Thursday, July 31, 2008

Animal Parents

A Mother's Love


(AP Photo/Jessie Cohen)

(Daniel Hernanz)

(Rita Summers)

(Michael Kooren)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Medicine For AIDS

HOUSTON -- There is real hope that what’s happening in a Houston lab might lead to a cure for HIV.


Researcher holds test tubes with separated HIV infected blood

“We have found an innovative way to kill the virus by finding this small region of HIV that is unchangeable,” Dr. Sudhir Paul of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston said.

Dr. Paul and Dr. Miguel Escobar aren’t talking about just suppressing HIV – they’re talking about destroying it permanently by arming the immune system with a new weapon lab tests have shown to be effective.

Ford Stuart has been HIV positive for 15 years. He’s on a powerful drug cocktail that keeps the disease in check.

“I’m on four different medications. Three of them are brand new, and it’s the first time that I’ve ever been non-detectible,” Stuart said. “I’m down to about – just for the HIV – about nine pills per day, five in the morning and four at night.”

But Stuart knows HIV mutates, and eventually it will learn how to outsmart his medications.

“The virus is truly complex and has many tricks up its sleeve,” Paul said.

But Dr. Paul thinks he’s cracked a code.

“We’ve discovered the weak spot of HIV,” he said.

Paul and his team have zeroed in on a section of a key protein in HIV’s structure that does not mutate.

“The virus needs at least one constant region, and that is the essence of calling it the Achilles heel,” Paul said.

That Achilles heel is the doctors’ way in. They take advantage of it with something called an abzyme.
It’s naturally produced by people, like lupus patients. When they applied that abzyme to the HIV virus, it permanently disarmed it.

“What we already have in our hand are the abzymes that we could be infusing into the human subjects with HIV infection, essentially to move the virus,” Paul said.

Basically, their idea could be used to control the disease for people who already have it and prevent infection for those at risk.

The theory has held up in lab and animal testing. The next step is human trials.

Meanwhile, every day in Houston, three people are diagnosed with HIV.

The doctors still need funding to launch human trials. In the world of HIV research, that’s often where things fall apart.

“Clinical trials are very expensive,” Paul said.

“That is the worry of the researcher. This is what nightmares are made of – that after 30 years of work, you find it doesn’t work,” Paul said.

But so far, it is working.

“This is the holy grail of HIV research, to develop a preventative vaccine,” Paul said.

“If we can get the viral loads down to a manageable level, that will preclude the need for these conventional drugs,” Escobar said.

Still, even if everything goes well, it’s at least five years before the research could help people with HIV.

The doctors know people like Ford Stuart are waiting.

“There are so many people struggling with the disease because it affects not only your body, but also your psyche, how you perceive yourself,” he said.

If nothing else, the research is promising for the tens of millions waiting for a cure.

It's that time of year again: Google's Zeitgeist results for 2007 are out. Search is so much a part of our daily lives that the terms and trends of these keywords become quite fascinating.

No surprise, then, that Facebook was the fastest rising UK search term of 2007, closely followed by YouTube, Bebo and MySpace. Club Penguin, Wikipedia, Stardoll, Gumtree, wiki and eBaty made up the top ten.

Quite why you'd search for them rather than typing their name and' in the browser, I have no idea. But that's partly how Google built up its fortune, I guess.

Google's Zeitgeist report is tellingly short of hard stats, but it does reveal that up to 25% of searches on any typical day are brand new search terms. The long tail will only ever get longer then. That might also show that users are getting more sophisticated with their searches, perhaps getting comfortable with search syntax like speech marks and site-specific searches (that's "site:", FYI).

Countrywide, Google picked out the top searches for specific cities, which are rather intriguing. Farnborough mostly looked for love this year, Cambridge looked for beer and Oxford for David Cameron. And takeaways were the top priority in Bristol.


Anyone looking for a business idea might want to try and disrupt some of the following markets: Bargain hunters spent most of their Google time looking for cheap flights, holidays, car insurance, laptops, hotels, travel insurance, loans, train tickets, cars and mobile phones.

Ronaldo has the dubious distinction of being the most hated search term, followed by "i hate men" and "i hate school", while film, movies and techno got the most love. I'm not with them on the techno bit.

The United States women's softball team has won every gold medal since softball became an Olympic sport in 1996. But as Chris Cox reports, the U.S. women's softball team is preparing to defend its gold medal in Beijing, knowing this will be the last opportunity to play softball at the Olympic games.

Player on the U.S. Women's Softball team warming up
U.S. women's softball team warming up
In 2005, the International Olympic Committee voted to take softball off the Olympic schedule starting with the 2012 London games. To stay on the summer games program, softball needed a two-thirds majority. It was one vote short.

The unbroken success of the U.S. team has boosted softball's popularity in the United States.

Star pitcher Jennie Finch says the IOC decision is tough, but there's a silver lining. "It's heart breaking,” she said. “It's very disappointing to know that we're out for 2012, but for us the future's bright and our sport is at an all-time high, and we'll just keep pushing on and hope for 2016 to get it back in."

Star pitcher Jenny Finch
Star pitcher Jenny Finch
Head coach Mike Candrea also wants to see softball in the 2016 games. But right now he is focused on helping the team win.

"Well yeah, I think you know, this team has grown from 2004 when we had a tremendous performance but I think they also realize that what happened in the past, happened in the past and you got to do it again," Candrea said.

Jennie Finch says it's an honor to play for her country. "For us, that's what's so special about wearing this USA uniform, is to know the dominance that it has and the tradition of USA, which is gold. Three gold medals. So, we definitely have a target on our back but that just makes us work harder,” she said.

The U.S. women's team starts its gold medal defense against Venezuela on August 12 in Beijing.

Nike will allow its swimmers to wear Speedo's sleek LZR Racer instead of its own suit at the Beijing Olympics.

Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said Wednesday the company felt it was fair to extend the offer it made in June allowing its swimmers to wear Speedo's suit at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

"It is about putting their performance and their focus first," Stoyer said. "This is what they have trained for. It is the biggest moment of their lives."

Four swimmers who signed with Nike, which has some of the industry's tightest controls on athlete contract agreements, are heading to the Olympics.

Speedo's sleek LZR Racer has caused major waves this year. Since its launch in February, swimmers have broken dozens of world records and athletes not sponsored by Speedo have clamored to wear it.

It also caused some backlash. One Italian coach accused Speedo of technological doping. And Tyr Sport Inc. sued Speedo in May, alleging in its lawsuit that the company conspired with the U.S. swimming federation to stifle competition and lure top athletes away from other sponsors.

British-owned Speedo says the lawsuit is baseless.

It’s a bit of déjà vu for Iraqi athletes and sports fans. On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee said it will let Iraq participate in the games in Beijing after Iraqi government officials vowed that its Olympics committee would be independent and free from political influence.

The International Olympic Committee’s decision will mean Iraq is represented in the Opening Ceremony in Beijing Aug. 8. Above, the Iraqi team entered the arena at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (Photo: The Associated Press)

The lifting of the ban on Iraq’s participation in the Olympics came with just enough time to let Iraq meet today’s deadline to submit the names of athletes competing in the track and field events. That means Iraq will be sending two competitors to Beijing. Other potential participants in the fields of judo, rowing, weightlifting and archery will have to sit this one out, because the deadline for name submissions for those events passed last week.

The IOC banned Iraq from the games after the Iraqi government dissolved the country’s national Olympic committee in May. The government said the committee hadn’t had a quorum for several years, ever since several members of the group were kidnapped, and alleged that the committee was mired in corruption.

A similar kind of back and forth occurred in the soccer world, also because of the Iraqi Olympics committee’s dissolution. That prompted FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, to bar the Iraqi team from international matches for one year, including the World Cup. But Iraq said the dissolution didn’t apply to the Iraqi Football Association, and FIFA ended up letting the Iraqi team play.

In June, Iraq went on to win two of its World Cup qualifying matches against Australia and China, but ended up losing to Australia and Qatar in other games, which kept them out of the next phase of the qualifying matches.

As for the Olympics, the IOC agreed to allow Iraq to participate after Iraq said it would hold free elections by the end of November to choose members of a new Iraqi Olympics committee. The polling would be observed by international monitors. In the meantime, there will be an interim committee to oversee Iraq’s involvement in the Olympics.

Of course, actually meeting deadlines is often unheard of in Iraq, whether it’s for elections or other issues. The Iraqi government had intended to hold provincial elections in October this year, but because of disagreements over an elections law it’s unclear when the polling will take place.

But most Iraqis desperately want the government to resolve these matters so the country’s participation in future international athletic events isn’t in question. Sports, especially soccer, provide one of the few escapes from the daily stress of living in Iraq. Although violence is ebbing, there is still a lack of basic services such as electricity and clean water, while unemployment is high.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, who led a delegation to hold talks with the IOC that brokered the Olympics agreement, said Iraq needed to participate in the Olympics to provide hope to the country and to show that Iraq is slowly shedding its war-torn image.

Oscar Ravichandran, who had produced great blockbusters like ‘Tagore, Aparichitudu and Dasavataram’ planned another sensational film. The film has Bollywood Badshah Sharukh Khan and Hollywood Star Jackie Chan in the lead roles and it would be directed by none other than KS Ravikumar, who had brought out a great film like ‘Dasavataram’. The film had almost completed the story sittings and is likely to go to sets on August 8. The producer is planning to release the film across the globe by dubbing in almost all languages in the world. AR Rahman is being convinced to score music for the movie.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A rumour has been making the rounds in Kerala media that Asin is going to do an international ad campaign with Jackie Chan, to be shot in Japan!

Jackie Chan is the flavour of the season ever since he came for the audio launch of Dasavatharam in Chennai. Now Mohanlal is supposed to do the film Nairsen with him in September.

At the Dasavatharam audio launch, Jackie was introduced to Asin and photographed together which may have lend credence to the story that Asin is going to do an ad with him.

When contacted in Mumbai, Asin said: "It is a figment of somebody's imagination running wild. No such offer has come my way, and I don't thing that Jackie is endorsing any products."

HONG KONG (AP) — Jackie Chan's Web site says construction has begun on a museum for the action movie star in the Chinese financial capital Shanghai.

A statement published Friday says the 54-year-old attended a ceremony marking the start of work earlier this week.

The museum will house props and costumes from Chan's movies, photos and other memorabilia, the Web site said. Construction is scheduled to finish in October 2009.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Jackie in the UN helicopter which took him to District Ainaro in the mountains.

Jackie visited the Southeast-Asian country of Timor-Leste this week, acting as UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador. He met with young people on a mission to promote peace and to gather information about the plight of the Timorese youth. Timor-Leste has a large number of youths who are involved in martial arts gangs and Jackie met with them in an attempt to guide them to more peaceful and productive behavior.

On Tuesday, June 24th, he visited a Youth Center in Comorro where he visited classrooms, spoke with the youngsters, and played basketball, volleyball, and soccer. He encouraged them to continue their studies, reminding them that education was the key to a bright future. Jackie then met with United Nations Special Representative for Timor-Leste Atul Khare and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. In the evening he attended a reception with United Nations donors and government partners at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On June 25th, Jackie traveled by helicopter to the mountain district of Ainaro to meet with martial arts groups and youth leaders. In a passionate and heartfelt speech, Jackie shared the story of his own life, reminding the young people that he was very poor when he was young; telling them that with hard work and a "never-give-up" attitude, they too could lead happy and successful lives. He visited the home of one young member of a martial arts group, and attended a small reception at the Office of the District Administrator to sample the local coffee.

After returning to Timor-Leste's capital city Dili, Jackie visited School Aidak Bihare in Camea Village. He visited the classrooms, where the children read to him and sang a song. Afterwards, Jackie joined the students on the playground for some jumprope and a quick game of volleyball. After stopping to watch a football game in Becora, where he met with team members, he traveled to the Dili Stadium where he and the Prime Minister watched martial arts demonstrations and a traditional Chinese Dragon Dance. Jackie then participated in a "unifying exercise" during which he led over 3,500 martial arts group members in a series of powerful thrusts, kicks, and punches. He spoke to the audience of 5,000 people, encouraging the youngsters to embrace peace and to stay away from violence. He shared lessons he'd learned in his own life and encouraged the youth to work hard and never give up on their dreams.

In the evening, Jackie attended a dinner-reception at the home of President Ramos-Horta. Before leaving Timor-Leste, Jackie recorded several public service announcements aimed at local youth.

Can big get bigger?

On Dasavatharam's success hinges the Rs 700-crore project of Ascar V Ravichandaran For Ascar V Ravichandran, Tamil film Dasavatharam starring Kamal Haasan in 10 unique roles was a huge leap of faith. At Rs 60 crore, it ranks amongst the most expensive films ever produced in India.

Ravichandran's next film will be made at a cost of Rs 600-700 crore – enough to bankroll ten Bollywood blockbusters and a decent Hollywood flick. He has roped in action star Jackie Chan to play the lead.

Ravichandran is considered by many the most risk-taking producer in the Tamil film industry. He started as a small time distributor in Vellore in the early 1980s. Ravichandran was once a major distributor of Hollywood films in Tamil Nadu. He was the pioneer in popularising Jackie Chan movies in the state.

In the mid-1990s, he took over the distribution of Kathalukku Mariyathai for entire Tamil Nadu. It turned out to be the biggest blockbuster that year. Ravichandran never looked back after that . In 2006, he distributed and supported several films that were facing financial problems and all of them did well.

Ravichandran's latest plans are ambitious. Many producers in the Indian film industry have gone down real fast in the whimsical world of movie making.

But that will depend crucially on Dasavatharam's success. It is clearly a Kamal movie. When the movie finally made it to the screens, Kamal managed to break the record of his hero, Sivaji Ganesan, who had given a nine-role stunner in 1964 in the movie Navarathiri.

On release day, the movie was shown at 22 centres totalling 70 shows in Chennai, alone breaking the record set by Rajinikanth's Shivaji: The Boss released in 2007 in 17 centres. Including the suburbs there will be 120 shows every day with 700 prints. The Hindi version will have 400 prints.

So, is the cash flowing in? Initial reviews in newspapers were hardly generous. For the first few days, Chennai's movie circles were buzzing with rumours that Dasavatharam had bombed. In fact, some even said that Ravichandran himself had blocked three days show tickets in some theatres in Chennai to create an illusion of demand.

Ravichandran rubbishes these rumours and says the first week shows helped him recover Rs 50 crore, and he sure would be laughing his way to bank when the movie finally does its last act. "Is it even possible to do that? Why would I make such an expensive movie if I was going to buy the tickets myself," he quips .

Ravichandran believes that Dasavatharam will gross nothing less than Rs 200-300 crore in domestic and international exhibitions. He is, in fact, banking on this to part-fund his dream project of making a movie with Jackie Chan. He had made Dasavatharam with some support from banks. He hopes the same banks will stand by him for his next venture, too.