Washington, Aug 3 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The resignation of UN and Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan highlights the failure of Russia and China to back strong action against Bashar al-Assad's regime, the White House has said. Annan, who assumed his post in February and authored a six-point peace plan aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, announced Thursday that he would quit by the end of the month citing the deadlock at the UN Security Council over ways to resolve the current political crisis in the country. "Annan's resignation highlights the failure at the UN Security Council of Russia and China to support resolutions -- meaningful resolutions against Assad that would have held Assad accountable for his failure to abide by his commitments under the Annan plan," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday. Russia and China have vetoed all Western-backed UN resolutions on Syria over fears that they could lead to foreign military intervention in the violence-torn Middle East country. "Those vetoes, as we've said repeatedly, were highly regrettable, and place both Russia and China on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the Syrian people," Carney said. The UN General Assembly is expected to vote Friday on a draft resolution on Syria proposed by Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which urges the Syrian government to refrain from using chemical weapons, to halt violence and bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations in Syria. The Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday that Russia would not support this document either as it "places responsibility only on the Syrian authorities, while the opposition remains outside the international community's demands". Although resolutions approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly are not mandatory, their adoption has a moral authority. Voting is by simple majority, with no right of veto as in the Security Council votes, which Russia and China have used recently to block adoption of resolutions on Syria. The Syrian conflict has claimed 14,000-20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by Syrian opposition groups and the UN. The West is pushing for Assad's ouster, while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in Syria, claiming the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed. --IANS/RIA Novosti pm/vt
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) In television classic "I Love Lucy", Ricky Ricardo switched into rapid-fire Spanish whenever he was upset, despite the fact that Lucy had no idea what her Cuban husband was saying. This kind of code-switching, or switching back and forth between different languages, happens all the time in multi-lingual environments, and often in emotive situations. Psychological scientists Stephen Chen and Qing Zhou of the University of California, Berkeley, and Morgan Kennedy of Bard College, have sought to demystify this linguistic phenomenon, the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science reports. Drawing on research from psychology and linguistics, the researchers seek to understand better how using different languages to discuss and express emotions in a multi-lingual family might play an important role in children's emotional development, according to a California statement. "Over the past few years, there's been a steadily growing interest in the languages multi-lingual individuals use to express emotions," says Chen. "We were interested in the potential clinical and developmental implications of emotion-related language shifts, particularly within the context of the family." Bilingual parents may use a specific language to express an emotional concept because they feel that language provides a better cultural context for expressing an emotion. For example, a native Finnish speaker may fall back on English to tell her children that she loves them because it is uncommon to explicitly express emotions in Finnish. Thus, the language that a parent chooses to express a particular concept can help to provide cues that reveal his or her emotional state. Language choice may also influence how children experience emotion and such expressions can potentially elicit a greater emotional response when spoken in the child's native language.
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) India's historic blackout has not only prompted inevitable calls from the United States for much needed reforms in India's energy sector, but also a great deal of introspection about America's own ageing infrastructure. Persis Khambatta, an expert at the Centre For Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, considers the failure of supply and distribution of power to keep up with India's rapid economic growth as perhaps the most important reason for the power failure. "Some analysts see these outages as a sign of a much larger issue - that India does not have the capacity to keep up with its growth-and this is a source of concern as India's appeal as an investment destination has recently taken a hit," wrote the fellow with the Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies. ". without addressing deep-rooted political problems, ranging from land acquisition to unaffordable state subsidies, it will be difficult to effectively address India's current power and infrastructure insufficiencies." However, Khambatta thinks that other infrastructure issues like railways, ports, and cold-chain technology pose more of an impediment to foreign investment. Charles Ebinger and Govinda Avasarala, two experts at Brookings Energy Security Initiative, another Washington think tank, agreed saying the crisis was a "stark reminder of the broad reforms needed for India to finally emerge as an economic superpower." "Slow development of domestic resources, costly imported resources, burdensome regulations, and a lack of investment in distribution prevent India from meeting a growing demand for energy," they wrote analysing India's emerging power crisis. Ebinger and Avasarala argued that changing subsidy policy and setting market rates for fuel and electricity would lead to more revenue, more investment, and ultimately more reliable energy and electricity sectors. "Will politicians in New Delhi let the current crisis go to waste?" they asked noting "Until now, the appetite for reforms has been disappointing, and the Indian economy has reflected this slowdown." It would be a mistake, however, to underestimate India, wrote Ebinger and Avasarala citing the 1991 reforms in response to the foreign exchange crisis and expressed the hope that "this summer's blackouts are the wake-up call the country needs." As the Indian blackout came just a month after a freak summer storm left over 200 million people in Washington and ten states from Indiana to Delaware without power for a week, it prompted media introspection about America's own aging infrastructure. "The United States doesn't yet face the critical shortage of power that has left more than 600 million people in India without electricity this week," wrote the Washington Post. "But the US grid is ageing and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter," it said citing experts who fear such blackouts may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow in the US. (Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) A small species of deep-sea squid can detach the tips of its arms when under attack, leaving them fastened on its predator as a distraction, says a study. Stephanie Bush, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Rhode Island, said that when the foot-long octopus squid found deep in the northeast Pacific Ocean "jettisons its arms" in self-defence, the bioluminescent tips continue to twitch and glow, creating a diversion that enables the squid to escape from predators. "If a predator is trying to attack them, they may dig the hooks on their arms into the predator's skin. Then the squid jets away and leaves its arm tips stuck to the predator," explained Bush. "The wriggling, bio-luminescing arms might give the predator pause enough to allow the squid to get away." While Bush was a graduate researcher working with the Midwater Ecology Lab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, she observed that many octopus squid had arms of different lengths, the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series reported. Scientists had speculated that they may release their arms, just as lizards can release their tails when attacked, but no one had seen it happen. Using a remotely operated vehicle in the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon off the coast of California, Bush poked at a squid with a bottlebrush, according to a statement of Midwater Ecology Lab. "The very first time we tried it, the squid spread its arms wide and it was lighting up like fireworks," she said. "It then came forward and grabbed the bottlebrush and jetted backwards, leaving two arms on the bottlebrush. We think the hooks on its arms latched onto the bristles of the brush, and that was enough for the arms to just pop off." In further experiments, Bush found that some octopus squid appeared hesitant to sacrifice their limbs, but some did so after being prodded several times. When she provoked seven other squid species similarly, none dropped their arm tips. The squid are able to re-grow their missing arms.
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) Eyes of men and women meander in different ways, suggests a new finding, challenging the way that scientists generally conceive of attention, or how sensory information is prioritised. While previous study of vision and attention disregarded individual factors such as sex, race and age, Laurent Itti and doctoral student John Shen from the University of Southern California (USC), demonstrated that men and women pay visual attention in different ways. Itti's lab studied 34 participants as they watched videos of people being interviewed. Behind the interview subjects, within the video frame, pedestrians, bicycles and cars passed by. The distractions were included to pull attention away from the filmed conversation, the journal Vision Research reported. While participants watched and listened to the interview, another camera was pointed at participants' eyes, recording the movement of their pupils as they glanced across the screen, according to a university statement. Researchers discovered that men, when focused on the person being interviewed, parked their eyes on the speaker's mouth. They tended to be most distracted by distinctive movement behind the interview subjects. Conversely, women shift their focus between the interview subject's eyes and body. When they were distracted, it was typically by other people entering the video frame. Itti, associate professor of computer science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, runs its iLab, dedicated to gaining insight into biological brain function through the use of computational modelling.
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) First-time pregnant women who heed their own emotional and physical changes, tend to give birth to healthier babies than others who don't, according to a latest research. "These findings continue more than 40 years of research that has made clear that whether you are mindless or mindful makes a big difference in every aspect of your health and well-being - from competence to longevity," said Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University and a pioneer in researching mindfulness. For Langer's recent study, researchers trained women pregnant with their first child in mindfulness with instructions to notice subtle changes in their feelings and physical sensations each day, she said, according to a university statement. When compared with two other groups of first-time pregnant mothers, who did not have the mindfulness training, these women reported more well-being and positive feelings and less emotional distress. "They had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction during this period of their pregnancy and up to at least a month after birth," Langer said. "And this also had a positive impact on their deliveries and overall health of the newborns." Teaching mindfulness through attention to variability may be helpful for many disorders, including asthma, depression and learning disabilities, to name a few, according to Langer. Author of the popular books 'Mindfulness', 'The Power of Mindful Learning', 'On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity' and most recently 'Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility', Langer is known for her work on the illusion of control, aging, decision-making and mindfulness theory. These findings will be presented at American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention at Orange County.
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) The loss of 20 pounds can help overweight or obese individuals secure a decade's worth of health benefits, even if they regain the weight later that decade, according to a new research. Rena Wing, professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University's Alpert Medical School, referred to her work from the Diabetes Prevention Programme, a study of 3,000 overweight people, who were motivated to change their behaviour rather than given drugs. It showed that even modest weight loss, an average of 14 pounds, reduced people's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. The benefits of this weight loss lasted up to 10 years, even if people gained the weight back over this time, said Wing, according to a university statement. Participants practiced basic behavioural strategies to help them lose weight, including tracking everything they ate and reducing the amount of unhealthy foods they kept in their home, she said. They also met with coaches frequently and increased their physical activity over the course of the study. "Helping people find ways to change their eating and activity behaviours and developing interventions other than medication to reinforce a healthy lifestyle have made a huge difference in preventing one of the major health problems in this country," Wing said. "Weight losses of just 10 percent of a person's body weight (or about 20 pounds in those who weigh 200 pounds) have also been shown to have a long-term impact on sleep apnea, hypertension and quality of life, and to slow the decline in mobility that occurs as people age," added Wing. Wing is leading a 13-year trial of 5,000 people with Type 2 diabetes. This study is testing whether an intensive behavioural intervention can decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. "We are trying to show that behaviour changes not only make people healthier in terms of reducing heart disease risk factors but actually can make them live longer," she said. These findings were presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention.
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) US policymakers should balance their efforts at immediate and medium-term fiscal adjustment to avoid negative impact on the fragile US economic recovery, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report. US fiscal adjustment "may go too far in the near term and not far enough in the medium term", the IMF said Thursday in its "2012 Spillover Report" examining the external effects of domestic economic policies from five systemically important economies (S5), comprising China, the US, the euro area, Japan and Britain, reported Xinhua. "The worry here is of too sharp fiscal contraction in 2013 and, not enough -- or ill defined -- adjustment in the medium term, both with potential to disrupt economic activity and financial markets," said the Washington-based global lender. The IMF pressed the US to calibrate the near-term fiscal adjustment to the pace of economic recovery and set fiscal consolidation objectives in the medium term to improve its fiscal sustainability. In the path of a still weak recovery, a sharp reduction in the deficit starting in January 2013 with Bush era tax cut provisions expiring and automatic spending cuts taking effect, a scenario dubbed as the "fiscal cliff", would lead to fiscal contraction and slower economic growth, the IMF cautioned in the annual report. The "fiscal cliff", which stands in the way of US economic recovery, would have quite extensive" effects on the world economy, Ranjit Teja, deputy director of IMF's Strategy, Policy and Review Department, Thursday told reporters during a conference call. Earlier this week, US congressional leaders inked an agreement to extend the federal government funding for six months after it runs out by Oct 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but the agreement stopped short of listing long-term fiscal adjustment goals to slash the ballooning US public debt hovering at nearly $16 trillion.
Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) Spurred by growth in Brazil, India, and Indonesia, Facebook increased its user count to 955 million, but the popular social network said over 83 million of them were fake accounts it wants to disable. Facebook said it had 59 million monthly active users in India as of June 30, 2012, an increase of 84 percent compared to the same period in 2011. In an updated regulatory filing released Wednesday, Facebook said users in Brazil, India, and Indonesia represented key sources of growth in the second quarter of 2012 leading to an increase of 29 percent in its monthly active users over 2011. The company said that 8.7 percent of its 955 million monthly active users worldwide are actually duplicate or false accounts, but did not say how many of them were in India. Duplicate accounts make up 4.8 percent (45.8 million) of Facebook's total active member tally. Misclassified non-human personal accounts that have been made for companies, groups or pets make up another 2.4 percent (22.9 million). These accounts can be converted into approved pages without losing information. The third group is the smallest-just 1.5 percent of all active accounts-but most troublesome. There are 14.3 million undesirable accounts that Facebook believes have been created specifically for purposes that violate the company's terms, like spamming. "We believe the percentage of accounts that are duplicate or false is meaningfully lower in developed markets such as the United States or Australia and higher in developing markets such as Indonesia and Turkey," the company said in the filing. Worldwide daily active users too increased 32 percent to 552 million from 417 million with growth across major markets including Brazil, the United States, and India. Mobile active users who accessed Facebook via a mobile app or via mobile-optimised versions of Facebook website increased by 67 percent from 325 million to 543 million with users in the United States, India, and Brazil representing key sources of growth. Facebook said it faced significant competition in almost every aspect of its business, including from companies such as Google, Microsoft and Twitter with Orkut owned by Google providing strong competition in Brazil and India. (Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)
United Nations, Aug 3 (IANS) North Korea has urged the UN to provide emergency supplies, including food and fuel, after one of the country's worst floods have left over 100 people dead and thousands homeless. Torrential rains have resulted in widespread flooding in North Korea, Xinhua quoted Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as saying. "The (North Korean) government has requested that the UN release its pre-positioned emergency stocks, including food and fuel," Nesirky said. Heavy rains since last week have devastated North Korea. The country had been reeling under a severe drought in the past few months.