Sunday, October 31, 2010

Migrants wary as China launches census

Migrants wary as China launches census

BEIJING: Tan Jianguo and his wife are migrant workers who have lived in a dirty rundown alleyway in a Beijing suburb for the past 10 years, eking out a meagre living for themselves and their two small children.

Master chocolatiers give green cocoa a boost

Master chocolatiers give green cocoa a boost

PARIS: From its chocolate factory in the French Alps, Stephane Bonnat's family has been nurturing ties with cocoa farmers around the world for over a century, and together they are now driving a green revolution.

SA maps first deep-sea preserve

SA maps first deep-sea preserve

DURBAN: Underwater canyons, deep-sea coral reefs and sponge banks are part of a unique ecosystem that South Africa wants to save within its first deep-sea marine protected area.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Argentine DNA tests boost search for missing

Argentine DNA tests boost search for missing

LA PLATA: A campaign to carry out DNA tests on blood samples is slowly helping Argentines learn the fate of 30,000 people who went missing during the nation's brutal military dictatorship.

Victoria Schwindt is one grieving relative hoping to lay the ghosts of the past to rest and find her brother last seen in 1976 when he was 28 years old.

"I had a very hard time making a decision. I didn't sleep yesterday. Now it's done," said an emotional Schwindt, 65, as she held out an arm for a nurse to take a blood sample.

She hopes the DNA tests will help authorities locate her brother's remains.

"I'm sure he would have done the same for me," added Schwindt, as the nurse placed a cotton bandage on her arm.

On a white envelope next to her, read the words guiding the mission: "Your blood can help identify your loved one."

Out of the 30,000 people that rights groups say disappeared in Argentina during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, only 350 have been identified since democracy was restored 27 years ago.

Nearly half of them were identified over the past three years, thanks to the national campaign launched in 2007 backed by massive government aid.

The campaign is taking place amid an escalating power struggle between President Cristina Kirchner and Ernestina Herrera de Noble, owner of the privately-held media group Clarin.

Noble adopted two children in 1976 suspected of being the son and daughter of a couple disappeared by the military regime.

When Kirchner recently called for the identification efforts to be stepped up, critics saw the move as fresh pressure on Noble, whose children refuse to have their DNA tested to see if it matches any of the missing.

But for thousands of others, the campaign represents a strong chance of realizing their long-held hope to find out what happened to their loved ones.

"These people come here with all their worries and unanswered questions," explained Nora Etchenique, who heads a blood therapy center in La Plata.

This city of 500,000 residents some 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Buenos Aires was brutally repressed during the dictatorship.

"We must learn how to listen to them," she said. Etchenique was herself detained at a secret site near Buenos Aires known as the Sere Mansion, where her companion disappeared.

"It's up to the state, which stole the identity of all these people, to return it to them," she added.

Alejandra Toledo, a 43-year-old assistant at the center, was attentive toward Schwindt. She explained the samples will be sent to a lab in the United States, which will then cross-examine the data with all the information stored so far.

"In the beginning, we had 13 cases per day. I was in tears by the end of the day," she said. "Today, we have between three and four."

At the heart of the effort is an Argentine team of forensic anthropologists which has recovered 1,000 bodies.

"The government has put 63 hospitals at our disposal," said the team's co-founder Luis Fonderbrider as he scoured the room where the bones are stored.

"This allowed us to identify 120 people in the past two years, a considerable increase," Fonderbrider said.

In July, Frenchman Eric Domergue said thanks to the blood samples and the DNA tests he had recovered the remains of his lost brother, Yves.

They also helped Horacio Pietragalla, 34, discover that officials from the military dictatorship had stolen him as a child. And he found the remains of his true parents.

"The day I buried my mom, it was a moment of incredible happiness," he said at a cemetery in the Buenos Aires suburb of Lomas de Zamora.

"To be able to come here, leave a flower on her tomb, it's very comforting."

Glimmer of hope as vertebrates face extinction: study

Glimmer of hope as vertebrates face extinction: study

NAGOYA: One fifth of the world's vertebrates are threatened with extinction but conservation efforts are having an impact in slowing their demise, scientists said in a study published Wednesday.

The study reported that the main reason for the "alarming" decline in the world's mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish was the destruction of their natural habitats.

"Global patterns of rising extinction risk are most marked in Southeast Asia, where agricultural expansion, logging and hunting are the primary forces behind accelerating extinction rates," a summary of the study said.

The study, by 174 scientists around the world, was described as the first time the rate of decline among vertebrate species had been quantified on a global scale.

It was based on research into 25,000 species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) "Red List" of threatened species.

IUCN members were due to discuss the findings of the research on Wednesday on the sidelines of a United Nations summit being held in the Japanese city of Nagoya to try to map out a plan to slow or stop the decrease in the world's biodiversity.

The summit is being held amid the backdrop of warnings from scientists that humans' destruction of nature is causing plant and animal species to become extinct at up to 1,000 times the natural rate.

The IUCN said last year the world was experiencing its sixth mass extinction in history, the last one being 65 million years ago when dinosaurs were wiped off the planet.

However the study published Wednesday said species loss and decline would have been 20 percent worse in the absence of conservation efforts to protect threatened species.

"Thus, while current conservation efforts remain insufficient to offset the main drivers of biodiversity loss... targeted conservation efforts have had a measurable positive impact on the planet's vertebrate species," the study said.

Some of the conservation strategies the study highlighted as being beneficial were captive breeding programmes, legislation to limit hunting, establishing protected areas and efforts to remove invasive alien species.

Abu Dhabi to have Ferrari-themed park

Abu Dhabi to have Ferrari-themed park

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi has always been considered the quieter emirate when compared to gaudy cousin Dubai.

But all that could be set to change as the state prepares to welcome an estimated 10,000 tourists a day to the new Ferrari-themed amusement park - billed as the largest in the world.

Tourism chiefs hope the world's fastest rollercoaster - which travels at 149mph in 4.9 seconds, recreating the G-force felt in a Formula One car - and the more sedate life-size Scalextric-style track, will catapult it onto the world stage.

The park is expected to become a good hub for Grand Prix racing fans, particularly as the Formula One race is due to take place there next month, and the United Arab Emirates is said to have ploughed billions into the 861,000 square foot park.

The red roof of the indoor complex is modelled on the side profile of a Ferrari GT and is adorned with the largest prancing horse logo ever created.

'We had only a few malls and desert safaris, we need such thrilling amusements and now we don't have to run to Dubai on weekends,' said Mohamed Mazroui, an Emirates' businessman and racing buff.

Once, Abu Dhabi was known as the more sober neighbour of glitsy Dubai, which made its name with extravagant property projects, outlandish tourist attractions and luxury shopping.

While Dubai spent the past decade transforming itself into a regional hub offering a Western-style nightlife, it remained more conservative when it came to drink and dress.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two-year-old kid riding Snake Piton

Two-year-old kid riding Snake Piton

RAMMALAH: A two-year-old daughter, the son of a snake collector, was photographed riding a giant Burmese python in Rammalah, Palestine.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Telstra unveils iPad-style computer

Telstra unveils iPad-style computer

SYDNEY: Australia's major telecom firm Telstra unveiled a tablet device to rival Apple's iPad on Wednesday, featuring many of the same functions but with the added bonus of also working as a mobile phone.

Japan looks to ancient wisdom to save biodiversity

Japan looks to ancient wisdom to save biodiversity
TOYOOKA: Four decades ago the oriental white stork became extinct in Japan, the victim of rapid industrialisation and modern farm practices and heavy pesticide use that destroyed its habitat.

Taiwan's Acer to unveil tablet computer


TAIPEI: Taiwan's Acer Inc., the world's second biggest PC vendor, said Wednesday it will unveil its first tablet computer next month amid strong demand for the gadget.

Airborne laser fails 2nd shootdown test in row

Airborne laser fails 2nd shootdown test in row

WASHINGTON: A converted Boeing Co 747 equipped with a powerful laser failed to shoot down a mock enemy ballistic missile, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said on Thursday, the system's second botched flight test in a row.

Mexico to build record-setting burrito

Mexico to build record-setting burrito

LA PAZ: More than 3,000 people will roll up a 2.7-kilometer (1.7-mile) burrito next month in Mexico, hoping to break the last Guinness World Records-setting mega-morsel by 700 meters (yards).

Plants clean air pollution better than expected

Plants clean air pollution better than expected

WASHINGTON: Plants, especially some trees under stress, are even better than expected at scrubbing certain chemical pollutants out of the air, researchers reported.

China unveils world's fastest train

China unveils world

BEIJING: China on Tuesday unveiled what it described as the world's fastest bullet train, which will connect two of the country's industrial hubs travelling at an average speed of 350 km per hour.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No worries of major quake in Midwest: scientist

No worries of major quake in Midwest: scientist

CHICAGO: The New Madrid seismic zone will not produce a major earthquake in the U.S. Midwest for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, according to a geologist and author of a new book on the topic, "Disaster Deferred."

Moon crash kicks up ice, silver, mercury: NASA

WASHINGTON: A rocket sent crashing into the Moon last year kicked up several hundred pounds (kg) of water, silver, mercury and other surprising chemicals, scientists reported on Thursday.

Astronomers find oldest galaxy yet

Astronomers find oldest galaxy yet

WASHINGTON: Astronomers have spotted the oldest galaxy ever seen, one born just 600 million years after the Big Bang.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marathon man: How not to hit the wall

Marathon man: How not to hit the wall

CHICAGO: Marathon runners can train for months to condition for the big race, yet struggle to finish if they exhaust stores of carbohydrates too quickly, a phenomenon known as "hitting the wall."

A new formula by a marathon runner and student at Harvard and MIT gives elite runners and marathon enthusiasts a more exact way to calculate just how many carb calories they need to take to stay in the 26.2 mile race.

"About 40 percent of marathon runners hit the wall," said Benjamin Rapoport, a student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, whose study appears in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Essentially, that means the runner has burned up all of the carbohydrates stored in his liver and leg muscles, forcing him to slow down dramatically as the body starts to burn fat.

"You feel like you're not going anywhere," Rapoport said in a statement. "You can't will yourself to run any faster."

He said many runners believe hitting the wall is inevitable, that it is just part of a marathon.

"That is not true at all," Rapoport, who has run 18 marathons, including a personal best of 2 hours 55 minutes at this year's Boston Marathon, said in a telephone interview.

"What I came up with was essentially a set of formulas," he said.

"People need to know really three things: how much they weigh, what their target marathon time is and their maximum oxygen intake capacity," he said. "That is a measure of a person's aerobic fitness."

Aerobic capacity, also known as VO2max, is a measure of how much oxygen the body can transport to the muscles and consume during aerobic exercise.

Measuring exact VO2max requires a treadmill stress test at maximum effort, but an informal way to estimate aerobic capacity is to divide your maximum heart rate by your resting heart rate and multiply by 15, Rapoport said. To find your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age in years from 220 beats per minute.

The result, he said, is a number that tells runners how many excess carb calories they need to take in before a race.

He said many runners also supplement their stored carbohydrates by taking gels and sports beverages as they are running, but a runner can carry much more fuel in their legs and liver, if they know the right amount.

Until now, runners have had to guess at what that was. The new calculator will make that easier, Rapoport said.

Rapoport has built an online calculator to help runners estimate their aerobic fitness pace and race goals which can be found at Endurance Calculator website.

"It's my gift to my fellow runners," he said.

Julian Schnabel opens photo album for London show

Julian Schnabel opens photo album for London show
LONDON: Filmmaker and painter Julian Schnabel has ventured into the realm of photography in his latest exhibition, "Polaroids: Beyond Infinity and Grandview."

The London display of a few dozen photographs, personally chosen by Schnabel from his collection of several hundred, is being shown at the Colnaghi gallery in Old Bond Street.

"I didn't intend to show these pictures at all," said Schnabel. "I've just been working on collecting them over the past eight years. They're more satisfying to me than normal photographs, where you are so detached from the subject."

The collection centers around Schnabel's world -- many of the pictures are of the interior of his New York home, the extravagant Palazzo Chupi which he designed and decorated.

"I think it shows a painter's life," he added. "If one wanted to see what Julian made, or what paintings he would hang in a room, you could see. I'm not just photographing something I passed by. This building didn't exist until I built it."

There are celebrities on show, notably a portrait of singer Lou Reed with his eyes closed and several of actor Mickey Rourke, intimately captured in sepia tones.

Schnabel's family also features heavily, with numerous shots of the two sons from his latest marriage, Cy and Olmo.

One captures the naked torso of Olmo set off-center against a background of blood-red flowers, with a scar of white light flashing across the print, the result of a technical flaw.

"They are without any kind of mediation," said 58-year-old Schnabel, whose acclaimed 2007 movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" won four Oscar nominations.

"They are not re-touched or made to be more perfect, they are simply the way they come out in life. As a painter, I love the unexpected accident. I lean toward that accident all the time."

The large-format polaroids are taken on a giant dolly-mounted 20 x 24 inch camera, one of only six in the world.

To a painter, the mechanism of photography poses difficult questions about the role of the creator and the extent to which ownership can be claimed for the image created.

"The process is so obvious," he explained, gesturing toward the prints. "You take the camera, you point it somewhere, and you get what you get. I treat it like a found object.

"I'm not satisfied with the way the image is without the paint. Here I've painted a purple triple helix on top. The added circle means beyond infinity, I've been using the symbol since the seventies."

The London Evening Standard's Sue Steward praised the photograph collection as "wonderfully edgy."

Nuke-proof bunker on sale in Britain

Nuke-proof bunker on sale in Britain

LONDON: When tensions between the West and Russia were at their peak and nuclear war seemed a real possibility, Mike Thomas bought his dream home.

It had almost everything he wanted - four bedrooms, a big garden and sea views. But something was missing.

So worried was Mr Thomas, 56, that a nuclear strike was imminent he decided to build an underground bunker capable of withstanding a blast 80 times bigger than the one that devastated Hiroshima.

And now the house and bunker could be yours - Mr Thomas has put his £350,000 property on the market.

The 300sq ft cavern is 20ft below his kitchen and has 32in thick concrete walls. Stored in the bunker is enough food and water to sustain his family for a month.

It is the strongest privately-owned bomb shelter in Britain and can withstand a one megaton nuclear blast - much bigger than the 0.012 megaton 'Little Boy' dropped on Japan in 1945.

Mr Thomas said: 'I built the shelter because I was concerned about the threat of a nuclear attack.

'Who knows what will happen in the future? It wouldn't surprise me if there occurs a terrorist nuclear attack within the next 15 years.

'The room is incredibly strong and has everything you need inside. If the worst did happened it is exactly where you would want to be.'

The father-of-one, an electrical engineer, became obsessed with the nuclear threat when he served as a member of the Royal Observer Corps.

So back in 1985, he decided to build the fall-out shelter to keep his family safe at their home in Lydenford, near Brixham in Devon.

It took six months to complete with the help of a civilian engineer who built bunkers for the Ministry of Defence and cost £45,000 - or £200,000 at today's prices.

The shelter - which did not require planning permission because it is underground - has two entrances, a shaft from the kitchen or through a fake wardrobe in the study.

Each is protected by huge steel blast doors and there is also an emergency exit in case the main doors are welded shut by the blast.

The bunker has six bunk beds, its own Swiss-made ventilation system and power supply with a diesel-powered generator.

The concrete floors are covered with carpets and plywood sheets line the walls. The temperature inside remains at a constant 12C.

The hideaway is lined with girders filled with hundreds of tons of concrete and steel reinforcing bars to create walls up to 32 inches thick.

It features a 1,400-litre water tank, toilet, a small hand basin, and a phone line.

The bunker is also stocked with enough tinned and dried food to feed Mr Thomas, his partner Mandy, 37, and son Daniel, 15, for a month.

Other mod cons include a TV and DVD player, a microwave and a range of board games and books to pass the time.

He designed the shelter to ensure it would withstand an atomic bomb attack on the nearest potential military target, the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth less than two miles away.

But now Mr Thomas is selling up so he can downsize to a smaller property - and he no longer believes a nuclear attack is imminent.

'When I built the bunker I was a young man with my whole life ahead of me. I wanted to make absolutely sure my family was safe', he said.

'I'm now not as fearful of a nuclear attack as I once was. I hope it can now offer another family the same peace of mind it has given us.

'It's a good thing to have for any home. You can hide away inside and no radiation can penetrate it at all.

'The threat of nuclear attack is real and now we have got scientists warning that the Sun is going to explode.

'It could still be used as a panic room if someone came burgling the house. Or failing that it makes a great play room for kids.'

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Virgin Galactic eyes NASA commercial space work

Virgin Galactic eyes NASA commercial space work
UPHAM: Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of billionaire Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group, plans to compete in the upcoming race to develop orbital space vehicles, Branson said on Friday.

Warm Arctic is probably permanent

Warm Arctic is probably permanent

WASHINGTON: The signs of climate change were all over the Arctic this year -- warmer air, less sea ice, melting glaciers -- which probably means this weather-making region will not return to its former, colder state, scientists reported on Thursday.

World highest climbing wall in Holland

World highest climbing wall in Holland
AMSTERDAM: The world's highest climbing wall is situated in the town of Groningen, The Netherlands. It is 37 metres (121 ft) high and is known as the Excalibur.

The town of groningen, in the Netherlands boasts of highest free standing climbing wall in the world…well actually a tower.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pomegranate juice helps reduce tummy

Pomegranate juice helps reduce tummy

LONDON: Studies earlier revealed that pomegranate can help prevent cancer, is good for your heart and can even boost your sex life.

Russian journalist receives Peter Mackler award

Russian journalist receives Peter Mackler award

WASHINGTON: Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov praised the dozens of colleagues who have lost their lives over the past decade as he accepted the Peter Mackler Award for courageous journalism.

Largest coffee cup in Las Vegas

Largest coffee cup in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS: A giant 8x8 foot specially constructed coffee mug held the 2,010 gallons of fresh coffee, the equivalent to 32,160 cups of fresh brewed coffee made by Gourmet Gift Baskets website - setting the new world record for the Largest Cup of Coffee to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Fish with transparent head filmed

Fish with transparent head filmed

CALIFORNIA: Scientists in California have filmed a fish with a transparent head.

And the encounter has helped researchers solve the 50-year-old mystery of how the fish uses its extraordinary eyes to see in the gloomy ocean depths.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barbie with diamond choker sells for record $302,500

LONDON: A Barbie doll wearing a diamond necklace has sold at an auction in New York for a record amount.

The one-off Barbie, created by Stefano Canturi, wears a black strapless evening dress with a choker featuring a one-carat square-cut pink diamond.

Haneda, second major airport of Tokyo

Haneda, second major airport  of Tokyo

TOKYO: Tokyo's second biggest airport Haneda opened a new runway and passenger terminal Thursday, making it a fully-fledged international airport and boosting Japan's capital as an Asian hub.

World's longest cat measures 4 feet


WASHINGTON: The world's longest cat measures more than 4 feet, stealing the record from another Maine Coon. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that 5-year-old Stewie was certified as the new Guinness World Record holder after measuring 48 1/2 inches from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail bone. That's a little more than 4 feet long.

Secret life of birds may give info on climate change

Secret life of birds may give info on climate change

SYDNEY: The secret life of seabirds at the bottom of the world may yield valuable clues about global climate change, scientists say.

1,600-year-old mummies unearthed in Lima

LIMA: Archaeologists have unearthed four mummies that could be as old as 1,600 years, at ruins in Peru's capital that apparently hold a crypt of a prominent person for the ancient Wari people, researchers said Wednesday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

World Largest Cup of Coffee Record

A giant 8x8 foot specially constructed coffee mug held the 2,010 gallons of fresh coffee, the equivalent to 32,160 cups of fresh brewed coffee made - setting the new world record for the Largest Cup of Coffee to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facebook looks to grow Vietnam presence

Facebook looks to grow Vietnam presence

HANOI: Facebook says it wants to grow its presence in communist Vietnam, despite concerns that foreign diplomats and others have raised about access to the site.

Mark Twain back on best-seller lists with memoir

Mark Twain back on best-seller lists with memoir

NEW YORK: It's never too late: Mark Twain is back on the best-seller lists.

Pre-orders for the first of three planned volumes of his autobiography, released in full upon the centennial of Twain's death, have for the past few days placed the book in the top five of Barnes & and It is outpacing new works by Ken Follett, John Grisham and Jon Stewart.

Much of planet could see extreme drought in 30 years

Much of planet could see extreme drought in 30 years

WASHINGTON: Large swathes of the planet could experience extreme drought within the next 30 years unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut, according to a study released Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Siew sees 2010 as year for robotics

Siew sees 2010 as year for robotics

TAIPEI: Intelligent robots will bring revolutionary changes to industrial development and the quality of living, and Taiwan stands to gain from the tremendous business opportunities created in the process, Vice President Vincent C. Siew said Oct. 19.

Robots benefit industry, ageing society

Robots benefit industry, ageing society

TAIPEI: Robots could be beneficial to both industry and an ageing society, Vice President Vincent Siew said Tuesday at the opening of a robot show in Taipei.

Scientists say Asia's corals dying on mass

Scientists say Asia

SYDNEY: Coral reefs in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean are dying from the worst bleaching effect in more than a decade, Australian marine scientists said.

China a surprise leader in clean energy

China a surprise leader in clean energy

SYDNEY: China, is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts, a study showed Tuesday, outstripping the United States and Japan and leaving Australia lagging far behind.

Russian Arctic's 'nuclear dump' gets a facelift

Russian Arctic

MURMANSK: An electronic sign along a busy street posts the outside temperature, the wind strength -- and the radioactivity level.

Study predicts women in power, Muslims heading West

Study predicts women in power, Muslims heading West

WASHINGTON: In the next 40 years, an unprecedented number of women will be in positions of power, Muslim immigration to the West will rise, and office workers will be unchained from their cubicles, a report released last week says.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Most Expensive House of the World

India's richest man, and Forbes's fourth richest man, industrialist Mukesh Ambani, has built a new house named Antilia, (after the mythical island) which has has 27 stories, is 173 meters high and has 37,000 square meters of floor space — more than the Palace of Versailles, and isestimated to be worth $1 billion - which sets the new world record for the Most Expensive House.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Michelle Obama emerges as powerful Democratic weapon

Michelle Obama emerges as powerful Democratic weapon

WASHINGTON: Just dubbed the world's most powerful woman, Michelle Obama, America's "Mom in chief" is using her growing political heft to refresh the crisis-wearied narrative of her husband's presidency.

World's longest cable car line opens in Armenia


TATEV: Armenia on Saturday launched the world's longest cable car line, a 5.7-kilometre (3.5-mile) engineering feat that spans a spectacular gorge to the country's ancient Tatev monastery.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Potatoes help get in shape: study

Potatoes help get in shape: study

NEW YORK: There's cheerful news for potato lovers -- one does not need to stop consuming them to lose weight, a study says.