5.9-magnitude quake strikes Indonesia's Java


SUKABUMI: A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia's most-populated island on Monday, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake struck 96 kilometres (59 miles) southwest of Sukabumi in western Java after 6:00 pm (1100 GMT) at a depth of 67 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

"The quake was quite strong but we have no reports yet of casualties or damage. We will monitor the affected area," National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Nugroho said the quake struck around 50 kilometres offshore and that activities in Sukabumi had "gone back to normal".

An AFP correspondent in Sukabumi said the quake lasted around three minutes and that residents ran from their homes in panic.

The quake was also felt in the capital Jakarta around 200 kilometres northeast of the epicentre.

The Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysics Agency earlier measured it as a 6.1-magnitude quake with a depth of 24 kilometres.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. (AFP)

Funky Golden Buddha!! Hong Kong Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Thousand Buddhas Monastery (ManFatTsz) there are many Buddhist statues were painted in gold. Here is the best tourist spot would.

Rare Hong Kong stamp sells for HK$6.4 million

Discover Hong Kong

Spotlight on Asian art as Hong Kong fair opens

The glittering Hong Kong International Art Fair opens on Thursday, featuring works by artists from Picasso to Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and cementing the city's status as a global art hub.
More than 260 galleries from 38 countries, representing an even split from the West and the East, have booked space at the four-day event known as Art HK, now in its fifth edition.
"The transformation here culturally has been pretty significant," art collector and fair board member Richard Chang told reporters ahead of the opening, referring to Hong Kong's emergence as a centre of the Asian art world.

"It's testament to what is happening in this region and it's very exciting."
A record 63,511 visitors attended Art HK last year, and organisers expect a bigger crowd in 2012. By comparison, the prestigious Frieze New York fair earlier this month attracted a reported 45,000 visitors.
A Wednesday night preview drew thousands of VIPs who had first pick of works including Ai's "Cong", a chilling installation about child deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a Sherrie Levine cast bronze called "Dada", and a fresh-off-the-easel 2012 portrait in oil of Lady Gaga by Yan Pei-Ming.
Director Magnus Renfrew said there had been a marked increase in interest from Western dealers compared to 2011.
"The art market tends to follow the money and the greatest source of wealth at the moment is in Asia," he said.
Traditionally known as a centre of banking and finance, Hong Kong has become a hub of all things luxury -- from fine wine to fashion and, increasingly, art -- thanks to the explosion of personal wealth among mainland Chinese.
Western gallery owners are now rushing to open franchises in the former British colony, despite some of the most expensive rents in the world.
Gagosian, White Cube, Acquavella, Simon Lee and Pearl Lam are just some of the recent arrivals. The government is weighing in as well, with a massive art and culture district being developed on the harbour in Kowloon.
"If you look at the calibre of some of the exhibitions this year, it's a top-tier fair now," London-based Australian gallery owner and Art HK exhibitor Simon Lee told AFP.
He said his "boutique-type offering" at the fair was more about making contacts and introducing his gallery to the Asian market than selling art to collectors.

"I can't hope to just come over here, plonk a few things on a booth and think it's all going to happen. It's sort of condescending to think it will all happen without doing the ground work," he said.
Asia's art boom has also caught the eye of the world's biggest art fair franchise, Art Basel, which bought a controlling stake in Art HK a year ago. The Hong Kong fair's 2013 edition will be held under the Art Basel banner.
Meanwhile a new art fair devoted to "affordable" contemporary art will be held in Hong Kong next year, organisers said Wednesday, confirming the city's new status as a hot ticket on the art scene.
The fair is being put together by Affordable Art China, a company which has organised a similar event in Beijing since 2006 and is opening a new franchise in Shanghai later this year.
Chief executive Tom Pattinson said the new fair offered a chance for smaller galleries and emerging artists to showcase their work in the booming art market of Hong Kong, now third only to New York and London in terms of art auctions.
"The success of the events in mainland China has demonstrated the demand for accessible contemporary fine art in the region and Hong Kong is now a major focus for us as we launch our first event in this territory," he said.
He said the value of the "affordable art" market -- pieces priced at less than $5,000 -- in China was estimated at $1.1 billion a year, and was doubling annually.
Renfrew said the new fair was not a threat to Art HK, which is held at the city's vast harbourside convention centre, as the two events catered to "very different audiences".
He urged Western artists and dealers to take a long-term view of the Asian art market.
"There are now more billionaires in Asia than there are in Europe, so it's a very exciting time for the art market here," he told AFP.
"It takes time to build an audience in Asia but the galleries are increasingly seeing that they have to diversify their audience and put in that investment and time."
Art fairs and auctions around the world have seen giddy bidding despite, or perhaps because of, the turmoil in the eurozone and on the world's stock markets, as investors look for other places to park their money.
At Sotheby's impressionist and modern sale in New York earlier this month, the only privately owned version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" went for $119.9 million, the most ever paid for any art work at public auction.



Cruise ship doesn't help stranded boater

Brian Todd reports on a stranded boater who says a major cruise liner passed by him without stopping to help

YEOSU EXPO KOREA aqua planet

travel & events

Hong Kong Gets its First Low Cost Airline

Qantas-owned Jetstar and China Eastern Airlines to set up low-cost carrier based in Hong Kong.

Kim Hyun Joong @ Fan Meeting - Hong Kong

Snapshoot Fancam I taken at 2012.05.12 Kim Hyun Joong Fan Meeting - Hong Kong. (Part 1)


Rajnikanth flys Hong Kong for Kochadaiyan

Rajnikanth left for Hong Kong early this morning from Bangalore. Soundarya Ashwin, the director of the film was there earlier in March to study all she could about Motion Capture Technology which is to be employed for Kochadaiyan.
Hence the team will be heading there for the next leg of the shoot.

Visit hong kong island

Visit hong kong island

Visit hong kong island - Shepherd Entertainment takes you on a tour of Hong Kong Island, an island in the southern part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Travel Guide to Hong Kong, China

This antique culture is continuously remaking itself into a vibrant consumer society. Hong Kong has been called the "most thrilling city on the planet".

Hong Kong Travel Guide - "What's Cool?"-香港3天,"有甚麼好玩?"

ndy, Tommy, Wendy, and Eddy, landed in Hong Kong and bring their experience around to share in this series of video. To share travel tips in Hong Kong, places that they explored in 3 days. Places went in the second day was Wong Tai Sin Temple, Sham Tseng, the famous place for its roast goose and The Peak, seeing Wax Statue in madame tussauds wax museum and hong kong night view. Andy, who have bring every one along this video also blog about in details on how to get to destination that had been visited.

Pharrell shares his music vision in Hong Kong

Rapper Pharrell Williams kicks off the arts and culture festival 'Liberatum' in Hong Kong, where he shares his vision on contemporary music.

Hong Kong.Asia's World City

Dog plays with himself : Bulldog Puppies

Plane Crash in Pakistan

Civilian aircraft crashes in bad weather near Islamabad international airport: Pakistani television channels.
Over 120 passengers were on board

The plane had flown from Karachi, and was due to land in Islamabad at 6:40pm local time.
Rescue teams were en route to the crash site, located near the Pakistan Air Force base Chaklala.

Hong Kong – A world class wine trading and distribution hub in Asia

Hong Kong, Asia’s World City, is quickly becoming a regional wine trading and distribution hub in Asia. Since the elimination of wine duties in February 2008, merchants have seized the opportunity to increase shipments and establish a greater presence in Hong Kong.

Overall, the Hong Kong market has been responding positively. 

Wine exports to Hong Kong in 2011 amounted to US$1.2 billion, representing a growth of 40% over 2010.

The U.S. is currently the 3rd largest wine exporter to Hong Kong.

U.S. wine exports to Hong Kong amounted to US$75.6 million in 2011, representing an increase of 57% as compared with 2010.

The U.S. and Oregon and Washington States have signed Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Wine-related Businesses with Hong Kong to promote U.S. wines in Hong Kong.

According to the annual survey conducted for VINEXPO by International Wine and Spirit Research, Hong Kong has emerged as Asia's wine drinking capital. Hong Kong's average adult consumption (five litres a year) is the highest in Asia. In 2011, Hong Kong's wine consumption increased by almost 7%, reaching 39 million bottles. Consumption doubled from 2006 to 2010.

Companies from various sectors of the wine industry are seeking to uncork the huge potential market in Asia and particularly in Mainland China – a region tipped by the industry to be the driver of global wine sales in the next decade and beyond. As a premier international gateway to Mainland China, Hong Kong is well placed to capitalize on this market growth.

New James Bond director admits 'doubts' about Daniel Craig

LONDON –  The director of the new James Bond movie said he initially had doubts about Daniel Craig being cast in the role of the legendary British spy.

James Bond

Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes admitted his concern at the media launch of the 23rd Bond movie, "Skyfall."

Speaking at Pinewood Studios, he said, "I was one of the people who said I didn't think he was the right casting. At the time, I was asked in an interview and I said, 'I'm not sure, I would advise him not to do it'."
Mendes, who directed Craig alongside Jude Law in 2002 movie "Road To Perdition," admitted he was wrong.
"I watched him go through that intense pressure and come through that with flying colors," Mendes said. "I bumped into him after 'Casino Royale' and I was so excited to see him as Bond. It was great to watch him come through that and prove the doubters wrong."

Craig said that working with Mendes for the second time -- and the first on a Bond film -- had helped him deal with the pressures of the role.

"I have got an awful lot to worry about when making a movie like this -- it's another level making a Bond movie," Craig said.

He added, "Sam has allowed me to forget about that and concentrate on the job. I have been able to remember why I love this job."

First Intel-powered smartphone to be launched in India

Intel has confirmed details of the first smartphone to be powered by one of its processors.

The XOLO X900, made by the Indian manufacturer Lava, will go on sale on 23 April priced at about 22,000 rupees (£265).

Lava has teamed up with Indian retail chain Croma to distribute the device across the country.

The move follows Intel's previous failed attempt to break into the smartphone market.

A tie-up with manufacturer LG in 2010 fell flat, with no models going into production.

Meanwhile, chips designed by British-based ARM and the American firm Qualcomm now dominate the market.

Details of Intel-powered smartphones made by Motorola Mobility and Lenovo are expected soon.

Hyper threading
The chip maker announced the partnerships at the Consumer Electronics Show in Barcelona in January.

Intel's tie-up with Motorola Mobility is seen as most significant as the company is in the process of being purchased by Google.

The Atom-based chip promises more efficient battery consumption, as well as Intel's own "hyper threading technology" allowing for enhanced multi-tasking.

The XOLO X900 - which features an 8-megapixel camera - will run initially on Android Gingerbread, Google's smartphone operating system.

This will later be upgraded, Intel said, to the next incarnation of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.

Lava has emerged as one of India's fastest-growing companies since being founded two-and-a-half years ago.

"After our success in feature phones, with over 10 million happy customers in under three years, XOLO will be a differentiated player in the fast-growing smartphone segment," Lava's co-founder and director Vishal Sehgal said in a statement.

Phone data shows romance 'driven by women

A study of mobile phone calls suggests that women call their spouse more than any other person.

That changes as their daughters become old enough to have children, after which they become the most important person in their lives.

The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

It also shows that men call their spouse most often for the first seven years of their relationship. They then shift their focus to other friends.

The results come from an analysis of the texts of mobile phone calls of three million people.

According to the study's co-author, Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University, UK, the investigation shows that pair-bonding is much more important to women than men.

"It's the first really strong evidence that romantic relationships are driven by women," he told BBC News.

"It's they who make the decision and once they have made their mind up, they just go for the poor bloke until he keels over and gives in!"

But the data shows that women start to switch the preference of their best friend from about the mid-30s, and by the age of 45 a woman of a generation younger becomes the "new best friend", according to Professor Dunbar.

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Human societies are moving back to a matriarchy”

Prof Robin Dunbar
Oxford University
"What seems to happen is that women push the 'old man' out to become their second best friend, and he gets called much less often and all her attention is focussed on her daughters just at the point at which you are likely to see grandchildren arriving," he says.

Prof Dunbar also claims that the findings suggest that human societies are moving away from a patriarchy back to a matriarchy.

The aim of the project was to find out how close, intimate relationships vary over a lifetime.

This kind of anthropological study is normally very difficult to do because it is hard for researchers to get such a big picture of people's lives.

But by looking at an at an extremely large mobile phone database, they were able to track these changes extremely accurately.

They had access to the age and sex of the callers, who between them made three billion calls and half a billion texts over a period of seven months.

Intensely focused

The team wanted to find out how the gender preference of best friends, as defined by the frequency of the calling, changed over the course of a lifetime and differed between men and women.

They found that men tend to choose a woman the same age as themselves - which the researchers presumed to be their girlfriend or wife - as a best friend much later in life than women do, and for a much shorter time. This occurs when they are in their early-30s, possibly during courtship, and stops after seven years or so.

Women, however, choose a man of a similar age to be their best friend from the age of 20. He remains for about 15 years, after which time he's replaced by a daughter.

The pendulum between the two sexes is swinging back towards women, says Prof Dunbar
The researchers say that a woman's social world is intensely focussed on one individual and will shift as a result of reproductive interests from being the mate to children and grandchildren.

According to Prof Dunbar, the data suggests that "at root the important relationships are those between women and not those between men".

"Men's relationships are too casual. They often function at a high level in a political sense, of course; but at the end of the day, the structure of society is driven by women, which is exactly what we see in primates," he explains.

Many anthropologists argue that most human societies are patriarchal on the basis that in most communities men stay where they are born whereas the wives move.

But Professor Dunbar and his colleagues are arguing that this only occurs in agriculturally based societies.

"If you look at hunter-gatherers and you look at modern humans in modern post-industrial societies, we are much more matriarchal. It's almost as if the pendulum between the two sexes, power-wise, is swinging (back) as we move away from agriculture toward a knowledge-based economy," he says.

Ford plans $760M assembly plant in east China

Ford Motor Co. plans to build a $760 million auto assembly plant in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, part of a doubling of its production capacity in the world's biggest vehicle market as it strives to catch up with rivals.

The investment in the factory with joint-venture partner Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Limited will add annual capacity of 250,000 vehicles when it begins operations in early 2015, the company said Thursday.

Along with a recently announced new plant in Ford's main production base in Chongqing, in central China, Ford will double its current annual capacity to 1.2 million vehicles.

The new factory brings Ford's total investment in China to $4.9 billion. Growth in China's car sales has dived from torrid levels over the past year but automakers such as Ford expect to continuing benefiting from preferences for foreign brands.

They also expect the market to get much bigger in the years ahead. Even with 30 million cars on the road, China still has just 28 vehicles for every 1,000 people, far below the U.S. level of 800. Some 80 percent of purchases are by first-time buyers.

Unlike most foreign automakers that initially concentrated their investments in China's relatively affluent eastern coastal areas, Ford has built up its manufacturing in the less developed central-western region.

Now it is looking east, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president for the Asia-Pacific region, who is leading an Asian expansion that includes building seven plants and tripling the number of models available in China to 15 by mid-decade.

"This is the next big phase of our capacity expansion, tied to all the new products we have coming in 2014 and 2015," Hinrichs said in a phone interview.

"We wanted to balance out some of our geographic locations in China so we went looking for something along the eastern seaboard, where a lot of the volume is and also where a lot of suppliers are," he said.

Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, expects its expansion to help it realize a 50 percent increase in global sales from 2010, to about 8 million vehicles by 2015. It aims to have global sales of 30 million vehicles by 2020.

Two weeks ago, Ford announced it would spend $600 million to expand its biggest factory complex, in Chongqing, to meet growing demand.

The company plans to launch four new global vehicles at the Beijing Auto Show next week. It has also said it plans to offer a version of the 2013 Escape, called the Kuga, in China at some point in the future.

"All this new manufacturing capacity is going in to support those new products," Hinrichs said.

Ford is trying to catch up with rivals who have been in China longer and command a bigger share of sales. It opened a new vehicle assembly plant in Chongqing in February, one of four new factories due to begin operations by the end of next year. The company already has two assembly plants and an engine plant in operation there.

Like many other automakers, it is banking on the potential for growth in sales in China's vast hinterland, where most families have yet to buy their first cars and demand is expected to soar with rising incomes.

The company chose Hangzhou - a base for Chinese independent automaker and Volvo Cars owner Geely Holding Group - partly because the city offered a good location and also because it could offer Ford a manufacturing license, Hinrichs said.

Due to the rapid growth of manufacturing capacity, the government is now limiting the issuance of production licenses.

"Now rules require that if a joint venture is expanding capacity outside its original location a license of another facility has to be canceled," he said.

Despite a sharp slowdown in sales after years of torrid growth, Hinrichs said that like other global automakers Ford is benefiting from a preference among Chinese car buyers for foreign brands.

"Any imbalance of demand and supply in the industry ultimately affects everybody," he said. But he added: "We watch the industry dynamics very carefully but we're very bullish on where consumers are and the interests of Ford."

My favorite version of Hallelujah

Facebook criticised over data download tool

Facebook has updated a tool that lets users look at some of the data the social network holds on them.

The update gives people an "expanded archive" of their activity on Facebook letting them see friend requests and login locations.

Facebook said other categories of data would be added in the future.

Campaigners said the data shared did not go far enough and handed over only a "fraction" of the information European laws demand.

Raw access
Facebook's Download Your Information tool was first introduced in 2010 and gave people a digital copy of the photos, posts and messages they had shared on the social network.

Those who took the chance to get their archive got a compressed file full of data.

In a blogpost explaining the change, Facebook said the updated tool would be gradually rolled out to all users.

Campaigners said the change should have included much more information. The download tool supplied data in 22 categories, far fewer than the 84 demanded by European law, said Max Schrems, an Austrian law student who founded the Europe v Facebook pressure group.

He said updating the tool was an attempt to "fool" users as it did not give people access to the raw data they were entitled to.

Europe v Facebook had filed several complaints about Facebook's privacy policy, he said, but they would not have been able to do this if they had relied only on the processed data provided by the download tool.

Instead, Mr Schrems and other campaigners used an online form on Facebook to request the unprocessed data held on them. Facebook removed this form after 40,000 people used it to lodge requests to see their data.

Facebook has faced persistent criticism over what it does with the data people surrender about their lives and relationships.

In late 2011, the Irish data protection commissioner issued a report on Facebook's privacy policy and said it should give people better access to their data and do more to tell them what is done with it.

The commissioner said it planned to conduct a formal review of the progress Facebook has made towards complying with the recommendations in July 2012.

Huntington's disease 'lowers' cancer risk

Huntington's is genetic brain disorder that slowly impairs a person's ability to walk, think and talk.

Nearly 40 years of medical records showed patients with Huntington's had half the normal expected risk of developing tumours.

Researchers, writing in The Lancet Oncology, said the reason was unclear.

Cancer Research UK said the findings presented another avenue to explore in tackling cancer.

Academics at Lund University analysed Swedish hospital data from 1969 to 2008. They found 1,510 patients with Huntington's disease.

During the study period, 91 of those patients subsequently developed cancer. The authors said that was 53% lower than the levels expected for the general population.

Huntington's is one of a group of illnesses called "polyglutamine diseases". Data from other polyglutamine diseases also showed lower levels of cancer.

The authors said: "We found that the incidence of cancer was significantly lower among patients with polyglutamine diseases than in the general population.

"The mechanisms behind the protective effects against cancer are unclear and further research is warranted."

Dr Jianguang Ji, from the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University, told the BBC: "Clarification of the mechanism underlying the link between polyglutamine diseases and cancer in the future could lead to the development of new treatment options for cancer."

Eleanor Barrie, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "These are interesting results. It's not clear how the genetic changes that cause Huntington's and other similar diseases could protect against cancer, and research in the lab will help to find out more.

"Scientists at Cancer Research UK and around the world are probing the genetic faults that contribute to cancer in their quest to beat the disease, and this is another potential avenue to explore."

China Web giants promise to fight "rumors": Xinhua

BEIJING (Reuters) - Three of China's largest Internet companies have promised the government they will take steps to banish online rumors, state media said on Tuesday, as the ruling Communist Party fights jitters over a tricky leadership transition.
A dispatch by the official Xinhua news agency made no mention of rumors of a foiled coup in Beijing that spread on the Internet in past weeks, after the abrupt ousting of Bo Xilai, a contender for a spot in the new central leadership to be unveiled at a party congress later this year.
But the article was the latest in a series carried by state media lambasting online rumors and those who spread them.
The March 15 ouster of Bo as party chief of the inland city of Chongqing, linked to a scandal involving a senior aide, has shaken the party ahead of the leadership changes.
After Bo was sacked, popular microblogs, including those run by Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd, were awash with speculation about a coup.
Xinhua said that both companies, along with top search engine Baidu Inc, would "resolutely support and cooperate with relevant government departments in measures to fight and clear up online rumors".
They would also "earnestly fulfill their responsibility to society, follow the law, increase management of the Internet and adopt effective measures" to guard against rumors.
While the coup rumors were unfounded, their spread and the tightening of Internet controls and warnings to ignore such talk have reflected worries about stability after Bo's fall.
Last week, China's top military newspaper told troops to ignore online rumors.
And in late March, authorities shut 16 Chinese websites and detained six people accused of spreading rumors about unusual military movements and security in the capital.
The rumors fed on speculation about the ousting of Bo over a month after his vice mayor, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate, triggering a scandal exposing accusations of infighting and abuses of power.

After Indonesia earthquake, tsunami alert and tremors in India

New Delhi: 
A tsunami of between three to six metres is expected to hit the Nicobar Islands after an earthquake of 8.9 on the Richter scale hit Indonesia.  A tsunami alert -which is less serious than a warning - has also been issued for the Eastern coast of India, the Andaman Islands, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Tremors were felt after that in Mumbai, Kolkata, and the southern part of Chennai.  The tremors lasted for a few seconds.

In Bhubaneshwar, people were seen running out of their homes and offices.  No damage has been reported so far.

Scientists find magnetic reconnection near Venus

BEIJING: The magnetic phenomenon that causes auroras on Earth has now been discovered around Venus, a planet without a magnetic field.

Scientists from China, the US and Austria have jointly found this phenomenon called "magnetic reconnection" in the near-Venus magnetotail.

Universal Space
The findings, issued in the latest Science Magazine released this week are likely to promote research into climate change on Venus and help find solutions to similar problems on Earth, Professor Zhang Tielong, the team leader with University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), said.

The magnetic reconnection may explain the auroras around Venus, and the atmosphere escape that led to the transformation of the planet rich in water 4 billion years ago to its current state, Zhang said.

Similar to Earth in bulk, density and quality, Venus was once considered the planet which was most likely to have life.

However, the temperature on the planet can reach 400 degrees Celsius and it has no water.

Supported by China's national natural science foundation, the project was jointly conducted by USTC, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Science.

The findings were based on observations with the Venus Express magnetometer and a low-energy particle detector, Zhang was quoted by state run Xinhua news agency here today.

Venus Express is a spacecraft launched by the European Space Agency.

Which plants will survive droughts, climate change?

New research by UCLA life scientists could lead to predictions of which plant species will escape extinction from climate change. Droughts are worsening around the world, posing a great challenge to plants in all ecosystems, said Lawren Sack, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the research. Scientists have debated for more than a century how to predict which species are most vulnerable.

Sack and two members of his laboratory have made a fundamental discovery that resolves this debate and allows for the prediction of how diverse plant species and vegetation types worldwide will tolerate drought, which is critical given the threats posed by climate change, he said.

The research is currently available in the online edition of Ecology Letters , and will be published in an upcoming print edition.

Why does a sunflower wilt and dessicate quickly when the soil dries, while the native chaparral shrubs of California survive long dry seasons with their evergreen leaves? Since there are many mechanisms involved in determining the drought tolerance of plants, there has been vigorous debate among plant scientists over which trait is most important. The UCLA team, funded by the National Science Foundation, focused on a trait called "turgor loss point, which had never before been proven to predict drought tolerance across plant species and ecosystems.

A fundamental difference between plants and animals is that plant cells are enclosed by cell walls while animal cells are not. To keep their cells functional, plants depend on "turgor pressure" -- pressure produced in cells by internal salty water pushing against and holding up the cell walls. When leaves open their pores, or stomata, to capture carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, they lose a considerable amount of this water to evaporation. This dehydrates the cells, inducing a loss of pressure.

During drought, the cell's water becomes harder to replace. The turgor loss point is reached when leaf cells get to a point at which their walls become flaccid; this cell-level loss of turgor causes the leaf to become limp and wilted, and the plant cannot grow, Sack said.

"Drying soil may cause a plant's cells to reach turgor loss point, and the plant will be faced with the choice of either closing its stomata and risking starvation or photosynthesizing with wilted leaves and risking damaging its cell walls and metabolic proteins," Sack said. "To be more drought-tolerant, the plant needs to change its turgor loss point so that its cells will be able to keep their turgor even when soil is dry."

The biologists showed that within ecosystems and around the world, plants that are more drought-tolerant had lower turgor loss points; they could maintain their turgor despite drier soil.

The team also resolved additional decades-old controversies, overturning the long-held assumptions of many scientists about the traits that determine turgor loss point and drought tolerance. Two traits related to plant cells have been thought to affect plants' turgor loss point and improve drought tolerance: Plants can make their cell walls stiffer or they can make their cells saltier by loading them with dissolved solutes. Many prominent scientists have leaned toward the "stiff cell wall" explanation because plants in dry zones around the globe tend to have small, tough leaves. Stiff cell walls might allow the leaf to avoid wilting and to hold onto its water during dry times, scientists reasoned. Little had been known about the saltiness of cells for plants around the world.

The UCLA team has now demonstrated conclusively that it is the saltiness of the cell sap that explains drought tolerance across species. Their first approach was mathematical; the team revisited the fundamental equations that govern wilting behavior and solved them for the first time. Their mathematical solution pointed to the importance of saltier cell sap. Saltier cell sap in each plant cell allows the plant to maintain turgor pressure during dry times and to continue photosynthesizing and growing as drought ensues. The equation showed that thick cell walls do not contribute directly to preventing wilting, although they provide indirect benefits that can be important in some cases -- protection from excessive cell shrinking and from damage due to the elements or insects and mammals.

The team also collected for the first time drought-tolerance trait data for species worldwide, which confirmed their result. Across species within geographic areas and across the globe, drought tolerance was correlated with the saltiness of the cell sap and not with the stiffness of cell walls. In fact, species with stiff cell walls were found not only in arid zones but also in wet systems like rainforests, because here too, evolution favors long-lived leaves protected from damage.

The pinpointing of cell saltiness as the main driver of drought tolerance cleared away major controversies, and it opens the way to predictions of which species could escape extinction from climate change, Sack said.

"The salt concentrated in cells holds on to water more tightly and directly allows plants to maintain turgor during drought," said research co-author Christine Scoffoni, a UCLA doctoral student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The role of the stiff cell wall was more elusive.

"We were surprised to see that having a stiffer cell wall actually reduced drought tolerance slightly -- contrary to received wisdom -- but that many drought-tolerant plants with lots of salt also had stiff cell walls," said lead author Megan Bartlett, a UCLA graduate student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

This seeming contradiction is explained by the secondary need of drought-tolerant plants to protect their dehydrating cells from shrinking as they lose turgor pressure, the researchers said.

"While a stiff wall doesn't maintain the cell turgor, it prevents the cells from shrinking as the turgor decreases and holds in water so that cells are still large and hydrated, even at turgor loss point," Bartlett explained. "So the ideal combination for a plant is to have a high solute concentration to keep turgor pressure and a stiff cell wall to prevent it from losing too much water and shrinking as the leaf water pressure drops. But even drought-sensitive plants often have thick cell walls because the tough leaves are also good protection against herbivores and everyday wear and tear."

Even though the team showed that turgor loss point and salty cell sap have exceptional power to predict a plant's drought tolerance, some of the most famous and diverse desert plants -- including cacti, yuccas and agaves -- exhibit the opposite design, with many flexible-walled cells that hold dilute sap and would lose turgor rapidly, Sack said.

"These succulents are actually terrible at tolerating drought, and instead they avoid it," he said. "Because much of their tissue is water storage cells, they can open their stomata minimally during the day or at night and survive with their stored water until it rains. Flexible cell walls help them release water to the rest of the plant."

This new study showed that the saltiness of cells in plant leaves can explain where plants live and the kinds of plants that dominate ecosystems around the world. The team is working with collaborators at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens in Yunnan, China, to develop a new method for rapidly measuring turgor loss point across a large number of species and make possible the critical assessment of drought tolerance for thousands of species for the first time.

"We're excited to have such a powerful drought indicator that we can measure easily," Bartlett said. "We can apply this across entire ecosystems or plant families to see how plants have adapted to their environment and to develop better strategies for their conservation in the face of climate change."


3,200-year-old mummy mask can stay in Mo., judge rules

A St. Louis museum can keep hold of a 3,200-year-old mummy's mask, a federal judge has ruled, saying the U.S. government failed to prove that the Egyptian relic was ever stolen. 

Prosecutors said the funeral mask of Lady Ka-Nefer-Nefer went missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo about 40 years ago and that it should be returned to its country of origin. 

The St. Louis Art Museum said it researched the provenance of the mask and legitimately purchased it in 1998 from a New York art dealer. 

U.S. District Judge Henry Autry in St. Louis sided with the museum. 

The U.S. government "does not provide a factual statement of theft, smuggling or clandestine importation," Autry wrote in the March 31 ruling. 

"The Government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally," the judge wrote. 

A message left with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities was not returned. 

The 20-inch-long funeral mask of painted and gilded plaster-coated linen over wood with inlaid glass eyes was excavated from one of the Saqqara pyramids, about 16 miles south of Cairo, in 1952. 

Ka-Nefer-Nefer was a noblewoman who lived from 1295 BC to 1186 BC. 

U.S. government investigators suspect the mask was stolen sometime between 1966, when it was shipped to Cairo for an exhibit, and 1973, when the Egyptian Museum discovered it was missing. 

The art museum bought the mask in 1998 for $499,000 from a New York art dealer, and it has been on display at the museum in Forest Park ever since. 

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said a decision on whether to appeal has not been made. 

"We're just looking to make sure we haven't missed the tiniest bit of circumstantial evidence," Callahan said. "We're back to the drawing board and studying it." 

Museum officials have said they researched the mask's ownership history before buying it and had no indication there were questions about how it arrived in the U.S. The museum's research showed the mask was part of the Kaloterna private collection during the 1960s, before a Croatian collector, Zuzi Jelinek, bought it in Switzerland and later sold it to Phoenix Ancient Art of New York in 1995. The art museum purchased the mask from Phoenix Ancient Art. 

St. Louis Art Museum attorney David Linenbroker said the museum is confident the ruling will mean that the mask can remain permanently in St. Louis. 

"We don't have any interest in possessing a stolen object," Linenbroker said. "We've been facing all this innuendo for years." 

He said the legal process provided an opportunity for someone to prove the mask had been stolen, but no one did. 

"We're confident we're the rightful owner," Linenbroker said.

Stop sticking out like a teetotaler in Wanchai and try out these little tricks for blending in with the locals in Hong Kong.

1. How to hail a cross-harbor cab

To get a cab that is willing to cross the harbor, you could do the obvious and look for one of the rare signs for a cross-harbor taxi stand.
Or you could just randomly flag down cabs and have an awkward shouting negotiation through the car window with the driver who will be seated on the far side of the car.
Or use the cross-harbor arm wave.
Extend one arm in front of on-coming cab, use the hand and wrist to make an ocean wave motion, indicating that you want the cab to metaphorically brave the harbor waters.
Yes, we know that cabs are legally obliged to take you wherever you want to go. A true Hong Konger knows that laws should be interpreted only as loose guidelines. See the recent chief executive (and election) dramas for further details.

2. How to speak

End every sentence, in English or any other language, with a Cantonese final particle, such as: la, ar, wor, gar.
For example: "Hong Kong is so awesome la!"

3. How to use an umbrella

The importance of the umbrella to Hong Kongers can't be overestimated. Rarely exalted, often abused, regularly left at a bar or in a car, the underdog tool is a Hong Konger's best friend, come rain or shine.
People, particularly women, always have a little retractable umbrella on them that also has an anti-UV coating.
The umbrella keeps them relatively dry during downpours. For a city that gets rain for six months of a year, its denizens really don't like to get wet.
The other half of the year is usually hot with strong sunshine and the magical shield is pulled out again to block sunrays and keep the skin Fancl white.

4. How to document life

S**t Hong Kong people say at restaurants: “Oh this dessert looks so cute! Hold on, can you take a photo of me and this dessert? Do one more with the flash off. I blinked, take another one.”
Next thing you know, eight sets of photos with the same dessert but a variation of faces are uploaded to Facebook while the cake collects dust.
Nothing in Hong Kong is more satisfying than flooding friends with photos of our food. It can be more satisfying than eating the food itself. 
So always ask if anyone wants to take a photo before setting your chopsticks into something.

5. How to ask for tissues

Asking for Kleenex will get you nowhere. We know the little sheets of delicate paper for wiping fingers and noses as "tissue" (pronounced "T-see-u") or Tempo, the dominating brand in Hong Kong.
Most self-respecting Hong Kongers always have a wad of Tempo at the ready, partly because newspapers and magazines come with a complimentary pack. Sometimes, promo folks hand them out at MTR exits just to make sure you aren't without.

6. How to tip

Show your servers how much of a local you are and be stingy with tipping, or don't tip at all. 

A service charge is almost always included in the bill, so Hong Kong diners don't bother tipping unless the waiter did something extraordinary such as deboning your sweet and sour pork. 

Tipping is more about getting rid of loose change really. So people will leave HK$5.50 for a $500 meal.


7. How to order food

Hong Kongers are very specific (picky) about what they want to order. The customized meal orders at a local diner rivals Starbucks coffee orders.
The most commonly heard orders are "iced lemon tea with less sweetness no ice and lemon slices on the side" as well as "fish ball noodles with no greens plus beef brisket soup base."
There's no chef snootiness to put up with here. 

8. How to abbreviate 

One thing Hong Kongers have in common with Aussies -- we like to abbreviate.
It's either because we are extremely lazy or extremely industrious -- we can't be bothered to say the full phrase or we need to fit in as many nouns as possible in a short amount of time. Either way, we like it low on syllables.
The 7-Eleven convenience store is just “Seven” (pronounced "seh-fun"), Circle K is “OK” and the spam and egg sandwich is literally “sp-egg-wich” in Cantonese.
Our favorite is saying "sorry" -- rendered as, simply, “sor."

9. How to not hold up the line

When it comes to commuting, it is all about not stopping. The body must be constantly moving foward.
That is why train and bus schedules are committed to memory and it is also why it's imperative Octopus cards are always topped up and taken out ahead of time when one needs to pay.
The idea is to pass nonchalantly  through the MTR turnstile without having to slow down at all.
Don't be the slowpoke tourist who fumbles to find the Octopus card at the bottom of your bag only after you hit the turnstile.
Or worse yet, not have enough credit.
There's nothing more blush-worthy than the haunting, high-pitched beep of a rejected Octopus and the walk of shame away from the turnstile. 

10. How to count with hands

The best citizenship test as immigration officials will tell you, is to count in the local dialect. Take it up a notch and count in the local sign language.
These three numbers can really show off your local know-how: six, nine and 10.
The number six can be represented by holding up six fingers. If you're a gauche tourist.
Hong Kongers like to do it elegantly and use the "hang ten" hand sign to symbolize six.  
Nine gets a graphic representation, by curling the index finger down to resemble the shape of the number "9."
And to sweep your fruit vendor off her feet, make a cross with your index fingers to indicate that it is exactly 10 apples you want. The international sign for warding off vampires is the Hong Kong sign for the number preceding eleven.

Arson suspected as Hong Kong tower fire kills nine

Project targets Belfast's sectarian walls

A multi-million dollar project to promote sectarian reconciliation in Northern Ireland is showing some signs of progress.
The aim is to encourage the demolition of sections of Belfast's "peace" walls, which divide Catholics and Protestants.
Daily life in some areas of the city involves golf balls being lobbed over the walls to smash Protestant windows, or Catholics whose houses were burned to the ground 40 years ago still living in fear
The project, launched by the European Union and the US government, is hoping to bring down some of the 88 walls but the response to the initiative has been mixed.
A vast majority of people living close to the walls want them higher, not lower.
Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from Belfast.

High marks for Hong Kong schools

Students in Hong Kong have been ranked amongst the top in the world by an international think tank.

Hong Kong IPO Market Slows

Short on confidence in the market, bankers and companies are backing off plans for initial public offerings. The WSJ's Deborah Kan speaks with Jeff Maddox, partner at Jones Day, about why clients are downsizing and re-evaluating deals.

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CR2 Kelvin's story

How Much Is Your Privacy Worth?

Most of us would shy away from making purchases in a foreign country if we didn't know the exchange rate. Yet, if privacy is the true currency of the Internet, as many argue, millions of us are doing that very thing every day. Meanwhile, Internet giants amend their privacy policies in ways that allow them to harvest and sell even more of our personal data. While privacy campaigners protest, users generally vote with their clicks and carry on regardless.

So should we conclude the Internet generation is happy to trade its privacy for free or cheaper Web services? Not according to Nicola Jentzsch of the German Institute of Research in Berlin, and colleagues, who last week published research showing that most people prefer to protect their personal data when given a choice and that a significant proportion are willing to pay extra to do so.

The researchers directed 443 students to a website offering tickets for a real movie showing, sold by two different vendors. Although the tickets were subsidized, the volunteers, who were able to purchase one, two, or no tickets, had to pay most of the cost themselves.

When both vendors offered tickets at the same price but only one required customers to enter their cell phone number, the more privacy-friendly vendor got 83% of sales. When participants were offered the same choice, but with an additional charge of 50 euro cents from the privacy-friendly cinema, its market share fell to 31%.

"It turns out that when you are good on privacy you can charge more and make a greater profit," says Sören Preibusch, of the University of Cambridge, one of the authors of the study, published by the European Network and Information Security Agency, an agency of the European Union.

When only one of the two vendors stated it would use the customer's e-mail address to send them advertisements, and both charged the same price for tickets, 62% of sales went to the privacy-friendly ticket retailer. But when the privacy-friendly vendor charged 50 euro cents more, its market share dropped to 13%.

"What people say in surveys is that they care about privacy, but what they actually do is spend their time constantly updating their status on Facebook," says Alessandro Acquisti, codirector of the Center for Behavioral Decision Research at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not connected with the new research. "This has led some to conclude that people no longer care about privacy. This new data, along with similar work we have done in the U.S., shows this is not the case, and that the desire for privacy is not dead after all."

Privacy protection is at a critical juncture on both sides of the Atlantic. In January, Google announced it would merge personal data gathered from the users of dozens of services, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google+, saying this would allow better searches and more targeted advertising. On Monday, France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, which represents European regulators, wrote to Google that preliminary findings suggest that the new policy does not comply with the European Data Protection Directive.

The E.U. is working on new data protection rules that would include fines of up to 2 percent of a company's global revenue. Last month the Obama administration set out the framework for a new privacy code that would give consumers more control over the use of their personal data.

The smaller tracking devices become, the more applications they find.

RFID Enables Study of Chicken Pessimism

The coolest thing about RFID chips -- those ultra-cheap, ultra-tiny devices allow remote tracking, even without batteries -- is that these qualities make them suitable for types of research that would otherwise be impossible. Or at least challenging.

Other trackers have shrunk enough to enable research in a similar vein -- remember bats equipped with ultra-tiny GPS receivers? -- but implantable RFID chips smaller than a grain of rice are opening up even further horizons. Like the disposition of chickens.

Researchers at the University of New England in Australia are "taking a closer look at how chickens’ moods are connected to their desire to spend time outdoors," reports the Armidale Express.

It seems that sans technology, measuring the emotional state of chickens isn't easy. Most behavioral studies involve long hours of scoring either live behavior or videotapes of interactions. But using RFID chips allows researchers to automate the process of determining when chickens who are offered access to the outdoors take advantage of their "free range" status.

"[W]e set up a situation where birds have to make a choice and see if they make an optimistic or pessimistic choice," says Geoff Hinch, the professor at UNE heading up the study.

Access to the outdoors turns out to be a good litmus test for chicken mood, because chickens who are feeling good will make the "optimistic" choice to go outside, says Hinch. The point isn't to determine which hens should be put in chicken therapy, whatever that is. Rather, Hinch aims to understand which factors stress chickens, in hopes of figuring out how to make their well being compatible with high productivity.

The Craziest Fake Island Adventure Story You’ll Ever Read

Seven miles off the English coast and just 24 feet above the roiling waves of the North Sea is the Principality of Sealand. The nation’s total area amounts to just 120 x 50 feet, but its occupier and “ruler” since 1966, Major Paddy Royal Bates, has had outsized dreams for his former military platform out in the sea. Once, it was the home of HavenCo, that company that billed itself as a “data haven,” the Switzerland of data centers.
HavenCo was supposedly to be the home of businesses who didn’t want governments minding their business: porn, anonymous currencies, governments in exile. When Fox News reported that WikiLeaks was moving its servers to Sealand, it certainly seemed fitting but, alas, turned out to be just speculation. That led us to Ars Technica, where law professor James Grimmelmann has written what is probably the definitive history of Sealand and HavenCo, and it is a thrilling read. A few snippets from nation’s short history include a pirate radio broadcaster hurling Molotov cocktails, press wars over “marooned children,” and coup led by a former diamond dealer (possibly staged).