Using Social Networks To Recruit, Retain, And Engage Volunteers, Part 5: Pinterest

August 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Welcome the final installment of series on recruiting, retaining, and engaging volunteers through social networking!

In earlier articles this month, we talked about general social networking best practices, as well as tips and tricks for using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In today’s post, we’ll go over networking through Pinterest.

Why this network is important

This network is built for quick, easy sharing of content—and it’s entirely image driven. this is hugely important for drumming up interest in your volunteer projects based on photos, infographics, and art. Rather than using catchy titles, the beauty of Pinterest lies in catchy design.

Let’s say you have an amazing volunteer program near Victoria Falls. you could say on Twitter that you’d love people to #volunteerabroad in #Africa, or you could post a breathtaking photo of the falls on Pinterest, with a link to your project page.

This also is a fantastic resource for your volunteers and alumni—showcase their photos and stories and get the repinning started!

Best practicesCreate a public board

This is one of my favorite benefits of Pinterest—adding a public board that allows your connections (volunteers and friends!) to post their own content can go a long way in keeping alumni and supporters excited about your projects and posting awesome information for future volunteers.

Follow your volunteers, friends, and networks

Invite your volunteers and alumni to connect on Pinterest—and share their amazing travel photos. this will help you stay connected with them, and to develop that much more interest in what your organization does.

Keep pinning

Pinterest is super fun when you get started—but it’s also easy to fall out of the habit once the novelty wears off. be sure to post your blogs, projects, and more each day to keep your content relevant and popular.

Make sure you know what you’re repinning

At some point, most of us start repinning others’ content without looking at the link behind it. I’ve fallen into the trap for sure—and I’ve seen it happen to others sharing content from Volunteer Global and our friends.

For example, Brittany posted a wonderful article about animal voluntourism and its effect on biodiversity, and it was repinned later to “Baby Animals” boards across Pinterest—the photo featured in it was of a tiger cub. It’s awesome that the article was shared, but…not so awesome that the point it was trying to make was sort of missed in the cuteness of its feature photo.

While that was a more lighthearted example, it can go downhill quickly if you just pay attention to the photos and not the links behind them. you probably don’t want to post a beautiful image of Santorini with a hate-filled accompanying article on a “Lovely Places For The Bucket List” board.

Choose your best photos

And that brings me to the last bit of advice–choose a great piece of artwork for your post. I’m a huge fan of the tiger cub photo used in the Voluntourism.org article above. It’s relevant to the piece, and it’s certainly eye-catching. It’s also unfortunate that the article wasn’t pinned for its own merit, but–it was still repinned, and it’s still on our board for “Blogs we love.” 

If you want someone to click through your content and connect with you on Pinterest, it’ll do a world of good to find clear, relevant photos and artwork that relates to your article, page, or link, but that also catches one’s eye in a sea of photos all competing for their attention. Find an amazing landscape, a happy volunteer, a group of friends working together, or an artistic shot of an amazing item you found at the local market. using your best photos, rather than just any photo that’ll do, is incredibly important not just for Pinterest, but indeed for the rest of your marketing strategy.

Now, how have you used Pinterest to engage your volunteers and friends? Post your ideas below!

Data Doctors: Tips for online backup of photos – East Valley Tribune: Data Doctors

August 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Q: after hearing about the reporter who had his entire laptop wiped by hackers, I’m wondering about the best way to backup all my photos to the Internet. what Internet photo storing sites do you recommend? – Greg

A: For those that haven’t heard the gut wrenching details of tech journalist Mat Honan’s epic hacking incident ( http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking ), it’s a cautionary tale well worth reading about so you can avoid the basic missteps that he made.

One of the many actions taken by the hacker was to use the remote wipe feature of the ‘Find my MacBook’ utility, which resulted in Mat losing all of the precious photographic memories of his new daughter and family members.

As is common in these cases, Mat hadn’t got around to backing up what was on his laptop, which is causing lots of folks to think about all the precious images they have accumulated that only exist in one place.

Photo storage/sharing sites abound on the Internet, but since they all differ in one way or another, it’s important that you research those differences before you commit to any of them. making a change to another site after you have uploaded a year’s worth of photos is something you want to avoid!

Most of us have a Facebook account and upload pictures to our profiles, but that is far from a comprehensive backup of your photos. Facebook also compresses your uploaded images to save space, so you can’t ever download them in their original resolution should you need to.

Straight forward backup sites such as Carbonite ( http://www.carbonite.com ) and Mozy ( http://mozy.com ) are a great way to automatically push exact copies up to the cloud, but if you want to share or make use of your photos via the storage site, you may want to consider additional options (remember, there is no such thing as too many backups).

For most casual photographers, Google’s Picasa software ( http://picasa.google.com )combined with their Picasa Web Album online service is a great solution for cataloging, editing and backing up your photos.

When you install Picasa, it automatically starts to scan and catalogue (by date) all the photos it can find in common picture locations (you can manually tell it to search other folders if you have them stored elsewhere).

Once they have been catalogued, you can use the built-in backup utility to burn DVDs or to back up to an external hard drive or upload them to your Picasa Web Album or Google+ accounts.

You have the option to upload them in ‘Best for sharing’, which compresses the photos or original size which will take longer to upload but creates a true backup of the original photo.

You get 1 GB of free Picasa storage or for $2.49 per month, you can increase it to 25 GB or $4.99 per month for 100 GB of storage.

Android smartphone users can also configure the Google+ app to automatically upload images taken by the phone to the Picasa Web Albums.

If you are a hardcore photographer with a lot of images, you should consider getting setup with a Flickr Pro account ( $24.95 per year). Not only can you store images in their original size, you get unlimited storage space and support for more file formats.

If you choose to share your photos, you can choose to only allow them to be seen in lower resolution and deter casual downloaders by disabling the right-click option for downloading.

Another option that my wife loves is Shutterfly ( https://www.shutterfly.com ) because of its free unlimited storage, easy sharing of albums (publicly or privately) and ability to design photobooks and send personalized postcards using any of our pictures.

Although you can upload images in full resolution, sharing or downloading them in the original resolution can’t be done, unless you are willing to pay to have them transferred back to a DVD by Shutterfly.

In fairness, you can download images at 1600×1200 which is sufficient to print a decent image up to 8×10, but if you want total control of your images at full resolution, you should avoid Shutterfly.

Remember, moving your life’s work in photography from one site to another isn’t easy, so don’t take this decision lightly.

Hackers Attack Flash Player

August 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Adobe's Flash Player is used every day by many in the finance community. Not only can the program enable video watching and interactive platform viewing, but it also facilitates many web operations, such as keeping the user informed on real-time market updates. However, users may want to be careful and adhere to best security practices, as the latest update may result in hacks.

According to SecurityNewsDaily, Adobe updated its Flash offering on August 13, but the new version contained security holes that prompt two kinds of attacks.

SecurityNewsDaily said one of the attempts is from an email with the subject line "iPhone 5 Battery Images Leak!!!" which is laden with a fake Flash file, which once opened, taps into the computer. Citing Symantec data, the source claimed around 1,300 attacks of this sort have been blocked so far.

The other hack is being waged on Android-based phones that have Flash installed, as many fake applications have cropped up since Google began taking away the Flash Player on devices in the Google Play app store.

Security firm GFI Labs published a blog featuring the various file names smartphone owners should look out for before downloading a Flash app, most of which are from Russian sites. the source said many users will realize they have been hacked because of the constant stream of pop-up ads lighting up the notification bar or the fact that it will start up when the phone is turned on.

Poor In India Starve as Politicians Steal $14.5 Billion of Food

August 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Ram Kishen, 52, half-blind and half- starved, holds in his gnarled hands the reason for his hunger: a tattered card entitling him to subsidized rations that now serves as a symbol of India’s biggest food heist.

Kishen has had nothing from the village shop for 15 months. Yet 20 minutes’ drive from Satnapur, past bone-dry fields and tiny hamlets where children with distended bellies play, a government storage facility five football fields long bulges with wheat and rice. by law, those 57,000 tons of food are meant for Kishen and the 105 other households in Satnapur with ration books. They’re meant for some of the 350 million families living below India’s poverty line of 50 cents a day.

Instead, as much as $14.5 billion in food was looted by corrupt politicians and their criminal syndicates over the past decade in Kishen’s home state of Uttar Pradesh alone, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The theft blunted the country’s only weapon against widespread starvation — a five-decade-old public distribution system that has failed to deliver record harvests to the plates of India’s hungriest.

“This is the most mean-spirited, ruthlessly executed corruption because it hits the poorest and most vulnerable in society,” said Naresh Saxena, who, as a commissioner to the nation’s Supreme Court, monitors hunger-based programs across the country. “What I find even more shocking is the lack of willingness in trying to stop it.”

This scam, like many others involving politicians in India, remains unpunished. a state police force beholden to corrupt lawmakers, an underfunded federal anti-graft agency and a sluggish court system have resulted in five overlapping investigations over seven years — and zero convictions.

India has run the world’s largest public food distribution system for the poor since the failure of two successive monsoons led to the creation of the Food Corporation of India in 1965. The government last year spent a record $13 billion buying and storing commodities such as wheat and rice, and expects that figure to grow this year.

Yet 21 percent of all adults and almost half of India’s children under 5 years old are still malnourished. about 900 million Indians already eat less than government-recommended minimums. As local food prices climbed more than 70 percent over the past five years, dependence on subsidies has grown.

From the government warehouses, millions of tons are dispatched monthly to states including Uttar Pradesh, which are supposed to distribute them at subsidized prices to the poor. about 10 percent of India’s food rots or is lost before it can be distributed, while some 3 million tons of wheat in buffer stocks is more than two years old, according to the government.

Even after accounting for the wastage, only 41 percent of the food set aside for feeding the poor reached households nationwide in 2005, according to a World Bank study commissioned by the government and released last year.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the minister of food stands charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and electoral fraud, the diversion was more than 80 percent in 2005, the World Bank report said.

Fully 100 percent of the food meant for the poor in Kishen’s home district was stolen during a three-year period, according to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, the country’s leading anti-corruption agency.

Hunger is worse in villages than in cities. Indians living in rural areas on average eat 2,020 calories a day, against a global average of 2,800 and 11 percent less than they did in 1973, according to government and United Nations’ data.

When Kishen and other residents of Satnapur sought their monthly quotas at the village’s Fair Price Shop, as the ration stores are called, they’d either find a locked door or be told to return the following month, said Javeed Ahmad, the CBI officer leading the agency’s investigation of the scam for more than three years.

“Who is a person who holds a below poverty line ration card? a person of no influence,” he said. “If he shows up at the Fair Price Shop and there is no below poverty line wheat, you can just tell him to buzz off.”

The scam itself was simple. so much so, that by 2007 corrupt politicians and officials in at least 30 of Uttar Pradesh’s 71 districts had learned to copy it, according to an affidavit filed as part of a probe ordered by the high court in Allahabad, one of the biggest cities in India’s most-populous state. all they had to do was pay the government the subsidized rates for the food. Then instead of selling it on to villagers at the lower prices, they sold to traders at market rates.

The first person to figure out how to run the theft on a mass scale was a man named Om Prakash Gupta, the CBI’s Ahmad said.

“Gupta was definitely the big daddy of the scam,” said Ahmad. “Over time, every district came up with more efficient executions of this system.”

Gupta was a six-time member of the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly and the owner of a family run grain-trading firm. by the time he ran for national parliament in 2009, he had beencharged with 69 criminal offenses, including five murders, two armed robberies and gangsterism, according to a declaration he filed with the Election Commission of India.

In June 2011 the CBI also charged him with forging documents and other offenses in connection with food theft from the ration program. Gupta, who lost the parliamentary race, died of a heart attack in April at the age of 69 before a trial could begin on the food case. he wasn’t convicted of any other crime.

So far, he is the only senior political figure to have been arrested by the CBI over the food scam: Ahmad got a warrant after Gupta manhandled one of his investigators.

The CBI’s indictment of Gupta provides a glimpse of how the operation was run. Food purchased by the central government is trucked to districts like Sitapur, where Kishen’s home of Satnapur is located, and stored until marketing managers in the food distribution system sign off on its dispatch to the Fair Price Shops.

The owners of those shops, called kothedars in Hindi, bring cashier’s checks for the subsidized price of the supplies. a kilogram of rice, for instance, costs as little as 2 rupees, or about 3.6 cents, in most states. The market price for similar quality rice is about 10 times higher.

The shop owners are supposed to sell the food to villagers without making a profit.

Gupta got around the system in Sitapur by using a dummy firm called Naimish Oil Industries Ltd., according to the CBI’s indictment. It paid for subsidized rice, wheat and sugar from the warehouses, picking them up in Gupta-owned trucks, scooters and motorized rickshaws, then sold the food to private companies, according to the CBI.

Gupta and his family pocketed the difference by transferring the money from Naimish Oil’s accounts to their own, according to the indictment.

“While the government is getting real money, the foodgrains don’t actually go to the Fair Price Shops,” said Ahmad.

In one transaction investigated by the CBI, Gupta sold 17.7 million kilograms of wheat to four different companies hundreds of kilometers away in the cities of Kolkata and Raipur. The companies paid $2.1 million to Naimish Oil.

Over a three-year period, 110.6 million kilograms of wheat and rice meant for India’s poor was transferred from rail stations in Sitapur district to Bangladesh, according to the CBI’s indictment. In other transactions, the companies buying the grain were in Nepal, said Ahmad, the CBI investigator.

“Since they were paying tax, paying freight to the railways and actually delivering the promised foodgrains, nobody asked the question of where they procured them originally,” he said.

While the food theft by Gupta and his copycats around the state may have robbed people like Kishen of their dinner, it hasn’t put a dent in India’s stockpiles.

Deadly famines were a recurrent feature of life in India until the country embarked on the so-called “green revolution” in the 1960s, experimenting with high-yielding strains, irrigation and pesticides. The nation finally achieved self- sufficiency in food production in the late 1970s.

At the same time, the government began building up buffer stocks of food. while the Food Corporation of India is required to keep about 32 million metric tons of rice and wheat, bumper harvests have left the country with a stockpile of more than 80 million tons, according to the corporation. Stacked in 50- kilogram sacks, the food would reach from Sitapur to the moon, with at least 270,000 bags to spare.

To stop food rotting, the central government lifted a four- year ban on exports of wheat last year. In June, India donated 250,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan.

The nation’s food surplus is starkly visible at the state storage facility about 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) from Kishen’s village of Satnapur.

On June 28, 60 trucks loaded with bags of grain waited outside the walled-off piece of land, one of four similar stockpiling sites in the district. inside, 40,000 tons of wheat and 17,000 tons of rice spilled out from a small warehouse and were stacked in the open in three-story-high piles, the blue tarpaulin covers tied tight with rope.

The trucks will be parked up for weeks before there is space inside so they can unload.

In Satnapur itself, the prominent ribs and bloated bellies of children playing in the streets give the telltale sign of chronic malnourishment. The village has no electricity, and the local ration shop has been closed for months, residents said.

Of the 106 village households that qualify for subsidized rice, wheat, sugar and kerosene used as cooking fuel, only about half are receiving it, said Surbala Vaish, 40, an activist with the local farmers and workers’ collective, known as Sangathin.

Pepsi (PEP) or Rations?

Urmila, a widow who guessed she was in her sixties and lives in a household of five, shows her ration card; it’s been 18 months since she last received her allotment.

A different government card recognizes her status as a widow, meaning she qualifies for rice and wheat for close to free. She’s had the card for six years and has never received her entitlement.

“If you can buy a Pepsi in every village in India, why can’t the government get us our rations?” asked Vaish, who lives in Satnapur. “The reason we don’t is because the government doesn’t want us to — they all get a cut.”

The proprietor of the local ration shop is a frail, old man called Mattre. like Urmila and many other Indians, he goes by one name. An illiterate cow-herder, he said he was granted the shop because he is blind. Instead of running it himself, he says he receives $3.50 a day from the village chief, who then takes care of the day-to-day operations.

“It’s in my name, but someone else runs the shop,” said Mattre, standing outside his straw-and-mud hut. “If the headman isn’t giving people their food, it’s his fault, not mine.”

The village head, actually a woman named Kumari Poonam Yadav, couldn’t be reached. a person who answered a cell phone number that villagers said was hers said he didn’t know anyone by that name.

In Sitapur town, an hour’s drive from the village, Anoop Gupta steps out of a white Toyota Fortuner SUV. he is Om Prakash Gupta’s son, and by the time his father died in April, he had won Om Prakash’s old seat in the state legislative assembly.

As Gupta, 42, walks away from the SUV, which retails for $37,500 according to Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s website, armed police officers push away the crowd of people rushing to touch his feet, a sign of respect. he walks across a courtyard to a small office behind a gas station, sits at a bare desk, shoos off his entourage and gives a spirited, one-hour defense of his father.

Gupta himself hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing, although the CBI lists bank accounts in his name through which his family allegedly received money.

“Let me ask you this: If I had, or my father had, or my family had been stealing food from the poor in Sitapur, would they re-elect me?” he said. “I swear upon my dead father that this is a vendetta the CBI has against us. If I ever once stole a grain of rice from a poor man, it would be like eating the flesh of a cow.”

Cows are considered holy in Hinduism and eating beef is forbidden. while Gupta declined to discuss the details of the indictment, he said that his family might have mistakenly paid lower taxes on the transactions. His father and the family firm were simply procuring wheat and rice on the open market in Sitapur and selling to traders around the country, he said.

“How am I supposed to tell if the wheat or the rice or the sugar in the local market is meant for a ration shop?” he asked. “I am a trader. I buy and sell thousands of tons of food a month.”

Over the past seven years, different court orders and changing state governments have resulted in at least three agencies being tasked with probing the theft: the CBI, a Special Investigative Team of the Uttar Pradesh police and the Economic Offenses Wing of the central government. In addition to the Special Investigative Team, both the state police’s Food Cell, and its Criminal Investigations Division are carrying out probes. some of the investigations overlap; others run independently.

The CBI, for instance, is only looking at cases where food actually left the state, while the Special Investigative Team is looking at all the cases and the EOW is focused primarily on the money trail.

In the state capital Lucknow, CBI officer Ahmad, 52, said the inquiry he heads is the largest he has undertaken. His group of 22 investigators and a few researchers operates out of a run- down, three-story colonial building neighboring a hairdresser and a grocer. Ahmad’s team, cobbled together by a 2008 government order that allowed him to poach 14 officers from around the state, is only authorized to look at the period between 2004 and 2007 and the investigative area is limited to six districts because of a lack of manpower.

Ahmad said he will wrap up his inquiry by the end of the year, and he thought it unlikely he would charge any more senior politicians.

“As a layman, you would say that there must be a big man on top, but can I prove it?” he said. “Even if there is a top gun, I won’t get legally tenable evidence.”

While Ahmad’s investigation is aided by the simplicity of the food heist, it is impeded by its sheer size. he estimated that in its heyday, the scam involved 5,000 daily transactions spread across 500 square kilometers, involving thousands of individuals and hundreds of bank accounts.

In December 2007, the then-Home Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, Mahesh Gupta, created the Special Investigative Team. Based in Lucknow, it was given a vast mandate: to investigate the “large-scale scams in different schemes of the public distribution system in different districts.”

The period under investigation, though, was limited to between March 2004 and October 2005.

The team’s head, Assistant Director General of the Criminal Investigation Department Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, spends one day a week at the job. The rest of his time is spent on other assignments, including the CID’s separate investigation.

He said in a June 20 interview in his office, not far from Ahmad’s, that he interprets his mandate only to find and arrest people involved in food theft during that window of time. The brief doesn’t extend to shutting down any current schemes, he said.

“Is the scam still ongoing? It may be,” said Bhatnagar. “But that is not my concern.” The team has about 300 open investigations and no prosecutions, he said.

A. L. Banerjee, an additional director general of the third investigative body, the Economic Offenses Wing, works from a government building in Lucknow where vagrants sleep on stairways and piles of garbage buzz with flies. he declined to comment when visited by a Bloomberg reporter.

In filings made to the High Court of Allahabad in 2010, the EOW said that while it was continuing to investigate the scam in seven districts, it didn’t have the manpower to extend the probe to a statewide level. It asked the court to help it source cars, computers, printers, photocopiers, fax machines and accommodation for its officers.

Tracking all three investigations is Vishwanath Chaturvedi, 47. a trade union leader with a law degree, Chaturvedi has filed public-interest lawsuits in various courts exhorting the judiciary to prod the three agencies into working faster and more efficiently, and to push for prosecutions that would put senior politicians in jail.

Chaturvedi filed the first lawsuit asking the government to investigate the stolen food in Sitapur in late 2005, then followed up by persuading the Allahabad High Court to extend the investigation to neighboring districts and to demand regular status reports from all three agencies. he later appealed to the Delhi High Court to monitor the investigation regularly, and has also filed petitions in front of the Supreme Court of India.

Still, he said in an interview that he doesn’t believe these investigations will snag any senior politicians.

“None of these agencies have the manpower, the willpower, or even the political support needed to investigate a theft of this size, this nature and this breadth,” he said, sitting in the living room of his house in New Delhi. Visitors must pass by a police checkpoint on the road and an armed officer at the front door after Chaturvedi received anonymous threats.

He often gets his tips and information from food activists in Uttar Pradesh and his own contacts in the trade unions. he then enters it into court testimony in the CBI’s investigation.

On December 18, 2011, he walked into the offices of the CBI with a man named Rajiv Yadav. Yadav told investigators he could provide the first link between the scam and the man known as Raja Bhaiya — Uttar Pradesh’s food minister.

Raja Bhaiya, which roughly translates from Hindi as “our older brother, the king,” has cases pending against him for attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and electoral fraud under his formal name, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, according to his declaration to the election commission. he hasn’t yet been charged with any involvement in the food scam and has denied the other allegations in public speeches.

In Pratapgarh, the district Raja Bhaiya represents, signboards line the highway congratulating him for his latest electoral victory, in March. On the signboards, he wears his hair short, with tinted eyeglasses and a white, collared shirt. he doesn’t smile.

This is his second time as food minister. During his previous tenure, from 2004 to 2007, the food scam spread from Sitapur district to all around the state, the CBI’s Ahmad said.

Yadav has turned over evidence about Raja Bhaiya to the CBI and given sworn testimony to theDelhi High Court, according to court documents.

Yadav said in an interview that he had worked for Raja Bhaiya as a public-relations officer, a fact confirmed by a state directory of officials from that period, his pay slips and a state identity card seen by Bloomberg News. he said he also had informal duties: to collect various sums of money from government officials involved in the scam, to record them in a ledger and to hand them to Raja Bhaiya or his wife.

All the details also appear in Yadav’s sworn testimony to the court. a copy of the hand-written ledger is included as part of the affidavit.

Short and mustachioed, Yadav now lives in hiding in new Delhi. he said he grew up near Raja Bhaiya’s house in a town named Kunda and was involved in local politics with him. In 2004, when Raja Bhaiya was appointed minister for food, he brought Yadav, 40, along.

Yadav said that between 2004 and 2007 it was his responsibility to collect about $200,000 a week from senior local officials. they were giving Raja Bhaiya his cut from what Yadav was told was the food scam.

The ledger lists dates, names and amounts. In some cases, it only lists a person’s official job title. In one instance, it lists an entire government bureau, the Weights and Measurements Department.

The cash would arrive in suitcases and thick envelopes. After counting the money, Yadav would pass it to Raja Bhaiya’s wife, Bhanvi Kumari, at their home on the edge of Lucknow. to protect himself against any accusation of skimming cash, he said he kept a listing in the ledger of how much was collected and the date, which Kumari would countersign. she hasn’t been charged with any offense.

Raja Bhaiya’s office declined to make him or his wife available for an interview. Yashvant Singh, a member of the local assembly who helps handle Raja Bhaiya’s press relations, asked Bloomberg News reporters to come to Lucknow on June 29 for an interview with the minister. The reporters waited for six hours in Raja Bhaiya’s office on June 29 and then were asked to leave. Attempts to interview the minister on a second visit to Lucknow on Aug. 9 were unsuccessful.

The ledger is being held by the CBI as evidence, and a copy was given to Bloomberg News. It shows that Raja Bhaiya’s wife received approximately $20 million over a 1 1/2-year period between 2005 and 2007, according to Yadav’s notations.

Yadav said he had other diaries and ledgers, which he hasn’t shown to the CBI or others. they show additional sums of money being transferred — as much as $18 million over a three- year period, he said. he called the books an insurance policy against being killed.

“I never for one moment felt scared that I would get caught,” said Yadav, wearing a blue-and-white polo shirt during an interview in which he rarely uncrossed his arms. “If I hadn’t come forward, no one would ever have known this was happening.”

He earned Raja Bhaiya’s trust by running with the gang in their home district, and being involved in two murders and three attempted murders, he said, changing the subject when asked for details. he hasn’t been convicted of any crime.

In 2010, as the CBI’s investigation gathered steam, Yadav said he felt guilty for his part in the scam. he contacted Chaturvedi, who guided him to the CBI.

“I feel less guilty now that I have come forward,” said Yadav. “I feel more at peace with myself.”

According to Chaturvedi, Yadav’s defection may have a less noble explanation: he feared for his life after a physical altercation with Raja Bhaiya. he had already seen Raja Bhaiya shoot a man in the hand, Yadav said in the interview, adding that beatings of staff members were routine in Raja Bhaiya’s entourage.

“He was a psychopath,” Yadav said. “He felt really happy seeing people cry.” he denied a falling-out with Raja Bhaiya.

Yadav’s statements couldn’t be independently confirmed. because the ledger has been turned in to the CBI and the Delhi High Court as part of a sworn affidavit, Yadav would be guilty of perjury if his statements were false. Ahmad, the CBI investigator, said he took the ledger seriously, but hadn’t had enough time to investigate it in its entirety.

“Anybody can write anything in a diary. Yadav is acting out of a vendetta,” Raja Bhaiya’s then-spokesman Gyanendra Singh told Indian news magazine Tehelka, which first reported the existence of Yadav’s ledger in April.

Since the fraud has yet to be fully investigated, the amount of food that was stolen from Uttar Pradesh’s public distribution system may be larger than shown in Yadav’s evidence and the CBI and court investigations. only six districts have been probed, according to the CBI, out of 71 then in the state. Those investigations focused on a specific band of time — four years at the most, in the case of the CBI.

Chaturvedi, the activist lawyer, has argued in court that the total theft may have been as much as $18 billion. The courts have not refuted the allegation, citing it in orders and judgments during regular monitoring of the CBI investigation.

In Gonda, the one district for which all three investigative authorities have agreed upon a number, the market value of food diverted was $82 million over a four-year period. Extrapolating over 10 years for the state’s 71 districts at the time, as much $14.5 billion may have been stolen. Uttar Pradesh now has 75 districts.

Back in Satnapur, few of the villagers have heard of the probes. Nor do most realize that they are part of a scam that has run for years, and is still to be completely extinguished.

Instead, they focus their thoughts on the stockpile of food 10 kilometers from their village.

“We dream about robbing it,” said Vaish, the activist, as the men and women around her laughed. “We could just storm the place, and every one of us could get a bag of rice each. Who would stop us?”

To contact the reporters on this story: Mehul Srivastava in new Delhi atmsrivastava6@bloomberg.net; Andrew MacAskill in new Delhi at amacaskill@bloomberg.net

Source: Bloomberg

Computers – Make Our Lives Easier

August 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Computers have brought a dramatic and significant change in every home, making it an adorable pet of the family. definitely computers have made our lives easier and a lot more convenient, compared to our lives back in the 80’s and 90’s. No wonder, its magic

Computers have by far changed the life of each and every person, both physically and mentally. Even people who were naive and oblivious about computers have now started using them because of its simple and effortless operations and the result it reaps. it is employed in almost every aspect of our life, especially in the fields of education, business, medical innovations, etc., making our work easier, thus saving time.

There are myriad examples to prove the above statement; the trend of sending letters and telegrams to convey our wishes and concerns are now being replaced with emails and instant messages, which does not raise a question of dissent, since it has created a strong bond and intensified the communication among our near and dear ones, who are thousands of miles apart. Another very good example is the online shopping, which enables us to purchase what we require, irrespective of place and time. there are several others to consider; for example, the availability of a wide selection of movies and music for us to download, the opportunity to browse through a massive pile of information to get the required, the facile way of paying the bills while sitting at home, munching some popcorn, etc., and the peak of these comforts is that they are just done with a click of a button. all these advantages entice people to at least give it a try, before they fully get indulged in.

The only disadvantage or drawback that I could infer from using computers is the health problems, that are anticipated to arise from spending hours with computers. it is very obvious that it makes us feel lazy and lethargic, but this could for sure be straightened out if we restrict our access to computers. I really could not think how it could make our life stressful.

On the whole, it is a fact, which should be realized by everyone that computers have metamorphosed our entire life in regard to our attitude, behavior, appearance, relationship and our complete life style.

AMD’s newest CPUs are still compensating for Bulldozer’s failings

August 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

AMD’s Steamroller architecture will offer tweaks to improve the performance of Bulldozer and Piledriver while reducing power consumption

AMD revealed yesterday some of the high-level changes it would be bringing to Steamroller, the product code name for its next CPU refresh. according to AMD’s slides and analysis by the Tech Report, the latest revision to the Bulldozer architecture should boost overall performance while reducing power usage.

One of Bulldozer’s signature changes was the removal of what AMD saw as redundant hardware—instead of each CPU core having its own decode hardware, floating-point units, and L2 cache, these resources were shared between two cores, ostensibly to reduce the size (and thus, the power consumption) of the processor. Steamroller retains the shared FPUs and L2 cache, but backtracks a bit and provides each CPU core with dedicated decode hardware that AMD’s slides claim will “feed the cores faster.”

To compensate for the higher power consumption required by the decode hardware, AMD has taken steps to streamline the shared FPUs to reduce the amount of transistors the units need without impacting performance. The L2 cache has also been changed—the cache can now be “resized” (or even disabled entirely) by turning parts of itself on and off dynamically depending on the CPU’s current workload. This is a natural extension of a power-saving trick that both Intel and AMD chips have been using for a while now—modern chips from both manufacturers can turn entire CPU cores off when they’re not in use, saving power when devices are idling and giving the processors the thermal headroom they need to ramp up CPU speeds for single-threaded tasks (this is what Turbo Boost is all about).

A dynamic L2 cache that can turn parts of itself on and off as needed will help to reduce Steamroller’s power consumption.

Some additional power savings will be achieved by the move from a 32nm process to a 28nm process, though that jump won’t be as significant as the move from 45nm to 32nm, or the move from 32nm to 22nm.

These changes look to be solid improvements to AMD’s Bulldozer CPU architecture, which has had a rough time of it. when it originally launched, it was not only late to market, but also lower-performing and more power-hungry than anticipated—in some cases, it couldn’t even outperform its predecessor. The first revision to Bulldozer, codenamed Piledriver, helped AMD’s most recent laptop CPUs achieve slightly better performance and substantially better battery life, but the chips had trouble matching the performance of Intel’s then-current Sandy Bridge chips, to say nothing of the more recent Ivy Bridge products (and we’re still waiting for boxed versions of Piledriver-based desktop CPUs, though they have begun shipping to OEMs). Steamroller probably won’t help AMD catch up to Intel, whose newest Haswell chips are already on the horizon, but it should help keep the chips competitive at the low and middle ends of the consumer market.

Performance aside, AMD’s biggest problem right now is a distinct lack of presence, especially in laptops: it’s very difficult to find laptops using AMD CPUs outside of the budget market, as we saw in our recent laptop buyers’ guide. Hopefully Steamroller-based chips are appealing enough to stoke some competition in market segments with higher margins, which would be good for AMD, and better build quality, which would be good for consumers.

Irene's scars linger for those along the Ottauquechee

August 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Driving along Route 4 from Bridgewater through Woodstock to Quechee and Hartford a year after Tropical Storm Irene, a tourist could easily miss that this river valley was hammered by the flooding Ottauquechee River.

Last week, the river was bony and low after a dry summer, the Woodstock town green was thronged with locals and visitors at the weekly farmers market and Simon Pearce’s Quechee restaurant was drawing hungry diners and shoppers looking at the elegant glassware.

But look closer and it’s clear the impact of Irene’s raging floodwaters has yet to recede from the region, evident in missing bridges, fresh riprap and eroded river banks, occasional rubble fields and new patches of pavement – and new, or vanished, buildings.

Stop and talk to business owners and you’ll find the damage goes beyond the physical to the mental landscape, and bank accounts, of those whose livelihood was thrown into disarray by Irene’s devastation. It’s not in any list, but in Vermont, Post-Irene Traumatic Disorder or PITD clearly is a syndrome some are still suffering.

Along with the scenic Route 100 corridor from Rochester to Wilmington and the Route 9 east-west corridor in southern Vermont, Route 4 was one of the hardest hit areas of Vermont. along the Ottaquechee River, the scars remain prominent today.

Take the covered bridge in picturesque Quechee that connects the town. The span, a replica that was four decades old, remains missing, with a temporary scaffolding carrying water and sewer lines across the river over a gaping eroded bank, past a tilting real estate office and heavy construction equipment surrounded by concrete barriers. That unsightly view now dominates the center of the picturesque waterfall in the village. Repairs on a $2 million replacement are expected to go into 2013.

Further up Route 4, the iconic red Taftsville covered bridge, built in 1836, is half stripped and closed after damage to the footings, piers and long structure itself. It is being refurbished and isn’t expected to open until 2013.

Tucked away on a side road in Quechee, one of the two 18-hole golf courses at the Quechee Club is finally expected to reopen on Labor Day weekend, a year after it was turned into a muck-covered rubble and debris field by the Ottauquechee. A staffer said the repairs there have cost more than $2 million.

Then there’s the loss of business that followed Irene, to landmarks like the tony Woodstock Inn, whose 142 rooms bring visitors to town and employs well over 200 people. The inn was closed for nearly two months after Irene and a year later, the flooded downstairs is still not in full use.

Less obvious is the changed character of the river, whose banks were dramatically widened in places as the water swept away grass, shrubs, tree and soil. That reminder of the power of a swollen river has left some along the river with an uneasy feeling about the potential for future flooding in storms.

“I try not to go to that place. Nothing’s changed,” says Patrick Crowl, speaking at the rejuvenated Woodstock Farmers Market, a bustling natural foods, wine and cheese, flowers and fruits emporium right on the riverbanks not far from Woodstock village.

When Irene hit, more than five feet of muddy water came through his store, ruining all his refrigeration and computer equipment and causing damage that he estimates topped out at $750,000. FEMA funding and loans covered about half of his rebuilding costs, and he recouped the rest by selling pre-paid Irene shopping cards to a supportive community.

Today, the only sign of the damage is new riprap and crushed stone fill along the river and the former offices of the Vermont Standard weekly newspaper next door, which stands empty with only the steel frame of the building remaining. The newspaper lost everything in the flood and is now in new rented space a mile west on Route 4.

While his store is restored, Crowl says he still feels the damage that happened in a deeply personal way, in the stress of having to rebuild his business, which hasn’t yet recovered to its pre-Irene levels, and of finding himself financially set back.

He compares it to losing a decade and suddenly being a teen again instead of an adult.“Imagine just pulling the plug on a $5 million business,” he says, noting Irene wiped out everything he’d built, from all the equipment to the staffing and organization and leadership. he reopened in a limited way on Nov. 19, almost three months after Irene hit, and didn’t finally reopen fully until just after Christmas.

Crowl says it’s been a tough time, and he even went to talk with a consultant to try and grapple with his feelings of loss and frustration.

At the Parker House Inn in Quechee, co-owner Alexandra Adler knows exactly what Crowl is talking about. On a warm day with diners sitting on the shaded outside porch and a sparkling river down below, everything looks sunny and normal. but turn the conversation to Irene and she quickly becomes emotional.

She admits she’s “exhausted” from their continuing struggles, which now include a battle with the town of Hartford over use of the seven guest rooms that have always been part of the inn. in inspections after Irene, she says the town decided the inn can only use four without additional safety renovations.

“I want it all to be over,” she says. Later she adds, “we’ve killed ourselves.” Using $300,000 in loans, the couple used Irene as an opportunity to “reinvent our business” and upgrade the handsome red-brick inn, which sits in the village next to Simon Pearce. Irene flooded the basement and trashed all the mechanical equipment and refrigeration stored there.

But with the covered bridge out, traffic is down and she’s worried about winter business and paying off their loans.

To add to her and her husband Adam’s financial pain and stress, their house across the missing bridge was condemned after the flooding and they and their two children had to move to Hartland.

“It’s been hard on our family. We’ve had to relocate a couple of times,” she says.

The most heartwarming part was all the people who showed up to help clean up and how grateful they were when the inn reopened three weeks later.

“People were just happy to see something open,” she says.

But like Crowl, a year later she’s still dealing with the emotional scars that Irene left behind. She says she has virtually no memory of the hectic difficult days after Irene hit on Aug. 28 and they had to evacuate the inn.

“I don’t remember any of September. People say, ‘I helped move you out of your house’,” but she can only thank them and reply that it’s gone from her memory.

Watch the WPTZ story about Woodstock residents coming together to remember Irene.

Laptop Computer Sale

August 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Everyone needs a laptop computer these days. it is not just a matter of having one to be as the rest, some of the users need a laptop for managing work, for keeping in touch at all times with the others, to handle video conferences and so on. There are a lot of students who need a laptop to be able to attend classes and to do their projects quicker. Business users and commuters need a laptop to manage their tasks anywhere and to enjoy the portability. But yet, for some the price of such a system is still high and not many can afford a brand new laptop.

This is why you should look for laptop computers on sale and buy the ones that have lower prices and which offer you the features that you need. In stores and retails you might not have a wide variety of laptop computer sales, so you should definitely check online shopping websites, because the majority of them have special prices on laptop computers and as you also get free shipping, you can find yourself some great deals. it depends on the manufacturer you are interest on and the type of laptop you need to match your needs.

As you can buy Dell laptops from the company’s website directly, you can surely find some great deals on some of them. Dell slips in from time to time some of the laptops on sale and it takes series in turn. In some periods of time you can save money on the Inspiron line and sometimes with the XPS series, depending on the period of time you check the website. If you are looking for a desktop replacement, you can get Dell Inspiron i17r-7626DBK for just around $570, which is quite a good price for the size and for what the system brings: built-in HD webcam, Intel Core i3-2310M processor, 4GB DDR3 memory, 500 GB hard drive and Intel HD Graphics 3000 to provide that high image quality. the system allows multi-tasking and it does a great job as a whole round computer. You can save more than 25% online with HP ProBook 4530s laptop computer, featuring a very slim and attractive design and a 15.6” LED display. the retail price of the system is more than $700, but thanks to the sale, you can get it for just $511. the specifications include the Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive and installed you get Windows 7 Home Premium. the laptop will go smoothly through intensive tasks and the display is anti-glare, so t is safe to take the computer out of the house and be sure you can still read what is on the display. Asus U56E-RBL6 is part of the thin and light category and is available for less than $500. it is a great sale considering the original price is more than $600. the laptop will offer everything you need for your computing tasks and the Intel Core i3 2330M processor offers multitasking performance. the chiclet style keyboard and the ice cool palm rest provide easy typing. the 9 hours battery life just comes as a bonus and for travelers, this is a dream come true, to be able to run the laptop for more than the average 2-3 hours. it is important to note the system has built-in webcam and microphone, 6GB DDR3 memory, a 640GB hard drive, and VGA and HDMI ports.

You can search for online sales no matter the laptop you want.

Next-generation Windows Expected to Make a Splash in Berlin

August 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

This week, consumer electronics vendors are once again congregating in Berlin for the IFA trade show, where products based on Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 and RT are expected to set the trend.

The next couple of months will be an important test of Microsoft’s operating system strategy.

Next week the spotlight will be on Microsoft’s phone platform, as Microsoft joins Nokia for an event in New York where the Finnish phone maker is expected to announce its first phones based on Windows Phone 8.

This week, though, the focus will be on Windows 8 and Windows RT, with the expected arrival of ARM-based tablets running RT from the likes of Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung Electronics. All three manufacturers are attending IFA this week, but it remains to be seen whether they will announce the products there.

Samsung posted a teaser video on YouTube last week titled “Something Smart is Coming…”, saying it would soon reveal its “newest Windows-8-ready innovation.” the 37-second video reveals a laptop or a laptop-tablet hybrid, but not much else. around the 21-second mark it shows something that may be a removable stylus, much like the S-Pen that allows users of Samsung’s Android-based Galaxy Note family to write on the display and interact with the device.

At the Computex show in June, Samsung showed two Windows 8-based tablets with attachable keyboards and 11.6-inch touch screens that at the time were scheduled to go on sale in October.

Microsoft and its hardware partners have been struggling to make a real mark in the smartphone and tablet space, but will be hoping to change that with the three new operating systems now on the way. this time will also be different because of the fact that Microsoft will sell its own tablets, the Surface family.

Tablets based on Windows 8 and Windows RT will have an impact on the overall market — but not this year, according to market ABI Research. if Windows tablets are priced aggressively compared to current Android tablets, shipments of them in 2013 could increase tenfold over this year. however, if Windows tablets are priced more like Apples iPad offerings, shipments of them may only double or triple in 2013, ABI said.

Besides a Windows 8-based laptop, Samsung is also expected to launch a successor to the Android-based Galaxy Note, which was first shown at IFA 2011. the Galaxy Note II is rumored to be powered by a quad-core 1.4GHz processor, and have a 5.5-inch screen, which is slightly larger then the first generation’s 5.3-inch screen.

More Android-based products will likely come from LG Electronics and Sony. the latter is expected to launch new tablets.

Besides tablets, smartphones and also ultrabooks, IFA always offers a good dose of new TVs and displays.

LG has already announced some of the products it will show at IFA, which gives a hint at what the TV trends will be at this year’s IFA.

On Monday, the company launched a new TV game portal called Game World. from the portal owners of its Cinema 3D Smart TVs will be able to download 2D and 3D games. At the end of July, LG announced five 3D games that were on the way, including one called ‘Air Penguin’.

The titles available on Game World will consist mainly of family-friendly titles, and most titles will be controlled using gestures and movement, according to LG. Game World will be launched globally in the second half of this year, it said.

The company will also show an 84-inch UHD (Ultra High Definition) 3D TV, a product that has a 3840-by-2160 pixels resolution. the horizontal pixel count has helped coined the term “4k” to describe products that can handle the higher resolution.

The TV will become available in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America starting in September, and cost about US$22,100.

Today there is little content available to consumers at 3840-by-2160 pixels. but the higher resolution will take off in the next five years, and LG expects content providers to follow the trend, LG said at recent event.

LG likely won’t be the only vendor that shows 4k products at IFA. Sony is also expected to unveil its own TV.

IFA takes place in Berlin between Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, with product launches starting on Aug. 29.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Samsung previews Windows 8 desktop computers

August 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

(Credit:Samsung) (CBS/AP) Samsung gave trade-show attendees a sneak peek at Windows 8 desktop computers at the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA 2012) trade show.

The electronics giant will offer three different choices to people interested in buying a desktop computer equipped with a redesigned version of Windows going on sale this fall.

The personal computers previewed Tuesday by Samsung at the technology conference in Berlin provided one of the first glimpses at the Windows 8 machines scheduled to hit the market on Oct. 26.

Windows 8’s release has been widely anticipated because it’s Microsoft’s most dramatic overhaul of the operating system in at least 17 years. It’s also coming out at a time when PC sales have been slowing as more people rely on smartphones and tablets to surf the Web.

Microsoft reprogrammed Windows 8 so it looks and works more like the touch-based systems on mobile devices. The three new Windows 8 desktops from Samsung will come with a high-definition touch display.

several other major PC makers are expected to unveil their Windows 8 product lines in the upcoming weeks.

Samsung’s Windows 8 computers for the desktop will have suggested prices of $749, $1,099 and $1,699 – depending on the size of the storage drive, the amount of system memory and the size of display screen.

all three models will run on Intel processors.

Windows 8 can be controlled by swiping the applications on the display screen or by using a keyboard or computer mouse.

The touch controls will be available through a mosaic of tiles to show applications and services that can be continuously connected to the Internet.

when relying on a keyboard, users will usually switch to a part of the operating system that looks much like earlier versions of Windows. However, Microsoft left out the familiar “start” button typically found in the bottom left corner of the display screen.

in an effort to minimize the potential frustration caused by Windows 8’s new look, Samsung built its own optional start button that be used to pull up a menu of applications. this feature won’t be found on all Windows 8 PCs and laptops from other manufacturers.

Samsung is expected to introduce its Windows 8 line of laptop computers later this week.

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