Friday, July 9, 2010

Tentacled prophet and four-legged oracles for World Cup 2010

Paul predicts Spain’s victory against Germany, at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen July 6, 2010. — Reuters pic

In a World Cup of droning vuvuzelas, dodgy balls and substandard favourites, nothing has fascinated the public as much as the octopus named Paul.

So far, the seemingly precognitive Paul has correctly predicted the results of all German matches during the tournament, even their losses to Serbia and Spain.

Tomorrow, according to his handlers, Paul will predict the winner of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. If he is not tired.

Residing in the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium in Germany, the two-year-old cephalopod “predicts” the results of matches by picking one of two clear boxes bearing the flags of the competing countries. The boxes are arranged according to Fifa’s arrangement of flags for each match, and filled with food like mussels or oysters.

Previously, he has correctly predicted five out of six results from Germany’s campaign in Euro 2008.

After predicting Germany’s exit at the hands of Spain in the semi-final, Paul has since received death threats from many Germans who wish to see him served on their dinner tables.

Some punters and booking agencies have made money from following his advice, while animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is urging for his release from his “imprisonment”.

Paul might be the first octopus to have done so, but he is surely not the first animal to tell fortunes or read minds. In 1927, a horse in Virginia, US named Lady Wonder was claimed to possess psychic powers and extra-sensory perception (ESP), and communicated by pushing toy letter blocks.

For the price of a dollar, one could ask the horse three questions, and over 150,000 people had taken up the offer. The horse also supposedly predicted the result of a boxing match, discovered oil, and solved a missing person case.

Another horse in 1900 in Germany, Clever Hans, was shown as having the ability to solve arithmetical and intellectual problems. Having a multi-talented owner who was a mathematics teacher, amateur horse trainer and phrenologist bestowed Hans with various abilities such as telling time, differentiating musical tones and understanding German.

In the 1980s, a dog called Harass II was purported by its handler, John Prestons, to be psychic. Harass II could supposedly find cold trails and human scent — even months or years later. He could also track underwater and after hurricanes, using his psychic powers.

Historically, humans have relied on observing animals for divination since thousands of years ago. Alectryomancy, practised by Etruscans in ancient Italy 2,400 years ago, enables people to tell fortunes by seeing roosters pecking at scattered grains.

The ancient Romans practised augury, divination by studying the flight of birds: whether any noise was made, whether they flew alone, their directions, etc. These duties were held by a special order of priests whose role was interpreting the gods’ messages.

This divination by observation extends to various other animals such as cats (felidomancy), horse (hippomancy), fish (ichthyomancy), spider and snakes (ophiomancy).

In the cases of Lady Wonder, Clever Hans and Harass II, it has been proven that the animals were unconsciously or unintentionally cued by their owners. In fact, this observer effect has been called the “Clever Hans Effect” and has been used to debunk many “intelligent” or “talented” pets over the years.

As for Paul, it is still not proven if he reacts to his trainer Oliver Walenciak’s cues or the expectant German fans. Although he has predicted 11 out of 12 matches correctly so far, it is noted that Paul chose Germany nine times out of 12. Considering Germany was the favourites in those nine matches, Paul had consequently better odds to be correct.

Being a common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), it has also been suggested that Paul has a preference for flags with bright horizontal stripes like Germany and Spain, instead of England or Argentina, despite not being able to see in colour.

The species is naturally found in shallow tropical and semi-tropical seas around the world and can grow up to 25cm, with tentacles up to a metre.

Common octopi are well-known for being highly intelligent and responsive. They have been observed to unscrew bottle caps and manipulating other tools.

Whether Paul really possesses supernatural abilities or is just extremely lucky, there is no doubt that he or his owners should capitalise on his popularity quick.

Even if he does not end up in furious Germans’ tummies, Paul is nearing the end of his life —his species has a life expectancy of just two years.

For now, Paul has been immortalised in the minds of many World Cup watchers, even garnering two Twitter accounts for himself, which you can find here and here.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Italy hosts its first divorce fair

Italy is holding its first divorce fair, offering services such as life coaching and beauty advice to a booming number of separating couples in the Catholic country.

The organizers said the fair (, which will be held in Milan on May 8-9, aims to help divorcing people start a new, happier life.

"Smiling is key to this fair, which also offers serious, practical advice for often dramatic situations," Franco Zanetti, who created the event, told Reuters.

The services include divorce planning, anti-stalking help, and "new look" tips, the organizers said.

Echoing similar initiatives in the United States and elsewhere in Europe, visitors will also be able to subscribe to divorce gift lists at department stores in Milan.

A growing number of Italian couples file for divorce every year, according to Italy's statistics agency ISTAT.

More than 130,000 couples split or got divorced in Italy in 2007, up more than 3 percent from the previous year, ISTAT said.

On the other side, the number of marriages nearly halved since 1972 to around 246,000 in 2008.

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"Cougar effect" boosts lingerie sales

Lingerie is displayed in the new Playboy store in central London September 19, 2007. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Sales of sultry lingerie among older women are booming in Britain thanks to the glamorous 40-somethings of "Sex and the City 2" and "Cougar Town," retail chain Debenhams reported on Thursday.

The hit TV show, and forthcoming movie, featuring the bedroom antics of women in their 40s and 50s and their much younger partners, is being credited with a rise in demand for lingerie from women of the same age, Debenhams said.

The department store said a nationwide analysis of the most popular lingerie styles from October 2009 to April 2010, revealed that women over 40 have given the more seductive side of the lingerie industry a big boost.

"Positive female role models in this age group such as the women in the Sex and the City movies and Courteney Cox in TV's Cougar Town are giving the women confidence to splash out on themselves," Debenhams head lingerie buyer Annette Warburton said in a statement.

Women over 40 were rediscovering their figures, often after having children or getting divorced.

Previously, the store said, the main purchasers of cleavage-enhancing bras, basques, thongs, stockings and suspenders, have been women in their early 20s.

"With women's 40s being touted as the new 20s, and lingerie designers stepping up to the mark to feed this demand, it's a market we expect to see grow further in the future," Warburton said.

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"I do" goes high-tech with Japan robot priest

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The groom looked dashing, his bride resplendent in white, but all eyes in this Japanese wedding were on the priest, a four-foot tall robot with colorful, flashing eyes called i-Fairy.

The robot is usually used in museum and exhibitions to direct visitors, but with the help of a flower headpiece, and a new programme, it pronounced Satoko Inoue and Tomohiro Shibata man and wife at a Sunday ceremony.

The event is being billed as the first ever wedding presided over by a robot, a fitting marriage for the couple who met through the machines.

The bride, Inoue, works for the company that makes the i-Fairy, and her husband, Shibata, is a client.

"It's true that robots are what caused us to first begin going out, and as suggested by my wife, we decided that we wanted to try this sort of wedding," Shibata said after making his vows.

After saying "I do," the bride said that she wanted to use her wedding to show people that robots can easily fit into their daily lives.

"I always felt that robots would become more integrated into people's everyday lives. This cute robot is part of my company, I decided that I would love to have it at my ceremony," Inoue said.

Makers of the robot, Kokoro Ltd, said that while they are still selling the i-Fairy with the stated purpose of helping visitors, they're happy for the machine to help weddings cross the digital divide.

Japan is home to almost half the world's 800,000 industrial robots and expects the industry to expand to $10 billion.

It is also one of the world's fastest aging societies and experts say robots can help care for the growing number of elderly, and fill in for the lack of young people willing to take on jobs as chefs, cleaners or caretakers.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Gulf hotel installs gold-dispensing machine

Customers use a ATM at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi to buy pure gold. — Reuters pic
It’s the ultimate hole-in-the-wall — a money machine that dispenses pure gold.

But installed beneath the gold-coated ceilings of Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel, where royalty and billionaires come for cappuccinos topped with gold flakes, the machine almost seems part of the furniture.

“The reason we chose Emirates Palace is because it really fits with the surroundings here,” said German entrepreneur Thomas Geissler, creator of the “Gold to Go” brand and chief executive of Ex Oriente Lux.

The exterior of the machine is coated with a thin layer of gold and offers customers 320 items to choose from, ranging from gold bars that can weigh up to 10 grams, to customised gold coins.

“All the gold is imported from Germany, and soon we will have a customised gold bar with a print of the Emirates Palace logo, which will be a nice souvenir for guests to take home,” said Geissler.

Through a computer system, the ATM gold machine updates the gold price every 10 minutes to match international markets.

For now, it takes notes of the local dirham currency, but the option of using credit cards will soon be introduced.

The cash-for-gold machines were first tested in Germany in 2009, but Geissler chose Abu Dhabi for the official launch of his invention because of the region’s high demand for gold.

“On the first night we had a lot of demand,” he said. “One customer even bought one item of every product we have.”

Geissler’s timing is spot-on, as investors flock to gold as a safe haven from economic turbulence.

Yesterday, gold priced in sterling and euros reached record highs, while that priced in the more usual dollar denomination was quoted at US$1,236 an ounce, with dealers expecting it to reach fresh highs over coming days.

Source: TMI
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pirates rewrite script for Apple's China iPad launch

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SHENZHEN/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Just three weeks after the global launch, bootleg versions of Apple Inc's hot-selling iPad tablet PCs have begun showing up on the shelves of online and real-world shops in piracy-prone China.

Apple recently delayed the iPad's international launch after huge demand in the United States caught the maker of trendy iPhones and MacBooks off guard. But Chinese consumers looking for knock-offs of the company's latest must-have product need look no further than this teeming electronics mall in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese boomtown near the border with Hong Kong.

Here, tiny shops are stuffed with pirated versions of everything: from Microsoft's newest Windows 7 operating system, a steal at $2 each, to a range of Apple products, from iPhones to MacBooks and the lightweight MacBook Air.

After extensive queries with multiple shopkeepers, one surnamed Lin offered the sought-after item in a dark backroom on the market's fifth floor away from the hustle and bustle.

Hefty and thickset with three USB ports and a more rectangular shape than the original, this knock-off with iPad aspirations, which runs a Windows operating system, looks more like a giant iPhone. It costs 2,800 yuan ($410), making it slightly cheaper than the iPad's $499-$699 price tag.

"This is just the first rough version," says Lin a crew-cut agent speaking in bursts of quick-fire Cantonese.

"While the shape isn't quite the same, the external appearance is very similar to the iPad, so we don't think it will affect our sales that much," he added, explaining the difference was due to the difficulty sourcing matching parts because of the quick two-month turnaround time for the first version's development.

Hard-working Chinese bootleggers are rushing to fill a vacuum that won't last for long, created by unexpectedly strong demand for the iPad in its first weeks on the market.

The 10-inch entertainment device, on which one can read books, play music and videos and surf the Internet, sold more than 500,000 in its first week alone, and continued strong U.S. demand has led Apple to delay the product's international launch to the end of April.

Chinese counterfeiters have rushed to fill the iPad gap.

Taobao, China's largest online marketplace, contains hundreds of listings for the coveted product, many real but some dubiously labeled as "China goods," with claims to have even better features than the real deal.

Like the models in the Shenzhen market, these fake iPads also retail for around 2800 yuan each, compared with 4,000-6,000 yuan for those marketed as real.

Analysts and gadget fanatics expect the iPad to do well in Asia given Apple's strong branding and the rising number of affluent middle class consumers. But few are surprised by the quick appearance of a counterfeit version in a country where pirated movies often appear in markets in the same week of their theatrical release.

"China is basically a market that has the ability to clone everything, so it's really not surprising," said Edward Yu, chief executive of Beijing-based researcher Analysys International.

"I don't think piracy is a bad thing for the iPad given that China has a huge population, maybe the clone iPads will give more of the potential users a look and feel."

Back in Shenzhen, Lin said factories around China's Pearl River Delta -- the country's biggest export manufacturing hub -- were working hard on an updated version of the pirated iPads to feed strong demand.

"This is just the first rough version," Lin said. "Eventually, the factories will be able to make a much better copy."

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Police barred from penis enlargement

Forget about getting a job as a police officer in Indonesia's Papua if you have had your penis enlarged. You won't get it, according to local media reports citing the Papua police chief.

An applicant "will be asked whether or not his vital organ has been enlarged," said Papua police chief Bekto Suprapto, quoted on local website

"If he has, he will be considered unfit to join the police or the military."

The ban was applied since the unnatural size causes "hindrance during training," said police spokesman Zainuri Lubis in Jakarta, quoted by news portal

Indonesia's remote easternmost province is home to Papuan tribes, many of whom are known for wearing penis gourds.

A low-level separatist insurgency has waged in the resources-rich part of Indonesia for decades and there is a heavy police and military presence there.

Papuans use a local technique to achieve the enlargement, according to a sexologist quoted by local newspaper Jakarta Globe, wrapping the penis with leaves from the "gatal-gatal" (itchy) tree so that it swells up "like it has been stung by a bee," the expert said.

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Brazilians told to have more sexual intercourse to avoid illness

Brazilians can fight off chronic illness by engaging regularly in physical exercise, and particularly in sexual intercourse, the country's health minister said.

"People need to be active. A weekend football game must not be the only physical activity for a Brazilian. Adults need to do exercise: walk, dance and have safe sex," said Jose Gomes Temporao.

The minister gave the advice as he launched a campaign to prevent high blood pressure, which afflicts a quarter of Brazil's 190-million strong population.

After making his unusual comments, Mr Temporao defended his promotion of sexual intercourse to journalists, according to the G1 news website.

"It's not a joke. It's serious. Having regular physical exercises also means sex, always with protection of course," he said.

"Dancing, having sex, keeping weight under control, changing dietary habits, doing physical exercise" all help keep blood pressure down, he said.

He added that he believed there was a health "time bomb" ticking in Brazil, which within 20 years could see a "gigantic percentage" of the population suffering chronic illnesses, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.


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Saturday, April 10, 2010

High Tech Bullying causes Teen Suicide

The case of a teenager in Massachusetts who killed herself after a relentless, months-long bullying campaign shows how the common schoolyard behavior is evolving in dangerous new ways online.

Six students face felony charges in the death of Phoebe Prince, 15, who hanged herself in January after being subjected to verbal assault and threats of physical harm. Some harassment occurred online on Facebook, in text messages and in other high-tech forms, a contemporary development in the age-old practice, experts said.

The bullying of Prince "far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels," said Elizabeth Scheibel, prosecutor in the South Hadley, Massachusetts, case.

Prince was targeted with such insults as "whore" after she dated a popular high school football player, who had also dated one of the accused girls. Prince was a newcomer from County Clare, Ireland, and had attended boarding school in Limerick.

The accused girls have come under online attack since Prince's death with fake websites set up under their names linked to media accounts of the case. The sites attracted reams of anonymous comments and threats.

Allegations that school officials knew of the bullying but failed to intervene have sparked outrage.

"The actions -- or inactions -- of some adults at the school are troublesome," Scheibel said.


But no adults have been charged in the case. Scheibel said their failure to help did not amount to criminal behavior.

"The school knew something," said Judith Vessey, a professor at the Connell School of Nursing at Boston College who has done extensive research on bullying. "The mother knew something. Friends and bystanders knew something.

"A lot of people knew what was happening and could have intervened."

Intervention by bystanders is crucial to stopping the downward spiral in bullying cases, she said.

"You would like to think that people would examine their own role and what they could do to make it not happen again, said Scott Seider, professor at Boston University's School of Education.

Three girls were arraigned and pleaded not guilty in Prince's case this week to a variety of civil rights violations and stalking charges. A fourth girl and two boys face similar charges. The boys, both of whom briefly dated Prince, also are charged with statutory rape.

Bullying is pervasive in U.S. schools. A U.S. Department of Education report in 2005 found 14 percent of students aged 12 through 18 said they were bullied in the previous six months.

The typical concept of bullying -- intimidation of a child perceived as weak by another -- is too simple, Vessey said.

"Especially in girls, bullying can be about social toxicity," she said, describing "eye rolls, the exclusions, the whole 'mean girls' thing."

"One of the things that puts kids at risk is the notion of difference," she said. "This young woman had those risk factors."

On the day she hanged herself from a stairwell, Prince was verbally harassed in the school library, in the hallways and while walking home from school, prosecutors said.


Bullying may play a bigger role than is commonly understood in teen suicide, experts also said. The annual suicide rate among Americans 15 to 19 years old is about seven per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teenage boys are more likely to commit suicide than are girls.

A CDC study also showed 14.5 percent of U.S. high school students reported seriously considering suicide during the year preceding the survey, and 6.9 percent said they had attempted suicide once or more in the same period.

Massachusetts lawmakers in March approved a bill that would ban bullying, including cyber-bullying, but versions of the bill must be reconciled by lawmakers before it can become law.

The legislation came in response to the Prince case and the suicide of an 11-year-old boy in Springfield, Massachusetts, last year. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover had been subject to relentless anti-gay taunts before killing himself.

Having a statute may do little to stop bullying and could make children more wary of reporting incidents and setting themselves up for retribution, Vessey said.

"When you have a zero-tolerance program, kids won't tell on one another," she said.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

You've got 0 Friends - Southpark's take on Facebook

An episode of the animated American sitcom, South Park, is spreading virally across the web as viewers take pleasure in the show’s bitingly truthful depiction of the “more annoying” side of social networking site Facebook.

The episode called “You’ve Got 0 Friends”, which aired on American TV on April 7, shows how social networks are infiltrating our everyday lives — influencing our reactions to social situations and changing how we relate with other people in our lives after having (or not having) an online relationship with them.

The South Park episode aired in light of Facebook’s recently proposed privacy changes — changes that would enable the social network site to share (what most users consider) private information with third-party sites.

According to a recent survey conducted by security firm Sophos, around 95 per cent of Facebook users are opposed to the changes.

Media blog Gawker has put together a video recap of the episode online showing “every ridiculous thing about what the social network has become.”

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Thai ‘red shirt’ protesters prepare for mass marches


Tens of thousands of Thai anti-government protesters prepared for mass marches on secret locations today in defiance of an emergency decree imposed to quell nearly a month of protests demanding new elections.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva imposed a state of emergency on Wednesday and authorities have since blocked websites and shut down an influential opposition television station, sparking scuffles between riot police and the red-shirted protesters and raising questions about what happens next.

Bangkok is calm, life goes on as normal, but the protesters are defiant.

“We will tear up all laws,” Nattawut Saikua, a “red shirt” leader, told tens of thousands of the mostly rural and working class protesters who have ignored orders to leave Bangkok’s main shopping district since Saturday.

He called for marches to 10 undisclosed locations across Bangkok and urged any red shirts who have private vehicles to bring them along, billing the protest as the biggest in nearly four weeks of sporadic anti-government street rallies.

“We will move out to 10 locations at the same time,” he said. “We don’t want to call it the final day, but if we can score a knockout, we definitely will,” he said. “This is all for Abhisit to dissolve parliament.”

The risk of confrontation has raised concern of fallout on Thailand’s economy, Southeast Asia’s second biggest. Central bank officials and the country’s finance minister have said it could affect monetary policy, possibly delaying an expected rate rise.

Thailand’s stock market, which had surged about 80 per cent over the past 12 months as Asia’s third-best performer, fell 3.5 per cent yesterday to its lowest since Oct 15.

Foreigners, who bought US$1.8 billion (RM6.12 billion) in Thai stocks in since Feb 22, turned net sellers for the first time in more than six weeks after a buying spree spurred by cheap valuations and Thailand’s rebounding, export-driven economy.

Thousands of the supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and now lives in self-imposed exile, had gathered in the shopping district by morning. Many had slept there on cardboard boxes.

Authorities have issued arrest warrants for 10 red shirt leaders, the army said, raising the possibility of swift arrests.

But some experts say such arrests may only embolden the protest movement and sharpen its message of double standards after no convictions were made when their archrival protesters known as the yellow shirts blockaded Bangkok’s international airport for a week in 2008 until a court ousted the government.

Kasit Piromya, a vocal yellow-shirt leader in the airport blockade that stranded hundreds of thousands of travelers, went on to become foreign minister in the current government.

“This is obviously another case of double standards,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“In a way, the red shirts might be willing to let their leaders get arrested to boost morale,” he said. “They can say ‘the yellow shirts did it two years ago. These people still walk freely on the street. But with the red shirts, look at what the government does. It arrests them’.”

Abhisit faces pressure to either compromise and call an election he could easily lose, or launch a crackdown on tens of thousands of protesters that could stir up even more trouble.

Most analysts doubt the authorities will use force to remove the protesters from the shopping area — a politically risky decision for Abhisit as his 16-month-old coalition government struggles to build support outside Bangkok.

By yesterday, authorities had blocked most websites associated with the protesters and taken several opposition TV channels off air. Military checkpoints had gone up outside Bangkok to stop more from entering the sprawling city of 15 million people.

“We will go on the offensive,” a protest leader, Weng Tojirakarn, told Reuters.

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Mexico may cut millions of cellphones to fight crime

Tens of millions of Mexicans could find their cellphones disconnected this weekend if the government goes ahead with a new law meant to fight crime by forcing people to register their identities.

Advertisements on government radio and television have been urging Mexicans for weeks to register their cellphones by sending their personal details as a text message, but on Thursday 30 million lines remained unregistered as the Saturday deadline neared.

Analysts said that any related losses for Mexico's largest wireless operator, America Movil, would be tiny relative to the company's overall sales.

Still, America Movil, controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, is urging senators to extend the deadline for implementing the law, passed a year ago to try to stop criminals from using cellphones for extortion and to negotiate ransoms in kidnappings.

"Close to 30 million people will be affected ... many of whom depend on mobile phones as their only means of communication," America Movil's head of institutional relations, Guillermo Ferrer, said in emailed comments.

Most of Mexico's 84 million mobile phones are prepaid handsets with a limited number of minutes of use that can be easily bought in stores. The phones can be topped up with more minutes through street corner vendors.

America Movil has 71 percent of Mexico's wireless market, along with operations in Brazil, Chile and other countries in the region. Most of the rest of Mexico's cellphone market is in the hands of Spain's Telefonica.


Mexico is plagued by organized crime, from drug trafficking to express-kidnappings of taxi passengers to force them to make cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines. Increased media reports of kidnappings in 2008 led to calls for the cellphone registry.

Critics have said the law would be ineffective because criminals can easily register phones under other people's identities.

But telecommunications watchdog head Hector Osuna said in a radio interview on Thursday authorities planned to check the legitimacy of data people submit.

This week, senators refused requests from telephone companies to extend the deadline for a year, but discussions were ongoing and a last-minute vote could not be ruled out.

The Reforma newspaper reported that a judge refused to give Telcel an injunction to stop the deadline.

Based on average spending habits, America Movil stands to lose around $10 million in revenue per day if the 30 million unregistered lines are cut.

"We think that disconnected users would look to register their line in the short term, though there could be an inevitable loss of revenues by the mobile companies," BBVA analyst Andres Coello wrote in a note to clients.

Itau Securities analyst Martin Lara estimated that it would take a week, on average, to reactivate lines that were cut or to acquire new lines. That would cost America Movil 0.2 percent of projected sales for 2010.

If people who depend heavily on their wireless phones for work have already registered their lines, there could be less of an effect on America Movil's revenue.

America Movil's ADRs were down 1.26 percent, or 64 cents, at $50.34 in late trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Apple's iAds - Mobile Advertising Platform

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Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs on Thursday revealed stronger-than-expected sales of 450,000 for the iPad since its much-hyped debut, and touted a phone operating system with a new advertising platform to compete with rival Google Inc's.

Analysts expect sales of 1 million units or more for the device -- touted as a new class of gadget that will bridge laptops and smartphones -- in the current quarter ending June, and roughly 5 million in 2010, though estimates vary widely.

The electronics giant has staked its reputation on the 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet. It is helping foster a market for tablet computers that is expected to grow to as many as 50 million units by 2014, according to analysts.

Despite being deemed to have no clear-cut case for use other than pure media consumption, analysts expect Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others to trot out competing devices of their own this year.

Since going on sale on April 3, users have downloaded 600,000 digital books and 3.5 million applications for the iPad, Jobs said.

At a media event at the company's Cupertino, California, headquarters, Jobs said Apple had so far sold more than 50 million iPhones, the smartphone that competes with Research in Motion's Blackberry and Palm's Pre.

Apple is expected to launch the fourth generation model of its iPhone, which was first introduced in January 2007, later this year.

Job, looking thin but energetic, said the forthcoming iPhone 4.0 operating system -- also available on iPads this fall -- will carry its new "iAd" mobile advertising platform, marking the company's foray into a small but burgeoning market.

iAds will allow applications developers to sell advertisements pocketing 60 percent of the revenue.

Apple's entry into the mobile ad arena had been widely expected. This year, it paid $270 million for Quattro Wireless, an advertising network that spans both mobile websites and smartphone applications.

Google, which already sells advertising on smartphones, agreed to buy mobile ad firm AdMob late in 2009, U.S. regulators are examining the deal's antitrust implications.

Research group Gartner expects the mobile advertising market to grow 78 percent to $1.6 billion in 2010.

Jobs also said the new operating system will include support for multitasking -- addressing a perennial consumer complaint -- allowing users to switch between several programs running simultaneously.

Shares of Apple turned positive briefly after Jobs' announcement before quickly dipping back into negative territory. They were 0.3 percent lower at $239.94 in afternoon trade on the Nasdaq.

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Oprah's New Global Evening Show : Oprah's Next Chapter

The new series will be called “Oprah’s Next Chapter”. — Reuters pic

Oprah Winfrey will try to recreate her daytime success in the evening with a new show she will host from around the world next year after ending her reign as daytime talk-show queen after 25 years, her network said yesterday.

The new series will be called “Oprah’s Next Chapter” and will take Winfrey to India, China and elsewhere, said the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, the Los Angeles-based cable TV venture she formed with Discovery Communications Inc.

Scheduling and details for the new prime-time series have not been finalized, a network spokeswoman said, but the show likely will air two to three times a week and debut in late 2011. Winfrey will interview a range of people from celebrities to politicians to newsmakers in other countries.

The show was one of five new series announced by OWN. Others included a reality show about country singer Shania Twain, a one-hour series hosted by Winfrey’s best friend, Gayle King, and an arts series that will spotlight among others singer Lady Gaga and director James Cameron.

The 24-hour network is set to be seen in 70 million homes and will start in January.

The US talk show host announced in November on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that she would end her popular daytime show because it “feels right.” The top-rated daytime show is broadcast from Chicago on ABC stations across the United States and in more than 140 countries.

It became one of TV industry’s biggest money-makers and helped Winfrey, 56, amass a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at US$2.3 billion (RM7.6 billion).

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Millionaires’ Ads for hubby draw at least 20 suitors


AT least 20 men are queuing up to marry two millionaires who had advertised in Lianhe Wanbao, a Singapore-based Chinese newspaper looking for husbands, Sin Chew Daily reported.

The two women are Thai Rao Gui Zhen and Chinese national Wang Xu from Dalian. Both are 46.

Rao, who earns more than RM100,000 a month, is the bigger hit among her suitors, judging from the number of telephone inquiries since her advertisement appeared on Monday.

Some of the men even went to the extent of sending their photographs to the daily in their “applications” to woo these two women.

Rao’s sister Gui Fen, 44, was quoted as saying that she would be assisting her sister to short-list the candidates and the “finalists” would have to travel to Thailand to meet her.

The applicants include a part-time actor, contractor, driver, divorcee, a bankrupt and a company di­­rector.

The daily reported that the other candidate, Wang, earned as much as RM500,000 year.

A 52-year-old company director, Lee Chao Ri, said he was interested in both the women.

Lee, who owns some property in China and had worked in Australia earlier, said his children were currently studying in university and he had been divorced for many years.

Part-time actor Liang Jie Ming said he was still a bachelor and his parents had passed away.

“I am willing to go to Thailand and work hard with Rao in her business,” he said.

Contractor Tan Hock Seng said he could speak Thai and was willing to accompany Rao in her business.

Another reader called up the hotline to say that his friend went bankrupt recently and intended to marry the woman to save his future.

> The daily also reported that a Singapore entertainment outlet is hiring a recruitment agency to find employees whose job is only to play mahjong.

SK Recruitment Services spokesperson said the monthly salary is RM4,140 with accommodation and meals provided.

As an incentive, the employee will also get to keep 20% of his winnings while the remaining 80% would go to the employer.

The daily also said that a similar arrangement would be used if the employee lost in the mahjong game.

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Solar Powered Airplane


Solar Impulse, a prototype of an airplane designed to fly around the world using only solar power, made its first real flight on Wednesday.

Powered by 12,000 solar cells, the aircraft, flew for 87 minutes to an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet above the Swiss countryside.

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Playboy Photographers Reality TV - Finds it Hard!

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They thought it would be all fun and glamour, but when 10 photographers recently gathered for a new reality TV show, they learned there was more to taking pictures of naked women than a good camera lens.

"Playboy Shootout," which premiered this past Saturday on cable television's subscriber-only Playboy Channel puts the photographers together in tandem with 10 models and each group -- shooters and models -- compete to have their work featured in the legendary men's magazine founded by Hugh Hefner.

While perhaps many a young man has dreamed of shooting a nude centerfold for Playboy, only few ever make the grade.

Playboy editorial director Jimmy Jellinek said the magazine annually gets "thousands and thousands" of submissions from photographers, but it is the rare exception who gets picked.

Stephen Wayda, a longtime Playboy photographer and judge on "Shootout," said he tried unsuccessfully for years before finally making it into the magazine's pages and onto a stellar career as a celebrity photographer.

"People think it's all fun, sex and glamour. They don't realize when you're doing nudes there's a lot more to it. You see all the body. You see the wrinkles in the waist when (models) turn. You see how the body is built, and you have to make it look good," Wayda said.

For "Shootout," Playboy gathered the photographers from around the United States and put them together in Los Angeles. The first episode had them assigned to take pictures of the models in a different area of a luxurious mansion, and they were given a time limit to devise a theme, set lighting, pick a costume and put the models through hair and makeup.


A major feature is that the models are competing to be in the magazine, too, and because they are looking for the best pictures possible, they sometimes conflict with the shooters.

"I've gained confidence in myself after doing the show, and I realized that having (many) crew members around me didn't distract me," said photographer Eric LaCour.

Kate Romero, one of two women among the photographers, said she believed being the same gender as the models helped her because she might be able to say things to calm their fears about posing naked in front of a large crew.

"It is a guys' world, definitely," said Romero. "(but) I love that kind of challenge."

Wayda said all the photographers came into the show with strong portfolios of past work, and for many the biggest problem was tailoring their own work to match Playboy's pages.

Under Hefner, the magazine' has always tried to feature models with a homespun, girl-next-door look.

"Some came in and said, 'I want to do something completely different,'" Wayda said. "Well, that's great, so go open up your own magazine."

The series, which ends on June 5, is produced by "America's Next Top Model" director Claudia Frank and hosted by "The Celebrity Apprentice 2" contender and Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick. A new episode airs every week on Saturdays as part of what Playboy is calling its "Date Night" lineup of shows.

Women tried to smuggle corpse onto plane

Two women were arrested at a British airport on suspicion of trying to smuggle a dead relative onto a flight bound for Germany, police said on Tuesday.

The 91-year-old deceased man was pushed in a wheelchair through Liverpool's John Lennon airport wearing sunglasses before check-in staff became suspicious and he was prevented from boarding the plane.

He was believed to have been driven about 35 miles to the airport by taxi from Oldham, Greater Manchester, police added.

The women were arrested on suspicion of failing to give notification of a death and were released on bail.

"At 11 a.m. on Saturday 3 April 2010, police at Liverpool John Lennon airport were alerted to the death of a 91-year-old man in the terminal building," police said in a statement.

"Two women aged 41 and 66 were arrested on suspicion of failing to give notification of death."

The cause of death is not known.

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Globally 1 in 5 believe in aliens

Aliens exist and they live in our midst disguised as humans — at least, that’s what 20 per cent of people polled in a global survey believe.

The Reuters Ipsos poll of 23,000 adults in 22 countries showed that more than 40 per cent of people from India and China believe that aliens walk among us disguised as humans, while those least likely to believe in this are from Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands (8 per cent each).

However, the majority of people polled, or 80 per cent, don’t believe aliens in our midst.

“It would appear that that there’s a modest correlation between the most populated countries and those more likely to indicate there may be aliens disguised amongst them compared with those countries with the smaller populations,” said John Wright, Senior Vice President of market research firm Ipsos.

“Maybe it’s a simple case that in a less populated country you are more likely to know your next door neighbour better,” he said.

More men than women — 22 percent versus 17 percent — believe that alien beings are on earth.

Most of those believers are under the age of 35, and across all income classes, the survey showed. Of those who do not believe, most are women.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jailed for Kissing in Public

A Dubai court Sunday upheld a one-month jail sentence given to a British pair for kissing in public, media reports said.

The British man living in Dubai and a female friend were arrested in November on charges of kissing intimately in public and consuming alcohol. An Emirati mother had complained her child had seen their indiscretion.

The case is the third time in under two years that Britons have fallen foul of indecency laws in Dubai, a Muslim emirate popular with sun-seeking Western tourists and expatriates.

The defendants are consulting their lawyer on whether to appeal Sunday's ruling before a cassation court, the website of the daily Gulf News reported.

The pair, who had been free on bail, are also to pay a fine of 1,000 dirhams ($272) for illegal consumption of alcohol and will be deported after serving their jail term, the website said.

Dubai's foreign population expanded rapidly in recent years as expatriates flocked to the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub for its tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.

The changes have challenged the Emirati population, now vastly outnumbered by foreigners, raising concerns that the rapid pace of growth is a threat to their social and religious identity in what remains a deeply conservative region.

In 2008, a British couple narrowly escaped jail after a court found them guilty of engaging in drunken sexual activity out of wedlock and in public on a beach in the emirate.

They were sentenced to three months in prison followed by deportation, but had their jail terms overturned on appeal.

In another case this year, a British couple who shared a hotel room managed to escape trial in Dubai for having sex out of wedlock by producing a marriage certificate.

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Man sent by Jesus Rams Car into Parked Plane

A man who claimed to have been sent by Jesus to punish sinners rammed his car into a parked plane at an airport in southeastern Nigeria , an aviation spokesman said Thursday.

No one was hurt in the incident Wednesday and the spokesman said Nigeria had no problem with security.

The United States put Nigeria on a list of countries needing to improve security after Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arrested on suspicion of trying to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner in December using explosives hidden in his underwear.

"There is no problem at all at our airports, no cause for alarm, as we have the necessary security on the ground," said Akin Olukunle, spokesman for the Federal Airport Authority.

He said the driver had broken through two security gates at Calabar international airport and rammed his car into the Arik Air plane before soldiers arrested him.

The suspect was heard yelling that all Nigerians were sinners and must repent or perish, a reporter who was at the airport said. The man, who is from Nigeria's southeastern state of Akwa Ibom, said he had been sent by Jesus Christ.

Authorities were questioning him in Calabar.

The crew of the plane, which had arrived from Lagos and was on its way to the capital Abuja, were not injured and no passengers were on board at the time.

"Our men rushed to the scene and evacuated crew members on board," Olukunle said. "We have beefed up security."

A bomb squad found no explosives in the car and flights continued despite the incident.

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Super-sizing the "Last Supper"

Actors perform in a re-enactment of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Ignacio, Misiones province, March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

We've been overeating our way through ever-larger portions over the past 1,000 years, a U.S. study revealed after studying more than 50 paintings of the Biblical Last Supper.

The study, by a Cornell University professor and his brother who is a Presbyterian minister and a religious studies professor, showed that the sizes of the portions and plates in the artworks, which were painted over the past millennium, have gradually grown by between 23 and 69 percent.

This finding suggests that the phenomenon of serving bigger portions on bigger plates, which pushes people to overeat, has also occurred gradually over the same time period, said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

"The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food," Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," said in a statement.

"We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history's most famous dinner."

The researchers analyzed 52 paintings depicting the Last Supper which were featured in the 2000 book "Last Supper" by Phaidon Press, and used computer-aided design technology to analyze the size of the main meals, or entrees, bread and the plates relative to the average size of the disciples' heads.

The study found that, over the past 1,000 years, the size of the main meal has progressively grown 69 percent; plate size has increased 66 percent and bread size by about 23 percent.

The research, conducted with Wansink's brother, Craig Wansink, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College, was published in the April edition of The International Journal of Obesity.

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Died while having sex in the car

A Russian couple having sex in a car parked in a tiny garage have died from carbon monoxide poisoning, Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday.

"A man and a woman retreated to their Volkswagen to have sex... Most likely the lovers turned on the engine to get warm," Interfax reported, citing a source in the Moscow police force. During a moment of "intimate closeness," the pair, in southern Moscow, inhaled the gas and died, the source added.

Many Russians keep their cars in box-like iron garages near their homes, which snugly encase their cars.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Michelle Obama’s ball gown makes museum debut

US First Lady Michelle Obama (right) touches her 2009 inaugural gown as the designer of her inaugural dress, Jason Wu, looks on during a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, yesterday. — AFP photo/Jewel Samad

First Lady Michelle Obama bowed to tradition yesterday and donated the dazzling ball gown she wore for her husband’s presidential inauguration last January to the Smithsonian museum institution.

The flowing, white, one-shouldered Jason Wu gown studded with applique embroidery, along with peep-toe white Jimmy Choo high heels, a huge ring, thin diamond bracelets and dangling earrings joined the Museum of American History’s collection of first ladies’ dresses.

“I’m also a little embarrassed by all the fuss being made over my dress. Like many of you, I’m not used to people wanting to put things I’ve worn on display,” Obama said to laughter.

“All of this is a little odd, so forgive me,” she added, accompanied by Taiwan-born Wu, 27, at a ceremony unveiling the dress.

Wu, who shot to fame after Obama wore his floor-length ivory silk chiffon gown, both glamorous and revealing with its single-shoulder design studded with white organza flowers and Swarovski crystals, put his hands over his heart as the first lady spoke.

“To say she has changed my life is really an understatement,” the young Manhattan-based designer said.

“I was inspired by Michelle’s poise, race and intelligence. I was inspired by the fact that I’ve been able to come to the US for fulfill my dream.”

Wu, who only opened his first store four years ago, studied in Paris and later worked with US designer Narciso Rodriguez, another favorite Obama couturier.

“This gown is a masterpiece,” an enthusiastic Obama said. “It is simple, it’s elegant and it comes from this brilliant young mind, someone who is living the American dream.”

The gown is part of a total of 24 dresses, including 11 gowns worn by first ladies since President Dwight Eisenhower’s wife Mamie in the 1950s for the museum’s “First Ladies at the Smithsonian” exhibition. All first ladies since 1912 have contributed to the collection.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Army nixes raid after Facebook leak?

The Israeli military called off a raid in Palestinian territory after a soldier posted details, including the time and place, on social networking website Facebook, Israel's Army Radio reported Wednesday.

The soldier - since relieved of combat duty -- described in a status update how his unit planned a "clean-up" arrest raid in a West Bank area, the radio station said. Facebook friends then reported him to military authorities.

The Israeli military spokesman's office had no immediate comment.

Israel says raids in the West Bank are aimed at detaining militants suspected of planning attacks on Israelis. Palestinian officials say the incursions undermine efforts by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority to enforce law and order in the territory.

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Getting naked for art at the Sydney Opera House

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Some 5,200 Australians posed naked in front of the Sydney Opera House on Monday for a photo shoot by New York-based artist Spencer Tunick for another signature installation of nudes against urban backdrops.

On a chilly, overcast, first day of autumn, the mass nude photo shoot was titled "Mardi Gras: The Base" and meant to celebrate Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras last weekend.

As the sun rose, Tunick instructed participants to do a number of poses, from standing up, lying down, and even embracing cheek to cheek, for over an hour.

"I want all couples to embrace and kiss, all friends to kiss and all strangers to do whatever they want," Tunick said as he directed the crowd.

Some participants were surprised at how asexual, and leveling, the event was.

"I thought it could be a bit awkward, but it's funny because when you're naked and everybody else is naked, you feel like you're dressed, because everybody looks the same," said Steven Anglier, who wore a wig so he could stand out in the photo.

"It's really a weird experience because you think there could be something sexual behind, but there's not."

Tunick has produced almost 100 installations around the world, and says his work is not about exhibitionism or eroticism but instead reveals the vulnerability of life in a rough city landscape.

But that argument has not impressed authorities at home in the United States, where Tunick has been arrested seven times.

His largest installation was in Mexico on May 6, 2007, where he photographed 18,000 people In Mexico city's Zocalo Square.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women only: airline to have female toilets

A cubicle is seen at the Oxford Circus lavatories in London, May 20, 2005. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Women flying Japan's All Nippon Airways will have a toilet all to themselves from next month, with the airline designating one restroom on most international routes as female-only.

The airline said in a statement it was responding to "numerous requests for this service," adding that the toilet would be located in the rear of the plane and be available to women passengers from all classes.

An airline official told Kyodo news agency that ANA decided to designate women-only lavatories based on a 2007 online survey in which 90 percent of the women polled said they found the idea attractive.

The official also said women do not like using shared toilets as men sometimes leave the seat up. She said demand for women-only toilets was especially high among passengers taking long flights.

Men would be allowed to use the lavatory only in emergencies or when there were very few female passengers on the flight, the ANA statement said.

South Korea's Korean Air has been offering similar facilities and ANA rival Japan Airlines designates lavatories for priority use by women, the ANA official told Kyodo.

Toilet etiquette appears to be an important part of ANA's policy -- the airline had previously asked passengers to use the lavatories before they board flights so as to reduce the overall weight of the plane, which would ultimately be better for the environment as it would mean less fuel usage.

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Dubai Mall partly evacuated after aquarium leak

Visitors looks up as fish swim in the aquarium tunnel in Dubai Mall, which covers the area of 50 soccer pitches, November 4, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

"There was a small problem, a simple crack, and the water leaked," the official said, declining to be identified.

One of the largest tanks in the world, the aquarium features the world's largest viewing panel at 32.8 meters (107 ft 7 in) wide and 8.3 meters high.

Dubai Aquarium has been planned to have more than 33,000 living animals, representing more than 85 species including over 400 sharks and rays combined, according to Dubai Mall's website.

A Reuters witness said the mall had been partly evacuated and dozens of emergency vehicles were outside the mall, billed as one of the world's largest and operated by Emaar Properties.

An Emaar spokeswoman confirmed it was investigating an incident at the mall.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Watch this movie and win $10,000?

A Bollywood filmmaker has issued a lucrative challenge to horror movie fans: a $10,000 reward for anyone who can watch his latest supernatural thriller, alone, in a cinema until the closing credits.

Ram Gopal Varma's "Phoonk 2," a sequel to his 2008 film of the same name, is about an evil spirit that traumatizes a family. "Anyone who says the movie cannot scare him is going to be put in a theater by himself," Varma told reporters in Mumbai at an event to promote the movie.

Varma said the film fan who steps up to the challenge will be wired up to a heart monitoring machine as well as a camera that ensures they keep their eyes open during the whole movie.

Readings from the machines will be shown live on a screen outside the cinema, Varma said, and if the contestant succeeds, they will win 500,000 rupees (approximately $10,850).

Varma issued a similar challenge ahead of the release of the original "Phoonk" but the promotional contest was withdrawn after allegations the selection process was rigged.

Varma said the contest winner ran out 30 minutes after the film started, but newspaper reports said a film fan in the southern Indian city of Bangalore booked an entire cinema to prove the director wrong and watched the film alone with a doctor on call and security personnel stationed outside.

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More Getting Dumped on Facebook

Digital dumping is on the rise, according to a survey, with growing numbers of people preferring to use email and social networking Web sites to break up with their partners.

Over one third of 2,000 people polled (34 percent) said they had ended a relationship by email, 13 percent had changed their status on Facebook without telling their partners and six percent had released the news unilaterally on Twitter.

By contrast, only two percent had broken up via a mobile phone text.

The rest had split up the old-fashioned way by face-to-face conversation (38 percent) and by telephone (eight percent).

"Digital Dumping will soon take over when it comes to ending a relationship," said Sean Wood, Marketing Manager for DateTheUk dating service for whom the survey was carried out.

"It's often easier, quicker and avoids any misunderstandings."

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