Tsunami in Pacific islands

September 30, 2009

Tsunami in Pacific islands

A tsunami triggered by a strong quake in the South Pacific has killed at least 34 people in Samoa, say reports.Samoa’s delegate to the US Congress, Eni Faleomavaega, told AFP thousands of people had been left homeless. Dr Lemalu Fiu, at a hospital in the Samoan capital, Apia, said the number of casualties was expected to rise as people arrived from coastal areas. An 8.3-magnitude quake struck at 1748 GMT, generating 15ft (4.5m) waves in some areas of Samoa and American Samoa.

The Samoa islands comprise two separate entities – the nation of Samoa and American Samoa, a US territory – with a total population of about 250,000 people. A tsunami warning was issued, but it has now been cancelled. President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in American Samoa, enabling federal funding to made available to help victims.

Floating cars

Some of the areas there are only a few feet above sea level, so you can imagine the devastation,” said Mr Faleomavaega. It caused severe damage to property, there are cars floating everywhere.” Mase Akapo, a National Weather Service meteorologist in American Samoa, told the AP news agency that at least 14 people had been killed in four different villages on the main island of Tutuila. He said another 20 people had died Samoa Talutala Mauala, Secretary General of the Red Cross in Samoa, said she was travelling to the country’s south coast, where injuries had also been reported.

“We won’t know the full extent of the damage until we get there and see for ourselves,” she said. Ms Mauala said it could take many months for people to rebuild their homes.

An Associated Press reporter said he had seen “bodies everywhere” in the main hospital in Lalomanu, on Samoa‘s main island of Upolu, including at least one child. South Korea‘s Yonhap news agency has reported that three South Koreans were among the dead and one is still missing.

Beaches gone

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the quake struck at a depth of 33km (20 miles) some 190km (120 miles) from Apia. Waves of 5.1ft (1.57m) hit Apia and Pago Pago in American Samoa.

Radio New Zealand quoted Samoan residents as saying that villages were inundated and homes and cars swept away. Graeme Ansell, a New Zealander near Apia, told the radio station the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale had been “wiped out”.

There’s not a building standing. We’ve all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need around here,” he said. Samoalive News said local radio stations had been receiving reports of high sea swells hitting coastal areas on the eastern and southern side of Upolu island

School has been called off for the day with tsunami warnings calling for people to head to higher grounds,” the website said. Witnesses have reported scenes of destruction.

It’s horrible… The village is gone and my once beautiful beach front villa has now been submerged in water,” Josh Nayangu told the BBC after fleeing the area on a small fishing boat with his wife and son. Ula Osasa-Mano, who was visiting family on the island, told the BBC the water along the Apia seawall was turbulent. The water was kind of swirling like a spa pool outwards [towards] the rim of the lagoon and in a few seconds the water sunk,” Ula Osasa-Mano said.

General alert

The PTWC – a branch of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – issued a general alert for the South Pacific region.

Stuart Weinstein, the deputy director of the PTWC, told the BBC that the agency was monitoring the situation, but said the wave was expected to be “much smaller” than the 2004 Asian tsunami which killed about 230,000 people in 11 countries. Mr Weinstein said Tuesday’s quake had only had 3% of the energy generated by the 2004 quake.

Pros and Cons of sex before marriage

September 30, 2009

There are many pros and cons to sex before marriage, however that is no to say that these are for everyone. As individuals we all have our own cultural and social believes that we must uphold. This article is more of overall advice with no religious, cultural or social standard. Sex before marriage is a sticky subject (no pun intended) and I will do my best to help the reader sort through the mess that today’s media has created.

Sex in general should be a very private and special moment, no matter who we are or from were we come. Sex should also be part iced between CONSENTING ADULTS. I highlight those two words because anything other that that can be considered rape, child sex abuse or anything in between. I also state adults because of the risks both mentally and physically that are associated with sex. It should also be noted that the writer is not here to judge what type of sex those involved are having. Every human being has a right to practice sex in whichever manner they desire.

There are many cons to sex before marriage. For one there is the whole “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”. Basically this was an old passage for the ladies to inform that most guys wouldn’t marry the girls that would give it up before marriage. This not necessarily true in society today but there are some truths still today. As a guy this writer can say that many of the girls that gave it up to me on the first date were never kept for to long and many more became what we call “booty calls”. I am not proud today about these actions but I was also younger and dumber. This can also work in benefit for the woman since they have been known to have boy toys or sugar daddies. No one is safe from having their heart broken once or twice in their life.

The next con of course is disease. STDs (Sexually Transmitted Disease) can range from AIDS to genital warts and some are a death sentence. “In the United States: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are between 800,000 and 900,000 people living with HIV. Through December 2000, a total of 774,467 cases of AIDS have been reported to the CDC; of this number, 448,060 persons (representing 58% of cases) have died.” (www.AIDS.org) AIDS or HIV can contracted in many ways drug use is one way but sexual activity is the best known manner to get it. During sex of any kind this disease can be transmitted through blood (from the tiny abrasions that occur during sex), semen, and vaginal secretions. This is no the only disease but it is the deadliest disease associated with sexual activity. No matter what if one is going to have sex please pratice safe sex.

The last but not the least con is unwanted pregnancies. Many couples today forget that with great sex comes great responsibility (just trying to lighten the mood). “Approximately one-third of the 6.4 million pregnancies in 2001 (the most recent year for which adequate data are available) in the United States were unwanted,That is approximately 2.13 million pregnancies in which most end up in abortions. Abortions are a very sensitive subject and even if we support it, the mental anguish and guilt associated with it can lead major mental health issues for the women that must go through the process. Most of these unwanted pregnancies are found in teenage and unwed women who were not educated or did not practice safe sex. An unwanted pregnancy can and has destroyed many families and couples. This is not a scenario that many people want to find themselves in this situation and it should be taken into account when planning to have sex prior to marriage.

Should couple go for Pregnancy & HIV test before marriage

September 30, 2009

Pregnancy before marriages considered a cataclysmal social ill so the US government has stepped in, determined to curtail this sad phenomenon. The number of births out of wedlock is decreasing gradually – thanks to government and community efforts – but there is still quite a number of teenagers who are getting pregnant without benefit of marriage not only in North America but also in other parts of the world.

The portrayal of pregnancy out of marriage has been dramatic, and when we hear of young women heavy with child with no spouse to help raise the future child, our hearts go out to them. It’s like children nurturing children. It isn’t fair to have a girl barely out of her teens to be saddled with a child that she has to look after for the next 18 years. At least we hope she has the necessary resources and support systems to see her through this stage of her life.

A pregnant teen who is not married also makes one think of the kind of future she will have – how her dreams and career aspirations will have to be delegated to the back burner for a few years until the child starts attending school.

Pregnancy Before Marriage – Government’s Contributions

The American nation is fortunate in that there are provisions in place to help reduce the incidence of pregnancies out of marriage. One such measure is the welfare law of 1996. Some of its provisions include:

  • A federal budget of $50 million annually to teach kids abstinence education,
  • Measures to ensure that paternity is established and child support payments are made,
  • Federal measures requiring all 52 states to initiate action in reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies, with a special emphasis on teen pregnancies.

The 1996 welfare law carries other provisions targeted to reduce pregnancy out of marriage. Governmental measures have met with controversy but the general view is that if we know how to achieve these goals relating to births out of wedlock, then we are doing the best we can to improve the quality of life of children.

A society relies on individual communities to make sure children are allowed to develop mentally and emotionally so that they grow up to be productive citizens. In turn, communities rely on individual families to make sure that children are properly fed, nurtured, schooled and coached about life. Part of that education and coaching must include the avoidance of getting pregnant when not yet married.

In October 2001, an article by Isabel V. Sawhill which was published on the website of the Brookings Institution, Social Policy Section, addressed this issue. The Brookings Institution is a prestigious think tank and is dedicated to addressing the country’s social concerns. Ms Sawhill said, “Almost everyone is in favor of reducing teen pregnancy…teen pregnancy and birthrates have declined during the 1990s, which in turn has contributed to the leveling off of the proportion of all children born to unwed mothers. When Congress reauthorizes the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reform Act in 2002, it should build on this success by providing additional funds for teen pregnancy prevention efforts while maintaining the emphasis on work and child support enforcement.”

That’s quite a tall order coming from a private citizen. Lest we forget, governments have other problems to tackle as well. Reducing pregnancy out of marriage must be an individual responsibility and each family must do its part to protect offspring.

Pregnancy Before Marriage – Teens Explain Why

We’ve heard the same refrain over and over again. It’s not so much a question of wanting a child that teens become pregnant out of marriage. We suspect it has a lot to do with their need for affection which they don’t get at home. By seeking comfort and support elsewhere, there’s always the risk of perceiving affection the wrong way. They think that by engaging in sexual relations with their boyfriends, they’ve got that part of their emotional life under lock and key.

Not quite. Many wake up the morning after to find their intended beloved gone.

Okay, so maybe it’s not a craving for love and affection. Maybe it’s the desire to keep up with things fashionable and “cool.” Take a recent news report on Fox that featured a pregnant 14 year old British girl who said that the latest thing in fashion these days is not the Paris Hilton handbag, but getting “banged up.” This came from a pregnant teenager who says that four of her friends are also expecting. Kizzy Neal – that’s her name – told Fox News that her teenaged friends think babies are very cute little things, but then they are not aware that seen from a larger perspective, they realize, somewhat late, that they’re giving up their entire lives to care for a baby.

It was also reported that in all of Europe, England and Wales have the highest teen pregnancy rates, with the largest growth among girls under 16.

Then you have the lack of control versus too much control. We’re talking about parental control. Maybe teens are feeling a bit suffocated by the well-meaning encroachment into their private lives by their folks at home. They can’t even surf the Net anymore with all the blockers set up by their parents.

“I felt I was wearing a dog collar around my neck all the time. With mom and dad, it was always don’t do this, don’t do that. I didn’t think they had a right to prevent me from being happy and hanging out with my boyfriend. One day it got so bad – the fighting – that I ran away and asked my boyfriend to have sex with me. Just to spite my folks, you know.”

Pregnancy Before Marriage – What Happens to Pregnant Teens?

What happens to teens who are suddenly pregnant?

The profile actually looks rather dismal. Teenagers who get pregnant have a lower chance of completing their secondary education (only 1/3 of them graduate from high school). Between 1% and 2% of teenage mothers finish university by age 30. They are also most likely to go on welfare. About 80% of them are on welfare.

Children born to unwed teenagers have lower birth weights and tend to perform poorly academically. They are also at greater risk of abuse and neglect.

And no wonder the government is concerned and is taking measures to put an end to this sociological problem. Reports show that sons of teenagers have a 13% higher chance of ending up in prison, while daughters of teenagers have a 22% likelihood of becoming pregnant themselves when they reach their teens.

Pregnancy Before Marriage – Breaking Past the Emotional Barrier

Teenagers who suddenly learn they are pregnant are gripped with fear and are confused. Matters become worse when the boyfriend they thought was a real gentleman declares he doesn’t want to have to do anything with her or the child. Oh sure, many of them take responsibility for their actions, but there are guys out there who would rather walk out.

When teenagers are faced with this situation, their first reflex action is to run away, so that their parents need not know about their predicament. This may not be such a wise decision.

A teenager who got pregnant at 15 felt it was the time she needed to talk to her mother the most. Before her pregnancy, she avoided her mother like the plague. Not sure of how her mother would react to the news, she felt anyway that her mother needed to know, so she mustered the courage to finally tell her. To her surprise, her mother just hugged her and said, “we’ll go through this together.”

Google invites users to join Wave

September 30, 2009

Google Wave, which combines email, instant messaging and wiki-style editing will go on public trial today.

What is a wave?

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

The search giant hopes the tool, described as “how e-mail would look if it were invented today”, will transform how people communicate online.

It will be open to 100,000 invitees from 1600BST, each of whom can nominate five further people to “join the Wave”.

The tool is also open source, meaning third party developers can use the code to build new applications.

The developer behind Wave described it as “a communication and collaboration tool”.

“It struck us that e-mail is still the main communication tool on the web, which seemed remarkable given that it is 20-year-old technology,” said Lars Rasmussen, who, alongside his brother Jens, was the brains behind Google Maps.

In designing Wave, the brothers took as a starting point the idea of “a conversation sitting in a cloud”.

“We found we could build a flexible tool with a surprising amount of functionality,” Mr Rasmussen told BBC News.

Such functions include real-time typing.

This means people can see a comment being written character by character and can formulate their answer to a question before a fellow ‘Waver’ has even finished asking it.

Mr Rasmussen acknowledges that this feature could be annoying, but thinks it is also a great time-saver.

For those unsure whether they want all their Wave friends to see exactly what they are writing, when they are writing it, the developers are working on a draft mode which will allow the real-time aspect to be switched off .

Unlike traditional instant messenger (IM) conversations continue even once everyone has logged out. This means that those invited to a Wave conversation but not currently online, can read the message strand in full at a later date.

Sharing photos

More radical is the inclusion of wiki-style editing tools.

All messages can be edited at any point by members of the conversation and a Playback facility allows everyone to see exactly who has edited what and at what time.

Google, a famously collaborative firm, now writes all its design documents in Wave.

Wave also makes it very easy to share photos, which can simply be dragged from the desktop onto the Wave platform.

“If you are planning a trip. you can talk about it and plan it in Wave and then share all the photos at the end,” said product manager Stephanie Hannon.

Google Wave runs in most browsers, with the notable exception of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE). Users of IE will have to download a plug-in, known as Chrome Frame to use the application.

Microsoft does not recommend installing this plug-in, claiming it compromises security.

As IE is still the dominant browser, its incompatibility with Wave could affect take-up of the platform.

Google insists the failure of Wave in IE is not an excuse to promote its own browser, Chrome. It said the developers worked “very hard” at trying to make it work in IE.

Much of the code for Wave is written in HTML 5, the next-generation of web language.

In a nod to social-networking site Facebook, there are already a host of applications for Wave, including Sudoku and Chess.

“We are now trying to persuade someone to build a crossword puzzle,” said Mr Rasmussen.

He acknowledges that the success of the platform will depend on how many people are willing to join.

“Without other people adopting Wave it will never take off,” he said.

“I have been accused of being pathologically optimistic about it but I can’t see why people wouldn’t want it,” he said.

His enthusiasm seems to be being borne out to a certain degree. Since Wave was announced at a Google developers’ conference in May, one million people have registered interested.

Wave will have a full consumer launch early next year.

Online thieves step up bank raids

September 30, 2009

Cyber-criminals have developed sophisticated ways to remain undetected, a new report finds.The report, from security firm Finjan, describes how one gang, based in the Ukraine, stole 300,000 euros (£269,000) in 22 days.

It used a sophisticated piece of malicious software which fooled banks’ anti-fraud systems as well as forging bank statements to hide the thefts.

It also recruited innocent job-seekers as so-called money mules.

Such mules were needed to prevent a direct money trail being traced back to the gang.

The specific attack, monitored during the month of August, was aimed at the customers of several German online banks.

The German police have been informed.

The server used by the gang has been frozen although it is not known whether gang members have actually been caught.

Specific criteria

The gang used infected and fake websites to spread the trojan, a piece of malicious code which, once installed, can access all the data on the infected machine.

From a command and control server hosted in the Ukraine, the code was installed on the computers of bank account holders.

The trojan received specific instructions about how much money to steal from each account as well as the details of the money mule’s account into which the money was transferred.

Finjan’s chief technology officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak said he was surprised at the level of sophistication employed by the gang.

The code included very specific criteria to make sure the bank accounts of victims were not completely emptied and to ensure the amount being stolen was not so high that it would be detected by banks’ anti-fraud systems.

To further obfuscate their crimes, the code used by the gang was able to generate a forged screen showing the transfer of a small amount of money.

The real amount stolen would only be obvious to the victim if they logged into their account from an uninfected computer.

They wanted to make sure the victim would not find out from their statements. In some cases they deleted transactions completely,” said Mr Ben-Itzhak.

Anti-fraud systems are designed to detect unusual money transfers, as well as strange behaviour on customers accounts.

Money-making schemes

Money mules are increasingly being recruited by cybercriminals as a way of preventing police finding a direct link to them.

We have spotted money mules being used in the last six months or so,” said Mr Ben-Itzhak.

The recession has made it easier to recruit people, he thinks.

There are more people looking for jobs and if an attractive job offer drops into their inbox, they are going to take it,” he said.

The Ukrainian cyber-criminals hired its “mules” by falsely telling them they would be working for a legitimate business.

These “mules” were unaware that they are being sent stolen money, but believed that they are being paid for working from home or other moneymaking schemes.

The money mules in this particular case are being treated as innocent victims and, although they will be questioned, will not face prosecution.

Philippine flood disaster

September 29, 2009

The death toll in the Philippines from Tropical Storm Ketsana climbed to 246 as the government, under fire for its response to the flooding, said the economy may grow less than forecast amid mounting cyclone damage.

At least 38 people are missing, the National Disaster Coordinating Council agency said in a report at 3 p.m. today. Gwen Pang, secretary general of the Philippine National Red Cross, said in a Bloomberg television interview she expects the number of fatalities to increase.

More than 1.9 million people were affected by the floods and 567,000 people are in evacuation centers, the council said. The government declared a “state of calamity” for the Manila metropolitan region and other parts of Luzon island as well as Mindoro island to the south.

Ketsana, named after a tree in Laos, dropped more than a month’s rain on northern Manila, the weather bureau said. About 411 millimeters (16 inches) fell there, exceeding the September monthly average of 391 millimeters and the bureau’s record for one day of 331 millimeters in 1967.

“The recent storm could reduce the real GDP growth rate in full year 2009 by at least 0.043 percentage points,” Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos said in a statement, citing his presentation to President Gloria Arroyo today. Growth may slow to a range of 0.7 percent to 1.7 percent compared to a target of 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent, he said.

The government will keep the target “for now,” Santos said, citing stronger-than-forecast overseas remittances that make up about 10 percent of the economy.

Damage to infrastructure and farm production caused by the cyclone is estimated at 4.7 billion pesos ($98.8 million), the disaster coordinating council said.

Failure of Planning

There was “a failure of planning, anticipation and management,” said Mario Taguiwalo, president of the National Institute for Policy Studies in Manila. “If you compare the number rescued versus the people at grave risk, they were reaching a very small percentage.”

President Arroyo and her ministers donated two months of their salaries to the Department of Social Welfare to help those affected by the floods, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said after a meeting of the Cabinet today. Cabinet members earn less than $1,000 a month.

The Cabinet also said government employees will get their Christmas bonuses, equal to one month’s salary, early and recommended companies do the same.

People flocked to the Malacanang Palace, the president’s official residence in western Manila, for aid today, after Arroyo said yesterday she would open it for relief supplies and as an evacuation center.

While most of the waters in Manila have receded, areas including Pasig in the eastern part of the city of almost 12 million people and Cainta in Rizal province remain flooded. Residents and government workers are cleaning homes, buildings and neighborhoods of everything from mud to cars involved in accidents.

Schools in Manila and some surrounding areas will remain shut through Friday, the government said. College students will be mobilized to clean up schools and roads, officials said.

Some schools and warehouses are being used for evacuation and relief operations, with volunteers receiving, packing and sending out donated goods.

“They’re catching up,” Taguiwalo said. “The evacuation centers are well set up, but my sense is that they’re not thinking ahead again in terms of what kind of assistance people will need in terms of household necessities, building materials.”

The government should consider providing vouchers to survivors, he said.

System Overwhelmed

The storm and floods have “really overwhelmed our system,” Anthony Golez, the officer in charge of the Office of Civil Defense, said in a phone interview yesterday.

An assessment of needs carried out by UN and Philippine officials will be completed by today as the basis for a “flash appeal” to be sent to the international community within five days, Jacqui Badcock, UN resident coordinator in the Philippines, said in an interview.

The last time the Philippines issued a flash appeal was in December 2006 after four typhoons that hit the Southeast Asian nation in a span of 10 weeks killed almost a thousand people.

The UN said in a statement it will provide food rations to about 180,000 people in the areas worst affected.

Clean water, food, cooking gas and medicines are difficult to find, said Cora Guidote, a corporate executive helping in relief operations in Marikina, northern Manila.

“The situation is pretty desperate,” she said. Business is “at a standstill because of mud and muck everywhere. People are tired of cleaning with very little sleep. Kids and old people are getting sick.”

One of two tropical depressions that formed east of the Philippines strengthened to a tropical storm overnight, according to the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning center. Tropical Storm Parma, the 19th storm of the northwest Pacific cyclone season, was 802 kilometers (510 miles) southwest of Guam with winds of 74 kilometers per hour at 8 a.m. Philippines time today, the center said.

The storm was moving southwest at 28 kilometers per hour and is expected to turn to the northwest and strengthen to a typhoon by Oct. 2. It may approach Luzon as early as one day after that.

“We’re preparing more goods, more water for the people” ahead of the new storm, Red Cross’s Pang said. People in evacuation centers may have to stay until the next storm is over, she added.

Ketsana, called Ondoy in the Philippines, crossed the coast of central Vietnam today, killing at least 23 people in Vietnam, the Associated Press reported, citing disaster officials.

Ketsana is the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Fengshen slammed into the eastern island of Samar in June last year, leaving 730 people dead and 637 missing.

Death web poll on Obama

September 29, 2009

The US Secret Service is investigating a poll posted on social networking site Facebook asking people if they think President Obama “should be killed

The poll, posted on Saturday, was taken off the site as soon as the company was made aware of it. It was put up on the site using a third-party application that was unconnected with the social networking site itself. US officials said they would take “the appropriate investigative steps”.

The poll, described by Facebook as “offensive”, asked respondents “Should Obama be killed?” and offered four possible responses: “No”, “Maybe”, “Yes”, and “Yes if he cuts my health care”. Like any threat to the US president’s life, the poll is being probed by the US Secret Service, which is charged with protecting the president.

“We take… these things seriously, said Darrin Blackford, a Secret Service spokesman. The social networking site said it would co-operate with the investigation.

We’re working with the US Secret Service, but they’ll need to provide any details of their investigation,” said Barry Schnitt, Facebook’s spokesman for policy.

The social networking site Facebook on Monday pulled a third-party application that allows users to create polls after a site member built a poll asking if President Obama should be killed.There are more than 350,000 applications on Facebook. The company says it disables any that violate its terms.

The U.S. Secret Service, the agency assigned to protect the president, has launched an investigation, agency spokesman James Mackin said.

“As is usually the case, our vigilant users reported it to us first,” Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told CNN. “The USSS [Secret Service] sent us an e-mail late this morning PDT asking us to take it down. At that point, it had already been removed, and we let them know.”

obama on facebook

Schnitt said the application “was immediately suspended while the inappropriate content could be removed by the developer and until such time as the developer institutes better procedures to monitor their user-generated content.”

Facebook allows third-party developers to create applications — such as polls and quizzes — which are then made available to Facebook users, who use the applications to create specific content. Users may choose to make their content available to the general population of Facebook or limit it only to their friends.In this case, Schnitt said, the user made the poll asking whether Obama should be killed available to the general public.The possible responses to the poll were “yes,” “maybe,” “if he cuts my health care” and “no.”

President Obama faces a daunting fall to-do list against the backdrop of an American public losing enthusiasm on a variety of issues.

President Obama’s top priorities this fall are health care and financial reform.
Obama’s agenda ranges from dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions to traveling to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the 2016 Olympics — a trip the president said two weeks ago he could not take because he was working on health care.

“Health care reform has been his No. 1 priority issue here domestically. He wanted to make sure that if he went, that it wouldn’t have an adverse impact on that, so he’s going for just a day,” said senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

And health care will still be at the top of the list when the president gets back. This fall, his priorities are health care and financial reform, one Capitol Hill source said. But health care reform will require a hands-on approach. The Senate Democratic leadership is looking for presidential guidance in creating one bill out of two very different ones — all the while holding onto enough votes to pass it.

And as for Obama‘s other goal, the administration sent financial reform legislation to the Hill and on both sides, committee work has begun, but it’s a long way from cooked.

A number of Capitol Hill players say privately that anything beyond health care and financial regulation would be a miracle this year.

On the global scene, in addition to Iran, Obama also must deal with winding down the war in Iraq and deciding what’s next for the U.S. in Afghanistan — and whether more troops are needed.

“I think you saw [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates say that a resource request that he gets will not be sent here to the White House until he believes and the president believes that we are in a position having reached a consensus on moving forward,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Also worth noting, Obama’s goal of closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay is proving to be difficult — and slow enough that his original deadline of January 2010 is no longer a deadline.

“We are not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won’t be met on a particular day. We’re focused on assuring that the facility is closed,” Gibbs said.

And then of course, there is the unknown — the unpredictable things that require immediate attention in any presidency.

It’s a lot — but during the campaign, then-candidate Obama seemed to know what he was getting into, telling voters, “presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time.”

The Real Threat From China

July 6, 2009

Over the past decade, people have often asked me the question – where is the next India? A question relating to the next major IT off-shoring destination. The general sense in India is that this is largely a settled question and there is no major emerging competitor to India. While India has some huge advantages over other countries, I believe there is a real threat to India’s dominance in IT, and it comes from a not so distant neighbor – China. Here are the reasons why:

There are three factors that intersect to create large IT off shoring destinations–labor supply, quality and cost. Let us compare China and India on each factor:

Labor Supply: Major off-shoring hubs require huge talent pools. The problem with locations that have limited talent pools is that capacity quickly gets overtaken by demand and wages rise rapidly. Simply observe what happened in Ireland in the late 1990’s and the Chezk Republic earlier this decade. Companies were attracted to the highly skilled, lower cost talent in these countries, but saw wages increase sharply in a matter of years as there was not a large and growing pool of talent. In countries with huge IT talent pools, the supply of talent keeps wage inflation at bay. India and China are the only two competitive countries concerning this factor. And today China is producing more IT graduates each year than India. Essentially, Advantage China.

Labor Quality: This is where the general consensus is India has an unbeatable advantage. Especially when it comes to English speakers. India does have a strong advantage here, but you cannot count out the Chinese. They have made fundamental changes to their education system, making English language studies compulsory starting at the elementary school level. I was in China recently and met with many university students. I noticed a dramatic improvement in their English communication from just a few years ago.

There is also another critical issue. Many outsourcing companies are talking about diversifying their businesses away from the US to Europe and Asia. If a shift in this direction occurs, English dominance will become less relevant. In fact when it comes to competing for outsourcing work in Asia (Japan, Korea, Taiwan)China actually has a language advantage over India. So, when it comes to labor quality, today India has the advantage, but we need to keep a close watch for potential changes.

Cost: Most cost comparisons to-date revolve around wages – where India has historically held an advantage. However, the wage gap between India and China has been dwindling because of massive wage inflation in India. But experienced outsourcing companies are beginning to look at other major costs, such as infrastructure and taxes in addition to wages. The Indian government has fueled the growth in the IT industry by providing all IT companies with a tax holiday for the past ten years. This is now expiring. Interestingly, at the same time, local provincial governments in China are expanding their tax benefit programs for companies setting up large outsourcing centers.

The other major cost is infrastructure. Here, China has a huge advantage. The infrastructure costs in India are large – both monetarily and operationally. As an example, companies have to provide transportation to employees because public transportation is not available. IT companies are running huge transportation businesses instead of focusing on their core business. Sohistorically India has held the advantage on cost, but China is slowly gaining the upper hand.

So what does all this mean? I believe China will most likely emerge as a major IT outsourcing hub. I also believe the overall growth in the industry can support the development of another major off-shoring hub. Further more, this can be an opportunity for Indian companies to embrace China, diversify their own operations, and expand their presence in China.

There is a historical context here. The US lost the manufacturing market because they failed to take the threat from Japan and other low cost countries seriously. When it came to IT off-shoring the major US companies were much more nimble –embracing off-shoring and India. Just look at how quickly companies like Accenture and IBM have developed their global sourcing capabilities.

Swine flu

July 3, 2009

The swine influenza a (H1N1) virus that has septic humans in the U.S. and Mexico. A virus that has not previously been identified in North America. This virus is resistant to the antiviral medications amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine), but is sensitive to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Investigations of these cases suggest that on-going human-to-human swine influenza. A (H1N1) virus is occurring.

Swine flu is a respiratory illness of pigs caused by infection with swine influenza A virus (SIV) that can occasionally affect humans

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Although uncomplicated influenza-like illness (fever, cough or sore throat) has been reported in many cases, mild respiratory illness (nasal congestion, rhinorrhea) without fever and occasional severe disease also has been reported. Other symptoms reported with swine influenza A virus infection include vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia, headache, chills, fatigue, and dyspnea. Conjunctivitis is rare, but has been reported. Severe disease (pneumonia, respiratory failure) and fatal outcomes have been reported with swine influenza A virus infection. The potential for exacerbation of underlying chronic medical conditions or invasive bacterial infection with swine influenza A virus infection should be considered.

What are the CDC recommendations for infectious swine flu?

For interviews of healthy individuals (i.e. without a current respiratory illness), including close contacts of cases of confirmed swine influenza virus infection, no personal protective equipment or antiviral chemoprophylaxis is needed. See section on antiviral chemoprophylaxis for further guidance. For interviews of an ill, suspected or confirmed swine influenza A virus case, the following is recommended:

  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from the ill person; or
  • Personal protective equipment: fit-tested N95 respirator [if unavailable, wear a medical (surgical mask)].

For collecting respiratory specimens from an ill confirmed or suspected swine influenza A virus case, the following is recommended:

  • Personal protective equipment: fit-tested disposable N95 respirator [if unavailable, wear a medical (surgical mask)], disposable gloves, gown, and goggles.
  • When completed, place all PPE in a biohazard bag for appropriate disposal.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.

Infection Control

Recommended Infection Control for a non-hospitalized patient (ER, clinic or home visit):

  1. Separation from others in single room if available until asymptomatic. If the ill person needs to move to another part of the house, they should wear a mask. The ill person should be encouraged to wash hand frequently and follow respiratory hygiene practices. Cups and other utensils used by the ill person should be thoroughly washed with soap and water before use by other persons.

Antiviral Treatment

Suspected Cases: Empiric antiviral treatment is recommended for any ill person suspected to have swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. Antiviral treatment with either zanamivir alone or with a combination of oseltamivir and either amantadine or rimantadine should be initiated as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. Recommended duration of treatment is five days. Recommendations for use of antiviral may change as data on antiviral susceptibilities become available. Antiviral doses and schedules recommended for treatment of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are the same as those recommended for seasonal influenza:

Confirmed Cases

For antiviral treatment of a confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, either oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may be administered. Recommended duration of treatment is five days. These same antivirals should be considered for treatment of cases that test positive for influenza A but test negative for seasonal influenza viruses H3 and H1 by PCR.

Pregnant Women

Oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine, and rimantadine are all “Pregnancy Category C” medications, indicating that no clinical studies have been conducted to assess the safety of these medications for pregnant women. Only two cases of amantadine use for severe influenza illness during the third trimester have been reported. However, both amantadine and rimantadine have been demonstrated in animal studies to be teratogenic and embryotoxic when administered at substantially high doses. Because of the unknown effects of influenza antiviral drugs on pregnant women and their fetuses, these four drugs should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the embryo or fetus; the manufacturers’ package inserts should be consulted. However, no adverse effects have been reported among women who received oseltamivir or zanamivir during pregnancy or among infants born to such women.

Antiviral Chemoprophylaxis

For antiviral chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, either oseltamivir or zanamivir are recommended. Duration of antiviral chemoprophylaxis is 7 days after the last known exposure to an ill confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. Antiviral dosing and schedules recommended for chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are the same as those recommended for seasonal influenza:

Antiviral chemoprophylaxis (pre-exposure or post-exposure) with either oseltamivir or zanamivir is recommended for the following individuals:

  1. Household close contacts who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly) of a confirmed or suspected case.
  2. School children who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions) who had close contact (face-to-face) with a confirmed or suspected case.
  3. Travelers to Mexico who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly).
  4. Border workers (Mexico) who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly).
  5. Health care workers or public health workers who had unprotected close contact with an ill confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection during the case’s infectious period.

Antiviral chemoprophylaxis (pre-exposure or post-exposure) with either oseltamivir or zanamivir can be considered for the following:

  • Any health care worker who is at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly) who is working in an area with confirmed swine influenza A (H1N1) cases, and who is caring for patients with any acute febrile respiratory illness.
  • Non-high risk persons who are travelers to Mexico, first responders, or border workers who are working in areas with confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection.


July 2, 2009

Homosexuality is mostly believed a prohibited subject by both Indian civil society and the government. Sexual acts “against the order of nature” remain illegal in India. But Indian Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that consensual sex between adults of the same gender is legal in the country. But any homosexual act without the consent of either partner remains a criminal offense. Indira Jaisingh, counsel for the Non profit Naz Foundation which had challenged the law, told CNN& BBC. India‘s Ministry of Home Affairs opposed changes to the law on grounds that decriminalizing homosexual conduct would “open the floodgates of delinquent behavior. The Delhi High Court, which is hearing a petition challenging the arrests under Section 377 of IPC that bans sexual relationships among people of the same gender, has directed the government to spell out its stand clearly on the issue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the ministries of Home and Health to resolve the differences over the issues and give a comprehensive response to the Delhi High Court.
But the fact is that the government could never arrive at a consensus on this controversial issue. Former home minister Shivraj Patil and former health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had taken divergent stand on the issue before the court. In view of the urgency of the matter, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram proposes to convene a meeting to discuss the controversial section of the IPC. While Chidambaram and Law Minister Veerappa Moily are understood to be in favour of repealing the provision of the IPC, the response of Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is awaited.

More than 80 countries have legislation that criminalizes sex between individuals of the same sex. UNAIDS is urging all governments to respect the rights and dignity of men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgender people through repealing laws that prohibit sexual acts between consenting adults; enforcing laws to protect these groups from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and Tran phobia, and ensuring that the crucial health services are met. The International AIDS Conference in 2008 heard that even in countries with generalized heterosexual epidemics, gay men and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by HIV, and the laws criminalizing sex between men and homophobia stand in the way of HIV prevention.