Communications over the world wide doesnt depend on sytax or eloquence or rethoric or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard.
People can only hear you when they are moving toward you and they are not likely to when your wordss are pursuing them
Even the choices words lose their powe when they are used to overpower.
Attitudes are the real figures of speech '-Friedman

Friday, June 25, 2010

VAIO Z, L, F and Y Computers

now new VAIO®computer models on Sony Style. Here’s the DL on what’s new:

We’ve got a refresh on the VAIO Z Series notebook. “Interviews with the Sony VAIO Z Notebook Designers”, asking for Full HD screen specs beyond the Signature Collection model. A Full HD LED backlit display is available as a customized option. And to thank the many who lobbied for it, Sony Style is offering a free upgrade to a Full HD display right now with purchase of a customized VAIO Z 1290X (ends 7/3/10) . See here for details. it supports optional features like a Intel® Core™ i7-620M processor, up to a 512GB hard drive, up to 8GB memory, available Blu-ray Disc player/burner and comes with Dynamic Hybrid Graphics. Still super light at about 3.07 lbs (with standard battery), the new VAIO Z Series notebook also comes with a backlit keyboard. That can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to type on a plane and feel bad turning on that awful overhead light with the person sleeping in the seat next to you.

Next up is the VAIO F Series notebook “refresh”. Popular among gamers and movie buffs, this model . Available with a Full HD screen option as well (theyare in stock yeah!), specs include up to an available Intel® Core™ i7-840QM processor, available 256 GB solid state drive, up to 8GB memory, available Blu-ray Disc player/burner and NVIDIA graphics card (up to 1GB VRAM). The F series also has a backlit keyboard available. And there’s a free upgrade to a Full HD display with purchase of a customized F129oX too right now (ends 7/3/10) so for details go here.

The L Series is also out with some new specs. In addition to a Bordeaux Red offering,other updates include available Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Q8400S processor, available 1TB (7200rpm) hard drive, up to 8GB memory, NVIDIA® graphics (up to 1GB VRAM), and Blu-ray Disc player/burner. The L also comes with an HDMI in and a TV tuner is available.


Lastly but certainly not least is the new Y Series notebook offerings. It’s highly mobile and now available to customize in six new colors. . Starting at about $769.99, the Y Series notebook has an available Intel® Core™ i5-430UM processor, up to 256 GB solid state drive, up to 8 GB memory and available ATI Mobility Radeon™ (512MB VRAM) graphics card.

HTC EVO 4G vs Iphone 4

HTC EVO 4G vs iPhone 4

iPhone 4 vs HTC EVO 4G - EVO 4G Features Compared to iPhone 4 FeaturesHTC EVO 4G vs iPhone 4

If you want to make a comparison between the HTC EVO 4G and the iPhone 4 based on sales alone, then there is little point in reading any further, as this week’s pre-sales for the iPhone easily smashed any previous sales numbers.

But of course there are some other factors that may influence many people when choosing between these two new communication devices. On paper, there really seems to be very little difference between the two units, which share many similar features.

If screen size is important to you, then the HTC EVO 4G has it, with a 4.3 inch screen compared with 3.5 from the iPhone 4, but conversely the iPhone offers 960 x 640 pixel resolution and the HTC has 800 x 480.

Overall size is very similar, with the only real difference being that the iPhone is slightly slimmer at 0.37 inches compared to 0.5 inches.

As far as the cameras are concerned the iPhone offers an auto-focus 5.0-megapixel with the possibility of 720p HD video. The Evo comes out punching with 8.0-megapixels, making it a superior option.

For those who are interested in disk capacity, iPhone has two offerings, 16 GB and 32 GB. In comparison, the HTC can only offer a miserable one GB, but it does have the option of a 32 GB card fitting into a slot.

Battery life is rated at seven hours for iPhone talk time, with six hours of Internet on the 3G network. Unfortunately the HTC offers no definition of its potential battery life, making it a possible reason for concern. Additionally, reviews of the HTC EVO 4G indicate that battery life is exceptionally poor when using the device on the 4G network.

Both models are set to retail and $199, with the 32 GB version of the iPhone retailing at $299, making the decision between the HTC EVO and the iPhone 4 impossible to call on price.

It should also be noted that the HTC EVO is available on multiple networks, while iPhone 4 users are stuck with AT&T unless they wish to jailbreak and void their warranty. This could potentially be the largest drawback for the iPhone for some users.

In the past, when we’ve published similar articles, there has been very outspoken support and criticism for both devices. When it all boils down, however, these two devices are very comparable, with both having advantages and disadvantages. The decision between the two is really a matter of personal preference. We’ll leave it at that, and let you make your decision based on the features that matter most to you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Solar cycle sparks doomsday buzz

Don’t panic over those reports that solar storms could cause high-tech disruptions in 2013. But don’t ignore them either. That’s the word from NASA Headquarters' top guy for solar science.

Concerns about the potential for an unprecedented assault from space were stoked last week by a report in London's Telegraph, warning that a super storm could cause "catastrophic consequencies for the world's health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken."

The warnings focus on the 2012-2013 time frame, because that's when the 11-year solar activity cycle is expected to peak. Back in 2006, solar scientists said the coming peak, known as solar maximum or "solar max," could be 30 to 50 percent stronger than the last one, based on a computer model that looked at how plasma circulates between the sun's equator and its poles.

Since then, additional reports have added to the concern: In 2008, a National Academy of Sciences study said a severe geomagnetic storm could cause $2 trillion in damage and require as much as a decade of recovery time. In comparison, the damage estimate for Hurricane Katrina is a mere $80 billion or so.

Amid all the hype about a 2012 Maya apocalypse, there's been increasing talk about the potential for a solar superstorm on the scale of 1859's "Carrington event," which shorted
out telegraph wires, sparked fires and set off auroral displays as far south as Cuba. The fear is that the damage would be more severe in this world of GPS navigation, satellite communications and mobile devices.

The Telegraph's article quoted Richard Fisher, the head of NASA's Heliospheric Division at the space agency's Washington headquarters, as saying that a superstorm would "cause major problems for the world."

"It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigation, air travel, the banking system, our computers, everything that is electronic," he told the Telegraph.

When I caught up with Fisher, his forecast was less dire, and less definite: He told me it's far too early to say just how strong the next solar maximum will be. In fact, some experts are now predicting that the intensity will be well below average, based on the fact that the sun has been unusually quiet in recent years.

"The next maximum is anticipated to be somewhere between a little less than the lowest ever seen to somewhere above the highest ever seen," Fisher said half-jokingly.

But Fisher doesn't joke about the need to be prepared for the potential disruptions caused by space weather. A bad solar storm could easily have a negative impact on everyday life. For example, air traffic over the North Pole has increased dramatically since the previous solar maximum in 2001. If severe geomagnetic storms were to sweep past Earth, those flights would have to be shifted farther south to protect against radiation exposure. This year's Icelandic ash mess suggests how a situation like that might affect global travel and commerce.

"It has a fairly large impact on an airline if you have to divert an airliner," Fisher noted.

Fortunately, the methods for predicting space weather have improved over the past decade or two. Satellites such as the Advanced Composition Explorer can spot the signs of a geomagnetic storm 10 to 20 minutes before it hits our planet, providing valuable lead time for power grid operators. (A space storm in 1989 sparked a nine-hour electrical blackout in Quebec, affecting 6 million customers and costing the power company more than $10 million.) Other observing instruments, which measure seismic activity originating on the far side of the sun, can provide a couple of weeks of warning about active sunspot regions.

So how bad does Fisher think things can get in 2013?

"I think there's a relatively high probability that there will be a solar event that will have some effect over hours to tens of hours," he told me. "Low probability but high impact for a large solar event that disrupts infrastructure."

He doesn't advise preparing for Armageddon, but he does suggest that you have an emergency supply of food, water and the other things you need to weather a disaster. Which is good advice whether or not a superstorm hits in 2013.

"In modern life, you want to understand how vulnerable you are," Fisher said. "A good big winter storm will known out the local power delivery for a day or two. I keep a little water around the house in case that happens. It'll be inconvenient, as opposed to ... well, not necessarily deadly, for goodness' sake."

Update for 9:15 p.m. ET: Just how vulnerable are our satellite-based communication systems to outbursts from the sun? For another perspective on the superstorm hype, I checked with Joseph Mazur, associate director of the space science department at The Aerospace Corp.

"At Aerospace, when we're working with our national security customers and commercial customers and even NASA, we're really focused on the space systems working throughout the extremes of the space environment," Mazur said. "So we do our work before the spacecraft is launched."

The Aerospace Corp. works with satellite builders and operators to make sure their spacecraft can stand up to the worst-case scenario for space weather. That scenario is based on previous observations, and not on hypothetical speculation about how bad things might have gotten in 1859. "There's not much information about what the specific hazards were like for that event. ... In mission design, there is currently no way to account for an event that exceeds the previous worst case," Mazur said.

Mazur wanted to clear up a couple of misconceptions about outbursts from the sun: First of all, he said, "I really have a problem with the whole phrase 'solar storm,' because in the public literature, it connotes something that comes from the sun. ... The problem is that you can't just put all of space weather into one term." In reality, space weather takes in a spectrum of phenomena - ranging from outbursts of radio interference that travel at the speed of light, to eruptions of electrically charged particles that take more than an hour to reach Earth and interact with our planet's magnetosphere.

Another misconception is that space weather events occur only at solar max. "Impacts from the space environment aren't really correlated with the solar cycle very well. ... What we try to advise our customers is that there are space environment hazards that are there all the time," he said. "Some occur with higher probablility in the years around solar maximum, but nobody really plans their missions around the sunspot number."

In fact, a significant geomagnetic event occurred just a couple of months ago, in April. Was there any impact on satellites? "There may have been," Mazur said. "There's nothing I can tell you in this forum. It was an enhancement of the environment that we haven't seen for a number of years, since December of 2006."

Bottom line? Once again, it pays to be prepared, in 2010 just as much as in 2013.

The lead federal agency for space weather is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that has the National Weather Service under its wing as well. Click on over to the Space Weather Prediction Center to find out what's up, learn how a G4 storm is different from an R4, and sign up for e-mail alerts. Another must-see website is, which provides solar activity updates as well as fantastic pictures of sights in the sky.

Join the Cosmic Log corps by signing up as my Facebook friend or hooking up on Twitter. And if you really want to be friendly, ask me about "The Case for Pluto

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sony 's 3D HDTV line FIFA World Cup

Today marks the start of one of the most viewed sporting events in the world. It’s FIFA World Cup soccer time.

This year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa is making history. 2010 marks the first FIFA World Cup broadcast in 3D and just in time for this monumental event is the release of Sony’s 3D HDTV line. Limited quantities of select 3D ready HX800 sizes are available now at Sony Style stores along with the 46” HX800 available online today at Sony Style (don’t forget your 3D sync transmitter and 3D glasses) Other Sony 3D HDTV models are available for pre-sale on with shipments expected in early July.

To celebrate the event and demonstrate awesomeness of Sony 3D technology, Sony has set up venues where those not in FIFA World Cup game attendance can view their 3D broadcasts using Sony’s 3DTV models. In some cases entire pavilions have been constructed, with the premier location being Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg. Other public viewing events are happening in Berlin, Mexico City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, and Sydney.

For U.S. soccer fans, there’s a couple of ways to watch the games in 3D through ESPN3D, who’s broadcasting select games in 3D.The first is if you own a 3DTV, you can contact your local cable to inquire if they carry this channel. If they do, be sure to ask your provider about your cable box (if your cable box was one of the first invented, I’d recommend getting a newer one since an HDMI connection is needed for your cable box for 3D broadcasts. To cover all 3D viewing applications, I’d advise getting a high speed HDMI cable.

If you don’t have a 3DTV, you can hop into your local Sony Style store during any of the 3D broadcast times and check out the matches our 3D HDTVs set up in-store. Be sure to check your local store hours.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hire-for-attitude Company’s Customized Test Goes Beyond Job Skills

Planned Cos. is hiring. The real estate services company, based in Parsippany, New Jersey, employs 1,688 workers at 330 residential and commercial properties spread throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

This year the company will recruit 300 new janitors, maintenance workers, concierges, doormen and security guards, with pay for janitors and concierges starting at $10 to $14 per hour.

In a high-turnover industry such as this, CEO Robert Francis wants employees who will stay on the job.

“Our clients want relationships,” he notes. “They want to see the same doorman every morning, year after year. They want to know their concierge.”

With turnover topping 100 percent at some building services companies, Francis designed a hiring process to minimize employee turnover and keep client retention rates high. Planned Cos. now sports a notable 95 percent client retention rate.

Francis is thoroughly committed to the hire-for-attitude, train-for-skills approach to candidate selection made famous by such companies as Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom. One make-or-break element in the hiring process at Planned Cos. is an attitude test that Francis created and now re-evaluates on a monthly basis.

“My goal is to have lifetime associates who care about the career they have chosen,” Francis says. “We promote from within. Doormen can go to their regional manager and ask for opportunities. One of our executive vice presidents was cleaning banks on the night shift when he was 16 years old. Some of my executives don’t have a college degree. We do not require job applicants to have a high school degree. I require the attitude degree.”

Testing the test
Francis believes that the hire-for-attitude approach has minimized turnover and helped the company achieve the consistency that keeps client retention rates high.

“Our turnover rate is 20 percent, which is spectacular for our industry,” he says.

For frontline and field employees, all recruiting is handled in house by one full-time recruiter working with the management team, operations managers and human resources. Staffing agencies handle headquarters positions that require specific skills and senior management and executive positions.

The company’s hire-for-attitude methodology is based on Nordstrom’s approach.

“It resonated with me,” Francis says. “You take inherently positive individuals and then provide the necessary training. In our work, employees need to be ‘on’ day in and day out.”

Francis rejected off-the-shelf hire-for-attitude tests.

“Working off of the Nordstrom model, I read a hundred books and then put together a test,” he recalls.

The test he devised, which he calls I PLAN, measures five qualities.

The first is demonstrated integrity, measured through a series of questions about ethical behavior. The second is passion.

“We want to see that they have a passion and have excelled in it,” Francis says. “It could be a hobby or a project where they succeeded.”

The third element—longevity—determines whether the candidate is looking for a job or a career.

“The whole purpose is to deliver consistently good people for clients who don’t want turnover,” Francis notes.

The fourth element measures positive attitude and asks candidates to describe a positive customer service experience. It also asks how the candidate’s friends would describe the candidate’s personal characteristics.

The final element of the test measures the candidate’s knowledge of tasks that are relevant to the job and the company’s mission and role. The recruiter or hiring manager administers the test face to face or by phone.

Francis constantly monitors the hiring results.

“We use a dashboard for all quits and employees fired in the month to analyze what we missed in the test and to understand good and bad hires and revisit their answers on the test,” he says. “There are patterns to responses, so we delve deeper into that.”

Modifying questions
On average, for every 15 candidates tested and interviewed, the company hires only one.

“A lot of people talk the talk, but don’t have the attitude we are looking for,” Francis says. “The 14 candidates we don’t hire will go to our competitors, and that’s fine with us. The more selective we are, the better we will be. We never lack for applicants.”

Francis believes that the company’s net promoter score (NPS), which measures customer loyalty, demonstrates the success of hiring process.

“We are in our third year of tracking NPS and we score in the high 40s and low 50s, which is very high,” he says. “We track our NPS by account, by unit and by region, and then we drill down into the people. We’ve modified some of the test questions and hiring practices as a result. We found, for example, that some our people with a military background who took over accounts were too authoritative, so we made adjustments. We also look carefully at client comments.”

Francis believes that the test and the company’s workforce management practices keep turnover well below the industry average.

“There is a misconception about my market,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a transient market. You can find the right individuals, and if they are treated with respect and they have an open line of communication with management, they are likely to stay. My industry misses the whole boat. You have to have a model for how you treat people.”

Planned Cos. does not monitor its test for disparate impact, but Francis believes that it is nondiscriminatory. Still, employers should be cautious about the legal implications of tests that include an honesty or integrity component.

“Whether the focus is on integrity or a test is a broader assessment, employers should seek legal counsel,” says William Floyd, senior partner at Best Best & Krieger in Riverside, California. “A number of legal issues are implicated.”

Massachusetts prohibits employers from using any test used to render an opinion regarding an individual’s honesty. California and Rhode Island limit the use of honesty and integrity testing in making hiring decisions. Other states place some restrictions on honesty testing, but the law is unclear in many cases.

“Tests should be vetted from a privacy standpoint and for state laws on disability that may be more restrictive than federal laws,” Floyd notes. “Employers should always consult counsel to minimize the risks.”

Apologize from BP very difficult word

When BP CEO Tony Hayward testified before Congress this morning, many expected to hear him apologize for the disaster his company has caused. Instead, GOP Congressman Joe Barton was the one saying he was sorry -- to BP.

In his opening statement, Barton, the top Republican on the committee overseeing the oil spill and its aftermath, delivered a personal apology to the oil giant. He said the $20 billion fund that President Obama directed BP to establish to provide relief to the victims of the oil disaster was a "tragedy in the first proportion."

Other Republicans are echoing his call. Sen. John Cornyn said he "shares" Barton's concern. Rep. Michele Bachmann said that BP shouldn't agree to be "fleeced." Rush Limbaugh called it a "bailout." The Republican Study Committee, with its 114 members in the House, called it a "shakedown."

Let's be clear. This fund is a major victory for the people of the Gulf. It's a key step toward making them whole again. BP has a responsibility to those whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated by the disaster. And BP oil executives don't deserve an apology -- the people of the Gulf do.

Stand with us to show that the American people support holding BP accountable -- and we won't apologize for doing so.

We support holding BP accountable. And we won't apologize for doing so. Add your name.

Rep. Barton and Republicans like him don't understand that the real tragedy is what's happening to the people in the Gulf Coast. They're the ones who deserve his apology -- not BP.

But big oil knows exactly who its allies are. And if Republicans win control of the House, Rep. Barton could be chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- overseeing regulation of the oil and gas industry.

Notably, companies like Halliburton -- the folks responsible for cementing the Deepwater Horizon rig -- are directing their political committees to deliver thousands of dollars to GOP candidates this cycle. Barton himself has received more than $100,000 from the oil and gas industry this election cycle.

Barton should apologize to the people of the Gulf and he should step down as the highest-ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Adding your name to our open letter is one of the best ways you can show him and other Republicans that they weren't elected to defend big oil.

Sign the open letter today:


David Plouffe

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tera-scale Computing - A Parallel Path to the Future

Issuing in the Era of Tera

Last fall, Paul Otellini and I announced initial results from Intel’s Tera-scale Research Program and the Polaris processor, the first in a series of many-core research processors. The goal of the Polaris project was to develop design technologies and methodologies tuned toward rapid tera-scale silicon development. The design team created Polaris as 80 cores in a tiled two-dimensional array interconnected through routers built into the silicon. The cores were far simpler than today’s Intel® processors, so we could focus on the challenges of building a lot of cores in a single package. Other objectives of Polaris were to minimize the global clock network design effort, reduce the clocking power budget, and bring fine-grain power management to a many-core processor.

After receiving first silicon, within two hours, Polaris delivered 1 tera-FLOP of performance, consuming less than 62 watts of power to do so – more than the design power of our latest dual-core server processors. With Polaris, we achieved our first major objectives for a tera-scale processor.

When we announced the Polaris research, there were numerous questions about what someone would do with all those cores, and who needs a TFLOP of computing power.

Tera-scale Computing

At Intel, we’ve been considering for several years what future applications will look like as part of our Tera-scale Research Program. Tomorrow’s applications will process terabytes of data at TFLOP rates. That demands a level of computing that only exists in supercomputing. But it will need to be available at the desktop to support tomorrow’s tera-scale applications.

Recognition, Mining, Synthesis

We’ve categorized a whole new breed of software under what we call Recognition, Mining, and Synthesis (RMS) applications. These are applications that not only benefit from tera-scale computing, they require it. RMS means:

  • Recognition allows computers to examine data and construct mathematical models based on what they identify, like a person’s face in a single picture.
  • Mining extracts one or more instances of a specific model from massive amounts of environmental data, such as finding a person’s face occurring in a large number of picture frames in various resolutions, lightings, and so on.
  • Synthesis constructs new instances of the models, allowing what-if scenarios or projecting the model in new environments.

Consider the following example, which is an actual software project one of our research teams developed with RMS and tera-scale computing in mind.

If you want to see sports highlights of your favorite team, you have to wait for the sports segment of your local TV news to come on, or visit a sports website and watch a video playing in a small window. Sports summarization takes hours for computer vision software to mine the hundreds of thousands of video frames for a short segment of action. With a tera-scale processor, it could be done in real-time as the game plays. You decide what to summarize – sport, team, player – the recognition code creates models from a frame, and the mining code finds instances of those models through the rest of the frames, combining them in a summary ‘reel’ for you.

But what about the synthesis part?

We’ve demonstrated RMS in a motion capture research application that recognizes a person and his movements in a 3D space using four cameras and no markers on the person’s body, extracts a skeletal model of the person, and then uses ray tracing to synthesize the model in an entirely new environment, with lighting, shadows, and a new skin. Today, we have to do this offline. With a tera-scale processor, we could do it all in real-time.

Really Interesting Applications

Imagine the possibilities of RMS applications on tera-scale computers. These kinds of applications could have profound impacts on education and training, entertainment, scientific research, and birthday parties.

With tera-scale computing and RMS applications:

Learners could be immersed into an environment, and their real actions part of the scenario – the ultimate learn by doing approach.

Game players actually become part of the excitement and adrenalin of the story without wearing a motion sensing device.

Consolidating 50 years worth of photos and home movies into a few minutes for a family member’s birthday celebration could be done at home in a short while.

Of course, there are many more possibilities, such as real-time analytics impacting government, energy, and retail; personal health visualization in medicine, and a host of other industries. The really interesting applications for computing have yet to be imagined. Tera-scale computing will enable the innovators.

Intel’s Tera-scale Research Program has taken the first steps. There’s still a ways to go.

Enabling Tera-Scale

The level of computing at tera-scale cannot be done with just a few cores, or a few multi-core processors. Tera-scale computing requires tens and hundreds of cores working in parallel to handle the terabytes of data at TFLOP rates. Supporting those cores will require some new and unique technologies to keep them from starving for memory access and I/O bandwidth, or waiting for messages to pass among the core array. The Tera-scale Research Program’s teams are working on some of these issues, including a new approach to a stacked memory/processor package, integrating a new network-on-chip, and exploring optical signaling. But the real enabling of tera-scale computing will come in the cool codes required to run massively parallel processing on many-core chips. That means changing the way software is designed today, from the BIOS code to virtual machines, operating systems, and end-user applications.

The Future is Parallel

Many-core chips, parallel processing, and tera-scale computing require a paradigm shift. But that shift gives us the next level in what computing can and will do for our world. It places many challenges before us and opens a vast horizon of opportunities. Think in terms of when PCs first entered the marketplace decades ago and the inspiring applications that followed.

What will future tera-scale workloads look like? What part of these workloads can be parallelized? And how will they benefit on a tera-scale processor and platform? The tera-scale research teams at Intel have engaged with industry and academia to explore these topics

Transgenics subject to regulations

Transgenics, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are the result of transferring one or more genes, usually from a wild species or a bacterium, to a crop plant.

Although transgenics have been widely adopted to date only in commercial agriculture, they have considerable potential for improving the productivity of smallholder farming systems and for providing more nutritious foods to poor consumers in developing countries.

However, the environmental, food safety, and social risks of transgenics are controversial. Transparent and cost-effective regulatory systems that inspire public confidence are needed to evaluate risks and benefits case by case.

Adoption of transgenics has been rapid but narrowly based.
In 2006, farmers in 22 countries planted transgenic seeds on about 100 million hectares, which is about 8 percent of the global crop area. Farmers in developing countries have been adopting transgenics since 1996, largely because of spillovers from private research and development (R&D) in the industrial countries. But their use has been limited to certain crops (soybean and maize used for animal feed, as well as cotton) and traits (insect resistance and herbicide tolerance).Moreover, their use has been limited to countries with commercial farming (Argentina and Brazil). The only transgenic widely adopted by smallholders has been Bt cotton, a transgenic crop used for insect resistance. An estimated 9.2 million farmers, mostly in China and India, planted Bt cotton on 7.3 million hectares in 2006.

The rapid adoption of Bt cotton in China and India attests to its profitability for most farmers. Farm-level studies point to higher profits from the adoption of Bt cotton and document substantial environmental and health benefits through lower pesticide use. In some studies, farmers in China recorded a US$470 per hectare increase in net income (340 percent). This increase is largely attributable to a two-thirds reduction in pesticide applications. Likewise, most Indian farmers growing Bt cotton used less insecticide and gained significant yield increases, with the additional advantage of more stable yields. But the effects vary across years, institutional settings, and agroecological zones.

Progress in food crops is slow.
Transgenic food crops have not been widely adopted by smallholders in the developing world. There are five main reasons for this slow progress:

Neglect of pro-poor traits and orphan crops. Investments in R&D on transgenics are concentrated largely in the private sector, driven by commercial interests in industrial countries. The public sector has underinvested in R&D generally for smallholder crops and in biotechnology specifically. Public spending on R&D on transgenics is only a fraction of the US$1.5 billion spent each year by the four largest private companies.

Limited access to proprietary technologies. The share of genetic tools and technologies covered by intellectual property rights is increasing. These tools and technologies are controlled mainly by a small group of multinational companies, and the cost of obtaining material transfer agreements and licenses can slow public research and the release of transgenics to the market.

Risks. Continuing concerns about possible food safety and environmental risks have slowed release in many countries. Those concerns persist even though available scientific evidence to date on food safety indicates that the transgenics now in the market are as safe as conventional varieties. Likewise, after 10 years of commercial use of transgenics, scientific evidence and experience do not support the development of resistance in the targeted pests. Moreover, environmental harm from commercial cultivation of transgenic crops, such as gene flow to wild relatives, has not occurred when proper safeguards are applied. But despite the good track record of transgenics, public perception of risks is as important as assessments based on scientific evidence in ensuring acceptance.

Weak regulatory capacity. The capacity of regulatory bodies to assess environmental and food safety risks and to approve the release of transgenics is limited in most developing countries. Weak regulatory systems fuel public distrust and ignite opposition to transgenics. Weak capacity also results in widespread use of unauthorized transgenic seeds in many settings (cotton in China and India, as well as soybeans in Brazil in past years), which further reduces public confidence in the regulatory system.

Complexity of trade in transgenics. Some countries worry about health effects of imports of transgenic foods, including food aid. Exporters fear the loss of overseas markets and of a “GMO-free” brand. They have to consider the cost of separating transgenics from conventional varieties during storage and shipment, as well as the cost of obtaining clearance for transgenics for consumption in the importing country. But countries and farmers who are slow to adopt transgenics may lose their competitiveness in global markets if cost-reducing transgenics are widely adopted in large exporting countries, as in the case of Bt cotton.

Transgenic food crops in the pipeline have considerable potential.
Despite limited adoption of transgenic food crops, interest in them remains high, and a wave of second-generation products, largely developed in the public sector, is making its way to the market. Transgenic rice, eggplant,mustard, cassava, banana, potato, sweet potato, lentil, and lupin have been approved for field testing in one or more countries.

Many of those technologies promise substantial benefits to poor producers and consumers. Most notable are traits for the world’s major food staple, rice, including pest and disease resistance, enhanced vitamin A content (Golden Rice), and salt and flood tolerance. But despite the promise, the 1990s projections that transgenic varieties of rice would be available to farmers by 2000 were too optimistic.

Africa has benefited the least from transgenic crops, in part because locally important food crops such as sorghum and cassava have attracted little attention from commercial biotechnology firms. Transgenics could reduce the impact of several of Africa’s intractable problems, such as plant and animal diseases, drought, and Striga (a devastating parasitic weed), much faster if they were integrated into breeding programs.

Policy priorities to move forward.
An important opportunity to contribute to the pro-poor agricultural development agenda will be missed if the potential risks and benefits of transgenics cannot be objectively evaluated on the basis of the best available scientific evidence and taking into account public risk perceptions.

Introducing transgenics requires a cost-effective and transparent regulatory system with expertise and competence to manage their release and use. Open information disclosure, labeling (where feasible), and a consultative process are critical for harnessing public support for transgenics. Strong regulatory capacity does not necessarily mean stringent standards on risks. On the contrary, competent regulators can keep information requirements for approval at an appropriate level to ensure safety through a case-by case assessment of the knowledge of the trait and the ecosystem into which it will be introduced. High regulatory barriers may impose high costs on society by restricting or slowing access to beneficial technologies. High barriers may also restrict competition in seed markets and reduce options for farmers, because public research organizations and national seed companies may not be able to pay the high cost of regulatory clearance (estimated at more than US$1 million for the first Bt cotton varieties in India).

In setting the regulatory standards, decision makers must weigh public risk perceptions and degrees of risk tolerance, which differ among societies. Despite the absence of proven risks, the precautionary approach calls for a broad assessment of the technology’s potential risks and benefits in the wider food and ecological system. Risk assessment must also consider the consequences and risks of not using transgenics. For example, transgenics offer a powerful tool for nutritional enhancement that may save lives (Golden Rice) or help poor farmers adapt to climate change through faster integration of genes for drought and flood tolerance.

Countries and societies ultimately must assess the benefits and risks for themselves and make their own decisions. The international development community should stand ready to respond to countries calling for safe access to these technologies. Specifically, it should be prepared to meet requests to fund the development of safe transgenics with pro-poor traits and to underwrite the high initial costs for their testing and release. If a new wave of safe and pro-poor technologies is developed and accepted, the regulatory costs should fall sharply.

Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding (plant breeding and animal breeding), and somaclonal variation.

GM foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s. Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. But animal products have also been developed. In 2006 a pig was controversially engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids through the expression of a roundworm gene. Researchers have also developed a genetically-modified breed of pigs that are able to absorb plant phosphorus more efficiently, and as a consequence the phosphorus content of their manure is reduced by as much as 60%

Critics have objected to GM foods on several grounds, including theoretical or imagined safety issues ecological concerns, and economic concerns raised by the fact that these organisms are subject to intellectual property law.

While it is evident that there is a food supply issue; the question is whether GM can solve world hunger problems, or even if that would be the best way to address the issue. Several scientists argue that in order to meet the demand for food in the developing world, a second green revolution with increased use of GM crops is needed. Others argue that there is more than enough food in the world and that the hunger crisis is caused by problems in food distribution and politics, not production Recently some critics have changed their minds on the issue with respect to the need for additional food supplies Further, it has been widely noted that there are those who consider over-population the real issue here, and that food production is adequate for any reasonable population size.

“Genetic modification is analogous to nuclear power: nobody loves it, but climate change has made its adoption imperative,” says economist Paul Collier of Oxford University. "Declining genetic modification makes a complicated issue more complex. Genetic modification offers both faster crop adaptation and a biological, rather than chemical, approach to yield increases

Future envisaged applications of GMOs are diverse and include drugs in food,
bananas that produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B,metabolically engineered fish that mature more quickly, fruit and nut trees that yield years earlier, foods no longer containing properties associated with common intolerances, and plants that produce new plastics with unique properties.
While their practicality or efficacy in commercial production has yet to be fully tested, the next decade may see exponential increases in GM
product development as researchers gain increasing access to genomic resources that are applicable to organisms beyond the scope of individual projects. Safety testing of these products will also, at the same time, be necessary to ensure that the perceived benefits will indeed outweigh the perceived and hidden costs of development. Plant scientists, backed by results of modern comprehensive profiling of crop composition, point out that crops modified using GM techniques are less likely to have unintended changes than are conventionally bred crops

The Sagging of the Middle Class By NANCY FOLBRE

It’s not that all middle-class jobs have gone missing. It’s just that their growth is sagging compared with that of other jobs. No giant sucking sound, just the gentle hissing of an inner tube losing air, threatening a flat tire that could send the American dream machine off the road.
The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market,” published by the Center for American Progress and the Hamilton Project.

Professor Autor ranks occupations by mean wages (using these as a proxy for skill). Between 1999 and 2007, growth took place primarily at the low end. Between 1979 and 1989, the share of high-wage jobs grew fastest. Between 1989 and 1999, the share of low-wage jobs began to grow, but high-wage jobs continued to expand. Between 1999 and 2007, growth took place primarily at the low end.

The cumulative effect is polarization and increased inequality, intensified by job losses during the recent recession that also hit the middle-wage group particularly hard.

Professor Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argues that a similar trend is unfolding in other industrialized countries, driven by a combination of technological change and international trade.

Economists don’t all agree on the past or future trajectory of middle-wage jobs. Stephen Rose has observed that trends look more positive for women than for men. Harry Holzer and Robert Lerman emphasize that middle-skill jobs (defined as those that require more training than a high-school degree but less than a college degree) still play an important role in the labor force. They worry that a doomsday scenario could discourage efforts to improve training opportunities for such jobs.

The policy debate that Professor Autor hopes to encourage would focus on efforts to both increase skills and improve job-market opportunities. What interests me is the divide between those who believe increased education and training can solve the problem, and those, like Professor Autor, who worry that those measures alone might not be enough.

The fact that middle-wage jobs, rather than low-wage jobs, are declining suggests it is not the overall level of skill but the specific type of skill that matters. In fact, skill itself may be less important than other characteristics of a task, such as how easily it can be automated or outsourced at some point in the future.

Alan Blinder of Princeton observes that some jobs are simply more outsourceable than others because they don’t require physical proximity or person-specific skills. The combination of rapid technological change and increased global trade in services has effectively devalued skills that many individuals spent considerable time and effort to acquire.

Consider, for instance, the possible extinction of travel agents and the gloomy job prospects facing journalists. The expansion of online education sites replete with videotaped lectures by superstar professors will almost certainly reduce demand for a skill I labored to develop for many years — lecturing to large classes of economics majors.

Economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics have developed an index of occupational susceptibility to offshoring. Almost every computer and mathematical science occupation is high on the list.

We constantly exhort young people to invest in their human capital. But investments in human capital, like those in real estate, don’t always yield a reliably high market rate of return.

Middle-class culture in the United States rests on the precepts of human capitalism — invest in your own skills and those of your children, and the market will reward you. These precepts now seem shakier than they have in the past. No wonder middle-class spirits, as well as incomes, are sagging.

Colombia's presidential elections

Ex-defense minister dominates Colombia presidential vote, faces Green Party outsider in runoff

Conservative Uribe ally dominates Colombia vote

BOGOTA, Colombia — A conservative former defense minister closely associated with Alvaro Uribe’s security gains easily defeated a maverick outsider in presidential elections on Sunday but fell short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff.

Juan Manuel Santos, who vows to keep up the pressure on leftist rebels that fed President Uribe’s popularity, won 47 percent support in a field of nine candidates. Antanas Mockus, a former two-time Bogota mayor who ran an unorthodox clean-government campaign and promised to raise taxes, got 21 percent.

Government-candidate Juan Manuel Santos received the support of 66.5% of people surveyed on who they would vote for in the June 20 runoff of Colombia's presidential elections. His opponent Antanas Mockus received 27.4% of the interviewees' support.

The latest poll, organized by several of the country's national media, shows a slight expansion of Santos' lead compared to a poll held last week and a major difference compared to polls held before the first round of the elections when three out of four pollsters estimated Mockus had most chances in the second round.

The two presidential hopefuls met on Thursday, ten days before the elections, for a debate organized by El Tiempo, Colombia's leading newspaper with ties to the Santos family.

Partido de la U candidate Juan Manuel Santos is a Colombian politician, journalist and economist, who comes from one of Colombia's most influential family dynasties. He is the great-nephew of former Colombian President Eduardo Santos, who was the owner of newspaper El Tiempo, and grandson of journalist Eduardo Santos. He is also the cousin of current Vice President Francisco Santos.

Born: August 10, 1951 in Bogota D.C.


  • Degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Kansas
  • Masters in Economics, Economic Development and Public Administration from the London School of Economics
  • Masters in Public Administration and Journalism from Harvard University
  • Masters in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Political Party: Partido de la U

Vice Presidential candidate: Angelino Garzon

Most recent position: Colombian Defense Minister

Partido de la U's presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos leads a coalition established to back Uribe. With Uribe unable to run for a third term, Santos is the obvious choice to carry on with Uribe's agenda. While officially Uribe can not endorse any candidate, unofficially it is clear that Uribe has given Santos the nod. Critics accuse Santos of being Uribe's puppet, who will continue to carry out Uribe's agenda if elected.

As defense minister, Santos led a series of lethal and effective military operations against the FARC. In his campaign for the presidency he relies on Colombia's advances against the FARC under his leadership, to argue that he is the best candidate to carry on with Uribe's democratic security policy.

"Juan Manuel Santos is a cyborg programmed from a young age to be president," jokes Colombian political analysis website La Silla Vacia. "Juan Manuel Santos wants to be the heir to the president who acted like an alpha male, and is proud to be so. In this campaign Juan Manuel Santos has power in all forms on his side: direct access to the most important newspaper [El Tiempo]... the support of economic power and of the most powerful man in Colombia," the website comments.


"Not one step back in diplomatic security, five steps forward in democratic prosperity" is the catchphrase Santos uses to describe his policies, which he refers to by using the names of some of his most successful military operations during his time as defense minister:

  • Operacion Jacque to fight unemployment
  • Operation Fenix against poverty
  • Respect for good governance
  • Improved health, education and justice services
  • Investment in science and technology

Position on the conflict

As defense minister under Uribe, Santos was the executor of the president's democratic security policy, which focuses in part on dismantling the FARC militarily. As a result, he has detailed knowledge of the guerrilla organization.

During his time as defense minister, Santos oversaw numerous military operations, including "Operation Fenix" - a raid on a guerrilla camp 1.8 kilometers over the Ecuadorean border, which led to 26 deaths, including FARC leader "Raul Reyes" and an Ecuadorean citizen. Ecuador filed charges against Santos for his role in the operation. The incident showed the lengths Santos was prepared to go to, such as undermining another nation's sovereignty, in order to bring down the FARC. Santos has argued that Colombia's actions were in self-defense against the FARC.

Despite Santos' hard-line stance on the FARC as defense minister, he has said that the doors to a peace negotiation with the FARC remain open, if the guerrilla organization "in good faith" desists from engaging in terrorism.

Foreign Policy

As defense minister Santos clashed with both Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Chavez labelling Santos "an enemy of Venezuela." Santos rocky relations with the two nations have led to concerns over how he would deal with aggression from neighboring countries, Venezuela in particular.

Santos has stated that although he and Chavez are like "water and oil", as president he would do his best to maintain friendly relations with the socialist nation.

In a live debate between presidential candidates, Santos said he was "proud" of Colombia's 2008 attack against the FARC on Ecuadorean territory and added that Colombia must "continue to fight terrorists, wherever they may be."

In terms of policy Santos pledges to

  • Reform Colombia's foreign ministry in order to strengthen the nation's international relations
  • Work closely with the International Court of Justice and the International Human Rights Courts
  • Resolve problems along Colombia's borders
  • Seek trade relations with Asia
Antanas Mockus
The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Antanas Mockus is a Colombian mathematician, philosopher and politician. After serving as rector at Bogota's Universidad Nacional, Mockus went on to become mayor of Bogota twice. He is renowned for his eccentric, outside the box thinking, which has led him to perform some unusual but thought-provoking stunts.


  • Masters in Philosophy from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • Mathematics Degree from the University of Dijon, France
  • Honorary PhD from the University of Paris XIII, France

Political Party: The Green Party

Vice Presidential candidate: Sergio Fajardo

Most recent position: Colombian senator


2010 campaign slogan: "Con educacion todo se puede" - With education, everything is possible

Antanas Mockus believes that ideas win votes. And the Green Party presidential candidate is very creative in how he expresses his ideas. Colombian political analysis website La Silla Vacia compares him to Spanish artist Salvador Dali. "Like the surrealist artist, Mockus, through the symbols he uses, establishes an emotional connection with an audience, so even if they don't understand his words, they understand his message." Mockus himself expressed a similar sentiment in an academic article he wrote, commenting that "When words run out, what's left is art." In Mockus' case, art is politics.

Mockus is best known in Colombia for his wacky stunts. But will Colombia understand and embrace the, at times, very abstract ideas behind such stunts? Critics fear democratic security would flounder under self-proclaimed pacifist Mockus' leadership, with Uribe himself blaming a 2002 FARC attack in the capital on the then-Bogota mayor. La Silla Vacia recounts how, when faced with FARC death threats during his time as mayor, Mockus did not respond with violence or shows of force. Instead he began to wear a jacket with a heart-shaped hole cut out over his left breast. In doing so he demonstrated how absurd it would be to attack a person who refused to defend himself.

With such stunts during his time as Bogota mayor, Mockus showed that there is an alternative path Colombia could take to deal with its internal conflict. However, even if Mockus does manage to win over the people with his "Mockucratics," analysts suggest his Achilles heel may be winning over Colombian Congress, to pass his reforms.


Mockus' platform is based on the ideas of the "Visionaries for Colombia" movement, which rejects the concept that it doesn't matter how change is achieved, as long as it is achieved. Mockus believes that this attitude has led to a culture of violence and corruption in Colombia. For him, how change is instituted is fundamental, and he seeks "change without violence, supported by respected institutions and citizens who believe in the fulfillment of social norms and laws."

  • Complete respect for life
  • Stop taking "short cuts" - greater cohesion between means and ends
  • Coherence between laws, norms and customs: "When the state has not earned the respect of citizens, it is easy to create norms or practices that are socially accepted but legally and morally unacceptable. In order to restore respect for laws and norms, customs need to have moral implications."
  • Greater equality in education
  • Respect for the justice system

Despite critics' insinuations that Mockus is unequipped to deal with the FARC and security issues, the Green Party candidate maintains that the guerrilla organization must be "cornered and finished." Mockus agrees with Uribe's stance that a dialogue with the FARC is not possible whilst the guerrillas continue to engage in kidnapping. He is opposed to a humanitarian exchange under the current circumstances.

During Mockus' second term as Bogota mayor, the city experienced some of the worst terrorist attacks in its history. While Mockus agreed with Uribe that the state needs to regain its authority, he disagreed with Uribe's formation of a network of paid informants to combat terrorists. "It is impossible for the state to compete with the funds of these armed groups and drug traffickers. They can always offer more. The state must compete with and for its legitimacy," Mockus said. This statement sums up his stance on the conflict - that the FARC must be fought within the law and with citizen support.

Foreign policy

In a recent live debate Mockus said that he would never pursue the FARC onto another nation's sovereign territory, as Partido de la U's candidate Juan Manuel Santos did in Ecuador, during his time as defense minister.

In terms of Colombia's rocky relations with Venezuela, Mockus has a called for a bilateral solution that would "respect the Venezuelan process and be carried out through institutions."

Mockus' overarching foreign policy is one "governed by the constitution, respectful of human rights and international agreements and which prioritizes regional relations, especially with neighboring countries."

Santos won with a huge difference (47% vs 21%, almost 7 million votes against little more than 3 million votes). While a Santos' victory in the first round was expected, such a difference shocked everyone. Moreover, Santos won in every state of the country but one, and also in the three main cities (Bogotá, Cali, Medellín) where Mockus was supposed to be fairly strong.
Since Santos didn't manage to obtain more than 50% of the votes, there will be a second round elections (aka ballotage). It is clear that Mockus holds absolutely no chance in that round, especially because all other candidates but one, explicitly or implicitly, have adhered to Santos' campaign. So Santos will win, most likely with a larger difference. It is expected that less people will go to vote on June 20, either because they consider the elections are already settled (and hence their vote would make no difference)

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Alan Boyle Science editor
As's science editor, Alan Boyle runs a virtual curiosity shop of the physical sciences and space exploration, plus paleontology, archaeology and other ologies that strike his fancy. Since joining in 1996, Boyle has won awards from the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Space Frontier Foundation, the Pirelli Relativity Challenge and the CMU Cybersecurity Journalism Awards program. He is the author of "The Case for Pluto," a contributor to "A Field Guide for Science Writers," the blogger behind Cosmic Log: Bacteria can walk on 'legs' — and an occasional talking head on the MSNBC cable channel. During his 33 years of daily journalism in Cincinnati, Spokane and Seattle, he’s survived a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, a total solar eclipse and an earthquake. He has faith he'll survive the Internet as well.

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