. “I am not going to accept it, that the Libyan army killed civilians.  This didn’t happen. It will never happen.” Instead of attacking Libya, he said, the United States should be helping it fight al-Qaeda.

Then, once the “terrorists” are removed from Misurata and Benghazi, he said, it will be time to talk of national reconciliation and democracy, under a new constitution that would reduce Gaddafi’s role to a “symbolic” one.

“The biggest issue is the terrorists and the armed militia... Once we get rid of them, everything will be solved,” Saif said. PTI

Pandher Hospitalized After He Fell Unconscious In Jail

Ghaziabad : Moninder Singh Pandher, accused in the Nithari serial killings, tonight became unconscious and fell down in his cell in Dasna jail, where he is lodged, jail sources said here.

Pandher, in his 50s, is a diabetic patient and fell unconscious around 8 PM. He was taken to MMG district hospital where he was put on life-saving equipment, jail superintendent Viresh Raj Sharma told PTI.

According to hospital sources, Pandher's sugar-level descended drastically which made him lose consciousness.

Pandher was awarded capital punishment in 2009 alongwith his domestic help Surinder Singh Koli but the Allahabad High Court acquitted him later that year.

The CBI also gave him clean chit in 16 cases of kidnapping and murder. He was lodged in jail in December 2006 and since that time is ailing and undergoing treatment.

His condition was said to be critical till around 10 PM. PTI

Ill-Fated Rajdhani Passengers Recount Horror Tales

New Delhi : “It was a horror I would never forget. I and my family jumped out of the burning train amid leaping flames and thickening smoke,” said Satya Vir Singh, a passenger of Delh-bound Rajdhani Express train whose four coaches caught fire today.

Singh, along with his wife and two children were in B-7 coach, one of the coaches of the Mumbai-Delhi train which were gutted between Alot and Thuriya stations in Ratlam district, scampered out of the burning bogey in the dead of the night.

Singh, whose four luggages were burnt, said “collecting luggages was not our priority that time. I alerted my wife and children who were sleeping and asked them to come out of the coach immediately.”

Bahadur Mistry and his 34 friends, a tourist group who were going for an adventure tour of Shimla, Chandigarh and Manali, said “we all jumped out hurriedly one after another from the train. There was smoke everywhere. So, we did not lose time to come out in the open,” said Mistry.

Mrs Shroff, another member of the tourist group, said the incident, however, has not deterred them from going ahead with the journey. “Though we have lost many of our luggages in the fire, we are not cancelling our onward journey. Our tour programme has already been chalked out in advance”.

Like Shroff and Singh, many other passengers recounted their traumatic experiences to reporters at New Delhi station after the Rajdhani Express reached the national capital at 3.25 pm, suffering more than seven hours’ delay.

Three coaches - B-5, B-6, B-7 - and the pantry car were gutted in the fire that started from the pantry car at 2.20 am in the train.

“I was woken up by the commotion. Without wasting time, I came out of the coach. The place where we had to disembark was a deserted place,” said Astha, a passenger in B-9 coach.

“Though there was no fire in my coach, I could see the burning coaches in front of me and it was a fearful sight,” she said.

Praveen Khurana, a resident of Subhash Nagar here, was fast asleep in B-6 coach when the fire broke out at the wee hours.

“Railway staff knocked at our coach from the outside and asked us to come out. Fire brigades came after one hour.”

However, Khurana said “villagers were very helpful as they provided water to douse the fire.”

Luggages of Heema Talati, who was in the coach near the pantry car with her two children, were also completely burnt.

“There was no time to collect luggages. We had received Rs 15,000 from railways as compensation but my loss was about Rs 80,000,” said Heema adding “I am happy that we jumped out of the coach in time.”

Railways have given Rs 5000 to each passenger at the affected coaches of B-5, B-6 and B-7 as ex-gratia.

“Only those luggages which are booked, can be considered for insurance claims, if lost,” said a senior Railway Ministry official. PTI

Backtracking on his yesterday’s statement

New Delhi : Backtracking on his yesterday’s statement, Anna Hazare today stuck to his August 15 deadline for passage of the Lokpal Bill failing which he will resort to agitation.

“The joint drafting committee has a mandate to produce a strong Jan Lokpal bill which will be sent to Parliament. We hope that all political parties will vote as per the wishes of the people, which is overwhelmingly in favour of a strong Bill.

“Parties that vote against the Bill will be eventually hurting their popularity and exposing their mala fide intentions. In such an event, we will again take to streets,” Hazare said in a statement here.

At an interaction with Marathi journalists here yesterday, Hazare appeared to be flexible on the August 15 deadline saying he was open to extending it if he found that the government was on the right path.

“We will have to accept it. We believe in democracy,” he had said in reply to a question on what would be his stand if Parliament rejected the Lokpal Bill drafted jointly by the government and representatives of the civil society.

Reacting to media reports, Hazare said today that the deadline for preparation of the draft bill remains June 30, immediately after which it should be presented in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

“Even the government has admitted that it is realistic for Parliament to deliberate and take a decision on the JLB by the August 15 deadline set by me. Thus failure of this deadline will invite mass protests by the people,” he said.

He said people being the masters need to monitor Parliament’s decisions in a functioning democracy. This was true as Parliament has failed to pass a Lokpal Bill for the past 42 years.

In addition, significant number of elected representatives have used money, muscle power, election fraud, misinformation in the media to win seats, undermining the sanctity and credibility of the parliamentary system, he said adding the citizens will have to ensure that a strong Lokpal Bill is passed.

He also said that confusion was being created in the media through government sources that the civil society has climbed down in the first Joint Drafting Committee meeting held on Saturday.

“It was rumoured that we agreed to the exclusion of the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and judiciary from Lokpal’s purview. Civil Society members have certainly not agreed to any of the above. Jan Lokpal bill version 2.2 was presented to the Government of India at the first meeting,” he said. PTI

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