Friday, November 20, 2009

The world's most admired nations-Switzerland

Switzerland comes eighth in the list of most admired nations. Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world. Zurich and Geneva have been ranked as having the second and third highest quality of life in the world.

(PPP): $315.768 billion
Population: 7,739,100

Image: A man cycles during snowfall in Zurich.
Photographs: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters.

The world's most admired nations-Canada

Canada took the biggest hit in the survey, falling to seventh from fourth place. Canada is one of the world's richest nations, with a high per capita income. It is one of the world's top ten trading nations.

GDP (PPP): $342.682 billion
Population: 9,263,872

Image: Canada slips to 7th rank.

The world's most admired nations-United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is ranked fourth among the world's most admired nations. It was ranked third last year. The UK has the world's sixth largest economy by nominal GDP and the seventh largest by purchasing power parity.

The world's first industrialised country, it is major power with strong economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence.

GDP (PPP): $2.228 trillion
Population: 61,113,205
Image: United Kingdom is ranked fourth.

The world's most admired nations-Germany

Germany, which was ranked first last year has moved to the third position this year. It is a major economic power with the world's fourth largest economy by nominal GDP and the fifth largest in purchasing power parity.

Germany allocates the second biggest annual budget of development aid in the world. The country has a high standard of living.

The global survey, conducted by GFK Roper Public Affairs & Media, involved 20,000 people in 20 rich and developing countries around the globe. They were asked to rate 50 nations in categories such as culture, governance, people, exports, tourism, landscape and education.

GDP (PPP): $2.910 trillion
Population: 82,060,000
Image: Germany slips to third position.

The world's most admired nations - France

France is the second most admired country according to the survey. France is the largest country in the European Union. It is the fifth largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth largest economy by purchasing power parity. It is the most visited country in the world, with 82 million foreign tourists visiting the country annually.

While most nations' reputation does not undergo major change from year to year, the US has clearly bucked the trend.

What's key for the US and other world's leading nations is to strike while the iron is hot and develop focused policies and communication that draw businesses, financial investors and tourists -- in order to help lift their national economies and their global credibility, the report states.

GDP (PPP): $2.130 trillion
Population: 65,073,482

The world's most admired nations

The United States has been ranked as the world's most admired country. With the best overall brand ranking, the US has moved up to the top slot, up from seventh last year, states a survey by GFK Roper Public Affairs & Media.

While India has been ranked at 30, China's position has risen to 22 among the 50 nations surveyed.

The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index measures the power and quality of each country's 'brand image' by combining the following six dimensions:

  • Exports: Determines the public's image of products and services from each country and the extent to which consumers proactively seek or avoid products from each country-of-origin.
  • Investment and Immigration: Determines the power to attract people to live, work or study in each country and reveals how people perceive a country's economic and social
  • Tourism: Captures the level of interest in visiting a country and the draw of natural and man-made tourist attractions.
  • People: Measures the population's reputation for competence, education, openness and friendliness, etc.
  • Governance: Measures public opinion regarding the level of national government competency and fairness.
  • Culture and Heritage: Reveals global perceptions of each nation's heritage and appreciation for its culture.

1. USA

The US economy is the largest in the world, with an estimated 2008 gross domestic product (GDP) of $14.3 trillion (a quarter of nominal global GDP and a fifth of global GDP at purchasing power parity).

"What's really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States in 2009," explains Simon Anholt, NBI founder and an independent advisor to over a dozen national governments around the world.

"Despite recent economic turmoil, the US actually gained significant ground. The results suggest that the new US administration has been well received abroad and the American electorate's decision to vote in President Obama has given the United States the status of the world's most admired country."

Check out the world's most admired countries...

Born poor, now self-made billionaires-Angelo R Mozilo

ngelo R Mozilo was the co-founder and chief executive officer of Countrywide Financial until July 1, 2008. The 70-year old Mozilo started the company in 1969.

The company soon grew to become one of the biggest mortgage lenders in the US. Countrywide was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1984. They granted huge loans to borrowers without verifying their repayment abilities.

Promoting risky loans, the company played a crucial role in huge subprime mortgage crisis. Finally, this led to the collapse of the company. The company was subsequently taken over by the Bank of America. CNN named Mozilo as one of the 'Ten Most Wanted: Culprits' of the 2008 financial collapse in the United States.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in June filed civil-fraud charges for 'deliberately misleading investors about the significant credit risks being taken in efforts to build and maintain the company's market share.'

Mozilo's compensation during the housing bubble from 2001-06 is under scrutiny. During that period, his total compensation (including salary, bonuses, options and restricted stock) was $470 million.

A butcher's son, Angelo Mozilo worked hard right from his childhood to make ends meet.

Born poor, now self-made billionaires-

"When you're a self-made man you start very early in life. In my case it was at nine years old when I started bringing income into the family. You get a drive that's a little different, maybe a little stronger, than somebody who inherited."

Kirk Kerkorian

Billionaire Kerkorian owns Tracinda Corporation. He is also known as one of the key figures in shaping the city of Las Vegas. Kerkorian, however likes to keep a low profile.

His charitable foundation has granted more than $200 million but has not allowed anything to bear his name. His father was an illiterate immigrant. But Kerkorian had made up his mind to make it big. However, he was expelled from Foshay Junior High for fighting. He joined another school but dropped out in the eighth grade.

He worked hard, taking up many odd jobs to help his poor parents. He became an amateur boxer under the tutelage of his older brother Nish, a boxer. At 17, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. When he was 25 he joined the Morton Air Academy where he rose to the rank of a lieutenant and became an army flight instructor.

During World War II Kirk flew daredevil missions across the Atlantic for the Royal Air Force. He then started a plane charter service. He took it public in 1965. In 1968 he sold out to the TransAmerica Corporation. Kerkorian got about $85 million worth of stock in the TransAmerica conglomerate.

In 1973 he acquired MGM, the famous movie studio, and opened the MGM Grand Hotel, which was the largest hotel in the world at that time. In 1992 Kerkorian started MGM Grand Air, a super luxury airline that only flew LA-NY flights. But he had to close down in 1994. The 91-year old Kerkorian with a net worth $5 billion is the world's 98th richest person.

Born poor, now self-made billionaires-Ken Lewis

The high profile chairman of Bank of America, Ken Lewis worked his way through Georgia State University as an accountant and an airline ticket-agent, graduating with a finance degree in 1969. He worked as a credit analyst at North Carolina National Bank.

The bank was eventually taken over by Bank of America. He became Bank of America's chief operating officer in 1999 and chairman in 2005.

In April, the Bank of America shareholders voted to separate the positions of Chairman of the Board and CEO, effectively removing CEO 61-year old Lewis from his position as Chairman of the Board of BofA, though he remained both the bank's president and its CEO due to the shareholders' resentment over the takeover of Merril Lynch for $50 billion.

Lewis has announced his retirement from Bank of America effective as of December 31, 2009. The Securities and Exchange Commission and New York's Attorney General are investigating whether Lewis misled Bank of America shareholders before the Merrill Lynch acquisition.

Merrill has paid out billions in bonuses to its staff that were allegedly not fully disclosed. His annual compensation in 2008 fiscal year stood at $1,500,000.

Born poor, now self made billionaires-Ursula Burns

Ursula M. Burns became the first black lady to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in July 2009. The 57-year old Burns started her career as an engineering intern in 1980.

Burns led several business teams including the office color and fax business and office network printing business. In April 2007, Burns was named president of Xerox, expanding her leadership to include the company's IT organisation, corporate strategy, human resources, corporate marketing and global accounts.

Burns ranked 10th in the Fortune list of '50 Most Powerful Women in America'. Her salary package for 2008 stood at $887,500, but total compensation stood at a whopping $6,003,126.

In an interview with the New York Times, she described growing up poor with "lots of Jewish immigrants, fewer Hispanics and African-Americans, but the great equaliser was poverty." Burns' mother used to run a home day care centre.

"China traditionally has been a tea-drinking country but we turned them into coffee drinkers."

Howard Schultz

A successful entrepreneur, 56-year old Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO Starbucks in his younger days was determined to win the battle over poverty. He became the first person to graduate in his family.

Schultz's inspiring journey started when he went to Seattle to check out a popular coffee bean store called Starbucks, which was buying many of the Hammarplast Swedish drip coffeemakers he sold. He finally joined the company and was promoted as head of marketing and operations in 1982.

But he parted ways as the owners refused to accept his plans of offering coffee in stores or diversifying into restaurants. Schultz went ahead and started his own coffee-bar business, called Il Giornale.

Interestingly, a year later Schultz bought Starbucks for $3.8 million. As CEO of Starbucks in 2008, Schultz earned a total compensation of $9,740,471, which included a base salary of $1,190,000.

Born poor, now self-made billionaires - Ed Liddy

Ed Liddy, former chief executive officer of American International Group (AIG) had to face lot of hardships before he rose to great heights. Ed Liddy's father died when he was just 12 years old. According to aBusinessWeek report, he had a poverty-stricken childhood.

Liddy graduated from Catholic University of America in 1968 and received a master's degree in business administration from George Washington University in 1972. He worked with Ford Motor before joining G D Searle & Co in 1981.

The 63-year old Liddy earned about $130 million during his eight-year tenure at Allstate. In the wake of the financial crisis, Ed Liddy came to rescue the ailing AIG, worked for a salary of $1. But the act turned disastrous when the company handed out employee bonuses totally $165 million after it had accepted $170 billion in government bailout funds.

This forced him to quit AIG.

Born poor, now self-made billionaires

Meet the inspiring people who struggled against all odds to make it big. They turned adversities into advantages. From being without food, to taking up all kinds of odd jobs, they have proved that nothing is impossible! Their success stories reflect passion, hard work and excellence.

"I have had all of the disadvantages required for success."

Larry Ellison

He was adopted by a middle class family in Chicago nine months after he was born to an unwed Jewish lady. Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation was a bright student, showed a good aptitude for maths and science. But he left the University of Illinois at the end of his second year, after his mother died.

He later studied computer designing. He moved to California where he did several odd jobs for about 8 years. Finally, as a programmer at Ampex, he participated in building the first IBM-compatible mainframe system. In 1977, Ellison and two of his Ampex colleagues, Robert Miner and Ed Oates, founded their own company, Software Development Labs with just $1400 from his savings. The company was later renamed Oracle Corporation.

He is currently listed on the Forbes list of billionaires as the fourth richest person in the world. Ellison is the third richest American, with an estimated net worth of $27 billion as of September 2009 . The 65-year old Ellison known for his extravagant lifestyle, races sailboats and flies planes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.

National Mall & Memorial Parks contains some of the oldest protected park lands in the National Park Service.

Many of the nation’s iconic public landmarks are found in the 1,000-plus acres of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, including the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Memorials, and the Korean and Vietnam War Veterans Memorials.

The Las Vegas Strip, Nevada

Las Vegas is the most populous city in the state of Nevada, the seat of Clark County, and an internationally renowned major resort city for gambling, shopping, and entertainment.

Enticing over 31 million visitors,about 80 percent of the city’s total (39.2 million) visitors, a year with its million-gigawatt smile and globetrotting attractions, Las Vegas Strip is more than glitz and gambling. – [Source: National Scenic Byways Program]

Times Square

Times Square, the most bustling square of New York, is known for its many Broadway theatres, cinemas and super signs.

Times Square has all sorts of fun, exciting and informative tours to explore other parts of the city. You can Choose from walking, bike, bus, food, limo, TV, landmark, ethnic or water tours.

Times Square Alliance estimates an average of more than 2,000 pedestrians traversing a block of 7th Avenue during a 15-minute weekday period.

Friday, November 13, 2009

3 Best Amusement Park Camp Grounds In The Country

Highmeadow CampgroundWe Have researched amusement park camp grounds around the country to come up with the 3 best amusement park camp grounds for you and your family.

We have compiled a list of clean, easily accessible and affordable camp grounds at 3 different locations in the United States.

  1. Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun Kansas City, Missouri. There are two separate camp grounds on the campus of Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri. One camp ground is made exclusively for RVs with complete hook-ups and the other is for tents.
  2. Holiday World and Splashin Safari and Lake Rudolph Camp ground and RV resort in Santa Claus, Indiana. This camp ground is overflowing with amenities from golf carts to get around the large campus to paddleboats, fishing and free wifi.
  3. Hersheypark and Dutch Wonderland at Highmeadow Campground in Hershey Pennsylvania. This camp ground attached to the Dutch Wonderland and Hersheypark is complete with nearly 300 camp sites and 22 cabins. The park also offers free wifi and laundry services as well as a swimming pool and a recreation center for kids with a game and arcade room.

De-stress from diabetes

Stress can play havoc with your blood sugar levels.

The ability to cope with stress requires a change in the individual’s mindset.

Photo: K.R. Deepak

Take control: Sweets are not the only cause of diabetes.

A, a successful businessman aged 45 years, came to us recently with very high blood sugar level of nearly 600 mg/dl. On further evaluation, it was found that A had been under a lot of stress recently. He had lost money in the stock market and his business had been badly hit by the recession.

Since his blood sugar was very high, he was started on insulin along with small dose of oral anti-diabetic tablets. In a couple of weeks his blood sugar came down and he was able to stop insulin and move to tablets. When we saw him recently, his blood sugars were normal and he was able to stop all his diabetes medication. The secret of this miracle “cure”: Stock market has rebounded and the recession is over!

B, a bank officer, was a diabetes patient for seven years. His blood sugar was under control with tablets alone. Recently, he was transferred to a small village, which meant that he had to live away from his family. As his wife was not well, he was worried sick.

At his annual check-up, we were surprised to note that his blood sugars were totally out of control and could not be brought down even with insulin. This continued till he was transferred back to the city on health grounds, when his blood sugars promptly returned to normal levels.

Common factor

Most doctors treating diabetes patients will be familiar with patients like these. The common factor in both cases is stress. Stress can not only raise the blood sugars in a diabetes patient, but can also precipitate diabetes in someone predisposed to it.

The Webster’s Dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” Stress can cause or worsen many diseases; diabetes is one of them.

How does stress affect the blood sugar levels? Blood sugar is controlled mainly by two groups of hormones. The first set reduces blood sugar; insulin is the only member of this group. The other set, called counter-regulatory hormones, opposes the action of insulin and increases the blood sugars. This includes cortisol and adrenaline (from the adrenal glands), glucagon and growth hormone.

Stress tends to increase the levels of the second set of hormones, particularly cortisol and adrenaline. If the levels of these hormones remain high for a long time, the result will be development of diabetes in a predisposed individual or worsening of diabetes in a patient.

It is important to detect high stress levels in a patient, since blood sugars will come down only if stress is relieved. Doctors should always think of stress when they see a patient with unexplained high sugars, or with uncontrolled levels despite optimum use of diet, tablets and insulin. Reduction of stress often leads to dramatic improvement or even cure.

Often, individuals do not realise that they are under stress; even if they do, they try to deny it, feeling that it represents failure. The initial step is to get rid of this guilt trap and appreciate that everyone is exposed to stress at some time in their lives. In fact a mild degree of stress may actually be good as it raises our level of performance. However, one should be alert to the signs and symptoms of excess stress, as they may be quite subtle.

Coping with stress

The ability to cope with stress requires a change in the individual’s mindset. One should try and interpret stressful situations as challenges, not threats. Most individuals use a “band-aid” approach, i.e. treating the symptoms of stress with medication without tackling the root cause. Though effective in the short-term, this is fraught with harmful side-effects over time. Another approach is the use of stress management techniques like diet, exercise, meditation, biofeedback, yoga and other relaxation therapy. This approach helps identify the underlying cause and correct it. A qualified clinical psychologist or counsellor can be a great help in many cases.

Stress is an inevitable accompaniment of modern life. Individuals differ, not in their exposure to stress, but in how they react to it. Following a healthy lifestyle with adequate exercise, correct diet and regular sleeping hours keeps one physically and mentally fit to face stressful situations. It is important that a person with diabetes learns to manage stress, since it can play havoc with the management of diabetes. A healthy social life, taking time out to relax with friends and family is vital in reducing stress levels thereby reducing the risk of developing diabetes and helping people with diabetes take control of their condition.

Rendezvous with France


This winter, warm up to a volley of French films.

We want to project a different impression of French cinema to Indians.

On show (Clockwise from left) Stills from “The First Day of the Rest of your Life”, “Paris” and “The Regrets”.

Not long ago, Select CityWalk multiplex in South Delhi wore a distinctly busy look, quite unusual for the opening of an animation film. In a country that regards animation to be a substitute for a children’s film, it was a different experience to watch a black and white film with little to cheer, lots to ponder. The film was Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s “Persepolis”, alternately evocative and provocative. A rare French film to find a commercial release in India, “Persepolis” found favour with discerning cinemagoers in the country.

On another scale came “Asterix”. Riding on hype and hope in equal measure, this animation film too made a little dent at the box office. “We have new, emerging talent in animation. We are the third largest animation producer in the world,” says Regine Hatchondo, Director General, Unifrance. Though both the films were noticed for their content, “Persepolis” and “Asterix” were just a couple of swallows not quite sufficient for a summer. And Indians continued to use Hollywood as a synonym for foreign cinema. All this might change thanks to Bonjour India: Festival of India that is bringing a clutch of films to India.

Says Hatchondo, “We want to project a different impression of French cinema to Indians. We are not just about classics or only about animation. We are into action, comedies and more. We also want to bring New Wave cinema to the notice of cinemagoers in India.” Chips in Michele Darmon, Charge de Mission, Festival of French Films in India, “India is among the handful of countries in the world to have resisted the march of Hollywood with its own cinema. We are looking at niche market for our films here. Last year 10 French films were released in India. And three French films were screened at the International Film Festival of India in Goa. This year, thanks to the Mumbai and New Wave cinema festivals, we aim to make a bigger dent. And are looking at France as a possible State in focus over the next couple of years at IFFI. At present many Indian films are shot in France and many French films in India. What we are looking forward to are co-productions. Besides the studios in Mumbai, we have identified Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan as possible shooting sites.”

Incidentally, every year 84 million tickets are sold for French films worldwide. And some 421 million Euros worth business took place in French films. Importantly, out of this amount, only a tiny decimal came from India.

In our country, 93 per cent of the film market share goes to films in various Indian languages. Hollywood gets a mere 6 per cent. The rest one per cent is divided between films from France, U.K. Korea, Japan and China, etc.

“We understand the limitations. At times the publicity budget or the marketing percentage of the total film cost are negligible. And we have to spruce up our merchandise to bring about greater awareness of our films,” says Darmon, adding, “This time we have sent Jacques Audiard’s ‘A Prophet’ as the official entry for the Oscars. A dark film, it is set in prison and stars Tahar Rahim. It is a subject that will find takers among a large fraternity of cinemagoers in India too. It has a universal appeal.” In “A Prophet”, Audiard puts viewers through a gruelling and realistic edge-of-the-seat experience by focussing on a young Arab boy trying to survive in a bad world. Incidentally, Rahim may just make it for the Rendezvous with French Cinema festival in Mumbai.

Two festivals, eight cities

Talking of promoting French cinema in India, well, there is going to be plenty of it in the coming weeks. Beginning November 28, French cinema will be celebrated in eight cities. Organised by the Embassy of France in collaboration with Unifrance and Culturesfrance, Mumbai will host the second edition of Rendezvous with French Cinema in India from December 2 to 6. Sophie Marceau’s “Female Agents” is the opening film for the Unifrance Festival in Mumbai. Eight films will be premiered during the festival and released by local distributors in 2010. Then there is more to come with the Bonjour India: Festival of France moving to places like New Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Kolkata. Celebrating 50 years of New Wave cinema, there will be eight films from the 1950s and ‘60s. The New Wave cinema celebrations start off in New Delhi on December 4. Actor Rahim of “A Prophet”, Cedric Kahn, director of “The Regrets” and Deborah Francois, actress of “Female Agents” are tipped to fly in especially for the Mumbai festival.

Of course, the viewers of New Wave cinema may not be as lucky with the French stars. But by February, one thing is sure: Indians would know more about French cinema than just “Asterix”, “Merry Christmas” or “Persepolis”. That is, however, no guarantee that either the viewers or the Indian stars can begin to ape the French. As Shah Rukh Khan says in director Vivek Tiwari’s documentary on French cinema in India, “I still have to learn to kiss the French way.” Way to go, man!


New Wave

The Embassy of France and Culturesfrance bring Bonjour India: Festival of France. The festival “Fifty Years of New Wave” moves across India.

New Delhi: December 4-7

Mumbai: Dec 7-10

Thiruvananthapuram: Dec 11-18

Chennai: Dec 17- 24

Bangalore: Jan 1-7

Pune: Jan 7-14

Hyderabad: Jan 14-21

Kolkata: Jan 22-28


Rendezvous with French Cinema

“Female Agents” by Jean-Paul Salomé

“A Prophet” by Jacques Audiard

“Mutants” by David Morley

“High Lane” by Abel Ferry

“Paris” by Cédric Klapish

“Leaving” by Catherine Corsini

“The Regrets” by Cédric Kahn

“The First Day of the Rest of your Life” by Rémi Bezançon

Monday, November 2, 2009



WASHINGTON, July 26, 2005 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today announced a new collaboration with states and private industry to protect the nation's food supply from terrorist threats.

"Ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply is a top priority for President Bush and USDA," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "This partnership demonstrates our commitment as government and the private sector work together to protect our agricultural commodities from terrorism. We look forward to working with our partners."

The Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative supports President Bush's requirements directing the government to work closely with states and industry to secure the nation's food supply. Announced today at the Food and Agriculture Sector Coordinating Council meeting, four pilot visits will be conducted in September and October. The purpose of these visits is to assess and identify vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors.

"As one of the lead federal agencies charged with protecting our nation's food supply, the FDA fully supports this initiative encouraging a closer working relationship with our partners in federal and state government, as well as the private sector to make the nation's food even safer," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford. "This partnership brings together all of the organizations that have the best knowledge and abilities in safeguarding the food we eat starting from the farm all the way to our kitchen tables."

Over the next year, teams of federal and state officials will travel to all 50 states to meet with all sectors of the food chain. Together, the federal, state and private industry partners will discuss security issues from farm-to-table and consider ways to better protect our food supply.

"We are pleased to participate in this important initiative to enhance the overall security of our nation's food and agricultural infrastructure," said Robert Stephan, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "The health of our citizens and our economy depend on our ability to conduct assessments, validate field information and provide guidance that can be shared with our federal, state and local, tribal as well as private sector partners."

These visits will help the federal partners better consider how states and industry can protect the food supply, gain more information about the food industry's protection needs and assist government and private industry in refining its efforts including research and development goals.

This effort is the second major joint initiative for the federal partners. In May 2005, FBI, with the support of DHS, USDA and FDA hosted the first ever International Symposium for Agrosecurity in Kansas City, Mo.

Additional information about agrosecurity can be found on USDA's Web site at; or the FDA Web site.

Welcome to the USDA's Agricultural Biotechnology

USDA supports the safe and appropriate use of science and technology, including biotechnology, to help meet agricultural challenges and consumer needs of the 21st century. USDA plays a key role in assuring that products produced using biotechnology are safe to be grown and used in the United States. Once these products enter commerce, USDA supports bringing these and other products to the worldwide marketplace. For the USDA Agricultural Biotechnology website click here for information on:

Agency Descriptions in Biotechnology

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is responsible for administering plant variety and seed laws in the U.S., which also cover biotechnology-derived seeds, and for government activities regarding certification and labeling of agricultural seed for varietal purity for international trade. AMS also offers laboratory testing services for genetically engineered food and fiber products and voluntary process verification services to assure segregation of conventional and/or biotech crops along the food chain.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is USDA's in house science agency. ARS works to improve the quality, safety, and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. The agency's biotechnology research includes introducing new traits and improving existing traits in livestock, crops, and microorganisms; safeguarding the environment; and assessing and enhancing the safety of biotechnology products. ARS also develops and provides access to agricultural resources and genomic information.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)ensures the safe development of agricultural biotechnology by regulating field-testing, interstate movement, and importation of genetically engineered organisms. APHIS determines whether a genetically engineered organism is as safe for the environment as its traditionally bred counterpart and can be freely used in agriculture.

The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) provides funding and program leadership for extramural research, higher education, and extension activities in food and agricultural biotechnology. In partnership with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Forest Service, CSREES administers the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program (BRAG) which supports the development of science-based information regarding the safety of introducing into the environment genetically-modified plants, animals, and microorganisms.

The Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts research on the economic aspects of the use of genetically engineered organisms, including the rate of and reasons for adoption of biotechnology by farmers. ERS also addresses economic issues related to the marketing, labeling, and trading of biotechnology-derived products.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged including animals involved in biotechnology.

USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) supports the overseas acceptance of biotechnology and crops that have been reviewed by the U.S. government agencies to support U.S. farm exports and promote global food security. These efforts are conducted through government-to-government discussions, exchange in multilateral organizations, and overseas education and marketing programs.

The Forest Service (FS) conducts all research and development on forest resource issues within USDA. Biotechnology is used in a wide variety of R&D for healthier trees, forest products, and pest resistance for both diseases and insects that affect trees, wildlife, and fish.

The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) provides inspection, weighing, and related services on grains, pulses, oilseeds, and processed and graded commodities. GIPSA operates a biotechnology reference laboratory that assists commercial laboratories, governments, and academic institutions in evaluating the capability and reliability of their biotech testing programs. GIPSA also oversees a voluntary process verification program which allows suppliers to assure customers about the quality of their products or services through independent audits of their manufacturing practices or services.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as the fact finder for agriculture, provides information on the adoption of biotechnology crops (specifically corn, cotton, and soybeans). NASS has been tracking the adoption of biotech crops since 2000.



    TOOLS OF HER TRADE Dhanya Menon at workin her office in Thrissur

    You have won two-and a half million euros, says an email from. who cares who when your mind is reeling counting the zeros in such a huge amount. The only thing that's keeping you from the said amount is `a measly nine lakh' rupees as processing fee, after all you ARE getting the `internet cheque' that will land you the two and a half million euros. At `internet cheque' most of us would see through the con (that is if you have read this far) and hit delete and then there are some who succumb.

    I say, Internet cheque? That's too much of a cock and bull story. No, says Pattathil Dhanya Menon, cyber crime investigator. "That kind of money is an extremely huge amount for a person to be able to resist. People fall for such lottery scams all the time, all over the world," she says. Dhanya is probably the country's only woman cyber crime investigator, working in tandem with several agencies.

    Coming back to the original story, the payment has been made, the `internet cheque' turns out to be bogus because there are no such things as internet cheques and there is no real person. This is where people called cyber crime investigators come into the picture. This sounds like stuff of some sci-fi book or flick. But no, says Dhanya again.

    There is a new kind of criminal out there, the kind who uses technology adeptly. Therefore an ATM card, an email id, a phone number (generally a cell phone number) or an Orkut or a Facebook (for identity theft) account will do. Phishing is old news, there is Orkut abuse, for instance, which is creating a fake id in the name of the person who is to be tarnished and then posting all kinds of damaging information or lies and photographs too.

    With all this technology crank calls too have evolved. "What generally starts out as a prank by college students, generally, gets out of hand. They just dial numbers at random and if one of the numbers connects to a woman's phone then the woman's had it. A husband may not appreciate his wife getting calls from strange men, late in the night. The implications are huge," says Dhanya.

    Choice of career

    Talking about creating a fake identity on a networking site, Dhanya got a surprise last week. "I have this habit of running checks on social networking sites to see if there is anything on me. What do I see last week? My fake profile on one of the sites. I am very close to finding who it is. If it can happen to me then what about the others?" Crank call is in the singular for her, for the moment she tells the person at the other end what she does for a living and there ends the call.

    Not everybody, actually hardly anybody, wants to be a cyber crime investigator. Dhanya attributes her choice of a career to chance or destiny. She happened to be in Kochi on a weekend when a workshop on cyber crime was being organised. "That workshop got me hooked. I got curious about the whole thing. The more I read up on the Net, the more I was drawn to it," she says. This MBA is a B.Tech in Computer Science from the Open University of British Columbia. Her technical background helped.

    Her grandfather P. B. Menon, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court, goaded her to study cyber crime further. Dhanya joined the Asian School of Cyber Laws, Pune and after a year earned her post graduation in Cyber Laws and became a certified cyber crime investigator. And since 2007 her work took her to other parts of the country and the world sometimes, but rarely to her home state. "But things are different now. I am getting more work here but not enough to set up an office. Also I need people to assist me and that unfortunately is not possible because there are very few people doing this here or in the country for that matter."


    She says the public needs to be educated about many things regarding this, if cases are to be solved. Say, it is a case of crank calls or obscene calls, the tendency of the victim is to switch off the phone or stop using the number out of sheer fear. That compromises the evidence, "because not using the phone (because of the calls or the texts) will lead to the charge going out and the phone dying out. Or some people will change the SIM card from the phone on to another phone. Therefore the numbers on the call register or the text will get deleted. And then prosecution becomes difficult." The key is to keep using the phone and keep it active, says the expert. Pilferage of data, attrition, information short things which can shake the foundation of a firm comprise cases involving corporates clients.


    "This career is like all those Sherlock Holmes novels that I read as a child. This is exciting," Dhanya's eyes light up as she describes what she does. But there is a slight hitch in all this, "The challenge is not finding the perpetrator or cracking the crime. The jurisdictional challenge of reaching a criminal who is in a different geographical location is the biggest road block. A uniform law code is an impossibility, therefore something like pornography may be legal in some countries but in some others illegal. So what do we do?"


    Some precautions may help in protecting yourself from cyber crime, says Dhanya. Be careful of how you handle the following things and to whom you lend these to:

    Your Computer

    Internet connection

    Email id

    Mobile Phone

    SIM card

    Developing entrepreneurial skills

    Expertspeak: Speakers giving their views on developing skills among students.

    The words like “entrepreneur” and “entrepreneurship” have been considerably debated in recent years among managers, policy makers and bureaucrats with the academic circles and institutions being no exception. Management schools lay special emphasis on various activities that serve to foster this creative spirit among the young aspirants.

    An entrepreneurship development cell (EDC) was started at the Gudlavalleru Engineering College, Gudlavalleru, with the approval of the All India Council of Technical Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

    The expert speakers dwelt on various aspects of entrepreneurship and why it is all the more relevant in the present day scenario where individuals have plenty of opportunities.

    Y. Harish Chandra Prasad, chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry AP chapter, Efftronics managing director D. Ramakrishna and other industrialists were present at the inaugural of the EDC. They referred to the latest thrust being given to the new methods of production and marketing, which keep evolving with entrepreneurial skills of the people involved.

    The opening of EDCs at academic institutions points to the recognition accorded to the human factor in the production process. As a concept, entrepreneurship has become like a hat, which has lost its shape because everyone uses and does it in his or her own peculiar fashion. To introduce students to this dynamic concept, the institutes are making them to experience it practically though in a small way.

    To involve B.Tech. and management students deeply in this, entrepreneurship awareness camps and entrepreneurship adventure for youth (one-day program) are being organised with active support of the college managements.

    The mission of Entrepreneurship Development Cells is stated to augment the supply of industrial entrepreneurs through education and training, to produce multiplier effect on opportunities for self-employment, to improve the managerial capabilities of small scale industries and so on.

    The speakers said that in 1755, Richard Cantillon used the word “entrepreneurship” for the first time to refer to the dealers who buy the wares to sell them again wholesale and retail at an uncertain price. The concept slowly evolved into a full-fledged one over the decades till it came to signify a person’s spirit in engaging in various aspects of production, marketing and industry. It has come to stand for the development of a new method of production or new way of handling a commodity commercially and the opening of a new market.

    The EDP’s current scenario is very encouraging, as the importance of small and medium-scale enterprises is recognised very well for economic growth, industrial development and employment generation at a relatively low capital cost. This is seen as particularly relevant in developing countries like India.

    In a small enterprise, the central figure is “entrepreneur”, who catalyses resources, risks and manages them so as to establish a viable, sustained employment generating entity.

    Can low doses of radiation cause heart disease?

    Basic guideline: The basic tenet of radiation protection that radiation doses to workers should remain As Low As Reasonably Achievable remains.

    Researchers at the Imperial College, London predict a link between low dose radiation exposure and heart disease (PLoS Computational Biology, October 2009). Their mathematical model suggests that the risk would increase as the dose increases.

    Cardiovascular effect of high levels of radiation has been known in patients who underwent radiotherapy. Specialists found higher risk for cardiovascular disease among women treated for left-sided breast cancer when compared with women treated for right-sided breast cancer, during the period more than 10 years after diagnosis.

    Emerging evidence

    There is emerging evidence of excess risk of heart disease at much lower doses occurring after a long time after exposure among the A-bomb survivors included in the Life Span Study project and in some groups of radiation workers. The likely mechanism to explain the effect was not clear.

    The US National Academy of Science’s Committee for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR committee) in its latest report has acknowledged the existence of such effects; it asserted that the available data are inadequate to quantify the risk, if it exists.

    The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) in its latest report published in 2008, clarified that it is necessary to assess the epidemiological evidence of radiation effects other than cancer at low doses because the phenomena is potentially important for radiation risk assessment at these dose levels, and there is considerable lack of consistency among the available epidemiological data.

    “The Committee considered it important to focus on cardiovascular disease as the major endpoint of interest, because cardiovascular disease is among the most common diseases in many populations worldwide and thus may be important for radiation risk assessment,” the report cautioned.

    The Imperial College team suggested that radiation kills monocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the arterial wall, which would otherwise bind to monocyte chemo-attractant protein 1 (MCP-1). The resultant higher levels of MCP-1 cause inflammation which leads to cardiovascular disease.

    According to the researchers, the predicted consequence of several small radiation exposures is to cause mean concentration of MCP1 to increase linearly with cumulative dose.

    “The radiation-induced risks predicted by the model is consistent with those observed in a number of occupationally observed groups,” they claimed.

    The implications

    According to them, if their model is valid, it will have substantive implications in radiological protection, which currently does not take cardiovascular diseases into consideration.

    In an interview to BBC, Professor Steve Jones, of Westlakes Research Institute who formerly worked for British Nuclear Fuels (BNF) and who has published his own research on the links between radiation and circulatory disease in nuclear workers conceded that the results of the mathematical model were interesting. He cautioned that its finding cannot be taken as definitive as it is based very largely on mathematical modelling.

    “However it does propose a plausible biological mechanism and, most importantly, a mechanism that is testable by experiment.” he clarified to the BBC.

    BBC quoted Professor Richard Wakeford, of the University of Manchester who also formerly worked for BNF, thus: “More research like this is needed if the results of epidemiological studies are to be properly understood, but there is still some way to go before it may be reliably concluded that low-level radiation can increase the risk of circulatory disease.”

    According to BBC, Professor Dudley Goodhead, former director of the MRC Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, noted that this paper puts forward a highly complicated mathematical model, which makes many assumptions, to explore one possible causal mechanism.

    “Such conclusions should not be drawn without laboratory validation of the key assumptions,” he asserted.

    For many years, the model proposed by the Imperial college team may remain just that; a model with no practical implications.

    The basic tenet of radiation protection that radiation doses to workers should remain As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA principle) remains.

    Scientists from the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre did not find any excess cancer in the high background radiation areas (HBRA) in Kerala. It will be worthwhile to look for excess cardiac diseases in HBRA.



    Sample of Rajasthan architecture

    GLITTERING LIKE A JEWEL: Sri Sankeshwar Paraswanath temple. Photos: S. Siva Saravanan

    Sri Sankeshwar Paraswanath temple, in R. S. Puram, Coimbatore, is a magnificent specimen of Rajasthan's intricate architecture. Dedicated to Sri Sankeshwar, the 23rd teerthankara, this 25-year old temple is a well-known Jain pilgrim centre.

    Acharya Vikram Suriswarji performed the `Anjan Shalaka Pran Pratishta' (Kumbhabhishekam) of this temple in 1981. He was the inspiration behind the Coimbatore Jain Swetambar Murthipujak Sangh which has sponsored this temple. The temple has three garbhagrahas — Sri Sankeshwar (at the centre), flanked by Sri Shanthinath and Sri Mahavir.

    Separate niches

    There are also separate niches for Sri Munishwar, Sri Adinath and Sri Sumathinath. This temple, situated on the busy Ponnurangam road, glitters like a jewel. All people, irrespective of their faith, are welcome inside. However it is expected that only vegetarians enter the precincts. The temple, built on the lines of the `Sompura Jain architecture,' is unique because not even a single nail has been used anywhere in the construction.

    A painting that adorns the wall.

    With the 60 ft. tall gopuram, the appearance of the temple is enhanced by the kamans (arches) torans (flower-strings) and putalias (statuettes).

    Pujas and festivals

    Besides the regular pujas by the priests, devotees perform `Bhava puja' in front of the deity drawing swastika using `akshatha' (rice). The holiest season for the Jains is the `Paryushan Parva,' the last eight days during which the devotees observe fast and visit the temple daily. On the last day, they ask for forgiveness for their sins. This festival falls in the month of September, while Mahaveer Jayanthi falls in April. Both these festivals are well-attended and celebrated with great fervour and grandeur.

    The temple management has plans for the construction of huge halls for prayer, meditation and discourses. `Dwajarohana,' flag-hoisting ceremony, was performed recently to mark the beginning of the silver jubilee celebrations.