HashOut: 2008
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Start with a record

How did you welcome the New Year this time? G. Navakumar of Vellore, India ushered in 2008 by painting the flags of 102 countries on two rows of paper -- each 185 feet long. He then inserted a new year greeting between the parallel rows. The Indian flag had a picture of a white dove, indicating peace. He plans to add flags of another 90 countries for a place in the Limca Book of Records. » Continue reading


Size doesn't matter

Getting close to sparring canines can be dangerous. Even the elephants know the rule. Recently, in Madurai, India, an 11-year-old elephant ran away seeing two dogs fighting, and barged into a nearby hotel. No amount of persuasion from the mahout worked as the scared elephant refused to come out. It did, eventually, after the fear subsided. » Continue reading


Ad industry looks at 'cyberia'

The face of Indian advertising is changing. The action has shifted to 'cyberia' and advertising firms are reorienting themselves for a toehold on the digital domain. Industry insiders say the country's ad landscape will see more "integration and people-oriented nice campaigns" in the digital age.

"This is the age of online communities, messengers, blogs and searches. Advertising agencies will have to invest in developing core competencies to play an even role in this landscape," Nirvik Singh, president, South Asia, Grey Worldwide, a global advertising group said. The trick, says the ad whizkid, is to think digital and execute.

The change has been fuelled by the explosion in the growth of the internet since 2006. Predictions by the London-based Zenith Optimedia say ad-spend on the internet will overtake radio, cinema and outdoor advertising in two years. Internet advertising will be valued at more than Rs 22.5 billion by the end of 2010, which works out to an almost tenfold increase.

Watchers say classified advertising on the internet will mop up the maximum revenue with an estimated contribution of Rs 9 billion by 2009 followed by search engines' Rs 7.42 billion. Display ads will rake in another estimated Rs 6.07 billion.

The marketing solutions of the future, says Zubin Driver, network creative head of TV 18's specialized advertising unit "Cell", is one-stop ad shops that provide integrated and value-added service to consumers. "I think the ideas have to be multimedia. It has to have its life on the mobile, web and on the screen," said Driver.

Driver sees a lot of cost rationalization in advertising as the market is inflated and the entry of more organized players like Cell, which offers almost everything -- from creative ad clips, promotional capsules to channel packaging and brand solutions -- under one roof. The emphasis, says Driver, will be more on the effectiveness of advertising a product than "pure creativity".
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Daughter speak

Chelsea ClintonOne person who was seen in Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign trail is her daughter Chelsea. Though she mixes with the crowd after Hillary's speech, she is out of bounds for the press. In Iowa recently, a kid reporter of Scholastic News, nine-year-old Sydney Rieckhoff, asked her, "Do you think your dad would be a good 'first man'?" Chelsea brushed her question aside, saying, "I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press. Even though I think you're cute." Though initially crestfallen, Sydney was happy; she got to speak to Bill and Hillary.
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Conman in uniform

Conmen love playing the role of a policeman, with whom they interact the most. Loorthanathan from Bangalore, India is no different. He specializes in duping the gullible wearing police uniform. When he was arrested recently, the license plate of his bike had the letter 'G', which suggests that it belongs to the government. Loorthanathan, who the police claim cheated over 70 people, even had a helmet similar to the one used by the police. » Continue reading


Go slow, baby!

According to health officials in Satara district of Maharashtra (India), the family way should not be treated as expressway. The officials are reportedly offering prizes to couples who take their feet off the libido accelerator. If a couple delays their first baby by two years, the prize is INR 5,000; a three-year gap will give them INR 7,500. Does infertility merit a jackpot? » Continue reading


Screened over

Skyscreen - The largest LED screen Asia in Beijing, ChinaBeijing now boasts the largest LED screen in Asia. The recently unveiled 'skyscreen' stretches 250m above the pedestrian walkway at a newly opened shopping mall in the central business district.

One can sip coffee and watch the various crafty videos on show. And surprisingly, there is no advertising, at least as yet. As of now, the only 'advertising' on the skyscreen are the propaganda videos promoting the heroism of the Chinese communist ideal.
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Save up to £547 per year on shopping

The average household could save up to £547 every year by switching the five financial basics to the best deals on the market, new research from MoneyExpert.com shows.

And financial comparison websites are the ideal way to shop around for the best deals on car insurance, home insurance, personal loans, credit cards and mortgages.

MoneyExpert.com commissioned researchers Canvasse Opinion to audit the finances of the UK and found 84 per cent of adults are overpaying for one or more of these finance basics.

Researchers surveyed a representative sample of people across the country and then ran the results through MoneyExpert.com’s price comparison software. Insurance quotes were analysed through Experian’s ISL division.

The £547 annual household saving comes from switching home insurance, motor insurance, mortgages, personal loans and credit cards to the best deal for each individual.

The biggest saving would come from moving a personal loan deal. On average borrowers could save £204 a year by moving to the best rate.

Drivers could cut their car insurance bill by around £158 a year while homeowners would be £76 a year better off.

Sean Gardner, Chief Executive of MoneyExpert.com, said: “With everyone coming under increasing financial pressure from rising bills it makes sense to find every possible way to cut costs.

“Our analysis shows potential savings of up to £547 are on offer from reviewing basic financial products and that would be a major boost for household budgets.

“Not everyone will save that much but four out of five of us are overpaying for at least one of the financial basics. Typically, UK consumers are paying out £150 per year more than they need to – I’d urge people to spend just a few minutes online to review their finances.”

MoneyExpert.com offers a unique service which enables people to find the financial products which best meet their specific needs, and which they are more likely to be successful in being accepted for. It includes exclusive research conducted by MORI, which reveals providers’ service levels. This information is married up with a financial database which lists the products suited to the customer. For the first time, people can review a product’s price, features and also the level of service offered by the provider to enable them to make a more informed choice.

MoneyExpert.com aims to demystify the complex world of personal finance, and to help inform customers of the choices available.
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What a bummer!

Pull up your pants or be pulled up by cops. Youth who walk with their pants half-down in Atlanta had better watch out. On August 30, a ban was imposed on low-slung pants, or any clothing that exposes underwear in public. Very low-slung trousers are already banned in Delcambre in Louisiana, where cheeky offenders can be fined US$500 or up to six months in jail. » Continue reading

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Google policing Gmail

Google has been well known for policing click fraud on its AdSense service. But Digital Inspiration has recently unearthed information about Google policing its Gmail service.

Google decides how many people you can send an email at a time. 100 from POP or IMAP clients and 500 from the web client. Also, Google will penalize your account if a lot of emails you send bounce back due to failed delivery.

Have you had any such experience with Google policing your use of Gmail?
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Bettercaring discover new trends in care home diets

In light of new nutritional government guidelines from the UK Department of Health and members of the Nutrition Summit stakeholder group, Bettercaring has discovered that there are many positive changes being implemented across care homes in the UK.

Bettercaring undertook some research this month to try and discover what sort of systems care homes were trialling in order to provide nutritionally balanced meals for elderly residents.

Bettercaring found that nursing homes were generally beginning to adhere to government guidelines by sourcing local ingredients from local suppliers to make meals and snacks. However funding is a big issue. On average just £2.43 is spent per head per day in care homes which can cause some homes difficulty, particularly as residents often have very specific dietary requirements.

One care home based in Charnwood, Leicestershire proved that their innovative approach to food had been a success. They offer care home residents a 24 hour kitchen service so that residents can pick and choose from a selection of food whenever they feel hungry. Through this system residents have been more inclined to eat and are healthier as a result.

Bettercaring undertakes research on a number of topics related to the welfare of the elderly in care homes.
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Know your health, online

The invitation on a website reads: "Use nutrition tools to assess your health risks." Enter your height, weight, waist and hip measurements. And it will tell whether you are overweight or not!

The website, nutritionvista.com, recommends visitors to contact its online dieticians to analyse steps to improve their health parameters.

"You are what you eat," says US-based gatroenterologist and nutritionist Dr Sunil S. Jhangiani, who is the founder of the website. According to him, "a high level of functioning is possible only with better health".

For employers, the website offers online health screenings and suggests proactive measures for 'at risk' employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. Linked with Telerad RxDx, a multi-specialty clinic in Bangalore, the website targets corporate clients, and people leading sedentary lifestyle. It offers assessment tools, one-to-one consultation with qualified physicians, web-based 24/7 support, regular follow-up visits and latest information on health and nutrition from around the globe. All for free. Another feature is the list of healthy preparations. A customer is free to send in his recipe. "If required, we will also advice on how to improve the nutritional value of the recipe," says dietician Kanchan Saggi.

The website has the daily exercise planner, community blogs, did-you-knows and food intake analyses. A friendly layout and pleasing colours are added features. Nutritionvista comes with a disclaimer that it "does not intend to create any physician-patient relationship or supplant any in-person medical consultant or examination".
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Duchess of dregs

Next time you drink coffee, don't drain it to the dregs. Leave some behind for Nawal Gani of Bangalore (India) to tell you something about what lies ahead.

44-year-old Gani reads the future from the left overs in a coffee cup, and claims she gets it at least 60 per cent right. "I don't predict. I guide people to know themselves better," she says. The patterns formed on the interior of the cup are mainly Arabic writings or forms of animals, which could be deciphered to suggest future happenings.

"The key is the yawn. If I burp then there is negative energy within the client. I cleanse it by asking my clients to drink water and by chanting prayers," the former policewoman says.

Gani has read the coffee cups of Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Bollywood actors and actresses. But she will not reveal what she saw in them. For, official secrets are meant to be kept! Her common clients approach her with queries on financial and health-related matters -- they say she is 80 per cent right.

She charges 1,000 rupees (22 dollars) for a reading. And for those who want their cup read over the telephone, the amount is doubled as the procedure is more difficult.

"I ask for his or her name and their mother's name. Then I drink the cup keeping their names in my mind and on their behalf.

It comes out pretty accurately," she says.

Coffee cup reading has its origins in China where ancient monks predicted the future by reading patterns left by tea leaves in bell-shaped cups, a process known as tasseography.

Later, Arabs took up the practice but used coffee as a medium.

So, there is more to upmarket coffee than meets the eye -- there's some-thing for the inner eye too.

According to an unofficial source Nawal Gani stays in a house called Egyptian Block on Haines Road, Bangalore. The phone number is 55300310.
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Big events & your memory

When you experience an emotionally-charged event, it's something that is etched into your memory, and now scientists think they know why. In experiments with mice, researchers found that powerful surges of hormone norepinephrine -- surges that occur during emotional episodes -- cause a series of events that strengthen the connections between neurons, sealing these events into memory. "The question is why is it that you can remember some trivial events that occur at a time when there is high emotional arousal," said lead researcher Dr. Roberto Malinow of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, New York. "For example, everyone remembers where they were when they heard about September 11, even though they may have been in some trivial place."

The researchers found that norepinephrine can modify brain cell-receptors, making them easier to go into synapses -- the tiny spaces between brain cells -- making it easier to learn and form memories, Malinow said. In studies with mice, Malinow's group found that norepinephrine, coupled with emotional stress, plays an important role in lowering the threshold for certain brain cell-receptors called GluR1. This, in turn, causes a boost in memory.

When the researchers put lab mice through behavioural tests, they found that exposure to norepinephrine made normal mice remember events more clearly. But, mice with mutations of the GluR1 receptors that were exposed to norepinephrine did not show improved memory. Norepinephrine is known to play a part in the emotional control of memory. During emotional stress, norepinephrine is released by neurons (brain cells) in many areas of the brain involved with forming emotional memories. Malinow thinks this finding could lead to new treatments for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. One expert sees this study as an extension of similar work, which showed that norepinephrine is involved in the memory of fearful events that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Babies can tell friend from foe

Infants who have not yet learned language can still tell friend from foe. Babies aged around six months prefer people who co-operate, rather than people who hurt. This ability could be the foundation for moral thought and action later in life, say researchers.

Previous studies had showed that babies prefer physically attractive people, but there has been no data on whether babies judge people based on how they behave. Simple experiments were conducted to gauge whether six and 10-month-old infants preferred social individuals (helpers) or anti-social individuals (hinderers). The infant was made to watch a 'climber' (a wood puppet with large eyes glued on to it) repeatedly try to climb a hill. On the third try, the climber was either given help or was pushed back down by a puppet. The babies were then given the chance to reach out and grasp either the helper or hinderer puppet. Very high rates of babies chose the helping character. The authors argue it is something innate, rather than babies learning the behaviour.
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Testing times

Can extra-curricular test mean chastity test, too? The West Java province's plan to carry out virginity tests on female high school students was dropped after a public outcry. The test was planned after a video of two high school students having sex was circulated via mobile phones. » Continue reading


Sacred fig weds Neem!

People of a village near Sirumuga in Coimbatore district (India) performed an unsual wedding -- they got a 'neem' tree married to a 'pipal' (Sacred fig) tree. The knot was tied in south Indian style in the presence of a priest and amid chanting of hymns and nadaswaram recital in early August, 2007. The ceremony was to protect forests and maintain world peace. » Continue reading

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Tub boats

La Regate des Baignoires or the International Regatta of Bathtubs, Dinant, BelgiumWhat would you pack when going on a vacation to Dinant, an hour away from Brussels? Take a bathtub, by all means. This city on the River Meuse hosts La Regate des Baignoires or the International Regatta of Bathtubs!

The event is open to 'river-worthy' bathtubs of all classes and nationalities. More of a joke than a contest, it allows vessels of any design, but at least one bathtub must be part of the structure. Motors are strictly forbidden, so is the deliberate sinking of a fellow competitor.
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Glass mates

W ILL YOU MARRY ME? LOVE, JOSEPHHeard of proposals during safaris, on airplanes and during candle-lit dinners. Rebecca Savoy was surprised when a huge W popped up on the screen during her vision-test. Then came ILL and the rest followed (in pic). Her boyfriend Joseph Wachtel had roped in the optometrist to help him pop the question. » Continue reading


Bid Daddy

Daad Mohammed Murad Abdul Rahman, 60, has already married 15 times and has two more brides lined up. He divorced 12 of them to stay within the legal norm of four wives.

The father of 78 is in a bid to reach his target of 100 children by 2015. His eldest child is 36 years old and the youngest, 20 days. The 'extended family' stays in about 15 houses in Ajman (United Arab Emirates).
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Serving her majesty

A 552-year tradition was broken in September last year when Moira Cameron, 42, became the first female Beefeater, taking up her post as a guardian of the Tower of London.

She beat five men to secure the coveted position and has undergone two months of intensive training to learn the 21 separate duties that the Beefeaters perform each day, including guarding the crown jewels, participating in the Ceremony of the Keys and taking visitors on guided tours.

Beefeaters are blieved to have earned their nickname from their daily ration of meat, dating from 1485. Over two million people visit the Tower each year.
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Astronomical off-season rates

Private snow room in Moscow, RussiaRussia may be known for its bitter, long winters but what many people don't know is that its summer can be scorching. That's something wealthy Muscovites don't want to deal with. To cater to their whims is the availability of summer snow, the latest luxury fad. The really lucky ones, however, are the snow-making machine producers who are making hay, sorry snow, while the sun shines. So far, at least half a dozen people have spent over US$250,000 on the latest must-have: a private snow room. » Continue reading


Clear cutter, before it kills you

Clear cutter, before it kills youIt's called the disease of affluenza. Too much stuff owing to too much affluence. The result is a quagmire of clutter. Living in clutter is more than just a matter of aesthetics. It can be hazardous to your health. According to lifestyle gurus, clutter and disorganisation create a negative home environment that gets the blood pulsing through the body, sending people into a stressful state that sets the tone of the entire day. So clean up your home, and chances are you'll improve your health. Some useful hints:

Bedroom: The bedroom should be a place to relax and shake off the anxieties of the day. If you're surrounded by clutter, it follows that negative energy is going to interfere with relaxation and sleep. A good night's sleep is the basis of good health. Even common items like exercise equipment, paper-work and work-related items can attract the wrong kind of energy and sabotage rest. Everything in the bedroom should be geared to support sleep, and give your mind a chance to unwind.

Closets: People think no one will ever see their closets. So they often leave it overstuffed. An overloaded closet makes a thorough cleaning impossible. Dust can infiltrate the fibres of your clothing, and bring on sneezing fits. A good cleaning reduces environmental exposure to these allergic-triggers.

Family room: 'Packratitis' is a top cause of chronic sinus conditions. When tabletops and floors are covered with toys, magazines and DVDs and other clutter, chances of making a clean sweep are miniscule. People tend to adapt to their environment, and don't recognise their own bad habits. So, retain your eyes to see the dirt. It could change your life completely.

Bathroom: A cabinet full of expired necessities is the hallmark of a dysfunctional bathroom. Old medications and cosmetics can lose their potency or, worse, make you ill. Trash them.

Home office: Inefficient configurations of computers, components and office files won't just hamper productivity. A makeshift chair or a desks that's not properly positioned for a keyboard and mouse (perhaps because of those piles of paper) could wind up being a pain in the neck, and the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome, eyestrain, and headaches are common complaints that manifest when good organisation goes awry.

Kitchen: A disorganised kitchen can lead to poor nutrition, even weight problems. A kitchen in disarray is one you're less likely to spend time in.

That means lots of snack foods and canned foods and lots of eating out that can lead to weight and related health problems.

Organising gurus say they have seen dramatic transformations in their clients' health and well-being once the clutters are removed.
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Pep up your office without burning a hole in your pocket

It's a brand new year. So why not pep up the office (or the home office) for a brand new start. May be you could get some new office furniture, office supplies, a brand new Apple Macintosh or a nice comfortable ergonomic office chair for yourself! Ah, I know what you are thinking about. Don't you worry. You don't need to burn a hole in your pocket.

Just visit OfficeDeals.info to grab thousands of discount coupons, coupon codes and promotional offers from OfficeDepot.com, Staples.com, Office Max, Vistaprint, Apple Store, HP Store, Dell Computer, Best Buy, Stamps.com and hundreds of other stores selling office supplies, discount office furniture and computers.

OfficeDeals.info scours the Internet for new discount coupons, coupon codes and promotional offers and the website is updated on a daily basis.

I would only wish they added an RSS feed, so that I could get the latest discount coupons, coupon codes and promotional offers right in my feed reader, the moment they are published.

OfficeDeals.info might also be useful if your are looking for some useful tips on getting a small business credit card, setting up a home business, benefits of a home business and tips on working from home.
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Those who drink like a fish might be stopped from sailing. Madrid is considering breathalyser tests for inebriated yacht owners. The police found revellers sailing home to avoid being arrested for drunken driving. Spain's drunken driving rate is almost double that of Netherlands and Britain.

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The A'cat'emy

Meow Mix Acatemy - Cat School, New YorkMeow Mix, a cat-food manufacturer, is starting the world's first feline-centred school (above) dedicated to teaching pet parents how to think like a cat. Based in New York, the school will feature a wide range of guest speakers and interactive courses that promise to cover everything from reading a cat's mind to studying the fine art of catnap. There is even a cat-cuisine segment!

Among the visiting faculty are "experts on walking the catwalk; authorities on singing like a cat" and other catty personalities. The fees? Mum... I mean, meow is the word. » Continue reading


Women on stage? Nothing big

1,200 Mohiniyattam dancers on stageBut Guinness book of records says it's a feat, especially when 1,200 of them are on stage together. The performance was at Kochi (Cochin) on November 28, 2006 at Art of Living Foundation's silver jubilee celebrations. The women, all Mohiniyattam dancers, enchanted not just the over 1,00,000 crowd with the Dance of the Enchantress that Kerala's own art-form is, but the Guinness team, too. » Continue reading


Poetic pill

Prisoners in Kerala can cheer. They will soon get a 'release' -- into the world of poems, music and literature. Bringing it all to them will be poets, playwrights, novelists and musicians, who will present reading sessions and live concerts in prisons across the state. The first of these 'reform pills' will be 'administered' in the next few months. Poetic justice, indeed! » Continue reading


Stealthy death

Russian roulette is pass√©; it is the Rangoon version that is becoming shocking. Thieves here are taking advantage of power-cuts, often lasting more than 20 hours a day, to steal the copper power cables. Sometimes they get unlucky as it is impossible to know exactly when the power is going to be restored. And the end is, predictably, macabre. » Continue reading