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Best content from the best source handpicked by Shyam. The source include The Harvard University, MIT, Mckinsey & Co, Wharton, Stanford,and other top educational institutions. domains include Cybersecurity, Machine learning, Deep Learning, Bigdata, Education, Information Technology, Management, others.

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    How Relevant is Long-Range Strategic Planning?

    If competitive advantage is no longer sustainable, then what? Jim Heskett examines the latest thinking from Rita McGrath, who attacks aging strategies for long-range planning. What do YOU think?

    by James Heskett

    From time to time thinking converges around a set of ideas. For us this month, the topic is strategy planning and organization. Conventional thinking and organization that has encouraged us to seek sustainable competitive advantage in the past is being questioned in today's business environment. Some are even suggesting that the mind set that has given us strategic planning concepts such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, the "five forces," growth share matrices, five-year plans, and an emphasis on core competencies of the firm may lead to competitive disadvantage in a technology-transformed world in which markets, employee and customer mind sets, and innovations, evolve at a rapid rate.

    The conversation was stimulated (can it be 16 years ago?) by Clayton Christensen's work leading to his book, The Innovator's Dilemma. In one sense, the book was mistitled. Some of its most salient material concerned issues confronting large corporations facing innovative upstarts with disruptive ventures, the non-innovator's dilemma. But it also dealt with the challenges of achieving innovation in a world of entrenched ideas about how products are developed and used. Implicitly, the book questioned traditional concepts of strategic planning in an environment populated by increasingly innovative and agile competitors.

    Now comes a new book, The End of Competitive Advantage  , by Rita Gunther McGrath. Hers is a frontal attack on accepted strategic planning methods designed, in her opinion, for another time. These are methods based on the presumption that competitive advantage is sustainable. It's a presumption that she claims "creates all the wrong reflexes" in a world in which the best one can hope for is "transient competitive advantage."

    McGrath's prescription for achieving transient competitive advantage includes such things as smaller, faster, more agile organizations--and where management-by-consensus is a thing of the past. The emphasis is on marshalling rather than owning assets, including talent. In order to ensure the appropriate deployment of these assets from one opportunity to another, it will be necessary to recentralize control over the resource allocation process, moving it out of strategic business units (SBUs). It raises questions about the relevancy of SBUs as opposed to transient teams as a form of organization.

    These organizations engage in "shape shifting" based on systematic innovation and the constant testing of assumptions, all required to maintain transient advantage. They are organizations designed to create and test options, practicing "continuous deployment," doing things "fast and roughly right" rather than relying on strategic planning as we have known it.

    McGrath makes her points forcefully, but laments the slow rate at which these changes are being adopted in large organizations. If these ideas are so powerful, she asks, "why hasn't basic strategy practice changed?" Is her thinking on target but just a bit ahead of the curve? How relevant is long-range strategic planning and its assumptions of sustainable competitive advantage? What do you think?

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    Disruptive Innovation vs. Harvard: Who Will Win?

    When I was in business school, I was taught that Coca-Cola was the world’s most powerful brand. But that’s plain wrong: elite universities are the world’s most powerful brands. No one ultimately cares all that much whether their daughter has a Coke or a Pepsi, do they? But they would do nearly anything to send her to an elite university.

    Could the most powerful brands in the world ever be disrupted? Recently, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, the father of “disruptive innovation” theory, shared his thoughts on disruption in higher ed at the Knewton Symposium, a gathering of senior leaders from innovative online universities around the world.

    What is disruption?

    Clayton began by providing a few familiar examples   of disruptive innovation, i.e. “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of the market and then relentlessly moves up-market, eventually displacing established competitors.” Steel mini mills are his classic example. When mini mills first surfaced in the 1960s, they were very efficient but produced inferior steel to traditional integrated mills. Only the low-margin rebar market would use the mini mill steel. Instead of building mini mills themselves, the traditional mills just ceded this sector to focus on higher-margin products.

    Soon the mini mills took over the rebar sector and pushed out the traditional mills. But with so much production, the price of rebar dropped. So the mini mills improved their technology enough to produce angle iron and bars and rods, both higher-quality and higher-margin products.

    Before long the same thing happened with these products: mini mills took over, integrated mills focused further up-market, and the price of angle iron and bars and rods dropped. This cycle repeated twice more, first with structural steel and then with sheet steel (the last refuge of the traditional mill). The once low-end disruptors had pushed their way to the top and knocked the integrated mills out entirely.

    What makes an industry ripe for disruption?

    Every industry has a “technological core” that defines its product delivery. In the case of a disruptive innovation like the mini mill, a new technological core emerges. This enables the disruptor to start at the bottom of the market and, as profit and scale allow for further refinements to the technological core, move up-market. Without a disruptive new technological core, industries — even those that seem ripe for it — cannot be disrupted.

    Take hotels: in order to move up-market, a hotel chain like Holiday Inn would have to replicate the amenities and services of, say, the Four Seasons. But that would require entirely new facilities, check-in procedures, staff and staff training, etc. Despite the fact that the Holiday Inn and the Four Seasons offer the same type of product — lodging — there is virtually no overlap between their technological cores.

    Historically, the same was true for higher ed. For a community college to become the equivalent of an elite four-year institution would require it to replicate the four-year college’s services — from the quality of professors, to range of courses, to availability of campus housing, etc.

    But now online course delivery has the potential to become education’s disruptive new technological core. Like all early-stage disruptive innovations, online learning has heretofore focused its attention on the fringes of the market — students who, because of geography or age or financial limitations, wouldn’t otherwise have access to comparable bricks-and-mortar educational opportunities.

    The many “jobs” of bundled experiences

    To play out how the theory of disruption might apply to the university, Clayton compares it to another large, multifaceted business undergoing disruption: the newspaper. For instance, the New York Times has many roles, or “jobs” in Clayton’s lexicon. It entertains. It delivers current events knowledge. It delivers business knowledge. It kills time in waiting rooms. It allows people to buy and sell things. It’s a place to find employment.

    Each of these jobs has been disrupted by new players that focus on just one of these things. A TV or iPad is better entertainment, Bloomberg has better business news, Craigslist is where you sell things, job websites are where you find employment, etc.

    Just like the New York Times, the university serves many purposes. Its primary “jobs” are facilitating learning, increasing employability, and providing a coming of age experience. Secondary “jobs” include research, networking, extracurricular activities, sports and entertainment, study abroad, and job placement.

    Some of the secondary “jobs” of the university have already begun to be disrupted, with the advent of alternate study abroad programs, extracurricular activities, networking channels, career assistance, etc. But the most important role of the university — the all-important thing that drives employer and student selection patterns — is employability, both immediate prospects upon graduation and long-term employability (given that careers and industries evolve). The coming of age experience is crucial, but comparable from campus to campus. Students seek out elite schools as a stepping-stone to elite careers.

    Could this, the most important “job” of the university, ever be disrupted? Clayton’s theory holds that he who does the job best, will, over time, build the brand and become synonymous with the job. For example, if I tell you that you have 72 hours to completely furnish and move into a new apartment, what is the first thing that comes to mind? One company has done that job so well that all anyone thinks of in this situation is Ikea.

    But Clayton doesn’t get specific in regards to elite university brands, and universities are unique in the power of their brands. In a competition between Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation versus the world’s most powerful brands, who will win?

    Goldman Sachs doesn’t care about Harvard

    After graduating from Harvard Business School, I went to work at Goldman Sachs. With few exceptions, all 120 or so members of my associate class were fellow graduates of Harvard, Wharton, and a handful of other top-tier schools. Most came from the top five programs as ranked by US News and Businessweek. Programs five through 10 each had one or two graduates represented. Programs 10 through 20 had no more than one each. There was no one from outside of the top 20. Then, as now, Goldman (and employers like it) use elite brand MBAs as a proxy for ability.

    What if employers instead had access to far more accurate, real-time, and comprehensive data sets around learning outcomes upon which to base hiring decisions? A revolution in educational data mining is underway that will make this a reality. Within a decade, prospective employees will be able to show down to the atomic concept what they know, how quickly they learned it, and how well they retained it.

    Goldman Sachs would know whether an HBS recruit was in fact the best, say, at finance concepts or derivatives trading concepts. Goldman would inevitably start seeing recruits from outside of the top five ranked programs who know way more than I did about every type of finance concept or derivatives concept, and who learned them faster and retained them longer. What are the odds that the graduates who are the top in the nation in mastery of those concepts all went to Harvard or Wharton? Educational data mining will soon be able to prove to employers in many fields if they are overpaying for brand or, even worse, hiring the wrong people.

    Goldman Sachs doesn’t intrinsically care about Harvard. They care about finding the best person for the job. Elite brand degrees have just traditionally been the best proxy metrics for that, because precise metrics weren’t heretofore available.

    What can be measured about individual students can also be measured about schools and departments. Employers (or graduate school admissions offices) will know which school consistently produces the best chemists or derivatives traders or engineers. How likely is it that the Harvard experience is actually number one at teaching everything? Like the New York Times, it’s really good in many fields, but is it actually the best in any? If, as an employer, I know that I can get better computer scientists at School X than at Harvard, and better biological engineers at School Y, I’m going to tilt my recruiting efforts to those schools.

    As for students, they’re certain to follow the jobs. They don’t intrinsically care about Harvard either.

    Transparency is the bane of brands

    For this scenario to materialize, two things must happen. First, employers need to have access to these very deep data sets — and they need to trust them. This seems nearly inevitable.

    Second, in order to change hiring behavior, each data set must correlate strongly and obviously to the specific skills of a given job. That is, if I’m a recruiter and I look at two academic profiles — one from a student at an elite brand school, and a stronger profile from a student at an non-elite brand — I will be convinced by the weight of evidence (more concepts learned, faster, at a deeper level of proficiency, retained longer, synthesized better) to hire the applicant from the non-elite brand. This will begin in industries in which job performance is easier to measure, and where even minor differences matter to employers, such as computer science, accounting, finance, math, engineering, science, and medicine.

    It’s already starting to happen at Knewton (and across the computer science sector). Several of our tech leads never graduated from college; we hired them because they were able to prove via alternative credentialing that they could do the necessary work exceptionally well. SiteAdvisor and Hunch co-founder Tom Pinckney didn’t graduate from high school; instead, he sent the MIT admissions office lines of code he’d written (and he got in).

    The higher the stakes of a given job, the faster employers will catch on. Transparent and high-stakes fields like medicine, where lives are on the line, will be early. If the head of a medical practice can more accurately identify the most qualified recent med school grads, it is a moral imperative (and a business one as well, given malpractice costs) that she hire that person, regardless of where he went to school.

    Lower-stakes but still quantifiable jobs, especially those including a business development component, will take a little longer. A Big Four accounting firm will presumably just hire the best candidates it can, regardless of brand. But the owner of a small accounting firm in Des Moines might hire a Harvard grad for brand prestige even if he knows that a U of Iowa grad is technically a bit more skilled. Until the brand erodes beyond a certain point, some employers might rely on the Harvard brand in and of itself to generate some additional business.

    The power of university alumni networks might also delay the disruption: graduates may hire slightly less qualified alums from their schools vs. other schools. But as data-driven brand erosion continues within a career field, these biases will break down too. The brand of their alma mater is important to people, but they won’t support the brand all by themselves if they think another candidate is stronger.

    What about “fuzzier” professions? It is much harder to correlate an English major’s academic performance with the skill set of, say, a copywriter or marketing coordinator. Is this where the disruption ends? As the more quantifiable career sectors start peeling away, will elite brands recalibrate to focus on students seeking these more creative pursuits? I don’t think so. Once we’ve reached this tipping point, there’s no going back. 

    When it becomes conventional wisdom that Harvard, while very good at a lot of things, is not actually the best at preparing students for anything in particular, the brand as a whole will erode even amongst employers in difficult-to-measure fields. The elites ceded the most creative fields — film, design, fashion, dance — to specialist schools long ago anyway. With the exception perhaps of law, the elite schools have focused on exactly those careers — medicine, finance, business, engineering, etc. — where they are the most likely to be disrupted first.

    Sometimes the world really is coming to an end

    It’s impossible to know the extent to which university brand power will erode. We know that accurate, real-time, and comprehensive data sets around learning outcomes are imminent and inevitable. But we don’t know how strongly and obviously these data sets will correlate to the specific skills of most entry level jobs in the minds of employers. The greater the overall correlation, the more quickly the power of the university brand will decline.

    So if you’re the president of Harvard, what do you do? Focus on teaching the most measurable skills as well as possible? Or the softest skills? Disrupt yourself now? Or hope that others don’t disrupt you later?

    Here is the advice I would offer to any university president whose institution has a strong brand.

    1. Acknowledge and admit that the very long run of universities being immune to commoditization is coming to an end.

    The strength of the elite higher ed brands is primarily due to the following three things (strength of network is a secondary thing that will only delay the inevitable if the fundamentals break):

    ·         The historical, totally arbitrary capacity constraints of delivering higher ed at scale

    ·         The extreme lack of transparency of the quality of the product

    ·         The extremely high-stakes nature of the outcome

    Two of those things are ending. The third — the extremely high stakes nature of the outcome — is just gasoline that drives up the strength of the elite brand when outcomes aren’t measurable but will just as certainly drive it down when the outcomes are. Commoditization is coming. Brand will decline. Now it’s just a question of how much.

    2. Start measuring.

    The age of learning outcome transparency is nearly upon us. You can’t improve your processes around driving higher outcomes if you don’t measure those outcomes. Get ahead of the curve and get control of your data.

    3. Proactively defend your turf on the most measurable fields like finance, pre-med, and computer programming.

    Yes, this is just delaying the inevitable. But since it so happens that the most measurable fields also happen to be many of the most remunerative, you must delay this commoditization for as long as possible and maintain relevance after it has happened. Do so by delivering the best learning product you can. Stop muddling teaching and research. Great researchers should pay for themselves via research only — not by doing a crappy job of teaching to an audience that won’t be captive for much longer. Get the best teachers you can to teach those subjects. Stop with the ancillary fluff. Focus relentlessly on learning outcomes. If something doesn’t improve your students’ learning outcomes, stop doing it.

    4. Focus on what you’re best at.

    Things you’re not good at, and will never be good at, are ultimately just going to hurt your brand and divert resources and attention from where they’re needed most.

    5. Get online, now.

    Start offering degrees or, at the very least, courses for-credit (and for a fee). Even Harvard could admit five totally different freshman classes every year from the United States alone without compromising its standards. Offering credits, and even online degrees, to the most talented kids in India, China, Korea, Russia, and the Middle East — many of whom can pay full-fare — will not sully the brand of your degree and will be strategically imperative. Get online now while your brand is still strong and parlay it into global online education dominance.

    6. Consider setting up a self-governing offshoot.

    In their extensive research, Clayton and his team have found that the only entities to survive disruptive innovation were those who set up fully autonomous divisions that were free to disrupt the rest of the organization (e.g., IBM). Imagine an “XYZ Online University, powered by Harvard,” capable of creating and delivering on a new business model while taking advantage of the Harvard brand — but still independent and free to build on top of a new technological core.

    Yes, it will take unbelievable political capital to pull off these kinds of reforms. It will take tremendous courage. Many will oppose you. Their arguments will seem reasonable. They will argue that key constituencies will revolt. (This is true, but it can be managed, and it must be managed, because the alternative is much worse.) They will call for gradualism — which appears safer and more doable now, but will cost your institution strength and position later. And they will resort to ridicule; they will say these ideas are unproven. (Ask the rest of the internet if its disruptive power over distribution and data mining is unproven.) They will say that you are Chicken Little, that the brand is so strong that it can’t erode. (This is just perceptual bias talking, as that brand strength is all they have ever known.)

    Do it anyway. The survival of your institution is at stake.

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      We can see on this animations the airplanes commercial flight everyday.

    The main today trafic is still in US ans Europe but Eastern countries are growing and pull the aircraft market.

    We can see also that during the second part of the night there are far fewer planes flying.

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    'Love hormone' may play wider role in social interaction than previously thought, scientists say


    Robert Malenka and Gul Dolen  found that the hormne known as oxytocin plays a stronger role in social bonding than previously thought.

    Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that oxytocin — often referred to as "the love hormone" because of its importance in the formation and maintenance of strong mother-child and sexual attachments — is involved in a broader range of social interactions than previously understood.

    The discovery may have implications for neurological disorders such as autism, as well as for scientific conceptions of our evolutionary heritage.   

    Scientists estimate that the advent of social living preceded the emergence of pair living by 35 million years. The new study suggests that oxytocin's role in one-on-one bonding probably evolved from an existing, broader affinity for group living.

    Oxytocin is the focus of intense scrutiny for its apparent roles in establishing trust between people, and has been administered to children with autism spectrum disorders in clinical trials. The new study, published Sept. 12 in Nature, pinpoints a unique way in which oxytocin alters activity in a part of the brain that is crucial to experiencing the pleasant sensation neuroscientists call "reward." The findings not only provide validity for ongoing trials of oxytocin in autistic patients, but also suggest possible new treatments for neuropsychiatric conditions in which social activity is impaired.

    "People with autism-spectrum disorders may not experience the normal reward the rest of us all get from being with our friends," said Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, the study's senior author. "For them, social interactions can be downright painful. So we asked, what in the brain makes you enjoy hanging out with your buddies?"

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    Some genetic evidence suggests the awkward social interaction that is a hallmark of autism-spectrum disorders may be at least in part oxytocin-related. Certain variations in the gene that encodes the oxytocin receptor — a cell-surface protein that senses the substance's presence — are associated with increased autism risk.

    Malenka, the Nancy Friend Pritzker Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has spent the better part of two decades studying the reward system — a network of interconnected brain regions responsible for our sensation of pleasure in response to a variety of activities such as finding or eating food when we're hungry, sleeping when we're tired, having sex or acquiring a mate, or, in a pathological twist, taking addictive drugs. The reward system has evolved to reinforce behaviors that promote our survival, he said.

    For this study, Malenka and lead author Gül Dölen, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in his group with over 10 years of autism-research expertise, teamed up to untangle the complicated neurophysiological underpinnings of oxytocin's role in social interactions. They focused on biochemical events taking place in a brain region called the nucleus accumbens, known for its centrality to the reward system.

    In the 1970s, biologists learned that in prairie voles, which mate for life, the nucleus accumbens is replete with oxytocin receptors. Disrupting the binding of oxytocin to these receptors impaired prairie voles' monogamous behavior. In many other species that are not monogamous by nature, such as mountain voles and common mice, the nucleus accumbens appeared to lack those receptors.

    "From this observation sprang a dogma that pair bonding is a special type of social behavior tied to the presence of oxytocin receptors in the nucleus accumbens. But what's driving the more common group behaviors that all mammals engage in — cooperation, altruism or just playing around — remained mysterious, since these oxytocin receptors were supposedly absent in the nucleus accumbens of most social animals," said Dölen.

    The new discovery shows that mice do indeed have oxytocin receptors at a key location in the nucleus accumbens and, importantly, that blocking oxytocin's activity there significantly diminishes these animals' appetite for socializing. Dölen, Malenka and their Stanford colleagues also identified, for the first time, the nerve tract that secretes oxytocin in the region, and they pinpointed the effects of oxytocin release on other nerve tracts projecting to this area.

    Mice can squeak, but they can't talk, Malenka noted. "You can't ask a mouse, 'Hey, did hanging out with your buddies a while ago make you happier?'" So, to explore the social-interaction effects of oxytocin activity in the nucleus accumbens, the investigators used a standard measure called the conditioned place preference test.

    "It's very simple," Malenka said. "You like to hang out in places where you had fun, and avoid places where you didn't. We give the mice a 'house' made of two rooms separated by a door they can walk through at any time. But first, we let them spend 24 hours in one room with their littermates, followed by 24 hours in the other room all by themselves. On the third day we put the two rooms together to make the house, give them complete freedom to go back and forth through the door and log the amount of time they spend in each room."

    Mice normally prefer to spend time in the room that reminds them of the good times they enjoyed in the company of their buddies. But that preference vanished when oxytocin activity in their nucleus accumbens was blocked. Interestingly, only social activity appeared to be affected. There was no difference, for example, in the mice's general propensity to move around. And when the researchers trained the mice to prefer one room over the other by giving them cocaine (which mice love) only when they went into one room, blocking oxytocin activity didn't stop the mice from picking the cocaine den.

    In an extensive series of sophisticated, highly technical experiments, Dölen, Malenka and their teammates located the oxytocin receptors in the murine nucleus accumbens. These receptors lie not on nucleus accumbens nerve cells that carry signals forward to numerous other reward-system nodes but, instead, at the tips of nerve cells forming a tract from a brain region called the dorsal Raphe, which projects to the nucleus accumbens. The dorsal Raphe secretes another important substance, serotonin, triggering changes in nucleus accumbens activity. In fact, popular antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft belong to a class of drugs called serotonin-reuptake inhibitors that increase available amounts of serotonin in brain regions, including the nucleus accumbens.

    As the Stanford team found, oxytocin acting at the nucleus accumbens wasn't simply squirted into general circulation, as hormones typically are, but was secreted at this spot by another nerve tract originating in the hypothalamus, a multifunction midbrain structure. Oxytocin released by this tract binds to receptors on the dorsal Raphe projections to the nucleus accumbens, in turn liberating serotonin in this key node of the brain's reward circuitry. The serotonin causes changes in the activity of yet other nerve tracts terminating at the nucleus accumbens, ultimately resulting in altered nucleus accumbens activity — and a happy feeling.

    "There are at least 14 different subtypes of serotonin receptor," said Dölen. "We've identified one in particular as being important for social reward. Drugs that selectively act on this receptor aren't clinically available yet, but our study may encourage researchers to start looking at drugs that target it for the treatment of diseases such as autism, where social interactions are impaired."

    Malenka and Dölen said they think their findings in mice are highly likely to generalize to humans because the brain's reward circuitry has been so carefully conserved over the course of hundreds of millions of years of evolution. This extensive cross-species similarity probably stems from pleasure's absolutely essential role in reinforcing behavior likely to boost an individual's chance of survival and procreation.

    The study was funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative   and the Walter and Idun Berry Foundation. Additional Stanford co-authors were technician Ayeh Darvishzadeh and former undergraduate Kee Wui Huang, now a neuroscience graduate student at Harvard University.

    View at the original source

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    Modi gets BJP crown, but Advani remains a thorn

    PM candidate hints at development superseding Hindutva agenda in poll campaign
    Narendra Modi

    Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s candidate for prime minister in 2014, party president Rajnath Singh announced here on Friday.

    However, Modi’s elevation failed to get the blessings of party patriarch and working chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), L K Advani, who stayed away from the parliamentary board meeting after getting ready to attend it. Instead, he wrote a letter to Singh, expressing his disappointment with the way the affairs of the party were conducted.

    What a buoyant Modi said to reporters after his elevation suggested the Hindutva agenda would take a back seat in the elections and the BJP’s central campaign issue would be development. “In 2014, I hope the country will support us in tackling corruption, inflation, and support good governance and development.... I need the blessings of the people when the country is passing through traumatic times,” Modi said. There were no slogans of Jai Shri Ram at the venue.

    Earlier, announcing Modi’s elevation, Singh said: “Gauging the national mood ... the parliamentary board has decided to appoint Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.” The practice of naming a prime ministerial candidate ahead of the elections had been followed since 1996, he said, in a reference that was obviously aimed at Advani supporters.

    He also made a pointed reference to the NDA’s endorsement of Modi’s candidature. The NDA now comprises the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal. Playing down Advani’s absence, the party president said Modi would call on Advani to get the senior leader’s blessings. Later in the evening, Modi visited Advani’s residence for a brief meeting.

    Advani had blamed Singh’s style of working for not attending Friday’s meeting. “In the afternoon... I spoke to you (Rajnath Singh) of my own anguish and about your style of working. I told you I will think whether I should discuss these issues with (parliamentary board) members or not. I have now decided that I will not attend today’s meeting.”

    Modi had flown to the Capital from Gandhinagar this afternoon, presumably after he was certain that Advani’s objections to his elevation would be bypassed.

    After a brief stopover at Gujarat Bhavan, he visited Singh. Modi confidant Amit Shah was also present at the meeting.

    During the day, efforts were on to bring Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi on board. First, Nitin Gadkari met Singh and later held a meeting with Advani.

    Swaraj, Advani and Joshi have in the past expressed reservations over Modi’s elevation, largely because of his style of functioning. However, by the evening, Swaraj and Joshi were seen congratulating Modi.

    Advani had asked Singh to postpone the decision on Modi’s candidature till the end of the coming Assembly elections. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram are to go to polls later this year. Of these, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have BJP governments.

    Modi’s elevation poses fresh challenges for the BJP. Indications are Modi would continue as both the PM candidate of the BJP and the campaign committee chairman. The party, which is already behind schedule as far as election work is concerned, has not appointed central observers to evaluate the candidature of ticket-seekers, allot electoral responsibility and work out an election schedule. Modi, as head of the campaign committee, has held only two meetings so far.

    There was no clarity on whether the party would appoint a deputy chief minister in Gujarat if Modi moved to New Delhi. Further, a call would have to be taken on the issues on which the party will fight the upcoming elections: Will it be Brand Modi and governance, or corruption and cronyism?

    The question of who would negotiate with political parties remained unanswered. As NDA’s working chairman, Advani was the one who would have negotiated with potential allies such as Haryana’s Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal; former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, who left the BJP to form the Karnataka Janata Paksh; Assam’s Asom Gana Parishad and the Panthers Party in Jammu. If, in June, Advani decides to resign from all party positions, BJP’s ally management could get a setback.

    • September 17, 1950: Born in Vadnagar, a small town in Mehsana district of North Gujarat. During his youth, gets involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad – the student arm of the RSS
    • 1987: Joins the Bharatiya Janata Party
    • 1988: Becomes general secretary of party’s Gujarat unit
    • 1988-1995: Becomes active in New Delhi politics; organised a march from Kanyakumari (the southernmost part of India) to Kashmir in the North.
    • 1995: Becomes BJP’s national secretary; gets the responsibility of handling five major states of North India
    • 2001: Becomes Gujarat CM, after BJP leadership removes incumbent CM Keshubhai Patel
    • 2002: Gets criticised for handling of the Gujarat riots; but subsequently wins consecutive Assembly elections in 2002, 2007 and 2012
    • 2012: The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team on Gujarat riots gives Modi a clean chit; but amicus curiae in the case Raju Ramachandran says Modi can be prosecuted for promoting enmity among various groups
    • June 2013: Becomes chairman of general elections’ campaign committee of BJP
    • September 13, 2013: Modi named BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls

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    What’s the Status of Your Relationship With Innovation?

    How important is innovation these days? Increasingly important, if one goes by the frequency of the word appearing during earnings calls that publicly traded companies have with investment analysts. In 2008, the word appeared 1,733 times in earnings calls for 435 large publicly traded companies. That’s an average of about four mentions per company (Starbucks topped the list with 139 mentions). In the last four quarters where full data are available, the total was 3,299, or about 7.5 mentions per company (Nike, recently named the world’s most innovative company, topped the list with 239 mentions).

    But just talking about innovation doesn’t mean a company is really serious about it, or is approaching it in a way that has as a reasonable chance of success.
    Innovation — particularly that which pushes a company into new markets or new businesses — requires a serious ongoing commitment. But what we’ve found in our work with companies across a wide spectrum of industries over the past few years is that many corporate leaders who think they are seriously committed to innovation are really just flirting with it. There’s nothing wrong with flirting, or even taking the next step and having an innovation fling, as long as leaders recognize that they aren’t likely to get significant returns without making serious commitments.
    Unfortunately, because innovation so frequently is confused with creativity or the generation of ideas, many companies dramatically overestimate their commitment to innovation. That leads to corporate disappointment when creative ideas don’t translate into substantial growth businesses. As we described in Building a Growth Factory  , a serious commitment typically requires (among other things) dedicated resources, a disciplined approach, and serious executive involvement. These kinds of commitments help to overcome some of the most common execution challenges companies face:
    • Moving at a glacial pace because over-stretched managers are trying to fit efforts into small cracks in their calendars
    • Unintentionally force-fitting a disruptive idea into the company’s current business model, blunting its long-term potential
    • Playing it overly safe because employees know that the rewards for success are miniscule but the penalties for taking even well thought out risks that don’t pan out are prohibitive
    So how can you tell how truly committed your organization is? Inspired by the somewhat tongue-in-cheek quizzes that populate fashion magazines, we created a short quiz. Find a colleague, and see how you fall on the following seven questions.
    1. Who is working on innovation?
    a) What’s innovation? (You might want to stop the quiz now.)
    b) Some people spend bounded time on innovation (e.g., “Free Thinking Fridays”)
    c) We have dedicated resources who eat, breathe, and sleep innovation
    2. What’s in it for them?
    a) Suffering — it’s their job. If they screw up, they’ll feel it
    b) Glory — the spotlight shines bright when they succeed
    c) Riches — we have specific incentive programs for innovation
    3. What is the background of the people working on it?
    a) Some of our best performers
    b) Internal talent that has a demonstrated history of successful innovation
    c) Blend of internal talent and external hires with a proven track record
    4. What are they working on?
    a) Nothing specific — it takes 1,000 flowers, right?
    b) All hands are on deck for a single make-or-break “bet the company” initiative
    c) We have identified a handful of strategic opportunity areas we are exploring
    5. Where does the money come from?
    a) Our budget is focused on operating priorities, so there isn’t any money for it
    b) We don’t have a budget for innovation, but we find money when we need it
    c) We have a dedicated budget for innovation
    6. What is leadership’s role? 
    a) Get out of the way — we don’t want to constrain it
    b) We have a special quarterly meeting where senior leaders talk about it
    c) We have a member of the executive committee or board who owns it
    7. Word association — innovation is…
    a) Random! We just hope for the best
    b) Fun! We support it but don’t constrain it.
    c) A discipline! We approach it systematically.
    Give yourself one point for every “A” answer, three points for every “B” answer, and five for every “C” answer in the right column.
    If you scored:
    • Fewer than 10 points: You tease! You are still just flirting with innovation.
    • Between 10 and 25 points: All right, you’ve had your innovation fling. Are you ready to get serious?
    • More than 26 points: Congratulations! You have made the life-long commitment to innovation
    Ask colleagues to take the version of the quiz that we have posted at  . Once we get enough data we’ll summarize the results to see what patterns emerge.
    Innovation has its moments of fun, no doubt, but success requires discipline and hard work. Just like many other areas of life, real results don’t come without real commitment.


    Executing on Innovation
    An HBR Insight Center

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    Is Customer Experience Manageable? An Industry Pundit Says No

    What is customer experience (CX)? To get customer experience right, companies need to first get the definition of customer experience right, according to an enlightening talk I had with Esteban Kolsky  , the Principal and Founder of ThinkJar  , an advisory and research think-tank focused on customer strategies. 
    With over 25 years of experience in customer service and CRM consulting, research and advisory services, including eight years spent at Gartner   focusing on customer service and CRM research, Kolsky is taking what companies today think of CRM and customer experience and flipping it on its head. He says that the digital transformation of businesses and the inbound revolution have brought about a radically different way of doing business which has changed CRM and "customer experience" forever.
    Esteban Kolsky
    Kolsky gives us these 5 insights into how the customer has changed and how this is redefining customer experience, inbound marketing and CRM as they relate to the digital transformation of the business.
    1. Customers are not listening to what you have to say - Inbound marketing is a hot topic for companies today. Kolsky tells us that inbound marketing is the first realization that customers don't listen to what you say anymore about your business. "To put it bluntly customers don't have an interest in what companies have to say, they have the knowledge and the information and they don't need to rely on the company for this," says Kolsky. The radical change to inbound marketing, due to the fact that people outside the organization know more than the people inside the organization, will be more about how to manage social channels than about managing content and the inbound flow of communication.
    2. Customers know more about your business than you do - To illustrate inbound Kolsky uses the example of the inventor of duct tape, who first created it to be used as an adhesive tape in outer space. He tells us that his daughter has spent the summer building wallets and t-shirts and whatever else out of duct tape thanks to plenty of YouTube tutorials. "A company can make a product for a specific use, but loses control of the product and the uses for it very quickly," says Kolsky. Companies cannot pretend to know more than their customers about what they want to do. Even if they take the time to learn the customer journey, they still don't know what customers want to do at the moment they are doing it. 
    Therefore, the question becomes how do we leverage what customers are doing and saying to sell more product and how do we use information from the world in a more positive way to dynamically and flexibly change the way we do business? This is the digital transformation part that has to go together with inbound. The bottom line is that it's not about the customer at every interaction; it is about what the customer chooses to do in relation to your business.
    3. Customers create their own experience - When it comes to customer experience Kolsky wrote the book, so to speak, with Ed Thompson   back in 2002. In it he wrote the first definition of customer experience, which he still uses in presentations to make fun of what we thought it was then and what we still think it is today. Kolsky calls his original definition of customer experience moronic: "Customer experience is what a customer senses with all five senses with any interaction that they have with the company." He pokes holes in his original definition by asking, "When was the last time you tasted a screen?"
    So then what is the definition of customer experience? It turns out that it has nothing to do with customer experience. Kolsky says there are two aspects to it. You have what the customer actually gets to experience, but to do that customers will build their own experiences. They will not wait for companies to tell them how to do it; they are the ones pushing companies to create the ability for them to do what they want to do. 
    All companies have to do is transform their business and open up as much as possible, and then get out of the way so customers can create their own experiences as they go along - this is the true definition of customer experience. From the business perspective the customer experience should be about building the infrastructure that allows customers to do whatever they want to do through whatever channel they choose to do it.
    Kolsky tells us that companies need to throw out the notion that they can create, manage and control customer experience. He says all the time spent talking about customer experience is just wasted time trying to understand something that is not for us to understand. The bottom line is that companies cannot create customer experience, customers create their own experiences.
    4. Customer interactions are complex and unpredictable - The way that people interact with businesses has changed, and therefore CRM has changed. Each time a company touches a customer it's an interaction. The problem with traditional CRM is that all these interactions are siloed as customer service, sales, marketing, etc., but today's customer interactions are not so simple. When a customer contacts a company they can do a million different things and companies never know what that's going to be. In the old days customers would call the specific number listed for customer service. 
    Today they don't care; they send an email to the main email address or call the main number and they know you have to answer it. With this change, companies can no longer silo operations to correspond to CRM. Interactions have changed from being defined interactions that you could define an experience from to an interaction where anything goes - you don't know what is going to happen but you need to provide for anything that could happen.
    The role of CRM today is to provide information to analytical packages that back up this customer experience platform so we can customize interactions with customers. CRM for the past five years has become a system of records, a place where the data is stored and brings it all together into a common infrastructure - an interface to the experience. CRM is moving toward being a central point from where customers can draw their own information to create their own experiences. And when you sum up all the interactions over time that is the beginning of what engagement is all about.
    5. Customer (and user) communities are where the knowledge is at - In a thought-provoking blog  , Kolsky states that knowledge decays at the rate of 50% for every minute it exists. He builds a case for knowledge-in-use   by saying that the problem with stored knowledge (knowledge found in books or even accessed via search engines) is that it is not contextual. "If you can ask a person a question and get an answer in 30 seconds then not only is that person's reputation increased but your knowledge of where to go to information is increased," says Kolsky.

    "There is something to the wisdom of the masses that cannot be denied," says Kolsky. This is why he thinks that communities are going to kill knowledge management systems. He says that communities are where the knowledge resides and he feels that there is no purpose for a knowledge base to exist, where you put knowledge in a place to decay over time, when you can get a few people to collaborate together and ask them. He says this was the whole purpose of social media. Kolsky says communities will evolve to where users have a reputation score and earn the trust and respect of peers, where the strongest voice is able to rise to the top of the forum and become a source of knowledge for others.
    And to bring it the conversation back around to the digital transformation of business, Kolsky says that digital transformation is just computers talking to computers doing the things we don't want to do - a topic covered in Andrew McAfee  's new book Race Against the Machine  . According to Kolsky digital business transformation happens when companies realize that everything we do today is done in digital form and that their business has to change in order to adapt to this total pragmatic change in how we do business today.

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    Shyam's views

    US, Russia reach deal on Syria chemical weapons.

     Is it a deal or a trade off.......... 

    President Obama is trading off is option for a limited action now for an opportunity to go for an all out long drawn decade old war at a later date............ 

    Syria is as much of a rogue state as Iraq was........ 

    It will definitely not honor its commitments to the UN & the world...... 

    This will give President Obama a ruse and a chance to mount a full fledged attack on Syria. Even American Boots will make its presence felt in Syria.

    Russians will look the other way & maintain a discreet silence.

    It has happened in the past and it will happen again.

    President Obama needs to dump off his piled up Tomahawks somewhere.

    What better disposal ground for this than Syria.

    (They disposed off more than 400 in Iraq)

    US, Russia reach deal on Syria chemical weapons

    Assad must account for, destroy weapons

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with U.N. Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, center, next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, during a press conference after their meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.  (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with U.N. Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, center, next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, during a press conference after their meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland

    The Obama administration and Russia reached a deal Saturday to compel Syria to account for and eventually destroy its chemical weapons arsenal, leaving open the possibility that the UN could authorize sanctions or military action for future violations.

    The deal announced in Geneva by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov provides a path for President Obama to avoid the air strikes he had promised to launch against Syria for its recent use of sarin gas on civilians in a Damascus suburb.

    “We have committed to a standard that says, verify and verify,” Kerry said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart, according to The Associated Press.

    The president has been backpedaling from the threat of air strikes to punish Syrian leader Bashar Assad in the absence of support inside Congress, or from the American public and U.S. allies.

    The deal includes a timetable and specific actions Syria must take comply. Kerry said the U.S. and Russia had agreed on grounds under which they might request a Security Council “Chapter 7” resolution — authorizing both military and non-military sanctions.

    The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.

    Kerry said any violations will result in “measures” from the Security Council, while Lavrov said the violations must be sent to the Security Council from the board of the chemical weapons convention before sanctions — short of the use of force — would be considered.

    Lavrov called the agreements a “decision based on consensus and compromise and professionalism.”

    Any violations of procedures … would be looked at by the Security Council and if they are approved, the Security Council would take the required measures, concrete measures,” 

    Lavrov said. “Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions. All violations should be approved by the Security Council.”

    Kerry said the pair and their teams of experts had reached “a shared assessment” of Syria’s weapons stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons.

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    10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work

    “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Tasteful humor is a key to success at work, but there’s a good chance your co-workers aren’t cracking jokes or packaging information with wit on a regular basis–and your office could probably stand to have a little more fun.
    “Humor, by its nature, tends to have an edge to it, so people typically tone it down at work,” says Laura Vanderkam  , author of What the Most Successful People Do at Work (Portfolio, 2013), and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2012). “It’s hard to do well and easy to do badly. Plus, we all have a tendency to take ourselves way too seriously.
    ”Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work  , and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank (Dec. 2013), says the amount or type of humor you’ll find in any given workplace depends almost entirely on the culture. “In workplaces that encourage people to be themselves–that are less hierarchical and more innovative–people tend to be more open with their humor,” he says. “Even people who aren’t always comfortable sharing their humor tend to do so in more relaxed environments where the use of humor becomes second nature with everyone’s style.”
    Then there are workplaces with employees who tone down their humor, often with the desire to be taken more seriously, he adds. “Yet, this can backfire as people who take themselves overly seriously are often, ironically, taken less seriously by the people around them.”
    Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant  , believes employees are much more comfortable using humor with colleagues than they are with their bosses. “You face a higher risk factor when joking around with your boss because you just don’t know how your lightheartedness may be taken. So, you generally find greater reticence to use humor with senior managers.”
    Other reasons workers might hold back: A fear of offending someone; a fear of not being funny—that their humorous attempts will crash and burn; or the unwillingness to “get the ball rolling.”
    “Many leaders, especially introverts, don’t know how to safely encourage the use of more humor at work and are unsure how to express it in their own leadership style,” Kerr explains. “Many of my clients also simply cite a lack of time as a key dampening factor.  The desire is there, but they simply don’t know how to bring more humor into their busy work life.”
    Whatever the reason may be, if you or your colleagues tend to be dry and dull in the office, you’ll want to work on injecting more humor into your workday.
    Kerr says dozens of surveys suggest that humor can be at least one of the keys to success. A Robert HalfInternational survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.
    “At an organizational level, some organizations are tapping into what I’d call ‘the humor advantage,’” Kerr says. “Companies such as Zappos andSouthwest Airlines LUV +1.09% have used humor and a positive fun culture to help brand their business, attract and retain employees and to attract customers.”
    Taylor says humor demonstrates “maturity and the ability to see the forest through the trees.” You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, she adds, “but well-placed humor that is clever and apropos to a business situation always enhances an employee’s career.”
    Here are 10 additional reasons why humor is a key to success at work:
    People will enjoy working with you. “People want to work with people they like,” Vanderkam says. “Why wouldn’t you? You spend huge chunks of your waking hours at work, so you don’t want it to be a death march. Humor–deftly employed–is a great way to win friends and influence people. You need to be funny, but not snarky (that’s not good for team building) and you can’t offend anyone.”
    Humor is a potent stress buster. “In fact, it’s a triple whammy,” Kerr explains. “Humor offers a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors; an emotional response; and a physical response that relaxes you when you laugh.”
    It is humanizing. “Humor allows both employees and managers to come together, realizing that we all seek common ground,” Taylor says.
    It puts others at ease. Humor is a way to break through the tension barrier, she says.
    “Research shows that humor is a fabulous tension breaker in the workplace,” Kerr adds. “People who laugh in response to a conflict tend to shift from convergent thinking where they can see only one solution, to divergent thinking where multiple ideas are considered.”
    Ha + ha = aha! “Humor is a key ingredient in creative thinking,” Kerr says. “It helps people play with ideas, lower their internal critic, and see things in new ways.” Humor and creativity are both about looking at your challenges in novel ways and about making new connections you’ve never thought about before, he adds.
    Taylor agrees. She says humor “establishes a fertile environment for innovation because people are more inspired when they are relaxed.”
    It helps build trust. “You can build trust with the effective use of humor because humor often reveals the authentic person lurking under the professional mask,” Kerr says.
    He explains that numerous studies suggest that people who share a healthy, positive sense of humor tend be more likable and are viewed as being more trustworthy. “Humor is also viewed as sign of intelligence,” he adds. “All of these characteristics, as well as the fact that humor is a fabulous icebreaker and can tear down walls, can help people build relationships in the workplace, and especially these days, relationships are critical to success.”
    It boosts morale. Humor boosts morale and retention while reducing turnover because employees look forward to coming to work, Taylor says. “Employees like to work for and with others who have a sense of humor. We all prefer to have fun at work. It should not feel like an indentured servitude environment.”
    People who use humor tend to be more approachable. The more approachable you are, especially as a leader, the more honest and open people around you will be, Kerr says. “And the more honest and open people tend to be, the more successful and innovative teams tend to be.”
    Humor can allow your company to stand out. “It can help companies stand out and go beyond with their customer service, garnering them a huge loyal following,” he says. If you want to stand out from the pack, using humor with your service is an effective way to do that.
    It can increase productivity. “Humor creates an upbeat atmosphere that encourages interaction, brainstorming of new ideas, and a feeling that there are few risks in thinking outside the box. All that leads to greater productivity,” Taylor explains. 
    “It also stands to reason that if you’re in a more jovial atmosphere, you’ll have more passion for what you do. Your work ethic will increase, and your enthusiasm will likely be contagious. It’s a win-win for you and your employer.”

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    Leaping Ahead; A Federal Bridge to Transition Cyber-related Products at the Department of Homeland Security

    Editor’s note: This post by Charles Brooks focuses on an area of importance to not just the federal enterprise but to the larger cyber security community. -bg
    Recent Congressional Hearings have called attention to the need for better cooperation between government agencies and the private sector. An excellent example of how to fulfill that goal of successful public/private partnerships is demonstrated by the work of the Transition to Practice Program (TTP) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology (S & T) Directorate.
    TTP was created as a result of the White House’s Federal Cybersecurity R & D Strategic Plan as well as the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). The mandate of TTP is to move promising cybersecurity technologies developed under Department of Energy (DOE) National Labs and Federal Funded Research & Development Centers (FFRDC’s) into the private sector for further development. TTP is a program of collaboration and operates under the Cyber Security Division (CSD) of S & T.
    CSD works closely with Commercialization Office which was stood up in 2008. The Commercialization Office has compiled a listing of over 2,000 technologies, products, and/or services that may have alignment with DHS (and other agencies) needs. CSD and the Commercialization Office maintain a strong focus on fulfilling the technology needs for critical infrastructure/key resource owners, border security, transportation security, and First Responders. CSD involvement is in the full spectrum cycles of the cybersecurity landscape; research, development, testing, evaluation, and transition.
    According to the DHS “Cyber Security Division Transition to Practice Technology Guide” several focus areas cover the critical vulnerability and cybersecurity landscape of the Directorate. These include:  1) Internet Infrastructure Security; 2) Critical Infrastructure/key Resources; 3) National Research infrastructure;  4) Leap-Ahead technologies; 5) Cyber security Education; 6) Identity management; 7) Cyber Forensics; and 8) Software Assurance.
    There are many important cybersecurity capabilities that have resulted directly from the S & T Directorate’s work with industry. These include Domain Name System Security (DNSSEC) that addresses Denial of Service (DNS) weaknesses and Domain Name System Security Secure Signer to protect web transactions and online communications. Secure Ironkey USB Drives for secure web browsing, end-point security and protection against malicious software-related threats. 
    Protected Repository for the Defense of Infrastructure against Cyber Threats (PREDICT) to provide privacy-protected operational network traffic datasets for cybersecurity research and development. DHS Secure Wireless Access Prototype (DSWAP) for secure wireless access solutions for layered defense on protected networks. Other successful technologies and projects that have migrated to operational use both in public and private sectors included Botnet detection and mitigation technology, Data Visualization Tools, Active Malware Protection, and Rootkit Detection and Mitigation technology.
    In S & T DHS formal cyber program structure, preparation for meeting rapidly evolving next-generation threats has made the “leap-Ahead Technologies” a focus area of priority. Rapid proto-typing, and transitioning; showcasing, and providing assistance in commercializing technologies has become important tasks. As a result, the private sector’s role as a partner has been elevated and the Transition to Practice Program (TTP) has garnered notice and appreciation.
    A primary role for TTP is to identify through technology foraging at the DOE National Labs and FFRDC’s and share their capabilities and promise with the private sector, other government agencies, and academia. TTP is committed to outreach, especially with small business. Next month (October) TTP event showcases will showcase eight new innovative cybersecurity technologies developed by the DOE National Labs. 
    Those labs are the backbone of the nation’s scientific & development research national security resources and produce cutting edge ideas and inventions. The ability for the private sector to invest, co-develop and integrate innovative technologies into the cybersecurity marketplace will significantly impact progress in threat deterrence and mitigation.
    The TTP Program is a resource for industry and communication is encouraged.  The TTP program is coordinated by Douglas Maughan, DHS S & T Cyber Security Director and Michael Pozmantier, DHS S & T Cyber Security Program Manager. The office can be reached at
    It would be worthwhile to expand the DHS Science & Technology Director model of “leaping ahead” across agencies in the federal government to encourage a new era of public/private sector collaboration. The best is technology development and commercialization is yet to come.

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    Google’s Boss and a Princeton Professor Agree: College Is a Dinosaur

    Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt speaks during an opening ceremony for a Motorola smartphone factory on Sept. 10 in Fort Worth
    Photograph by LM Otero/AP Photo
    Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt speaks during an opening ceremony for a Motorola smartphone factory on Sept. 10 in Fort Worth
    Colleges and universities are indecisive, slow-moving, and vulnerable to losing their best teachers to the Internet.
    That’s the shared view of Google (GOOG  ) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Department of State official and until this month a tenured professor at Princeton University. They explored the problems of higher education on Friday in a one-on-one conversation sponsored by the New America Foundation  , where Schmidt serves as chairman and Slaughter is the new president.
    Colleges have the luxury of thorough, democratic deliberation of issues because “they never actually do anything,” Schmidt said during the event. He cited Princeton, where he graduated in 1976 and once served as trustee, which spent six years deliberating over whether to change its academic calendar—and in the end did nothing. “Don’t get me started on that,” Slaughter laughed.
    Schmidt was more positive about the un-Princeton-like Khan Academy, on whose board he serves. He said the academy, which offers free online video tutorials on dozens of topics, has begun to analyze students’ answers to figure out which questions do the best job of assessing mastery of a topic.
    The Google boss also had kind words for EdX, a nonprofit created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that lets students take “interesting, fun, and rigorous courses” for free. Google and EdX announced this week that the tech giant will host a platform called Open EdX   in a bid to make it easier for anyone to create online courses. “The fun will start,” Schmidt said, as new ventures smash up against incumbents that resist change.
    Slaughter agreed that traditional colleges and universities, with their high fixed costs, are at risk. “They’re going to lose their top talent,” she said. “We can become global teachers. The best people can become free agents.”
    Speaking from the audience, BuzzFeed President Jon Steinberg said he doesn’t think his young children will need to attend college. “I don’t want my kids to go to college unless they desperately want to be scholars.”
    That was a bridge too far for Schmidt. He said college “just produces a better adult.” While acknowledging that Google’s college recruits aren’t equipped to contribute immediately, he said, “They are phenomenal employees after the training program.”
    Schmidt said entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who pays young people to launch startups instead of studying in college, “is just fundamentally wrong. We want more educated people.”

    Shyam's opinion
    I do not agree with Eric Schmidt.
    Dinosaur were live and vibrant entities which created such a huge image and impression, that people remember them even after 200 million years.
    Comparing the colleges with the Dinosaurs would mean conferring a status of live entities on the colleges which is not correct.
    They are at best museum pieces still surviving on their past glory, only thing big about them is the cost, which naturally is back breaking for the students.
    But then exceptions are there, and fortunately some of them are located in USA.
    However most of the quality, economical and industry friendly education is emerging from Asia. China is leading the way with India being not far behind.
    Then there emerging educational hubs like Dubai, and Singapore, which are already making noises.
    Even If you think the educational system is dead,remember that resurrection is not all that far off.
    There is still a lot of scope for hope and optimism.

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    Wharton Puts First-Year MBA Courses Online for Free

    Getting a Wharton MBA involves taking off from work for two years, moving to Philadelphia, and spending about $200,000 on tuition and expenses. Now, with the addition of three new courses on the online learning platform Coursera, you can get much of the course content for free.

    While you won’t get the full Wharton on-campus experience—or an internship, career services, or alumni network, for that matter—the new courses in financial accounting, marketing, and corporate finance duplicate much of what you would learn during your first year at the elite business school, says Don Huesman, managing director of the innovation group at Wharton.
    A fourth course in operations management that’s been offered since September rounds out the “foundation series.” Along with five existing electives, which include courses on sports business and health care, the new offerings make it possible to learn much of what students in Wharton’s full-time MBA program learn, and from the same professors. All nine courses are massive open online courses, or MOOCs, expected to attract students from around the world.
    “This is the first time that a business school has bundled a collection of MOOCs together in this fashion,” Huesman says of the foundation series. “We’re taking our core required classes in the MBA program, with the same instructors, to provide those same core concepts.”
    All four courses in the foundation series are 6 to 10 weeks long, with the first, financial accounting, starting on Sept. 16. Each consists of a combination of prerecorded lectures and interactive features, such as discussion boards that allow students to ask questions and get answers from the professor or an assistant.
    Huesman says the MOOCs are not watered-down versions of Wharton’s on-campus classes. In fact, some professors at the school are using the MOOC content in their own classes, asking students to watch the lessons beforehand so that class time can be used for discussion—a practice known as “flipping” a class.
    Students in all four courses are eligible, for a $49 fee, to receive a verified electronic certificate indicating that they’ve completed the course requirements.
    Huesman says Wharton has no plans to accept the certificates for course credit should students subsequently enroll at Wharton, adding that “there’s a very different experience that happens in a two-year immersion in a community of scholars that culminates in a degree.” But he says what students learn in the online classes can be used to “test out” of required courses just as those with knowledge of the subject matter can do now.
    About 700,000 students in 173 countries have already enrolled in Wharton MOOCs, more than the combined enrollment in Wharton’s traditional MBA and undergraduate programs since the school’s founding in 1881, according to Huesman. Additional courses are in the pipeline, he says.

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    Seriously, How Much Did You Learn in College?

    Seriously, How Much Did You Learn in College?
    Photograph by Bob O'Connor/Gallery Stock
    Now here’s a fresh idea: College grads are starting to be judged by how much they learned instead of how much ivy grew on their campus walls or how good their football team was. Standardized tests that were once strictly for high school are invading higher education.
    A story today   in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall) reports that:
    “Next spring, seniors at about 200 U.S. colleges will take a new test that could prove more important to their future than final exams: an SAT-like assessment that aims to cut through grade-point averages and judge students’ real value to employers.”
    It’s called the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, and it’s administered by the Council for Aid to Education. The CLA+ isn’t multiple choice, like the SAT. It requires students to write lengthy essays to test their scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical reading comprehension, problem-solving skills, and writing ability.
    The Educational Testing Service, which runs the beloved (not) SAT, has its own two-year pilot program, which began last December, in which students can have their GRE scores sent to potential employers, not just to graduate schools.
    This could be big. If standardized testing becomes the norm in higher education, little-known schools that truly educate their students could leapfrog over famous ones whose students coast once they’re safely in the door. Standardized testing could be a boon in particular to such organizations as edX, Udacity, and Coursera that offer massive open online courses (MOOCs).
    Today I interviewed Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education, a New York City-based nonprofit. He described himself as “an old arts-and-sciences guy” who was initially suspicious of standardized testing.
    What changed his mind, he said, was the magnitude of the challenge. “We have got to move very aggressively to provide post-secondary education and training” to millions of Americans, and “there aren’t enough spots in Princeton” for all of them, he says. Third-party corroboration from organizations such as his and the ETS can help solve the problem, Benjamin says, by validating the quality of the education provided by new and less-familiar institutions.
    I also spoke with Christine Betaneli, a spokesman for the higher education division of the ETS. She says that in addition to letting college grads have their GRE scores sent to employers, ETS is offering two tests, the ETS Proficiency Profile and the iSkills Assessment. Students who take those get certificates they can list on their résumés.
    Betaneli says the certification is popular with schools that feel they have something to prove. “We know from our work with our customers,” she says, “that they are eager to demonstrate the learning that’s taking place at their institutions.”

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    Five Trends Shaping India’s Voting Landscape
    Milan Vaishnav

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.

    Hundreds of millions of Indians will take part in the largest organized democratic exercise ever recorded in the spring of 2014, barring the collapse of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government led by the Indian National Congress or a move by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call an early general election. If all goes according to plan, by June India will have selected 543 members of the sixteenth Lok Sabha, the popularly elected lower house of parliament or the House of the People. The makeup of the house will determine who emerges as the country’s next prime minister.

    India, like the United States, is divided up into parliamentary constituencies (similar to congressional districts), and the person who wins the most votes in each constituency is elected. In this winner-take-all system (referred to as “first past the post”), the “election” is actually a series of 543 discrete constituency elections. The party, or coalition of parties, that manages to cobble together a majority of parliamentary seats forms the government.

     India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  

    Five striking structural trends that have emerged in India’s fifteen postindependence elections set the stage for 2014’s political contest. For starters, political competition in India has grown rapidly, particularly in the last two decades, ushering in a complex, fragmented party system. As elections have become more competitive, the average margin of victory in a typical parliamentary constituency has plummeted, reaching a record low in 2009. 

    The intensity of competition, coupled with the idiosyncrasies of India’s electoral rules, has also made forecasting elections more difficult, as a small swing in aggregate vote share can have massive repercussions on the number of seats a given party wins (or loses). 
    Despite these trends, voter turnout has grown only modestly with popular participation varying across states. In fact, states are important players in many ways. India’s union has become significantly more decentralized, with its federal states playing a much more substantial role in the daily lives of their citizens. This, in turn, has solidified the primacy of state-level considerations even when it comes to voting in national elections. 

    The media has portrayed the upcoming contest as a head-to-head battle between the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition force led into elections by Gujarat state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi. But a closer look at these five trends that have unfolded over the last six decades illustrates why the election will likely hinge on a confluence of local factors. 


    The most striking trend in Indian electoral politics is the explosion in political competition in recent years. In the 1952 general election, the first held after India won independence, 55 parties took part; in 2009, 370 parties entered the fray (see figure 1). The surge in political competition began in the 1980s—the number of parties contesting elections jumped from 38 in 1984 to 117 in 1989, a watershed year in Indian politics. It was only the second time since independence that the Congress Party was ousted from power. The dramatic surge in 1989 is explained by the proliferation of regional parties, which formed in direct response to popular disenchantment with Congress rule and the lack of representation for lower and backward castes, minorities, and regional or subregional interests. 

    The 1989 election heralded the end of single-party rule in India and the rise of multiparty coalition government, which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. This further incentivized the growth of regional parties, whose leaders recognized that they could wield considerable influence in the formation of governments with a relatively small number of seats in parliament. 

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  
    Yet, simply evaluating the number of parties participating in elections risks overstating the increase in competition because many parties are only minor contenders—with little chance of winning a sizeable number of votes or even a single seat for that matter. Between 1952 and 1984, the Lok Sabha saw on average 19 distinct parties occupying seats on its benches. After 1989, that number has averaged around 33. Following the 2009 election, 37 parties gained representation in parliament (today, that number stands at 39).

    Weighing the number of parties by the number of seats they actually won in parliament—a common metric known as the “effective number of parties  ”—is a more accurate gauge of competition. Even using this refined measure, the increase remains substantial. The effective number of parties in India stood at 1.7 in 1952, grew to 4.3 in 1989, and rose to 6.5 in 2009 (see figure 2). To place this number in comparative context, Canada’s 2011 parliamentary election   produced 3.4 effective parties while Brazil’s 2006 election produced over 10. 

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  
    The effective number of parties varies greatly across India; indeed, states have developed their own “party systems.” For instance, in states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, elections are a bipolar contest between Congress and the BJP—the only two parties with a truly national reach. In several other states, such as Mizoram and Nagaland in the northeast, the contest is between Congress and a regional party. In Karnataka or Punjab, the contest is somewhere between a straight bipolar contest and a three-way race, typically with a regional party emerging as a significant player. And there are a handful of states with badly fragmented, multiparty systems. One example is Uttar Pradesh; many of the state’s constituencies feature a four-way race between the Congress Party, BJP, and two viable regional parties.


    As the number of parties seeking—and winning—representation in parliament has steadily increased, so has the closeness of elections. The average margin of victory in a parliamentary constituency between 1962 and 2009 has decreased over time (see figure 3). From 1962 to 1977, elections in India actually became less competitive, with the average margin of victory in a constituency growing from nearly 15 percent in 1962 to 26 percent in 1977. Both 1971 and 1977 were unique “wave” elections. In 1971, the then Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi secured a landslide victory, and she was badly punished six years later in the wake of a two-year period of Emergency rule. Since 1977, however, the average margin of victory has come down substantially: in 2009, it registered at 9.7 percent, the thinnest margin since independence.

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  
    This degree of competitiveness at the constituency level in India is striking when compared to other electoral systems with similar winner-take-all electoral laws. For instance, the average margin of victory in a 2012 United States congressional race   was nearly 32 percent—more than three times as large as in India. The average margin of victory in Britain’s 2010 parliamentary election was more than 18 percent. 

    As the number of parties (and, hence, candidates) increases and margins of victory shrink, a dwindling number of candidates win elections with the support of a majority of voters in their constituencies. As recently as 1999, as many as 40 percent of winning candidates enjoyed majority support. This figure has come down sharply in recent years, raising questions about the “legitimacy” of candidates   who win with only minority support. In 2009, candidates won with more than 50 percent of the vote in a mere 22 percent of constituencies.


    Although the number of players in elections has grown exponentially and the competitiveness of elections has correspondingly shot up, looking back at the last several national election cycles, it appears as if the share of votes earned by Congress, the BJP, and the total of the remaining (principally regional) parties combined is actually in relative equilibrium (see figure 4). 

    In 1996, Congress earned slightly less than 29 percent of the vote, while the BJP and smaller regional parties won 20 and 51 percent, respectively. Although there have been modest fluctuations in votes in the intervening elections, the shifts in vote shares over the past two decades have not been dramatic. In 2009, Congress won 28.5 percent of the vote; this was almost identical to its showing in both 1996 and 1999. The BJP’s vote share peaked in 1998, when it took home 25.6 percent of the vote. Since then, its vote share has declined slightly to 19 percent, down a little over one percentage point from its 1996 tally. The other parties held 51 percent of the vote in 1996 and 52.5 percent of the vote in 2009. 

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  
    But appearances can be deceiving. There is a bias built into India’s electoral rules  , which often results in a discrepancy between the share of votes won and the share of seats earned. For instance, the Bahujan Samaj Party won nearly 26 million votes (or 6.2 percent of the all-India vote share), yet in the vast majority of the 500 constituencies in which it fielded a candidate, it earned a relatively small share of the vote. The party performed well in its stronghold of Uttar Pradesh (winning 21 seats there), but its vote share outside of the state was too small to pick up additional seats. 

    There is rarely a perfect one-to-one correlation between votes and seats. Take the Congress Party. For every 1 percent share of the vote Congress garnered in 1977, it was rewarded with .9 seats (see figure 5). But in 1980, that changed drastically: a 1 percentage point increase in vote share was suddenly worth nearly 1.7 seats. This ratio is difficult to predict, and it varies wildly over election cycles; both the magnitude and the direction of bias can fluctuate substantially.

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  
    Even very small changes in the vote share can have dramatic impacts on the number of seats won. For instance, in 1999 and 2009 the Congress Party won an almost identical share of votes (28.3 versus 28.5 percent, respectively). 

    Yet, with just a 0.2 percentage point difference in vote share, the party’s seat share rose from 25.8 percent (140 seats) to nearly 37.9 percent (206 seats). What triggers this effect is how broadly spread (or concentrated) a party’s vote share is at the level of individual constituencies. On an all-India level, a party’s aggregate vote share might not change much from one election to the next, but the distribution of where it got its votes could vary based on local factors such as the extent of competition and thus the fragmentation of the vote. 


    Voter turnout in national elections has grown at a relatively modest clip over the years (see figure 6). In 1962, overall turnout stood at 55.5 percent, while in the 2009 election the number was 59.4 percent. This rate has fluctuated within a relatively defined band, from a low of 55.2 percent in 1971 to 64.1 percent in 1984, the year Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. 

    However, looking at average turnout rates, as with almost any statistic regarding national politics, masks a great deal of variation at the state level. For instance, average turnout rates in Kerala since 1977 have hovered around 73 percent, more than 20 percentage points higher than the average in Uttar Pradesh. But even state-level averages can be deceiving if one is trying to gauge voter mobilization in India’s states: the differences in voter turnout across constituencies within states are almost as large as those between states. For instance, in 2009 turnout in the state of Maharashtra ranged from 39 percent in parts of urban Mumbai to over 70 percent in rural Gondiya.

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  


    As India’s federal system has become more decentralized, states have become the primary venues of political contestation. While a party’s prime ministerial candidate and issues concerning national policy can and do often matter, national elections are increasingly shaped, though not predetermined  , by state-level factors. 

    One consequence of states moving to the forefront of voters’ minds is that turnout in state elections has gradually overtaken turnout in national elections. Average state turnout has been increasing over time (see figure 7), and indeed the turnout gap between state and national elections has risen in kind. 

    India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.  
    State electoral systems also determine the slate of options available to voters in national polls. This is true both in terms of the parties contesting elections as well as the social cleavages (such as caste) that shape voting behavior. 

    In addition, the interaction between state and national elections is also affected by the vagaries of the electoral calendar. The general rule of thumb   is that when state assembly polls are held no more than two years prior to national polls, state ruling parties enjoy a “honeymoon” when it comes to national elections. For instance, in all nine states that held state elections within a year of the 2004 and the 2009 national elections, the same party won the largest share of seats in both state and national elections. 

    Conversely, when state governments are in the final two years of their term headed into national elections, the odds that they will succeed on the national level plummet. The reverse relationship—national elections impacting state results—also holds true, albeit in a much more modest way.

    In an election held this past May, the ruling BJP was trounced in polls in the southern state of Karnataka, with the Congress Party bagging 121 seats (out of 224) to win a clear majority. The outcome represents a serious defeat for the BJP, not only because Karnataka had been the party’s only foothold in southern India, but also because the proximity to national elections means Congress is likely to do quite well in the spring’s national polls.

     Similarly, the stakes are high for state assembly elections that are due at the end of 2013 in four major states: Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Together, these states account for 72 Lok Sabha seats (or 13 percent of the overall total). To a large extent, all of these elections are head-to-head contests between Congress and the BJP, with smaller, regional parties playing only a marginal role.


    These five trends—increasing political competition, declining margins of victory, the complex translation of votes into seats, modest growth in national voter turnout, and the federalized nature of the electoral system—provide the context for India’s 2014 Lok Sabha election. They point to the complexity and richness of India’s electoral system and help clarify why India has often been considered a pollster’s nightmare.

    It is perhaps too simplistic to declare that national elections in India are the sum total of thirty-five state-level contests; after all, national-level political leaders, issues, and dynamics—or even nationwide “waves”—can and do influence vote choice. Yet the growing relevance of local factors when it comes to determining national election outcomes is a trend that political observers ignore at their peril.

    View at the original source

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    Stanford scientists use 'wired microbes' to generate electricity from sewage

    An interdisciplinary team has created a "microbial battery" driven by naturally occurring bacteria that have evolved to produce electricity as they digest organic material.
    Xing Xie, Stanford EngineeringThe tubular growth depicted here is a type of microbe that can produce electricity. Its wire-like tendrils are attached to a carb
    The tubular growth depicted here is a type of microbe that can produce electricity. Its wire-like tendrils are attached to a carbon filament. This image is taken with a scanning electron microscope. More than 100 of these 'exoelectrogenic microbes' could fit side by side in a human hair.
    Engineers at Stanford have devised a new way to generate electricity from sewage, using naturally occurring "wired microbes" as mini power plants, producing electricity as they digest plant and animal waste.
    In a paper published today   in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authors Yi Cui  , a materials scientist, Craig Criddle  , an environmental engineer, and Xing Xie, an interdisciplinary researcher, call their invention a microbial battery.
    They hope it will be used in places such as sewage treatment plants, or to break down organic pollutants in the "dead zones" of lakes and coastal waters where fertilizer runoff and other organic waste can deplete oxygen levels and suffocate marine life.
    At the moment, however, their laboratory prototype is about the size of a D-cell battery and looks like a chemistry experiment, with two electrodes, one positive, the other negative, plunged into a bottle of wastewater.
    Inside that murky vial, attached to the negative electrode like barnacles to a ship's hull, an unusual type of bacteria feast on particles of organic waste and produce electricity that is captured by the battery's positive electrode.
    "We call it fishing for electrons," said Criddle, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering.
    Scientists have long known of the existence of what they call exoelectrogenic microbes – organisms that evolved in airless environments and developed the ability to react with oxide minerals rather than breathe oxygen as we do, to convert organic nutrients into biological fuel.
    Over the last dozen years or so, several research groups have tried various ways to use these microbes as bio-generators, but tapping this energy efficiently has proven challenging.
    What is new about the microbial battery is a simple yet efficient design that puts these exoelectrogenic bacteria to work.
    At the battery's negative electrode, colonies of wired microbes cling to carbon filaments that serve as efficient electrical conductors. Using a scanning electron microscope, the Stanford team captured images of these microbes attaching milky tendrils to the carbon filaments.
    "You can see that the microbes make nanowires to dump off their excess electrons," Criddle said. To put the images into perspective, about 100 of these microbes could fit, side by side, in the width of a human hair.
    As these microbes ingest organic matter and convert it into biological fuel, their excess electrons flow into the carbon filaments, and across to the positive electrode, which is made of silver oxide, a material that attracts electrons.
    The electrons flowing to the positive node gradually reduce the silver oxide to silver, storing the spare electrons in the process. According to Xie, after a day or so the positive electrode has absorbed a full load of electrons and has largely been converted into silver.
    At that point it is removed from the battery and re-oxidized back to silver oxide, releasing the stored electrons.
    The Stanford engineers estimate that the microbial battery can extract about 30 percent of the potential energy locked up in wastewater. That is roughly the same efficiency at which the best commercially available solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.
    Of course, there is far less energy potential in wastewater. Even so, the inventors say the microbial battery is worth pursuing because it could offset some of the electricity now used to treat wastewater. That use currently accounts for about 3 percent of the total electrical load in developed nations. 

    Most of this electricity goes toward pumping air into wastewater at conventional treatment plants where ordinary bacteria use oxygen in the course of digestion, just like humans and other animals.
    Looking ahead, the Stanford engineers say their biggest challenge will be finding a cheap but efficient material for the positive node.
    "We demonstrated the principle using silver oxide, but silver is too expensive for use at large scale," said Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering.
    "Though the search is underway for a more practical material, finding a substitute will take time."

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    Median Income Falls For 5th Year, Inequality At Record High

    No wonder so few Americans seem to think their economy is in recovery: They keep getting poorer. Unless they are rich, in which case they keep getting richer.
    Median household income fell for the fifth straight year in 2012, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday  , to $51,017. That was the lowest annual income, adjusted for inflation, since 1995.
    The typical American family's income has fallen every year since 2007, the year the Great Recession began, for a cumulative decline of 8.3 percent. Median income is also down 9 percent from its record high of $56,080, set two recessions ago in 1999. (Story continues below depressing chart.)
    shrinking incomes
    While median income has fallen, the incomes of top earners have continued to rise, making income inequality worse. The Census Bureau's measure of inequality, known as the "Gini index," held steady at 0.477 in 2012, but at the record high set in 2011. A Gini index of 0 means perfect income equality, an index of 1 means one person would get all of the nation's income. We're slowly grinding our way towards 1.
    The top 5 percent of all households earned 22.3 percent of all the nation's income in 2012, matching its haul in 2011. The median income of households in the top 5 percent rose to $318,052 from $317,950 in 2011. The income of these highest-earning Americans has recovered completely from a dip during and after the recession, compared with the 8 percent decline for the median American household.
    The racial differences in income are even starker: The median income for black households was $33,321 last year, less than half the median income for Asian households. The current federal poverty threshold for a family of four   is $23,550.
    These numbers help explain why, even though the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009  , and even as President Barack Obama touts   "progress" in the economy, one-third of Americans think we are still in a recession   or a depression, according to a recent survey.
    For many of them, the recovery has been worse than the recession.

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    Nina Davuluri

    Nina Davuluri
    Nina Davuluri is the first Indian Girl to win Miss America Beauty Pageant. She was crowned Miss America 2014 on September 15 at a function held at New Jersey. She is also the first Indian to be crowned with Miss New York  and Miss Syracuse titles.
    Miss America is a beauty pageant that awards scholarships to young women in United States.
    She is an excellent Dancer and lists Bollywood Dance as her primary talent on Miss America official page. She is a trained Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam for past 15 years. She is also an excellent piano player and can wield the tennis racquet with aplomb.
    In 2006 she was the first runner-up of Miss Teen America. Despite struggling with problems like Asthma, Bulimia and Overweight, she managed win a series of Beauty Pageants in 2013 including, Miss Syracuse, Miss New York and Miss America.
    She is proud to be an Indian. “I was the first Indian Miss New York and I’m so proud to be the first Indian Miss America,” she said in an interview. She visits India every summer along with her parents.
    Her mother Sheila Ranjani and father Davuluri Koteshwara Choudhary hail from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh and migrated to US in 1981. Davuluri Koteswara Choudhary is a practising gynaecologist in New York, while her mother Sheila Ranjani is a web programmer.
    She was born on April 20, 1989 in Syracuse. He her family later moved to Michigan, where she attended the University of Michigan and graduated with a degree in Brain and Cognitive Science. In past she has won several Scholastic Honors like, Dean’s List; Michigan Merit Award and National Honor Society Award.
    She plans to become a Doctor as per her family tradition. Her maternal aunt and uncle are doctors in India while her father’s siblings are doctors in the US. With the prize money $50,000, she hopes to fund her higher education in Medicine. She also holds the title of Miss Syracuse 2013.
    (Note: This biography may be incomplete as much less information is available. We are trying to make it comprehensive by adding more information regularly)

    Nina Davuluri

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In this Indian name, the name Davuluri is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given nameNina.

    Page semi-protected

    Nina Davuluri

    Beauty pageant titleholder


    April 20, 1989 (age 24)
    Syracuse, New York

    Alma mater


    5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)

    Hair color


    Eye color



    Miss Syracuse 2013
    Miss New York 2013
    Miss America 2014


    Nina Davuluri (Teluguనీనా దావులూరి, born April 20, 1989)[1] is an American beauty pageant titleholder who was named Miss New York 2013, subsequently winningMiss America 2014. She is the first Indian American to be chosen as Miss America.[2][3]

    Davuluri was born in SyracuseNew York, but moved to Oklahoma at age four and later to St. Joseph[4] Michigan. She attended college at the University of Michigan. Along with her family, she moved back to the Syracuse suburb ofFayetteville in the mid-2000s, where her father is a gynecologist affiliated with St. Joseph's Hospital.[5]



    ·         1 Background

    ·         2 Miss America

    ·         3 References

    ·         4 External links


    Davuluri was born to Telugu parents. Her mother Sheila Ranjani, software engineer, and father Davuluri Koteshwara Choudhary both hailed originally from VijayawadaAndhra PradeshIndia.[6] In 1981, they left for Missouri (United States), where her father worked as a gynecologist. Her maternal aunt and uncle in India are also doctors and run a nursing home, while her father’s siblings are doctors in the United States. Following the family trend, she wishes to become a cardiologist.[7] To honor her Indian roots, she became a trained Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam danseuse during her yearly visits to India. Davuluri has learned to play piano as well and she regularly watches Telugu films (Tollywood) to stay connected with India.[7][8]

    Davuluri attended the University of Michigan and has won several scholastic honors including the Dean's List, Michigan Merit Award, and National Honor Society Award.[3] She graduated with a degree in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science. In 2006 she placed Runner-up for Miss Teen America.[8] She prepared herself a whole year for the Miss America competition. According to her grandmother Koteswaramma support came from "her mother, most importantly she has strong attachment to India and the city of Vijayawada," where she spent 2 years as a baby girl.[8]

    Miss America

    Davuluri was crowned as Miss America on September 15, 2013, the second Miss Syracuse to win the competition after Vanessa Williams in 1983. Congresswoman Grace Meng congratulated Davuluri and compared her win with the first Jewish-American title won by Bess Myerson in 1945. Several commentators noted that the title was a milestone for the Indian-American and the Asian-American community as a whole. Davuluri was left on stage with first Runner-Up Chinese-American Miss CaliforniaCrystal Lee when she said, "We’re making history standing here as Asian Americans."[9]

    The title announcement was met by a backlash of anti-Indian sentiments in social media. [10] News agencies cited tweets which misidentified her as Muslim or Arab and associated her with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.[11][12] Davuluri responded to this criticism, "I have to rise above that, I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."[13]

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    American President #Barack_Obama shows courage to act timid in case of #Syria.

    This despite the fact that, the Secretary of State #John_Kerry was prepared to reopen his fabrication plant and produce bulk quantities of  lies and alibis to strengthen and  add justification for military action on Syria.

    But the people of America refused to be fooled by the falsehood and lies of the secretary of state.

    Secretary Colin Powell was very lucky in this respect in 2003, perhaps because of his military background, he was able to convince the United States and world about the non existent Weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

    Unfortunately Mr. Kerry was not all that fortunate,probably because he was carrying the bad luggage left by Mr. Powell. Mr. Kerry's portfolio was still stinking  because of Iraq & WMD. Madam Clinton tried her best, but couldn't cleanse it completely.

    President Bashir Assad of Syria is no saint either, but when he says that United States has failed to produce a single shred of evidence. American silence makes him look far more credible than he actually is.

    For once, the world including Syria regime critics have shown no interest in what President Obama had to say about chemical weapons in Syria and its use of the same in August.

    United Kingdom and specially its Prime Minister, who is always keen to back the United States in all its misadventure was intelligently and thoughtfully stopped in the tracks by the parliament.

    President Obama developing cold feet at the last minute, is  for Syria, the world and the humankind an great blessing in disguise.

    Good, #Tomahawks will not sing satanic verses in #Syria as they did in #Iraq a decade back. Thanks President #Obama for small mercies

    A welcome development and an occasion to rejoice.

    Shyamsunder Panchavati

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    Tata Sons in the cockpit again

    Eighteen years after their last joint effort was scuttled by the government of the day, Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines (SIA) have tied the knot again — this time to form a full-service domestic airline based in New Delhi.

    The Tatas had entered the aviation space in February this year, with Tony Fernandes’ AirAsia. But that alliance was for low-cost operations and Tata Sons had made it clear that the joint venture (JV) would be run by AirAsia, which holds a 49 per cent stake. Delhi’s Bhatia family is also a partner in the JV, with a 21 per cent stake, while Tatas hold 30 per cent.

    On the other hand, in the new venture, the brand name for which has yet to be announced, the Tatas will be the driving force with a 51 per cent stake, while SIA would take the rest. And, the two have made a commitment to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to invest $100 million to begin with. In contrast, the initial equity investment in the AirAsia JV was less than a third of this — at $30 million.

    ALSO READ: Tatas and Aviation: 5 interesting facts

    The three-member board of the Tata-SIA venture will have two Tata nominees — Tata Industries Director Prasad Menon as chairman, and member of Tata Sons’ executive council, Mukund Rajan. Mak Swee Wah, SIA’s executive vice-president (commercial) will represent the foreign carrier.

    Given the capacity constraints at the Mumbai airport and better infrastructure facilities at the Delhi one, the two parties have decided to make Delhi their operational hub.

    Analysts feared this new venture could impact the AirAsia JV. But Tata group sources said such fears were unfounded, as the Malaysian company was aware of the negotiations right from the beginning and had no objection to Tatas going ahead with such a deal.

    A senior executive of a competing airline said, in a country where full-service carriers were competing with low-cost ones on tariffs and sometimes even offering lower pricing, there might be a conflict of business interest between the two JVs.

    Sources in the know countered that, saying the two ventures would actually complement each other. For instance, AirAsia is launching its Indian operations with Airbus A-320, while SIA has a variety of Airbus aircraft. A common fleet, with common spares and maintenance support, could be one key area of synergy between the two. They also said there could be synergies in other areas like ground-handling, route planning, etc.

    Explaining the role Tatas would play, Rajan said Tata Sons would fully participate in the management and operations of the airline. As with its other joint ventures with globally respected companies, Tata will play an active role in operations and leverage its understanding of the Indian industrial landscape.

    He added, according to Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa) data for 2012, per-capita domestic airline seat in India was very low, at just 0.07. In comparison, the number stands at 3.35 in Australia, 2.49 in the US, 1.38 in Canada and 1.05 in Japan.

    Menon said civil aviation in India offered sustainable growth potential, while Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said the airline had always been a strong believer in the growth potential of India’s aviation sector.

    Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said in New Delhi that he was informed about the joint venture on Thursday itself. “Prasad Menon came to apprise me of the plans for the new airline venture. This is the first time they have met me about the proposal,” he said.”

    Civil aviation sources said the current rules were silent on whether an entity could own two separate airline companies. But a ministry official said this was not a problem. Air India, too, has Air India Express as a low-cost subsidiary.”

    Even apart from their Air India connection, the Tatas have a long history in aviation. In 1991, the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had asked J R D Tata to explore setting up a domestic airline. Though nothing happened at that time, Rao revived a proposal to set up an airline in India during his meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, who insisted the Tatas be the partner. After this, an official from the Prime Minister’s Office spoke to Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Group, to consider such a proposal.

    The move fructified in 1995 when the Tatas put in an application to set up a JV with SIA to start a domestic airline in which it would have a 40 per cent stake. However, a strong opposition from domestic private airlines hindered the project, which went through many phases. The government first asked the Tatas to bring down SIA’s share to 50 per cent and then to 40 per cent. Later, succumbing to stiff opposition, the government decided not to allow any foreign investment in the country’s aviation sector.

    In 2001, the Tata group made another attempt to pick up a 40 per cent stake in Air India, with SIA as partner, through a disinvestment process. But opposition to the deal forced SIA to back out.

    Kapil Kaul, head of Capa, welcomed the move but raised some key questions. “Capa believes approval of foreign airlines to invest in India was a game-changing decision and we have seen three serious announcements in the past year; one or two more are likely in the near term,” he said. However, there were regulatory and policy uncertainty and there still was no clarity on the issue of new airline licences, he added.

    “Overall, government policies have always raised entry risks for serious players, Capa said, adding that the announcement could play out negatively on AirAsia’s regulatory approval.

    For SIA, the deal makes perfect sense. The tie-up with the Tata group has come a few months after SIA sold its 49 per cent stake in Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airlines for $360 million. Analysts said continuing the Virgin Atlantic investment made little strategic sense for the airline, as Virgin’s main market was the US and the Carribean, whereas SIA had been increasingly focused on Asian and Australian markets for growth.

    Another driver for the airline’s investment in India could be competition. Although SIA commands a 15-20 per cent capacity share of the India-South East Asia market — the highest among airlines operating from India — it faces challenge from the AirAsia group and Indian low-cost airlines like IndiGo. This competition will only intensify in the coming years, as both IndiGo and AirAsia have committed huge orders for Airbus A320 aircraft.

    Singapore Airlines vice-president (public affairs) Nicholas Ionides said the new airline was likely to operate international flights from India, depending on government approvals. The Indian JV airline could also benefit from SIA’s expertise in running a cargo and engineering services company. Apart from revenue benefits, it could also help save cost. Ionides said it was premature to discuss the issue and refused to comment.

    The Tata group has a long history of cooperation with Singapore. It runs a flight kitchen in a JV with Singapore Airport Terminal Services (TajSats) and has partnered with Changi airport to explore airport development in the country.

    Success at last

    * Early ’90s: Tatas envisage setting up a domestic airline but need a partner; the then PM meets Singapore PM, both agree on setting up a carrier in India under comprehensive economic cooperation; Tatas are sounded out

    * 1995: Tatas apply to set up a JV, with SIA a 60% partner; SIA agrees to bring down equity to 40% after demands the Indian partner hold a majority stake; deal is blocked as domestic carriers oppose foreign investment in aviation

    * 2001: With SIA, Tatas bid for a 40% stake in Air India and remain the sole bidder as Hindujas withdraw; but SIA backs out as opposition to divestment gets stronger

    A look at the reach of Tatas’ JV partners in the aviation space

    Singapore AIrlines

    Business model: Full-service
    Flies to: 63 destinations across Asia (11 in India), Australasia, Europe, N America, Africa, W Asia
    Key markets: Heavily exposed to passenger markets in North America and Europe
    Target: Has been trying to gain footprint in Asia-Pacific; raised frequencies to India by 24%, to China by 71% and to Australia by 45% over the past 3 years
    Fleet: 101 aircraft
    India market share: 2.7%


    Business model: Low-cost

    Flies to: 85 destinations in 20 countries (from Thailand and Malaysia to five Indian cities)

    Fleet: 118 aircraft

    India market share: 0.80%

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