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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Are Saif and Kareena engaged?

The grapevine is abuzz with the news that Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor are engaged ever since a huge rock was seen on Kareena"s engagement finger. But sources close to the lovebirds said that it"s just another rumour.

“Both of them have had it up to here with these constant marriage and engagement stories; especially this news report on how Kareena preferred to get engaged rather than get married. Honestly, it is the same newspaper that a while ago carried the story that Saif and Kareena were married. If the marriage story is true, then the engagement one is false. Neither of the stories were substantiated," The Times Of India quoted a source close to the actors as saying.

It is said that the ring that Kareena is wearing on her engagement ring was given gifted by Saif when their relationship was at a budding stage. “Saif gifts Kareena jewellery quite often. Everytime he gifts her a diamond or an emerald, it doesn't really qualify as an engagement or pre-wedding gift," the source added.

Rubbishing the news of their engagement, spokesperson of the couple said that they are not engaged. He added that they are not in the mood to talk of engagement or marriage.

Well, we hope the engagement rumour will die down as the spokesperson of the couple has declared loud and clear that they don"t have marriage plan anytime soon!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Putin declines to host China's future premier

Vladimir Putin has refused to host a top Chinese official tipped to become China's next Prime Minister due to his busy agenda ahead of polls putting a strain on bilateral ties, a newspaper said today.
Kommersant broadsheet, citing sources in the Russian-Chinese inter-governmental commission, the Russian

foreign ministry and the government, said that vice premier Li Keqiang tagged to become China's next Prime Minister, had wanted this month to visit Russia to meet Prime Minister Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.
The newspaper said that Li had however cancelled the visit because the Russian government indicated Putin would not be available to host him due to his busy agenda ahead of March presidential elections in which the Russian Prime Minister plans to win back his old Kremlin job.

"There's so much fuss over these elections, there's no time for him," the newspaper quoted a government source as saying. Putin is facing the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in December.

The Kremlin also did not give a definitive answer as to whether Medvedev would be available to mee with Li, who has never been to Russia before, the report said.

A new generation of leaders must take over the reins of power in China within a year. President Hu Jintao will end his second five-year term as party head this year, while Li is expected to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao who will resign in 2013.

The reported cancellation of the visit comes after Russia declined Hu's proposal to conduct a joint forum of the two countries' ruling parties during Putin's visit to China last October ahead of parliamentary elections in Russia, Kommersant said.

Russian foreign ministry officials are hoping Li could visit Russia later in the year, the newspaper added. Russia, the world's largest energy producer, and China, the world's largest energy consumer, set much store by their bilateral ties.

Putin has paid frequent visits to China in his capacity as President and Prime Minister since he took power in 1999. In 2010, he hosted vice president Xi Jinping who is widely expected to take over Hu's posts as head of the party and head of state.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kolkata does a Jaipur, cancels Taslima Nasrin's book launch

The official release of controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin's biography 'Nirbasan' was cancelled at the Kolkata Book Fair today because of 'logistical problems'.
But speculation has it that fair organisers Publishers and Booksellers Guild have bowed to the demands of Muslim hawks.

Later, Nasrin tweeted: ''Kolkata Book Fair committee canceled my book release program today at Kolkata Book Fair. Why? Some religious fanatics don't want it to happen.''

The seventh part of 'Nirbasan' was to be released at one of the auditoriums in fair venue, the Milan Mela grounds.

In the morning, Nasrin had responded to a question from 'The Indian Express' on Twitter, stating she could not attend the release function because restrictions on her stay in West Bengal were still in place. ''I am not allowed to enter West Bengal,'' she said.

Asked what she thought about stopping the book release, Nasrin said, ''Kolkata, a city of progressive! A book release even w/o my presence not possible! All political parties, all organisations afraid of fanatics! But how long’.

'Nirbasan' (Exile) talks about her days spent away from her 'adopted city' Kolkata after she was deported from here four years ago.

Convener of the Guild Raju Barman said, ''We didn’t stop it. However, the auditorium where it was supposed to take place was not ready. So, we told them it can’t happen today.''

Nasrin was bundled out of Kolkata in 2007, as protests against a chapter in her book 'Dwikhandito' escalated into a riot-like situation. She has still not been able to return to the city, despite a new government, which as the Opposition in 2007, had strongly criticised the CPI(M) government’s decision to send her away.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

‘Syrian regime’s fall inevitable’

WASHINGTON/DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will inevitably collapse in the face of mounting protests, the US spy chief said on Tuesday.

“I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told senators. “I personally believe it’s a question of time but that’s the issue, it could be a long time.”

The opposition was “fragmented” but was piling growing pressure on Assad, said Clapper, adding that it remained unclear what would follow after the Syrian leader’s departure. CIA director David Petraeus, testifying at the same hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also described the regime as increasingly at risk.

The opposition had displayed “resilience” and the regime now faced challenges in Damascus and Aleppo, two cities that had been seen as insulated from the unrest, said Petraeus, a retired four-star general who served as commander in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think it has shown indeed how substantial the opposition to the regime is and how it is in fact growing and how increasing areas are becoming beyond the reach of the regime security forces,” he said.

The fall of Assad’s regime would deliver a major blow to Iran, which relies on Syria as a vital logistics link to Hizbullah in Lebanon, he said.

Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition urged the international community to act and deplored its failure to stop “massacres” amid spiralling violence ahead of a UN Security Council showdown on Tuesday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in neighbouring Jordan for talks on Middle East peace, urged the Security Council to overcome bitter differences over Syria to increase pressure to end the bloodshed.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading a Western charge to press Russia to back Security Council action to stop a crackdown on dissent the United Nations says has killed more than 5,400 people in the past 10 months.

Veto-wielding Russia has objected to a resolution introduced by Morocco which calls for the regime to put an immediate stop to violence against protesters and for President Bashar al-Assad to hand power to his deputy.

“I don’t think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, stressing that while the Syrian president was not an ally, it was not up to other nations to interfere.

The text seen by AFP calls for the formation of a unity government leading to “transparent and free elections,” while stressing there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria. Assad’s government has already flatly rejected a similarly worded resolution proposed by the Arab League.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said on Tuesday that pushing the resolution through would be the “path towards civil war” in a country where an increasingly bold insurgency is harrowing regime forces.

The opposition Syrian National Council deplored the international community’s lack of “swift action” to protect civilians “by all necessary means,” in a statement on Facebook. The SNC, the most representative group opposed to Assad, reaffirmed the “people’s determination to fight for their freedom and dignity,” stressing they “will not give up their revolution, whatever the sacrifices.”

The head of the now defunct Arab League observer mission to Syria, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said there had been a marked upsurge in violence since last Tuesday. Nearly 400 people have been killed since.

On Monday alone, almost 100 people, including 55 civilians, were killed during a regime assault on the city of Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The unrest, which also saw 25 soldiers killed, marked one of the bloodiest days of a revolt that erupted in March, inspired by a wave of Arab uprisings that last year overthrew authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

On Tuesday, at least 22 people were killed, all but one of them civilians, the Observatory said. Seven civilians and a soldier were killed in Idlib province in the northwest and 14 civilians were killed in Homs.

'SRK, Salman and Aamir are very big actors compared to me'

What sort of preparation did you do to plausibly portray an action hero in a spy thriller?
All sorts of things and they were pretty tiring. They sent me to Vietnam to learn a particular form of martial arts, and then there were driving lessons and training on riding the motorcycle. Thank god there weren't any dance classes!

Shah Rukh has made his most ambitious film Ra.One, Salman has been doing what he does best with DabanggReadyBodyguard. Even Aamir is on a great swing. Is Agent Vinod your biggest film yet?

They are very big actors compared to me and I wouldn't want to compare myself with any of them. I think if you have been in the industry for a long time, you should realise your dreams in some way or the other. 

I have just done the same thing through my own production house. It doesn't matter to me what others are doing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

THE BIG WEB COM- Complete Web Portal

Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich!

Samsung and Google postponed the announcement of the Galaxy Nexus in respect to Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Inc., who died on October 5. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd  unveiled its Galaxy Nexus smartphone, the first to use the latest version of Google's Android operating system.
Samsung and Google postponed the announcement of the Galaxy Nexus in respect to Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Inc., who died on October 5. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd unveiled its Galaxy Nexus smartphone, the first to use the latest version of Google's Android operating system.

Can Politicians Make Us Happy?

A happiness survey by Gallup Korea at the end of last year revealed a number of interesting things about how Koreans feel about their lives. First, the level of happiness was not directly proportional to the level of economic growth. In the survey, 52 percent of Koreans said they were happy, while 40 percent said somewhat happy and 8 percent unhappy. That was similar to a survey conducted 20 years ago which showed 52 percent of Koreans saying they were happy, 42 percent somewhat happy and 6 percent unhappy. Per-capita gross national income increased around three times, from US$8,402 in 1993 to $23,000 last year, but the happiness index has remained virtually unchanged.

The second interesting thing the latest survey revealed was that attitudes toward happiness vary significantly according to subjective views on living conditions rather than actual income. When respondents who said they were happy were broken down by income, 57 percent of those who make more than W5 million (US$1=W1,124) felt happy, compared to 52 percent of respondents who earned between W2 million to W4.99 million and 50 percent of those who make less than W2 million. In other words, there was no marked difference in the proportion of people who were happy in different income groups.

This could be seen as evidence that efforts to narrow the income disparity in society may not have a direct impact on happiness. But when respondents were asked whether they considered themselves to be in the upper, middle or lower class, 71 percent of those who considered themselves upper class said they were happy, compared to 55 percent of those who considered themselves middle class and only 35 percent of those who considered themselves lower class. In other words, happiness seems dependent not on the amount of money but on the status it brings.

Men in their 40s and 50s with high salaries but exposed to stiff competition and the responsibilities of feeding their families were the least happy with 43 percent for each age group. Among respondents in their 20s and 30s, who are opinion leaders on the Internet, 60 percent said they were happy. Derek Bok of Harvard University wrote in his book "The Politics of Happiness" that happiness is a value that transcends the ideology of money often characterized by contradictory arguments between conservatives who focus on touting economic growth and liberals who pursue equitable distribution. Bok cites six decisive factors for happiness -- marriage, health, work, personal relations, volunteer or religious activities and quality of government -- and points out that governments need to speed up efforts to strengthen job creation, retirement benefits, public healthcare and public education.

Park Geun-hye of the ruling Grand National Party said in a radio address early this year, "The most important policy objective now must be the happiness of the public." Han Myeong-sook of the Democratic Unity Party, said on Jan. 15, right after being elected as party chief, "I will create a country in which the majority of the public is happy." The Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, a Buddhist monk who is the mentor of software tycoon and presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo, said in a recent lecture, "The objective of politics must be to ensure the happiness and freedom of the public."

Listening to the pledges of politicians makes it sound as though victory by either side would make a majority happier. But a survey by Hangil Research last month showed that 68 percent of Koreans named politicians as the main cause of misfortune in our society. Politicians may be competing to make people happy, but a majority of Koreans simply pray that they do not ruin what little they have to feel happy about.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

High-level offensive launched on Syria at UN

UNITED NATIONS -- Western and Arab nations launched a major diplomatic offensive at the U.N. on Tuesday in hopes of overcoming Russia's opposition to a resolution demanding that Syrian President Bashar Assad relinquish power.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the British and French foreign ministers traveled to New York for the afternoon Security Council session on the situation in Syria. Nabil Elaraby, the chief of the Arab League, and Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani, Qatar's prime minister, also were to brief council members.

"Realizing the hopes of the Syrian people is in your hands," Sheikh Hamad told council members, asking them to adopt the resolution, based on the Arab League's peace plan for the country. "It is part of your responsibility under the (U.N.) charter."

It was unclear if the high-level push would succeed.

Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the council, has objected to the draft, which is backed by Western and some Arab powers. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Tuesday on Twitter that the resolution is a "path to civil war."

Russia says it worries that the new measure could lead to military action and regime change, just as an Arab-backed U.N. resolution led to NATO airstrikes in Libya that allowed rebels to oust the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

Backers of the draft point out that it says specifically that "nothing ... compels states to resort to the use of force or the threat of force."

An actual vote on the resolution was considered unlikely until later this week.

The debate came amid rising violence Tuesday in Homs, a Syrian center of opposition to Assad's regime. The U.N. estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed since last March in the Syrian government crackdown against protesters.

The draft resolution demands that Assad halt the crackdown and implement an Arab League peace plan calling for him to hand over power to his vice president. If Assad fails to comply within 15 days, the council would consider "further measures," a reference to a possible move to impose economic or other sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, that he was "encouraged by the League of Arab States' initiative to seek a political solution" to the Syrian crisis.

"It is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms," Ban said.

If Russia choses to use its veto, there isn't much more council members can do except draft a nonbinding statement that would have to be approved by consensus.

In October, a Western-backed resolution condemning the violence in Syria was blocked by a double veto of Russia and fellow permanent member China.

Syria has been Moscow's top ally in the Middle East since Soviet times, when it was led by the incumbent's father, Hafez Assad. The Kremlin saw it as a bulwark for countering U.S. influence in the region.

While Russia's relations with Israel have improved greatly since the Soviet collapse, ties with Damascus helped Russia retain its clout as a member of the Quartet of international mediators trying to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

For decades, Syria has been a major customer for Russian arms, buying billions of dollars worth of combat jets, missiles, tanks and other heavy weapons.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group U.N. Watch, said it was time for Russia to end "its increasingly futile effort to shield the doomed Assad regime.

"Russia would do better to prepare the dictator's Moscow asylum, something he will need sooner rather than later," Neuer said.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Impeachment petitions accepted

The Constitution Court on Wednesday accepted for consideration two separate petitions filed by Pheu Thai and Democrat MPs, each seeking the removal of MPs of the rival party, court spokesman Pimol Thampithakpong said.

The first petition was filed by 83 Pheu Thai MPs led by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok asking the Constitution Court's to rule whether Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader, and Warong Dejkitwikrom, a Democrat MP for Phitsanulok had lost their House membership under Sections 91, 106(6), and 266(1) of the constitution for ordering the Phitsanulok governor to give them 500 survival kit bags issued by the Energy Ministry.

The two then distributed the bags to flood-hit people in Phitsanulok.  This was an interference in the work of state officials, the petition alleged.

The second petition was filed by 153 Democrat MPs led by Mr Abhisit, asking the Constitution Court to rule whether eight Pheu Thai MPs had lost their parliamentary status for using their positions to interfere in the management of flood relief supplies by state officials.

The eight MPs are Pol Gen Pracha Promnok, Karun Hosakul, Surachart Thienthong, Vorachai Hema, Tanusak Lek-uthai, Charupong Ruangsuwan, Vicharn Minchainant, and Jirayu Huangsap.

Mr Pimol said the court judges met today to consider the petitions and decided to take them for consideration since they met all requirements stated in the constitution.

'Kareena is not too fond of doing action'

You look in your comfort zone when you are doing action scenes. Can the same be said about Kareena Kapoor?

Well, she pulls off the scenes pretty well but she does tell me that she isn't too fond of doing action. She has this very intense expression on her face while she does it. 

As far as I am concerned, I thought it would be a lot of fun, but let me assure you, it was brutal and painful. I had multi-coloured bruises all over my body at the end of every day at the shoot. I did the stunts myself and it was very frightening but then you have to earn your bread, no? It is not easy. If romantic comedies are about the right timings, action is even more demanding. 

Any incident that involved Kareena?

We were shooting this intense chase sequence that ended up in combat in a parking lot where a lot of gunfire had to be there. Kareena came up to me and said, let's shoot the scene but do away with the guns. I was perplexed. 

She said she didn't want to hear the gunshots, and that it should be handled in post-production. I was like, "Somebody please talk to the heroine."

The Coral Reef

Coral Reefs, which are known as the Rainforests of the Sea, are home to an amazing variety of plants and animals - some of which are even now probably not known to mankind.

Coral Reefs :

Coral Reefs are the colonies created by the porous limestone skeletons of the Coral Polyps, which are tiny creatures related to the sea anemones. As the Polyps die, new ones grow over their skeletons and thus the colony extends and spreads.

Coral Polyps have sac-like bodies with a central mouth surrounded by tentacles through which ingestion and egestion of food takes place. Coral Polyps share a symbiotic relationship with the Zooxanthellae Algae that they harbor inside them and which are responsible for the colorful appearance of Coral - Zooxanthellae, with the help of Photosynthesis, provides the Polyps with much-needed Oxygen and Food while the Polyps in turn provide the Algae with the waste that they need for growth. As Sunlight is the main requirement for photosynthesis and thereby this relationship, Coral Reefs can be found only in areas where the water is clear and transparent enough for sunlight to penetrate.

Places where Coral Reefs occur and the Different Types of Reefs :

Coral Reefs are found mainly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in regions where the warm sea currents occur and the usual temperatures are between 21 - 30 °C. Places where Coral Reefs are found - Eastern Coast of Africa, Southern Coast of India, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, China, the Red Sea, the North-East and North-West Australian Coasts, Polynesia, the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, Brazil, Belize.

The following four major types of Reefs are seen in these regions :

Fringing Reefs - These occur, as the name suggests, directly on the fringes of the shoreline.

Barrier reefs - These are separated from the shoreline by deep lagoons.

Atoll Reefs - These are the reefs found on the raised brims of underwater volcanoes.

Patch Reefs - These are small, unattached, and isolated formations.

The Great Barrier Reef on Australia's North-Eastern Coast measures over 2000 kms and is the largest Reef in the World.

Importance of Coral Reefs :

Coral Reefs are called the Rainforests of the Sea. This is because they are home to an amazingly vast variety of plants and animals - some of which are even now probably not known to mankind. Aside from the environmental importance of this diverse ecosystem, Coral Reefs are of great economic interest as they provide valuable and much-needed sources of food, medicine, and other daily use products.

They also promote income sources for the Tourism Industry - Diving Tours, Shops, Hotels, Restaurants, and other such related businesses.

Coral Reefs protect the shorelines from eroding by absorbing the impact of the stronger, more destructive waves. Much of the Florida Keys would be underwater now if it weren't for the Coral Reefs surrounding its shorelines. Reefs also provide shelters ports, harbors as well as for the economically viable coastal wetlands.

Coral Reefs absorb Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and help reduce Global Warming.

Creatures of the Coral Reefs :

More than 5000 varieties of Marine Creatures and 2500 varieties of Coral are found in Coral Reefs. Algae and Seagrasses are the two main types of plants found.

Some of the creatures found in the Coral Reef are - Anemones, Sponges, Blacktip Reef Sharks, Epaulet Sharks, Zebra Sharks, Octopus, Squids, Dwarf Seahorses, the Chambered Nautilus, Clownfish, Parrot Fish, Angelfish, Square Spot Fish, Blue Tang Fish, Scorpion Fish, Yellow-headed Jawfish, Zebra Morays, Giant Clams, Xantid Crabs, Sea Worms, Sea Urchins, Jelly fish, Oysters, Turtles, Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, Cone Snails, the Giant Triton Shell, Shrimps, Lobsters, Sea Cucumbers, and Cleaner Wrassers.

Some of the different types of Corals found are - Brain Coral, Staghorn Coral, and Elkhorn Coral, which are hard, reef-building Corals. Sea Finger and Sea Whips are soft, non-reef-building corals.

All of these organisms live in mutual interactions with one another and produce an extraordinary variety of chemicals for attracting prey, for distracting or destroying predators, for reproducing, and for numerous other purposes. Many of these chemicals can be utilized by the Pharmaceutical Industry for manufacturing new drugs to treat AIDS, Cancer, and other diseases.

Threats to the Coral Reefs :

Coral Reefs are very delicate structures and are unfortunately very susceptible to damage. If sunlight or other conditions are not favorable, the Zooxanthellae cannot photosynthesize and stand to be expelled by the stressed Coral Polyps - the polyps, in turn, cannot survive without the Zoonxanthellae and turn white as they die out. This is called bleaching. Sometimes Coral Polyps survive from effects of bleaching, but since they are extremely slow-growing organisms, it takes a very long time for the reef to recover. Sometimes, in cases of vast scale damage, there is no chance of recovery and as a result the entire ecosystem of creatures depending upon them for survival is wiped out.

Storms are especially hazardous to Coral Reefs, but in the present age Man-made dangers pose a larger and deadlier threat. Some of these are - Overfishing, Uncontrolled Coastal Development, Water Pollution, Sedimentation, Dredging, Dynamiting, Spearfishing, Oil Spills, Ship Wrecks, Boat Anchors. Diving Tourism has also not always helped matters as often many divers show little concern for the reefs or their inhabitants and destroy them by touching with hands or diving equipment. The Pet Trade for the exotic Reef Fish has also negatively affected the health of Coral Reefs.

Given the present rate of destruction, it is very apparent that we will lose more than 70 % of the Coral Reefs in the next ten years. This in turn will give rise to grave consequences, both ecologically and economically.

Conservation Efforts :

Coral Reefs can only be saved if more and more people are made aware of both their importance and the dangers posed, and if the Coral resources are used in sustainable ways, without degradation and over-exploitation.

In recent times, to mention two positive examples, the people of Ambergris Caye in Belize and of Kenting in Taiwan have woken up to the need for conservation and are working on preserving the coral reefs in their areas.

Priyanka hug Kareena at an event

Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor’s cold war is not hidden to anyone.  But in a recent event, Priyanka Chopra made the first move, went to Kareena who was sitting a distance apart and gave her a warm hug.

Priyanka and Bebo actually was not on good terms due to Piggy Chops on and off relationship with Kareena’s ex-flame Shahid Kapoor. Says an onlooker, "As soon as she saw Kareena seated, Priyanka walked up to her and bent over her to give her a warm hug. Bebo reciprocated. For a few moments they exchanged niceties and PC went back to her seat."

Adds the onlooker, "Everyone was taken by surprise by PC's move." Last year, at the annual police mela PC took the initiative and went up to Kareena and said let’s forget what has happened and begin anew. They also danced together with SRK.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ASEAN committed to giving wider access to disabled people

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Wardana said ASEAN was committed to providing wider access to people with disabilities and recognizing their potential to contribute to the implementation of all action lines in the ASEAN Community blueprint for 2015.

Speaking at the "Regional Dialogue on Access to Elections for Persons with Disabilities" in Jakarta on Wednesday, Wardana said the blueprint included the socio-cultural sectors of the ASEAN community of the role and participation of the persons with disabilities as outlined in the Bali Declaration in 2011.

"We have to provide a strong basis for our collaboration among people and governments to repeal improper laws on the disabled and issue inclusive regulations for all," Wardana said.

He said according to the Bali Declaration 2011, there were three vital elements that should be emphasized , the first being y the proclamation of the ASEAN decade of persons with disabilities in the period 2011-2020 indicating the need for a systemic agenda and program to integrate disabled people issues into the building of the ASEAN Community.

The second was mainstreaming the disabled people perspective in the development and implementation of ASEAN policies and programs across the economic, political security and socio-cultural pillars of the ASEAN Community.

Wardana said this was a clear statement on the importance of the inclusion of the disabled people perspective in all ASEAN policies and programs as disabled people issues are cross-cutting ones that involve all aspects of the work of ASEAN.

"The third is the encouragement of the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects, including in political activities by providing them with equal political rights in the election of leaders and parliamentarians at local and national levels," he said.

The "Regional Dialogue on Access to Elections for Persons with Disabilities" with the theme of enhancing the role and participation of persons with disabilities and promoting election access for all is being held by the Disability Rights for the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) on February 1-2 and partcipated in by representatives of disabled people organizations in ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, and the US.

Medicines from the Coral Reef Ecosystem

Humans have been attempting to understand and use oceanic resources since ancient times. Coral Reef products have been traditionally used for treating various ailments in Taiwan, Japan, China, and India. In Europe, where the comparatively deep-water coral reefs remained unexplored until later ages, the benefits of Coral and Coral Organisms became known only in the ninth century with the westward spread of Islam; the invading Asiatic Muslims brought with them highly sophisticated Medical knowledge and methods thus far unknown to the Europeans. The Persian Philosopher Al-Kindi, writing in 830 A.D., mentions the use of Coral in his book "Medical Formulary", and in Penaranda de Duero in Spain, where the world's oldest pharmacy was established in 1685 and has now been turned into a Museum, jars of powdered Coral are displayed and its various health advantages are documented in the reference book "Palestra Farmaceutica Quimico-Alencia" written in 1792 by Felix Palacios. The nineteenth century oversaw an extraordinary advance in marine research; in one instance, a Scientist named Dr. Bottard, who was researching the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, actually injected himself with Stone-fish poison to study the paralysis caused by the toxin! These days, with high-tech methods available for chemical analysis, researchers fortunately don't have to go to such lengths. Marine Pharmacology, in its modern form, has gained in scope and importance with technological and medical advances and the need for newer, more effective treatments.

Modern medicines are manufactured from a wide-ranging variety of chemicals that are usually obtained from divergently placed natural sources. In recent times, marine sources have begun to take precedence over the terrestrial ones as the former produce relatively more kinds of the required chemicals and, as in the case of Coral Reefs, these can all be obtained from the same area. Coral Reefs are among the most biologically varied ecosystems on Earth and are home to incredibly diverse kinds of plants and animals that live together in mutually beneficial relationships. Amongst them probably, even now, are certain species that haven't even yet been discovered!

Apart from Corals, which have Calcium and 74 other life-enhancing minerals, some of the Coral Reef organisms that hold special importance for the Pharmaceutical Companies are invertebrates like Sponges, Tunicates, Bryozoans, and Octocorals that are permanently attached to some surface. Since they are immobile, it becomes necessary for them to produce chemicals for either attracting prey or repelling predators, for reproducing, and many other purposes. Many of these chemicals have been found to have important antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties, and are therefore highly sought.

Formerly, large numbers of marine organisms were required to obtain very small amounts of the needed chemicals and Corals too were indiscriminately harvested. In both cases, this badly affected their marine population and thereby the delicate Reef ecosystem. Nowadays, fortunately, this isn't necessary. Genetic engineering has made it possible to extract the required DNA from a minuscule tissue sample. This DNA is then cloned and produces the necessary chemical in greater amounts. It is also now possible to grow aquacultures of some organisms in laboratories. This is good news for the marine ecology as well as medical research. However many bio-active marine products are extremely complex and will require still more research before they can be prepared artificially.

The marine chemical extracts, before being cleared for medical purposes, are first tested for effectiveness on animals. If the extract can competently reduce inflammations or kill cancer cells or do whatever is expected, it is then tried out on humans. If it proves as beneficial here and shows no toxic side effects, it stands a chance of going into commercial production. All this is a very long, expensive process.

At present, marine chemical extracts like histamines, hormones, antibiotics, and secosteroids have helped create drugs like AZT, Ara-A, Ara-C, and Dolostatin 10, which combat AIDS, Cancer, Asthma, Arthritis, and Inflammatory Disorders. They are also proving beneficial for people with heart, kidney, and liver transplants. Corals have been used in human bone-grafting and Cone Snail poison has been used to produce a painkiller.

It is necessary to develop new, more effective drugs as many diseases have unfortunately become resistant to commonly used drugs. With over 7000 potentially useful marine species being currently studied by scientists, Marine pharmaceutical research offers promising possibilities. In the next few years, it may be possible to avail of new therapeutic drugs for treating or, hopefully, even curing life-threatening illnesses like AIDS and Cancer. For such benefits, however, the underwater medicine chest must first be adequately protected and conserved.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fred Goodwin: decision to strip knighthood was result of 'anti-business hysteria'

The decision to strip Fred Goodwin of his Knighthood has been condemned by politicians and business leaders who have accused the government of allowing “anti-business hysteria” to take over.

The shamed RBS former chief executive had his honour annulled by the Forfeiture Committee after overseeing the biggest failure in British banking history, resulting in a £45 billion bailout by the taxpayer.
But the decision has been criticised by many leading business figures who argue that he has been unfairly singled out for his role in the banking crisis and has become the victim of a “lynch mob” mentality.
Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling said the decision to remove Mr Goodwin’s honour was “tawdry” insisting there were other bankers with honours who could equally be punished for their reckless actions.

Coral Reefs: Coral Plants and Animals

Coral Plants and Animals

A home to millions of coral plants and animals, coral reefs are amongst the most biologically diverse regions on Mother Earth. Here's a look at how coral reefs play an important part in the biogeochemical cycle.

There is another world that exists apart from our lives. I am talking about a life beneath the deep blue seas, a life that holds mysteries and new discoveries for mankind. Also a life that humans tend to infiltrate, and sometimes for the wrong reasons.

Coral reefs have been around for the last 25 million years and are now almost endangered. They are a result of the production that has occurred all these years. Coral reefs provide a habitat for numerous other sea creatures. Let us take a look at how coral reefs are amongst the most diverse and productive communities on Mother Earth.

Coral Reefs:
For the last 25 million years, coral reefs are amongst the most biologically diverse regions on Earth. Often a mystery, coral reefs were called an animal, a plant animal or a plant. Corals are actually a result of a combination of plant and animal life. It contains microscopic structures of plants known as algae. These live within the corals.

Algae that live within the corals are called zooxanthellae. The tiny animals called polyps, which are connected by a living tissue actually constitute the corals. The polyps only exist in the uppermost area of the coral reef. A reef is a structure found in the shallow parts of the ocean. (This serves as a home to animals and plants). Sunken ships are also known to have turned into reefs. As one sees new layers of the reef being built, these polyps with their algae soon depart. And every time we can see new layer of the reef structure.

Coral reefs are categorized into three types:
Barrier reefs- Barrier reefs grow parallel to the shoreline. They are separated by water from the mainland.
Fringing reefs- Fringing reefs are permanent with the landmass.
Atolls- Atolls are islands. These are made of coral surrounding a central lagoon.

Coral Reef Plants:
The main types of plants that are found in the coral reef environment are basically algae and seagrasses. These are the most important element in the entire reef ecosystem. The algae can range in various sizes. They can be simple plants such as the zooxanthellae or the common known seaweeds. Seaweeds are multicellular branching forms. These provide food to the corals through photosynthesis.

The multicellular algae are divided into two types-
Coralline Algae:
These spread out in thin layers over the surface. They are made of masses of very fine thread like filaments and these filaments produce calcium carbonate, which in turn gives these algae a rock -like appearance. These are very important to stabilize the coral reef structure.

Calcareous Algae:
These produce calcium carbonate (limestone) and are known to grow erect. The limestone in turn produces the sand that is found on the beaches when these degenerate.

The seagrass beds are flowering plants. These provide shelter to sea creatures such as the conch or the lobsters. Tiny organisms are also known to live in their leaves. The rhizomes or the stems of the sea grass (with roots attached) anchor the plant. They also keep the seawater clean as they trap large amounts of sediments. They play a very important role in preventing beach erosion.

Coral Reef Animals:
Coral reefs house at least 25% of life in the ocean. Animals use these as a shelter and these also are a prime source of food for them. Corals are mainly associated with sea anemones, sea jellies, sea urchins, sponges, worms, rays, lobsters, snails etc. Corals are themselves seen in a variety of colors like blue or brown. This is because of the presence of zooxanthellae within their tissues. This leads to the natural pigmentation, which in turn gives the color to the corals.

Today, we can see massive deterioration of the coral reefs. The causes however are uncertain. Experts have proven the coral reefs are beneficial and they are also an important part of the ecosystem. Coral reefs are also used as a part of various medicines for treatment of specific ailments. But with the constant destruction of the coral reefs, the scientists have now warned the next few years may see us lose these beautiful structures. Irresponsible human activities that lead to pollution, erosion and causes global warming are the main reasons behind their disappearance.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What about a rescue deal for Euro-democracy?

One outraged Greek government minister described it as ‘the product of a sick imagination’. Another called it ‘absolutely laughable’. The formal title of the document in question is ‘Assurance of Compliance in the Second GRC Programme’. It is neither a joke, nor a sick fantasy. It reads more like the draft of a death warrant for democracy, first in Greece and then elsewhere in Europe.

This supposedly secret document was issued by Angela Merkel’s German government to its partners in the Eurozone – and then carefully leaked, to ensure maximum impact. It sets out two extraordinary measures that the Germans want to impose to ensure that the Greek authorities comply with the swingeing budget cuts which they promised but have apparently failed to deliver to the markets’ satisfaction.

First, it says Greece must ‘legally commit itself to giving absolute priority to future debt service’. All state revenues must go first to paying debts and interest due, before a cent can be spent on public services. And the Greek government will not be allowed to threaten to default on its debts in future; if it cannot pay, it must accept that ‘further cuts’ will be ‘the only possible consequence’.

Second, the Germans want the Eurozone to oversee the ‘transfer of national budgetary sovereignty’ from Greece to ‘the European level’ under a ‘strict steering and control system’. The plan is for the Eurozone group to appoint a budget commissioner to oversee Greek finances, with the power ‘to veto decisions not in line with the budgetary targets’ set by European and international officials. If that was not humiliating enough, the Greeks would also have to look happy to bend the knee by ensuring that this new system of outside control ‘is fully enshrined in national law, preferably through constitutional amendment’.

To get the Greeks to agree to these unprecedented conditions, the German document also offers incentives – or as we used to call it, threats. If Athens does not accept the compliance measures, then ‘the Eurozone will not be able to approve guarantees for GRC II’. That is the second huge bailout of €130 billion which Greece desperately needs if it is not to go officially bust in weeks. The ‘Assurance of Compliance’ document is a ‘secret’ blackmail note.

Unsurprisingly, the publication of these proposals caused some consternation in the run-up to yet another Euro-crisis summit this week. While Greek ministers ranted about it as a sick joke, more photoshopped images of Merkel-as-Hitler appeared in Athens. British Tory MPs joined in the re-enactment of the Second World War, with one declaring that the Germans were sending a Nazi-style gauleiter to run Greece.

Even other Eurozone governments appeared taken aback by the bluntness of the proposals. One senior official involved in the Greek rescue package was quoted as saying that ‘the Germans have a lot of influence, but that goes a little beyond the limits the outer member states could support’. Those states outside the Franco-German core of the Eurozone are worried that, where democracy in Greece goes today, so their democracy might follow tomorrow. And they are right to be worried. The latest plan – agreed to by the UK – to allow the judges of the European Court to punish democratic nations that fail to stick to the Franco-German rules on spending shows which way the wind is blowing across the continent.


However, whether these precise punitive measures get written into the Greek constitution or (most likely) not is really beside the point. The fact is that ‘national budgetary sovereignty’ has already effectively been ‘transferred’ from Greece. The Greek economy is already being run by foreign officials – from the ‘Troika’ of the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Before the Germans circulated their new proposals to the Eurozone states, the Troika had already delivered its latest demands to the Greek government, which it insists must be fulfilled before the new bailout can be agreed. Their 10-page blackmail note includes demands for 150,000 public-sector job cuts, and for further big cuts in public spending this year, notably on health.

It was telling that, when the leak of the ‘secret’ German proposals sparked a political furore, the German government’s reaction was not to show any embarrassment, but openly to reiterate its case. Germany’s right-wing economic minister Phillip Roesler took to the media to spell out that, if the Greeks could not make the cuts, then ‘the leadership and monitoring must come in a stronger way from outside, for example via the EU’. And the French Socialist Christine Lagarde, now head of the IMF, backed them up, with headlines declaring ‘IMF tells Greece it will lose control of budget for bailout’. Nothing secret about that.

Moreover, as well as assuming authority over the national budget, the Eurozone authorities have already overthrown parliamentary democracy in Greece.

We might recall what happened after prime minister George Panandreou suggested a referendum to consult the Greek people on the austerity package. The self-appointed ‘Frankfurt Group’ of the Euro-elite – comprising the heads of the German and French governments, European Commission, ECB and IMF – were appalled by this slightest whiff of democracy. They twisted Papandreou’s arm, not only to make him withdraw the referendum, but to resign from office.

In his place as prime minister they installed the supposedly non-political ‘technocrat’ Lucas Papademos to force through their austerity plans for Greece. German frustration at his failure to cut quickly and deeply enough led to last week’s draconian scheme. But Papademos is still there at the bidding of the Euro-elite, not the Greek people.

And we shouldn’t expect the Greek political establishment to struggle for democracy. None of the major political parties wants to be seen supporting the austerity measures in the run-up to April’s Greek elections. That is why they all took the opportunity to lay into the German government document over the weekend. But they all accept the need to satisfy the international lenders and get the next huge handout. As chief technocrat Papademos put it over the weekend, all of the parties backing his coalition are in ‘total convergence’ on the need to force through austerity measures. His rallying cry was: ‘We will put up a hard fight to guarantee the country’s place in Europe and the Eurozone. United we can succeed.’ The Greek political elite will unite to ‘fight hard’, not for its democracy, but for its subordinate place at the foot of the Frankfurt Group’s table.

Even if the German government’s draft death warrant is never officially issued by the Euro-group, the reality is that democracy in Greece has long been a terminal-looking case on its death bed. And the leading political parties look less likely to fight to revive it than volunteer to assist in its euthanasia. There is a crying need for somebody to breath life into the democratic struggle.

However, what nobody needs are politicians or protesters pretending this is a re-run of the German occupation of Greece during the Second World War. Such comparisons only ever denigrate history and distort the present.

Merkel’s Germany is not an expansionist ‘Fourth Reich’ aggressively seeking to conquer Europe. It is a relatively strong yet slightly insecure European power, defensive about the failure of its EU dream and trying hard to hold the Euro-club together by keeping fringe members such as Greece in line. The ambivalence in German attitudes toward their own power is evident in this latest episode. They were bold enough to put in writing their demands for Greeks to surrender economic sovereignty, yet sufficiently bashful to want to hide behind the Euro-group and avoid imposing these measures in their own name. The leading candidate for the post of budget commissioner – the gauleiter, as it were – was reportedly a Finnish EU official whose main qualification for the job was that ‘he is not German’.

Perhaps the only comparison between Hitler and Merkel’s Germany here is that neither wanted to invade Greece; Hitler only got sucked in to bail out his Italian fascist allies after the Greeks kicked Mussolini’s backside. But there the similarities end abruptly. Many thousands of Greeks starved to death under the Nazis, even in Athens, or were executed in mass reprisals after the Greek resistance struck at the occupying forces. It seems unlikely that the current German authorities are about to switch from writing strongly worded documents about Greece to burning down a thousand Greek villages.

One other sign of how far things have changed is the British attitude to the Greek and wider Euro-crisis today. Despite Britain’s alleged ‘isolation’ from Europe, Tory chancellor George Osborne has supported calls for greater financial integration in the Eurozone – that is, more central control over the budgets of indebted states such as Greece. Osborne said at last week’s Davos economic summit that to stabilise the Euro, wealthy Germany must make ‘permanent fiscal transfers’ to the poorer peripheral states, just as the UK capital subsidised the north of England. So keen is Osborne to see the Euro survive at all costs, he wants Germany to treat Greece as a province. Not exactly Winston Churchill, is it? (Though come to think of it, Churchill’s wartime government and its Labour successor did conspire with real Nazis and the Americans to shaft Greek democracy back then.)

Back in the present, meanwhile, the Greek people might be looking forward to the worst of all worlds. Not only is their political democracy being hacked up and handed over to technocrats, Eurocrats and budget commissioners, but the economic consequences will be dire. The austerity measures proposed by the bumbling Euro-authorities promise Greece nothing but misery for the foreseeable future.

One leading Greek economist says that the package to be imposed could not return Greece to growth ‘even if God and his angels were to descend upon Athens and put this in place’. As it is, the Greek people are being descended upon not by the three archangels, but by another Troika. More banal than angels but still other-worldly and, they would have us believe, omnipotent.

Saving the Corals and Coral Reefs

Today, with rapid destruction of the coral reefs, it is time you take a breather from your busy schedule and know how you can make a difference. Saving the corals and the coral reefs can be achieved even if you are miles away from the coastal line. Here are some ways you can use to help the environment.

Coral reefs are facing many threats by mankind. Sometimes humans cause intentional and even unintentional damage to the corals and the coral reefs without ever realizing the effects of the actions. Corals are a substance that is constituted from the remains of the polyps. One can generally find two kinds of corals beneath the sea- hard coral and the soft coral. The millions of coral polyp shells form the structure of the coral reef. The coral reef is composed not only of the millions of such structures but it also houses living organisms like algae, sponges, marine plants, fish etc.

Zooxanthellae is a kind of an algae that lives inside the corals. These are very essential for the survival of the coral reefs. They also add to the beauty of the corals, as zooxanthellae are also responsible for the attractive color of the corals. Even the common seaweeds are important to the corals as they provide the food through the process of photosynthesis.

Coral reefs can only thrive in a congenial environment. They need ample sunlight; narrow range of the temperature of the water and the salinity of the water should be around 34-37 parts per thousand. Shallow waters are the areas where we see these reefs thrive successfully, as the algae need to perform the photosynthesis. This is definitely not possible in deeper waters.

What is leading to the destruction of these coral reefs?

Man plays the major role in this case. Nature also has her own part to play. Sometimes, the hurricanes and such storms destroy a major portion of these reefs. A lot of marine animals such as the starfish even eat into the corals. The prime destruction of the coral reefs has been due to mankind. Global warming and the increase of pollution levels have created a lot of damage to these reefs.

The unhealthy fishing habits of humans are one of the prime reasons for the damage caused. There are many areas that still use an illegal process of blast fishing (Explosives that are sent into the coral reefs) and this causes harm to not only the coral reefs but also the other living organisms around. Fishermen also employ the use of spears and sometimes, it is this excess fishing that creates an imbalance in the natural food chain. Cyanide fishing is also another harmful practice employed by fishermen. Here the divers squeeze the cyanide into the crevices of the reefs. This in turn, stuns the fish making them an easier prey to the humans.

The increase in the pollution levels are also a prime concern to scientists all over the globe. Pollution affects the reefs in many ways one can ever imagine. For example, oil spills pollutes the water, which in turn enters the reefs through the corals. Once the polyps are affected, the entire reef faces damage. Waste products and the dumping of these in the seawater have contaminated the oceans. This can sometimes result in the over growth of algae. An excess of algae covering the reef causes the lesser intake of oxygen. The increase in the levels of the carbon dioxide in the water has made the coral structures weaker. This makes the reef more vulnerable.

The coral reefs are home to many other marine animals. They also are a major source of food. Humans need to understand while purchasing coral souvenirs, that these are also a major cause of the damage being caused to the coral reefs. Tourism has had a devastating effect on the coral reefs as these are being stripped of their natural cover to satisfy the increasing greed of the human race.

Global warming has now resulted in the rising temperatures of the ocean waters. Corals need lower temperatures for their food process. Any changes in the climate cause a loss of the algae covering the reefs. When the algae are unable to produce food from the process of photosynthesis, the reefs have to face ‘coral bleaching’. The coral bleaching is evident when the major area of the reefs turns white in color.

Saving the Corals and the Coral Reefs:

You can make a difference to the environment with every step you take. The coral reefs and Mother Earth would benefit largely if you follow some of these simple steps listed below:
When you operate a boat, ensure you have checked the engine equipment to avoid oil and gas spills. Also navigate the boat carefully to prevent any damage to the reefs.
When you go to your favorite restaurant for sumptuous seafood delights, ensure you avoid those items that are caught through illegal practices and usage of illegal equipment.
Try to use the public transport available or find other alternatives to travel (carpool) that would help in reducing the levels of pollution.
Be aware of the usage of water. Water is precious so use every drop with care. This is very important, as the less usage of water will reduce the amount of wastewater being dumped into our oceans.
When you feel the need to snorkel or scuba dive, ensure the authenticity of the operators. Make sure you gather information about them and know if they are aware and care for the coral reefs and the measures they undertake to preserve it. Most operators are out to make a quick buck so ensure you support only those people who are aware of their responsibilities towards the sea.
Plant a tree to reduce the rising temperatures caused by global warming.
As a tourist, you must be completely aware to avoid giving encouragement to those outlets that sell illegal souvenirs. There is only one way to put an end to this practice- Stop buying such souvenirs.
You too can help in the clean up of the coastal line. Avoid littering the beaches and support local groups that are actively involved in these causes.
Remember, you alone can make a difference. Every effort from your side can go a long way in saving the coral reefs.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Romney Hails A 'Great Victory' In Florida

Mitt Romney has won a landslide victory in Florida, turning round his campaign to position himself as the strongest contender for the Republican nomination to fight this year's US presidential election.

Returns from nearly half of Florida's precincts showed Mr Romney with 47% of the vote, to his main rival Newt Gingrich's 31%.
"Thank you FL!" Mr Romney tweeted minutes after the race was called. "While we celebrate this victory, we must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama."
Speaking to cheering and flag-waving supporters, he said he was ready "to lead this party and our nation".

Mr Romney bounced back with strong debate performances and an aggressive attack against Mr Gingrich.
The contest in Florida reached new depths of negative campaigning, where Mr Romney and campaign groups spent $15m (£9.5m) trying to demolish Mr Gingrich, outspending the former House Speaker by five to one.
The aggressiveness of the Florida campaign was in marked contrast to Mr Romney's victory speech, where he aimed to strike a more gracious tone.
"A competitive primary does not divide us," he told supporters in Tampa. "It prepares us, and we will win."
In victory he turned his aim from Mr Gingrich on to Mr Obama.
"Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses, Mr President," he said. "You were elected to lead. You chose to follow. Now it's time to get out of the way."
Florida is the first heavyweight state in the primary season, with two million people voting there compared to little more than 100,000 in Iowa, where the first contest was held.
Mr Gingrich has threatened to continue the fight all the way to the convention in Tampa in seven months.
The prospect of the former House Speaker "going rogue", in the words of one senior Republican, alarmed some in the party. That fear will have subsided considerably with Mr Romney's decisive victory in Florida.
But Mr Gingrich is not sounding any less belligerent.

"This will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate," he told supporters in Orlando.
A large banner hung over the rally proclaiming "46 States to Go".
Mr Gingrich said he is in it for the long haul: "We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August."
He may well mean it. Mr Gingrich revels in the role of fighting as underdog and has even more reason to resent Mr Romney now.
But he will be under enormous pressure not to continue this punishing battle for the good of the Republican party.
Former Republican candidate Herman Cain, who is now endorsing Mr Gingrich, told Sky News he was not worried by the prospect of a long nomination battle.
Two other candidates, former Senator Rick Santorum and congressman Ron Paul, remain in the Republican race, but they conceded Florida to their rivals and remain longshots for the nomination. Mr Santorum had 13% and Mr Paul 7%.
Mr Romney is generally considered the Republicans' strongest candidate to face Mr Obama, whose re-election prospects have been hurt by the slow US economic recovery.
But his shifting views on abortion and other social issues have led many Republicans to question his conservative credentials.

Palau, the Coral Reef Paradise

Considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the crystal clear and wonderfully warm water of Palau makes home to one of the most biologically diverse coral reefs in the world!

This is the home of over 1,500 species of fish and there have been over 700 different species of coral reefs recorded in this magic place. Coral reefs take a long time to grow and as they grew over time, geological forces pushed some of the coral reefs up out of the water and they can still be seen today, it is quite a wonder to behold; being pushed up out of the water did not stop the coral reefs for long, because new colonies were soon started that repopulated the underwater slopes.

These days, Palau is the place to go if you want to put in some first-class underwater diving, God really knew what He was doing when He created the underwater reefs of Palau! There is probably nothing more moving then seeing the wonder and detailed beauty of the Creator's hand. Because we people have the tendency to associate things that we do not quite understand with things from our everyday lives, when a diver swims across the reef he will see gardens of gorgeous wild flowers, and trees and bushes that come in almost every color; it is enough to take a person's breath away.

Some of the most graceful fish in the world call this magic wonderland home, among them is the yellow Butterfly fish, the blue-headed wrasses and even the emperor black next to these exotic beauties is the puffer fish; did you know that he can inflate his spiny body up to the size of a football? There is also the remarkable looking trunkfish.

Something else that you can find here is the thing that used to be shown as a real sea is the giant clams that can reach a size of up to three feet long. Old timer movies used to show these clams off as monsters that would grad diver's feet and hold them under the water in an attempt to drown them. This is not true, however, because these sweet big giants eat nothing more than plankton and really do not care about the divers anymore then they wonder how many stars are in the sky. Another curiosity is the red and green brittle stars, these fascinating little creatures have arms that can break off at the slightest bit of pressure, this is a great protection against predators.

Other fish that like to have some of the reefs' fish for dinner are the sharks; these awesome predators come to the reef attracted to the wide variety of fish that is on the menu for them. Some other giants that come in are the manta-rays and the sea-rays, these huge creatures have wingspans of several feet and have little to worry from sharks or other predators.

Something besides the reef that is worth visiting is the Jelly-fish lake, visibility is very poor and the water is green and quite warm , but in this lake people have the opportunity to swim with jellyfish without fear of being stung. These Jelly fish do not have any stingers because there are no predators in the lake that are interested in them, what an experience, to be able to go home and say that you were able to swim with jelly fish!

Not everything is bright and cheerful at the islands of Palau, live reef fisheries have moved into the area, this is where foreign fisherman come in; they are working for some company or another and select a target fish and then totally exhaust the fish supply in that particular area, whole populations of fish have been wiped out because of this reckless and thoughtless act. This not only has a deep impact on the underwater food chain, but also it deprives native fisherman of the one thing that enabled them to make a livelihood for themselves and their family. In only a matter of months the whole breeding population of the target species can be wiped out, and that particular species can take a very long time to repopulate if they manage at all. This can be devastating to the coral reefs and it can be devastating to Palau and the people that live there.

God gave us this planet to watch over and take care of, I am not against fishing, it just needs to be done within reason, and with the good of the local economy in mind. Two things that live reef fishing does not do.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Man In Afghan Army Uniform Kills NATO Soldier

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan says a man wearing an Afghan army uniform has shot and killed a NATO soldier in the south of the country.

An ISAF spokesman said the killing occurred on January 31 and that the suspected shooter had been detained by Afghan soldiers.

No details were given on the nationality of the killed soldier.

Afghan National Army commander Sayed Malluk, quoted by The Associated Press news agency, said the shooting happened during a night patrol in Helmand Province.

It was the latest incident in Afghanistan in which an Afghan soldier, or militant dressed as a soldier, has killed foreign troops.

On January 20, an Afghan soldier shot dead four French soldiers in Afghanistan's Kapisa Province.

Coral Calcium Health Benefits

Coral calcium is derived from the coral reefs around the world, especially off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Marketers claim that there are numerous coral calcium health benefits, but the accuracy of these claims is debatable as there is insufficient amount of evidence to substantiate these claims.
Coral calcium certainly has some very interesting characteristics and properties, and it is very difficult to ignore the many claims that are regularly made about the health benefits of coral calcium. There are many people who advocate the use of coral calcium, and swear by the healing and preventive traits that coral calcium health benefits are said to possess.

Coral calcium health benefits were primarily advocated by Dr. Robert Barefoot, as he conducted a great amount of research on the subject. His claims are that the alkalinity of coral calcium helps the human body in many different ways, and it is a great tool for fighting off a number of diseases and illnesses that are caused in the body due to a deficiency of calcium. The maximum amount of coral calcium is obtained from the coral reefs off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, and Dr. Barefoot regularly points out the great healthiness and long lifespans of the people living in the surrounding area, as evidence of coral calcium health benefits. Also read about coral plants and animals.

What is Coral Calcium?
Coral calcium is simply layers of calcium that are derived from the coral reefs that are found on ocean floors. Since corals are relatively rare and require many centuries to grow, it is illegal to harvest the coral calcium from the coral reefs itself. Instead, the calcium is obtained from the limestone deposits that have detached themselves from the main coral reef and have risen to the surface of the water.

The primary constituent of coral calcium is calcium carbonate, and there are minute traces of other minerals like magnesium in it as well. The health benefits of calcium are well-known all across the world, and coral calcium health benefits are no different from these. It is strongly claimed though, that these supposed enhanced health benefits of coral calcium are simply exaggerated and hyped up, and that it is all just a marketing gimmick.

Coral Calcium Health Benefits
At present there is a raging debate about the health benefits that coral calcium genuinely possess. The people who propagate the use of coral calcium claim that the ratio of the trace minerals, magnesium and calcium in coral calcium is perfectly suited to the human body. They also say that coral calcium enables the body to successfully absorb other minerals that the body requires. Read more on facts about calcium.

But there is also a constantly growing school of thought that refutes these claims of the health benefits of coral calcium. They claim that all these benefits are not true, and are simply exaggerated gimmicks. This could be true as well, but let's have a further look at the so-called coral calcium health benefits.
Helps boost the immune system of the human body.
Like regular calcium, coral calcium strengthens the teeth and the bones in the body.
The balance of calcium, magnesium and trace minerals in coral calcium is perfectly suited to the requirements of the human body.
Coral calcium cleanses out the internal organs of the body like the kidneys, liver, intestines, etc. and also helps in the breaking down process of heavy metals inside the body.
Coral calcium helps regulate the pH level in the body.
Many claim that coral calcium also acts as a great form of alternative treatment and cure for many heart diseases and even works against cancer.
Increases the body's ability to heal and repair any damage suffered on the tissues.
Helps prevent around 200 diseases that are related to a deficiency of calcium in the body.
For women it is even claimed that coral calcium helps reduce the severity of PMS symptoms.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Romney strikes back

Mitt Romney

The Republican primary elections take place in Florida on 31 January in what may as well be the crucial battle the war for GOP nomination. After the first three primaries, three candidates have one win each; former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum Iowa, frontrunner and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney New Hampshire and former Congress Speaker Newt Gingrich South Carolina. The fourth contender in the race is the Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose primary goal has been to spread the idea of libertarianism in this campaign [just like in the last one in 2008].

It seemed at the very beginning as if there was nothing that could possibly stop Mitt Romney, but Gingrich's performance in traditionally conservative Republican South Carolina brought a new dynamics to the campaign.

Romney was forced to cease his campaign of bashing President Barack Obama and acting as the GOP nominee, and battered Gingrich in two recent debates and series of television advertisements. It seemingly paid dividends [something that a wealthy investor such as Romney surely likes] and former Massachusetts governor commanded a double-digit lead over the former speaker in polls prior to the vote.
Florida primary is important for several reasons. Firstly, it is a 'winner takes it all' primary, meaning that all the allocated delegates from Florida [50 of them] go to the person that gets the most votes in the ballots. Though Florida was stripped of a half of its delegates after decision to move ahead its primary, it is nevertheless a substantial number of votes for the final Republican Convention in Tampa later this year.

More importantly, Florida will be a major battleground state in the national elections and as such serves as an indicator of electability of a candidate. In other words, if one cannot win the Republican primary in Florida, it is highly unlikely he will win the state in presidential election, ergo unlikely to become the next President.

Finally, Florida served for electoral cycles as a purgatory for failed candidates who could no longer finance their campaigns, or simply realise their chances for overall victory are close to none, and one should expect similar to happen after this primary.

Newt Gingrich counts on the latest and, even though he is obviously unelectable [18% favourable vs. 56% unfavourable general public opinion] and has [for those, and some other, reasons] the entire GOP establishment against him, he counts on Rick Santorum to be the first to blink and drop out of the race, rallying conservatives behind his candidacy as a  counter to Romney.

Gingrich built his profile, despite his track record, as a conservative alternative to a more moderate, and often inconsistent, Romney and as a much better and stronger orator than senator Santorum, who is indeed the only true social conservative in GOP field. He attacked Massachusetts governor for being “a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase moderate” and added that Republicans “will not nominate somebody who raises millions from Wall Street to run ads”.

Gingrich also received an endorsement from a former rival Herman Cain, who was at a point a favourite of the conservatives, but dropped out of the race in December after allegations of sexual harassment, extramarital affairs and complete blunder on issues of foreign policy.

Governor Romney, who was leading thus far a fairly clean campaign and spent most of his [and his Political Action Committee's] time and money attacking President Obama, went into offence in the past couple of weeks, outlining the shortcomings of Newt Gingrich, both personal and professional.

Romney attacked Gingrich for his ties with the mortgage agency Freddie Mac and the collapse of the housing market, a burning issue in Florida, where property values recorded a drop of some 45% in the past 5-6 years. He also portrayed Gingrich as a Washington insider reminding that he was forced out of his post as the House of Representatives speaker in disgrace after being reprimanded for ethics violations.

With hours left until the ballots are closed, all indicators point to a victory for Mitt Romney and a very poor result for the underdogs in this race, Santorum and Paul. Momentum that this victory would bring Romney could prove crucial for winning the nomination, but a strong performance and withdrawal of Rick Santorum could certainly keep Gingrich's hopes alive. After all, he did pledge following the Iowa caucuses that he would do whatever he can to harm Romney.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hundreds of Drivers Call for Fair Elections

A car with a worm strapped to the back joining hundreds of cars driving around the Garden Ring Road during a rally for fair elections Sunday. The banner reads, “Yellow earthworm: Give back the stolen votes.”

Hundreds of cars with white ribbons, banners and balloons drove around Moscow's Garden Ring Road on Sunday afternoon to demand fair elections and urge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down.

The cars — ranging from cheap Russian makes to expensive foreign models — started rallying at 2 p.m. at the event, dubbed "White Ring," which urged people to participate in a Feb. 4 march in downtown Moscow.

White is the color adopted by the protest movement that emerged from December's disputed State Duma elections.

Along with standard posters like "Freedom" and "For Fair Elections," cars on Sunday carried banners with slogans like "Put Out" and "Stop the Botox," a reference to rumors that Putin uses the substance for cosmetic procedures aimed at making him look younger.

One car flew a white banner between two wooden poles reading, "Yellow earthworm: Give back the stolen votes." Harnessed to the poles was a long orange pillow that vaguely resembled a worm.

Some members of the opposition have nicknamed Putin a yellow earthworm after he likened himself to Kaa, the large, wise python from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," in his televised call-in show in December.

Some car passengers waved white pieces of paper out of car windows, while onlookers showed their support by holding up papers and waving.

The police said 300 cars participated in the rally, RIA-Novosti reported.

But more than 2,200 people signed up for the event on Facebook. The Yandex Probki road monitoring service indicated traffic jams around the Garden Ring on Sunday afternoon — an unusual occurence on the weekend day.

Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor's hunt for new love nest begins

Saif Ali Khan and girlfriend Kareena Kapoor took everyone by shock when they were spotted hand in hand on the streets of Bandra with the purpose of their new abode hunt. Apparently it looks like the couple wants to shift to a new house after their marriage.

An onlooker informed Mid Day, "It was a surprise to see them walking on the road and entering a new construction nearby. Both were extremely casually dressed and in their flip-flops. Kareena had no make up at all." Adds the onlooker, "Both visited the building together and wanted to see what was on offer. They were there for a short while and both were seen in a discussion on their way out."

Last year there was buzz that Saif wanted to move from his present address in Bandra as a lot of high-rises were coming up in the vicinity and his abode was fast losing privacy. In fact the builders of the new constructions were selling their properties stating that it would offer a bird's eye view of the stars.

Reportedly, Saif and Kareena would get married on March 2012 and might shift to a new place after that. 

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