2 The News Tribe

New computing devices will allow touch, smell: IBM
Deputy at odds with Assad as Syria war rages
Egypt referendum dispute triggers protest call
Poonam Pandey says enjoying shooting of ‘Nasha’
PALPA supports fake degree holder pilots
India expected to hold rates despite pressure
Call-off Pak-India series: BJP demands after Malik’s stance on Hafiz Saeed, Babri Masjid
Santander absorbs two Spanish banks, eyes savings
Karachi: WHO volunteer killed in Gadap Town, polio vaccination suspended
Altaf Hussain hints at leaving MQM leadership, politics

New computing devices will allow touch, smell: IBM

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 03:34 PM PST

Washington: Future computing devices will push further into the senses by developing capacities to mimic the ability to see, smell, touch, taste and hear, IBM says in an annual forecast Monday.

The seventh annual “IBM 5 in 5,” a list of innovations that have the potential to have an impact in the next five years, said computers and other devices will gain more capabilities to simulate the human senses.

IBM said computers may be able to use algorithms to determine the precise chemical structure of food and why people like certain tastes.

“Not only will it make healthy foods more palatable — it will also surprise us with unusual pairings of foods actually designed to maximize our experience of taste and flavor,” the computing giant said.

“In the case of people with special dietary needs such as individuals with diabetes, it would develop flavors and recipes to keep their blood sugar regulated, but satisfy their sweet tooth.”

IBM predicted that in the next five years, tiny sensors embedded in computers or cell phones will detect if someone is coming down with a cold or other illness, by analyzing odors, biomarkers and thousands of molecules in someone’s breath.

These tools will also help doctors diagnose and monitor the onset of ailments such as liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, according to the IBM report.

For touch, IBM says new tactile, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies will allow people to simulate touch, such as the texture and weave of a fabric, over a mobile device.

“Utilizing the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represents the touch experience,” IBM said, pointing out the potential for retail and health care sectors.

IBM said computers are also developing improved capacities to detect and analyze sounds.

“Within five years, a distributed system of clever sensors will detect elements of sound such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves at different frequencies,” IBM said.

“It will interpret these inputs to predict when trees will fall in a forest or when a landslide is imminent.”

“Baby talk” will be understood as a language, according to IBM, helping parents or doctors understand what infants are trying to communicate.

The IBM outlook says another key area for computer innovation will be the ability to analyze visual data, or “see.”

“Computers today only understand pictures by the text we use to tag or title them; the majority of the information — the actual content of the image — is a mystery,” said IBM.

“In the next five years, systems will not only be able to look at and recognize the contents of images and visual data, they will turn the pixels into meaning, beginning to make sense out of it similar to the way a human views and interprets a photograph.”

These applications will be able to help analyze images such as X-rays or body scans, but also have an impact on industries from retail to agriculture.

“IBM scientists around the world are collaborating on advances that will help computers make sense of the world around them,” said Bernie Meyerson, IBM fellow and vice president of innovation.

“Just as the human brain relies on interacting with the world using multiple senses, by bringing combinations of these breakthroughs together, cognitive systems will bring even greater value and insights, helping us solve some of the most complicated challenges.”

Deputy at odds with Assad as Syria war rages

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 03:25 PM PST

Damascus: Bashar al-Assad’s deputy said a clear winner is unlikely to emerge in Syria’s war and he prefers a negotiated solution, in remarks at odds with the president, as clashes raged Monday across the country.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi toured Aleppo, meanwhile, in the most high-profile visit to Syria’s second city and commercial capital by a regime official since the outbreak of fighting for it in July.

State television said Halaqi’s trip was to “assess hardships faced by the city,” while analysts said it was designed to show the regime still had control in an area that has drawn in an increasing number of Islamist militants.

Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa gave a gloomy assessment of the conflict, however, as rebels launched an all-out assault on the central city of Hama, regime warplanes bombed eastern Damascus and refugees fled a second day of clashes at a Palestinian camp in the capital.

“No opposition can end the battle militarily, just as the security forces and army cannot achieve a decisive conclusion,” Sharaa told Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper.

“Every day that passes, we are moving further away from a military or political solution.

“(Assad) does not hide his desire to press on militarily until the final victory (and he believes that) after this, political dialogue will actually still be possible.”

A Sunni Muslim, Sharaa has for decades served the Assad regime dominated by the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam, but has rarely been seen in public since the Arab Spring-inspired uprising erupted in March 2011.

Iran and Turkey offered their own proposals aimed at ending the conflict.

Tehran’s six-point plan included an immediate halt to violence under UN supervision, lifting sanctions against Syria, freeing political prisoners and a dialogue to form a transitional government to organise free elections.

But Arab and Western nations including the United States reject any Iranian involvement in the crisis, saying Tehran is discredited over its unwavering support for Assad.

Turkey, a former ally turned fierce critic of Damascus, reportedly called for Assad to step down within the first three months of 2013 and for the transition to be overseen by the opposition National Coalition.

The United Nations, meanwhile, said it was sending chemical weapons kits to the UN force monitoring a ceasefire zone on the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel because of growing fears over Damascus’s deadly non-conventional arsenal.

In Washington, the US Treasury said it had designated former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha a “global terrorist” for aiding Assad’s regime to carry out attacks in his country which neighbours Syria.

On Sunday, regime warplanes bombed the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in Damascus, prompting UN chief Ban Ki-moon to express alarm at the “dramatic escalation of violence”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes killed at least eight civilians.

Residents said more people fled the camp on Monday as new clashes erupted between rebels and the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

East of Damascus, warplanes attacked the Eastern Ghuta region, while smoke was seen rising from nearby Zamalka, also raided by jets.

Rebel fighters launched an all-out assault on army positions across Hama in some of the worst violence in the central province for months, forcing troops to pull back from several locations, said the Observatory.

Colonel Kassem Saadeddin of the rebel Free Syrian Army said the battle to “liberate” Hama province had begun and issued a deadline of 1100 GMT on Tuesday for regime forces to withdraw.

Army reinforcements travelled from a military airport west of Damascus to Daraya farther south, where about 8,000 residents were trapped by a regime offensive backed by tanks.

“It is a tragic situation today in Daraya… There are fierce clashes on all fronts,” activist Abu Kinan said from Daraya, where more than 500 people were reportedly killed in August in the conflict’s bloodiest massacre.

Nationwide, at least 98 people were killed on Monday, said the Observatory, which puts the overall death toll from the 21-month uprising at more than 43,000 based on accounts from activists and medics on the ground.

Egypt referendum dispute triggers protest call

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 03:00 PM PST

Cairo: Egypt’s opposition is calling for mass protests on Tuesday over alleged polling violations after Islamists backing President Mohamed Morsi claimed victory in the first round of a referendum on a new charter.

A group of top judges, meanwhile, announced on Monday it would boycott supervision of the second round, and Germany said it has postponed debt relief for Egypt because of concerns over the country’s commitment to democracy.

Adding to the complications for Morsi, the prosecutor general named by the president as he temporarily assumed sweeping powers last month handed in his resignation, a judicial source told AFP.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi casts his vote in Cairo on December 15, 2012

“The prosecutor general has submitted his resignation under pressure from protesters,” said the source, referring to magistrates who have been clamouring for his immediate departure.

The Supreme Judicial Council will examine prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah’s resignation next Sunday, a day after the second and final round of voting in the referendum, the source said.

The opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, urged Egyptians to “take to the streets on Tuesday to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution” ahead of the second round.

It claimed “irregularities and violations” marred the initial stage of the referendum last weekend across half of Egypt that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood said resulted in a 57 percent “yes” vote, according to its unofficial tally.

On the legal front, the State Council Judges Club, whose members took part in overseeing the first round as required by law, said it would boycott next Saturday’s vote because the authorities had failed to live up to their promises.

The association has demanded that a “siege” of the Supreme Constitutional Court by Brotherhood supporters be lifted. But the action has continued without any intervention by the authorities, it said.

Egyptian riot police cordon off all access to the road leading to a police station in Cairo on December 16, 2012

In Germany, a spokesman for the overseas development ministry said a plan to forgive up to 240 million euros ($316 million) of Cairo’s debt had been delayed indefinitely.

Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel said earlier he had serious reservations. “There is the danger that the dictatorial system of ousted president (Hosni) Mubarak is returning,” he told the daily Berliner Zeitung.

Niebel said Berlin had cancelled talks on development aid scheduled for mid-December and that future assistance was dependent on Egypt’s progress toward democracy and the rule of law.

Also increasing the pressure, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Salvation Front’s coordinator and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, renewed his call for Morsi to cancel the referendum altogether and enter talks with the opposition.

A woman prays in a heavily guarded street outside the presidential palace in Cairo on December 15, 2012

“Last chance: cancel the ill-reputed referendum and begin a dialogue to close the rift,” he wrote on Twitter, although a spokesman for ElBaradei’s group said the comment was not a call to boycott the second round.

Large protests both for and against the proposed constitution have been staged during the past three weeks, sparking violent clashes and revealing deep divisions in society over Morsi’s rule.

Early this month, eight people were killed and more than 600 hurt when rival protesters fought outside the presidential palace in Cairo.

The opposition says the constitution weakens human rights, especially those of women, and undermines the independence of judges while strengthening the military.

It fears Islamists propelled into power after a revolution last year that toppled Mubarak’s 30-year regime want to establish sharia-style laws.

Election officials count ballots at a polling station in Cairo on December 15, 2012

Morsi, though, argues the slender majority he won in June presidential elections gives him a mandate for change and that the draft constitution is a key step to securing stability.

The opposition claims Saturday’s first round of the referendum, which took place in the biggest cities of Cairo and Alexandria and in eight other regions, had numerous violations.

Those included monitors not being allowed into some polling stations, judges not present in all as required and some fake judges employed, and women prevented in some cases from casting their ballot.

Poonam Pandey says enjoying shooting of ‘Nasha’

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 02:20 PM PST

Mumbai: Sizzling Bollywood actress Poonam Pandey on Monday said that she was enjoying shooting for her debut film 'Nasha'.

While talking about her film, Poonam seemed confident. “The film is 60% complete and we recently came back from Mahabaleshwar. When we were shooting outside Mumbai, it was really fun, I am enjoying film thoroughly,” concluded Poonam.

With the latest comparison by director Amit Saxsena about Poonam Pandey better than Bipasha Basu, Poonam claims to not like comparison with anyone. However, the actress takes Amit’s statement as a compliment.

Amit Saxsena directed Bipasha in Jism and now directing Poonam in her debut film, Nasha.

On being asked about the director’s comment, Poonam asserted, “Honestly, I don’t like to be compared. However, Amit is my director and he saying that is surely a compliment. I am happy that my director liked my work.”

PALPA supports fake degree holder pilots

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:54 PM PST

Karachi: Pakistan Air Lines Pilots' Association (PALPA) on Monday supported to restore pilots who were suspended for having fake educational degrees.

In a statement issued on Monday, PALPA said that National assembly standing committee on defense should reconsider its decision to terminate fake degree holder pilots permanently.

President PALPA Captain Sohail Baloch said that suspended pilots were national asset. Heavy expenditure was used on their training and the government should use them instead of expelling them, said Capt. Sohail.

Sohail further said that flying license and training was more important for pilots than the other educational qualifications.

India expected to hold rates despite pressure

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:35 PM PST

Mumbai: India’s central bank is expected to keep interest rates on hold Tuesday, despite mounting pressure from bankers and industry for a cut to revive the flagging economy.

The Reserve Bank of India has kept rates steady since April — when it cut them for the first time in three years — saying inflation must fall and the ballooning fiscal deficit needs to be curbed before it eases borrowing costs.

Some analysts say the RBI could, however, lower by a quarter point the cash reserve ratio — the percentage of deposits banks must keep with the central bank — in a move aimed at boosting liquidity and spurring lending.

India’s once-booming economy has slowed sharply due to high interest rates, global economic woes and sluggish investment caused by domestic and overseas concerns about Indian policy-making and corruption.

The finance ministry on Monday cut its growth forecast for this fiscal year to 5.7-5.9 percent, down from 7.85 percent estimated at the start of the year, putting India on track for its worst annual performance in a decade.

“The lending rate cuts will start in the first quarter of 2013,” said Siddhartha Sanyal, chief India economist at Barclays Capital, adding the central bank could reduce the cash reserve ratio by 25 basis points on Tuesday.

The RBI is likely to wait until January before cutting rates, which could fall by as much as 100 basis points by mid-2013, Sanyal said.

The key repo rate, at which the RBI lends to commercial banks, is currently 8.0 percent.

Rupa Rege Nitsure, chief economist at Bank of Baroda, expects interest rates to stay unchanged but forecast a cut in the cash reserve ratio as “liquidity concerns are rising”.

“Though inflation is easing, retail price pressures remain,” she said, adding “expectations of a rate cut in January have increased”.

But some investment houses say the bank could cut rates on Tuesday. Goldman Sachs noted both inflation and growth “have surprised on the downside”.

Inflation slowed to a 10-month low of 7.24 percent in November.

Now, there “is a reason for the central bank to move earlier than its previous guidance,” Goldman Sachs economist Tushar Poddar told investors in a note.

China, South Korea and Brazil have all cut rates to shield their economies from the effects of the eurozone debt crunch.

Central bank governor Duvvuri Subbarao, said at the time of the last policy meeting in October, there was “scope for monetary policy easing” in the January-to-March quarter.

The central bank will delay the benchmark rate cut until January “but they could cut the cash reserve ratio, which is a growth-supportive signal”, Abheek Barua, chief economist at private HDFC Bank, said.

The bank’s policymakers will announce the outcome of their review at 11:00 am (0530 GMT).

Call-off Pak-India series: BJP demands after Malik’s stance on Hafiz Saeed, Babri Masjid

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:26 PM PST

New Delhi: Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik's remark on Hafiz Saed has sparked criticism in India, with opposition on Monday demanding to call off the upcoming cricket series between the two arch rivals.

The Pakistani cricket team's tour is scheduled to commence with the opening Twenty20 game at Bangalore on Dec 25. This will be the first bilateral series between the two neighbors since Pakistan's tour of India in November 2007.

According to BBC Urdu service, leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have said that India should refrain itself from having dialogues with Pakistan. Former chief of the party Venkaiah Naidu said terrorism and cricket can not go along. "On one hand they (Pakistan) support terrorism and on the other a cricket series is being host for them…this can't go side by side," he said.

Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP also assailed Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for remaining "conspicuously silent" when Rehman Malik "interfered in the internal affairs of India" by raising the Babri Masjid issue during his visit.

Prasad said that action is not likely to be taken against Saeed as the LeT founder enjoys "protection of the Pakistan government."

The interior minister had returned to Pakistan after concluding a three-day visit to formalise a new visa accord last week.

The Indian Home Minister also criticised his Pakistani counterpart's claim that Islamabad had thrice arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Shinde said that through the documents, provided by Islamabad regarding detentions of Saeed on three instances, it is clear that he was arrested for other reasons and not for his role as a conspirator in 2008 attacks.

Santander absorbs two Spanish banks, eyes savings

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:20 PM PST

Madrid: Banking giant Santander said on Monday that it will absorb two of its Spanish offshoots, closing 700 branches in the latest stage of Spain’s great banking shake-up.

Santander, the biggest bank in the eurozone by market value, said it could save 520 million euros ($680 million) a year by absorbing the offshoots, Banesto and Banif.

They will be merged into the Santander brand, which would have 4,000 branches under the same name in Spain.

“This transaction is part of the restructuring of the Spanish financial system, which involves a significant reduction in the number of competitors and the creation of larger financial institutions,” the bank said in a statement.

Santander, which already owns 90 percent of Banesto, said it would pay the offshoot’s minority shareholders with Santander stock, offering a premium of 25 percent.

“This is a good transaction for everyone,” Santander chairman Emilio Botin said in the statement, saying customers would have access to a global network and staff would have international opportunities.

Spain’s eurozone partners agreed in June to provide up to 100 billion euros to rescue the crippled banking system, overloaded with bad loans extended during the housing bubble that popped in 2008.

President of the Spanish bank Banco Santander Emilio Botin gives a press conference in Madrid on January 31, 2012

Santander said its merger with Banesto and with its fully owned Banif unit would lead to the closure of about 700 of the three banks’ 4,664 branches.

But the group said it would lower job numbers gradually through voluntary departures without “abrupt cuts”.

Santander currently employs around 18,000 people in Spain, Banesto 9,000 and Banif 550.

The restructuring would save about 10 percent in costs, or 420 million euros in the third year, it said. Revenues were expected to rise by 100 million euros in the same timeframe.

The lower costs and higher revenues would mean pre-tax savings of 520 million euros from the third year, it said.

Despite the cuts to the network, Santander said its share of Spain’s bank branches would actually rise because of the contraction of the industry overall.

At the end of 2015, Spain would have an estimated 30,000 branches overall, it said, a decline of 35 percent.

Santander, along with BBVA, was one of only two Spanish banks billed strong enough to survive without rescue aid in an audit published in September by US firm Oliver Wyman.

Manuel Romera Robles, an analyst at Spanish business school IE, said Santander had seized the opportunity to launch the merger now during the general banking shakeup.

“It is much easier at the moment to put it to the market without it upsetting the market,” he said.

He said the move could help Santander lower its tax bill and strengthen its capital base.

“It is more important than ever to be big,” said Romera.

“The bigger the banks are, the more easily they can make economies of scale in terms of credit risk, operational and market risk.”

Santander’s shares fell on the Madrid stock exchange on Monday after the announcement, closing 1.19 percent lower on the IBEX-35 index which was up 0.20 percent overall.

The 2008 collapse of a building boom plunged the country into recession with one in four workers currently unemployed.

The biggest casualty of the banking crisis in Spain, Bankia, has announced it will cut up to 6,000 jobs and another rescued bank, NCG, said it will lay off 2,500.

Karachi: WHO volunteer killed in Gadap Town, polio vaccination suspended

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:09 PM PST

Karachi: Director Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Dr. Mazhar Ali Khamisani on Monday said that after the murder of World Health Organisation (WHO) volunteer in Gadap Town area of Karachi, a metropolitan of Pakistan, polio vaccination has been cancelled in the area.

Mazhar said that the vaccination was cancelled in the area after fatal murder of WHO volunteer Umar Farooq. "The anti-polio campaign will remain ongoing throughout province including Karachi," he added.

Executive District Officer (EDO) Health Dr. Imdadullah Siddiqui told media that Umar was on his way home at end of first day of the campaign. Unidentified gunmen shot him down near Khadim Solangi Goth area, said Imdadullah.

Altaf Hussain hints at leaving MQM leadership, politics

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 12:04 PM PST

Karachi: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain on Monday asked party workers to give their opinion on whether he should continue to lead the party or leave politics and the party.

Addressing MQM Rabita Committee, lawyers and other activists in Karachi, the MQM chief said ,"If my clear stance on the issue is creating problems than the party workers and sympathizers should give their opinion to whether I shall leave the MQM leadership and politics or face the situation."

He also said that the MQM activists had always supported him in the periods of hardships.

"I have no fear about anything regarding myself," he said adding that he only fear Allah.

Mr Hussain further said that he was consulting legal experts to file the reply of contempt notice issued by Supreme Court of Pakistan.


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