CSR in India sent amorous texts to BT customer


A BT call handler in India has been disciplined after sending amorous text and voicemail messages to a customer.

The female customer from Portsmouth, who does not wish to be identified, went on to the company’s website to set up a new landline last month. She received a phone call and gave her details but soon began receiving text messages from the operator saying he was “attracted” to her voice.

BT said he has been disciplined but would not reveal if he had been sacked.

The customer, known only as Jane, told BBC Radio Solent: “We’ve just moved house and needed a landline so I went onto the BT website and lodged to get reconnected and all those details were processed.

“A few days later I had a call from a call centre from a gentleman who sounded overseas who processed all the order.

Then I started getting text messages…

The company has sent her flowers and made an offer of £250 compensation.

Are they certain the flowers actually are from BT? 🙂

UK e-mail law is an attack on privacy and civil liberties

Why aren’t you a Manchester United supporter anymore?

Rules forcing internet companies to keep details of every e-mail sent in the UK are a waste of money and an attack on civil liberties, say critics. From March all internet service providers (ISPs) will by law have to keep information about every e-mail sent or received in the UK for a year.

The Home Office insists the data, which does not include e-mails’ content, is vital for crime and terror inquiries. There’s a new excuse. Didn’t Herr Himmler say the same?

“The thing we have to worry about is what happens next because the government is already mooting plans not just to leave this stuff with the providers but to create a central government database where they hold all the information.

I’m afraid we just don’t trust any government or any organisation to keep that much very sensitive information about us all and to keep it safe.”

The firms will have to store the information and make it available to any public body which makes a lawful request, which could include police, local councils and health authorities.

Who gets to determine what is a lawful request? It appears as if the bodies making the request – will determine if it’s lawful or not.

We just fought and won an election in the U.S. – in part to regain the civil liberties stolen by populist right-wingers. Brits are still stuck with the Blair/Brown/Bush mentality that says the government knows best – and will rule on what they should know about your private life.

A link between sleeplessness and paranoia identified

Research funded by the Wellcome Trust has identified a link between sleeplessness and paranoid thinking, a theme highlighted in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. The study – the first to examine insomnia and persecutory thoughts – found that in the general population individuals with insomnia were five times more likely to have high levels of paranoid thinking than people who were sleeping well. In an extension of the research, over half the individuals attending psychiatric services for severe paranoia were found to have clinical insomnia.

Insomnia has long been known to be very common. According to epidemiological surveys, on any given night one in three people will have difficulties getting to or staying asleep. For one in ten people this will occur several nights a week. Lack of sleep can lead to anxiety, sadness and irritability, but this new study highlights another potential consequence: feeling that others are deliberately trying to harm us…

Although the study shows a clear link between the two conditions, it is unclear which causes the other. Clinical experience indicates that there is a vicious cycle: insomnia makes us anxious and fearful, and these feelings make it harder for us to sleep.

Dr Freeman believes that the research points to a potential treatment for helping to reduce the risk of developing persecutory thoughts.

“The good news is that there are several tried-and-tested ways to overcome insomnia,” he says. “In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has proven benefits. The intriguing implication of the research is that use of the sleep techniques may also make us feel safer and less mistrustful during the day. A good night’s sleep may simply make us view the world in a much more positive light.”

As the MacBeth leaves the chamber of Duncan, having murdered the king, he believes he hears someone cry “Sleep no more: Macbeth doth murder sleep”. Dude needed a CPAP machine for sure.

Thanks, sciencedaily.com

Hunting for Darwin’s lost Beagle

HMS Beagle in Sydney Harbour by Ron Scobie

A muddy river bank in the flat, watery landscape of southern Essex may seem an unlikely place to find one of the most important ships in scientific history. But a combination of painstaking detective work and archaeology have convinced maritime historian Dr Robert Prescott that the banks of the River Roach near the village of Paglesham are the last resting place of HMS Beagle.

The historic ship will be forever associated with Charles Darwin who served as its naturalist on her second great voyage between 1831 and 1836…

Dr Prescott, from the University of St Andrews, decided to find out what happened to the Beagle after she completed her third and final great voyage in 1843. “The notion that there was this interesting ship which also had a very interesting connection with one of the major scientific developments in recent history was just too good to be true. I wanted to find out more,” he told the BBC Radio 4 programme Hunting the Beagle…

A document records the ship was decommissioned as a coastguard watch vessel, and sold off in 1870 to “Messrs Murray and Trainer”.

Dr Prescott believes this was probably an ad-hoc partnership of two local farmers who did not have any experience of ship-breaking and who would have salvaged what they could in difficult conditions. “I believe that the lower half of this vessel was probably abandoned and has slowly settled deeper and deeper into the mud.”

Dr Prescott and a team of archaeologists discovered a structure buried which matches the size and shape of the Beagle, after using ground radar and other geophysical techniques at the Paglesham site.

He hopes that by the end of this year the ship will once again be brought to light after 140 years buried in the Essex mud.

Some interesting side notes about Darwin and his travails over the voyages of the Beagle. An article worth reading – especially as part of the Darwin celebrations this year.

Palm gets in game – but doesn’t change it

Palm unveiled its long-awaited operating system and Pre device and has generated a lot of love among the tech set.

The OS — webOS — appears elegant, and the Pre looks like it could be a winning device. Sprint is also betting on Palm.

Add it up and Palm apparently hit a home run at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday. The reviews, which are mostly based on the browser, are strong. Jon Rubinstein, chairman of Palm, clearly worked the press conference and wowed a lot of folks.

But reality looms. Om Malik notes that he is skeptical that Palm’s latest and greatest can save the company. Om says he appears to be the only one that’s skeptical. Om’s problem: He can’t reconcile Palm’s financials and market standing with the gadget lovers’ Pre-conquer-the-world riffs. I can’t either. Now it’s a party of two…

For sure, Palm’s effort looks much better than Windows Mobile (what doesn’t), but relative to RIM devices and Apple’s iPhone, Palm shot for par…In other words, Palm’s Pre with the webOS gives the company hope but it’s still a long shot. Palm may ding Android devices, but the average consumer–the one that will decide Palm’s fate–isn’t going to sweat developer nuances that we obsess about.

For starters, Palm is hitching its wagon to Sprint, which is outgunned by both Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Sprint isn’t going to land switchers.

The Pre comes in the first half and may save the day. But that’s not such a sure bet. The hurdle is this: Is the Pre good enough to lure folks away from RIM or Apple?

Possibly, but unlikely.

Palm certainly occupies a warm corner in my heart. The last several years before I retired, my life on the road was made smooth by a progression of Palm PDA’s. My last is still providing some use to a mad chess player.

If I was still on the road – looking for a portable device to make life easier – it would certainly be an iPhone.

Aquaculture growth seen as continuing and stable

Loch Duart salmon pens

Aquaculture production of seafood will probably remain the most rapidly increasing food production system worldwide through 2025, according to an assessment published in the January 2009 issue of BioScience. The assessment, by James S. Diana of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, notes that despite well-publicized concerns about some harmful effects of aquaculture, the technique may, when practiced well, be no more damaging to biodiversity than other food production systems. Moreover, it may be the only way to supply growing demand for seafood as the human population expands.

Diana notes that total production from capture fisheries has remained approximately constant for the past 20 years and may decline. Aquaculture, in contrast, has increased by 8.8 percent per year since 1985 and now accounts for about one-third of all aquatic harvest by weight. Finfish, mollusks, and crustaceans dominate aquaculture production; seafood exports generate more money for developing countries than meat, coffee, tea, bananas, and rice combined.

Among the most potentially harmful effects of aquaculture, according to Diana, are the escape of farmed species that then become invasive, pollution of local waters by effluent, especially from freshwater systems, and land-use change associated with shrimp aquaculture in particular. Increased demand for fish products for use in feed and transmission of disease from captive to wild stocks are also hazards.

Nonetheless, when carefully implemented, aquaculture can reduce pressure on overexploited wild stocks, enhance depleted stocks, and boost natural production of fishes as well as species diversity, according to Diana (.pdf). Some harmful effects have diminished as management techniques have improved, and aquaculture has the potential to provide much-needed employment in developing countries.

As usual, what’s needed is scientific and ethical oversight. With teeth.

No need to get Draconian about how to do something. Just strict about how not to do something.

Thanks, sciencedaily.com

‘Superwoman’ Dati gets rise out of French feminists

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

French Justice Minister Rachida Dati has come under fire from women’s groups for returning to work just five days after giving birth.

Ms Dati attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, hours after leaving a Paris clinic with her new daughter, Zohra. Activists said the move set a bad example for women, and put pressure on new mothers to return to work quickly.

Ms Dati, who gave birth by Caesarean on 2 January, told reporters she felt fine on her first day back at work.

Woman’s rights activist Florence Montreynaud compared Ms Dati to working women in the 1920s who “gave birth in the factories” and lamented that her decision would exacerbate the divide between “superwomen and wimps” in the workforce.

But a French medical expert insisted there were no ill effects from a quick return to work. “Pregnancy is not an illness,” said Georges-Fabrice Blum, vice- president of the French gynaecologists’ association.

The 43-year-old first-time mother, who is single, has kept the father’s identity under wraps, telling reporters she had “a complicated private life” and sparking an intense guessing game in the French press.

Dr. Blum recommends rest for a period of three weeks to a month after a Caesarean birth; but, like any medical recommendation, the individual patient’s response to surgery, general health and state of mind play a significant role in any decision.

If Ms Dati keeps in touch with her physician – which I presume she is doing – and responds appropriately to any possible negative symptoms, what is the problem? Sectarian responses to individual decisions are a natural and frequent conflict in some parts of the political world. Some are worth supporting. Some are not.

Ms Dati, after all, is running her own life.

Old gastrointestinal drug slows aging – only please don’t try this at home!

I hope Dr. Hekimi tolerates an old cycling geek’s choice of photos. This is what he did for a living – before he became an eminent biologist.

Recent animal studies have shown that clioquinol – an 80-year old drug once used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders – can reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Scientists, however, had a variety of theories to attempt to explain how a single compound could have such similar effects on three unrelated neurodegenerative disorders.

Researchers at McGill University have discovered a dramatic possible new answer: According to Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and colleagues at McGill’s Department of Biology, clioquinol acts directly on a protein called CLK-1, often informally called “clock-1,” and might slow down the aging process.

“Clioquinol is a very powerful inhibitor of clock-1,” explained Hekimi. “Because clock-1 affects longevity in invertebrates and mice, and because we’re talking about three age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases, we hypothesize that clioquinol affects them by slowing down the rate of aging…”

Hekimi is optimistic but cautious when asked whether clioquinol could eventually become an anti-aging treatment.

“The drug affects a gene which when inhibited can slow down aging,” he said. “The implication is that we can change the rate of aging. This might be why clioquinol is able to work on this diversity of diseases that are all age-dependent.”

However, he admits to being concerned about how people may interpret his results.

“The danger is that you can buy a kilogram of this compound at a chemical wholesaler, but we don’t want people to start experimenting on themselves. Clioquinol can be a very toxic substance if abused, and far more research is required.”

Please, please, heed Dr. Hekimi’s advice. I offer scientific tidbits like this because I find them interesting and encouraging. Because of my interest in science overall. That doesn’t mean you should start experimenting on your friends and neighbors. Please.

Successful test flight of algae-fuelled jet

Daylife/AP Photo by David J. Phillip

A US airline has completed the first test flight of a plane partly powered by biofuel derived from algae.

The 90-minute flight by a Continental Boeing 737-800 went better than expected, a spokesperson said. One of its engines was powered by a 50-50 blend of biofuel and normal aircraft fuel.

The flight was the first by a US carrier to use an alternative fuel source, and the first in the world to use a twin-engine commercial aircraft (rather than a four-engine plane) to test a biofuel blend.

The flight from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport completed a circuit over the Gulf of Mexico, and pilots carried out a series of tests at 38,000ft, including a mid-flight engine shutdown.

“The airplane performed perfectly,” test pilot Rich Jankowski told the Houston Chronicle newspaper.

There were no problems. It was textbook.” Continental Airlines chief executive Larry Kellner described the biofuel as a “drop-in fuel”, which meant that no modification to the aircraft or its engines was required.

The fuel was a blend of algae-derivative and jatropha – which regular readers will know is one of my personal favorites. I’m not certain how far along the production of raw fuelstock has come. Pilot operations and small scale production are still ramping up. But, the rate at which these alternatives are being developed – smack in the middle of a recession – is encouraging.