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December 28, 2004

Asia quake changed face of earth

LOS ANGELES: The earthquake that unleashed deadly tsunami waves in Asia was so powerful it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map, US geophysicists have said.
The 9.0-magnitude temblor that struck 250 km southeast of Sumatra island on Sunday may have moved small islands as much as 20 metres, according to one expert.

"That earthquake has changed the map," US Geological Survey expert Ken Hudnut told AFP on Monday.

"Based on seismic modelling, some of the smaller islands off the southwest coast of Sumatra may have moved to the southwest by about 20 metres. That is a lot of slip."

The north-western tip of the Indonesian territory of Sumatra may also have shifted to the southwest by around 36 metres, Hudnut said.

In addition, the energy released as the two sides of the undersea fault slipped against each other made the Earth wobble on its axis, Hudnut said.

"We can detect very slight motions of the Earth and I would expect that the Earth wobbled in its orbit when the earthquake occurred due the massive amount of energy exerted and the sudden shift in mass," Hudnut said.

However, Stuart Sipkin, of the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden Colorado, said it was more likely that the islands off Sumatra had risen higher out of the sea than they had moved laterally.

"In in this case, the Indian plate dived below the Burma plate, causing uplift, so most of the motion to the islands would have been vertical, not horizontal."

05:52 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Although I'm not actually Christian, I attended a Catholic school for 10 years. This, according to my Christian friends, makes me an honorary Christian. So, I wish you all happy holidays. Make the most of this festive season, spend time with your family, bury the hatchet with friends and enjoy!

NOTE: I am normally a hardcore cynic and such inspirational words seldom come out of my mouth (or the tips of my fingers for that matter). But I'm pumped full of drugs following a prolonged bout of the flu and these make me slightly unlike my fiery Arian self ;-).   

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December 20, 2004

Good news all around?

The New Year is fast approaching and people are busy thinking up new resolutions for the same, myself no exception. We are all hoping that the new year brings us that much needed streak of luck with regards to academics, career, love, family or all of the forelisted. I, for one, am certainly hoping to run into Mr. Right around the corner. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that happening is somewhat dim. Nevertheless, I live in hope!

Although one would expect the course of one's life to improve/deteriorate in the new year, it seems that the lives of few people I know have dramatically improved (well, that's my interpretation of it anyway!) a couple of weeks prior to the new year. It seems that those closest to me have some good news to impart. So, be it three of my closest friends who have recently been selected for high-flying jobs, or an old classmate who recently got engaged to her first love (awww!), another old classmate who confessed that she is in love (aww again!) or another friend who has confirmed engagement plans; there suddenly seems to be a boom in good news being divulged all around me. Of course, I am pleased for all concerned. They all seem to have something to look forward to in the new year.

Which leads me to question the stagnancy of my own life. They say that no news is good news, so it must follow on that the fact that I have absolutely no news to share is great news. I'm sure that's true in theory but, realistically, I'm slightly bored of not having news to give!! I ought not to complain, for life as a student cannot possibly be expected to be filled with events and happenings (barring the late night partying and chilling in overpriced coffee shops!). My sole objective should be (and is) to complete my education with flying colours. My career will be the next logical step.

I could continue my woe-filled tale, but I have the distinct feeling that we might all be here for the next hundred years. So, instead, I'll conclude by saying that don't expect any news from yours truly on the lines of an engagement (To whom?! The horizon is devoid of decent guys for miles..!) or a new job (not until I finish studying at any rate) or a blossoming love story (Barring my passionate love affair with Cadbury's!). Temporary stagnancy may just be a good thing (like denial!). And doesn't the grass forever seem greener on the other side?? I leave you with this, the profound albeit haphazard product of my thought process. Enjoy!   

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December 13, 2004

5 Foods To Boost Your Health

What if you could make a conscious effort to add five healthy foods to your plate and make an improvement in your longevity?

The key, say some researchers, is to outsmart your body, which, as you age, is busy half-forming or damaging your cells, rather than creating healthy new cells resistant to cancer, rapid aging, and other ills. These cells are damaged by "free radicals," a very reactive and unstable atom or groups of atoms with an odd, unpaired number of electrons. When free radicals bang into DNA in your cells, they can damage it, leading to bad cell behavior such as cancer.

What can you do? Your body already has a defense system of antioxidants, chemicals that can interrupt the damaging reactions of the free radicals. Although antioxidants can also be found in our diets, examples include vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Sometimes, scientists also include selenium in this mix.

But do vitamins definitively lower cancer or heart disease rates? The studies thus far are not conclusive. Some findings do show that people who eat many fruits and veggies, which contain high amounts of these naturally antioxidants compounds, have lower cancer rates -- but maybe they are doing other healthful things.

However, there is also some evidence indicating that taking vitamin supplements, especially taking high dosages of these so-called antioxidants, can result in more free radical damage.

So judgment and moderation are vital. Moderation, however, may mean greens for dinner or a nice salad with olive oil dressing or glass of wine each day. How hard is that?

Healthy Food No. 1: Leafy greens

According to Audrey Cross, PhD, professor of public health at Columbia University in New York City, and author of the nation's first dietary guide under President Jimmy Carter, some people avoid the heaped-up greenery section of the produce aisle because they don't know how to prepare the foliage there.

Others have never even considered grazing in these verdant fields. Cross tells of giving a talk at her daughter's first grade class. Three of the youngsters had never eaten lettuce of any type!

The most nutritious and fiber-filled greens, Cross tells WebMD, include kale (ranked highest in antioxidants in a Human Nutrition Research Center study), mustard greens, broccoli rabe, bok choy, Swiss chard, and of course, good old broccoli and spinach (iceberg lettuce, on the other hand, contains almost no nutrients and precious little fiber, Cross says).

The dark leafies are even prewashed now in some cases, adds Tanya M. Horacek, PhD, RD, associate professor at Syracuse University, making them easier to use.

Leafy greens, which run the gamut from deep green and smooth-leafed, to crinkled and lacy, can be prepared many ways, Cross says:

  • Saute some onion or garlic in butter or canola oil and wilt the chopped greens in the sauce until softened. This is a great side dish. Or you can combine the sauce with bacon chips (made of soy) for a wilted salad (turnip greens are tougher, she warns, plan to cook rather than wilt those).
  • Try some crispy, flavorful leaf veggies on your next sandwich, in lieu of the rusty-looking iceberg. Cross says she made a sandwich with meatloaf and cooked kale and although her husband looked skeptical, he ate it.
  • Prepare your own mesclun, the pricy field greens mix so beloved of French bistros, by combining romaine, some soft Boston lettuce, and a small amount of arugula, and lace it with olive oil vinaigrette.

Greens can be a little bitter -- it's the all-important phytochemicals (plant chemicals) -- so don't be afraid to use some dressing.

Healthy Food No. 2: Olive oil

Another powerhouse food is olive oil, which just happens to pair perfectly with leafy dark-green veggies. Don't forget all the outdoorsy, energetic Mediterranean people who swear by an olive oil-based diet.

The term "extra virgin" basically means least processed. Olive oil not only doesn't cling to arteries, narrowing them, as do some saturated fats, but it contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols found in many teas. Polyphenols can help keep some cells, such as those which cause breast and colon cancer, from warping and causing trouble.

One study done in Greece showed that the incidence of breast cancer was cut by as much as 12% in people who ate a lot of vegetables and that regular consumption of olive oil also seemed to confer protection.

The whole Mediterranean diet, in fact, is based on eating "good" oils, without the saturated fats (bad fats, which increase cholesterol and are associated with heart disease) in meats consumed sort of as a side dish rather than the main part of the meal.

One tasty way to get the oil is to put some in a shallow dish and splash in some balsamic vinegar. This makes a terrific dip for fresh bread -- instead of balancing hard chunks of cold butter on each slice.

For another treat, coat fresh asparagus in olive oil, sprinkle with thyme, and cook in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Healthy Food No. 3: Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are rich in fiber, which lowers cholesterol and prevents constipation. The little wonders also contain lignans, another polyphenol compound that may protect against cancer. The seeds and their oil also contain those heart smart omega-3 fatty acids you've heard so much about.

Flaxseeds take a little tender loving care. You need to store them in the fridge because they can go rancid. The oil must also be kept cold and must not be heated or put into baked goods.

To prepare the seeds, you can grind them in a normal coffee grinder. Then sprinkle a tablespoon or two on your cereal, throw it into meatloaf, toss into cookie batter, or adorn your next dish of yogurt.

As for taking flaxseed oil in pill form, many people do it and find it helps with creaky joints. Better to eat them as seeds, though, Horacek notes.

Healthy Food No. 4: Oatmeal

Turns out the Quaker guy was right -- oatmeal is good for you. Oats rush cholesterol out of your system, cutting those important numbers.

Most nutritionists suggest eating the long-cooking kind of oats versus instant. If eaten as a cereal, this can be garnished with milk and a spray of brown sugar or even a little butter.

Or add some blueberries -- even the frozen ones are now known to be nutritional super fruits! According to a study done at Tufts University, half a cup of these little beauties packs twice as many antioxidants as most Americans get in an entire day.

Oatmeal can also be presented in delicious cookie form. Don't forget those raisins -- they contain the same phytochemicals as red wine, which is also turning out to be a healthy addition to the diet, in moderation, of course.

Cross also puts oatmeal in meatloaf and casseroles.

Healthy Food No. 5: Tea

If you sip on soda at the desk, substituting green tea could be a lifesaver. Even black teas -- and especially the new, trendy "white tea"-- also can up your antioxidant levels.

The beautiful, pale, green tea is rich in polyphenols, a free radical fighter. Green tea also may boost your metabolism, helping you burn off food.

Brew it from leaves (1 teaspoon per cup) or use a green teabag and a peppermint tea bag together to amp up the flavor.

As for white tea -- all tea comes from a white-flowered evergreen called Camellia sinensis. The color depends on how the plant is processed. When the buds are picked while silvery-white, it's white tea. If the leaves are withered and heated, it becomes other types of tea.

Some people maintain that white tea keeps the most disease-fighting flavinoids on tap for use. White, green, or black -- tea beats soda any day!

"There is no perfect food," Horacek reminds us. "You need a variety."

Speaking of which -- we haven't even mentioned peanut butter (good against heart disease and diabetes), apples (just found to benefit the lungs of smokers), tomatoes and watermelon (thought now to fight prostate cancer), sardines (full of omega-3s and calcium) and turmeric (contains curcumin, which is thought to fight tumor growth).

Why waste a bite on a doughnut or piece of gummy white bread, when you could be eating something that goes to work to help you?

Star Lawrence is a medical journalist based in the Phoenix area.

Published Nov. 15, 2004.

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December 05, 2004

Comparisons

There I saw it-

A little plant between the rails

Its leaves swaying with the wind-

Too tattered, too few

Not graceful, but surviving.

Every five minutes

A train passes over it;

Bending it alarmingly

Somehow it manages

To stand up, to survive

It will never grow-

Grow enough to be a tree

But it is fighting

Fighting till its inevitable end.

There I saw it-

A little boy on the rails

His clothes swaying with the wind-

Too tattered, too few

Not graceful, but surviving.

Collecting plastic wastes and leftovers-

As a train passes every five minutes;

He somehow climbs the platform

And waits for it to go by

To continue with his work.

Weak and faltering at each step

Will he ever grow ?

Grow enough to be a man

I doubt it.

But - he is fighting

Fighting the bitter end.

Both listless and lifeless

Colourless and songless

One to be run over by the train-

And the other by the train of circumstance

By Prerak Ved

Another one of Prerak's many wonderful poems. I hope you are as impressed with it as I was.

05:23 AM in Poetry | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 03, 2004

BBC goof-up awards gas victims $12 billion

LONDON: In a cruel sequence of events on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the victims, their families and poor poisoned Bhopal were all too briefly, and courtesy of a BBC goof-up, awarded a 12-billion-dollar hand-up from Dow Chemical Company, the world's largest chemical producer and current owner of Union Carbide.

In a spoof reminiscent of an April Fool joke, the BBC allowed its platform to be used by a man described as Dow spokesman Jude Finisterra.

Finistera grandiosely - and untruely as it now emerges - announced near Mad Max plans to "liquidate Union Carbide remediate the Bhopal plant site."

Finisterra, who was swiftly disowned by Dow's real spokeswoman in Zurich Maria Ashanin, also announced that Dow accepted "full responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe."

But within minutes, experts were deeply suspicious of that claimed reversal of Dow's position on Bhopal.

An alert Dow set out to disabuse the world of the notion it had suddenly acquired a heart.

By Friday afternoon, Ashanin was clarifying on the phone to the Times of India that Dow had been deeply "puzzled" by the BBC interview and its interviewee.

"We have absolutely no idea," she said, when asked how it was that the BBC appeared to have fallen for a hoax that tried to bounce Dow into a position it did not want.

Ashanin stressed that there was no change in Dow's position on Bhopal.

Dow, which bought Union Carbide three years ago, has always maintained it "has no responsibility" for the Bhopal tragedy.

Even on the tragedy's sensitive 20th anniversary, and with a public vigil vilifying Dow and Union Carbide underway on the faraway streets of Bhopal, the company continued to remind the world it "never owned or operated the Bhopal plant".

And it refused to bend even slightly to demands by many, including most recently, Amnesty International, that it show a little compassion for the victims of the world's worst industrial accident.

It had "philanthropic initiatives in India," it said, but these were just the same as "elsewhere around the world in communities where we live and work."

"These initiatives are not specific to Bhopal as we do not own or operate a facility there," it added.

But the company said even though it was not responsible for the disaster, it still remembered that "day (December 3, 1984) well and the following days, when several thousand people died."

It said the only good to come out of Bhopal was that "the chemical industry learned and grew - creating Responsible Care (a code of conduct and practice for chemical producers) with its strengthened focus on process safety standards, emergency preparedness, and community awareness."

02:33 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kindergarden education

ABCD is generally referred as ... American Born Confused Desi... But do you know "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ"???

American Born Confused Desi Emigrated From Gujarat, Housed In Jersey,
Keeping Lots of Motels, Named Omkarnath Patel, Quickly Reached Success
Through Underhanded Vicious Ways, Xenophobic yet Zestful.

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December 01, 2004

Dreamers

You have got to love this little girl. What a woman she'll make!

A  teacher asked her class, "What do you want out of life?"

A little girl in  the back row raised her hand and said, "All I want out of life is four  little animals."

The teacher asked, "Really and what four little animals would that be sugar?"

The little girl said, "A mink on my back, a jaguar in the garage, a tiger in the bed and a jackass to pay for all of it."

The teacher fainted.

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