Happy New Year 2015


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Letters-62: "Kashmir Elections"

1. The Kashmir verdict is an opportunity for the NC and the Congress to fulfil the people's aspirations and wean them away from separatist and fundamentalist groups. If they rise to the need of the hour, J&K can be transformed into an abode of peace and unity. - J.Srinivasan, Dindigul.

2. Whichever combination forms the government, it should carry forward development activities. Political parties should stop playing into the hands of separatists, wittingly or unwittingly. This watershed election should usher in a new beginning for the long-suffering people of the State. - R.Unni Krishnan, Kochi.

3. The election is no doubt a reiteration of Kashmiris' faith in democracy. But they deserve special praise for not being cowed down by threats. It was clear from media reports that many senior citizens who had never voted before exercised their franchise this time. Once again, it has been proved that terrorism and communalism cannot last long. - Om Pratap Singh, New Delhi.

4. The J&K Assembly election results mark the triumph of democracy in India. The separatists have been totally sidelined. They would do well to honourably wind up their operations. A great responsibility rests on the new coalition government. Its first task should be to restore law and order in the State and make tourism safer. If the new dispensation delays action on the ground, it will lose the sympathy of the voters. As for the Centre, a great opportunity knocks at its door. The democratic choice of the people could form the basis of fresh discussions for a permanent settlement of the Kashmir issue. Pakistan can no longer claim that the wishes of the people of J&K have not been ascertained. - K.P.R.Iyer, Bangalore.

5. The people of J&K have spoken unambiguously through the ballot that despite the call for poll-boycott by secessionist groups. The message is clear: popular will cannot be subjugated by guns. The people have achieved a silent revolution. It is now for their representatives in the State and the Centre to work in unison to bring all sections, including militants, into the democratic mainstream. - Chandran Dharmalingam, The Nilgiris.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 30, 2008 ("Letters to the Editor").

Grateful thanks to M/s.J.Srinivasan, R.Unni Krishnan, Om Pratap Singh, K.P.R.Iyer, Chandran Dharmalingam and The Hindu.

Health News-29: "Cancer drug reverses transplant rejection"

The Hindu, Madurai (December 28, 2008), reports quoting AFP that a drug that is used to treat cancer has proven effective at stopping the body from rejecting a transplanted organ. This drug, Bortezomib, was administered to six patients whose immune systems were attacking transplanted kidneys and who did not respond to traditional anti-rejection treatments. In all the cases, the drug promptly reversed the rejection, improved organ function, provided prolonged reductions in antibody levels and suppressed recurrent rejection for at least five months. The study was carried out at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Detailed Wikipedia article on "TRANSPLANT REJECTION":

Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

S&T Watch-45: "Green is Good!"

Even looking at images of greenery can improve mental processes, leave alone spending time in the midst of nature, research has found.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 20, 2008.

Now to some interesting information on "GREEN" from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Grateful thanks to The Hindu.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eyecatchers-138: "24-Hour Science Channel"

A 24-hour television channel dedicated to science and technology and highlighting India's scientific achievements will be on the air in two months. It would be a product of public-private sector partnership. Many departments of the Govt of India, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, the IITs and premier engineering colleges would be contributing programs to this channel.
Source: "24-hr. science channel" by T.S.Subramanian, The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.27, 2008.
"ISRO, Dept of Science plan 24-hr science channel" from MAGINDIA.com:
Grateful thanks Mr.T.S.Subramanian, The Hindu and MagIndia.com.

S&T Watch-44: "World's Largest Telescope"

China has started construction of the world's largest 500-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, so big as 30 football fields, in a remote region.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.27, 2008 ("Newscape")

Wikipedia articles on:

"GREAT TELESCOPE OF CANARY ISLANDS": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gran_Telescopio_Canarias
"LEAVIATHAN OF PARSONSTOWN (72-inch Reflecting Telescope):


Grateful thanks to The Hindu, Softpedia.com and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

S&T Watch-43: "Artificial Bone Marrow"

A University of Michigan lab has created artificial bone marrow that can continuously make red and white blood cells.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 27, 2008 ("Newscape")

Detailed Wikipedia article on "BONE MARROW":

"Artificial Human Bone Marrow Created In A Test Tube" from ScienceDaily.com:

"Artificial bone marrow created, can grow blood keeping supplies high " from TGDaily.com:

Grateful thanks to The Hindu, ScienceDaily.com, TGDaily.com and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Health News-28: "Novel Method to save Teeth from Bacteria"

Bacteria are seen on tooth surface. Clarkson University researchers have found a way to protect teeth by polishing them with silica nanoparticles. Now the teeth become too 'slippery' for the 'bad' bacteria.
Source: The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.25, 2008 ('Snapshots' in the Science & Technology page)
Grateful thanks to The Hindu.

S&T Watch-42: "Prion (a Mis-folded Protein) and Smell"

Prions help us to distinguish odours, says a study in Nature Neuroscience. The research provides tantalizing clues to these mysterious proteins.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.25, 2008 (Science & Technology Page).

Detailed Wikipedia article on "PRIONS":

Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Health News-27: "Sleep to stave off heart attack!"

Here is another reason why you should sleep more than seven hours a day - it could stave off heart attack, says a study.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.25, 2008("Newscape")
Grateful thanks to The Hindu.

Eyecatchers-137: "Google Bus coming to Tamil Nadu"

Google is coming out with a unique project to introduce people in Tamil Nadu to the Internet world. Christened 'Google Bus', the project will be launched in a couple of months to educate the people of the potential of the Internet and its applications.
The 'Google Bus' will have built-in features that comply with the latest guidelines of security agencies. Every user would be idnetified and his/her running images captured. The bus will be a model to other browsing centres.
Based on: " 'Google Bus' coming to State to promote Internet" by S.Vijay Kumar in The Hindu, Madurai, December 26, 2008.
Grateful thanks to Mr.S.Vijay Kumar and The Hindu.

Eyecatchers-136: "Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter dies!"

British Playwright Harold Pinter passes away at the age of 78. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. His famous plays include "The Homecoming" and "The Caretaker".

Detailed Wikipedia article on "HAROLD PINTER":

Grateful thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Random Thoughts-17: "On Christ, Christmas and Christianity"


When I think of Jesus Christ, his greatest teaching comes to my mind: "GOD IS LOVE". To me, this is the supreme teaching of Christianity. To me Jesus is Love-Incarnate, Kindness-Incarnate, Compassion-Incarnate. To put it in another way is "LOVE IS GOD'. So where there is not love, there cannot be God. Any religion that preaches hatred and violence is evil and no religion at all. People who harbour hatred and violence have no right to call themselves religious. It is good to remember this at a time when hatred and violence are spreading like wildfire everywhere.

Also let us inculcate love, kindness and compassion in the minds of our younger generation through our words and deeds. If that is not possible, at least let us desist from planting the seeds of hatred and violence.

Next comes to my mind the booklet by Swami Ranganathananda entitled, "The Christ We Adore". It is a great book, which I feel everyone should read. The Swamiji was a great believer in the harmony of religions. The explanation to various biblical texts by the Swamiji is highly enlightening and broadening one's outlook. For example, take the quote, 'Love thy neighbour as thyself." The question that arises naturally is: "Why should I love my neighbour?". The answer given by the Swamiji was: Because you and your neighbour are not different. At the core, we are all one. So when you hurt your neighbour, you are hurting yourself. So loving your neighbour is in your own interest too.

I remember the Prayer Hall of the Ramakrishna Tapovanam at Tirupparaithurai, near Trichy. There one can find pictures relating to the various religions. Whenever I find an opportunity, I spend some time meditating in that prayer hall. I always find that it calms and soothens my mind. When I come out of that prayer hall, I always feel happy and refreshed.

I would like to finish this post with another great teaching: "Religion is not rituals. Religion is realization." A true religion should take you through a spiritual path - a path of love, kindness and compassion - to an inner journey, a journey that culminates in self-realization.


Detailed Wikipedia article on "JESUS CHRIST", "CHRISTMAS" and "CHRISTIANITY": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ChristianIty

Grateful thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eyecatchers-135: "Zimbabwe faces serious crisis!"

The Global Meltdown has affected all countries. The worst hit country is Zimbabwe. The unemployment rate there is 90%. The inflation has gone up, hold your breath, to 23 MILLION percent! The Govt has printed new $200 million notes!

Courtesy: Paul Ford, Harper's Weekly, December 9, 2008.

Grateful thanks to Paul Ford and Harper's Weekly.

Facts & Figures-62: "Lakhs and Lakhs people lose Jobs in USA!"

The Labor Department of the Govt of USA has reported that 5,33,000 people lost their jobs in November. Another 6,21,000 were forced into part-time employment. 4,22,000 simply dropped out of the labor force. 24,000 were laid off by auto dealers. The situation seems to be far worse than economists expected.
Source: Paul Ford, Harper's Weekly, December 9, 2008.
Grateful thanks to Paul Ford and Harper's Weekly.

S&T Watch-41: "The Sky is Falling"

Scientists repor that the boundary between earth's atmosphere and space is lowering, which means that the sky is falling!

Courtesy: Claire Gutierrez, Harper's Weekly, December 23, 2008.

Grateful thanks to Claire Gutierrez and Harper's Weekly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Photo Album-33: "Suri at Verinag"

Suri (on the left) with a fellow tourist at Verinag
This photo is more than 30 years old. I distinctly remember the month, if not the year - it was April. I was on an All-India tour by bus. We left Srinagar early morning and reached Verinag after a few hours. The river Jhelum starts as a spring there and then flows to Srinagar and then to Punjab via Pakistan. From Punjab, it flows again to Pakistan and finally joins the Chenab river. Though April, it was chilly for me and hence the sweater. Bell-bottom pants were fashionable those days. The unkempt hair may be due to non-application of oil or due to wind or both. The photo was taken by another fellow tourist using an Agfa Click III camera. Those days it was the cheapest, easiest and the best. I think from Verinag, we went to Jammu and then to Delhi. The entire trip was by bus. Unfortunately, I did not maintain a journal and rue it now. So I have to rely completely on memory.
Detailed Wikipedia article on "Jhelum River":
Grateful thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Letters-61: "Irresponsible"

Cutting across caste and religious lines, the people of India are hoping that terrorism will be eliminated. During such a moment of crisis, politicians should not divide societies along communal lines. It is highly condemnable. The arrested terrorist, Ajmal Amir, has admitted that he and his accomplice killed Karkare and two other police officers. What is the need for a separate probe? - B.Nagesh Kumar, Mangalore.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 20, 2008 ("Letters to the Editor")
Grateful thanks to Mr.B.Nagesh Kumar and The Hindu.

Facts & Figures-61: "2,38,000 killed in 2008!"

The New Indian Express, Tiruchy, reports quoting Agence France-Presse, Geneva, that catastrophes killed more than 238,000 people this year. The cost to society due to these catastrophes was 225 billion dollars. While 2008 is the second worst year of catastrophes, 2005 is the worst year of natural and man-made catastrophes with 374,042 people killed and 107 billion dollars in insured losses.
Grateful thanks to Agence France-Presse, Geneva and The New Indian Express.

Eyecatchers-134: "Edible Christmas Cards!"

A British ecological design firm has produced an edible X'mas card made from potato starch paper and featuring a picture of Brussels sprouts.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Tiruchy, December 19, 2008.
Grateful thanks to The Hindu.

Eyecatchers-133: "What is Layogenic?"

Layogenic is Filipino for someone good-looking from afar but ugly up close.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express, Tiruchy ("Vignettes: Worth Words"), December 19, 2008.

Grateful thanks to The New Indian Express.

Letters-60: "Tribute to Martyrs"

It seems our politicians have lost their basic courtesy. Out of the approximately 700 MPs, only 11 paid tribute to the martyrs of the Parliament attack. It is a disgrace and we sould feel ashamed that they represent us. In a few years, the heroes, who laid their lives in the Mumbai terror attack on November 26 will be forgotten. - Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (Retd), Kochi.
Courtesy: The New Indian Express, Tiruchy, December 19, 2008 ("Letters to the Editor")

Facts & Figures-60: "Railways earn Rs.3,909 cr from e-ticketing!"

Indian Railways has added nearly Rs.4,000 crores in its coffers through e-ticketing till November 2008, which is nearly double the amount it made during last fiscal.
Excerpt from "Rlys earn Rs.3,909 cr from e-ticketing", News Digest, The Times of India, Mumbai, December 17, 2008.
Grateful thanks to The Times of India.

Eyecatchers-133: Newsweek's "50 Most Powerful People"

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan have been among the 50 most powerful people in the world by the U.S.-based magazine, Newsweek.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 22, 2008("Snapshots").
Newsweek's Cover story, "The Global Elite: The Story of Power" lists the 50 most powerful people in the world today.
Grateful thanks to The Hindu and The Newsweek.

Eyecatchers-132: "Oprah Winfrey Honoured!"

Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey has been chosen People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals person of the year for highlighting cases of animal cruelty.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 22, 2008.

Detailed Wikipedia article on "OPRAH WINFREY":

Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eyecatchers-131: "Taiwanese vote for 'chaos' "

"Chaos" has been picked up by the Taiwanese as the character for 2008 after a turbulent year marred by high-profile corruption scandals implicating the former President Chen Shui-bian and top officials.
Among 61,600 people who took part in a telephone poll, nearly 8,000 voted for the Chinese character "luan"(chaos), followed by "pian"(lie) and "tsang"(miserable), said the United Daily News, a co-organiser of the survey.
Also on the list of the top 10 characters were "corrupt", "depressed" and "love" - the only positive word of the year.
"Those grey words were chosen as the year was marked by a shift in political powers, the global financial crisis... and soap opera-like scandals implicating the former first family," the paper said. - AFP.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 18, 2008.
Grateful thanks to AFP and The Hindu.

S&T Watch-37: "Tarantula Nebula"

Enormous stars in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, are producing intense radiation and searing winds of multimillion-degree gas that carve out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust.
Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 18, 2008.
Detailed Wikipedia article on "TARANTULA NEBULA":
Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Health News-10: "150 people can catch cold from one sneeze!"

Researchers in London who undertook a study to learn how cold spreads so easily have come out with some interesting figures. For example, somebody sneezing in a crowded bus or train may result in 150 persons catching cold in the next five minutes! So they have advised people to cover their mouth when they sneeze.
Courtesy: 'Dinakaran', Tamil daily, (Madurai edition), Dec.8, 2008.
Grateful thanks to Dinakaran.

Eyecatchers-130: "R.C.Book for Elephants!"

Just as Registration Certificate (R.C.)books are issued to motor vehicles, the Kerala Govt has decided to issue R.C. to elephants also! The Guruvayur temple alone has more than 50 elephants. It has also decided to issue identity cards to the elephant-keepers. There will also be insurance coverage for people who get killed by elephants to the extent of Rs.2.5 lakhs.
Courtesy: 'Dinakaran', Tamil daily, (Madurai edition), December 8, 2008.
Grateful thanks to Dinakaran.

Facts & Figures-59: "Daily 92 crore people go without food"

A report in the Tamil daily, Dinamalar (Madurai edition) says that daily 92 crore people go to bed without food. World Food Day is observed world over on October 16 from the year 1979. Self-help groups from various countries are demanding that this day be observed as 'World Foodless Day' rather than 'World Food Day'.
Courtesy: 'Dinamalar', Tamil daily (Madurai edition), October 9, 2008.
Detailed Wikipedia article on "World Food Day":
Grateful thanks to Dinamalar and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Letters-59: Terrorist Strikes in India

1. Apropos "Surviving the siege" and other related articles (The Hindu Weekly Magazine, Dec.7, 2008), the government, the police, the intelligence agencies have failed in preventing the terrorist strikes in India. But we do not need knee-jerk responses to deal with the menace of terrorism. Rather, a visionary leadership and corruption-free administration to strengthen our security, revamp the police, bolster intelligence and coordinate the efforts of various agencies to herald a counter-terrorism operation with strong political willpower and imagination to save the ordinary citizens of India. The electronic media too must show restraint by not sensationalising the news and should be careful in their coverage. They need training in this regard. - Akhil Kumar, Delhi.

2. It is not enough to merely condemn 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai. Terrorists are bent on destroying the rhythm of people's lives. Their aim is to instill fear in people's minds and disturb communal harmony. From the death and suffering of innocent people, and the fire-fighters and police who went to help them, the world needs to learn the lesson that terrorism solves no problems, and that it needs concerted effort by all nations to stamp it out.

It is also time to think whether the underlying reason for the increase in terrorism is economic and cultural, triggered by changes in international economic functioning to which some sections of society are unable or unwilling to adapt. Whether at an individual level or a national level, no amount of physical protection or technical sophistication can be a protection against terrorist attacks. India must revamp its policy and approach to terrorists. Far too long, despite the killing of several people in the terror attacks in major cities, we have not formulated a pro-active policy. We must stand united in this hour of crisis. The government, on its part, should enact tougher laws instead of dealing with terrorism in a reactionary manner. - Dr.T.Marx, Dept of English, Pondicherry University, Puducherry.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Weekly Magazine, Dec.14, 2008.

Grateful thanks to Mr.Akhil Kumar, Dr.T.Marx and The Hindu.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eyecatchers-129: "Energy Home"

I am a Life Subscriber of 'IYARKAI MARUTHTHUVAM' i.e. 'NATUROPATHY' in Tamil, a Tamil monthly published by the 'Tamil Nadu Iyarkai Maruththuva Sangam' (Tamil Nadu Naturopathy Association), Gandhi Museum, Madurai-625020, Tamil Nadu. The life subscription is only Rs.100/- and you get the 4-page newsletter every month all your life. It contains highly useful and interesting Health News. The editor of the newsletter, Mr.Devadas Gandhi is a true Gandhian. He has chosen the path of celibacy and leads a simple and service-oriented life and resides in the Gandhi Museum complex itself. I find meeting and talking to him a wonderful experience. So whenever I get a chance I go to the Gandhi Museum and meet Mr.Gandhi there.

In the current issue of the newsletter, there was a brief article about 'Energy Home'. I found it very interesting and inspiring and thought I would share it with visitors of this blog. ENERGY HOME is a Natural Health Food Restaurant in Chetty Street of Pondicherry. It serves its customary natural food, not just a few items. About 150 varieties of Vegetable and Fruit Juice! In the mornings, you have 60 types of 'idli', 10 types of 'pongal', 'uppuma', 'kichadi', 'vada' and 'dosa' and 20 types of Herbal Tea! In the afternoon, 100 types of meals! At night you have many types of 'dosa', noodles, 'vada', cutlet and varieties of vegetable salads. All uncooked food!

Further, they totally avoid oil, tamarind, chilly powder, milk, curd and sugar in their preparations. How I wish we have some such Natural Food Establishment at my place, Karaikudi!

You can also get free health tips for your ailments. They say the less acidic food and more alkaline food you take, the more healthy you will be.

I am plain curious to know how they prepare all the above dishes without cooking and without oil and other ingredients. So when I visit Pondicherry next, I intend to go there, meet these interesting people and enjoy the healthy food they offer. If you are also inclined, you can also do the same.

They have their own website, which you visit and see the details for yourself:

My hearty congratulations to Dr S S Manickam and Dr.M Gopinath, Naturopaths, who run 'Energy Home', the Natural Health restaurant and propagate Naturopathy.

Grateful thanks to 'Iyarkai Maruththuvam' , Tamil Naturopathy monthly newsletter and 'Energy Home'.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eyecatchers-128: "Obamabilia"

Merchandise celebrating Obama is being sold by companies and consumers have already spent perhaps as much as $200 million (Rs.1,002 crore) on Obamabilia, two months before his inauguration as the 44th President of the USA.
Excerpt from "Obamabilia" from The Hindu, December 9, 2008.
Grateful thanks to The Hindu.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Facts & Figures-58: "Long Live the Mouse!"

Mouse, the pointing device, we use with our computer, is 40 years old today. This tool has been developed by Dr.Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute, USA. It has gone through many advancements, making our life easy. So Happy Birthday, Mouse! and grateful thanks to Anand Parthasarathy for his nice article, "Happy birthday, mighty mouse!" in the Information Technology page of The Hindu, December 7, 2008, but for which I would have missed the news.
Detailed Wikipedia article on "MOUSE":
Grateful thanks to Mr Anand Parthasarathy, The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Eyecatchers-127: "Online Dictionary of North-East Languages" by Sushanta Talukdar

Are you curious to know what the right word is for 'mother' in some of the major languages spoken in north-east India? If yes, key in the word 'mother' in the search box at http://www.xobdo.net/ and choose the language or dialect you want and you will get the equivalent word.

To help users learn more words in NE languages, the publisher of the first northeast regional languages-English online dictionary, XOBDO (means 'sound' or 'word' in Assamese), is on the lookout for more volunteers in these languages to add to the dictionary's database.

Started as an online Assamese-English dictionary in 2006, XOBDO is the brainchild of Bikram M.Baruah, an engineer of Assam now based in Abu Dhabi.

It is currently run by a team of volunteers.

In 2007, xobdo.net added multiple interfaces to include 16 more languges spoken in the north-east: Khasi, Dimasa, Bodo, Karbi, Nagamese, Garo, Ao, Mizo, Mishing, Tanii(Apatani), Monpa, Meiteilon, Binshnupriya, Chakma, Kok-Borok and Kuki.

Compared to the 19,388 Assamese words, the database of other NE languages is still very small.

Excerpt from The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.7, 2008.

Detailed Wikipedia article on "XOBDO.org": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xobdo

Grateful thanks to Sushanta Talukdar and The Hindu.

My Photo Album-31:

Suri (extreme left) with kin
I came across this photograph while I was decluttering my room. This must be about 37 to 38 years old. This was taken in a professional photo studio, Kalpana Studio, Tirunelveli Town, if I remember correct. This was probably a few days after my first sister's marriage. I was in my twenties. Tirunelveli is the place where I did my high-schooling i.e. about 6 years. Now my contact with the place has diminished. Though many of my people are there, I rarely go there. I have lost touch my class-mates. Generally, I avoid all functions. When it becomes unavoidable, I make very brief visits. My visits to Tirunelveli fall under this unavoidable category. My memories of Tirunelveli have not been pleasant, unfortunately. My days there are better forgotten. However, this photograph kindled my memory of the place and people. As I look at this photo, I cannot but feel and realize the fact that time has ravaged my face and my hairs have turned grey. Anyway, this photo may be of interest to my children and hence I am posting it here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Eyecatchers-126: "Intersex, The Third Gender"

Australia's official human rights watchdog wants a third gender called "intersex" to be created, for use in official documents such as passports and driving licences.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai ("Newscape"), December 7, 2008.

Detailed Wikipedia articles on "INTERSEXUALITY" and 'THIRD GENDER":


Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

S&T Watch-40: Stem Cell Niche

Researchers have identified the precise location of bone marrow stem cell, using a new technology termed ex vivo imaging of stem cells.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai ("Newscape"), December 7, 2008.

Detailed Wikipedia articles on "STEM CELL" and "STEM CELL NICHE":


Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eyecatchers-125: "Dr Romila Thapar wins Kluge Prize!"

Dr Romila Thapar, Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University has been chosen for the Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity instituted by the United States Library of Congress. She will receive the one million dollar prize along with Peter Robert Lamont Brown, Professor of History at Princeton University, in a ceremony on December 10 at the Library of Congress.
Source: The Hindu, Madurai, Dec.5, 2008.
Detailed Wikipedia articles on "Kluge Prize" and "Romila Thapar" with her picture:
Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Letters-58: "Platitude or Declaration?"

The headline, 'Manmohan: no terrorist or enemy can destroy India's unity' (The Hindu, Dec.4), illustrates how a Prime Minister can make a self-evident platitude sound like a new declaration of national intent and a call to arms by a patriotic, unifying group of politicians. After the thousands of terrorist attacks and tens of thousands of innocent lives lost, which successive bands of netas have done little about, the one thing every Indian knows without the need for exhortations from anyone is that every such attack has resulted in greater unity. If it had been otherwise, this country would have imploded years ago. Our politicians miss no opportunity to pit the Muslim against the Hindu, and the Hindu against the Christian, one caste against another, tribes against castes, and sons of the soil against 'outsiders'.

The only schism they have left untouched is the poor against the rich. Indian unity is a reality that exists, not because of, but despite their machinations. - Nowroz J.Cama, Chennai.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 5, 2008 ("Letters to the Editor").
Grateful thanks to The Hindu.

S&T Watch-39: Using Zinc Oxide Wires to Produce Electricity

A new type of power generator produces AC current by cyclical stretching and releasing of zinc oxide wires. GeorgiaTech has used piezoelectric properties of zinc oxide structures to harvest energy from the environment.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 4, 2008. ("Snapshots" in the Science & Technology page).

Detailed Wikipedia article on "Piezoelectricity":

Grateful thanks to The Hindu and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Q&A-3: "Does Caste Continbue to Haunt Urban India?"

Yes. Caste divides continue to haunt not only rural but urban India as well. Caste clashes have become commonplace in our country. Loss of lives and property in these clashes are considerable. Women and children are the worst sufferers. Admissions to our educational institutions right from schools to universities are made on caste basis and reservation quotas. The same can be said about employment too. So much so that there are caste-based associations and wings in educational institutions and public offices throughout the country. Parties in the name of castes do much damage to national harmony and peace - T.V.Ramamurthy, Guindy.
Courtesy: The Times of Adyar, November 23, 2008 ("Speak Out Loud")
Grateful thanks to Mr.Ramamurthy and The Times of Adyar.

Eyecatchers-124: "Towards Fuel Efficiency"

I came across this ad from the Petroleum Conservation Research Association, New Delhi and thought it should be seen by all who drive powered-vehicles, or at least the salient points. These tips we could follow easily.

1. Drive your car at 40-50 kmph, optimum fuel-efficient speed to give you maximum mileage. You can save up to 20% of petrol against driving at 70 kmph. (I think it is applicable to two-wheelers also and if you are driving a moped like me, 30-40 kmph may be the optimum speed).
2. Clean your car’s air filter regularly – dust causes rapid erosion of engine components and increases fuel consumption.
3. Always ensure that you drive in correct gear for better fuel efficiency.
4. Car-pooling reduces the number of cars plying on the roads, thereby leading to decongestion of traffic and decreasing pollution. It simultaneously leads to lesser greenhouse gas emissions and cuts traveling costs. The system also tackles the problem of inadequate parking space. Car-pooling eases driving stress and helps broaden your social network, increasing productivity and boosting morale.
5. Switching off engines at red lights for over 15 seconds
6. Using the recommended grade of engine oil
7. Periodically checking tyre pressure
8. Regular maintenance of vehicles is imperative

Use these tips from PCRA to make your contribution towards saving fuel and do your bit to tackle climate change.

A mere 2% saving of petroleum products will translate into saving of Rs.10,000 crores per annum!

Courtesy: The Petroleum Conservation Research Association, New Delhi.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Letters-44: Looking Ahead

As a security consultant who has worked overseas for 25 years, I am stunned at the callous, unprofessional and totally disorganised security response to a situation such as the Mumbai terror attack. I can understand politicians trying to divert public attention by blaming Pakistan, which has never been a friend. It is well known that the Pakistan army will do everything possible to destabilise us. But then, we did not establish institutions at great costs to point a finger at others.

The initial response from the Mumbai police showed they had no idea what the situation was and how to handle it. Proposals such as having NSG contingents in every city are not the solution. The command and control should always be with the local police. They should have the means to respond adequately and promptly and be able to demand help from all sources. - Samuel Martyn James, Chennai.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 1, 2008.
Grateful thanks to Mr.Samuel Martyn James and The Hindu.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

S&T Watch-38: "New Electric Hybrid Bicycle"

Japan's Sanyo Electric on Monday (December 1, 2008) unveiled a new electric hybrid bicycle that can triple the user's pedal power to make it easier to climb hills. Equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the "eneloop bike" takes the crossover between a normal bicycle and a moped one step further, aiming to tap growing interest in tackling global warming.

The system harnesses energy from braking when the bike goes downhill, and can add extra power equivalent to double the rider's pedal force for going uphill.

The bike can travel 1.8 times faster than conventional bicycles, thanks to the motor powering its front wheel - AFP.

Courtesy: AFP and The Hindu, Madurai, December 2, 2008.
Grateful thanks to AFP and The Hindu.

Eyecatchers-123: "RAW has failed miserably!"

I came across this article about RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), the anti-espionage and intelligence wing of the Govt of India. Its annual budget is a mammoth Rs.1000 crores! It is supposed to gather intelligence about terrorist groups and espionage activities and feed it to the concerned security agencies. But as we all know, there have been bomb blast after bomb blast and terrorist attack after terrorist attack. One is constrained to come to the conclusion that RAW has failed miserably. But the most painful part that has been revealed is since there is no accountability for the money that is being spent by it, it is alleged that there is a lot of misuse. Further, it is alleged that there is infighting and ego clash between officers selected from IPS cadre and those who have been recruited directly, affecting the smooth functioning of RAW.
Source: 'Dinamalar', Tamil daily, Madurai, December 2, 2008.
Grateful thanks to Dinamalar.

Letters-57: "Living with Terror"

Terror has no heart. But we hve to live with it. We need to make some change in our way of life. We must overcome differences of religion, caste, region etc and vote for candidates on merit. We should cooperate with the authorities in maintaining tight security, and inform the police of suspicious characters and activities.

Anyone breaking the law - starting from basic traffic violations - should be dealt with severely to drive home the importance of discipline. - Donald DCruz, Kollam.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, December 1, 2008 ("Letters to the Editor")

Grateful thanks to Mr Donald DCruz and The Hindu.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Health News-9: "World AIDS Day"

World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007, of which about 270,000 were children. The concept of a World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. Since then, it has been taken up by governments, international organizations and charities around the world.

From its inception until 2004,
UNAIDS spearheaded the World AIDS Day campaign, choosing annual themes in consultation with other global health organizations. In 2005 this responsibility was turned over to World AIDS Campaign (WAC), who chose Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise as the main theme for World AIDS Day observances through 2010, with more specific sub-taglines chosen annually. This theme is not specific to World AIDS Day, but is used year-round in WAC's efforts to highlight HIV/AIDS awareness within the context of other major global events including the G8 Summit. World AIDS Campaign also conducts “in-country” campaigns throughout the world, like the Student Stop AIDS Campaign, an infection-awareness campaign targeting young people throughout the UK.

It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995 the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.

Excerpt from "World AIDS Day" from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Grateful thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. for providing the above material under the GNU Free Documentation License.