Month: July 2007

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

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Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?
Malayala Manorma English Edition Monday,30 July 2007 20:48 hrs IST

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of conditions that all gradually destroy brain cells and lead to progressive decline in mental functions like memory, ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate, carry out daily activities etc. As Alzheimer’s progresses, individuals may also experience changes impersonality and behavior, such as anxiety, suspiciousness or agitation, as well as delusions or hallucinations.

In US alone, there are over 5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, people in India have an unusually low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, it is observed. Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, new treatments are emerging as a result of better insight into the biology of the disease.

It is well known that Alzheimer’s occurs less commonly in well-educated people and studies show that life long learning is a good way to combat this disease.
Regular mental stimulation through work, continuing education, extensive reading, playing mentally challenging games like solving mathematical puzzles of sudoku and magic square, or learning a new language or musical instrument etc. can help keep the mental capabilities finely tuned. Such mental activities cause brain cells to grow more numerous connections that aid communication with adjoining brain cells. Scientists have discovered that, even in old age, some areas of the brain can actually create new cells in response to stimulation. Participating in interesting social or leisure activities is found to diminish the July 2007 Executive Knowledge Lines 5risk of the disease.

In a study researchers found those who engaged in the greatest variety of leisure activities-including hobbies, going on outings, visiting family or friends, volunteering, or joining group social events-had the lowest risk of mental decline. Physical exercise also helps keep our cognitive abilities in good shape. Exercise enhances mental agility and alertness, perhaps by improving blood flow to the brain. In a study of exercise patterns in women, researchers found worsening mental abilities in 24%, who walked little, a half-mile each week. But in women who walked the most-an average of 18 miles a week-only 17% showed signs of mental decline. Stress reduction with techniques like meditation, yoga, and breathing or relaxation exercises is also found to help in managing the disease.

Finally, good nutrition is also an important factor. A high-fat diet and obesity are factors that increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. Some of the nutrients that may offer protection include B-complex vitamins, monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, omega-3fatty acids in fish and flax seeds, antioxidant vitamins C and E in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (especially blueberries, spinach, and seaweed), turmeric etc.

BBC launches free Internet TV service

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BBC launches free Internet TV service
Agencies/GULF NEWS Published: July 30, 2007, 09:13

London: Billed as the biggest change in the way viewers watch television in 40 years, the BBC launched an online service on Friday that allows people to download many programmes from the last week.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson says the arrival of the “on-demand” iPlayer is as important as the first color broadcasts in the 1960s.

Viewers can choose from 400 hours of programmes, between 60 and 70 per cent of the total TV output, including hit shows such as “EastEnders, “Doctor Who” and “Planet Earth”.

It faces competition from similar services provided by Channel 4 and ITV and from increasingly popular video-sharing sites such as YouTube.

The growth of the Internet, mobiles and hard-drive recorders that save hours of programmes, has destroyed the notion of fixed TV schedules delivered through a TV in the corner of the room.

Broadcasters are under pressure to hold on to viewers by letting them watch programmes when and where they want.

“Our vision is for BBC iPlayer to become a universal service available not just over the Internet, but also on cable and other TV platforms, and eventually on mobiles and smart handheld devices,” said the BBC’s Ashley Highfield, director of future media and technology.

The service, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer, is free, but people will not be allowed to save permanent copies to their computer. It could take 30 minutes to download an hour-long show.

It is only available to people living in Britain with computers that run the Microsoft XP operating system.

Programs will be automatically deleted after viewing or after 30 days. Copyright protection software will prevent the copying of shows.

Economy caught in inflation bind

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Economy caught in inflation bind
Gulf News Published: July 30, 2007, 23:49

The UAE economy, moving on a high-speed growth trajectory, is getting caught up in the classic growth versus inflation dilemma.

While inflation in the UAE is largely a by-product of excess liquidity, increased government and private spending and the relative supply constraints in the real estate sector, the dirham’s peg to the perennially falling dollar is also contributing to the general rise in prices.

Independent economists and the UAE Central Bank have always attributed surging rents as a major contributing inflationary factor. However, rising rents have also been widely acknowledged as a driver behind the real estate boom.

The UAE Ministry of Economy has estimated inflation at 9.3 per cent last year. With the new supply of homes coming into the market this year inflation was expected to ease to about 7.5 per cent.

However, with the surging cost of living and shrinking purchasing power, new supply alone is unlikely to cool inflation. In the absence of any kind of inflation targeting through fiscal or monetary policy measures, it would be unrealistic to expect prices to retreat in the near term.

But if the market is left to find its own tolerance level for too long, it will almost certainly bring down prices but at a huge cost in the form of a severe correction starting in the real estate sector, with cascading effect on other sectors.

The real estate sector is already seeing the omens on the horizon in the form of declining demand for newer properties from domestic buyers.

Biocon-Neopharma venture to develop drugs in Dubai

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Biocon-Neopharma venture to develop drugs in Dubai
By Shakir Husain, Staff Reporter/Gulf News
Published: July 30, 2007, 23:49

Dubai: Indian biotechnology firm Biocon Limited and Abu Dhabi-based drugmaker Neopharma have set up a venture in Dubai to develop treatments for diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases in a boost for the emirate’s efforts to create a viable medical research sector.

Located in Dubai Bio-technology and Research Park (Dubiotech), Neobiocon will focus on developing drugs to fight diseases that are growing due to changing lifestyles in the region.

The companies said the cardiovascular, diabetes and oncology segments represent the fastest growing class of drugs in the $5 billion GCC pharmaceutical market.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon, sees a spending of Dh100 million on research and development over the next three to five years.

The areas of research include auto-immune disorders, anti-obesity drugs and new generation immunosuppressant agents.

“Our long-term vision is to ensure that the region is self-sufficient in terms of biopharmaceutical products,” Shaw said, describing the UAE as the “diabetes capital” of the region.

Neobiocon will rely on Biocon’s technological achievements and Neopharma’s manufacturing capabilities.

Neopharma, part of healthcare group NMC, has a drug-making facility in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi and plans to set up another plant in the capital to make drugs being developed by the Dubai-based venture.

NMC managing director B.R. Shetty told Gulf News his company will invest about Dh300 million in the plant covering a land area of 100,000 square metres.

He expects an annual turnover of about Dh185 million per year from the new company.

Besides the UAE, the company will also target Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

Diabetes and cardiovascular disorders are seen growing in the region due to sedentary lifestyles, job-related stress, a lack of physical activity and eating of rich foods.

“In addition to India and sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest relative increase of these diseases is expected to occur in the Middle Eastern countries,” the two companies said in a statement.

Biotechnology: Dubiotech infrastructure is now 100% complete

– Dubiotech has begun leasing land for offices and factories to companies and has finished work on basic infrastructure facilities, a senior official said.

– The business cluster is part of Dubai Holding unit Tecom Investments.

– “Infrastructure is now 100 per cent complete. The lab building will be ready in early 2009 and the headquarters building in late 2009,” business development director Yahya Al Ansari said.

– Total spending on infrastructure and the two buildings is estimated about Dh1.2 billion.

– Dubiotech has so far attracted 26 companies in different areas of biotechnology and medical research.

Waterbuses likely to operate from August

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Waterbuses likely to operate from August
By a staff reporter / Khaleej Times

DUBAI — The waterbus service, officially launched on Sunday, will be open to commuters only by next month, it was learnt.

A senior official of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) yesterday confirmed the delay of the waterbus service on the Dubai Creek, saying it was due to technical reasons.

Khalid Al Zahed, director of Maritime Projects Department at the RTA, said the waterbuses were currently being tested and would be allowed to ply in the creek only after a foolproof check.

“The waterbuses will be plying along the Dubai Creek from next month. At present we are in the process of carrying out checks and re-checks to ensure their safe run,” he said.

The official added: “Safety of the commuters is RTA’s top priority. We want to first make sure that these buses are risk-free.”

Zahed added that a total number of 12 buses would be operating in the Creek on five different routes.

Meanwhile, staff at waterbus station at Al Seef said several people were coming every day to enquire about the waterbuses.

While the daily commuters will have to pay Dh4 for a trip, tourists will be charged Dh25 for a 45-minute tour.

There will be five lines for these waterbuses, including one for tourists which will start from the Shindaga station and go up to the Al Seef station. For the daily commuters, there are four lines – from Al Seef station to Baniyas station, from Sabkha station to Bur Dubai station, Old Souk station to Al Seef station and Old Souk station to Baniyas station. Commuters can also buy prepaid cards for the waterbuses, according to Eng. Eisa Abdul Rehman Al Dosari, CEO of the Marine Agency at the RTA.

Prices rise by 50%

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Mineral water gets costlier next month
By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter/Gulf News
Published: July 30, 2007, 00:01

Abu Dhabi: Consumers are complaining that prices of all essential commodities have gone up.

“Whatever I purchased for Dh100 two months ago costs me around Dh130-Dh140 now,” said James, an Indian expatriate who has been living in Abu Dhabi for the past 10 years.

Many supermarkets also confirmed the price increase of up to 50 per cent for some commodities in the past six months.

A senior manager of a prominent retail chain disclosed that the retail price of wheat flour has gone up by 50 per cent since January.

Basic commodities

“The 50kg bag of wheat flour priced at Dh56.50 in January was increased to Dh71 on July 5 and further increased to Dh83 this week,” he said.

A 10kg bag of another type of flour, a mix of wheat and ground gram, went up by more than 30 per cent in the same period. The retail price was Dh13.50 in January but is now Dh17.95.

Interestingly the price was increased thrice this month. It was increased to Dh14.85 on July 1, and further increased to Dh15.95 and Dh17.95 on July 5 and July 29 respectively.

“Wheat is mainly imported from the United States, India and Pakistan. Apart from the increase in the cost of production, the fluctuation in the exchange rate is also said to be the reason for the substantial rise in price. The appreciation of the Indian rupee against the US dollar and the dirham has caused a price rise for almost all commodities imported from India,” the manager of the retail chain said. But most retailers admitted that prices will not come down when the exchange rate is changed.

The latest in the series of price rises is that of mineral water.

“Almost all suppliers of mineral water have given notice to us that prices will be increased from July 1 onwards. A four-gallon water can will be priced at Dh9 against the current price of Dh7,” said V. Nanda Kumar, Corporate Communications Manager of Emke Group. “We have told the suppliers that the new prices have to be ratified by the Ministry of Economy,” he said.

The price of rice and vegetable oil has also gone up. Two of the oil brands have already implemented the price rise and others have given notice for the same to the wholesale dealers.

The price of sugar has been fluctuating during the past three months. Many consumers have demanded the intervention of the Ministry of Economy to control prices. No official from the ministry was available for comments.

Enoc hikes diesel price for fourth time in 40 days

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Enoc hikes diesel price for fourth time in 40 days
By Shakir Husain, Staff Reporter / GULF NEWS
Published: July 30, 2007, 00:01

Dubai: Dubai’s Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) yesterday raised the price of diesel by six per cent to Dh10.60 per gallon, the company’s fourth price increase in less than 40 days.

On the previous three occasions the state-run company, which operates Enoc and Eppco filling stations, increased diesel prices by 20 fils each time.

The latest price hike makes diesel 24 per cent costlier in Dubai than in Abu Dhabi.

Diesel was available for Dh8.60 per gallon at the filling stations operated by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which has kept its price unchanged despite the distributors in Dubai regularly hiking fuel prices.

Emirates General Petroleum Corp (Emarat) was still selling diesel at Dh9.99 per gallon yesterday, but the company has matched Enoc prices in the past with its own price revisions.

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The Ministry of Economy said recently a 31.5 per cent increase in the prices of petroleum products in 2005 fuelled last year’s inflation, which it estimated at 9.3 per cent.

Transport companies said the steep price hike will put an extra financial burden on them.

“Diesel prices keep going up but we cannot increase our charges so frequently,” said a manager of Belhasa Bus Rental company, which operates a fleet of 70 vehicles.

Diesel consumers may also be encouraged to source cheaper fuel from Adnoc outlets.

“We are instructing our drivers to get diesel from Adnoc stations if they are in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah,” said Kamran Ahmad, manager of another transport company based in Dubai.

An Enoc spokesperson told Gulf News one reason for the latest price revision was the recent introduction of low-sulphur diesel by the company and producing that fuel “is a costlier process with additional long-term investment required.”