Daily Archives: November 5, 2008

Flying car based on Ferrari ‘could be reality within two years’

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The flying car, supposedly based on a Ferrari, could one day ferry commuters to work  Photo: SOLENT NEWS

A flying car based on a Ferrari could be ferrying wealthy commuters to work within two years, designers have predicted..

Telegraph | Nov 3, 2008

The ‘Autovolantor’ – based on a £200,000 Ferrari 599 GTB – is being developed by “Moller International”.

It will have the ability to take off vertically and hover thanks to eight powerful thrusters which direct air down for take off. Vents then tilt so the car can fly forward.

The car is expected to be able to do 100mph on the ground and 150mph in the air.

The calculated airborne range is 75 miles and ground range is 150 miles.

Designer Bruce Calkins says the car features a specially designed hybrid fuel and electric system to power the thrusters, creating as much as 800 horse power.

He believes it will be able to fly at altitudes of up to 5,000ft.

Mr Calkins said: “The Autovolantor is powered by eight fans mounted in the fuselage of the vehicle.

“On the ground these fans push the vehicle around with a firm but not-too-powerful thrust of deflected air.

“Small vanes in the exit area of the ducts can direct the air forward or back, or remain in the neutral position for vertical take off and landing.

“Once in the air the vehicle manoeuvres like a helicopter, tilting nose down to move forward, rolling right or left for changes in direction.

“While maximum altitude could be much higher, the energy to obtain altitudes above 5,000 feet would be significant so we expect it to stay below that height.”

Moller chose the Ferrari to be the model for the ground-breaking machine because of its distinctive shape.

Mr Calkins, Moller’s general manager, added: “The Ferrari 599 GTB has the general shape and layout we were looking for.

“Using it allowed us to quickly modify a readily available scale model and run some wind tunnel tests to establish the technical feasibility of the project.

“At first we were very sceptical that we could adapt a ground-vehicle with our technologies and make it work.

“But the model allowed us to quickly verify that it could in fact be done.”

Mr Calkins said he hopes the vehicle’s ability to “quick hop’ out of traffic’ could mean they attract the backing to fund the project.

He estimates a cost of around £500,000 per car.

GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers committing suicide after using genetically modified crops

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Human tragedy: A farmer and child in India’s ‘suicide belt’

Daily Mail | Nov 3, 2008

By Andrew Malone

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbours prepared their father’s body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home.

As flames consumed the corpse, Ganjanan, 12, and Kalpana, 14, faced a grim future. While Shankara Mandaukar had hoped his son and daughter would have a better life under India’s economic boom, they now face working as slave labour for a few pence a day. Landless and homeless, they will be the lowest of the low.

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Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years’ earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.

There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on – they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless – as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.

Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home 100 miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end.

As neighbours gathered to pray outside the family home, Nirmala Mandaukar, 50, told how she rushed back from the fields to find her husband dead. ‘He was a loving and caring man,’ she said, weeping quietly.

‘But he couldn’t take any more. The mental anguish was too much. We have lost everything.’

Shankara’s crop had failed – twice. Of course, famine and pestilence are part of India’s ancient story.

But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts – and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

The crisis, branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.

Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning ‘the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming… from the failure of many GM crop varieties’.

Ranged against the Prince are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.

The rest of the world, they insist, should embrace ‘the future’ and follow suit.

So who is telling the truth? To find out, I travelled to the ‘suicide belt’ in Maharashtra state.

What I found was deeply disturbing – and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.

For official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month.

Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide – a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.

It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.

Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’ that is the real reason for the horrific toll.

But, as I discovered during a four-day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.

In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands – only to kill themselves as well.

Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed – two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.

She left her ten-year-old son, Rashan, in the care of relatives. ‘He cries when he thinks of his mother,’ said the dead woman’s aunt, sitting listlessly in shade near the fields.

Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.

The price difference is staggering: ¢G10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than ¢G10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds.

But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were ‘magic seeds’ – with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.

Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.

The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations.

In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.

But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers’ lives have slid back into the dark ages.

Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years – up to 17 million acres – many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.

Far from being ‘magic seeds’, GM pest-proof ‘breeds’ of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.

With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.

Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.

But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That’s because GM seeds contain so- called ‘terminator technology’, meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.

Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children.

As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto.

‘We are ruined now,’ said the dead man’s 38-year-old wife. ‘We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.’

Villagers bundled him into a rickshaw and headed to hospital along rutted farm roads. ‘He cried out that he had taken the insecticide and he was sorry,’ she said, as her family and neighbours crowded into her home to pay their respects. ‘He was dead by the time they got to hospital.’

Asked if the dead man was a ‘drunkard’ or suffered from other ‘social problems’, as alleged by pro-GM officials, the quiet, dignified gathering erupted in anger. ‘No! No!’ one of the dead man’s brothers exclaimed. ‘Suresh was a good man. He sent his children to school and paid his taxes.

‘He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.’

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Study finds grandparents a safe source of childcare

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Eurekalert | Nov 4, 2008

For working parents, having grandparents as caregivers can cut the risk of childhood injury roughly in half, according to a new study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Compared to organized daycare or care by the mother or other relatives, having a grandmother watch a child was associated with a decreased risk of injury for the child. The study is among the first to examine the relationship between grandparents’ care and childhood injury rates. The results are published in the November 2008 issue of Pediatrics.

In addition to source of caregiving, researchers examined the connections between family structure and the likelihood of injury. According to the researchers, the odds of injury were significantly greater among children whose parents never married compared with children whose mothers stayed married throughout the child’s life. Similarly, odds of injury were greater for children living in homes in which the father did not co-reside. These associations were independent of family income.

“Recent growth in the number of grandparents providing childcare has some observers concerned they don’t adhere to modern safety practices,” said lead study author David Bishai, MD, PhD, MPH, a professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. “To the contrary, this research tells us not only is there no evidence to support this assumption, but families that choose grandparents to care for their children experience fewer child injuries.”

Bishai and colleagues analyzed data from the National Evaluation of the Healthy Steps for Young Children Program, which includes information on over 5,500 newborns enrolled in 15 U.S. cities in 1996-97 with follow-up for 30-33 months. Data on child care arrangements reported by the mother were linked to claims reporting children’s office visits, allowing researchers to identify medically attended injuries.

“As injuries are the number one cause of death for children in the United States, it’s critical we continue to determine risk and protective factors,” said study co-author Andrea C. Gielen, ScD, ScM, a co- author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Additional studies of how households choose relatives to watch their children and the actual caregiving style of grandparents are warranted because the protective effect of grandparents may depend on choosing the right grandparent.”

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Additional authors of “Risk Factors for Unintentional Injuries in Children: Are Grandparents Protective” are Jamie L. Trevitt, MPP, Yiduo Zhang, PhD, Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, Tama Leventhal, PhD, and Bernard Guyer, MD, MPH.

The research was funded by a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau R40MC05475.

Additional media contact: Alicia Samuels, MPH, Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, 410-614-5555 or alsamuel@jhsph.edu.

13 yr old girl stoned to death after being gang-raped

Girl, 13 stoned to death after rape

The Daily Telegraph | Nov 4, 2008

ISLAMIST extremists have stoned to death a 13-year-old girl for adultery, after her father reported that she had been gang-raped by three men.

Fifty men were brought to a stadium to stone Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death in front of about 1000 spectators. A lorry load of stones was brought for the killing.

Amnesty International said al-Shabab militia, which controls the southern city of Kismayo, in Somalia arranged for the killing and that the girl had struggled with her captors and had to be carried into the stadium.

Amnesty International has been told by numerous eyewitnesses that nurses were instructed to check whether the child was still alive when buried in the ground.

They removed her from the ground, declared that she was, and she was replaced in the hole where she had been buried for the stoning to continue,” the human rights group said.

“Inside the stadium, militia members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life, and shot dead a boy who was a bystander.”

Amnesty said Duhulow was originally reported by witnesses as being 23 years old, based on her appearance, but established from her father that she was a child.

He told Amnesty that when they tried to report her rape, the child was accused of adultery and detained. None of the men accused was arrested.