Shyamsunder Panchavati

Shyamsunder Panchavati
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Avatars & Attitude

Can avatars change the way we think and act?

Experiences in virtual worlds such as video games and online communities can influence our behavior in the real world, says Stanford researcher Jesse Fox. Avatars can change the way we exercise or eat, or the way we view women.


 Jesse Fox, a doctoral candidate in communications, works on a study where avatars become a new element in communication with the self.

If you saw a digital image of yourself running on a virtual treadmill, would you feel like going to the gym? Probably so, according to a Stanford study showing that personalized avatars can motivate people to exercise and eat right.

Moreover, you are more likely to imitate the behavior of an avatar in real life if it looks like you, said Jesse Fox, a doctoral candidate in the Communication Department and a researcher at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab. In her study, she used digital photographs of participants to create personalized avatar bodies, a service some game companies offer today.
To escape to the virtual realm, you simply slip on a helmet with screens attached in front of the eyes. You are instantly immersed in a digital room and fully surrounded by a new world, as if you are inside a video game. Cameras in the lab track an infrared light on your helmet so that images on the screen move with your head.

Participants respond to avatars that look like them

In Fox's first test, some participants put on the helmet and saw their avatar running on a treadmill. Others saw themselves loitering in the virtual room or saw a running avatar they didn't recognize.
Researchers found that study participants who saw their own avatars running were more likely to exercise after they left the lab than participants who saw someone else's avatar exercising or saw themselves hanging out in a virtual room. Researchers found that study participants who saw their own avatars running were more likely to exercise after they left the lab than participants who saw someone else's avatar exercising or saw themselves hanging out in a virtual room.

Fox contacted participants a day after the study and found that the people who saw their own avatar running were more likely to exercise (after they left the lab) than the people who saw someone else running or saw themselves just hanging out in the virtual room. In fact, those who watched themselves running were motivated to exercise, on average, a full hour more than the others. They ran, played soccer or worked out at the gym.

"They had imitated their avatar's behavior," Fox said.

In another test, some participants ran in place while watching their avatars become thinner, other participants stood still and watched their avatars become heavier, and others saw an unfamiliar avatar either slim or fatten. Participants who had witnessed their own avatar change – whether becoming thinner or heavier – exercised significantly more than those who had seen an unfamiliar avatar.
Seeing their face on an avatar was the driving factor. "If they saw a person they didn't know, they weren't motivated to exercise. But if they saw themselves, they exercised significantly more," she said.

Participants also responded to personalized avatars whose bodies slimmed as they ate carrots or grew heavier as they ate candy. Male participants mimicked the avatar and ate more candy, but because of the gender differences associated with eating, female participants ate less candy.

Fox thinks personalized avatars could be used to motivate healthy behavior. For example, someone on a long-term weight loss schedule could pull out his or her cell phone and track progress by watching the avatar body slim down onscreen.

Researchers found that an avatar's dress influence attitudes and views toward women including rape myth acceptance. A study showed that an avatar's dress influenced attitudes and views toward women, including rape myth acceptance.

Female avatars change participants' view of women

In a separate study, Fox tested the influence of avatars on attitudes and views toward women. She showed participants two types of female avatars: a suggestively dressed woman in revealing clothing and a conservatively dressed woman in blue jeans and a jacket. Both types of avatars demonstrated either dominant behavior such as staring at the participant or submissive behavior such as staring at the floor and cowering.

Both male and female participants exposed to the suggestive avatar showed higher rape myth acceptance when answering a questionnaire afterward. This is the view that women deserve to be raped if, for example, they wear suggestive clothing or are out alone at night. These participants were also more likely to agree with statements such as "women seek to gain power by getting control over men" and "women are too easily offended." Even when Fox ran a similar test with women whose own faces appeared on the sexualized avatars, participants still showed higher rape myth acceptance.

Video games almost always portray women in a stereotypical manner, Fox said. "If all it takes is five minutes of exposure in an immersive virtual world to one character, we really have to ask ourselves about exposures and interactions in video games like Grand Theft Auto," Fox said. The female characters in Grand Theft Auto are often scantily clad victims of violence.

On the other hand, the influences of body image in the virtual world may also help women. For example, an anorexic woman with a poor self-image might embody a healthy-looking avatar. She might become comfortable in her new body as she interacts with others in the virtual world and experiences acceptance and approval. Learning the benefits of being healthy may motivate her to adopt a healthy diet or seek help in real life.

After studying the influence of avatars, Fox is sure about one thing: the need for media literacy. "The bottom line is that we have to have more education in society, particularly showing students stereotypes that exist in media and why they exist."

Fox's research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Christine Blackman is a science-writing intern at the Stanford News Service.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Global warming effects on crops.

Global warming could hurt some poor populations and lift others from poverty, Stanford study finds

The impact of global warming on food prices and hunger could be large over the next 20 years. But even as some people are hurt, others would be helped out of poverty, according to a new Stanford University study.
Jack Hubbard.
  Stanford researcher David Lobell is taking a careful look at possible poverty levels, and the impact of global warming on food prices and hunger.


The impact of global warming on food prices and hunger could be large over the next 20 years, according to a new Stanford University study. Researchers say that higher temperatures could significantly reduce yields of wheat, rice and maize – dietary staples for tens of millions of poor people who subsist on less than $1 a day. The resulting crop shortages would likely cause food prices to rise and drive many into poverty.
But even as some people are hurt, others would be helped out of poverty, says Stanford agricultural scientist David Lobell.

Lobell discussed the results of his research on Feb 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.
"Poverty impacts depend not only on food prices but also on the earnings of the poor," said Lobell, a center fellow at Stanford's Program on Food Security and the Environment (FSE). "Most projections assume that if prices go up, the amount of poverty in the world also will go up, because poor people spend a lot of their money on food. But poor people are pretty diverse. There are those who farm their own land and would actually benefit from higher crop prices, and there are rural wage laborers and people that live in cities who definitely will be hurt."
Lobell and his colleagues recently conducted the first in-depth study showing how different climate change scenarios could affect incomes of farmers and laborers in developing countries.
Researchers say that higher temperatures could significantly reduce yields of wheat, rice and maize – dietary staples for tens of millions of poor people who subsist on less than $1 a day.

Courtesy of David Lobell Researchers say that higher temperatures could significantly reduce yields of wheat, rice and maize – dietary staples for tens of millions of poor people who subsist on less than $1 a day.
Household incomes
In the study, Lobell, former FSE researcher Marshall Burke and Purdue University agricultural economist Thomas Hertel focused on 15 developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Hertel has developed a global trade model that closely tracks the consumption and production of rice, wheat and maize on a country-by-country basis. The model was used to project the effects of climate change on agriculture within 20 years and the resulting impact on prices and poverty.
Using a range of global warming forecasts, the researchers were able to project three different crop-yield scenarios by 2030:
  • "Low-yield" – crop production is toward the low end of expectations.
  • "Most likely" – projected yields are consistent with expectations.
  • "High-yield" – production is higher than expected.
"One of the limitations of previous forecasts is that they don't consider the full range of uncertainties – that is, the chance that things could be better or worse than we expect," Lobell said. "We provided Tom those three scenarios of what climate change could mean for agricultural productivity. Then he used the trade model to project how each scenario would affect prices and poverty over the next 20 years.
"The impacts we're talking about are mainly driven by warmer temperatures, which dry up the soil, speed up crop development and shut down biological processes, like photosynthesis, that plants rely on," he added. "Plants in general don't like it hotter, and in many climate forecasts, the temperatures projected for 2030 would be outside the range that crops prefer."
The study revealed a surprising mix of winners and losers depending on the projected global temperature. The "most likely" scenario projected by the International Panel on Climate Change is that global temperatures will rise 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) by 2030. In that scenario, the trade model projected relatively little change in crop yields, food prices and poverty rates
But under the "low-yield" scenario, in which temperatures increase by 2.7 F (1.5 C), the model projects a 10 to 20 percent drop in agricultural productivity, which results in a 10 to 60 percent rise in the price of rice, wheat and maize. Because of these higher prices, the overall poverty rate in the 15 countries surveyed was expected to rise by 3 percent.
However, an analysis of individual countries revealed a far more complicated picture. In 11 of the 15 countries, poor people who owned their own land and raised their own crops actually benefited from higher food prices, according to the model. In Thailand, for example, the poverty rate for people in the non-agricultural sector was projected to rise 5 percent, while the rate for self-employed farmers dropped more than 30 percent – in part because, as food supplies dwindled, the global demand for higher-priced crops increased.
"If prices go up and you're tied to international markets, you could be lifted out of poverty quite considerably," Lobell explained. "But there are a lot of countries, like Bangladesh, where poor people are either in urban areas or in rural areas but don't own their own land. Countries like that could be hurt quite a lot. Then there are semi-arid countries – like Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi – where even if prices go up and people own land, productivity will go down so much that it can't make up for those price increases. In the 'low-yield' scenario, those countries would see higher poverty rates across all sectors."
Under the "high-yield" scenario, in which global temperatures rise just 0.9 F (0.5 C), crop productivity increased. The resulting food surplus led to a 16 percent drop in prices, which could be detrimental to farm owners. In Thailand, the poverty rate among self-employed farmers was projected to rise 60 percent, while those in the non-agriculture sector saw a slight drop in poverty. In Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Uganda, poverty in the non-farming sector was projected to decline as much as 5 percent.
Risk management
Lobell said that, although the likelihood of the "low-yield" or "high-yield" scenario occurring is only 5 percent, it is important for policymakers to consider the full range of possibilities if they want to help countries adapt to climate change and ultimately prevent an increase in poverty and hunger.
"It's like any sort of risk management or insurance program," he said. "You have to have some idea of the probability of events that have a big consequence. It's also important to keep in mind that any change, no matter how extreme, will benefit some households and hurt others."
The Program on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford is an interdisciplinary research and teaching program that generates policy solutions to the persistent problems of global hunger and environmental damage from agricultural practices worldwide. The program is jointly run by Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
Mark Shwartz is communications manager at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Energy Miracles

Talking About Energy Miracles at TED
At this year’s TED Conference, Bill spoke publicly for the first time about his belief that addressing climate change will require massive investments in innovation aimed at creating the “energy miracles” needed to develop zero-carbon energy sources.
TED 2010 was a great experience. Like last year, I was able to hear from and talk with many people who have introduced me to new things and have me excited to learn more about new areas I find interesting. I also return more passionate than ever for the work our foundation does.

Here are some of my favorites – which I’ll post links to as they get put onto the TED site. Nathan Myhrvold did a great job showing two projects his company, Intellectual Ventures, has been working on with the foundation. Michael Specter spoke on the importance of science and data to drive decision making, using GMOs as an example where science should inform the debate. Esther Duflo also presented a very thoughtful data-driven overview of how to judge the best way to encourage things like vaccines and malaria bed-nets.

I was really impressed with Jake Shimabukuro, a young ukulele player who is pretty famous on YouTube, but whom I’d never seen. He was pretty amazing. Elizabeth Pisani’s talk was also very good, about AIDS prevention. And Seth Berkley did a very strong presentation on vaccines.

Those are subjects I care a lot about, and was happy to see them get exposure at TED.

Likewise, just before my talk, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin from KIPP talked about the need to improve education in the US. All of these will be worth your time, as well as lots of others from this year, and past TED conferences.

I spoke at TED about moving to zero-carbon energy, and our need to reduce CO2 emissions 80% by 2050. The talk was called Innovating to Zero and it just posted on the TED website today.

It’s the first time I’ve spoken in public on the topic, but I’ve been studying energy and climate change over the last couple of years, and have been lucky to meet fairly regularly with some of the leading scientists in the field.

In the presentation, I talked about the massive innovation effort needed to deliver “energy miracles,” breakthroughs that will make zero-carbon energy generation possible. There are many promising approaches which we need to continue pursuing aggressively: CCS, Nuclear, Wind, Solar PV and Solar Thermal – but they all have challenges that must be addressed. And the only way to get there is through innovation.

Only a significant increase in research R&D will get us to a place where we can meet that 2050 deadline, since it will probably take a generation of inventing, and then a generation to change over our existing infrastructure.

I come to these issues as someone who spends most of his time thinking about problems that touch the poorest 2 billion people on the planet. Giving people access to cheap (and clean) energy is a huge step in reducing poverty.

To drive home that point, at the end of the talk, I said that if I had only one wish – it would be for zero-carbon energy that is half the price of today’s. That would be quite an achievement, and would do massive good for the poor.

Some people reading about the talk have drawn an odd conclusion that I don’t care as much for vaccines or other efforts from our foundation as before. I hope when they see the talk, they will understand that isn’t the case at all. Luckily, we all have more than one wish to make the world a better place.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What India’s Talent Shortage Means for the US

Ms Kanter
Ms Kanter

What India’s Talent Shortage Means for the US

By Shyamsunder Panchavati Here is your article. Please read and comment.
Seventeen hours of air travel and dozens of aloo parathas later, I am back from India, where I gave a keynote speech and workshop on innovation for NASSCOM. NASSCOM is the association for software and services companies, AKA the BPO (business process outsourcing) companies that some Americans think have “stolen” American high tech jobs – that is, the ones left after China supposedly stole American manufacturing jobs.
I am not sure what I expected in terms of mood. Maybe it would be a bit funereal due to a recent scandal in a large Indian BPO’er, or some ethical wrist-slaps to a few leading companies by the World Bank? Or perhaps I would hear glee over the cost-cutting moves by U.S. and other Western companies that could result in sending more work to India?
Instead, I found a sober, reflective mood about the limits to growth in a global downturn. There was a call for more innovation by Indian companies and for changes in the business model to stress high value-added services instead of inexpensive labor. There was a desire to become less dependent on large Western company customers by targeting emerging countries and smaller businesses.
And there was one interesting worry: that talent could not be developed fast enough to meet the demand as IT services continue to burgeon and find more applications. My first reaction was that this is good for America, as the IT innovation capital of the world (at least to date). My second reaction was that if India, which graduates about 10 times the numbers of engineers as the U.S., worries about a technical skills shortage, what about us?
Cisco CEO John Chambers, who spoke before I did with his usual charm, repeated his company’s investment in Bangalore as its second global headquarters because of the 600,000 engineers a year that India produces. Similarly, the 80,000-plus employees of IBM India make India the second largest country after the U.S. in terms of a concentration of IBM employment.
India’s importance will only increase. Its population will surpass China’s by 2020, according to U.N. projections. Of course, the competitive race continues – NASSCOM had attendees from China who want to create a Chinese IT industry to surpass India’s. And India has a huge problem of rural poverty and urban social problems. Still, the largest and best Indian IT companies, such as Wipro and Infosys, have become increasingly sophisticated in terms of human resource development; Infosys was recently named to a Fortune magazine list of the best companies for leaders.
In the uncomfortable pause caused by a terrible recession, there is time for Americans to reflect and learn.
America will create new jobs by tapping the inventiveness of entrepreneurs who can draw on a large pool of talent with so-called STEM skills – science, technology, engineering, and math. I wish that the federal stimulus package included less money on banks and more on investment in higher education and companies of the future. Venture capital is viewed as a purely private matter in the U.S., but there can be a public sector role. Singapore’s technology leadership derives from government investment. Massachusetts had a public seed fund starting in the 1980s that lent small amounts of money along with great credibility to startups that could then more easily raise private money after the vetting and state imprimatur. (BTW, the fund made a profit for the state.)
If we cannot learn a little more of the latest sciences ourselves, we can demand this from our children’s schools. We can find or found supplementary schools, like the Saturday math school in a Boston suburb founded by Russian immigrants (and whose attendees tend to be kids from families with Indian, Russian, and Israeli origins – are parents without recent immigration status too complacent?) We can support community science and math contests and make them as popular as the Putnam County Spelling Bee of song-and-dance fame.
More knowledge of India and its talent development efforts would be a good thing for America. If more Americans might find business opportunities through ties to India or knowledge of how to stay ahead of a formidable competitor, that would be a contribution to rebuilding the U.S. economy. Even better would be a determination to improve STEM education at home.
* * *

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Google's move to digitize books will stifle competition , say..

Google brushes off antitrust worries
U.S. officials, rivals say tech firm's move to digitize books will stifle competition

From Japan Times.

Determined to create the world's largest digital library, Google Inc. is betting it knows more about U.S. antitrust and copyright laws than the government regulators enforcing them.

The Internet search leader took an audacious step toward realizing its book ambitions last week with a 67-page brief filed in New York federal court.

Among other things, the documents dismissed the legal concerns that the U.S. Department of Justice has raised about a class-action settlement proposing to give Google the digital rights to millions of hard-to-find books.

Google's stiff arm sets the stage for a showdown between the top U.S. law- enforcement agency and the most powerful company on the Internet.

They are scheduled to square off Thursday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Denny Chin. The judge will listen to arguments from Google, the Justice Department and more than two dozen opponents and supporters of the settlement as he tries to decide whether the deal should be approved.

Google contends the world will be a better place if its electronic library of books is unlocked so everyone with an Internet connection can peruse and potentially buy volumes to store on their computers and other digital devices. The company has made digital copies of more than 12 million books and hopes to eventually scan everything that's still on printed paper — if it can gain legal rights to do so.

Most of the books in Google's digital database haven't been shown in their entirety because of a copyright dispute that triggered a class-action lawsuit filed in 2005 by groups representing authors and publishers. The $125 million settlement would remove that barrier and put Google in charge of an electronic bookstore, with most of the revenue going to participating publishers and authors.

The Justice Department has left little doubt it believes the settlement would stifle competition in the book market and undermine copyright laws. The agency has made the points twice, first in September and then again last week, when it filed its opinion about changes that Google made with authors and publishers in November. Those changes were made in the hopes of overcoming the Justice Department's opposition to the deal.

In its most recent filing, the Justice Department called the settlement "a bridge too far" and asserted Chin "lacked authority" to approve the agreement.

Google countered that "the Department of Justice and other objectors have failed to articulate a meaningful principle" for Chin to reject the agreement.

The settlement's opponents include consumer-watchdog groups, state governments, a foreign government and Google rivals Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Inc.

Shouting down that chorus of criticism might be easier if the Justice Department hadn't chimed in, too.
Google retreated the last time that the Justice Department warned the company was pursuing a path that would break antitrust laws, which are designed to prevent businesses from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

To avoid a Justice Department lawsuit alleging antitrust violations, Google called off a proposed plan to sell Internet search ads for Yahoo.

But Google didn't have much invested in the Yahoo deal, either financially or emotionally. Google agreed to the deal mainly to prevent Microsoft from teaming up with Yahoo. (Those two companies have subsequently got together in an alliance still awaiting regulatory approval.)

Google has spent the past five years scanning books at an "enormous" cost, according to its court filing. Creating a massive library has been a dream shared by Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
The Justice Department contends the settlement provides the framework for a literary cartel that could drive up book prices. The agency also warned that the settlement could give Google an unfair advantage in the Internet search market that it already dominates by giving it a reservoir of human knowledge that its rivals wouldn't be able to easily duplicate.

Despite those red flags, the Justice Department endorsed the concept of Google's digital library. The agency also outlined ways Chin could dictate changes that would satisfy some of its concerns.

Chin himself is likely part of Google's calculations, because he might not be on the case much longer. He has been nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to a position on a federal appeals court, with confirmation in the Senate expected to come soon. If Google tried to revise the settlement again, in hopes of satisfying the Justice Department, the company would run the risk of further delays if a new judge had to spend time reviewing the volumes of documents in the case.

Google seems to want Chin to be the man making the decision, said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, one of the opponents scheduled to speak in court this week.

"Google has decided it's no longer willing to negotiate with (the Justice Department) on this one," Simpson said. "They want to negotiate with the judge instead."
Even if Google can persuade Chin to approve the settlement, the Justice Department could still try to block it by filing its own lawsuit alleging the arrangement is illegal. But David Balto, a former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission who thinks Google is on solid legal ground, dismisses the prospect. "The Justice Department won't poke a federal judge in the eye like that," Balto said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind

"Can I still compete?"

YES YOU CAN................. 

It's a question many of us increasingly ask as we reach middle age.

We watch younger colleagues master new computer systems with ease or pull all-nighters with nary a hair out of place and — quite naturally — we're concerned.

Luckily, recent research in brain science suggests that perhaps we should fret less.

Over the past few years, neuroscientists have begun to zero in on the brain's changes in middle age, and what they've found is encouraging. Results of long-term studies show that — contrary to stereotypes — we actually grow smarter in key areas in middle age which, with longer life spans, now stretches from our mid 40s to our mid to late 60s.

In areas as diverse as vocabulary and inductive reasoning, our brains function better than they did in our 20s. As we age, we more easily get the "gist" of arguments. Even our judgment of others improves. Often, we simply "know'' if someone — or some idea — is to be trusted. We also get better at knowing what to ignore and when to hold our tongues.

Not long ago, a mid-level executive told me how he'd recently changed the way he deals with younger colleagues. When gathered to discuss a problem, he keeps his "mouth shut'' and listens. Even though — more often than not — he has a good solution, he waits. He does not speak.

"I find it works best if I let the younger workers talk first, wrestle with the problem in their own way,'' he told me. "Then after a while, I say what I think might work. I'm not sure why, but this seems to work best and to help us all learn and solve the problem better.''

In fact, though he did not realize it, the executive was using the best parts of his calmer and more experienced middle-aged brain to help him manage his situation — and get better results.

It's true that by midlife our brains can show some fraying. Brain processing speed slows down. Faced with new information, we often cannot master it as quickly as our younger peers. And there's little question that our short-term memories suffer. It's easy to panic when you find you can't remember the name of that person you know in the elevator, or even the movie you saw last week.

But it turns out that such skills don't really matter that much. By midlife our brains have developed a whole host of talents that are, in the end, just as well suited to navigating the modern, complex workplace. As we age, we get better at seeing the possible. Younger brains, predictably, are set up to focus on the negative and potential trouble. Older brains, studies show, often reach solutions faster, in part, because they focus on what can be done.

By the time we reach middle age, millions of patterns have been established in our brains, and these connected pathways provide invaluable perspective — even when it's subconscious. For instance, some middle-aged managers I've spoken with talked about how solutions seem to "pop'' into their heads "like magic.''

It doesn't come from magic, of course, but from the very real — and often unappreciated — talents of our middle-aged brains.

Indian firms most trusted, IT sector tops the list

India headquartered firms have emerged as the most trusted ones, with the technology sector topping the list in terms of transparency and credibility, according to survey.

According to global public relations firm Edelman's 'Trust Barometer' survey for 2010, India-headquartered companies are trusted by a majority of people in the country. Indian based companies have been ranked as trustworthy by 78 percent of people surveyed in India, 63 percent of respondents in Mexico and 52 percent in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Edelman President and CEO Richard Edelman said, "Trust is now an essential line of business to be developed and delivered. CEOs who embrace this new line of business called trust have seen their credibility rise."

IT sector is the most trusted sector in India at followed by banks, automotive (79 percent), pharma (75 percent), healthcare (73 percent), entertainment (70 percent). The annual trust and credibility survey sampled 4,875 informed people in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) in 22 countries.

Obama's Tales of recovery in jobs in economy,How far,How near Truth?

The road to recovery
One year in, the evidence is clear – and growing by the day – that the
Recovery Act is working to cushion the greatest economic crisis since
the Great Depression and lay a new foundation for economic growth.
• According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Recovery Act is already
responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs through the end of 2009
• As a result, job losses are a fraction of what they were a year ago, before the Recovery Act began
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:
• Cut taxes for 95 percent of working families through the Making Work Pay tax Credit
• Cut taxes for small businesses
• Provided loans to over 42,000 small businesses
• Funded over 12,500 transportation construction projects nationwide, ranging from highway
construction to airport improvement projects
• Made multi-billion dollar investments in innovation, science and technology that are laying the
foundation for our 21st century economy
• Provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls, including help to
prevent cuts to Medicaid and creating or saving over 300,000 education jobs
Economists on the left and the right have stated that the Recovery Act has helped avert an even worse
economic disaster.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bill Gates at TED

Bill Gates takes questions from Twitter followers.

billgates on Broadcast Live Free

Friday, February 12, 2010

New game show in India to reward 'green' projects

New game show in India to reward 'green' projects

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- A new game show in India will award prizes to villages that are going green.
The program, modeled after the rags-to-riches game show in the blockbuster film "Slumdog Millionaire," will focus on mainly rural institutions leading sustainable development, officials said.

India's state-owned Doordarshan television network will air the new version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" -- which will be called "Green Kerala Express," after the coastal state of Kerala in which it will be filmed.

The show has received about 250 entries ahead of its March 1 broadcast, Kerala Doordarshan assistant director Sajan Gopalan told CNN.

Among the contestants is a village that has rejected use of fertilizers and pesticides and adopted organic farming, he explained. Another competitor is a group of households converting degradable waste into biofuel, he added.

An initiative to replace incandescent bulbs with modern, energy-saving fluorescent lights in a whole neighborhood is another entry, Gopalan said.

The program's anchors will travel to selected villages in Kerala on bicycles for the shooting of the 105-episode program -- which will only be broadcast in that coastal state.

"The basic format will be that of a travelogue and thus it differs from conventional reality shows," Gopalan explained.

A technical jury will select village councils and other institutions on the basis of filmed documentation of their projects, according to the show organizers.

In studios, selected participants will then face questions from judges and the audience as videos of the projects are played for viewers, who can then rate their performance through mobile text messages to add to the score.

The winning project will receive a cash prize worth about $213,000, which Gopalan said would be funded by the state government.

"Green Kerala Express" is being launched a year after the smash hit "Slumdog Millionaire" swept the Oscar awards. The film, directed by Danny Boyle, told the tale of an improbable game show contestant, Jamal Malik, who wins the jackpot in "Kaun Banega Crorepati," India's earlier Hindi adaptation of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

"But 'Green Kerala Express' is unique. It focuses on the collective efforts of the peoples to improve lives and work for sustainable development at the grassroots level," Gopalan said.

According to India's 2001 census, Kerala leads the country of a billion-plus residents in literacy. About 91 percent of Kerala citizens are literate -- compared to the national figure of 64.8 percent, data shows.
At the rural level, the state has about 1,000 village councils, according to official figures.

"The show gives opportunity to all of them to map their resources, visualize their success stories for others to emulate," Gopalan remarked.

India has vowed to reduce its carbon emissions by up to 25 percent between 2005 and 2020 voluntarily but refuses to accept legally-binding cuts that it fears may hamper its growth as a rising economy.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Two sides of the coin.

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

Even though our economy is growing again, these are still tough times for America. Too many businesses are still shuttered. Too many families can’t make ends meet. And while yesterday, we learned that the unemployment rate has dropped below 10% for the first time since summer, it is still unacceptably high – and too many Americans still can’t find work.
But what we must remember at a time like this is that we are not helpless in the face of our difficulties. As Americans, we make our own destiny. We forge our own path. And I am confident that if we come together and put aside the politics that keeps holding us back, we can do that again. We can rebuild this economy on a new, stronger foundation that leads to more jobs and greater prosperity.

I believe a key part of that foundation is America’s small businesses – the places where most new jobs begin.
These companies represent the essence of the American spirit – the promise that anyone....

... can succeed in this country if you have a good idea and the determination to see it through. And every once in awhile, these ideas don’t just lead to a new business and new jobs, but a new American product that forever changes the world. After all, Hewlett Packard began in a garage. Google began as a simple research project.
Government can’t create these businesses, but it can give entrepreneurs the support they need to open their doors, expand, or hire more workers. And that’s what we’ve always done in this country. The folks at Southwest Windpower in Flagstaff, Ariz., started their company in a small home. Since getting a loan from the Small Business Administration, they’ve sold 160,000 wind turbines to about 90 countries and are hiring even more workers today. When Sam Ko walked into one of the SBA’s small business development centers in Illinois, he didn’t have any business experience at all – just a patent for a new metal manufacturing technology. He was given a loan and a business plan, and today his company is still growing, with offices all over the Midwest.

Last year, the steps we took supported over 47,000 loans to small businesses and delivered billions in tax relief to small business owners, which helped companies keep their doors open, make payroll, and hire workers. But we can and must do more. That’s why I’ve proposed a series of steps this week to support small business owners and the jobs they create – to provide more access to credit, more incentives to hire, and more opportunities to grow and sell products all over the world.

Because financing remains difficult for good, credit-worthy small businesses across the country, I’ve proposed that we take $30 billion from the TARP fund originally used for Wall Street and create a new Small Business Lending Fund that will provide capital for community banks on Main Street. These are the small, local banks that will be able to give our small business owners more of the credit they need to stay afloat. We should also continue to waive fees, increase guarantees and expand the size of SBA-backed loans for small businesses. And yesterday, I proposed making it easier for small business owners to refinance their mortgages during these tough times.

To give these companies greater incentives to grow and create jobs, I’ve proposed a new tax credit for more than one million small businesses that hire new workers or raise wages, as well as the elimination of all capital gains taxes on small business investment.

Finally, we should provide targeted support to the most innovative small businesses – the ones with the greatest potential to export new goods and products all over the world. A lot of these companies – like the wind turbine manufacturer I mentioned – are the foundation on which we can rebuild our economy to compete in the 21st century. They just need a little help securing the financing they need to get off the ground. We have every incentive to help them do that.

Next week, Congress will start debating many of these proposals. And if anyone has additional ideas to support small businesses and create jobs, I’m happy to consider them. My door is always open. But I urge members of both parties: do not oppose good ideas just because it’s good politics to do so.The proposals I’ve outlined are not Democratic or Republican; liberal or conservative.

They are pro-business, they are pro-growth, and they are pro-job. Leaders in both parties have supported similar ideas in the past. So let’s come together and pass these measures without delay. Let’s put more Americans back to work, and let’s give our small business owners the support to do what they’ve always done: the freedom to pursue their dreams and build our country’s future.

Thanks for listening.

Remarks by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, as provided by the Republican National Committee

Hi, I’m Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas; I serve as the number two Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Some of you may have seen me on television last week when I had the opportunity to ask the President if his new budget would once again triple the national debt and dramatically increase the cost of government to 25 percent of the economy – up from its traditional 20 percent.

You may recall that the President declined to answer the question last week. But he has certainly answered it this week by submitting a new budget that does exactly what I feared.

The numbers in his budget are simply breathtaking: a record $3.8 trillion in spending, more than $2 trillion in new job crushing taxes, not to mention a tripling of the national debt – on top of the largest deficit in our nation’s history. Interest payments alone on this debt will set us back roughly $6 trillion over the next decade – that’s about $50,000 per household.

Now, you’re probably like me and believe, in America, you ought to work hard today, so your children can have a better, more prosperous tomorrow. But with this budget, it is like Washington has said, ‘let’s let government live easier today, so our children have to work harder tomorrow.’
Texas Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling

You know, it was about this same time last year, President Obama and Democrats in Congress promised that if we passed their trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ bill – and grew big government even more – that jobs would be created ‘immediately,’ they said unemployment would remain below eight percent.

Well, Republicans stood on principle and offered a better alternative that, according to an analysis developed by the President’s own economic advisors, would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. But, Democrats chose to go it alone and jam through their ‘stimulus.’

What did the American people get? A bill for $1.2 trillion and three million more jobs lost.

Americans are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ but all they are getting from Washington is more spending, more taxes, more debt and more bailouts.

Now, when it comes to budget matters, I usually find myself agreeing with about 80 percent of what the President says, but I disagree with 80 percent of what he does.

While the President’s budget rhetoric gives a nod to reducing the deficit, he punts the problem to a ‘commission’ that does not yet exist, and whose recommendations may never see the light of day. We have to do better.

Additionally, President Obama’s proposed spending freeze unfortunately is not really a freeze at all. It exempts 86 percent of the federal budget from the freezer, doesn’t turn on the freezer until next year and then turns it off shortly thereafter.

In fact, when you run the numbers, the President’s idea of fiscal responsibility unfortunately amounts to choosing to grow government by 49.01 percent over 10 years instead of 49.27 percent. We have got to do better.

Serious fiscal responsibility requires more than just tinkering around the margins. Republicans have proposed adopting strict budget caps that limit federal spending on an annual basis and are enforceable by the President. These caps were a critical plank in the fiscally-responsible budget alternative Republicans proposed last year and yet they are noticeably absent from the President’s budget.

The federal budget must never be allowed to grow faster than the family’s budget ability to pay for it. You can learn more about our better Republican budget solutions on the web at

So, you pile up all this Democrat spending, all their borrowing, all their debt, you add it to their government takeover of health care, their ‘cap-and-trade’ national energy tax and their continued bailouts – is it little wonder that job growth is lagging in our economy? Small business owners and investors tell me every week, ‘We’re not taking the risk to start or expand a business in this climate.’

We cannot continue on this reckless path, and the American people know it. But now it’s up to Democrats in Washington to listen and change course. We’re willing to work with them, but we will continue to stand on principle, we will oppose more reckless Washington spending, and we will fight for better solutions that make government live within its means. Our budget plan will help create jobs, prevent a fiscal calamity and give our children a brighter economic future.

Thank you for listening.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

India’s potential lies in her IT reaching out to the masses

"India the Bubbling Cauldron of unexplored Human potential. How to create the opportunity of utilizing huge reserve of Human Resources in rural India? " & Mr. Narayan Murthy’s Perspective.

Question: Since bringing the Aspirants to the place of opportunities is resulting in all sorts of infrastructural problems, what do we need to do to take the opportunities to the aspirants?
Please read the article and Mr. Narayan Murthy’s perspective and then participate in the discussion.

India is a Bubbling cauldron of vast and unexplored Human Resources. The 550 million strong work force in the age group of 18-35 represents the world largest and richest human resource pool. However we have not still created the wherewithal utilize these gold mines.
Y2K was an opportunity as well as a challenge for the Indian HR. India not only supplied the manpower to meet the challenge but also justified the trust with productivity that surpassed all expectation.Y2K was delivered in time.
From that time onwards, India was the chosen destination for software and IT outsourcing. But unfortunately the infrastructure for this exists only in a few urban and semi urban areas. The vast stretch of the rural India which comprises 80 % of India still lacks the IT & ITES related structure & the infrastructure.
Mr. Narayan murthy, the chief mentor of Infosys in a recent article “India potential lies in its IT reaching the rural masses.”  has highlighted the fact. Please read the article also

Best wishes,

India’s potential lies in her IT reaching out to the masses 

It was with the dawning of the Y2K problem that the West woke up to the potential of Indian IT. In itself, the Y2K crunch did not involve much of a complexity; it was something that had to be completed within a certain time period. Every corporation needed it badly. At the time, there were perhaps 100-125 Fortune 500 companies working with Indian service providers; the Y2K made almost all 500 of them embrace the Indian service providers.

In that lay Indian IT industry’s biggest turning point. The mass influx of global clients’ services to Indian companies created the basic foundation in raising the awareness of the commitment, hard work, and the smartness of the Indian IT force in global business circles. At around the same time, the internet revolution made way for many more jobs to move to India; work in that sphere was very high-tech and advanced. It enhanced the technological caliber of the Indian IT executives and provided them exposure to complex problems.

We have since leveraged this situation quite successfully; with Y2K providing us the channel to global MNCs, we started using our expertise in high-tech areas and advanced applications to cross-sell other services to them, and became their long-term partner. That has been the primary contributor in helping us reach where we are today.

Looking ahead
I envision the per capita revenue productivity of the Indian IT professionals to quadruple; from $50,000 per year now to about $200,000. But that will only come about when we move up the value chain and work on more and more of end-to-end solutions for our clients. It is necessary to bring in new ideas and develop new models improve productivity and reduce costs, while remaining focused on the business.

Secondly, I want the Indian software industry to become so well-known that the CIOs of Fortune 500 companies would hand over $100million to $200 million projects to Indian firms with ease.

Also, Indian firms need to become more and more multicultural; the office of an Indian IT company should be a potboiler of varied nationalities, cultures, religions and language. This, combined with an atmosphere of utmost courtesy, dignity and healthy competition, will help add greater value to customers.

Most important of all though, we should work towards helping India become a force to reckon globally by leveraging on IT. We need to play a big role in governance and all firms must work towards bringing out effective e-governance applications. There is also a huge need to design applications in local languages. This would include ones that could be used by small and medium enterprises, as also voice-activated applications that could be used by the 350 million Indians who are still illiterate, and the 150 million who are barely literate. For computers to make a significant difference to the lives of these illiterates and barely-literates, voice inputs and outputs are very important.

I would end on the note that in many respects, we need to emulate our neighbor across the Himalayas—China. That country has done wonderful work in terms of creating a large number of jobs, and good infrastructure. They have enhanced their exports significantly and have also produced 2600 PhDs in the last year alone.

It is time we too followed suit. Coupled with those attributes and our exploits in IT, we could very well become the next superpower.

Author: Narayana Murthy
Chairman &Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies.

Note: please also the interesting comment  below

Do you think USA and CHINA are trying to create bi-polar world order again?
Can India become Super power?

Power makes an individual center of lobbying. Power may be money power or political or social power. Similarly powerful country in the world is considered as Super Power and other nations seek advice and help from Superpower in case of need. Even India looks towards America before taking any decision or framing any idea which pertain to International relation. There may be one, two or three super power country in the world. China or Russia may be considered as probable Superpower by negligible portion of the world but USA is undisputed Superpower as of now.

As such the world may be unipolar or bipolar or multi polar , but till today USA is only considered to be Super Power because it is USA which extends financial and military help to many developing Nations , not China or Russia , of course through IMF or World Bank. Entire financial transactions are quoted in dollar terms and the US currency is more common in International arena than the currency of any other country. Even Euro s not that much transacted as US dollars.

Who knows China? Chinese toys or electrical goods may be cheap but not lasting and hence the image of Chinese goods is not good and even if it is so some to some negligible extent it is not sustainable .Obviously development story of China as f now looks good but to become Super power China has to do more and become sustainable and acceptable to other nations. People from all over the world go for education and job to USA, very few to China or any other country for that matter.

India is of course in creating euphoria of becoming Super power. A country, which cannot give employment to majority of Indians, where 90% of citizens are leading almost a miserable life, where corruption is rampant in all departments, where crores of children are constrained to work for survival of family,Where quality primary education is beyond the reach of poor, where quality higher education is not affordable for common men, where electric power is unavailable for most part of the day and in most part of the country, where judiciary deliver judgment after two or three decades, where political leaders and ministers talk much about caste, community, religion or their region, where patriotism in citizen and love for the country is getting erosion day by day , where unity and integrity of the nation is at stake due to all pervasive Naxalism and extremism cannot imagine of becoming superpower at least in coming decade or two.

Indian GDP growth may be higher than many other countries but the growth so calculated by Statisticians have failed to portray the real picture of Indians and that of Indian Development. And Growth story narrated by veteran economists and politicians are pertaining to hardly five percent of Indians. It is true that there have been considerable good growth during last one decade or two. But it is also true that for achieving the task of social inclusion government still feel helpless and financially weak. Disinvestment of inherited property appears to be one and only solution to deficit financing.

It is true that Indians have vast knowledge and there is huge potential to make India superpower. But unfortunately talented Indians are constrained to go outside for better education or for better job opportunities. It is Indians who go abroad and earn image and get respect better than what he or she could have got in India. Talent of Indians is recognised and respected in USA, Britain and other countries but not that much in India itself. This results in exodus of talent from India.

Can so called GDP growth rate hyped everyday give happiness to Indians or talk of India becoming leader of the world may change the image of Rural India?

Lastly one can conclude and say emphatically that until Indians are respected and recognized India cannot dream of becoming superpower .India have to do lot for Indians first and than to think about competing with other nations of the world. To illustrate Indians banks are advised to merge and go for acquisition so that consolidated bank may compete with foreign banks of the world leaving Indian population crying for essential goods for respectful living .

Danendra Jain
Agartala 799001
28th January 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Haiti Survivor

Story of Seide,who managed to survive under the rubble, and was rescued.

Dear Shyamsunder,
As the disaster in Haiti begins to filter out of the headlines, we're just learning about the personal stories of some of the teachers and students in our school program. Our hearts are deeply impacted by the devastation they experienced and their courage during the crisis. Here is an account from one young student, Seide, after the earthquake hit.
"I was in class when I heard a great noise like a clap of thunder, and the school began to tremble violently. I ran, but the school broke down around me.  Fortunately, God protected me under a great piece of flagstone concrete. Part of it was on my back and the other on my feet, and I was in a lot of pain. I felt alone, but had faith that I was not going to die, in spite of being under the rubble. I laid between two of my friends, but they both died during the night. When I heard voices above me, I kept shouting, “Save Me!” trying to hang on through the night.
"The next day around 9:50, I was saved from the rubble. I could not walk. Someone carried me in their arms to get help. They brought me to a hospital for x-rays, and someone gave me a drink.
"Now I sleep on the ground among 2600 others, placed in make-shift tents, some made of carboard and plastic. I still cannot walk well."
Because you're an Outreach International supporter, you know long-term development is the key to helping the families in Haiti. And we will be there, on the ground, for as long as it takes to help children, like Seide, and their families rebuild and restore their lives, their schools, and their hope. We couldn't do it without you. You know it takes more than a rush of relief to create truly sustainable good for families in poverty, and we count on you to stand beside us in this effort.
Matthew C. Naylor, President
Outreach International 
Outreach International will use your donations for our relief aid and field work in Haiti. If we exceed our financial need, funds will be used where it is most