Apr 27, 2011

Healthy Eating: The low down on carbs and fashion food

Ten years ago, low fat or no fat diets were all the rage, today, however, low carbohydrate or even no carbohydrate diets seem to be the way to go to shed those unwanted pounds. However, unlike the low/no fat diet, the low/no carb regime is slightly more complicated as most people don’t really know what a carb is. In addition, not all carbs are created equally – some in fact may actually help to achieve those weight goals.

To begin, when most people think of carbohydrates, bread, pasta and rice typically come to mind. But did you know that vegetables, fruits and even milk products are classified as carbs. That’s right, basically anything that is not a fat or a protein contains carbs. So what are carbohydrates? It is simple – sugar! While, it’s hard to image that a slice of bread acts the same as a teaspoon of sugar in our body, the sad truth is that it does.

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Carbohydrates were once grouped into two main categories: simple and complex. What is  the difference? Well a simple carb is exactly what it sounds like – it’s simple sugar. Simple sugars are quickly converted to glucose in the body and include fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbs on the other hand are digested slower as digestive enzymes take longer to break them down, thereby reducing the rate at which sugar enters the blood stream, and supplying us with a steady stream of energy throughout the day.

So common sense would dictate that we should steer clear of simple carbs and load up on complex ones, right? Unfortunately, no. If this wasn’t already complicated enough, it gets trickier – carbohydrates are no longer just grouped as either “simple” or “complex”, they are now classified according to their glycemic index and glycemic load. The digestive system handles all carbohydrates in a similar manner—breaking them down into glucose (also referred to as blood sugar), the energy source of all our cells and organs.

Now, the glycemic index of a food tells you how quickly and how high blood sugar will rise after consuming the carbohydrate, as compared to eating pure sugar. Low glycemic index foods are healthier as they will keep one feeling full longer and will not cause blood sugar levels to go on a rollercoaster ride. But why is that important? In short, the less spikes and drops you have, the more stable your energy and hunger levels will be – preventing unwanted snacking between meals and overeating, because you are too hungry. However, managing blood sugar levels is not only important for losing and maintaining weight, it is also critical for type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetics, as well as for people who are prone to the disease (runs in the family or overweight). Moreover, sugar rushes followed by crashes will affect your overall energy levels, leaving you feeling drained and tired, as well as affect cognitive function and concentration abilities.

CarbsGoing back to the glycemic index, while most complex carbohydrates fall into the low glycemic index category, some do not. For example, white bread is classified as a complex carb; however, the body converts this food into blood sugar as quickly as it processes pure glucose. The glycemic index of a food is ranked between 1 to 100 where foods with a glycemic index of 55 or lower provide slow-releasing energy that will stabilize blood sugar levels, foods with an index between 56 and 69 high a medium glycemic Index and foods that have scores of 70 and above have a high glycemic Index (and should be avoided at all costs). 

However, you can’t just stop with the glycemic index, it’s also important to look at the glycemic load of the food. The glycemic load not only takes into account the glycemic index, but also the amount of carbohydrate in the food. For example, watermelon is high on the glycemic index, but because it is mostly water it has very few carbs, and therefore has a low glycemic load – in other words, it won’t have a negative effect on blood sugar levels. A low glycemic load is defined as 10 or under, a medium glycemic load is from 11 to 19, while 20 or above is considered high.

While most grains, oats, breads and other starchy foods rank high on the glycemic index, and will cause blood sugar levels to spike, then quickly fall, a few are extremely beneficial for weight loss and weight maintenance (as well as helpful to manage blood sugar levels in diabetics). So without further ado, four “former” complex carbs that are actually good for you:

Quinoa

With twice as much protein as brown rice, a glycemic index of 53 (150 gram cooked cup) and a medium glycemic load of 13, quinoa certainly tops the "good" carb list. Pronounced "keen-wah", this South African grain is one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein as it contains all the amino acids that we need - one (cooked) cup of this healthy grain contains 8g of protein. While quinoa might have a high carb count of 25 grams, it is loaded with fiber - bringing in 5 grams of dietary fiber per (cooked) cup. The combination of the high fiber and protein content keep blood sugar levels stable, making this grain an ideal energy source that won't cause roller-coaster like spikes and drops in blood glucose levels, thereby reducing unwanted food cravings. Quinoa is also low in fat – only 4 grams per (cooked) cup – as well as an excellent source of iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and folate. It is also higher in the B Vitamins than several other grains, including corns, wheat and barley as well as rich in the anti-oxidant Vitamin E. The combination of its high fiber and mineral content has linked it with lowering the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Two types of quinoa are commonly available in the North America - traditional quinoa, which is pale ivory, and Inca red quinoa, which is dark red. While many prefer the flavor of white quinoa, the red version contains slightly more protein as well as more minerals (including calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin).

Oatmeal

Steel cut oatsSay bye bye to those high sugar (high glycemic load) breakfast cereals, and say hello to old-fashioned oatmeal. Hands down, one of the best sources for carbohydrate, oatmeal contains no sugar and is loaded with dietary fiber – both insoluble and soluble. Fiber is the part in plant foods that our body cannot digest as it is put together in such a way that it can't be broken down into sugar molecules; but even though fiber is not absorbed (and therefore provides us with no calories), it does all sorts of great stuff for our bodies, including slowing down the digestion of other nutrients eaten at the same time, including carbohydrates. In doing so, it helps prevent blood sugar levels from spiking then rapidly falling, a contributing factor of type II diabetes. Moreover, oatmeal is rich in a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan which has been proven to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels as well as slow glucose absorption.

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, this oat does not disappoint as it is loaded with many of the B Vitamins including thiamine which is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism, as well as folate which increases the production and growth of cells. Oatmeal is also rich in niacin, which helps to increase energy and metabolism, selenium and zinc.

Take care, however, as not all oatmeals are the same. Stay clear of instant “flavoured” oatmeal, which are typically loaded with sugar. Instead opt for the old-fashioned kind (groats rolled in flakes) or steal-cut oats.

Barley (pearled)

BarleyA nutritional powerhouse, barley is certainly a winner it comes to eating healthy. While it may be higher in carbs than quinoa, it has a low glycemic index (glycemic load of 19) and one cup cooked is loaded with 6 grams of dietary fiber – both soluble and insoluble. Like oatmeal, barley is rich in beta-glucan soluble fiber, which not only keeps us feeling full longer, but slows the absorption of glucose, keeping our blood sugar levels regular, as well as lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, thereby helping to reduce the risk of heart disease; while insoluble fiber may help to lower the risk for certain cancers such as colon cancer. Moreover, unlike many grains, barley contains fiber throughout the entire kernel, and not just in its outer layer. Therefore, even processed barley still contains high fiber levels that have a positive impact on blood sugar levels.

Like most grain products, Barley is rich in Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). It is also an excellent source of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and copper.

Bulgur

While not many people have heard of bulgar, there is quite a lot to say about it. Loaded with fiber and protein and higher in most micro-nutrients than wheat, bulgur is an exceptionally rich source of many essential vitamins and minerals -quite a lot of nutrients, especially for a grain that most people know nothing about. In fact, one cup of cooked bulgur provides just over 9% of the daily recommended intake of niacin (vitamin B3), a vitamin needed to digest carbohydrates as well as ensure that the nervous system functions properly, maintain proper blood flood and is needed for the synthesis of sex hormones, amongst others.

This grain is also rich in folate and iron as well as providing more than half of one’s daily recommended value of manganese - a mineral that helps the body metabolize fat and carbohydrates, absorb calcium and regulate your blood sugar. Moreover, packing six grams of protein and eight grams of fiber per cup, this carb has a relatively low glycemic load of only 13 – and therefore, does not have a negative impact on blood sugar levels.

From losing weight, to boosting energy levels and improving your overall health, start eating the “right” carbs.

Apr 23, 2011

The market for really smart phones | The Australian

APPLE and Google may be intensifying privacy concerns by tracking where and when people use their mobile phones, but the true future of consumer surveillance is taking shape inside the mobile phones at a weather-stained apartment complex in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
For almost two years, Alex Pentland at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has tracked 60 families living in campus quarters via sensors and software on their smartphones -- recording their movements, relationships, moods, health, calling habits and spending. In this wealth of intimate detail, he is finding patterns of human behaviour that could reveal how millions of people interact at home, work and play.
Through these and other mobile phone research projects, scientists are able to pinpoint "influencers," the people most likely to make others change their minds. The data can predict with uncanny accuracy where people are likely to be at any given time in the future. Mobile phone companies are already using these techniques to predict -- based on a customer's social circle of friends -- which people are most likely to defect to other carriers.
The data can reveal subtle symptoms of mental illness, foretell movements in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and chart the spread of political ideas as they move through a community much like a contagious virus, research shows. In Belgium, researchers say, mobile phone data exposed a cultural split that is driving a historic political crisis there.
And back at MIT, scientists who tracked student mobile phones during the latest presidential election were able to deduce that two people were talking about politics, even though the researchers didn't know the content of the conversation. By analysing changes in movement and communication patterns, researchers could also detect flu symptoms before the students themselves realized they were getting sick.
"Phones can know," said Dr Pentland, director of MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory, who helped pioneer the research. "People can get this god's-eye view of human behaviour."
So far, these studies only scratch the surface of human complexity. Researchers are already exploring ways that the information gleaned from mobile phones can improve public health, urban planning and marketing. At the same time, researchers believe their findings hint at basic rules of human interaction, and that poses new challenges to notions of privacy.
"We have always thought of individuals as being unpredictable," said Johan Bollen, an expert in complex networks at Indiana University. "These regularities (in behaviour) allow systems to learn much more about us as individuals than we would care for."
Today, almost three-quarters of the world's people carry a wireless phone. That activity generates immense commercial databases that reveal the ways we arrange ourselves into networks of power, money, love and trust. The patterns allow researchers to see past our individual differences to forms of behaviour that shape us in common.
As a tool for field research, the mobile phone is unique. Unlike a conventional land-line telephone, a mobile phone usually is used by only one person, and it stays with that person everywhere, throughout the day. Phone companies routinely track a handset's location (in part to connect it to the nearest mobile phone tower) along with the timing and duration of phone calls and the user's billing address.
Typically, the handset logs calling data, messaging activity, search requests and online activities. Many smartphones also come equipped with sensors to record movements, sense its proximity to other people with phones, detect light levels, and take pictures or video. It usually also has a compass, a gyroscope and an accelerometer to sense rotation and direction.
Advances in statistics, psychology and the science of social networks are giving researchers the tools to find patterns of human dynamics too subtle to detect by other means. At Northeastern University in Boston, network physicists discovered just how predictable people could be by studying the travel routines of 100,000 European mobile-phone users.
After analysing more than 16 million records of call date, time and position, the researchers determined that, taken together, people's movements appeared to follow a mathematical pattern. The scientists said that, with enough information about past movements, they could forecast someone's future whereabouts with 93.6 per cent accuracy.
The pattern held true whether people stayed close to home or travelled widely, and wasn't affected by the phone user's age or gender.
"For us, people look like little particles that move in space and that occasionally communicate with each other," said Northeastern physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, who led the experiment. "We have turned society into a laboratory where behaviour can be objectively followed."
Only recently have academics had the opportunity to study commercial mobile phone data. Until recently, most mobile phone providers saw little value in mining their own data for social relationships, researchers say. That's now changing, although privacy laws restrict how the companies can share their records.
Several mobile phone companies in Europe and Africa lately have donated large blocks of calling records for research use, with people's names and personal details stripped out.
"For the scientific purpose, we don't care who the people are," said medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis at Harvard University, who is using phone data to study how diseases, behaviour and ideas spread through social networks, and how companies can use these webs of relationships to influence drug marketing and health-care decisions.
His work focuses on "social contagion" -- the idea that our relationships with people around us, which are readily mapped through mobile phone usage, shape our behaviour in sometimes unexpected ways. By his calculation, for instance, obesity is contagious. So is loneliness.

Apr 22, 2011

Artificial nose may sniff out cancer, borrows a trick from dogs | Tecca

Halitosis is one thing, but researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology have developed an artificial nose to detect another kind of bad breath entirely. The device works with a combination of software and tiny nanoparticle sensors that in combination are extremely sensitive to molecules in human breath that are known to correlate with head, neck, and lung cancer.

In a trial of 80 volunteers, the device — called the Nanoscale Artificial Nose — was not only able to sort out the cancer patients from healthy control subjects, but could also differentiate between the patients who suffered from head and neck cancer versus those who had a lung cancer diagnosis.

The technology sounds pretty far-fetched, but it may actually build on existing research about man's best friend. Some preliminary trials have suggested that dogs too can detect cancer, thanks to the animal's very discerning sense of smell.

According to one researcher exploring the method behind the potentially life-saving sense of smell, "Cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells." Since dogs — much like the artificial nose — have a far better developed sense of olfaction than humans, they can actually sniff out the presence of these biochemical by-products.

Researcher: iPhone Location Data Already Used By Cops

When British programmers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden took the stage at the Where 2.0 conference to unveil their work on iPhone location tracking, it was clear they had some big news on their hands. The duo outlined what they called "the discovery that your iPhone and 3G iPad [are] regularly recording the position of your device into a hidden file." Their findings started a firestorm of media coverage.
But as the details came to light, one researcher was left scratching his head—because he'd already made the same discovery last year.
Alex Levinson, 21, works at the Rochester Institute of Technology in western New York, and he has been studying forensic computing and working with Katana Forensics, which makes tools for interrogating iOS devices.
In a post on his blog, he explains that the existence of the location database—which tracks the cellphone towers your phone has connected to—has been public in security circles for some time.While it's not widely known, that's not the same as not being known at all.In fact, he has written and presented several papers on the subject and even contributed a chapter on the location data in a book that covers forensic analysis of the iPhone.
(One blogger reviewing the book in January mentioned the cell-tower data and says, "more and more you realize how much information Apple's mobile devices could contain and how valuable this could be for your investigation.")

Ignoring the Obvious

In his post, Levinson takes issue with the claim of "discovery." In fact, he told me by e-mail that Allan and Warden had apparently missed a whole area of existing research conducted by forensic analysts.
"It was a shock to me when this came out labeled as a 'discovery,'" he explains. "I watched the video, and they don't appear to be interested in the forensic side of this, which is honestly where the research lies."
Part of it seems to be a failure of researchers across different disciplines to plug into each others' work. As Levinson put it, "They basically built a bridge without turning to the civil engineers—I'm not the only one familiar with this stuff."
Bad communication among researchers, however, isn't the only culprit. Levinson adds that the press missed the story first time around and now seems more focused on the horror of data storage than the reality (for example, there's no evidence, at least at the moment, that the data are sent back to Apple).
"I do blame the press somewhat for sensationalizing [this] without recourse," he says. "I e-mailed 20 of the top media outlets [that] covered this, linking them to my side—none of them replied, except a famous blogger who cursed me."
Sometimes this is the case with research, and just because it's not new to you, doesn't mean it's not news. Sometimes the people credited with breakthroughs are the ones who have been able to communicate their ideas to the right people. And clearly Allan and Warden's presentation is having a lot of impact, not least because they have released the tools to make the data obvious to users.

Just an Internal Log?

The truth is, there may be more important things to consider than the issue of who discovered what. Levinson's revelations are more important than that, because he explains that the location data are already being put to use. In his blog post he says (my emphasis):
"This hidden file is nether new nor secret. It's just moved. Location services have been available to the Apple device for some time. Understand what this file is—log generated by the various radios and sensors located within the device. This file is utilized by several operations on the device that actually are what make this device pretty 'smart.'
"Through my work with various law enforcement agencies, we've used h-cells.plist on devices older than iOS 4 to harvest geolocational evidence from iOS devices."
That's very interesting. It's not that people in some circles already knew about the location data; in fact, the data are actively being used by law enforcement agencies as part of their investigations. Levinson declined to divulge the names of those agencies but told me he had worked with "multiple state and federal agencies both in the U.S. and internationally."
So when Allan and Warden say, "Don't panic … there's no immediate harm that would seem to come from the availability of this data," you have to ask whether that's the case. No court orders are needed to track your location history via an iPhone, since the devices are relatively open. All the investigator needs is the device itself.
Also from GigaOM:

Apr 21, 2011

Tiger Airways may be grounded after safety breaches | Herald Sun

TIGER Airways blames "operational reasons" for scrapping flights amid news of serious safety breaches.
Two interstate flights out of Melbourne Airport were scrapped today, throwing Easter holiday makers’ plans into chaos.
The cancelations come as it was revealed Tiger Airways have been given a “show cause” notice by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority over concerns about pilot training and maintenance.
The budget airline is at risk of being grounded by the aviation regulator over the breaches.
In a bombshell for the airline industry, it has emerged the Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued Tiger with a "show cause" notice on March 23. The airline had 21 days to respond.
It is the most serious action taken by CASA against a major Australian airline since Ansett was hit with a similar warning in 2001, just months before it went bankrupt.

And as the airline reels from that news, flights out of Melbourne were disrupted.
Among them include a flight to Brisbane early this morning and a second flight scheduled to fly to Sydney just before midday.
The last-minute cancellations angered hundreds of passengers left scrambling to find an alternative flight.  “I was about to get on a flight and I had a holiday booked and now we can’t go and this is just ridiculous,” said Mankaran Singh who was booked onto the cancelled Brisbane flight. Mr Singh and his wife, Nadini, and children Prisha, 2, and Viraaj, 8 months, were left to seek tickets on alternative airlines, vowing never to fly with Tiger again.

Apr 20, 2011

The oldest classified documents in the CIA repository reveal the secret recipe for invisible ink | The Australian

THE Central Intelligence Agency has declassified six World War I-era documents - the oldest classified documents held by the spy agency - containing the ingredients used to create invisible ink.
The formulas, which date from 1917 and 1918 and were the CIA's oldest classified documents, were apparently so sensitive that as late as 1976 the agency decided against releasing the information.
"These documents remained classified for nearly a century until recent advancements in technology made it possible to release them," CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a statement. CIA officials could not be reached to explain what processes had led to their declassification.
The declassified material, which the CIA said it believed were the last remaining secret documents from World War I, include a number of recipes for making secret ink. One consists of a combination of iron sulfate and potassium cyanide or rice starch mixed with ink and water. To make the ink visible, a combination of water, potassium iodate and tartaric acid must be applied.
Another memorandum dated June 14, 1918 - and written in French - reveals the formula used for German secret ink.
"The CIA recognises the importance of opening these historical documents to the public," said Joseph Lambert, the agency's director of information management services.
The CIA declassified and released over 1.1 million pages of documents in fiscal year 2010.
The documents will be available on CIA.gov and in the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Apr 14, 2011

India co-sponsors UN resolution against piracy - The Times of India

Helpless against the depredations of Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the continued holding of 53 Indians, India on Monday co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution against hostage-taking by the pirates.

The Security Council passed the resolution 1976 strongly condemning the growing practice of hostage-taking by pirates operating off the coast of Somalia, particularly criticizing the inhuman conditions hostages face in captivity. It also recognized the adverse impact of the act of hostage-taking on the families of the hostages.

In a statement, the Indian mission at New York highlighted the fact that Somali pirates were now operating further and further off from the Somali coast. A few recent incidents of piracy have taken place about 250 nautical miles away from the Indian coast.

"A serious humanitarian issue concerning piracy is the problem of hostage-taking. The International Maritime Bureau reported that in 2010 alone, 1,016 sailors of all nationalities were taken hostage by Somali pirates, of whom 638 continue to remain in captivity," the resolution said.

These pirates have in their custody 53 Indians. "The hostages are generally from working class backgrounds and often the only breadwinners of their families. Sailors are in many circumstances required to endure very harsh conditions under the captivity of pirates and are often tortured by their captors," the Indian statement said.

Not that this resolution will make much difference to the pirates operating off Somalia, but Indian officials reckon it could make information sharing among nations a little easier. This is a chapter 7 resolution which means it is enforceable, but there is no clarity on a host of related issues – for instance, what do nations do with the pirates that are captured? Under which law should they be tried and where can they be imprisoned?

Of course, on a deeper level, the cause of piracy is on land, not in the ocean. And there are still no ways of dealing with that comprehensively. The resolution further urges States and international organizations to share evidence and information for anti-piracy law enforcement purposes.

Fatigue to blame for reef ship accident

A final report has blamed fatigue and other safety issues for the grounding of a coal carrier on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Shen Neng 1 struck Douglas Shoal off the central Queensland coast on April 3 last year, gouging a 3 kilometre-long scar and spilling about four tonnes of heavy fuel oil from a ruptured fuel tank.
In its final report on the incident, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the chief mate was fatigued and it affected his performance as he monitored the ship's position.
"The ship did not have an effective fatigue management system in place to ensure that the bridge watchkeeper was fit to stand a navigational watch," it found.
ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said the grounding provided an important safety lesson for all seagoing vessels.
"Fatigue is one of the key safety risks facing seafarers, and watchkeepers in particular. Failure to manage fatigue can lead to loss of life, damage to property and damage to the environment," he said.

Apr 13, 2011

US lacks credibility on debt, says IMF

Please respect FT.com's ts&cs and copyright policy which allow you to: share links; copy content for personal use; & redistribute limited extracts. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights or use this link to reference the article - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dc1aadea-652e-11e0-b150-00144feab49a.html#ixzz1JOnHfQin
The US lacks a “credible strategy” to stabilise its mounting public debt, posing a small but significant risk of a new global economic crisis, says the International Monetary Fund.
In an unusually stern rebuke to its largest shareholder, the IMF said the US was the only advanced economy to be increasing its underlying budget deficit in 2011, at a time when its economy was growing fast enough to reduce borrowing.
The latest warning on the deficit was delivered as Barack Obama, the US president, is becoming increasingly engaged in the debate over ways to curb America’s mounting debt.
To meet the 2010 pledge by the Group of 20 countries for all advanced economies – except Japan – to halve their deficits by 2013, the US would need to implement tougher austerity measures than in any two-year period since records began in 1960, the IMF said.
In its twice-yearly Fiscal Monitor, the IMF added that on its current plans the US would join Japan as the only country with rising public debt in 2016, creating a risk for the global economy.
Carlo Cottarelli, head of fiscal affairs at the Fund, said: “It is a risk that if it materialises would have very important consequences... for the rest of the world. So it is important that the US undertakes fiscal adjustment in a way sooner rather than later.”
At the moment, the US had outlined less than half of the tax increases and spending cuts necessary to bring its public debt down in the medium term, the IMF calculated. “More sizeable reductions in medium-term deficits are needed and will require broader reforms, including to social security and taxation,” the IMF said.
The IMF said the US economy “appears sufficiently strong” to withstand greater austerity measures and tax increases, adding that the benefit of last year’s stimulus package “is likely to be low relative to its costs”.

Poor diet affects kids behaviour: study

Children who lack access to healthy foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, are twice as likely to develop behavioural problems, a Queensland study found.
A Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health study surveyed 500 households across Brisbane in 2009 and released the findings this week.
Researcher Rebecca Ramsey found one in four households goes without healthy food because of low income levels.
She said the study asked participants about their vegetable and fruit intake.
"It is not that these households are spending their limited money on junk food. It is more that they are unable to afford a variety of fruit and vegetables and instead may be purchasing larger quantities of staples such as rice and bread," she said.
Food insecure households were between 25 per cent and 40 per cent less likely to consume the recommended servings of fruit and between 15 per cent and 25 per cent less likely to consume adequate servings of vegetables, she said.
"Children are two and half times more like to display (behavioural problems) if they live in a food insecure household," she said. She said a unhealthy diet could affect children's behaviour and social skills.
Ms Ramsey said nationally food insecurity affected five per cent of the population but the National Health Survey which monitors the figure was from 2004.
"But one of the big problems with this measurement is that the latest figures are from 2004, so the impact of the global financial crisis remains unknown," she said.

Apr 12, 2011

Israel worried by weakening US, Middle East revolutions

ISRAEL is troubled by the perception the US is an "empire of the past" and wants a resurgent America to lead a decisive confrontation with Iran, a top official has said.

"America is tested" at a pivotal moment in the history of the Middle East, said Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, who is also the Minister for Intelligence and Nuclear Energy.

The Arab world was watching the US closely: "They look to America. If America does not seem to be able to contain the Iranian threat, will they go with Iran?"
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"This is of world-order magnitude," he told the Herald in an interview. Israel, which depends on the US as its security guarantor, itself appears to have new doubts about US judgment.

Mr Meridor said he was "surprised" at the Obama administration's treatment of a longstanding US ally, Egypt's former president: "Was it necessary to immediately empower the demonstrators against him and let [Hosni] Mubarak go? It's seen by all the allies of America in the Arab world. I don't know where the tide of history will go and I'm not sure they know."

"The perception, that I hope is wrong, that America is weakening is not good, but I hope that America will find a way, and I believe they can, to restore itself as the leading country and not allow those impressions spread by the Iraq war that America is an empire of the past. All this is here on the table.

Hefty hopes for weight-loss pill

A NEW weight-loss pill has emerged as a front runner in the anti-obesity drug race, showing promising results in a large American trial.

A team of US doctors yesterday reported in the Lancet that the oral pill, a combination of two medications already used in Australia, helped obese people lose about 10 kilograms a year - double the performance of the leading weight-loss drug Orlistat, which is also sold as Xenical or Alli.

Orlistat, available since 1998, is a gastric and pancreatic lipase inhibitor that reduces dietary fat absorption in the gut by about a third. In contrast, the new combination drug Qnexa pairs phentermine, a short-term appetite suppressant, with topiramate, an anticonvulsant usually used to treat epilepsy and migraines.
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Between 2007 and 2009, the researchers randomly assigned a placebo and Qnexa in low and high doses to 2487 overweight and obese people. All participants were also given counselling on diet and lifestyle.

At 56 weeks, the mean weight change for those on the placebo was a loss of 1.4 kilograms, compared with 8.1 kilograms for those on the low dose of Qnexa and 10.2 kilograms for participants on the high dose.

The study, which was funded by Vivus, the drug company behind the treatment, also found it had metabolic benefits - improving blood pressure, lipid and glucose levels and inflammation, allowing some people to come off medications.

iTWire - Do femtocells spell the death knell for coverage hell?

When AT&T launched femtocells in the US market, the company was criticised for not giving the units away but instead charging for them, with Optus facing similar criticism in the media today.

Page two has details on the state of femtocells in the US and Europe, but for now, let’s look at the local situation.

Optus has announced it is starting a femtocell trial, but some analysts say this is a worrying sign.

Instead, it reflects the reality that 2100MHz 3.5G networks, like the one Optus uses, don’t penetrate into city buildings, homes, offices, basements or in outer areas anywhere near as well as 850MHz 3.5G networks like Telstra’s, or Optus’ 900MHz 3.5 network technology, a frequency that Vodafone is also making deployments in.

This means the inevitability of some or even many of your customers having poorer reception indoors and out, due to the limitation of the 2100MHz frequency being unable to penetrate indoor areas as effectively as 850MHz or 900Mhz.

Thus, if you could in-fill that affected area with a phone signal that lets you make voice calls, SMS and MMS, with those two messaging systems pointed out by Renai Lemai in his “Reality Check” article and something I’d meant but not specified in my previous article.

Wi-Fi fills in all of the other data requirements but now voice calls, SMS and MMS can be much more reliable in what were previously potentially problematic indoor reception areas, at least for some.

Government May Cut $400 million from Medical Research

Other countries protect their research funding even in hard times, but not here.

The rumoured $400 million cut to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) budget would be disastrous for Australian science, for the intellectual health and international stature of our leading universities, hospitals and research institutes, and for the personal futures of that bright cadre of young, enthusiastic researchers that has been nurtured here since the significant increases to funding that occurred under recent governments.

Most NHMRC and Australia Research Council-funded researchers have completed 10-12 years of training, including a science honours degree, a PhD and time spent overseas before they receive salary support from what tends to be a five-year, renewable fellowship.

These fellowships, and the research dollars that pay for lab supplies and so forth, are probably the most rigorously reviewed and competitive federal disbursements in the country.
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Then there are the dedicated young physicians, who make major financial sacrifices to pursue research-based solutions to major medical problems. Taken together, they place Australia in the cutting-edge, international biomedicine community, and pass on the knowledge that feeds back to give better healthcare and drive real advances - such as the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer in women and the bionic ear, which were developed here. There is a great deal more in the pipeline. Lose the scientists and you lose the discoveries and the investment benefits that follow.

Medical research funding under threat

Australians have given the world the bionic ear and the cervical cancer vaccine, reduced the risks of sudden infant death syndrome and spina bifida and revolutionised the treatment of gastric ulcers.

Australians have given the world the bionic ear and the cervical cancer vaccine, reduced the risks of sudden infant death syndrome and spina bifida and revolutionised the treatment of gastric ulcers.

Our medical research has for many years punched above its weight. With 1 per cent of the world's researchers, we produce 3 per cent of internationally recognised findings cited in the work of others.

Seven Nobel prizes have fuelled a comfortable acceptance that the lucky country is innately clever too. But such complacency cannot survive as competition intensifies for resources, brains and ideas in the world of medical innovation.

Before the federal government proceeds with any plan to reduce our funding of medical research in order to return to surplus, it might like to ponder why much more deeply indebted nations are avoiding the same step. Britain, with a budget deficit this year of more than $200 billion, has committed to maintaining its spending on medical research. The deeply indebted US government still spends more dollars per capita on research than Australia.

Australia's world-class research is apparently being targeted for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. The government has refused to deny it.

It might be that research is seen as a ''soft'' and reasonable target. But what soft-headedness would it be to diminish investment in our most valuable talent - our intellect-based industry - at a time of unparalleled national income generated by the mining boom?

Our medical science, developed on the shoulders of Howard Florey and Frank Fenner and now worth billions in revenue, is not something that grows overnight.

We have invested in building on our position over decades - albeit not to the extent of countries such as Singapore, Ireland and Britain. But even with the recent modest increases in funding, we have slipped from fifth to ninth in expenditure per capita between 2006 and 2010 - behind Italy, Norway and Iceland.

Medical research is an area where we can distinguish ourselves and remain relevant in a region where nations such as China and India are investing huge amounts.

Clinical research opens access to the latest treatments and devices for patients, which Australians have said they want, and for which more than nine out of 10 say they are prepared to pay more tax or redirect government spending. But Australia's clinical trial levels have dropped to their lowest point in a decade.

Medical research should not be thought of as a ''bolt-on'' or ''a nice to have'' activity in health. Research is fundamental to how our health system and its clinicians and health professionals approach their work. We need a culture of inquiry, of critical appraisal; able to search out answers and assess and apply the findings of others in a robust critical way. There is strong evidence that the quality of individual clinicians' practice is enhanced by being involved directly in teaching and research - challenging conventional wisdom and keeping up with the latest. We need that not merely in hospitals and laboratories but also in primary healthcare, to spur improvements as soon as they become available.

For many with diseases including schizophrenia, MS, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, research is the only real hope. Even conditions of vast importance to Western countries - diabetes, obesity, dementia and depression - have much to be revealed about their genesis which would benefit millions of us.

Australia's contribution to such advances becomes less likely if we drive researchers offshore in the face of overwhelming competition from more searching and vibrant economies, such as nearby Singapore. Or worse still, if we lose the talent and potential of this highly skilled and precious human capital from research altogether.

Apr 11, 2011

Bullying is now a national epidemic | Herald Sun

IF any further evidence were needed that bullying has become a national disease, it is in the bashing of 11-year-old Blake Rice whose brother sacrificed his life to save him from the Queensland floods.

Blake's 13-year-old brother, Jordan, was a hero of the disaster that claimed 35 lives in the worst floods to sweep through the state in more than a century.

Jordan and his mother were swept away and Blake's life has been made a misery by bullies who have assaulted him in his home town of Toowoomba.

Disgustingly, they have boasted of their cowardly attack on Facebook.

Blake's father says the physical and cyber-bullying is forcing him to move with his son to another town.

This latest shameful incident comes as bullying reaches epidemic proportions not only in the nation's schools, but in the workplace and over the internet where sexual predators prey on children.

The Victorian Government has supported the Herald Sun campaign against bullying by announcing what we have named Brodie's Law after 19-year-old waitress Brodie Panlock jumped to her death from a building.

The teenager's tormenters were fined under workplace laws, but bullies in similar cases could now face up to 10 years in jail.

This week also saw the shocking victimisation of an 18-year-old female cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy. The young woman was secretly watched from another room over a webcam while she was having sex and images then shared over mobile phones.

This is a disturbing social issue and psychologists have warned that bullying and predatory sexual conduct are closely linked.

Parents and the community must act against behaviour that is causing irreparable harm to children and young adults.

The Herald Sun will continue to demand that government and police and education authorities increase their efforts to stop the spread of bullying.

Apr 7, 2011

ISRAEL21C.COM

The idea has been around for a while, but engineers weren't able to make it work. At least as far as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) knows, the Taxibot Dispatch Towing system is the world's first tugboat-like way to tow both wide and narrow body commercial airplanes to taxi to and from the gate and the runway without the use of their jet engines.

Developed and tested in a joint venture with Airbus, the environmentally friendly semi-robotic towing system could potentially reduce annual fuel costs from $8 billion to less than $2 billion, carbon dioxide emissions from 18 billion tons to less than two million tons per year and noise emissions by a significant margin.

"This is an outcome of the very innovation process we are doing at IAI," says Ran Braier, Taxibot project director and civil robotics director in the company's Lahav Division. He notes that a team of about 26 people, mostly engineers, worked on building the Taxibot.

Instead of running the engine as the plane taxis to the runway -- and if you've ever been stuck sitting in a plane on the runway for three hours, you know the problem all too well -- jets outfitted with Taxibot won't have to turn on the engine until minutes before takeoff.

A Boeing 747 can burn through a ton of jet fuel for every 17 minutes it's taxiing.

Apr 5, 2011

Windows 8 leaks show Microsoft Mobile and Office influences - Telegraph

Microsoft’s strategy of unifying its various products looks set to continue with Windows 8: new images of the operating system’s welcome screen, for instance, draw on the Windows Phone 7 lock screen, while new navigation techniques used in Office 2010 look set to be extended to Windows Explorer for file management.

Respected bloggers and writers Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott have begun a series of blog posts exposing initial thoughts in the first build of Windows 8 that Microsoft is releasing to developers.

The ribbon was introduced in Microsoft’s latest version of Office to replace large numbers of menus. It gives instant access to common features. Extending it to new versions of Windows itself would, for instance, allow quick synchronisation of files between machines and the cloud, as noted by other bloggers.

Further uses of cloud technology have been noted, with the inclusion of the Windows Live ID elsewhere in the new operating system, as well as the prospect of the Xbox’s motion-based Kinect sensor being integrated into PCs.

Microsoft is also known to be working on app store for Windows 8 and a back-up tool, similar to the Time Capsule that Apple offers. The “tiles” that it uses for Windows Phone 7 are also expected to appear across different devices using new versions of Windows, including tablet PCs. Also included will be a new PDF Reader and an “immersive” mode designed for tablets.

A public beta of Windows 8 is expected by the end of the year; the current leaks show the software at a very early stage of development.

Gulf monarchs denounce Iran | The Australian

GULF Arab monarchies at a ministerial summit meeting yesterday condemned Iran's "flagrant interference" in regional affairs and say Tehran is destabilising their countries.
Gulf Co-operation Council foreign ministers said in a statement they were "deeply worried about continuing Iranian meddling" in the region.
The West-leaning group - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates - accused Tehran of plotting against their countries' national security and of fanning sedition and religious disputes among their citizens.
Tehran was "violating the sovereignty" of council member nations, the group said.
The summit followed a warning last week from the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee, saying: "Saudi Arabia should know it's better not to play with fire in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf."
The conservative Saudi Sunni monarchy yesterday condemned the "irresponsible" Iranian statement as "void allegations and a blatant offence against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".
Saudi Arabia led the Gulf military force that entered Bahrain last month to help the authorities there quell month-long mass protests demanding democratic reforms.
But Gulf ministers accused Iran of "interference in Bahrain's internal affairs, in violation of international conventions and rules of good neighbourliness".

Apr 4, 2011

Is Labor digging a hole on NBN labour? - Full Duplex - Blogs

A friend of mine who did not attend university or even finish high school is currently drawing a six-figure package for a construction job that mainly involves pouring concrete and hitting things with hammers.
I don't know whether he'll be involved in the building of the NBN — nor does anybody, after NBN Co's surprise suspension of negotiations with 14 possible contractors. Yet I do know that this surprising turn of events highlights a significant problem in Australia's labour market, where decades of union intervention have normalised a situation where what used to be called "menial labourers" are drawing enormous salaries for digging holes, laying cable, pouring concrete, cutting trees and the thousand other tasks involved in any massive civil works project.
Multiplying these kinds of salaries times the tens of thousands of workers needed to build the NBN — and then adding on the usual margins for risk, both that which is inherent in the project and that posed by the continuing uncertainty around the NBN — is bound to produce a very, very big number indeed. And while NBN Co has assured us that it has an alternative plan that is thought to involve direct negotiations with Leighton-backed joint venture Silcar, I wonder if the solution may eventually lie overseas.