Saturday, 17 December 2011

Indian student Jyoti Amge named world's shortest woman

Ms Amge said it was "wonderful" to celebrate her 18th birthday with a new world record

An Indian student measuring just a little over two feet has been confirmed as the world's shortest living woman by Guinness World Records.
Jyoti Amge, at 62.8cm (24.7in), is 7cm shorter than previous title holder, American Bridgette Jordan.
Ms Amge was conferred the title on Friday as she celebrated her 18th birthday in the city of Nagpur.
Ms Amge has a condition called achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and is not expected to grow further.
In 2009, she was named the world's shortest teenager at 61.95cm.
The shortest woman ever recorded was Pauline Musters (1876-1895) of the Netherlands, who stood at 61cm.
Ms Amge was presented with a certificate, watched by her parents in Nagpur.
"It is wonderful to celebrate my 18th birthday with a new world record, it's like an added birthday present," she said.
"I feel grateful to be this size, after all if I weren't small and had not achieved these world records I might never have been able to visit Japan and Europe, and many other wonderful countries," she said.
Dressed in a traditional sari, she stood on a chair next to a seated Rob Molloy, official adjudicator for Guinness World Records, to cut her birthday cake.
"In accordance with our guidelines, Jyoti was measured three times in 24 hours by a doctor," Guinness World Records said.
Ms Amge has attended regular school since she was four and has just finished her high school exams. She plans to undertake a university degree.
Guinness World Records said she dreamed of becoming a Bollywood film star.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Driverless car: Google awarded US patent for technology

Google has been experimenting with driverless Toyota Prius cars in the US

A US patent for self-driving cars has been awarded to Google.
The intellectual rights relate to a method to switch a vehicle from a human-controlled mode into the state where it takes charge of the wheel.
It explains how the car would know when to take control, where it is located and which direction to drive in.
The search firm suggests the technology could be used to offer tours of tourist locations or to send faulty models to repair shops.
The application for Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode was applied for in May, but had been hidden from public view until this week.
The document describes using two sets of sensors. The first identifies a "landing strip" when the vehicle stops. This then triggers the second set which receives data informing the machine where it is positioned and where it should go.
"The landing strip allows a human driving the vehicle to know acceptable parking places for the vehicle," the patent filing says.
"Additionally, the landing strip may indicate to the vehicle that it is parked in a region where it may transition into autonomous mode."
Direct and drive
Google says the landing strip could simply be a mark on the ground, a sign on a wall, or lines or arrows showing where the vehicle should be parked.
To detect which landing strip it has been parked at, the document says the car could activate a GPS (global positioning system) receiver to find its rough location and then use its sensors to detect trees, foliage or other known landmarks to determine its exact position.
Alternatively the filing says the car could read a QR code - the popular two-dimensional square barcode - which would have details about the landing strip's location.
Telling the car precisely where it has been parked could be crucial to ensuring it knows where to go.
The patent explains that GPS receivers are sometimes only accurate to about 30ft (9.1m). However, if the vehicle can monitor its path and knows where it started from, it can simply be told to drive set distances from that point, adjusting its direction at the appropriate places.
The patent describes how data provided at the landing strip could also tell the vehicle to look up an internet address which would let it know if it needed to drive itself to a repair shop, or simply move to another parking bay to ensure a hire company had its cars spread evenly across its various pick-up spots.
It says the landing strip could also provide information about how long the vehicle should pause before driving off.
"The wait period may enable a human who was driving the vehicle to exit the vehicle and remove his possessions," the filing says.
"Additionally, the vehicle may be equipped with additional sensors that enable it to detect when the human has moved a sufficient distance away from the vehicle to allow safe autonomous operation."
Google adds that the driver may not always wish to leave the vehicle after it has switched into automatic mode.
It gives the example of a self-drive vehicle providing a tour of Chicago's Millennium Park with the machine programmed to stop at the site's ice rink, fountain and sculptures for set amounts of time before returning to its starting point.
Test runs
Although the technology described may sound fanciful, Google has been testing a fleet of driverless cars for several years. The vehicles combine artificial intelligence with the firm's Google Street View maps as well as video cameras and a range of sensors.
Google's executive team with one of their self-drive carsExperts say Google's "passion project" could end up creating a valuable revenue stream
It has adapted a fleet of Toyota Prius and Audi TT models which have driven 160,000 miles with limited human input and more than 1,000 miles without driver involvement.
The cars travelled along Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and elsewhere. Two humans were on board at the time - one to oversee the driving and intervene if necessary, the other to monitor the equipment from the passenger seat.
The firm has also successfully lobbied the state of Nevada to pass a law requiring its Department of Transportation to create rules and regulations for autonomous vehicles on its highways.
Engineers behind the project say that robots can react more quickly than humans, meaning the number of road accidents could be reduced. That might also mean more cars could be on the road at the same time, driving closer together thus increasing road capacity.
Google told the BBC it had no further comment to make on the project at this time.
The patent will allow Google to restrict other companies from using a similar method to switch their cars between human-controlled and automatic modes. Alternatively it could charge them a fee for a licence.
Experts say driverless cars could become a commercial prospect sooner than most people believe.
"Google believe it is a technology that is here and now and will start appearing in motorcars in the near future," said Professor Alan Woodward from the department of computing at the University of Surrey.
"We already have systems that park your cars for you and automatically brake - the next obvious step is to have cars take over the routine driving.
"Google has funded a lot of this work at universities. Not surprisingly, if they think it is going to be big they want to patent it."

US 'Miracle' Baby Set To Go Home For New Year

                           12:01pm UK, Thursday December 15, 2011

One of the world's smallest babies is expected to be sent home to join in New Year celebrations.

Melinda Star Guido was born 24-weeks premature in August, tipping the scales at just 9.8oz (270 grams).
Most infants of that size would not have survived but doctors at Los Angeles Country-UCS Medical Centre have helped her pull through.
The baby spent her early months cocooned in an incubator at the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit with her mother, Haydee Ibarra, 22, sitting by her bedside and touching her through the portholes of an incubator.
The baby is believed to be the second-smallest child to survive in the US - and third in the world.
"It's a big, huge miracle," Ms Ibarra said earlier in the week, on the day before her baby should have been born.
"She's been through a lot and she has made it. A lot of people doubted her."
Dr Rangasamy Ramanathan said: "This is our star baby here. Now the baby weighs eight times what the baby weighed when it was born."

"The Artist" leads nomination for Golden Globe Awards

The poster of movie "The Artist"

LOS ANGELES, .Dec 15 :"The Artist" topped contention for the 69th annual Gloden Globe Awards with six nominations as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced its picks for one of the most prestigious honors in the industry at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles Thursday morning.
Chinese drama "The Flowers of War," a production helmed by Zhang Yimou, was also nominated in the foreign language film category against "In the Land of Blood and Honey" (U.S.), "The Kid with the Bike" (Belgium), "A Separation" (Iran) and "The Skin I Live In" (Spain). The film stars the Academy Award best supporting actor winner Christian Bale in the role of a westerner who attempts to lead a group of Chinese women seeking refuge in a church to safety during Japan's rape of Nanjing in 1937.
"The Artist," a black-and-white silent tribute to the early ages of the Hollywood, will compete for best musical/comedy with four other serious contenders which include rowdy comedy " Bridesmaids," the cancer-patient's struggle "50/50," writer- director Woody Allen's latest comedy "Midnight in Paris," and the biopic of screen legend "My Week with Marilyn."
In contention for the best dramatic film, the most prestigious trophy in the field, HFPA, which split film awards format among two separate categories such as comedy/musicals and dramas in 1963, has picked the family tale "The Descendants," the civil rights era drama "The Help," director Martin Scorsese's 3-D adventure "Hugo," the political thriller "The Ides of March," the baseball drama " Moneyball" and director Steven Spielberg's World War I drama "War Horse" as its choices.
George Clooney, the Oscar winner who garnered a Golden Globe award in 2000, squares off with Brad Pitt for "Moneyball," Leonardo DiCaprio for "J. Edgar," Ryan Gosling for "The Ides of March" and Michael Fassbender for "Shame" in the best actor in a drama contention.
Nominees for best actor in a motion picture comedy/musicals are: Ryan Gosling for "Crazy, Stupid, Love," Jean Dujardin of "The Artist," Brendan Gleeson of "The Guard," Joseph Gordon-Levitt of " 50/50" and Owen Wilson of "Midnight in Paris."
Five actresses were recognized for best actress in a dramatic motion picture. They are: Glenn Close for "Albert Nobbs," Viola Davis for "The Help," Meryl Streep for "The Iron Lady," Rooney Mara for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and Tilda Swinton for " We Need to Talk About Kevin."
A pair of A-listers, Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet, who were featured in Roman Polanski's latest comedy "Carnage," got their nods for best actress in a motion picture comedy/musical. Other contenders in the category include Charlize Theron of "Young Adult, " Kristen Wiig of "Bridesmaids" and Michelle Williams for her portryal of Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn."
The best supporting actor fight pitted Kenneth Branagh for "My Week with Marilyn" against Albert Brooks for "Drive," Jonah Hill for "Moneyball," Viggo Mortensen for "A Dangerous Method" and Christopher Plummer for "Beginners."
Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer were both nominated for best supporting actress for "The Help." They will vie for the honor with Berenice Bejo of "The Artist," Janet McTeer for "The Help" and Shailene Woodley for "The Descendants."
In best director category, Woody Allen was named for his work on "Midnight in Paris." His contenders include George Clooney for "The Ides of March," Michel Hazanavicius for "The Artist," Alexander Payne for "The Descendants" and Martin Scorsese for " Hugo." He will also strive for best screenplay honors with Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon for "The Ides of March," Hazanavicius for "The Artist," along with Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash For "The Descendants," Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for " Moneyball."
The 69th Golden Globes ceremony will be held Jan. 15 at the Beverly Hilton. Ricky Gervais will host the event for the third consecutive year.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

NUS: Students turning to prostitution to fund studies

The NUS says it has anecdotal evidence of students taking to the streets to earn money

Greater numbers of students in England are turning to prostitution to fund their education, the National Union of Students (NUS) claims.
The NUS also says students are turning to gambling and taking part in medical experiments to fund their studies.
It says increased living costs and fees, and cuts to the education maintenance allowance, play a part.
But the government says it offers students a "generous package" of financial support.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast programme, Estelle Hart, the NUS's national women's officer, said government cuts had put more pressure on students.
"Students are taking more dangerous measures," said Ms Hart.
"In an economic climate where there are very few jobs, where student support has been massively cut, people are taking more work in the informal economy, such as sex work.
"It's all dangerous unregulated work, simply so people can stay in education."
Helpline calls
The English Collective of Prostitutes, which runs a helpline from its base in London, said the number of calls it receives from students had at least doubled in the past year.
Sarah Walker from the organisation has seen a steady increase in calls from students over the past 10 years, but said her group had received an unprecedented number of calls since the government's announcement that universities in England could charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year from 2012.
"They [ministers] know that the cuts they're making are driving women into things like sex work. It's a survival strategy so we would hold the government responsible for that."
Escort work
It is not just university students who are turning to the adult industry to pay for their education.
Eighteen-year-old Clare - not her real name - turned to escorting during her A-levels when she found out her education maintenance allowance (EMA) was in danger of being cut.
"I couldn't go to college without EMA. My travel costs are £70 a month, without it I don't know what I'd have done. I didn't know who I could go to in college, and I didn't want to rely on my family."
"I began looking for jobs, but the hours were unsociable. A lot of my friends have gone on to shop work, and have ended up leaving college. I didn't want that to be me."
"I had a friend who'd been trying to get me to join his escort agency since I was 16. He was telling me stories about how much I could earn, how the hours would fit around me, that I could control who I saw, when I saw them and how often.
"It just sounded more desirable. I couldn't see any other option."
Clare, who has now left the adult industry to continue her studies, warns against working in the sex industry.
"I did this so I could go to college, go to university, for it to have a positive effect on the rest of my life.
"But I'm a different person to how I was when I started out. I've lost a lot of my confidence and I've lost trust in a lot of people.
"There are people you can talk to about it, and bursaries you can get. Find out all you can before taking such a large step, because I didn't."
Financial support
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We are targeting £180m a year financial support at the most vulnerable 16- to 19-year-olds to help them continue their studies - with transitional funding for the students who were getting the top rate of EMA and part way through their studies.
"It is down to schools and colleges themselves to award bursaries to young people who need the most help. If students are really struggling financially, they need to speak directly to their tutors."
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says the new reforms in higher education funding will make the system fairer, and students will receive more financial support and have lower monthly repayments.
The NUS also told BBC 5 live Breakfast it estimated about 20% of women working in lap dancing clubs were students.
Research from the University of Kingston published last year found that the number of university students who knew someone who had worked in the sex industry to fund their studies had gone up from 3% to 25% in 10 years.
Dr Ron Roberts, senior lecturer in psychology, led the survey of several hundred university students, which also found that 16% would consider working in the sex industry.
He described the results as "worrying".

Satellite Takes Picture of Chinese Carrier on the Move

Dec. 8: Satellite image shows the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag sailing in the Yellow Sea.

DigitalGlobe Inc., a commercial satellite company, said Wednesday that it took a photograph of China’s first aircraft carrier during a sea trial in the Yellow Sea, off the Chinese coast.
The Pentagon did not confirm the image, but Stephen Wood, the satellite company’s director, said he’s confident about the Dec. 8 photograph due to the carrier’s location.

Although China insists the carrier is intended for research and training, its use has raised concern about the country’s military strength and its increasingly assertive claims over disputed territory.
While the development of carriers is driven largely by bragging rights and national prestige, China's naval ambitions have been brought into focus with its claims to disputed territory surrounding Taiwan and in the South China Sea.
Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy claimed by China as its own, has responded to the growing Chinese threat by developing missiles capable of striking carriers at sea. An illustration at a display Wednesday of military technology in the capital Taipei showed a Hsiung Feng III missile hitting a carrier that was a dead ringer for the former Varyag.
Over the past year, China has seen a flare-up in spats with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam and had its relations strained with South Korea -- all of which have sought support from Washington, long the pre-eminent naval power in Asia.
China defends its carrier program by saying it is the only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council that has not developed such vessels and that it has a huge coastline and vast maritime assets to defend. Beijing has also said its carriers would be employed in international humanitarian efforts, although the ex-Varyag's ski jump-style flight deck severely limits the loads its planes can carry.
As the world's second-largest economy, China says it lags behind smaller nations such as Thailand and Brazil, as well as regional rival India, which have purchased carriers from abroad.
While Chinese carriers could challenge U.S. naval supremacy in Asia, China still has far to go in bringing such systems into play, experts said. The U.S. operates 11aircraft carrier battle groups and its carriers are far bigger and more advanced.
The former Soviet Union started building the carrier, which it called the Varyag, but never finished it. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the carrier ended up in the hands of the Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.
China bought the ship from the Ukraine in 1998 and spent years refurbishing it. It had no engines, weaponry or navigation systems when China acquired it.
Beijing is believed to be years away from being able to launch and recover aircraft from it as part of a carrier battle group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Can football make a difference?

Drogba told how football helped stop the civil war in Ivory Coast

"Footballers are the pop stars of this generation". That is the verdict of Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.
With their global profiles and stratospheric salaries, it is hard to dispute his assessment.
However, if that is the case, is football missing a trick when it comes to what the game could do for wider society?
If Robin van Persie really is the new Van Morrison and Phil Jagielka the new Mick Jagger,where is football's equivalent of Live Aid?
Have the deep bonds that once tied our clubs to their communities been eroded to such an extent that all concerns revolve around making money, rather than making a difference?
Or does the charity and community work done by clubs and players up and down the country go under the radar, with footballers taking their social responsibilities far more seriously than they are ever given credit for?
As part of aBBC Radio 5live sport special program to be broadcast this Wednesday, I set out to investigate these questions, speaking to a whole host of people that ranged from superstars such as Carragher, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Patrick Vieira of Manchester City, and AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf to a former London gangster. I also got the views of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The footballers told me the stories of their upbringings and spoke about issues I'd never heard players discuss. Bootle-born Carragher gave me his searingly honest and impassioned opinions on the void that football fills in areas of urban deprivation, while Seedorf reminisced about how he turned his back on the gun-wielding gangsters he grew up with.
In the wake of the riots that engulfed our cities over the summer, Tottenham MP David Lammy stressed the need for clubs to strengthen their community links and remember their foundations, a view that was echoed by Manchester City executive Vieira.
A young man who had been involved with gang-life in south-east London gave me a different perspective, explaining the allure that gangs can hold for talented but troubled teenagers, tempting them away from pursuing a career in football.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, Drogba gave me a compelling insight into the unifying power of football if harnessed in the right way, citing the example of how football helped stop the civil war in his native Ivory Coast.
He also personified the breed of footballer I had encountered: eloquent, intelligent, and engaged.
Forget being the pop stars of this era. Players have the potential to wield a far-reaching influence that most politicians can only envy. If they are so inclined, they could become the spokesmen of future generations.

Iranian Official Threatens Military Drill Sealing Off the Strait of Hormuz Read more

April 2010: An Iranian warship and speed boats take part in a naval war game in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, southern Iran.

A high-ranking Iranian official has said Iran's military will practice sealing off the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil transport channel, in a provocative move that illustrates Iran's capability of disrupting the world’s oil supply.

The announcement Monday by Parviz Sarvari sent oil prices up about $3 to $100 a barrel based on the speculation of a disruption during the military drills, Bloomberg reported.
“Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz,” Sarvari, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, said in a statement reported by Reuters. “If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”
Iran has long used the threat of disrupting oil production as a main military deterrent, a sort of economic missile in its silo.
Although Sarvari did not name a specific country making the region insecure, though diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been on the rise recently over the U.S. drone that went down in Iran.
Pentagon Spokesman Doug Wilson responded by saying although he has no information on the exercises, the United States government is committed to the free and safe passage in international waters and anything that interferes with that would be "detrimental."
The report of the planned exercise in the Strait of Hormuz is the latest example of Iranian provocation. In September, Iran’s navy laid out plans to move naval vessels out of the Persian Gulf and into the Atlantic Ocean “near maritime borders of the United States,” the Tehran Times reported.
Iran also has faced international pressure for it's nuclear program. Iran insists the program is for peaceful uses, but in November, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report that Tehran has conducted secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of atomic weapons. Iran denies that charge.
About 15.5 million barrels of oil a day, about a sixth of global consumption, flows through the Strait of Hormuz, Bloomberg reported, citing the U.S. Department of Energy.