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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The Internet will make you smarter

An online survey of 895 Web users and experts found more than three-quarters believe the Internet will make people smarter in the next 10 years, according to results released on Friday.

Most of the respondents also said the Internet would improve reading and writing by 2020, according to the study, conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University in North Carolina and the Pew Internet and American Life project.

"Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge," said study co-author Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center.

But 21 percent said the Internet would have the opposite effect and could even lower the IQs of some who use it a lot.

"There are still many people ... who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools," she said.

The Web-based survey gathered opinions from scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers, along with Internet users screened by the authors. Of the 895 people surveyed, 371 were considered "experts."

It was prompted in part by an August 2008 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly by technology writer Nicholas Carr headlined: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Carr suggested in the article that heavy use of the Web was chipping away at users' capacity for concentration and deep thinking. Carr, who participated in the survey, told the authors he still agreed with the piece.

"What the 'Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence," Carr said in a release accompanying the study. "The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking."

But Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said, "People are already using Google as an adjunct to their own memory.

"For example, I have a hunch about something, need facts to support and Google comes through for me," he said in the release.

The survey also found that 42 percent of experts believed that anonymous online activity would be "sharply curtailed" by 2020, thanks to tighter security and identification systems, while 55 percent thought it would still be relatively easy to browse the Internet anonymously in 10 years.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New travel agency offers the bear necessities

Even teddy bears need vacations nowadays. — Reuters pic

A newly formed Czech travel agency is offering escorted trips for pampered toys.

Send them your favourite animal and they will whisk it around the sights of Prague, taking photographs of it against backgrounds like Prague Castle or the Charles Bridge.

The Toy Traveling agency was pitched to a panel of local businessmen for a TV reality show “Den D” by 22-year old decorator Marek Hlavka last week.

The concept was inspired by the 2001 film “Amelie from Montmartre” in which the heroine has pictures of her father’s garden gnome posed in front of various world landmarks sent to him to convince him to fulfil his dream of touring the world.

“As we start, we’re focussing on north American and Japanese markets, where there is a huge amount of people owning stuffed animals,” said Tomio Okamura, one of the businessmen who have decided to invest in the idea.

He and former Czech minister of information technology Dana Berova have agreed to invest an initial 150,000 crowns (RM28,000) each in the project.

In the past week, the venture’s website has logged over 15,000 visitors.

“We are very surprised with such a massive interest from clients both from here and from abroad — we really did not expect that,” Hlavka said in an email.

One recurrent request has come from Japan where several toy owners are anxious to have snaps taken at a Bayern Munich match.

Others have been asking for pictures of their stuffed animals enjoying a picnic or a massage.

The cost ranges from €90 (RM450) to €150.

“The most expensive package includes a massage, which takes place on a special rug laid out at a place with the view of the Charles Bridge. We light candles and incense sticks, lay down the plush toy on its back and Mr. Hlavka starts the massage,” Okamura said.

The dearest package also includes a cushion and a duvet to provide a comfortable journey for the stuffed client to Prague and then back to its owner.

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Superman comic fetches record US$1 million

A very rare, first edition Superman comic book in top condition sold today for a record US$1 million (RM3.4 million) in a public sale held by website

Owners of the website said the book, Action Comics #1, was first published in June 1938 and introduced the crime-fighting superhero to fans, describing how he was born on a different planet and came to Earth. It also introduces his alter ego Clark Kent’s love interest, Lois Lane.

Stephen Fishler, founder, said the comic is one of only around 100 in existence and that a scant two or three are in a similar unrestored, high-grade condition.

“If not this book, it may be 10 or 20 years before another one like it would be offered,” Fishler said.

Fishler said the book was last on the market 15 years ago when it fetched US$150,000. The current buyer remained anonymous.

The US$1 million is more than three times the previous record of US$317,000 that ComicConnect fetched for a lower-grade Action Comics #1 book last year.

Back in 1938, the comic sold for US10 cents.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Give up your iPod for Lent

British church leaders are encouraging people to give up their iPods for Lent, instead of more traditional vices such as chocolate, to help save the planet.

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, and the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, are among those calling for a carbon fast for Lent -- a period ahead of Easter which Christians traditionally consider a time of penance and reflection -- which begins on Wednesday.

As well as spending a day without using technology such as mobile phones or iPods, the 46 daily suggestions also include eating by candlelight, cutting meat and vegetables thinner so they cook faster and flushing the toilet less often.

"Instead of giving up chocolate for Lent, why not fast for justice ... to help those suffering from the effects of climate change," said Jones.

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LV bags US300K from eBay in suit

eBay Inc will pay about US$316,500 (RM1.08mil) to Louis Vuitton Malletier for legal costs and damages, as well as stop using Internet search terms the luxury goods maker protested, following a ruling on Thursday by the Paris District Court.

The online auction site was found liable for harming the reputation of Louis Vuitton trademarks, the company name and domain name — all held by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

eBay spokesman Alina Piacentino said the company will appeal the decision.

The auction site had been buying keywords such as “Viton,” “Vitton” and “Wuiton” so that online shoppers using these misspellings in a search engine — along with anyone using the brand’s correct spelling — would be directed to links promoting eBay, a Louis Vuitton spokesman said.

The court, which called eBay’s actions “parasitic,” ordered the company to stop using the keywords. The court said the practice harmed Louis Vuitton’s brand.

The online auction house must pay Louis Vuitton euro 200,000 (RM1mil) in damages plus euro 30,000 (RM150,000) in legal costs.

In a prepared statement, eBay said it was disappointed but noted that Louis Vuitton was awarded less than the euro 1.2mil (RM6mil) it sought.

In the case of any future violations, eBay must pay Louis Vuitton euro 1,000 (RM5,000) according to an LVMH spokesman.

eBay also said the ruling “flies in the face” of a legal victory against Ralph Lauren in an appeal of a similar case in Belgium.

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