Thursday, 31 March, 2011

Resourceful Nebraskan Moron Sucks Change from Laundry Machines with Backpack Vacuum

This is an odd convergence of ingenuity and idiocy: a man tried to clean out (tee hee) the coin coffers of an apartment laundry room with a backpack-mounted vacuum cleaner. He netted $20! And was then arrested.

The saddest part of this story? The local news report's claim that he "no longer has the vacuum." Well now he's just going to have to steal one of those too! Also noted is his prior criminal record, including the theft of "an artificial Christmas tree from the Salvation Army and 32 pallets from Super Saver." This man is clearly the Lex Luther of petty, strange, Midwestern crime. He even sort of looks like a supervillain.

Wednesday, 30 March, 2011

Meal Snap Photographs Your Food and Automatically Estimates the Calories You Ate

Meal Snap is a neat app that photographs your food, uploads the picture, and then replies with a calorie count in just a few seconds. And it works surprisingly well.
This seems like the sort of thing that wouldn't actually work, but it's surprisingly impressive. I took pictures of some leftover steamed veggies in my fridge and it gave me a pretty accurate calorie count. While I can't be sure, I'd imagine these counts are looked up by actual people as you get a faster response if you name your food rather than simply photograph it. That said, I took a picture of some brownies I made last night and, although Meal Snap's horde of calorie counters thought it was chocolate cake, the calorie count was pretty much spot on. It even gave me a calorie count for a bag of dog bones. It's fast, it works, and is excellent if you're trying to count calories but hate the tedious task of looking up every food you ate after every meal.

Meal Snap is available on the iTunes App Store, right now, for $3.

Tuesday, 29 March, 2011

Nanoparticle Rubber Stamps Could Help Heal Wounds

You know the UV-ink rubber stamps that night clubs like to stick on your skin? Well, a novel silver nanotech variant of the idea could actually help heal your skin wounds more quickly.

Silverware became popular centuries ago partly because it was a precious metal and thus a status symbol, but also because the health qualities of silver have been known since Roman times. Back then wealthy folks even gave their kids a silver spoon to suck on to ward-off the plague (hence the saying). Modern science understands how silver has anti-bacterial qualities, but the trick in delivering silver accurately into a wound nowadays is getting the dosage right since silver is toxic in high concentrations. That's what research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is tackling, with a novel delivery approach for silver nanoparticles.

The research team has perfected a way of delivering silver nanoparticles onto skin in a layer just a few molecules thick—thereby forming an excellent barrier but not over-dosing the region and killing skin cells—by borrowing a technique that's long been used to apply ink in molecule-thick layers: Rubber stamping. The polyelectrolyte multilayer coating, mixed with micrometer-sized beads of silver nanoparticles (which the team found was the most efficient way to ensure delivery) was "assembled" on a rubber stamp and was then placed on wounds from cadaver skin to test its efficiency.

Small doses of bacteria (common skin bacteria staphylococcus epidermidis and pseudomonas aeruginosa—both of which can run rampant and cause infections) were applied to the area. After roughly 12 hours 99.999% of the bacteria were killed and the bacteria-defeating effect was still reliable up to around 48 hours.

To check that the treatment didn't actually interfere with normal wound-healing, the scientists tried it on diabetic mice and are currently investigating wound healing on mice and pigs (particularly interesting as pig skin is analogous to human skin in many ways).

So in the future, a trip to ER to stitch a wound could result in patients wearing a rubber stamp healing treatment, too.

Monday, 28 March, 2011

How Does the Mona Lisa Look Without Mona Lisa?

Recognize this 77 x 54-centimeter oil on canvas painting? Believe it or not, it's perhaps the best-known Leonardo da Vinci painting this side of The Last Supper.

Yes, it's the Mona Lisa without Mona Lisa, as interpreted by Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Artist Mike Ruiz got a high resolution photograph of Leonardo's art, scanned it in Photoshop, selected the smily girl, and used content-aware fill in Photoshop CS5, a tool that borders in witchcraft—so much that it may make sandwiches for you (almost).
Adobe's tool interpreted the surroundings and generated the complete background in place of the mysterious woman, who apparently was Jesus or his daughter or his third cousin or whatever. One of those. After clicking the OK button, Ruiz sent the result to China, where artists used the image to actually create the oil painting in the same style as da Vinci himself.

Sunday, 27 March, 2011

Finally, Bacon Cologne!

No longer do you have to dribble bacon down your chin to get a hint of pig on your throat—perfumers Fargginay have invented bacon cologne which has a mix of 11 essential oils in both the Gold (citrus) and Classic (spicy maple) variants, which cost $36 each.

I like Fargginay's little accent over the "o." Really classy.

Saturday, 26 March, 2011

In Tunisia, act of one fruit vendor unleashes wave of revolution through Arab world

On the evening before Mohammed Bouazizi lit a fire that would burn across the Arab world, the young fruit vendor told his mother that the oranges, dates and apples he had to sell were the best he’d ever seen. “With this fruit,” he said, “I can buy some gifts for you. Tomorrow will be a good day.”

For years, Bouazizi had told his mother stories of corruption at the fruit market, where vendors gathered under a cluster of ficus trees on the main street of this scruffy town, not far from Tunisia’s Mediterranean beaches. Arrogant police officers treated the market as their personal picnic grounds, taking bagfuls of fruit without so much as a nod toward payment. The cops took visible pleasure in subjecting the vendors to one indignity after another — fining them, confiscating their scales, even ordering them to carry their stolen fruit to the cops’ cars.

Before dawn on Friday, Dec. 17, as Bouazizi pulled his cart along the narrow, rutted stone road toward the market, two police officers blocked his path and tried to take his fruit. Bouazizi’s uncle rushed to help his 26-year-old nephew, persuading the officers to let the rugged-looking young man complete his one-mile trek.

The uncle visited the chief of police and asked him for help. The chief called in a policewoman who had stopped Bouazizi, Fedya Hamdi, and told her to let the boy work.

Hamdi, outraged by the appeal to her boss, returned to the market. She took a basket of Bouazizi’s apples and put it in her car. Then she started loading a second basket. This time, according to Alladin Badri, who worked the next cart over, Bouazizi tried to block the officer.

“She pushed Mohammed and hit him with her baton,” Badri said.

Hamdi reached for Bouazizi’s scale, and again he tried to stop her.

Hamdi and two other officers pushed Bouazizi to the ground and grabbed the scale. Then she slapped Bouazizi in the face in front of about 50 witnesses.

Bouazizi wept with shame.

“Why are you doing this to me?” he cried, according to vendors and customers who were there. “I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.”

Revolutions are explosions of frustration and rage that build over time, sometimes over decades. Although their political roots are deep, it is often a single spark that ignites them — an assassination, perhaps, or one selfless act of defiance.

In Tunisia, an unusually cosmopolitan Arab country with a high rate of college attendance, residents watched for 23 years as Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s dictatorship became a grating daily insult. From Tunis — the whitewashed, low-rise capital with a tropical, colonial feel — to the endless stretches of olive and date trees in the sparsely populated countryside, the complaints were uniform: It had gotten so you couldn’t get a job without some connection to Ben Ali’s family or party. The secret police kept close tabs on ordinary Tunisians. And the uniformed police took to demanding graft with brazen abandon.

Still, the popular rebellion that started here and spread like a virus to Egypt, Libya and the Persian Gulf states, and now to Yemen and Syria, was anything but preordained. The contagion, carried by ordinary people rather than politicians or armies, hits each country in a different and uncontrollable way, but with common characteristics — Friday demonstrations, Facebook connections, and alliances across religious, class and tribal lines. This wave of change happened because aging dictators grew cocky and distant from the people they once courted, because the new social media that the secret police didn’t quite understand reached a critical mass of people, and because, in a rural town where respect is more valued than money, Mohammed Bouazizi was humiliated in front of his friends.

After the slap, Bouazizi went to city hall and demanded to see an official. No, a clerk replied. Go home. Forget about it.

Bouazizi returned to the market and told his fellow vendors he would let the world know how unfairly they were being treated, how corrupt the system was.

He would set himself ablaze.

“We thought he was just talking,” said Hassan Tili, another vendor.

A short while later, the vendors heard shouts from a couple of blocks away. Without another word to anyone, Bouazizi had positioned himself in front of the municipal building, poured paint thinner over his body and lit himself aflame.

The fire burned and burned. People ran inside and grabbed a fire extinguisher, but it was empty. They called for police, but no one came. Only an hour and a half after Bouazizi lit the match did an ambulance arrive.

Manoubya Bouazizi said her son’s decision “was spontaneous, from the humiliation.” Her clear blue eyes welled as her husband placed at her feet a small clay pot filled with a few white-hot pieces of charcoal, their only defense against a cold, raw, rain-swept day. The Bouazizi family has no money, no car, no electricity, but it was not poverty that made her son sacrifice himself, she said. It was his quest for dignity.

Ben Ali visited Mohammed Bouazizi in the hospital, along with a camera crew. The president made a show of handing Manoubya a check for 10,000 dinars (about $14,000). But the mother said Ben Ali’s staffers took the check back after the cameramen were escorted from the room. “I never got any of it,” she said.

Three weeks after he set himself on fire, Bouazizi died in the burn unit.

In early January, the policewoman was arrested, but it was too late. The story had spread, and three months later, a revolution that sprouted in a small village in Tunisia and flowered in Egypt has morphed into a contagion that threatens regimes in Bahrain and Yemen, has enveloped Libya in civil war, and is unsettling even the region’s more placid monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

By Marc Fisher

Friday, 25 March, 2011

Scientists Grow an Eye in a Petri Dish

A Japanese research team has successfully grown a "rudimentary" mouse eye in a petri dish using stem cells. This has many implications for future research and curing blindness. Below is a time-lapse photo

of the stem sells spontaneously organizing into an "optic cup"—the precursor to an eye. Now they need to grow a little pair of Ray Bans in a petri dish and we'll have the coolest mouse in the world.

Thursday, 24 March, 2011

Ghostly Lightpainting Uses a Cross-Sectioned Video of an Executed Convict’s Body as Light Source

Lightpainting requires a certain sort of skill to get the sort of marvellous results we've seen previously, but Croix Gagnon and Frank Schott went the whole nine yards and played an animation of a cross-sectioned human body on a laptop, which they then whizzed through the air and took long-exposure photos of.

1,871 slices of a convicted murderer's body who was executed in 1993 and given to science were used to create the animation (which you can see below—and actually use yourself!), Gagnon and Schott employed someone to move it about while they shot photos of it. You can see one of the photos below actually shows the laptop with animation frozen on-screen.

Amazing work, I'm sure you'll agree. If you like the prints enough to spend $700 on one, you can buy them from 12:31, with the proceeds being donated to


Wednesday, 23 March, 2011

"Hand-Screened for Radioactivity" Is Going to Be the New "Grown Locally"

If you're willing to throw down $140 for the tasting menu at Le Bernardin—perhaps the greatest seafood-oriented restaurant in the country, with three Michelin stars and four from the NYT—you can nom on the fluke sashimi without worrying about radioactive contamination.

That's because in addition to no longer sourcing seafood from Japan, chef Eric Ripert's now hand-screening all of the fish coming into the restaurant for radioactive contamination. Will it make patrons feel better while simultaneously subtly inducing more panic? Yes.

Expect this kind of thing to become de rigueur at any place that professes to care about the provenance of its food—well-regarded Sushi Yasuda in NY is already following suit—even as a senior scientist at the FDA tells the NYT, "Is that one fish at the intervention level a public health concern? No, it is not." And another scientist, a professor of marine sciences at SUNY Stony Brook adds that, given the current levels of cesium 137 detected in Japanese fish, you can eat around 35 pounds of it a year and be fine.

But yes, if you're willing to pay for organic beef grown on a particular farm and fed only the finest non-additive grass and massaged daily for all-natural marbling, you can also procure hand-screened, non-radioactive fish. You're paying for it, after all. Me? I like pork better anyway. [NYT]

Tuesday, 22 March, 2011

How Big Weapons Hit Tiny Targets from Incredible Distances

So, let's say our armed forces were in a conflict where they had to enforce a no-fly zone without deploying troops on the ground. How would they do that? Simple: GPS. Oh, and Lasers. And mechanized ordnance that is better at navigating than any meatbag with a map.
In a tense conflict like Libya, where nobody—including the American public—wants US troops stomping around, it might seem like military options are limited. They are: to a gang of super-smart, incredibly accurate missiles and bombs launched from the ocean and sky. In some cases, a missile's solo journey can originate from a submerged submarine hundreds of miles from its target. Which raises the question: Wait, how can it hit a target the size of a shipping container from, like, another country?
It all starts with a plan. Before, say, a $607,000 Tomahawk land attack missile ever leaves the launch tube, it's programmed with a set of instructions—called a pre-mission plan—that tells it where to land. The guide includes the latitude and longitude of the target as well as the coordinates for up to 15 other alternate endings.
Also loaded are stored images of the flight path, which come in handy later.

Getting from point A (say, a sub) to point B (say, a bunker) requires an intricate set of negotiations that the Tomahawk handles on the fly. After our 20-foot-long projectile protagonist pops out of the ocean, it levels low to the water in order to dodge enemy radar. Moving at up to 550mph, the missile is guided by a GPS system similar to the ones 747s use, and a system called Terrain Contour Matching. TERCOM takes note of the immediate landscape, but it's not about sight seeing. The Tomahawk instead compares real time data from its altimeter and radar with satellite imagery from a stored database to make sure it's precisely on course. It's kind of like looking at Google Street View while you walk through a neighborhood. If the missile finds that it has zigged off its route or desired altitude, it aligns itself with the right topography to get back on track.

But things change rapidly in conflict, so the 3,330 Tomahawk Block IV has built-in ability to react to situations like a last-minute change in targeting. In these cases, GPS location data gets updated via a two-way satellite link, and the missile takes an alternate route to another end point. Haven't determined the new target yet? "The missile can go into a loitering mode," explains a super secret Navy official whose name we can't use. "It's not as dramatic as a hover, but it will fly loops in the air, and it will await further tasking."

Remember that stored image of the route to the enemy destination included in the pre-mission plan? Well, if there aren't any changes mid-flight, the missile compares the picture of the route with what's on the ground. "It adjusts based on what it sees," says the Navy official. When everything matches up: Boom. No more shipping container.

Destruction doesn't only come from the sea, either. Other super accurate systems, like certain Guided Bomb Units (GBU) carried on F15E Strike Eagle planes, use lasers and fins for guidance. Before ever leaving the ground, the bombs are programmed to look for a certain laser signature—the same laser signature that the plane is programmed to "paint" on its enemies. See, the bombs are ravenous for these beam-illuminated spots, but their attraction needs to be very, very specific. The Air Force doesn't want Jet #1's bomb hitting Jet #2's target (or, like, a grocery store) by accident.

F15Es have what's called a targeting pod that allows Weapons Systems Officers to look for targets using infrared and electro-optical imaging. You've seen this set up on TV; it's the screen with the crosshairs on it. Once they find the correct spot, the targeting pod computes the coordinates. Then, the jet's computer calculates where the pilot needs to fly and when the bomb needs to drop.

When the range is right, the pilot hits the "pickle button" (for serious—that's what it's called) and the laser guided bomb is dropped from something like 20,000 feet. From here, the on-bomb computer plays a game of find the laser. Bombs are equipped with a glassed-over seeker that kind of looks like an eye. When the seeker locates the laser-illuminated target below, the computer tells the bomb how to move its fins to navigate the free fall. "We can hit anything: buildings, cars, holes in the ground—really there's no limitation," says Major Ryan Ismirle, who flew F15Es in Afghanistan. "I've never seen one—especially in combat-that hasn't hit its target."

Monday, 21 March, 2011

50 Fukushima Heroes Work On, as Radiation Levels Soar

Pausing for respite for a few hours, the "Fukushima 50," as they've become known, finally had a chance to catch their breath.

Following a radiation spike, the workers were moved from the reactor buildings earlier today for about one hour—initially, it was misreported that the workers left the plant grounds, due to a translation error. As of 11.30am Japanese-time today, the brave workers were back at work after temporarily leaving the reactors, and tending to the fire-ravaged No.4 reactor.

Edano also confirmed that temperatures in the water cooling the nuclear rods have actually increased. An ideal temperature is 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), but they'd risen to 84 degrees Celsius (183 degrees Fahrenheit). With reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4 already hit by exposions and fires, the fifth and sixth reactors are now experiencing soaring temperatures too.

TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., startedspraying seawater and boric acid onto the reactors from military helicopters, but it was abandoned shortly afterwards, after worries too much seawater would be dumped and turn into steam, which would counter their efforts by producing hydrogen and only increasing the pressure.

Current reactor status according to Kyodo News

Reactor 1. Cooling failure, partial melting of core, vapor vented, building damaged by hydrogen explosion, seawater being pumped in.

Reactor 2. Cooling failure, seawater being pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, vapor vented, building damaged Monday by blast at Reactor No. 3, damage to containment vessel on Tuesday, potential meltdown feared.

Reactor 3. Cooling failure, partial melting of core feared, vapor vented, seawater being pumped in, building damaged Monday by hydrogen explosion, high-level radiation measured nearby on Tuesday, plume of smoke observed Wednesday, damage to containment vessel likely.

Reactor 4. Fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor.

The radiation effects on the 50 workers, believed to be working in shifts, is still unknown. Radiation levels have swung up and down for days now, with the current levels in Fukushima City believed to be 100 times above normal, at around 20 micro-sieverts per hour.Supposedly that's comparable to one chest X-ray every two hours. Nausea, damage to the thyroid, and cancer are the varying stages of radiation poisoning. Around 15 workers are believed to have been injured in the plant's explosions, since Saturday.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has warned TEPCO executives after failing to inform the government of yesterday's explosion, with Kanreportedly asking TEPCO "the TV reported an explosion, but nothing was said to the prime minister's office for more than an hour. What the hell is going on?" While obviously concerned about the workers' health, Kan has also urged TEPCO to ensure employees continue working on the plant until it is safe, otherwise "the [TEPCO] company will collapse." [The Guardian, Al Jazeera,AltJapan, @Matt_Alt and Joi]

UPDATE: The helicopter has been unable to drop any water on the reactor, owing to the high levels of radiation. Workers are now topping up the water from the ground.

Meanwhile, over in Germany, all seven of their pre-1980 nuclear plants will be shut down and checked over for safety. Across the European Union, further preventative measures will also be made, with 143 of the reactors being tested also.

Sunday, 20 March, 2011

The Arrogance of Authority

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas , and talked with an old rancher.

He told the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs."

The rancher said, "Okay , but don't go in that field over there.....", as he pointed out the location.

The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, " Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me !"

Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.

"See this badge?! This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish.... On any land !!

No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself you understand ?!!"

The rancher nodded politely, apologised, and went about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull......

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he'd sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified.


The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs.....

(This is the best part....)

"Your badge, show him your BADGE........ ! !

Saturday, 19 March, 2011

How a Captain Got Sucked Out Of a Blown-Up Cockpit Window and Everyone Survived

There are times in which an airplane decompression may not be dangerous. But when your captain literally has half of his body out of one of the cockpit window, his face "banging against the window [from the outside] with blood coming out of his nose and the side of his head", all while the plane—with 81 passengers en route to sunny Málaga, Spain from Birmingham, England—is " spiralling down at 80 feet per second with no autopilot and no radio"... well, maybe then it is time to panic.

That's exactly what happened to Tim Lancaster on flight BA5390, when he was piloting a 43-tonne British Airways BAC 1-11 airliner at 17,000 feet, on June 10, 1990.

Fortunately, Nigel Ogden—a flight attendant who was getting out of the cockpit when the windshield blew away—didn't lose his cool. As the explosive decompression "made the whole cabin mist up like fog for a second" and the "plane started to plummet", Nigel thought it was a bomb. Later, it was discovered that the cause for the explosive decompression was an improperly installed window pane, which has been replaced 27 hours before the flight. When Nigel turned around, the scene was terrifying:

I whipped round and saw the front windscreen had disappeared and Tim, the pilot, was going out through it. He had been sucked out of his seatbelt and all I could see were his legs. I jumped over the control column and grabbed him round his waist to avoid him going out completely. His shirt had been pulled off his back and his body was bent upwards, doubled over round the top of the aircraft. His legs were jammed forward, disconnecting the autopilot, and the flight door was resting on the controls, sending the plane hurtling down at nearly 650kmh through some of the most congested skies in the world.

Everything was being sucked out of the aircraft: even an oxygen bottle that had been bolted down went flying and nearly knocked my head off. I was holding on for grim death but I could feel myself being sucked out, too. John rushed in behind me and saw me disappearing, so he grabbed my trouser belt to stop me slipping further, then wrapped the captain's shoulder strap around me. Luckily, Alastair, the co-pilot, was still wearing his safety harness from take-off, otherwise he would have gone, too


Soon, the pressure equalized, but Tim was still out of the plane and the wind start getting in the cabin at about 630km/h (391mph) and -17ºC (1.4ºF). The co-pilot struggled to gain control of the plane and he did it, taking down to 11,000 feet in two minutes—where there was more oxygen. But Nigel was still holding Tim and the situation was still critical. The plane may have been stabilized, but the captain was still hanging out of it.

I was still holding Tim, but my arms were getting weaker, and then he slipped. I thought I was going to lose him, but he ended up bent in a U-shape around the windows. His face was banging against the window with blood coming out of his nose and the side of his head, his arms were flailing and seemed about 6 feet [1.8 metres] long. Most terrifyingly, his eyes were wide open. I'll never forget that sight as long as I live.

Amazingly, with the help of another flight attendant, they were able to pull him back. And even more amazing: Tim as more or less ok, frostbitten and with some bones fractured, but alive. In fact, back in 2005 he was still in active, flying for EasyJet. The BA plane landed without any other problem—even while they feared that a catastrophe could happen if there was more damage. It was 07:55. Only 18 minutes had passed from the explosive decompression till the planed landed on Runway 02 at Southampton Airport. To everyone in that cockpit, it felt like hours.

Friday, 18 March, 2011

Model Poonam Pandey to go nude if India wins Cup

Some fans pour milk on cut-outs of their favourite cricketers, some hold chain prayer meetings for divine intervention during the Indo-Pak epic semifinal clash on Wednesday at Mohali, while there are still others who vow to shed all their clothes if India lifts the World Cup trophy.
Model and cricket fan Poonam Pandey has promised to strip naked in the view of thousands if India wins the Mohali semifinal against Pakistan and eventually lifts the Cup, though she is also open to a players' dressing room peep show if the Indian cricket board permits it, reports said.
The Kingfisher Calender girl's intention to bare all is bound to pile on additional pressure on the Indian cricket team already coping with mounting crowd expectations at home, not having won the Cup since 1983.
Poonam recently started a fan page on Facebook to cheer the Indian team. She follows in the footsteps of Paraguay's Larissa Riquelme and Argentinian Luciane Salazar who promised to strip if their football teams won the FIFA World Cup.

Thursday, 17 March, 2011

Devi Shetty targets medical tourism in Cayman Isles

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands: A renowned Indian heart surgeon has struck a deal to build a 2,000-bed healthcare city in the Cayman Islands to target American patients and insurers searching for deeply discounted medical care.

The British Caribbean territory agreed to the deal with Dr. Devi Shetty , a low-cost healthcare pioneer renowned as Mother Teresa's heart surgeon. The Caymans fulfilled its part of the bargain last week by passing legislation that caps medical negligence claims at U.S.$600,000.

The tiny, affluent territory west of Jamaica has 55,000 residents and is under pressure from Britain to diversify its economy and move away from its tax haven image.

The healthcare city will cost about $2 billion and encompass a hospital, medical university and assisted-living facility and target American patients and insurance providers seeking deep cost reductions.

Construction is set to begin this year on the initial $100 million phase, with a 200 to 300-bed facility expected to be complete in about 18 months.

The project has attracted significant interest. Templeton emerging markets expert Mark Mobius, who oversees some $50 billion in assets, recently said the project could be very attractive to outside investors.

Shetty would not discuss specific investors, although JP Morgan Chase & Co, American International Group Inc and the chairwoman of Biocon Ltd , a large Indian biotechnology firm, already own more than 25 percent of the Shetty family's Bangalore-based hospital group, Narayana Hrudayalaya Private Ltd.

Its 1,000-bed flagship hospital performs more than twice as many cardiac bypass surgeries and pediatric surgeries in a year than similarly sized U.S. hospitals.

Citing his high-volume, low-cost hospitals in India as his model, Shetty estimates the Cayman facility will draw 50 percent of its patients from the United States.

U.S. insurers and employers are under pressure to reduce costs for high-tech procedures for heart, cancer, orthopedics, nuclear medicine and organ transplants, Shetty said.

"It will be much easier for insurance companies to buy an air ticket and ask them to go to the Cayman Islands and get a heart bypass done and have a two-week beach holiday and come back at perhaps less than 50 percent of the cost," he said.

The Cayman Islands are politically stable, English-speaking and close to Miami, which makes the modern large-scale facility an attractive medical tourist destination for Americans, Shetty said.

The Caymans' incentive package for the new hospital includes duty waivers on $800 million of medical equipment, recognition of Indian medical credentials and a discount of up to 30 percent on work permit fees for the influx of foreign workers expected to staff the hospital.

The average cost for a heart bypass is $144,000 in the United States, five times higher than neighboring Mexico at $27,000. Costa Rica charges $25,000 and Colombia $14,800 for the same procedure, the Medical Tourist Association said.

Even with the higher cost of doing business in the Cayman Islands, Shetty estimates a heart bypass will cost less than $10,000.

Medical tourism is still considered a niche market. But an estimated 1.3 million Americans will seek medical care outside of the United States in 2011 with 35 percent annual growth, according to a Deloitte report.

President Barack Obama's year-old healthcare overhaul faces significant challenges in court. But as it is implemented, millions of Americans will be brought into the insurance market in 2014, escalating costs well into the double digits, said industry expert Irving Stackpole.

"That will push medical tourism across the chasm from being a sector filled with early adopters to a mainstream solution for healthcare consumers," Stackpole said.

As Americans travel abroad for medical care, competition will increase in Latin America and the Caribbean to get a piece of the lucrative market, said Dr. Steve Tomlinson, head of the private Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial hospital in the Caymans.

Last month, a 4-year-old Cayman girl was flown to Shetty's hospital in Bangalore for successful surgery to repair two holes in her heart. Surgeons in Jamaica said the operation was too complex and the child's medical insurance was insufficient to cover the $800,000 cost of the surgery the United States.

"We could do it virtually free. It is all because of volume," Shetty said.

Wednesday, 16 March, 2011

What is a Golf Ball Worth?

The ball was in the pond on Hole 16 at Oak Crest Golf Club in Norway, Michigan. It was a brand new Titlelist with the Verso logo on it and he didn't want to loose it or take the two stroke penalty as he was already behind in points!!!


Tuesday, 15 March, 2011

Do Dogs go to Heaven?

Do Dogs go to Heaven? Hysterical! Absolutely unreal that this actually happened! These two churches face each other across a busy street

Monday, 14 March, 2011

World's most expensive dog: Tibetan Mastiff sold for $1.5 million

A male Tibetan Mastiff puppy has created a stir in the dog breeding world and gained the title of the world's most expensive dog after being sold in China for a record 10 million yuan ($1.5 million).
The 11-month-old Tibetan Mastiff male puppy named 'Big Splash' and 'Hong Dong' is red in color, a rarity in the breed. He was purchased by a Chinese coal baron who will reportedly use him for breeding, earning as much as $100,000 yuan in stud fees for each female bred to the pricey pooch.
Big Splash took the coveted title of most expensive dog from another Tibetan Mastiff pup that was sold last year for $600,000, as reported by Digital Journal.
"The Tibetan Mastiff, also known as Do-khyi , meaning 'home guard' has been used for centuries to guard herds of domesticated farm animals, villages, monasteries, palaces and private homes," according to Wikipedia. The males can grow to heights of 31 inches tall and can weigh as much as 275lbs.
The dog is considered a primitive breed with a temperament that can vary from one dog to another. They are considered to be both 'noble and impressive animals', said the AKC.
"According to legend, both Genghis Khan and Buddha had them, and they are known to be great guard dogs. They are rarely found outside Tibet and China, making them an especially exclusive breed. In China, they are considered a state protected animal, and there are reportedly just 15,000 in the country, most belonging to the wealthy," reports Yahoo's The Week.

Saturday, 12 March, 2011

'Three-parent' mitochondrial IVF technique to be assessed

Scientists have been invited to advise whether the new "three-parent IVF" procedure should be approved to help couples affected by devastating conditions.
An expert panel from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will consider its safety and effectiveness before reporting to Health Secretary, UK Andrew Lansley.
The technique could help couples have healthy children even if they are affected by mitochondrial diseases.
At present, babies born with one of the rare diseases can suffer fatal liver, heart and neurological disorders.
Mitochondria are located in every human cell and act as "power houses" to provide the energy for cells to function.
Mitochondrial DNA is not present in the nucleus of a fertilised egg, meaning scientists could extract the nucleus and place it into another egg from a donor.
The resulting embryo would have almost 100 per cent inherited genetic material from its mother and father.
Alison Murdoch, head of the department of reproductive medicine at Newcastle University, which has developed the technique, said: "We are not ready to do this in patients now but the science is progressing very rapidly and we need to get Parliament to discuss this again now.
"We anticipate that the process of review could take about a year so we are asking for this process to start now.
"Of course there is no guarantee that we will have all the evidence we need to secure a licence in a year but we need to anticipate that we may have and prepare accordingly.
"We recognise this process is necessary and will co-operate fully.
"As doctors we have a duty to treat disease and where possible to prevent disease. With diseases for which there are no treatments the imperative to develop new treatments is even greater.
"Of course no treatment is ever risk free and if there are risks we will need to quantify these so that doctors can discuss the relative risks and benefits with patients and their families."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We have asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to co-ordinate an expert group to assess the effectiveness and safety of a new technique to treat mitochondrial disease.
"This is in response to a request from researchers asking the Department of Health to make new regulations under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act to allow this treatment.
"This treatment is not currently possible under current legislation.
"We welcome scientific innovation and this group will investigate the safety of this technique reporting back to us.
"When the group reports back, and based on the evidence available, we can decide whether it is the right time to consider making these regulations."

Friday, 11 March, 2011

How the inventor of the pill changed the world for women

Among certain people – Catholics, moralists, social conservatives – the urge to make Carl Djerassi regret his invention seems to be overpowering. He brought us the pill. The more you think about it, the more crucial it has been to the world as we now know it. We used to talk about it as the facilitator of promiscuity, the chemical agent behind sexual liberation. That's just the warm-up act. The rest is monumental: women taking on professional identities, waiting longer to become mothers, ageing populations, smaller families – every stamp of the household of the developed world can be traced back to this discovery. Furthermore, every new direction of the fertility industry – which, after the postponement of death, is the major focus of medical enquiry – can be attributed to this breakthrough. No one would be researching egg storage or ICSI (fertilising an egg with a single implanted sperm) or IVF if it weren't for this discovery.

"For the last 50 years, the leitmotif was contraception. The present 50 years, it's conception," says Djerassi, 88, as though it's the simplest leap in the world, which in a sense it is. Medicine follows the money – once people knew how not to conceive, the issue became how to conceive. It wasn't just ageing parity – women waiting until their mid-30s to have a child – that forced the change. The smaller, deliberated families of the developed world, post-pill, lent cultural credence to the idea of a child as a right and a necessity.

But besides the technology, it is also a conceptual leap larger than the fall of communism, larger than the advances in communication that we hold so vital. Women were hitherto enslaved by biology; and suddenly we weren't. To be in the presence of Djerassi, emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, is so momentous that I fancy at one point I've gone a bit deaf in one ear.

And yet precisely because the world has changed so much, hinged on one discovery, what you want to know is: has he any regrets? Knowing how much can be attributed to his work, at 26 years old, 60 years ago, is there nothing he would change? "To me, the greatest disadvantage is what it has done in the 80s, 90s, perhaps not so much recently: modern, intelligent men won't take responsibility, wouldn't even use condoms. They shrugged and said: 'All women are now on the pill, I don't need to bother.' This has become another woman's burden."

How burdensome is it, though? He wonders, would women believe a man, if he said he'd taken the pill? That's a moot point, since this hassle has now ossified into a fact of life. "Of the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, not one is working on male contraception. They wouldn't touch it with a 10ft pole. The first question a man would ask is: would it affect my potency? There have been clinical trials – it has no effect on potency. The second question is erection. The third one is prostate cancer. There would be questions we would not be able to answer. Medicine is mainly geared towards geriatric concerns, Alzheimer's, cancer, anti-inflammatories, and people there are not concerned about side effects. No cancer patient has ever sued for vomiting during chemotherapy or losing their hair. But if you lost your hair because of your oral contraceptive, male or female, I can assure you that there would be lawsuits."

This is where we are (literally, not culturally): Austria-born Djerassi has a flat in London. It's beautiful: the corridors and landings could hold a diplomatic reception. The flat itself is laden with art (he is the largest private collector of Paul Klee in the world – those are at his San Francisco estate). The bookshelves are full of Frankfurt School Marxists and science giants. He is a theoretically impossible person: entirely erudite, and nevertheless still concerned about whether or not people can have sex without negative consequence.

"How many acts of sexual intercourse would you guess occur every 24 hours?" he asks. "I often do this with my students, and they say a billion. I say: 'No, no, no, you're dreaming. There are six billion people. Well, you need two for sexual intercourse, so there are only three billion. And some of them are five years old, so they're out.' So then they say a million. Well, now you're underestimating, because you're sitting here and you're not having sex. It's actually 100m, every 24 hours. And they produce about a million conceptions, about half of which are unexpected. Of the 500,000, half of them are unwanted. As a result, every 24 hours, 150,000 abortions occur; of these, over 50,000 are illegal." He doesn't labour the point; rather, leaves a moment for it to sink in, how much squalor and danger still surrounds unwanted pregnancy, even so long after its means of prevention should be universal.

Naturally, though, there are countries such as the UK and the US that have moved on, where the pressing issue is conception. He is droll on the subject of egg freezing and casts himself as a 20-year-old woman: "So, I am a young woman, I collect my eggs – I haven't the foggiest idea yet whether I want children, I have not yet met the man with whom I would like to have children, I do not know yet whether I want to be a single mother, I have not made up my mind yet but I have it in the bank. Men could do this, but men don't do this unless they have testicular cancer, because we produce sperm all the time."

Ultimately, while he admits to some slight reservation about sex selection, he is clear, in his creative writing (taken up over the past 20 years), in his lectures, in everything he does: sex and reproduction have been severed. This is the future – you freeze your material, then get yourself sterilised. It looks a little bald written down. But when you think about it, you want to stand up and cheer.

Zoe Williams,The Guardian,UK

Thursday, 10 March, 2011

Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics

Every morning, Kay Brown engages in a ritual similar to a heroin addict’s, or a diabetic’s: she sticks herself with a syringe. Only hers contains hCG, a pregnancy hormone.

Ms. Brown, 35, is not taking hCG to help her bear a child. She believes that by combining the hormone injections with a 500-calorie-a-day diet, she will achieve a kind of weight-loss nirvana: losing fat in all the right places without feeling tired or hungry. “I had a friend who did it before her wedding,” Ms. Brown said. “She looks great.”

Women like Ms. Brown are streaming into doctors’ offices and weight-loss clinics all over the country, paying upward of $1,000 a month for a consultation, a supply of the hormone and the syringes needed to deliver it. More than 50 years after a doctor at a Roman clinic began promoting hCG as a dieting aid, it is as popular as ever, even though there is scant evidence that it makes any difference.

The regimen combines daily injections with a near-starvation diet, and patients, mostly women, are often enticed by promises that they can lose about a pound a day without feeling hungry. Perhaps even more seductively, they are frequently told that the hCG will prompt their bodies to carry away and metabolize fat that has been stored where they least want it — in their upper arms, bellies and thighs.

In response to inquiries stirred up by the diet’s popularity, the Food and Drug Administration warned in January that “homeopathic” forms of hCG, like lozenges and sprays, sold over the Internet and in some health food stores, are fraudulent and illegal if they claim weight-loss powers.

The injectable, prescription form of hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is approved as a treatment for infertility and other uses, and it is legal for doctors to prescribe it “off-label” for weight loss.

But the F.D.A. has also reiterated a warning, first issued in the mid-1970s, that is required on hCG packaging: It has not been shown to increase weight loss, to cause a more “attractive” distribution of fat or to “decrease hunger and discomfort” from low-calorie diets.

The F.D.A. recently received a report of a patient on the hCG diet who had a pulmonary embolism, said Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the agency. He said the hormone carried risks of blood clots, depression, headaches and breast tenderness or enlargement.

Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard medical school who researches weight-loss supplements, said that aside from the issue of side effects, the use of hCG as a diet tool was “manipulating people to give them the sense that they’re receiving something that’s powerful and potent and effective, and in fact they’re receiving something that’s nothing better than a placebo.”

But unlike other popular diet supplements, hCG, which is derived from the urine of pregnant women, has acquired an aura of respectability because the injections are available only by prescription.

Ms. Brown’s physician, Lionel Bissoon, a well-known society doctor with an office off Central Park West, charges $1,150 for his hCG program, which covers an examination, injection training, a month’s supply of the hormone and syringes, and blood work to monitor for possible trouble.

“From an anecdotal point of view,” Dr. Bissoon said, “physicians all around the country have seen people losing a tremendous amount of weight with this stuff, and you cannot afford to ignore that.”

Another New York doctor, Scott M. Blyer, offers the hCG diet as an adjunct to his cosmetic surgery practice, working with Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, an orthodontist, out of her office in Midtown. Dr. Fulop-Goodling does not prescribe hCG, but she counsels patients. They charge $800 for a 40-day course of therapy, half-price for repeat rounds; they also require an EKG to make sure the patient has no heart trouble.

One of Dr. Blyer’s patients, a 30-year-old business consultant named May, who asked that her last name not be used because she was embarrassed to be considering the diet, described herself as an “emotional eater.” She is 5-foot-3 and 130 pounds, but said she hoped to shed 20 pounds in time to be a bridesmaid at an April wedding. “So I have just six weeks,” she said.

Dr. Blyer looked uneasy. “Your legs are thin, your face is thin,” he told her. “You’re a very attractive woman.” But he reassured her that she would lose weight where she wanted to, in her stomach. The hCG, Dr. Blyer said, “tricks your body into a state of pregnancy; it burns off fat so the fetus can get enough calories, but it protects muscle.”

May eventually decided that she did not need to lose much weight and did not go through with the diet.

Dr. Blyer’s explanation of how the hCG diet works resembles a theory first popularized in the 1950s by A. T. W. Simeons, a doctor in Rome who said he had used it on more than 500 patients, and published a paper about it in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in 1954.

In 1995, a Dutch study in The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology tried to resolve the question of whether the hCG diet really worked by analyzing 14 randomized clinical trials of the diet. Only two, including one co-written by an advocate of the diet, found that people on hCG lost more weight, felt less hunger and had an improved body shape, compared with people on the same 500-calorie diet who received a placebo, like saline injections.

But several studies concluded that the ritual of the daily injection and the instant gratification of quick weight loss helped motivate people to stay on the diet.

However arcane the theory, some doctors say it is theoretically plausible that hCG would create a more toned body, because it can induce the production of male hormones and increase muscle mass.

“There’s a reason Manny Ramirez took it,” said Dr. Martin Keltz, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan. Mr. Ramirez, the baseball star, was suspended for 50 games in 2009 after evidence surfaced that he had used hCG, which is banned by Major League Baseball.

Dr. Keltz said he thought it was possible to redistribute fat with hCG, but, he added, “there are risks, like cardiovascular risks.”

“I would shy away from them,” he continued.

Then there are the nutritional concerns about a diet that some say mimics anorexia. “The average person is going to eat 1,800 to 3,000 calories,” said Kristen Smith, a bariatric surgery dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center.

“I don’t think it promotes healthy long-term eating habits,” she added.

Doctors who prescribe hCG for dieting say that experience is in their favor, even if the research is not. They point to women like Guldal Caba, a 53-year-old psychologist from Toledo, Ohio, who traveled to New York for treatment from Dr. Bissoon. “It was the fat that needed to go — you know behind my bra, that back fat, my belly,” Dr. Caba said.

Ms. Brown, a theater administrator who is 5-foot-8, said she was thrilled to lose six pounds in seven days, and hopeful about reaching her goal of losing 30, which would bring her close to her ideal weight of 135. She said she did not feel hungry and did not obsess about food as she had years ago, when suffering from anorexia.

“A lot of people have a lot of opinions,” Ms. Brown said, “but I don’t want to be a person who feels like my weight is not under my control.”

Published: March 7, 2011
The New York Times

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Wednesday, 9 March, 2011

S'pore MD gives up 5-figure salary to be Mister Mum

This couple believe that a maid can never be a substitute for parents.

Especially when their offspring are twins conceived by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment.

It was a painful process and a difficult pregnancy for Madam Rachel Foo who was 33 when she gave birth to a pair of non-identical twins on June 29, 2005.

The couple, who married in 2001, named their boy, Aston, and their girl, Chelsea.

But when it came to the crunch on whether it would be Madam Foo, 39, or her husband, Mr Peter Chua, 56, who should stay home to look after their precious twins, the decision wasn't easy.

He was older. And he had a successful career.

Mr Chua was the managing director (Asia Pacific) of a US company in the cruise and resort industry, earning more than $10,000 a month.

On the other hand, the wife, who was then working as an executive assistant to the manager in a finance company, was earning about $4,000 a month.

But Madam Foo felt that she was not as patient as her husband and she did not like to stay at home.

The couple then decided that Mr Chua would stay home in their four-room HDB flat in Punggol, to look after the children while the wife would be responsible for bringing home the bacon.

Mr Chua said: "Rachel has a career to build. I think I have done enough in my career. To stop working and stay home to look after the children is just sacrificing my income.

"Our children are our primary concern..."


"To me, I want to spend more time with my children."

Madam Foo agreed, saying: "I told my husband that maids can never substitute us as parents.

"Peter is very open-minded and he didn't mind. He really looks after the kids very well. And I respect him for his sacrifices."

The first few years were tough as the couple struggled a little to make ends meet. They had to plan for everything that they were going to spend on. It also meant shorter holidays to places like Hong Kong and Macau and eating out less.

Madam Foo said: "It helped that we were staying with my mother while waiting for our new flat in Punggol."

But six years on and the couple are still very happy with the arrangement. Their twins are now six years old and attending pre-school.

Madam Foo has since joined a fund investment firm as a business manager and earns more than $5,000 a month.

She pays for her children's school fees and household expenses such as utility bills and groceries. When Aston and Chelsea were born, they spent three and five weeks respectively in the intensive care unit in the hospital.

"They were so tiny and it was not easy to care for them," Mr Chua recalled.

The couple had to hire a maid to do the household chores so that Mr Chua could fully concentrate on looking after the twins.

With the role reversal, Mr Chua was the one who woke up in the middle of the night to feed the twins and changed their diapers.

Now that the twins are in pre-school, Mr Chua begins his day by waking up at 6.30am to get them ready. He drops them off before taking his wife to the MRT station where she takes the train to work.

Before picking up his kids at 11am, Mr Chua goes grocery shopping or dabbles in stock trading activities.

After fetching the twins home, he ensures that Aston and Chelsea have a good bath and lunch before supervising them in their homework.

"After they have finished their homework, I play with them or read to them," Mr Chua said.

In the past six years as a house husband, Mr Chua has learned to be careful with his grocery spending as he would have to fork out the extra money whenever he exceeded the budget, he added jokingly.

"I did not have any training before, but I learned to bathe them, feed them and take care of them when they are sick.

"I call it a parent's instinct. Be it the dad or the mum, it is the parents' instinct to look after their children. I had learned to identify their cries, whether it was a cry that they had wet their diapers or a cry for milk," Mr Chua said.

As the twins grew older, Mr Chua attended toddler classes with them. It was inevitable that he received curious stares from other toddlers' mothers. But Mr Chua took the stares in his stride. He said: "I was the only man in my kids' class. And unlike them, I didn't just look after one kid, but two. I took the initiative to interact with them and even gave them some parenting tips that I had learnt."

Mr Chua said his family and friends supported his decision to care for the children, much to his surprise.

He said: "They told me that I have made the right decision and they actually envy me for being able to do it.

"There are always sacrifices in life. Sometimes money can create a lot of family problems, but I am glad that it has never been our problem.

"When Rachel and I decided on this arrangement, we knew what we were getting into. We had our little struggles and we don't envy others who are able to take their children on holiday during every school holiday. We need to strike a good balance."

On her part, his wife has never doubted his ability to take care of the children.

She said: "In my previous job, I would get very stressed out with the office politics and I would ask Peter if we could switch back our roles. But I also knew that I wouldn't last more than two months at home."

Madam Foo admits that her husband has done a better job than she ever could.

When Madam Foo returns home in the evenings, Mr Chua would patiently wait for her to settle down and have her dinner before lending her a listening ear.

He said: "I would listen to her talk about her work in the office and sometimes give her my advice. That's what a husband is for."

It is something his wife greatly appreciates.

Madam Foo said: "Sometimes I can get very carried away with my work and Peter is always there to remind me that our family is equally important."

Role reversal

With this reversal of roles, Mr Chua admitted he can now appreciate the role of a housewife better.

He said: "In our relationship, there is no one party who is superior to the other.

"Few men would like to do what I do. For it to work, you must believe in what you are doing and there needs to be trust between the spouses.

"If right now, I tell my wife that I would like to rejoin the workforce, she will support me in my decision.

"But now that I have grown so close to my children, it would be a huge sacrifice for me to go back to work and not be able to care for them.

"Unless the work is very challenging, I value my time with my children more than earning an income."

Wives: No respect lost for house hubbies

IF ONE party has to give up the job to look after the children, who should it be? Should it be dad or mum?

The New Paper on Sunday spoke to five couples who said that they have no issue with the man staying home to look after the children.

Most of them were more concerned with the loss of income of the party who needs to stay home, given the high cost of living in Singapore.

Typically, they felt that the person with the lower income should be the one to stay home.

Madam Jennifer Tan, 35, a sales executive, who gave birth to a son last week, said: "If the woman is earning $10,000 a month and the man is earning only $5,000 a month, then it makes more sense for the woman to keep her job to support the family."

Madam Tan's husband, Dr Andy Lee, 37, an entrepreneur, was asked if his wife would lose respect for him for if he stayed home to look after their baby.

Dr Lee replied: "I don't think so. If she wants me to be a stay-home dad, she can't say that I am worth nothing. I would have contributed by looking after our son."

Madam Tan said: "Why would I lose my respect for him? I feel it's a big sacrifice for the man to be able to do this. It just shows that he loves the family a lot."

Psychologist and family counsellor Richard Lim said there is a big jump in the number of wives who now earn the same, if not higher, salaries than their husbands. Often, this leads to unhappy situations at home.

Dr Lim said: "Regardless of what the initial arrangement was, it's hard for the man not to feel insecure. When the power shifts, it'll take for both the man and woman to adjust.

"Pride, which is an emotion, is not something that can be controlled."

Lawyer Steven Lam of JTJB has handled a few cases of wives divorcing their house husbands.

He said: "We're still an Asian society and the man is still regarded as the breadwinner. I have came across some cases where the woman had loved the man because of his status. And problems popped up when he became a house husband and she did not see him as capable as he used to be."