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MUMBAI, Jan 25 (Reuters) - A strike by bank employees protesting moves to merge state-run banks is expected to hit Indian banking operations and financial markets on Friday.
The unions, representing 900,000 workers, are opposing proposals to merge state-run banks and are seeking pensions for all bank staff, a bank union leader said.
"Our talks have failed. We are going on strike," C.H. Venkatachalam, convenor of the United Forum of Bank Unions and joint secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association said on Friday.
"We are not convinced of the benefits of a merger."
Venkatachalam said the strike would be "total", affecting cash transactions, treasury and foreign exchange operations.
He said State Bank of India (SBI.BO: Quote, Profile, Research), the country's biggest bank, was planning to absorb its subsidiaries and there were proposals to merge other state-run banks, which he did not name.
The strike would include all state-run banks and foreign banks, but newer private banks such as ICICI Bank (ICBK.BO: Quote, Profile, Research) (IBN.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Axis Bank (AXBK.BO : Quote, Profile, Research), HDFC Bank (HDBK.BO: Quote, Profile, Research) (HDB.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Yes Bank (YESB.BO: Quote, Profile, Research) would not be a part of the strike as they did not have unions, he said. The Bombay Stock Exchange said in a statement that there would be no settlements at the exchange on Friday because of the strike, although trading would continue as usual.
The benchmark BSE index has had a volatile week, and ended down 2.12 percent on Thursday, at 17,221.74 points.
The unions called a three-day strike in March, but called it off after the government agreed to consider their demands.
There are plenty of cold-weather survival scenarios. You might be an avid camper or hiker lost in the dead of winter. You could be the victim of a plane crash in the Swiss Alps. Maybe you've had a car accident going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. Or perhaps you've simply lost electricity for an extended period of time in your own home. Knowing some basic tips and tricks can help make a difference in your comfort level, and even whether or not you make it through the night.
Spencer Platt/ Getty Image News
A couple walks to the subway in the snow and sleet in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
The other thing that's factored in with cold weather is wind chill -- the effect of moving air on exposed skin. Antarctic explorer Paul Siple coined the term "wind chill factor" in the late 1930s to help describe the effect that wind has on heat loss. He experimented by timing how long it took to freeze water in varying degrees of wind strength [source: USA Today]. In layman's terms, wind chill is described as how cold it "feels."
Cold weather has a dramatic effect on human health. According to a University of California, Berkeley economist, deaths related to cold reduce the average life expectancy of Americans by a decade, if not more [source: UC Berkeley News]. Cold weather also indirectly causes fatalities through accidents due to snow and ice, carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires. The elderly and the infirm are most susceptible to cold weather illness and injury, although the same UC Berkeley study reports that women make up two-thirds of the deaths after a cold spell.
In this article, we'll go into more detail about the effect cold weather has on humans. We'll also go over the basics of surviving freezing weather conditions -- from building a snow shelter in the wild to simple tips for the average homeowner.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
The two main cold-weather illnesses are frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite means that your skin has fallen below the freezing point, and ice crystals are forming within your skin cells, killing them. If you're able to warm your skin, it will form a blister, change from blue to black in color and harden into a shell. This shell will eventually fall off to expose new skin underneath if the damage isn't too severe. This is the very painful "superficial" frostbite. Severe frostbite penetrates all the way to the muscle and bone and is characterized by tingling of extremities and changes in your skin's color and texture. The stages of frostbite are:
Severe frostbite usually causes tissue damage, and can even lead to amputation of fingers, toes, hands and feet. It's vital when afflicted with frostbite to warm your skin gradually. Cover your ears and put your fingers under your arms. Don't ever rub the damaged skin or submerge it in hot water -- you'll cause even more damage. Water between 100 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal to use as a warming agent. If you can, get into a warmer area immediately, even if it's just a tent or shelter. Remove any tight clothing that may restrict blood flow. You can put gauze or cloth between your fingers and toes to soak up moisture and prevent them from sticking together. It also helps to slightly elevate the affected area to reduce swelling.
Sandra Mu/ Getty Image News
New Zealand climber Mark Inglis shows his badly frostbitten fingers as he arrives at Auckland International airport after returning from Kathmandu.
Many times, getting wet in addition to the cold leads to hypothermia, and the result can be as severe as coma or death. To combat hypothermia, get yourself into a warmer environment as soon as possible. Cover with any items you can find -- blankets, sleeping bag, pillows or even newspaper. Most heat is lost through your head, so cover yours immediately if it's not already. If you have on wet clothing, take it off and replace it with some dry duds. If you have no dry clothing, it's better to strip naked than to wear something wet. You should always handle hypothermia victims carefully, as it's easy for them to go into cardiac arrest. Keep them horizontal and calm -- reassure them that they're going to be fine. If you're with someone, get into a sleeping bag together or simply hug each other tight to create warmth. If you're not trapped in the wilderness, seek professional medical attention as soon as possible.
In the next section, we'll look at how your shelter plays a part in cold weather survival.
A good shelter is the first thing you need to survive the freezing cold. Choosing your shelter's location is extremely important. Don't be lured in by clearings in the mountains -- they can be prime spots for avalanches. Check for accumulated debris and broken tree stumps at the base of the clearing. If you find both, chances are you're in an avalanche chute. The side of the clearing is a much better shelter location. You should also avoid areas near overlooks and cliffs.
If night is falling fast, you need to build an emergency shelter as soon as possible. Don't get too fancy -- your goal is to make it through the night. Dig a snow trench deep enough to provide a wind break. Pile and pack additional snow on the windy side for further protection. Get as much soft material as you can to line the bottom for insulation -- pine boughs are plentiful in most wooded areas. Once in, cover yourself with copious amounts of pine or any other leaves you can get. Snow is a better insulator than your average tent, so your emergency shelter should get you through the night.
If you have the time, build a more elaborate snow cave. Not only will it provide better protection from the elements, but constructing it will get your heart rate going and warm you up. Just make sure you don't sweat -- moisture is your enemy in the freezing cold. Hillsides provide good wind shelter and low-lying areas are colder and more damp. Make your shelter as small as possible to help retain heat. This is especially true for the entrance, which should be blocked with a backpack or stacked up tree branches.
It's also important to ventilate your shelter. Poke small air holes in the ceiling with tree branches and make sure your blocked entrance allows enough airflow. If you have a cooking stove or lantern, avoid using it inside unless the shelter is extremely well ventilated. It's best to not risk it at all -- carbon monoxide poisoning is a killer in the woods and sneaks up on you fast. Avoid using metal like a plane wing or found tin roofing to aid your shelter -- it will suck up the heat you need.
When you're trapped in the cold and there is no snow, build a debris hut:
Water and Clothing
Once you've built your shelter, you should focus on water and warmth. The human body can survive for about a week or less without water, depending on conditions. Dehydration can set in within a few hours [source: EPA]. It's important to remember that water is just as important in cold weather survival as it is in hot weather. A minimum of two quarts of water is needed for survival and in cold conditions, you should drink even more [source: Wilderness Survival].
Eating snow may seem like a great idea, but it will lower your core temperature and actually bring on dehydration. Melt your ice and snow in a container if you have one. If not, wrap it in cloth and suck the water out as it melts. It's also important to purify the water by boiling it for 10 minutes whenever possible. Snow and ice in remote locations can be safe to ingest, but it's always a risk. Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol if you have them on hand. It may give you a short term warm-up, but it'll dehydrate you quickly. Try to find open water -- rivers, streams, lakes and springs. If you have no means to purify, get your water from a fast-moving body and strain it with some cloth to remove large bits of sediment. You can read more about collecting water in How to Find Water in the Wild.
Tim Boyle/ Getty Image News
A furlined parka helps keep this Chicago woman warm in subzero wind chill.
Just as you layer your clothing, you should also layer what you have on your feet. Try a thin pair of nylon, silk or wool socks for starters -- then layer with additional wool socks. Keep your feet dry, even if it means taking off your socks temporarily to do so. Mittens are warmer than gloves because your fingers come into direct contact with each other.
The most important article of clothing you can have is your hat. Since most of your body heat leaves through your head, get a stocking cap that covers your ears and don't take it off unless you start to sweat. Even a baseball cap can help retain heat. Your parka should ideally be waterproof and lined with goose down or some other fibrous filling. Make sure it's large enough to fit comfortably over your layers and is well ventilated.
Your sleepwear should never be the clothes you wore that day -- chances are they're damp. The best thing to sleep in is some kind of thermal underwear or sweats. Avoid wearing these items during the day to ensure you have something warm and dry to sleep in. Wear your driest socks and keep your hat on. Even though it may feel warmer, don't sleep with your head and face inside your sleeping bag. Your hot breath becomes moist and adds dampness.
In the next section, we'll look at how fire is crucial to your freezing cold survival.
Once you have your shelter and water, get a fire going. In addition to keeping you warm, fire can be used to melt snow for water, cook food, dry out clothing and create smoke for rescue. You can read about emergency fire starting techniques in How to Start a Fire Without a Match, but for now let's assume you have the necessary equipment -- either matches or a lighter. Dig a fire pit near your shelter's entrance with a good wind break piled around it. The fire should be in the center, with room for your wood and a place to sit.
After you dig your pit, start collecting your fuel. You'll need a tinder starter, small to medium kindling and larger branches and logs -- make sure you have a wide range of sizes. If it's dry, you can use any brown leaf, pine straw or bark for the starter. If it's wet, peel bark away from trees and use your knife to get fine shavings from the trunk. Dry wood can be found under thick trees. As for how much, a good rule of thumb is to collect as much wood as you think you'll need, and then double that amount.
Photographer: Peiling | Agency: Dreamstime
A good tepee fire will provide excellent air flow.
Once the fire is burning strong, the tepee frame will light and fall. At this point, start adding your larger pieces of fuel.
For a log cabin-style fire:
Your cabin frame will get hotter and hotter until it ignites, leaving you a hot base of coals to add your larger branches and logs. Once your fire is going strong, build another outer frame to dry wet logs.
Some other fire tips:
In the next section, we'll look at some tips for surviving freezing weather in your home during power outages.
Surviving in Your Home
Not every cold-weather survival scenario involves being in the middle of nowhere. If you live in a frigid area and rely on electricity for your heat, you might find yourself freezing in your own home. Winter power outages can be scary situations for the young, elderly and infirm. Wintertime road travelers should also take extra care in planning their journeys.
If you live in an area that gets severe weather in the wintertime, you should have a gas-powered heater on hand in case of a power outage. Kerosene heaters are fairly inexpensive and easy to operate. Pick one that's wide and has a low center of gravity. This makes it difficult for you or a pet to knock it over. You should also avoid using flammable solvents and sprays near the open-flame heater.
Tim Boyles/ Getty Image News
A smoke and carbon monoxide detector is something every home should have.
If you have a fireplace, use it as your main heat source. Sleep in the room with the fireplace if possible. It's not a bad idea to make sure you have a nice stockpile of wood -- some outages can last weeks. You need to make sure your chimney is clear and clean and always use a fire screen to keep hot embers where they belong. If you're suffering from a power loss and you have no gas heater or fireplace, the same clothing principles as outdoor survival should be used. Layer your clothing well, put on several pairs of socks and always wear a hat. If you have a sleeping bag, put it under the covers of your bed and sleep in it at night. If you get a deep snow, only shovel it if you're in pretty good physical shape -- you could have a heart attack and end up freezing to death in your own driveway.
If you're traveling in wintry conditions, think ahead and put some blankets or a sleeping bag in your trunk. Always keep some waterproof matches or a lighter in your glove box, and if you get stranded and go for help, don't forget to take them with you. You should also have a map of the area you're traveling through, even if you know it well. Blizzards can disorient you, and a good map can be the difference between life and death. You should also let someone know when and where you're going, and pack an emergency kit for the trip. Aside from blankets and matches, a first-aid kit, a gallon jug of water and some energy bars or chocolate can come in handy.If you want to read more about surviving extreme conditions, you can look into the articles on the following page.
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But hot chocolate should not to be confused with hot cocoa. The former is made with actual chocolate and is a richer, much more substantial beverage. The latter is produced from cocoa powder or from a manufactured product containing cocoa powder such as hot cocoa mixes available at grocery stores.
This article concentrates on hot chocolate and will serve as a guideline as to how you can prepare it. Experiment with your own recipes and see what you can create. The possibilities are endless!
LONDON (Reuters) - Work really can kill you, according to a study on Wednesday providing the strongest evidence yet of how on-the-job stress raises the risk of heart disease by disrupting the body's internal systems.
The findings from a long-running study involving more than 10,000 British civil servants also suggest stress-induced biological changes may play a more direct role than previously thought, said Tarani Chandola, an epidemiologist at University College London.
"This is the first large-scale population study looking at the effects of stress measured from everyday working life on heart disease," said Chandola, who led the study. "One of the problems is people have been skeptical whether work stress really affects a person biologically."
Heart disease is the world's leading cause of death. It is caused by fatty deposits that harden and block arteries, high blood pressure which damages blood vessels, and other factors.
The researchers measured stress among the civil servants by asking questions about their job demands such as how much control they had at work, how often they took breaks, and how pressed for time they were during the day.
The team conducted seven surveys over a 12-year period and found chronically stressed workers -- people determined to be under severe pressure in the first two of the surveys -- had a 68 percent higher risk of developing heart disease.
The link was strongest among people under 50, Chandola said.
"This study adds to the evidence that the work stress-coronary heart disease association is causal in nature," the researchers wrote in the European Heart Journal.
Behavior and biological changes likely explain why stress at work causes heart disease, Chandola said. For one, stressed workers eat unhealthy food, smoke, drink and skip exercise -- all behaviors linked to heart disease.
In the study, stressed workers also had lowered heart rate variability -- a sign of a poorly-functioning weak heart -- and higher-than-normal levels of cortisol, a "stress" hormone that provides a burst of energy for a fight-or-flight response.
Too much cortisol circulating in the blood stream can damage blood vessels and the heart, Chandola said.
"If you are constantly stressed out these biological stress systems become abnormal," Chandola said.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A military plane crash in northwestern Poland has killed 20 people, Poland's prime minister said early Thursday.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the plane crash, which occurred Wednesday evening as the plane was about to land, killed 20 people, including one brigadier general and four crew members.
"Soldiers, husbands and fathers have died, and that is the most tragic result of this catastrophe," Tusk said.
The air force plane carrying 16 passengers and four crew members was approaching an air force airstrip at Miroslawiec shortly after 7 p.m. (1800 GMT) when it crashed in a forested area.
The passengers were military officers who had been attending a flight safety conference in Warsaw.
Officials said it was the first accident in Poland involving a CASA transporter, which is generally considered an extremely reliable aircraft.
The airplane took off from Warsaw and was scheduled to make stops in three cities before returning to its home base in Krakow. It crashed before reaching its second destination.
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Police fired teargas to disperse stone-throwing youths near an opposition funeral in Kenya on Wednesday, but former U.N. boss Kofi Annan managed to broker a halt to further street protests after weeks of unrest.
On his first day in Kenya, Annan persuaded the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to call off demonstrations scheduled to resume on Thursday, although he did not meet President Mwai Kibaki as originally planned.
"On the request of the mediation team, we have called off the activities we had planned for tomorrow to give this mediation effort the best chance," a top ODM official, William Ruto, told reporters after party leaders met Annan.
Officials said Annan would now meet Kibaki on Thursday.
In chaotic scenes at the funeral, several teargas canisters landed in a Nairobi football field where coffins were laid out and opposition leader Raila Odinga was winding up an oration for 28 slum-dwellers he said were shot by police.
Pro-opposition youths then set fire to a nearby post office.
"This is a war between the people of Kenya and a small clique of very bloodthirsty people who want to cling on to power at all costs," Odinga told the crowd of mourners as violence erupted on a road outside.
Annan's talks were designed to resolve a stalemate that threatens to wreck the east African country's stable image.
Odinga says Kibaki stole a narrow victory in the December 27 election, which has split the country of 36 million down the middle. Adding to a death toll of about 650 since the vote, at least two more people were killed in a Nairobi slum.
The former U.N. chief met Odinga after talks with the speaker of parliament and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is also trying to mediate and is concerned about the impact that a prolonged crisis in Kenya would have on his own country.
Museveni is one of few African leaders to have congratulated Kibaki on his victory and the opposition questioned his role.
"If President Museveni has any input to make ... he should make it through the mediation team," Ruto said.
CAR OCCUPANTS BEATEN
Police had eased a ban on public demonstrations, in place since Kibaki's swearing-in on December 30 prompted rioting and looting, to permit the memorial led by the ODM for what it called the "freedom fighters" of Kibera slum.
The day began peacefully as hundreds of supporters marched from Kibera, a stronghold of Odinga's Luo tribe. But the event turned violent when about a dozen youths stopped some cars, smashed windows and beat non-Luo occupants.
Police moved in but held fire, witnesses said, as a growing crowd of youths threw rocks at them. They eventually responded with charges and salvoes of teargas, some of which landed in the field, terrifying mourners and scattering ODM leaders.
ODM later complained police had assaulted peaceful mourners.
World powers have called on Kibaki and Odinga to hold urgent talks after more than three weeks of unrest and many ordinary Kenyans are disgusted that they have so far failed to do so.
After meeting Annan, newly elected Parliament Speaker Kenneth Marende said face-to-face discussion between the two Kenyan leaders "is going to be on the table".
Illustrating the urgency of Annan's mission, two men were found dead -- one stoned and one decapitated -- in Nairobi's Kariobangi slum. Area police commander Paul Ruto said the fighting was between Luos and Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group.
At least eight other people were reported killed in the city and the Rift Valley, local media said.
Odinga has demanded Kibaki stand down or face a new election, which some diplomats have cautioned against as having too much potential for further bloodshed.
Odinga hinted he might accept the creation of a prime minister's post for him. "We are ready to share power with him. He remains president and we take the position of prime minister," he told Germany's ARD television.
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta
Tests on dead birds from Dinhata, less than a two-hour drive from Calcutta, have tested positive for the disease.
Nine of the state's 19 districts have been already hit by the flu. Officials say more than 2m birds would be culled.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu is regarded as highly pathogenic and can also cause disease and death in humans.
Health experts have warned that the outbreak could get out of control.
No cases of human infection have still been reported though a member of the culling team has been admitted to hospital with respiratory disorder and fever.
State animal husbandry minister Anisur Rehman said the government had a "long way to go" in culling the targeted two million birds.
Only a third of the target has been achieved - barely 700,000 birds have been culled in the last 10 days.
"More culling teams are needed in all the affected districts but these are things that cannot be hurried. The men in the culling teams have to be quarantined first before they can be asked to start the operations," Mr Rehman said.
In most of the districts , the villagers were resisting culling of their backyard poultry.
"Poultry is a major source of income for the poor villagers. It is not unusual for them to resist culling. So we have to persuade them rather than force them," said Manasa Hansda, a senior official of Birbhum, one of the worst-hit districts said.
The problem is made worse because many poor and illiterate farmers are sometimes misinformed about basic hygiene.
Villagers are reported to be reluctant to hand over birds
Dead birds are reported to have been dumped in village wells and ponds by people not aware of the risks from the H5N1 virus.
Federal officials have warned that if the pace of culling does not pick up fast, the airborne virus may spread to the remaining districts and even hit Calcutta.
One of the districts most recently affected, Hooghly, is close to Calcutta and contains the state's largest chicken hatchery.
"If this spreads to Calcutta, there will be panic and chaos," animal disease expert Barun Roy said.
The municipal authorities in Calcutta are not prepared for such a situation, he said.
'Panic and chaos'
Another district recently hit by the virus, Coochbehar, is close to the border with Bangladesh.
West Bengal has sealed a stretch of its border with Bangladesh, which has been fighting to contain the spread of bird flu since March last year.
Experts in Bangladesh have warned that the outbreak of the virus is far worse than the government is reporting.
"Bird flu is now everywhere. Every day we have reports of birds dying in farms," leading Bangladeshi poultry expert MM Khan has said.
"Things are now very serious and public health is [in] danger," he said, alleging that farmers were reluctant to report new cases.
There is little evidence that the virus can be transmitted easily between humans.
Most human victims have contracted the disease through close contact with affected birds.
Indo-Asian News Service
Wednesday, January 23, 2008: (New Delhi):
Bollywood actor-turned-director Aamir Khan, whose directorial debut Taare Zameen Par has become a box-office hit, says that he is extremely tired and badly needs to unwind himself.
"My God! The past few months have been quite a ride. And the last month the most exciting, nerve racking, exhausting, rejuvenating, draining, enriching. Am I ever going to recover?" Aamir noted in his blog at www.aamirkhan.com this week.
"I feel like I've been stuffed into a washing machine, which doesn't have an off button. After this I really need to be put out to dry in the sun and left alone. But no such luck. I start shooting for Ghajini on January 22," he penned.
Hence, the multifaceted actor would take "baby steps" towards recovery.
"First things first... I have just smoked my last cigarette before sending this post. Yes, I have finally kicked the bad habit! I know I know I can already hear all of you all scream and shout. I was supposed to give up on December 31. But I didn't (which is one of the reasons I was avoiding posting). I tried my best... but I am sorry I couldn't then... but I have now... so please don't give me grief... instead support me now. Second step: get back to sleeping early. Third: work out religiously.Fourth: get back on my healthy diet. Fifth: just stick to the above four for a while before taking the fifth step," he explained.
And while the actor shoots for Ghajini his to-do list includes: Work on the DVD of Taare..., work on the release plan of Jaane Tu..., Aamir Khan Production's next release, supervise preparations on Delhi Belly, which starts shoot in March.
"Start preparation work on the other one that Aamir Khan Production is producing later this year yet untitled. Make innovations and progress on this site. Clean my study and my cupboard. So much junk has piled up in my rooms. Everyday I look at the mess and promise myself I'll get down to it at some point," he writes.
Overwhelmed by the Indian cricket team's historic win in Australia last week, Aamir, a sports buff, said the victory tastes sweeter after beating an "arrogant" team. "In the meantime let us celebrate India's win over Australia. What a glorious win! Sweet and well deserved. We would have won the earlier test as well had it not been for remarkably bad luck with the umpiring. The victory is the more satisfying because we beat a team, which is unfortunately very arrogant and decidedly badly behaved on the cricket field. My sincere apologies to any fans of Australian cricket but I fail to understand why arguably the best team in the world has to behave so badly on the field. Or why this team feels the need to use excessively aggressive heckling to try and win a match. Can't they just play better?"
Incidentally, Aamir, a more-than-decent tennis player and admirer of Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, said that cricketers must take a lesson from tennis players.
"I don't see Federer or (Andy) Roddick misbehaving with each other or anyone. I wish the Indian team didn't get influenced by the childish display and respond in kind. We should just quietly play better and win... or lose, as the case may be. But play with dignity," he wrote.
LONDON: Life on Mars? Well, bizarre images have emerged showing a mystery female figure walking down a hill on the arid planet. The photo of what looks like a naked woman with her arm outstretched was among several taken on the red planet and sent back to Earth by NASA's Mars explorer Spirit, the 'Daily Mail' reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed Web site. Though no official confirmation has come from NASA whether the figure is an alien or an optical illusion caused by a landscape on Mars, it has s et the Internet abuzz that there really is life on Mars.
The news of the mystery woman on Mars came just days after a team of French scientists claimed to have discovered proof that the red planet possesses high-level dense clouds of dry ice, which scud across its orange sky. Using data obtained by the OMEGA spectrometer on board ESA's Mars Express, the team found the existence of the ice clouds which sometimes become so dense that they throw quite dark shadows on the dusty surface of the red planet.
"This is the first time that carbon dioxide ice clouds on Mars have been imaged and identified from above. This is important because the images tell us not only about their shape, but also their size and density. Previously, we had to rely on indirect i nformation. However, it is very difficult to separate the signals coming from the clouds, atmosphere and surface,'' according to lead scientist Franck Montmessin of the Service d'Aeronomie at University of Versailles. - PTI
Global positioning system (GPS) technology—now found in everything from cars to wristwatches—has become increasingly popular over the past few years for tracking location. But it has its limits—most notably, roofs, walls and floors that shield satellite signals and keep them from locating GPS receivers indoors.
Enter the indoor positioning system (IPS), a budding technology that IPS manufacturers envision as one day tracking the movement of firefighters battling blazes inside burning buildings, patients in hospitals and even retail merchandise swiped from store shelves. Although this has sparked invasion-of-privacy fears in some, the technology itself is designed to deliver useful locator services that pick up where GPS leaves off.
Why can IPS go where GPS cannot? GPS technology relies on signals from multiple satellites and employs a triangulation process to determine physical locations with an accuracy of about 33 feet (10 meters); the most common forms of IPS, both in use and under development, employ radio, ultrasound or infrared signals to home in on enclosed locations.
Radio signal–based systems that rely on wireless local area networks (WLANs) and Wi-Fi signals have several advantages over indoor positioning systems designed to rely on ultrasound or infrared, one former IBM researcher says. "The biggest advantage for wireless LANs is [that] the technology is relatively cheap and available in a lot of places," says Jin Chen, a PhD student researching distributed systems and autonomic computing at the University of Toronto, who in 2003 as a researcher with IBM in China co-wrote a paper that examined the use of WLANs for indoor positioning systems.
Many businesses and homes already have wireless networks for connecting laptops, PDAs and mobile phones, and these devices could be tracked simply by adding enabling software, Chen says. WLAN-based systems also cover larger areas than other types of indoor positioning systems and could even work across multiple buildings.
Companies that make ultrasound-based IPS say that sound waves can more accurately pinpoint people and objects than radio-frequency waves, which can be picked up by multiple sensors, making it difficult to figure out the exact proximity of a particular object to a given sensor. "If you have an RF [radio-frequency] tag, it is emitting radiation through its antenna," says Wilfred Booij, chief technology officer of Sonitor Technologies, AS, based in Oslo, Norway. The accuracy of RF waves is diminished within buildings, where the waves reflect off of metallic or ceramic objects. "If you have a very open area, you can have very good accuracy with RF—between five and 10 meters [16 and 33 feet]," he says. "But in complex buildings like a hospital, accuracy is more like 15 meters [49 feet]."
Ultrasound is detected by microphones placed in rooms where the tracking is to be done. When ultrasound signals—which have short wavelengths—are emitted, the walls and doors confine the signals to that room. Sonitor is trying to improve the accuracy of its ultrasound system by shaping the sensitivity of its detectors to create "subzones."
"With ultrasound, we have much better control over signal strength," Booij says. "A microphone can be designed to be more sensitive in a particular direction. We can shape the sensitivity of our detectors so that rather than picking up all the signals in a room, they pick up a specific signal that can be specific to a particular doctor or patient."
Sonitor so far has installed its technology in 20 hospitals in the U.S. and Europe, where physicians and staff use the ultrasound systems to track patients and medical equipment. Among them, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ( U.P.M.C.) since October has been testing different IPS technologies to create a "smart room" that detects a doctor or nurse who has entered it and displays patient information on bedside monitors.
Flight operations to Pune will be affected with the airport being closed for re-carpeting for a two-week period beginning February 12 next year.
The low-cost airline, SpiceJet and the full service airline, Kingfisher have both announced suspension of flights during the two-week period.
The airport closure is likely to lead to a revenue loss of close to Rs 4 crore for SpiceJet alone. "During the two-week period, the four daily flights being operated from Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad to Pune would be cancelled," the Chief Executive Officer, SpiceJet, Mr Siddhanta Sharma, said. Officials indicated that the closure was likely to affect around 1,200 SpiceJet passengers a day.
While Indian, which operates a daily flight from Delhi, Goa and Bangalore and a two times a week flight from Hyderabad, has not yet taken a decision on cancelling flights, it also expects to see a drop in revenues if the airport is closed.
Travel industry officials, however, feel that the airport closure has been timed so as to ensure that the impact is minimal. "February is generally the lean season in the domestic tourism industry for a variety of reasons including the fact that examinations in school and colleges begin the following month," sources said.
Tran Thi Kham, 40, did not discover the truth until after leaving her employer.
Their reunion only came about because she mistakenly left some keepsakes at his home, which he had given to her mother more than 40 years before.
Tsai Han-chao, 77, said he could not help crying when he found out he had a daughter he never knew about.
"Life's ups and downs are just like television drama. How could I have ever dreamed that she is my daughter? I couldn't stop crying when we were finally united," he told Taiwan's TVBS cable news channel.
Ms Tran had travelled to Taiwan a few years earlier to search for her father.
Her only clues were a gold ring and a photograph of him as a young man.
He had given the mementoes to a Vietnamese woman he had fallen in love with in Hong Kong in 1967. She had returned to her home country to care for her mother and he later returned to Taiwan.
The woman gave birth to Tran Thi Kham, but died two years later. The child was brought up by her aunt - whom she thought was her mother until the day of her wedding, at age 21.
On that day, her aunt revealed the true story and passed on the ring and the photo.
Much later, after bringing up her own children, Ms Tran decided to search out her father in Taiwan.
She took a job with a man in the capital, Taipei, caring for his ailing wife.
When the wife died, seven months later, Ms Tran moved on to other employment on the Taiwanese island of Kinmen.
But she realised she had left the prized possessions behind and enlisted the help of Kinmen police.
They contacted Mr Tsai and asked him to search for her things. Police described him as "stunned" to come across the keepsakes he had given his lover so long before.
He flew immediately to Kinmen, where his daughter was newly employed, for an emotional reunion.
"This is incredible and really touching to see the father and daughter get together after all these years," said Kinmen policeman, Ku Ker-ya.