Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tobacco-derived compound prevents memory loss in Alzheimer's disease mice

Cotinine, a compound derived from tobacco, reduced plaques associated with dementia and prevented memory loss in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, a study led by researchers at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System and the University of South Florida found. The findings are reported online in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in advance of print publication.

"We found a compound that protects neurons, prevents the progression of Alzheimer's disease pathology, enhances memory and has been shown to be safe," said Valentina Echeverria, PhD, a scientist at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System and an assistant professor of Molecular Medicine at USF Health. "It looks like cotinine acts on several aspects of Alzheimer's pathology in the mouse model. That, combined with the drug's good safety profile in humans, makes it a very attractive potential therapy for Alzheimer's disease."

While the current drugs for Alzheimer's may help delay the onset of symptoms, none halt or reverse the processes of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, existing drugs may have undesirable side effects.

Some epidemiological studies showed that people who smoke tend to have lower incidences of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Studies have widely attributed this apparently beneficial effect to nicotine, which has been reported to improve memory and reduce Alzheimer's-like plaques in mice. However, nicotine's harmful cardiovascular effects and addictive properties make the compound a less than ideal drug candidate for neurodegenerative diseases.

The Bay Pines VA/USF team decided to look at the effects of cotinine, the major byproduct of nicotine metabolism, in Alzheimer's disease mice. Cotinine is nontoxic and longer lasting than nicotine. Furthermore, its safety has already been demonstrated in human trials evaluating cotinine's potential to relieve tobacco withdrawal symptoms.

The researchers administered cotinine daily for five months to young adult (2-month-old) mice genetically altered to develop memory problems mimicking Alzheimer's disease as they aged. At the end of the five-month study, the Alzheimer's mice treated with cotinine performed better on tasks measuring their working memory and thinking skills than untreated Alzheimer's control mice. Long-term cotinine treatment appeared to provide the Alzheimer's mice complete protection from spatial memory impairment; their performance in this area of testing was identical to that of normal mice without dementia.

The brains of Alzheimer's mice treated with cotinine showed a 26-percent reduction in deposits of amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Cotinine also inhibited the accumulation of the amyloid peptide oligomers – a predecessor of senile plaques – in the brains of these mice. Furthermore, the researchers discovered that cotinine stimulated the signaling factor Akt, which promotes the survival of neurons and enhances attention and memory.

Senile plaques likely had not yet formed or were just beginning to accumulate in the brains of the young adult mice when long-term cotinine treatment was started. The researchers suggest that "cotinine may be useful in preventing cognitive deterioration when administered to individuals not yet exhibiting Alzheimer's disease cognitive impairment or those with mild cognitive impairment at early stages of the disease."

The researchers are seeking additional support for a pilot clinical trial to investigate cotinine's effectiveness in preventing progression to Alzheimer's dementia in patients with mild cognitive impairment, Echeverria said.

The VA-USF team is also studying the potential of the tobacco-derived compound to relieve fear-induced anxiety and help blunt traumatic memories in mouse models of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scientists can track origin of shark fins using 'zip codes' in their DNA

An international team of scientists, led by the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, has used DNA to determine that groups of dusky sharks (Carcharhinus obscurus) and copper sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus) living in different coastal regions across the globe are separate populations of each species. Both are large apex predators that are heavily exploited for the shark fin trade, which claims tens of millions of animals every year to produce the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup. Many of these species are declining as a result of this fishing pressure for their fins. The dusky shark is classified as "Endangered" in the Western Atlantic by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as its population is below 20 percent of what it was two decades ago. These new studies show that the genetic differences among populations of these sharks are large enough for scientists to be able to track the actual origin of the fins on sale in Asian markets, enabling better regional monitoring and management of these threatened predators.

These research findings appear in two scientific articles. "Global phylogeography of the dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus: implications for fisheries management and monitoring the shark fin trade," has been published online in the journal Endangered Species Research. "Phylogeography of the copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) in the southern hemisphere: implications for the conservation of a coastal apex predator" will soon be published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. The primary objective of these studies was to identify any genetic differences among regional groups of dusky and copper sharks and establish how many distinct populations there are. The second objective was to determine if these population differences were great enough to allow scientists to reconstruct their contributions to fin trade in the future. Like many large sharks, these species have a wide distribution around the globe but are tied to coastal areas for reproduction.

"By analyzing part of the genome that is inherited solely through the mother, we were able to detect differences between sharks living along different continents – in effect, their DNA zip codes," said Dr. Demian Chapman, leader of the research team and assistant director of science of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science. "This research shows that adult females faithfully give birth along the continental region where they were born. If fished too much, the population will collapse, and it is extremely unlikely that it will be replenished from immigration of sharks from another region."

This is precisely what has happened along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, where the once common dusky shark is now rare and a species of concern for listing under the Endangered Species Act. At one time, these animals were common in ocean waters off the United States; however, a recent stock assessment of the sharks along the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico showed an 80 percent decline even though they have been protected since 2000. The recovery of the species is extremely slow because the average age of maturity is 20 years, its reproductive cycle only occurs every three years – including a two-year pregnancy – and its litter size is relatively small (three to 14 offspring).

"Here in the United States, it took only a few decades to nearly wipe out our dusky sharks, and it will probably take a few centuries for their stocks to be replenished," said Martin Benavides, lead author of both studies and research assistant at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science. "Our results dash any hopes that dusky sharks from other areas of the world will replenish the depleted U.S. stock. The sight of a dusky shark swimming off our shores will be a rare experience for generations to come."

"We know very little about the shark fin trade, but by using DNA-zip coding we can identify source populations that are contributing most to the trade, and prioritize them for management," added Dr. Chapman. "We, therefore, really need to establish sampling programs of fins on their way to Asia or in the markets to regulate the global trade before many more populations suffer the fate of the dusky shark in the United States."

For years, it was difficult to determine the origin of these fins and whether they were from threatened species. A study by Dr. Chapman, which was published in 2009 , used DNA testing to trace scalloped hammerhead shark fins from the Hong Kong market all the way back to the sharks' geographic origin and found many came from collapsed Western Atlantic populations.* These new research results demonstrate that this type of testing also can be used to trace the origins of the fins of dusky and copper sharks.

"As apex predators at the top of marine food webs, it is essential for ocean health that we take steps, such as monitoring and regulating the fin trade, to protect these large sharks," said Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science.

Both research projects were conducted by a collaborative international team of scientists from the United States, Australia, South America, Asia, New Zealand and southern Africa. The scientists collectively analyzed part of the mitochondrial DNA in nearly 400 sharks sampled from all over the globe.

Swiss-US team finds indigenous cases of leprosy in the Southern United States

Using advanced DNA analysis and extensive field work, an international research team has confirmed the link between leprosy infection in Americans and direct contact with armadillos. In a joint collaboration between the Global Health Institute at EPFL in Switzerland and Louisiana State University, clear evidence was found that a never-before-seen strain of Mycobacterium leprae has emerged in the Southern United States and that it is transmitted through contact with armadillos carrying the disease. The results will be published on April 28th in the New England Journal of Medicine. There are only around 150 cases of leprosy in the United States each year. Most of these victims have worked abroad in areas in which leprosy is endemic, making it likely that they may have acquired the disease while outside the US. But, to the alarm of health authorities, a third of all patients infected appear to have contracted the disease locally. The hypothesis that the disease is transmitted though contact with armadillos—aside from humans, the only other known carriers of the leprosy-causing bacteria—was confirmed by fine-grained DNA analysis of both armadillo and human samples done at EPFL.

Leprosy bacilli found in armadillos

It has been known since the 1970s that armadillos are potential carriers of the disease, most likely introduced by European immigrants 500 years ago. But the current study shows inter-species contamination and the presence of a unique strain. "There is a very strong association between the geographic location of the presence of this particular strain of M. leprae and the presence of armadillos in the Southern US," explains Stewart Cole, head of the Global Health Institute in Lausanne and world-leader in the field of genomics of leprosy bacilli. "Our research provides clear DNA evidence that the unique strain found in armadillos is the same as the one in certain humans."

The study included 33 wild armadillos known to have the disease and 50 leprosy patients. The new strain of the bacteria, named 3I, was found in 28 armadillos and in 22 patients who reported no foreign residence. The researchers used genome sequencing to identify the new strain and cross check it with other known strains from Europe, Brazil and Asia, and used genotyping to identify and classify the population infected. It became clear that leprosy patients who never travelled outside the US but lived in areas where infected armadillos are prevalent were infected with the same strain as the armadillos. These findings prompted the researchers to state in the article that "Frequent direct contact with armadillos and cooking and consumption of armadillo meat should be discouraged." The study also suggests that armadillo range expansion should be monitored.

It is not known exactly why armadillos contract and carry leprosy. While their low body temperature (89° F / 32° C) makes them perfect incubators for the bacteria, which grow in temperatures between 86° F and 89° F (30° C to 32° C), there are almost certainly other factors such as immune deficiency that also play a role. Similarly, the bacteria attack the extremities of humans because our core body temperature is too high for a generalized infection, and over 90% of humans who come into direct contact with the disease spontaneously fight it off. "The last thing we want is to induce panic in the population and incite a slaughter of armadillos. The best way to combat further infection is though education and prudence," says Cole.

The stigma of leprosy

José Ramirez, a former migrant worker from Houston who contracted the disease after hunting and eating armadillo meat and took part in the study, has consecrated his life to combating social stigmas. He hopes that the study brings to light the stigma attached to leprosy. "We need to take this opportunity to give leprosy patients a voice and to learn to not use the word 'leper' that has negative connotations around the world, a stigma that should be replaced with an understanding of the disease and its causes." Ramirez, who struggled over five years with the disease before it was properly diagnosed, is now disease-free after receiving antibiotic treatment. Proving what few know to be true—that leprosy is a bacterial infection that can be cured.

Super bug researcher calls for global action

The World Health Organisation (WHO) must take a tougher stance on super bugs, according to a University of Queensland infectious diseases expert.

Professor Tim Walsh, from UQ's Centre for Clinical Research, suggests that bacteria is more widespread than previously thought, with his research published in the Lancet.

The research indicates NDM-1 is present in New Delhi's drinking water and seepage, and thus is widely prevalent in the Indian environment.

Professor Walsh said international efforts were crucial to stem the tide of antibiotic resistant bacteria (known as NDM-1 positive bacteria).

"Along with the fact that some people infected with the new multi-resistant NDM-1 super bugs did not have a hospital stay in India, this research indicates that NDM-1 positive bacteria are occurring on the streets of New Delhi."

Professor Walsh said the research highlighted the urgent need for action to limit the global spread of NDM-1 producing bacteria.

"The potential for the spread of superbugs is real and it is time for an unequivocal international commitment to combat the growing threat," he said.

Only a small number of infections caused by NDM-1 bugs have been detected in Australia, in travellers returning from India.

"At the moment there are five known cases in Australia and at least two in Queensland. Without exception all have been linked to Southern Asia," Professor Walsh said.

Professor Walsh said the study showed there was an urgent need for broad epidemiological and environmental studies to be done, not just in India, but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are source countries for other exported cases of infection.

"There are many good documents written, not least by the WHO, listing key points to curb antibiotic resistance," he said.

"The trouble is that these are merely recommendations which can be adhered to or totally ignored – sadly it is easy to ignore them.

"But we have now reached a point where we can no longer ignore these recommendations and effective measures now need to be enforced.

"A holistic approach and a change of social priorities in various countries is needed, however, it may well be too late to save one of medicine's most precious and long standing resources – antibiotics."

Professor Walsh said screening of hospital transfer patients from India has already been initiated by French, Chinese and Korean health authorities and is being considered in the UK.

The Lancet article – "Dissemination of NDM-1 positive bacteria in the New Delhi environment and its implications for human health: an environmental point prevalence study" – is the first molecular study to look at superbugs in the general environment, rather than a hospital environment.

A group of journalists from Channel 4 News in the UK were central to the research.

They helped collect the seepage and water samples in India for analysis by researchers at Cardiff University, where Professor Walsh was based.

Professor Walsh said he and his colleagues, many based in India, were very keen to facilitate further studies in Southern Asia to help establish key risk factors for acquisition and spread of NDM-1 positive bugs and to identify intervention measures to curb their spread.

Professor Walsh's previous NDM-1 research (also published in the Lancet) revealed the presence of super bugs in hospitals in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and their subsequent import into the UK. It influenced international trade, caused a mini-run on Chinese markets and attracted a significant reaction from the Indian government and surgeons.

Chilli keeps hunger pangs at bay

The latest diet aid comes in the form of capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat and can reduce hunger pangs while increasing energy levels, according to researchers from Indiana.

So does the answer to weight loss lie in our spice cupboard? The study, conducted at Purdue University, suggests a sprinkling of chilli pepper on your supper could help you burn calories faster and curb cravings for fatty, salty and sweet foods.

‘We found that consuming red pepper can help manage appetite and burn more calories after a meal, especially for individuals who do not consume the spice regularly,’ says Professor Richard Mattes.

‘Dietary changes that don’t require great effort to implement, like sprinkling red pepper on your meal, may be sustainable and beneficial in the long run, especially when paired with exercise and healthy eating,’ he says.

Other studies have looked at consuming capsaicin in capsule form, but the latest study suggests that the process of tasting the red pepper actually optimises its effects. Prof Mattes claims the sensory experience maximises the digestive process and increases metabolism.

The six-week study of 25 non-overweight people, published in Physiology and Behaviour, found that the consumption of the red pepper increased core body temperature, therefore burning more calories through natural energy expenditure.

‘The appetite responses were different between those who liked red pepper and those who did not, suggesting that when the stimulus is unfamiliar it has a greater effect,’ say the researchers. ‘Once it becomes familiar to people, it loses its efficacy.'

Chronic illness is the 'biggest killer', says WHO

The Global Status report said so-called noncommunicable diseases accounted for more than 36m deaths in 2008.

It showed 80% of the deaths were in low and middle income countries.

It said they posed a greater threat than infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, said: "The rise of chronic noncommunicable diseases presents an enormous challenge.

"For some countries, it is no exaggeration to describe the situation as an impending disaster; a disaster for health, for society, and most of all for national economies."

Chronic noncommunicable diseases deliver a two-punch blow to development. They cause billions of dollars in losses of national income, and they push millions of people below the poverty line, each and every year."

The WHO said many of the deaths could be prevented by introducing policies such as promoting healthier diets and stronger smoking legislation.

Salman's 'Character Dheela' a tribute to Raj, Dilip and Dharmendra

Director Anees Bazmee and superstar Salman Khan say that the song 'Character Dheela' from their upcoming film 'Ready' is a tribute to legendary Bollywood actors - Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dharmendra.

In the song Salman and Zarine will be seen paying tribute to these yesteryear actors of Hindi cinema. Both will play different hit movie pairs of the past. "We often use this word 'character dheela hai' in a negative way. We were trying to make it sound good. Eventually the song should look good and presentable. Personally, my character is less 'dheela' as you can see my average is very less...and I am 46-year-old," said Salman.

In one act, both will be seen playing Shahzada Saleem and Anarkali like Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam; in another act Salman and Zarine will be seen in the black and white era playing tribute to the showman Raj Kapoor along with Nargis. Yet another sequence will see the two recreate the magic of the 'Sholay' pair, Viru and Basanti on screen. "It is our way of paying tribute to Raj Saheb, Dilip Saheb and Dharamji. We are not one per cent close to their performances," Salman said.

The song has been choreographed by Mudassar Khan, who has previously choreographed Salman in 'Dabangg'. "I was an assistant to Raj Saheb in 'Prem Rog'. I respect him a lot. I am a huge fan of Dilip Saheb and Dharamji entertained us a lot. Salman and me love and respect them a lot. So he is in their get up," said director Anees.

"Our intention is not to hurt anyone. They are all our seniors and we have grown up seeing their films and have learnt a lot from them. We have not done anything that would disrespect them and their work towards cinema," he said.

The romantic comedy, starring Salman and Asin, is all set to release on June 3.

Saif gets into different body shapes for Agent Vinod

Saif had promised himself that whenever he did an action film it would be something that would make his kids sit on the edge of their seat. He is living up to his self-promise. It now comes to light that Saif will change his bodyline, muscle-tone and weight to a radical extent for every major action sequence in Agent Vinod. While for the recently-concluded sequences shot in and around locations in the outdoors of Delhi, Saif was athletic and agile on his feet, now for the next bout of action, a one-to-one combat where the camera will focus on Saif's brawn quotient in tight close-ups, he will work building those rippling muscles.

Director Sriram Raghavan admits that Saif has been making those seemingly impossible physical transitions and leaps for different phases. "For the Delhi schedule, we needed Saif to be on the run. These were all sequences shot in heavy traffic with real crowds. Saif had to be in and out of camera range at full speed. For the next schedule the action sequences are of a different nature. They require a different physicality. Saif is working on it...and quite happily. Doing an espionage film is a childhood dream come-true for him...and for me too. We've kept the action in the realistic space. None of the fights and stunts would be outlandish."

This explains why the action sequences require different body structures and language from Saif.

Says Sriram, "Saif is most happy to comply. It is our biggest challenge to do a spy film that is exciting and edgy and yet real. We do have VFX (visual effects).We recently shot a house being blown up. Now we need to shoot the interior portions of that sequence. Saif and I did a completely different film together in the past (Ek Haseena Thi).For both of us, Agent Vinod is a different epic world. We're shooting the action sequences in an authentic location and physical space."

There were reports from Delhi that the Agent Vinod crew completely disrupted shooting in key outdoor locations of Delhi earlier this month.

"Not true," Sriram Raghavan protests. "Yes, there was a traffic problem on the Barapullah flyover. So we packed up and returned on the day of the World Cup semi-finals when the flyover was relatively empty. And so what if we missed the match? We got some extraordinary candid shots."

Unknown to everyone except the immediate cast and crew of Agent Vinod, Saif Ali Khan is working towards making the film the ultimate espionage film, on a par with the Don series but far more realistic. And yes, Agent Vinod too will have a Part 2. Saif hopes to make Agent Vinod a franchise on a par with Shah Rukh's Don. Interestingly, Don 2 opens two weeks after Agent Vinod releases on December 9. According to sources, though both the films are in the same espionage genre, Saif is working toward giving his spy's character a kind of life beyond James Bond.

Says a source, "Agent Vinod is a far more believable spy .Don has a roving eye...a kind of 'Spy Who Loved Meat'. Vinod is a one-woman man. That the woman happens to be Kareena, is just coincidental."

If Don is the ultimate comic book actioner, Agent Vinod will occupy a different head-space. Saif is making sure of that. He has charted out a different body-tone for his character in the various action sequences.

Prince William, Kate at Westminster for rehearsal

Prince William and Kate Middleton took part in a final wedding rehearsal at Westminster Abbey.

St. James's Palace said that the couple, the bride's parents and Prince Harry were at the abbey with senior clergy for the private rehearsal.

Wednesday's rehearsal was the couple's last chance to run through the service before their wedding Friday.

British police said guests at the wedding will have to pass through security checks to enter the abbey.

Police would not say what methods will be used. Some 5,000 police will be deployed at the wedding and 60 people have been barred as part of their bail conditions from entering the area.

Metropolitan Police Commander Christine Jones said that there is no intelligence suggesting any new terrorist threats against the royal wedding. She said Internet chatter is being monitored and asks the public to be on alert for suspicious behaviour.

Jones said police will able to use special stop-and-search powers Friday while monitoring crowds along the parade route and at Buckingham Palace.

Earlier Wednesday, hundreds of troops paraded through the empty streets of London in a dawn rehearsal for their ceremonial role during the Royal Wedding.

The walkthrough saw army, navy and air force personnel in full uniform lining the route Prince William and Kate Middleton will follow between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

Mounted troops of the Household Cavalry escorted a horse-drawn carriage.

Starting at about 5 a.m. local time, the troops practised and timed their roles to the second for Friday's celebrations — but without the crowds expected on the day.

Organizers said the dress rehearsal went without a hitch.

The venerable abbey will be closed to visitors Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the wedding.

Sony may face global legal scrutiny over breach

Sony Corp. could face legal action across the globe after it belatedly revealed one of the biggest online data breaches ever.

In the United States, several members of Congress seized on the breach, in which hackers stole names, addresses and possibly credit card details from users of Sony's PlayStation Network, to push for tougher laws protecting personal information.

The staff of a House of Representatives subcommittee were directed to investigate the hacking incident.

Attorneys general, who act as consumer advocates, had begun investigating the matter or reviewing it with staff in several states, including in Iowa, Connecticut, Florida and Massachusetts, according to their offices.

One U.S. class-action lawyer said he was considering filing a lawsuit on behalf of consumers as soon as this week.

In Britain, a government watchdog said it had already launched an investigation of the incident, which put credit card information at risk.

Britain's Information Commissioner's Office said it had contacted the company and was investigating whether Sony violated laws that require it to safeguard personal information. The commissioner's investigation would depend in part on whether Sony stored user information in Britain.

While the Japanese electronics company pulled the plug on the PlayStation network on April 19, it did not tell the public about the hackers' attack until Tuesday.

The disclosure sparked immediate outrage among gamers and revived criticisms of Japan's corporate culture that plagued Toyota Motor during its huge automotive recall in 2010.

A Sony spokesman has said that after learning of the breach it took "several days of forensic investigation" before the company knew consumers' data had been compromised.

Sony said on Tuesday that hackers accessed personal details on 77 million users.

"This is a huge data breach and the clients who have called are really upset, not just because of the data breach but it looks like Sony sat on information for as much as five days," said Jay Edelson, an attorney at law firm Edelson McGuire.

Edelson's firm specializes in class-action lawsuits over data breaches. He said he would decide in the next 24 hours whether to file a lawsuit.

Sony did not immediately return a call on Wednesday seeking a comment.


The incident could give momentum for tougher policies in the United States.

U.S. Representative Mary Bono Mack of California said she directed staff of the House subcommittee for commerce, manufacturing and trade, which she chairs, to begin investigating the matter to determine if hearings are needed.

Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois said he would reintroduce legislation that would require companies to have reasonable security measures and Senator Tom Carper of Delaware said he hoped for a comprehensive cyber security bill this year.

U.S. regulators could get involved as well. The Federal Trade Commission has been known to pursue companies that failed to safeguard consumer data. It could investigate if it determines Sony failed to tell its customers about the company's privacy policies.

A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment.

Sony reported the breach to the FBI's cybercrimes unit in San Diego, which is investigating, a person familiar with the probe told Reuters. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Sony may come under the toughest scrutiny from non-U.S. regulators, which have stricter consumer privacy laws.

"European countries are going to go crazy and be all over this," said Dan Burk, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. "They are absolutely obsessed about companies holding personal information."

Burk said subscribers will need to show they suffered damages as a result of the hacking for a U.S. lawsuit to have legs.

"If it was just hacking for fun, then it's going to be tough," he said.

Apple iPad 2 “We Believe” TV Ad Released, Is It Effective?

Apple has just published online today their newest TV advertisement and it’s for the new Apple iPad 2 tablet. The new Ad is titled ‘We Believe’  and the subtitle is ‘It’s everything we believe technology should be’.

In the new commercial Apple underplays but doesn’t let you forget about the new technology and physical features included in the new second generation iPad tablet. But Apple does play up what the technology in iPad 2 can actually allow you to do via applications. You can watch the new 31 second advertisement below. After your done watching tell me if you think the new Ad is an effective one or a dud.

Here are the main features of the Apple iPad 2 if you haven’t seen them yet.

    * 1GHz Dual-Core Apple A5
    * 9.7-inch (1024×768 resolution) LED back-lit widescreen display with IPS technology
    * Dual cameras; VGA front-facing and 720p HD capable rear-facing
    * Up to 10 hours battery life
    * AirPlay support built-in for wireless streaming to AppleTV and other Apple products
    * 1080p HD output via optional HDMI connector with content mirroring
    * 16/32/64 GB internal storage options
    * Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 3G model options
    * White/Black color options
    * Price starts at $499 for Wi-Fi only and $629 for Wi-Fi + 3G

Samsung launches Galaxy S sequel

The local debut of the Galaxy S II comes as it is locked in a legal battle with Apple Inc over alleged mobile technology patent infringements and design copy claims, as they jockey for position in the competitive smartphone market.

The South Korean firm said on Thursday it would roll out the new model, at the heart of its drive to boost smartphone shipments to 60 million units this year, globally from May through 140 operators in 120 countries.

Samsung aims to sell more than 10 million units of the new smartphone this year and is also targeting an over five-fold rise in sales of its Galaxy Tab tablets, the head of its mobile division, JK Shin, told reporters.

The Galaxy S II uses Samsung's own dual-core application processors. It is slimmer and has a bigger display than the previous version, which has sold around 14 million units since its launch in June last year.

In South Korea, one of the most lucrative markets for Samsung's smartphones, it sold about 2 million Galaxy S handsets last year, one-fifth of the global total.

The new product, which is based on Google's Android operating system, will be sold in South Korea through operators SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Uplus.

Shares in Samsung fell 1.5 percent by 0150 GMT, lagging a 0.5 percent rise in the wider market.

44 Air India flights cancelled, pilots still on strike

Delhi/Mumbai:  The Delhi High Court yesterday asked the agitating Air India pilots to call off their strike in "larger public interest," but they seem to be no mood to return to the cockpit.

The 700 pilots, demanding higher pay, are continuing with their strike today as well, hitting both domestic and international flight operations badly. So far 16 flights have been cancelled out of Mumbai and 28 out of Delhi.

On Wednesday, at least 24 flights were cancelled and several others were running upto three hours late.

"These pilots cannot dictate terms, they are the highest-paid in the country", said Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi. Earlier in the day, the management of the airline derecognised the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), sealed its offices in Mumbai and Delhi, and declared the strike illegal. The President and General Secretary of the union have lost their jobs with the airline. Another four pilots were sacked and two were suspended. (Read: Air India statement on pilots' strike)

"We have given a strike notice on the 23rd of February. It is now two months and three days, we have waited. So if they say we have no patience, they are trying to fool not just us, they are trying to fool the media and the public of this country," said Rishabh Kapur, General Secretary, Indian Commercial Pilots Association.

The ICPA counts about 700 members who used to work for Indian Airlines till it was merged in 2007 with Air India. The ICPA says that Air India pilots are paid more and they want the disparity to end.

The striking pilots are demanding fixed salaries like pilots of Air India, with which Indian Airlines merged in 2007. Pilots flying domestic routes are paid as per flying hours, unlike their counterparts who fly to destinations outside India and get a fixed salary.

The striking pilots say the salary crunch is harder these days as domestic routes have been reduced.

''When I went to take endorsement on the ticket, they told me the flight is cancelled. No alternative,'' a passenger at Mumbai told NDTV.

150 executive or management pilots - who handle administrative assignments and operate flights - are being used to step in for those on strike.

Larger planes - like the Boeing 777 and Boeing 747 - could be used for key metro routes like Delhi and Mumbai to ensure fewer pilots are needed.

Nifty choppy ahead of expiry tomorrow; ONGC, Bharti gain

Indian equity benchmarks saw some selling pressure amid a choppy trade at 13:19 hours, dragged down by financial, capital goods, cement, metal, realty and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) companies' shares. NTPC, Reliance Industries, TCS and Wipro too were adding pressure.

The 50-share NSE Nifty slipped 43 points, to trade at 5,824, hammered by 45 shares out of 50. Technical Analyst, Vijay Bhambwani said the index would remain in a range of 5800-5925 today.

However, ONGC, Bharti Airtel, Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki and Infosys Tech were only gainers on Nifty.

The 30-share BSE Sensex lost 117 points to 19,429. The Nifty May futures were trading with 27 points premium and April futures with 5 points premium, which will expire on Thursday.

Wipro, BHEL, Jaiprakash Associates, DLF, ICICI Bank, Ambuja Cements and Reliance Infrastructure were top losers among largecaps, with falling 1.5-3%.

In midcap space, Blue Dart, Motherson Sumi, Raymond, Hindustan National Glass and Honeywell Automation gained 7-8.5% while KGN Industries, State Bank of Bikaner, Sadbhav Engg, Sobha Developer and City Union Bank slipped 3-5%.

In smallcap space, Shasun Pharma shot up 20% and Kirloskar Brothers rallied 16%. Oil Country, Mahindra Forgings and Hawkins Cooker were up 9-11%.

However, Heidelberg Cement, Falcon Tyres, Ontrack Systems, NIIT Tech and India Securities lost 4-5%.

Wipro net rises 15 % to Rs.5,298 crore

Wipro on Wednesday announced that it had posted consolidated revenues of Rs.31,099 crore, an increase of 15 per cent over the previous year. The company posted a net profit of Rs.5,298 crore, an increase of 15 per cent over the previous year.

The company's mainstay, IT services, generated revenues amounting to Rs.23,485 crore, an increase of 16 per cent over the previous year. Revenues from IT products were more muted — Rs.3,691 crore, which was 3 per cent lower than in the previous year.

The consumer care and lighting business earned revenues of Rs.2,726 crore, 21 per cent higher than in 2009-10. The company has declared a final dividend of Rs.4 a share/ADS.

Announcing the results, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said the company's focus would be on key areas such as analytics, mobility and cloud-based services for the BPO segment. “Our strategy is to deepen client mining by presenting clients with a full range of services,” Mr. Premji said.

Mr. Premji said the acquisition of the global oil and gas information technology practice of the commercial business services unit of Science Applications International Corporation would give Wipro's energy business a sharper focus. “The acquisition makes us an end-to-end player in the oil and gas space and compliments our skill sets,” Mr. Premji said.

The company has projected revenues ranging from $1.394 billion to $1.422 billion in the first quarter of the current year, compared to $1.400 billion in the last quarter of 2010-11.

Chief Financial Officer Suresh Senapaty attributed the flat revenue guidance to the fact that revenues from the Middle East and India were generally bunched together during the last quarter of the year. “Revenues from these two markets are generally lower in the first quarter,'' he remarked.

Mr. Senapaty admitted that the wage hike effective from June 1, 2011 “would have an adverse impact on margins.” The dip in revenues from IT products, he said, was ‘an aberration.' “Our focus is now on selling services along with equipment,” he added.

Mr. Senapaty said the company's currency hedges amounted to $1.6 billion at the end of the last fiscal.

'New Breakthrough' In Military Ties With India: China

Beijing, : China today said a “new breakthrough” has been achieved in its military relations with India, noting that a high-level Indian defence delegation would soon be visiting this country.

“New breakthroughs” and developmental momentum have emerged in Sino-India military ties, Geng Yansheng, a spokesman for the Chinese Defence Ministry, was quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency as saying.

The visiting delegation of Indian border patrol forces will include officers from several branches of India’s military, Geng said, without providing details.

He was apparently referring to a recent decision by India and China to resume defence exchanges at the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Sanya on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit.

The exchanges were put off by India after China declined to provide a regular visa to Commander of the Indian Army’s Northern Sector Lt Gen B S Jaswal for a visit to Beijing for official talks on the ground that he headed troops of Jammu and Kashmir which Beijing considered a disputed area.

The defence exchanges were resumed apparently after China started issuing regular visas to the residents of the Jammu and Kashmir.

The multi-command Indian military delegation headed by officer of the rank of Lt General is expected to visit China in June this year.

Gang said that only by observing the guidelines of mutual respect, understanding and accommodation and seeking common ground while reserving some differences, can the two militaries enhance their strategic mutual trust.

The Chinese side will promote exchanges and cooperation with India in various fields and at different levels, he said, highlighting the preconditions of mutual respect for each other’s concerns. PTI

Gaddafi's Daughter Tells Children Stories Of Afterlife

New York :  Though the Libyan first family strikes defiant postures publicly, Aisha al-Gaddafi, the lone daughter of the country's strongman Muammar Gaddafi, says she tells her children bedtime stories of afterlife as she feels they are appropriate in present times.

"To make them ready," the 36-year-old lawyer by training said, offering a glimpse into the increasingly fatalistic mind setup of the isolated family at the head of the battle for Libya, the bloodiest arena in the popular uprising sweeping the region.

"Because in time of war we never know when a rocket or bomb might hit you and that will be the end," Aisha said in reflections in complete contrast to her brother Saif al-Islam and her father who have declared that the NATO or US air and missile strikes can't harm them.

The Coalition forces have struck thrice at Gaddafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound, but each time the strongman has escaped.

Though the Libyan authorities refused to disclose where Gaddafi is camping, rebel sources say that he has built a huge underground bunker deep down in the compound to withstand strikes by military fighters and missiles.

But, US officials have made it clear that Gaddafi will have no respite with Defence Secretary Robert Gates saying that Libyan military command centres "wherever we find them" are legitimate targets for US and NATO air attacks, implying that Gaddafi himself is increasingly in danger.

In a rare interview to New York Times, Aisha claimed that the present crisis has pulled the family together "like one hand".

Aisha, who makes public appearances even at the height of Western strikes on her nation, drew comparisons between the plight of Libya at present and American intervention in Iraq.

Gaddafi's daughter who worked for sometime on late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain's defence team said that the Americans, if they succeed in toppling her father, will make conditions in Libya far worse.

"The opposition in Iraq told the West when you come to Iraq they will greet you with roses. Almost 10 years later they are receiving the Americans with bullets," she said, adding "Believe me, the situation in Libya will be much worse."

A fully westernised woman who wears close fitting jeans, Gucci shoes and flaunts long blond hair, instead of defiance and threats of retribution issued by her father and brothers said the West would rue the chaos she predicted would engulf a post-Gaddafi Libya.

Aisha also rants at the UN, pointing out how the world body after "begging" her to be envoy for peace had now referred her to the International Criminal Court.

She also claimed that some of the top rebel leaders still keep in touch with the Libyan strongman.

Aisha pleaded for dialogue and talked about democratic reforms, but dismissed rebels as "terrorists" and ruled out holding any talks with them.

She attributed the plight of Libya and her family to what she called "betrayal" by Arabs, whose cause, she claimed her father had supported and to the Western allies to whom he had turned over his weapons of mass destruction.

"Is this the reward we get?" she asked.

Summing up her family's attitude, Aisha said her father was as strong as the world knows him. "he is quite sure that the Libyan people are loyal to him." PTI

Outsourcing Hot Issue Near Polls, India Trade Balanced: Blake

Washington  : With political parties in the United States gradually entering election mode, a top Obama Administration official has acknowledged that "outsourcing” could be one of the campaign issues, but unlike the past, the positive aspect is that trade with India is balanced.

“Outsourcing is always a hot button issue around elections, particularly when unemployment is high. People naturally take a look at these kinds of things,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told Knowledge @ Wharton in an interview.

“But the point I would make about our economic relations with India is that they’re increasingly balanced. The kind of offshoring... that is taking place, is an economic reality around the world now and all companies have plants in China and in India to basically be able to avail themselves of whatever the opportunities are in those countries.

“Every country has slightly different opportunities and advantages to offer,” he said.

So a big company like GE is going to have research centres all over the world to capitalise on and because of the Internet, they can bring all their scientists and engineers together in one big web and pool that knowledge and those ideas and to create something really interesting, he observed.

“That’s what’s happening. I think that that’s the competitive edge that every company needs and that’s true of India, too. India’s doing exactly the same thing in reverse.  The Infosys’ of the world and Tata and others are setting up their own centres in Iowa and Michigan and places like that,” he said.

“That’s the point I always make to American audiences...  yes, some of this is happening, but this is part of keeping these companies in business and secondly, the Indians are doing the same in reverse.

“A lot of new Indian investment is coming in and the pace is quite dramatic. It’s a 50 per cent increase every single year. So we’re going to see a lot more of this coming over time. That’s a very good thing for us,” Blake said.

Referring to tourism, he said one of the really interesting manifestations of the rise of the middle class in India has been that 650,000 Indians visited the United States last year.

“That itself represented a 20 per cent increase from the year before and they are now the 10th largest source of foreign travelers into the United States, which is a very good thing. I expect that to rise as the middle class continues to grow in India, we’ll see much more of that, and we very much welcome that.

“And of course Americans for centuries have been going to India because it’s such a lovely and glorious place to visit,” Blake said. PTI

Retd Major's Son Attempts To Commits Suicide, Hospitalized

Chandigarh : Karandeep Singh, the  25-year-old son of a retired  Army Major Jaswant Singh shot at himself from his father's licensed revolver on Wednesday night. He is presently in a critical condition at the Fortis Hospital here, reports India TV reporter Raj Kumar.

House No 2525B at sector 47 in Chandigarh reverberated with the sounds of gunfire, as Karandeep, after a tiff with his father over money, fired at himself from a  7.65 caliber pistol inside his bedroom.

Karandeep had earlier, too, tried to commit suicide twice, says Jaspal Singh, SHO, Sec 31 police station.

Police have registered a case of attempt to commit suicide against Karandeep.

26 Air India Flights Cancelled, Strike Still On

New Delhi, : Air India had to cancel 18 flights from Delhi and 8 flights from Mumbai on Thursday morning as the striking pilots continued to remain away from duty despite a Delhi High Court order asking them to return to work, report India TV bureaux from both metros.

Eight flights cancelled from Mumbai include: Mumbai-Hyderabad, Mumbai-Bangalore, Mumbai-Nagpur- Mumbai-Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai-chennai, Mumbai-Delhi and Mumbai-Kolkata.

The 18 Air India flights cancelled at Delhi include:
Cancelled Air India Flights

1. AI 1116 Amritsar    06:30
2. AI 665 Mumbai     08:00
3. AI 411 Lucknow    08:05
4. AI 659 Mumbai     09:00
5. AI 463 Dehradun  09:35
6. AI 688 Mumbai   06:00
7. AI 817 Ahmedabad   06:00
8. AI 409 Patna      06:45
9. AI 560 Hyderabad 06:50
10. AI 762 Kolkata  10:15
11. AI 406 Varanasi 10:30
12. AI 506 Bangalore 10:30
13. AI 821 Srinagar 11:30
14. AI 425 Srinagar 11:15
15. AI 809 Ranchi  11:00
16. AI 879 Bangalore  07:50
17. AI 213 Kathmandu 0730
18. AI 344 Leh 07:20

12-Year-Old Padmanabh 'Crowned' Jaipur's New Maharaja

Jaipur : In 12-year-old Kumar Padmanabh Singh, the adopted grandson of the late Sawai Bhawani Singh, Jaipur got its new maharaja today with a ‘coronation’ ceremony held at the Royal Palace.

The ‘raj tilak’ took place on the 12th day of mourning following the demise of Bhawai Singh on April 16 at the age of 80 at a hospital in Gurgaon.

According to traditions of the royal family, the solemn yet elegant ceremony was attended by members of the former princely states besides prominent citizens of Jaipur.  Bhawani Singh, who had no son, had adopted his daughter’s elder son Padmanabh in 2002, when he was a five years old.

This afternoon, Padmanabh, dressed in a white ‘achkan’ walked in the royal procession at the ‘coronation’ ceremony attended among others by Rajasthan Health Minister A A Khan, Speaker Dipendra Singh Shekhawat, former Union minister and actor Vinod Khanna.

The ceremony was performed by ‘rajpurohit’ Brijlal Kishan and ‘acharya’ Dilip Sharma, who chanted Vedic mantras.  After the ‘coronation’ the young maharaja also took a guard of honour.

The flag that was on half mast was hoisted again on the palace amid sounding of drums.

Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh also visited the palace during the day.

Born to Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and his first wife Marudhar Kanwar of Jodhpur, Sawai Bhawani Singh had married Princess Padmini Devi in 1966.

The royal couple have a daughter Princess Diya Kumari.  Singh had adopted Padmanabh—the son of Diya and son-in-law Narendra Singh.

Besides the throne, Padmanabh will also inherit legal disputes plaguing the royal properties. PTI

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