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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Nick Clegg defeats bid by Michael Gove to let free schools make profits


Nick Clegg has thwarted plans by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to allow the new generation of "free schools" to make profits in the state sector after a massive ideological battle over the coalition's education policy.

The deputy prime minister will on Monday trumpet his success as one of three key victories achieved over Gove, which he says will ensure that free schools have to operate for the "whole community" and not just for "the privileged few" or for profit.

Sources close to Gove admitted last night that the education secretary had been hoping to allow free schools, which are set up by local people but still funded by the state, to make profits in the second term of a Tory-led government.

A Gove supporter said: "Gove has never had an ideological issue with profit in schools, whereas Clegg is ruling it out for ideological reasons."

Previously the Tories have denied that they were planning to allow profits to be made within the state sector by businesses taking over the schools. The admission comes as the first batch of 24 free schools open their doors this week with pupils returning from holiday.

Clegg's aides say he has also persuaded Gove to amend the admissions code from 2013 to allow free schools and academies to give priority to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds (those on free school meals). Free schools and academies will be expected to do all they can to ensure that, as a minimum, they have the same amount of pupils on free school meals as the local average.

In a third move, Clegg has won a guarantee from Gove that all of the free schools set up in the next wave will either be in deprived areas or areas in need of more places. Many of the schools in the first wave are being set up in middle-class areas where critics say there is no proven need for extra places. This, opponents say, could mean more resources going to already well-served areas and less to regions in need.

In a speech to teachers, parents and students, Clegg will say he is in favour of free schools, but will add: "I want them to be available to the whole community – open to all children and not just the privileged few. I want them to be part of a school system that releases opportunity, rather than entrenching it.

"They must not be the preserve of the privileged few, creaming off the best pupils while leaving the rest to fend for themselves, causing problems for and draining resources from other nearby schools. So let me give you my assurance: I would never tolerate that."

Clegg feared that his claims to be advancing the cause of social mobility in government would be called into question unless he put his stamp on the Gove plans. He will add: "The coalition has made it clear that our overriding social policy objective is improving social mobility, reducing social segregation; making sure what counts in our society are ability and drive, not privilege and good connections. Free schools will only be acceptable to me and my party so long as they promote those goals."

On admissions policy, he will insist that measures are being taken to ensure disadvantaged pupils get into free schools and academies. "We are also taking unprecedented steps to make sure disadvantaged pupils actually get into these schools. The more of them the school takes, the more money it gets.That's a simple, but crucial, financial incentive.

"No one has reformed the admissions code like this for years. In future, these schools must do all they can to make sure that they have the same proportion of free school meals pupils as the local average – at least."

Ruling out any moves to privatisation or profit-making, he will say: "Let me reassure you: yes to greater diversity; yes to more choice for parents. But no to profit-seeking within our state-funded education sector."

Labour's education spokesman, Andy Burnham, last night hit out at rules which let free schools employ non-qualified teachers. "Michael Gove's 'anything goes' approach to school reform is a reckless gamble with standards and the life chances of our children.

"Parents should be secure in the knowledge that all publicly funded schools will employ teachers with relevant training and qualifications."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

India Food Inflation Eases Slightly

India's food inflation rate eased slightly in the week ended March 26, but fell short on market expectations of a bigger relief from sticky prices.

India Food Inflation
The year-on-year food inflation rate fell to 9.18% from 9.50% in the previous week, according to data issued Thursday by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. However, the index of food articles was up 0.4% to 179.5 during the week, from 178.7 in the previous week.

The data will fuel worries that inflationary pressures won't ease sharply soon, firming expectations of a rate increase in May when the central bank meets to review monetary policy.

Indian government bonds slipped after the data, with the most-traded 8.08% paper due in 2022 falling to 100.09 rupees ($2.28) from 100.13 rupees before.

"Inflation is showing signs of downward stickiness and the RBI [Reserve Bank of India] will have to continue increasing rates to bring it under control," said Manoranjan Sharma, chief economist at Canara Bank.

Mr. Sharma said rising crude oil prices will further stoke inflationary pressures, adding to the urgency to tighten monetary policy.

"If oil prices continue to rise the government at some point of time will have to pass on the burden to consumers," which will push up inflation, he added.

Mr. Sharma expects the RBI to increase its two main policy rates by 25 basis points at the next review on May 3 and by 50-75 basis points in 2011.

The RBI has raised its borrowing rate by a cumulative 2.25 percentage points and the lending rate by 1.75 percentage points since March 2010, as it grapples with intolerably high inflation driven by supply shortages and rising demand pressures.

The general inflation rate was 8.31% in February. The central bank has raised its inflation estimate for the end of March thrice, the last time to 8% from 7% at its March 17 policy review.

Economists say the central bank has been slow in anticipating price pressures and that inflation will likely overshoot the 8% projection.

Bank of Baroda Chief Economist Rupa Rege Nitsure expects inflation to accelerate to 8.9% in March, contrary to the RBI's view.

Thursday's data also showed the index for primary articles rose 0.5% to 188.2 in the week to March 26. It was little changed at 12.97% during the week on an year-on-year basis. The fuel products index was unchanged from the previous week at 158.5.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Asian economic recovery solid

Asian economic recovery solid but inflation a risk

Asian economyAsia's developing economies are expected to grow by just under 8% in 2011, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In its annual Asian Development Outlook it predicted that the region would expand solidly over the next two years.

However, growth rates would be slower than in 2010, it said.

And it warned that inflation would pose a challenge for many Asian countries and could lead to social tensions.

The ADB also said that stronger economic links between developing countries could offset reduced demand for goods and services from recession-hit richer countries.

"Developing Asia, having shown resilience throughout the global recession, is now consolidating its recovery and rapid expansion in the region's two giants - the People's Republic of China and India - will continue to lift regional and global growth," said Changyong Rhee, the ADB's chief economist.

Asia, excluding Japan, would grow by 7.8% in 2011 and 7.7% in 2012, down from 9% in 2010 when the region rebounded strongly from the global financial crisis, ADB predicted.

Mr Rhee said despite some short-term trade disruption, he expected last month's earthquake in Japan to have a minimal effect on the region as a whole.

He added that some countries could benefit from increased demand from Japan for construction materials as the country begins to rebuild the areas devastated by the quake.

"Under the assumption there is no further deterioration in the nuclear situation, I really don't think the impact will be that great,"

China and India would continue to drive the global and regional economic recovery, the ADB said.

But, like the rest of the region, the two countries would see slower rates of growth than last year, it added.

Economic growth in China was expected to moderate to 9.6% from 10.3% in 2010 as tighter monetary policy takes effect and as demand for exports in major markets such as the US and Europe remained sluggish.

India's economy was expected to expand by 8.2% in the year to March 2012, down from an expected 8.6% in the year to March 2011.

Mr Rhee said that inflation would be a headache for policy makers in the region as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and the nuclear crisis in Japan had raised expectations of higher oil prices.

The report said that countries could not rely on tighter monetary policy alone to tackle inflation, but might also have to consider more flexible exchange rates.

Inflation in the 45 Asian economies covered by the report was forecast to rise to 5.3% in 2011, from 4.4% in 2010.

"Developing Asia is home to two-thirds of the world's poor and it is they who are most vulnerable to the effects of price increases," said Mr Rhee.

The report also warned that inflation, especially if driven by food prices, could exacerbate inequality and lead to social tensions.

With Europe, the US and Japan still struggling to recover from the effects of the global financial crisis, the ADB said the region would need to look to other developing countries to foster economic growth.

"Growing South-South relations at a time of modest growth in industrial economies could be a potential new driver of global growth," said Mr Rhee.

"But only if these economies become more open to trade and capital flows with each other."

400 ill by adulterated "kuttu ka atta' floor

Over 400 take ill after eating adulterated kuttu atta

400 ill by adulterated Over 400 people were hospitalized in Delhi and neighbouring cities in Uttar Pradesh with symptoms of food poisoning on Tuesday.

All the patients, who were admitted to different hospitals in the capital and Meerut, Ghaziabad and Bulandshahr, had allegedly consumed adulterated buckwheat (kuttu atta) on Monday night.

In all, 115 people were taken to Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital, Hedgewar hospital and Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital in east and northeast Delhi with complaints of vomiting, stomachache, diarrhoea and dizziness.

Although no one is reported to be in a serious condition, police said they have detained several people in connection with the alleged food poisoning. Separate cases have been registered at Nand Nagri, Kalyanpuri and Mayur Vihar police stations. The state health department has ordered an investigation into the matter.

In Ghaziabad, Meerut and Bulandshahr, at least 150 were admitted to hospitals while 200 others were discharged after treatment. They were also reported to have consumed kuttu atta, a flour used during navaratra, which is under way.

In Delhi, it all started at 7am when several people made a beeline to different hospitals with symptoms of food poisoning. Medical Superintendent of Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital Dr Veer Singh said that the hospital had received 58 patients with abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea. "None of them is in a serious condition. Some have even been discharged," he added.

At GTB hospital and Dr Hedegwar hospital, officials confirmed that they received about 40 patients with similar complaints. "After enquiring from patients we found all had consumed food made from buckwheat, a compulsory ritual for the ongoing Navratra festival," said the official. Some patients were also taken to private nursing homes in the locality.

Police said they have registered a case under sections 272, 273 and 336 of IPC against Nandu Masala Mill, owned by Nand Kishore, 45, located in Mandoli area. Kishore has been arrested in connection with the incident and flour samples from his mill have been seized by the SDM of the area. "Nandu Masala Mill is found to be the manufacturer of the buckwheat flour consumed by the victims.

The District Administration and emergency services have been alerted and teams of Food and Adulteration Department have also been put in service," said Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat adding the victims had purchased the buckwheat in the retail open market. Ten people have been detained in connection with the incident, he said.

"People are advised to check the expiry date of the packet containing kuttu flour and the name of flour mills before using it. They are also advised not to purchase kuttu flour from open sacks," the spokesperson cautioned. The district administration and emergency services have been alerted and teams of the food and adulteration department have also been pressed into service.

Delhi Health Minister A K Walia ordered a probe into the matter and said more teeth would be given to the Food Adulteration Act to include maximum punishment of life imprisonment and a penalty of up to Rs 10 lakh for those involved in such illegal activities."

In Uttar Pradesh, the state's Food and Drug Authority swung into action but after the problem assumed epidemic proportions. By afternoon, at least 72 were undergoing treatment at the Bulandshahr district hospital, 60 were admitted to Ghaziabad district hospital and 24 were at Meerut district hospital.

Following orders from the state government, raids begain across 12 districts of the NCR and adjoining areas and Lucknow on Tuesday evening. In Ghaziabad, police unearthed a small factory in kavinagar area where adulterated kuttu flour was being packed. Police seized 40 bags of flour and arrested 15 labourers from the factory, whose owners managed to flee.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Japan Nuclear Plant

Japan nuclear plant releases radioactive water.

Japanese police
Japan nuclear plant releases radioactive water into sea. Fukushima plant begins to discharge 11,500 tonnes of water into Pacific to make space for more highly contaminated liquid.

The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has started breaking its own regulations by discharging 11,500 tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific to make space for more highly radioactive liquid.

The release of water that is 100 times the legal limit is an unprecedented breach of operating standards, but it is considered necessary so workers can concentrate on containing more severe leaks.

The government justified the action as the lesser of two evils. Recent samples of contaminated seawater from the leak show radiation levels at 4,000 times the legal standard.

"We didn't have any other alternatives," the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, told reporters. "This is a measure we had to take to secure safety."

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric, said it would discharge 10,000 tonnes of water from its waste treatment facility and a further 1,500 tonnes that have collected in pits outside reactors No 5 and No 6.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been notified of the discharge. On a website update, it said the Japanese authorities explained the move was necessary "to have sufficient capacity to store highly contaminated water found in the basement of the Unit 2 turbine building".

Tokyo Electric estimates the potential additional annual dose to a member of the public would be approximately 0.6 millisieverts if they ate seaweed and seafood caught near the plant every day for a year. The annual permissible level for the general public in Japan is one millisievert.

Workers have been battling to control radiation leaks since the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant's cooling system on 11 March, leading to a partial meltdown of the reactor.

Earlier attempts to cool the reactor by hosing water from fire engines and helicopters have left pools of contaminated water and flooded basements, hampering the containment operation and efforts to restart the cooling pumps.

Highly radioactive water is seeping from at least one point at reactor No 2, where a 20cm crack has been found in a concrete pit. It is thought to be leaking into an inflow conduit for seawater, but there may be other paths of contamination. Plant workers have started to dye the water a milky white colour so they can trace its route.

At the weekend workers tried and failed to plug the crack by using 80kg of highly absorbent polymer (more commonly used in nappies) mixed with shredded newspaper and sawdust. A previous attempt to use concrete had a similar outcome.

Edano said the situation must be stabilised as soon as possible because a long-term leak "will have a huge impact on the ocean".Critics of Japan's nuclear industry said the authorities were confronted with a dilemma that was unique in the history of nuclear power: whether to keep cooling the reactors and spent fuel or reduce the water being pumped into the plant, which is overflowing the capacity of the trenches.

"As a result of Tokyo Electric's desperate but failed efforts to cool the reactors, they are about to release perhaps an unprecedented amount of radioactivity into the environment," said Shaun Burnie, a nuclear consultant to Greenpeace Germany. "If the Japanese government were to take a cupful of this water and take it outside their territorial waters it would be illegal under the law of sea dumping convention."

As a temporary measure to ease the leak, Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency has recommended the construction of an undersea silt barrier."A silt fence ensures that mud down deep doesn't seep through," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, Japan's spokesman on nuclear safety.

Officials said the situation is unlikely to be under control for several months. Independent analysts warn it might take years.

Giant concrete pumps are being sent to the area from overseas. The government has also asked Tokyo Electric to look into the possibility of covering the plant with sheets pinned to a steel frame.

But the more radioactivity that enters the air and water, the harder such countermeasures become. Tokyo Electric has said the plant will never recover and some areas are so contaminated that workers cannot get near them.

"I don't know if we can ever enter the No 3 reactor building again," Hikaru Kuroda, the company's chief of nuclear facility management, said on Sunday.

The situation dominated a meeting in Vienna of signatories to the convention on nuclear safety, which was supposed to prevent a repeat of the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl."I know you will agree with me that the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi has enormous implications for nuclear power and confronts all of us with a major challenge," Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told participants. "We cannot take a 'business as usual' approach."

Although the nuclear threat has yet to claim a life, it has overshadowed the severe humanitarian crisis faced by survivors of the tsunami, which killed 12,157 people and has left 15,496 missing. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and millions are still affected by shortages of electricity.

Shahid Kapoor date with VJ Bani

Shahid Kapoor goes on a date with VJ Bani?

Shahid Kapoor date with VJ BaniShahid Kapoor seems to be enjoying his single-again status nowadays.

Even though he has made up with Priyanka Chopra and took her out for a ride on his Harley Davidson a few days back, Shahid Kapoor remains non-committal in the relationship. No wonder he was recently spotted at a Bandra joint, enjoying the food and drinks with VJ Bani.

Bani has confirmed the outing with Shahid. She says that she and Shahid go to the same gym and even work-out together at times.

She goes on to add that she and Shahid were feeling hungry that day and decided to eat out together.

Going by how animatedly Shahid and Bani were chatting, joking and eating, there’s no doubt they are good friends. But is there anything more to the friendship?

Congo Plane Crash

Congo plane crash kills 32.

Congo Plane Crash
Only one person survives after UN plane crashes in Kinshasa while landing in poor weather

Only one person among 33 passengers and crew survived after a UN plane crashed while attempting to land in poor weather in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday.

The accident, in Kinshasa, is one of the worst to involve a UN aircraft. Most of the passengers were UN staff and peacekeepers, although five NGO workers were also on board.

Alain Le Roy, the head of UN peacekeeping operations, said there had been no immediate information about the sole survivor, who is in hospital in the Congolese capital.

The plane, which was travelling from the eastern city of Goma, had missed the runway in N'djili airport in Kinshasa, possibly because of heavy winds, Le Roy said. The Bombardier CRJ-100 jet broke up on impact and caught fire. Television footage showed the aircraft was almost destroyed. A formal investigation into the crash is under way.

While the nationalities of the victims have not been confirmed, the South African government said three of its citizens had died in the accident. The International Rescue Committee, an American aid agency, said its senior reproductive health adviser in Congo, Dr Boubacar Toure, a Guinean, was also among the dead.

The plane was operated and staffed by Airzena Georgian Airways. The company, which has been flying for the UN in Congo for three years, said its four crew members, all Georgians, had died, and expressed shock at the accident.

The UN security council has sent its "deepest condolences" to the families of the victims.

With 19,000 troops, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo is the world's largest, and is reliant on air transport as the road network is inadequate.

Congo has one of the world's worst aviation safety records, mainly because of the fleet of old and often poorly maintained aircraft that serve the civilian population.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Barak Obama announces 2012 re-election bid

President Barack Obama on Monday formally announced his 2012 re-election bid, saying the country needed "to protect the progress" it had made.

Barak Obama
"Today, we are filing papers to launch our 2012 campaign," Obama said in a statement.

He explained that as his administration and supporters across the country "fight to protect the progress we've made -- and make more -- we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest."
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Obama said that in coming days, his supporters will begin forging a new organization in cities and towns across the country.

"And I'll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that's farther reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we've built before," he said.

The announcement was preceded by a video, which featured a group of presidential supporters talking about the importance of continuing the job the president started following his election in 2008.

"This will be my final campaign, at least as a candidate," Obama said in the statement.

"But the cause of making a lasting difference for our families, our communities, and our country has never been about one person. And it will succeed only if we work together."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yahoo India to Launch Search Direct

Yahoo India to Launch Search Direct within 2011

Yahoo India
Will give predictive search results as you type keywords in the search bar. Like they say, better late than never.

A good half a year after Google launched interactive prediction based search feedback service Instant, Yahoo India just announced that it will launch its own version of Instant dubbed Search Direct.

Don't hold your breath yet, because the service will not be available till the second half of 2011. Just like Google's Instant, Yahoo's Search Direct predicts search results as you type in the keywords into the search bar. The announcement comes a week after Yahoo launched Search Direct in U.S. in the beta stage.

"The new search engine predicts search results as fast as a person types - character by character, and presents those results dynamically, generating a fast, simple search experience that goes beyond mere blue links," said Prabhakar Raghavan, chief scientist, senior vice-president and head of Yahoo Labs.

Despite competition from Google, Yahoo reaches out to 30 million unique users per month in India, which is about 74 percent of the Indian Internet audience. Loyal Yahoo users therefore finally get one of Google's most innovative features on the search engine of their choice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bomb blast kills seven in NW Pakistan

Suicide bomber kills seven in NW Pakistan: police

Bomb blast kills seven in NW PakistanA suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up near a police checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday killing seven people and wounding 16 others, police said.

"The bomber came on a motorbike and detonated himself close to Ambar check post near Swabi town," local police chief Abdullah Jan said.

He said the checkpoint was close to a camp set up by a religious political party for a public meeting in Swabi, which is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Peshawar.

"The death toll has gone up to seven including a police official," he said.

"We have recovered the body parts of the suicide bomber."

Another police officer Ejaz Ali confirmed the toll and put the number of wounded at 16.

The meeting was planned by the hardline Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The event was cancelled after the bombing.

Rehman was on his way to the venue when the blast happened, party spokesman Jalil Jan told AFP.

"He is safe and the meeting has been cancelled," Jan told AFP. "We can't immediately identify the attackers. We don't know who is involved. But we can say the target appears to be the JUI leadership.

"Six party supporters were martyred and seven wounded," he said.

Police official Hayatullah Khan told AFP that Rehman's convoy was set to enter the town when the blast hit.

"We were lined up and party members came out from a nearby reception camp.

Suddenly there was a huge blast amid welcome slogans by party workers. Shrapnel hit me and I received injuries to my head and leg," he said.

The northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province bordering Afghanistan has frequently been the target of militant violence.

More than 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks throughout Pakistan since government forces launched an offensive against militants in a mosque in Islamabad in 2007.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants launch almost daily attacks across northwest Pakistan and the tribal belt that Washington has branded the most dangerous place on Earth.

Goa lawmakers to discuss 'Dum Maaro Dum'

Goa Assembly to discuss Dum Maaro Dum.

Dum Maaro DumFormer Goa Tourism Minister Fransisco Pacheco today moved a calling attention motion on Rohan Sippy's forthcoming movie Dum Maaro Dum claiming it will spoil the state’s image and affect its tourism industry.

The NCP legislator added that the already dented image of the Goan tourism industry would be further damaged by the movie.

Pacheco said, “We are looking at family tourism in the state. We don't want the sex and drug tourism spot tag (for Goa),” he said. The calling attention motion will be taken up by Goa Legislative Assembly Speaker Pratapsingh Rane during the ongoing session.

The leader, who was the brain behind the famous Go Goa 365 Days Holiday Destination campaign, said that people believe whatever is shown in movies. “Looking at the promos, it is clear that it portrays a bad image of Goa,” he said. He added that he would also move the High Court seeking a ban on the release of the movie.

“If the movie is fiction, they should have avoided naming Goa in it. An entire state cannot be defamed by a filmmaker's imagination,” he said.

Efforts to contact Sippy's publicist fetched no response. The state police had earlier asked the producer to screen the movie for them before releasing it in theatres. Chief Minister Digambar Kamat had also said that he would ask the police to look into the matter.

Dum Maaro Dum stars Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu and is due to release in mid-April.

Monday, March 28, 2011

300 tigers roam Karnataka’s forests

Karnataka has displaced Madhya Pradesh as the state with the largest number of tigers. Tiger Estimate-2011 shows that the population of the big cats in the country has increased to 1,706 (range indicated is between 1,500 and 1,800).

Tigers in Indian ForestThe tiger habitat in the country is spread over 5.58 lakh sq km, but has shrunk over the past decade by about 72,000 sq km. In 2001-2002, there were 3,642 tigers. In 2008, the number of tigers was estimated at 1,411. This year, the survey has indicated that the tiger population in India might have risen by 295.

Karnataka houses nearly 300 big cats in the wild, beating Madhya Pradesh (257), which topped the list in the last census. The third largest tiger population in the country is in Uttarakhand (227). Nearly 12,000 sq km of land was covered during the tiger census in Karnataka.

YV Jhala, scientist with Project Tiger said that the rise in the population is seen in the southern states, and in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Conservation efforts here might be better, and the cases of poaching and smuggling reported from these states is less, when compared to the central Indian states.

This is no mean achievement, but conservationists are now concerned about the shrinking size of the tiger habitat. If conservation efforts must succeed, and if that success must be sustained, the size of the tiger habitat ought to be maintained. Each male tiger is estimated to require at least 40 sq km of territory.

Member-secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, Rajesh Gopal, said, “The forest cover needs to be increased, to sustain the conservation effort. The area has reduced by 20%, compared to the previous census. Under Project Tiger, we are looking at the core and buffer areas, and strategies are being chalked out to revive the forest. It is not enough to have lands marked as forest. We need to ensure that these areas are not spoilt.”

Ullas Karanth, whose lifetime’s passion has been studying tigers, said, “Prey density in the forest is important. In Karnataka, there is 22,000 sq km of forests, but tigers occupy only about 14,000 sq km. The government should rather look at mitigating the damage done in forest areas, and ensure that there is no fragmentation of forest land. There is also scope for increasing forest area. In case of Nagarhole, another 100 sq km can be added to the north, and in case of Bhadra, there is nearly 100sq km near the reserve that is with the revenue department.”

Poaching is another threat to the big cats. This year, four tigers died in the state. Only one of these was a natural death.

However, there is reason to believe that poaching might be under greater control. While in 2008 and 2009, the Criminal Investigation Department of the forest cell recovered 11 tiger pelts each, in 2010 no pelts were seized; till date in 2011, no such recoveries have occurred.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) BK Singh, said that increased foot patrolling will be introduced to protect the tigers.

Jhala also said, “The larger number of tigers in the census this year could also be explained by the fact that the area covered in the census was larger; reporting of the data might have been better. So in addition to the conservation measures, there might be other factors explaining the rise in the population of tigers.”

Bollywood Shouts 'Cut' for India vs Pakistan

Bollywood Shouts 'Cut' for India vs Pak World Cup semi-final

Cricket comes first for B-Town biggies. And when it's India and Pakistan in the World Cup semi-finals in Mohali, one can safely imagine B-Town shutting shop for the duration of the match.

So, come Wednesday, some will get their shoots preponed while most will watch the match at home or between extended breaks at work. A few will even watch the match live.

Akshay Kumar
Akshay Kumar: Sajid Khan, Sajid Nadiadwala and a few

Sajid Khan, Sajid Nadiadwala and a few of my close friends are coming over to watch the semis between India and Pakistan on the plasma TV in my house. I love cricket. I am not cheering any particular player but I'm rooting for India. Team India has to win!

Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan: : (Prepones shoot. Now, from 10 am to 2 pm)

The actor plans to watch the match with his family at home. He made director Reema Kagti, whose film he is currently starring in, change the timing of the Wednesday schedule, making it from 10 am to 2 pm, so that the cast and crew could catch the action.

Sunil Shetty

Sunil Shetty: : (Will be in Mohali)

"I am a huge cricket lover. Gautam Singhania and I will head to Mohali for the semis between India and Pakistan. I am rooting for Team India and not for any player in particular."

Sanjay Dutt

Sanjay Dutt: : (Can't miss it even though he's in HK)

"Though I love cricket and have watched most of the World Cup matches, sadly for the semis between India and Pakistan I am not there. What a match it will be! I am in Hong Kong shooting for Dhamaal 2. I will watch it somewhere or maybe on the Net.

Ajay Devgn

Ajay Devgn: : (Will watch during the shoot)

"I will be shooting for Rohit Shetty's Singham in Goa and will watch the match between breaks. Rohit has promised to wind up the shoot early that day so we can all get to watch at least half the match."

Anil Kapoor

Anil Kapoor:: (Wants Sachin to crack a ton)

"Yes, I do plan to watch the cricket semis between India and Pakistan as I love cricket. As of now, I'm a bit uncertain of my plans as I have some guests from Los Angeles flying down for a meeting and at night I'm having a small dinner party.

Bipasha Basu

Bipasha Basu:: (Catching it at home)

"I have still not decided where I will watch the match. Maybe, socially or at home with close friends. But am flying back from Kolkata on that day! Cheering for the entire team and hope they make us proud!"

Sonam Kapoor

Sonam Kapoor:: (Loves to watch Sachin)

"I don't know yet whether I will be watching the semis or not. I enjoy the game of cricket, especially when India's playing. I love watching Sachin Tendulkar play!"

Imran Khan

Imran Khan:: (Wants a TV on the sets)

"I'm going to be shooting in Madh Island the entire day. I'm just hoping our director understands our excitement and puts a TV on the sets.

Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone: (Watching it in London)

"I will be in London shooting for Desi Boyz. As it is behind India in time, I will get ready early and catch the match before my afternoon shoot. I wish I was in Mohali, catching the action live."

Kareena Kapoor
Kareena Kapoor: (Hoping for things to wrap up fast)

"I will be busy shooting for Reema Kagti's film with Aamir on that day unless things wrap up fast. Knowing Aamir's around, it probably will!"

Blasts at Yemen weapons factory

A blast at an ammunition factory in southern Yemen has killed at least five people and wounded 50, reports say.

The explosion shook the southern Yemeni town of Jaar and could be heard up to 10 miles (15km) away.

Reports said the plant had recently been seized by militants who, on Sunday, clashed with government forces in the town.

Officials said they expected the death toll to rise as bodies were still being recovered from the scene of the blast.

Sailboat Sinks off San Diego

2 Dead, 8 Injured as Sailboat Sinks off San Diego

Ten people were thrown into the waters of San Diego Bay Sunday when their sailboat capsized, leaving two men drowned and eight people injured, authorities said.

The boat flipped over for reasons that remained unclear and then sank near Shelter Island shortly after 5 p.m., San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesman Maurice Luque said.

Harbor police pulled all 10 from the water and took them to a boat dock where some 60 firefighters and paramedics were waiting. Two men in their 50s or 60s were declared dead at the scene and the other eight were taken to local hospitals. Two children were released from the hospital after being treated briefly.

Luque said none of the injuries was life-threatening or critical.

Though just 10 people were reported to be aboard, divers searched the sunken wreckage for any additional victims.

"We are confident that everyone is accounted for," Luque said.

One woman was being treated in intensive care at UCSD Medical Center for hypothermia, said Marguerite Elicone, a spokeswoman for the Port of San Diego, which includes the Harbor Police.

Most of those on board were members of an Asian family, and investigators had to bring in translators to speak to them, Luque said. He did not know what language they spoke. No victims' names were immediately released.

Harbor Police officers were at the 25-foot boat within five minutes after a Navy vessel reported the boat capsized, Elicone said.

"They were pulling people out of the water. There were also civilians assisting in pulling people out of the water," she said.

No other vessels were involved, Elicone said. There were several witnesses but the spokeswoman said she didn't know what they saw.

Harbor police were leading the investigation into the cause. The U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the scene.

Phone messages left for the Coast Guard were not immediately returned.

Afghan Truck Explosion Kills 20

A team of suicide bombers shot their way into the compound of a road construction company in eastern Afghanistan and detonated a truck loaded with explosives, killing 20 people and wounding about 50, the Afghan government said Monday.

The attack occurred late Sunday in the Barmal district of Paktika province, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

It said three attackers went up to the gate of the Zahir construction company, shot the guard, and then drove a large truck that was full of explosives into the compound where they detonated it.

The area is located on the border with Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, which serve as safe havens for insurgents that infiltrate into Afghanistan across the rugged and mountainous frontier.

The region has seen an escalation in violence over the past few months.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was the work of a suicide bomber. He said in an emailed statement that it was targeting a joint Afghan-NATO operating base.

Mokhlis Afghan, spokesman for provincial Governor Mohibullah Samim, said all the dead and wounded were laborers and there were no Afghan or foreign forces at the site. He added that the explosion was so powerful that little remained of the truck.

The U.S.-led coalition had no immediate comment.

Afghan, the spokesman, said that "all the casualties are innocent civilian people. They are all poor people who were working as laborers in a construction company. No Afghan security or international forces were involved. The Afghan army and NATO helped carry the injured to hospitals."

Death penalty waived for 8 Indians

A Sharjah court has waived the death sentence awarded to eight Indian youths for the murder of a Pakistani national after a Dubai-based Indian hotelier paid blood money to the family of the victim on their behalf.

The murder took place on July 11, 2009 following which 10 men, eight Indians -- all from Pubjab -- and two Pakistanis, were arrested.

The death penalty of two Pakistanis have also been waived off after Dubai-based hotelier SP Singh Oberoi paid blood money.

"Death penalty has been waived off for all the 10 accused, eight Indians and two Pakistanis. They have to serve three years of imprisonment of which they have already completed 21 months. So they will be free in another six months and will be deported directly to their home countries," Oberoi said following the verdict on Sunday.

Several such cases involving Punjabi youths embroiled in bootlegging turf battle have come to light in recent times.

The latest case involved murder of Pakistani national Mumtaz Yousuf, who hailed from Faislabad.

The Indians who were arrested are: Kuldip Singh, Sachin Kumar Sharma, Rakesh Kumar, Sukhpal Singh, Hardev Singh, Charanjeet, Amarjeet Singh and Rashwinder Pal.

Oberoi said that on November 24, 2009 he, alongside the victim's father, appeared in court and registered a compromise statement.

"The honorable Judge accepted our request and on February 1 this year I paid the blood money to Mohd Yousuf in court in the presence of the jury.

I submitted the required documents in the court on February 6 following which the case was closed and February 28 was fixed as the judgment date. However, this date was then postponed to March 27 (Sunday) when the verdict was finally delivered," he said.

The Pakistanis who will be released include Mohammed Ansar Chaudhary and Shahid Hussain Ifthreen Rana from Multan Burewal.

Oberoi said that there are several such cases pending and involves over 60 young men from Punjab.

This case is, however, different from the case involving 17 Indians who were convicted of murder and have filed an appeal.

Dave Lindahl

India, Pakistan home secretary talks begin

The home secretaries of India and Pakistan began talks here Monday to discuss issues like counter-terrorism measures, visa rules, drug trafficking and counterfeit currency notes.

The talks are being led by Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Qamar Zaman. The Indian side is also represented by internal security Special Secretary U.K. Bansal and National Investigation Agency chief S.C. Sinha.

The talks, going on at a luxury hotel here, are likely to continue till 5 p.m., sources said.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Shahid Malik was also seen at the first home secretary level talks between the two sides since the 2008 Mumbai attack.

Sources said the two sides are also expected to discuss issues related jailed fishermen in India and Pakistan.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Burma earthquake

More than 60 peoples have killed in burma earthquake.

Burma earthquakeEarthquake News Updates! More than 60 people have died in a magnitude-6.8 earthquake in Burma which struck near the Lao and Thai borders.

It happened at 1355 GMT on Thursday and was centred about 70 miles (110 km) from the northern Thai city of Chiang Rai, the US Geological Survey said.

It was felt 800km to the south in the Thai capital Bangkok, and in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

The quake was shallow, at a depth of 6.2 miles (10km). There are fears the casualties could be much higher.

State radio in Burma said that 65 people had been killed and 111 injured in the quake.

It said that 244 houses, 14 Buddhist monasteries and nine government buildings were damaged.

The town of Tachileik and surrounding villages in Burma's Shan state appear to have borne the brunt of the earthquake.

Cracks are visible in roads and rice fields have been wrecked by rising silt and water, reports say.

The state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that 15 houses collapsed in the town of Tarlay.

Roads, bridges, hospitals and other buildings have been at least partly damaged.

"The military, police and local authorities are trying to find some people injured in those affected areas but the roads are still closed," he said.

The districts around Kengtung and Tachileik are hilly and remote but an active border trade is carried out between many scattered communities.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says Burma is ill prepared to deal with natural disasters.

Communication systems and infrastructure are poor and the military government tends to limit the flow of information.

It is likely to take some time before a clear picture of the the disaster emerges, our correspondent says.
Collapsing wall

On the Thai side of the border, paddy fields and temples from Chaengsaen to Mae Sai have been damaged.

In Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, scores of people have been injured and buildings affected.

"We are worried that the area might be hit with stronger quakes. There was another quake at 7am," said Somsri Meethong of the Mae Sai District office, referring to an aftershock.

"I had to run again like last night. What we have seen on TV about Japan added to our fear."

One woman in Thailand's Chiang Rai province, close to the epicentre, was killed when a wall collapsed.

In neighbouring Laos, little damage and no casualties have been reported.

The head of the disaster preparedness for the Red Cross there, Bountheun Menevilay, said the quake was felt strongly in the thinly populated border provinces of Luang Namtha and Bokeo.

Earlier reports suggested there had been two strong earthquakes moments apart in the same area, but the USGS later clarified that there had been just one quake.

Earlier this month, on 11 March, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck just north of this area, 225km (140 miles) southwest of Dali in Yunnan, southern China.

That was the same day as the huge 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami hit Japan; however, Japan is on a different tectonic plate.

Myanmar earthquake

Death toll of Myanmar's earthquake rises to 74, 111 people injured

Myanmar earthquake
Earthquake News Updates! The death toll of Myanmar's Thursday earthquake has increased to 74 with the injured remaining at 111 as of Friday 2:30 p.m. local time, according to an official statement.

A total of 390 residential houses, 14 monasteries and nine government department buildings were destroyed in the mainly affected areas of Tarlay, Naryaung and Monglin. Of them, Monglin was badly ruined in terms of residential houses with 128.

Relief measures are being taken by the state's Natural Disaster Preparedness Committee and local Red Cross as rescue teams are rushing to the stricken areas.

The quake also triggered landslides and collapsed buildings in Myanmar's northeastern Tachileik and Tarpin, Shan states.

A strong earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale jolted Loimwe, 56 kilometers southeast of Kengtung in northeastern Myanmar on Thursday night at 20:29:30 hours local time (1369 GMT).

The quake's epicenter, only 10 kilometers deep, struck the hills of Myanmar bordering Thailand and Laos.

The quake was also felt in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China.

According to reports from the Laos, the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Myanmar shook Laos' northern province of Bokeo and Luang Namtha on Thursday night, but no casualties have yet been reported.

According to a statement on Friday from Laos' Department of Meteorology and Hydrology at Water Resources and Environment Administration, people living in Bokeo and Luang Namtha provinces in the north of the country felt the quake, but no damage or injuries have been report from the sparsely populated region.

Meanwhile, the Irrigation department of Thailand on Friday confirmed that the earthquakes in Myanmar had not caused damage to any major dams in the northern region of Thailand.

"The department ordered a structural inspection of the dams in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai and found that all dams were undamaged by the quake," Bangkok Post online quoted Chalit Damrongsak, the department's irector-general, as saying.

There are no cracks at all in the dams, he said.

Chalit said he had ordered irrigation officials nationwide to regularly make safety checks of dams under their supervision.

The powerful 7-magnitude earthquake on Thursday night sent shock waves that shook buildings in many parts of Thailand and rattled the nerves of highrise residents in Bangkok.

People living near the dams were worried their structural integrity might have been affected and sought reassurance, Thai media reported.

In Thailand, a 55-year-old woman was killed Thursday in the quake in northern Chiang Rai province.

Some 60 aftershocks have been recorded in northern Chiangmai province since the deadly earthquake, according to Thai Meteorological Department's Seismological Bureau.

An officer from Seismological Bureau disclosed that the quake in Myanmar was followed by 56 aftershocks below 5.0 magnitude as well as six aftershocks over 5.0 magnitude.

The aftershocks are expected to continue for a week with different magnitudes ranging from 3.0 to 5.0, but no greater than 6.0 magnitude quake is expected, the seismological bureau said.

According to Vietnam News Agency, buildings in Hanoi shook when the earthquake happened, which caused panic among residents of apartment blocks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mozilla Firefox 4 download

Firefox 4 doubles IE9's 24-hour download tally.

Mozilla Firefox 4 downloadFirefox may be under fire from Microsoft's newly competitive browser, but with more than twice the downloads in its first day, Firefox 4 today soared over its rival by one measurement.

Microsoft, not without reason, boasted that IE9 was downloaded 2.35 million times in the first 24 hours after its release last week. And that is indeed a big number, especially for a browser that tech enthusiasts had scoffed at for years.

But less than 24 hours after its own launch, Firefox 4 cleared 4.7 million, according to the Mozilla Glow site that logs downloads.

That's a lot less than the 8 million copies of Firefox 3 downloaded in that version's 24-hour debut in 2008, but that event was a heavily promoted "Download Day," and it should be noted that Firefox 4's full day hasn't finished yet.

And it does signal that at least a very sizable chunk of the Net-connected population is, in Firefox's apt phrase, choosing to "upgrade the Web." New browsers bring new Web standards, new performance, and often a new auto-update ethos that likely will lead to browsers staying continuously updated. That could simplify lives for Web developers who constantly wrangle with the difficulties of supporting old browsers.

Firefox 4 brings a raft of new features--new security and privacy options, faster loading and JavaScript, support for a variety of new standards including WebM video and WebGL 3D graphics, and 3D acceleration that extends even to Windows XP.

Mozilla expects that its arrival will lead to an increase in usage. The browser maker said it has 400 million Firefox users and counting, but as a percentage of worldwide browser use it has lost share to Chrome, which now accounts for more than 10 percent of usage worldwide.

Read more:

Dave Lindahl

Bomb blast in Jerusalem bus station

British woman killed in Jerusalem bus station bomb

Jerusalem News UpdatesJerusalem News Updates! A British woman was the only victim killed in a bomb blast near a Jerusalem bus station yesterday.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We can confirm a British National was killed in the bus bomb in Jerusalem on 23 March. We are providing consular assistance."

A woman was killed and more than 30 people wounded when a bomb ripped through a bus in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The Briton died in an ambulance on her way to hospital. It is not clear whether the woman was a tourist or lived in Israel. The bomb was the first in more than six years.

Two kilos of explosives were positioned close to the central bus station in Jerusalem, according to reports. The bomb is thought to have been packed with metal causing shrapnel injuries to people as they queued for buses.

Two buses had stopped to pick up passengers at the time of the explosion. The 174 bus was particularly badly hit.

It came hours after militants vowed revenge for two deadly Israeli raids on Gaza.

The bombing also came several hours after two Grad rockets fired by Gaza militants hit the southern city of Beersheva.

Following the attack, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that Israel would act "aggressively, responsibly and wisely" in wake of a recent upsurge in violence.

Israeli jets staged three air strikes over Gaza overnight but there were no casualties, Palestinian sources said early this morning.

Two of the raids targeted the city of Gaza while another was aimed at a tunnel near the Egyptian frontier at Rafah, they said.

An Israeli defence spokeswoman confirmed the sorties, saying: "The air force targeted two tunnels at the south of the Gaza Strip and a terrorist target in Gaza."

"These raids followed 25 rocket hits, including four Grads, on Israel since Saturday."

Ind Vs Aus World Cup quarter-final Cricket Live Score

India vs Australia Indies (Ind Vs Aus) ICC World Cup quarter-final Live Cricket Score.

Current world cup holders Australia take on tournament favourites India for a place in the semi-finals. Viewers from around the world will be glued to their television sets in what should turn out to be a closely contested match that could go down to the wire.

Date: 24th March

London Start Time: 09:00

Venue and Pitch

The match will take place at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. The pitch will offer a bit of bounce during the start of each innings but will settle down after that. The team that wins the toss will look to bat first and look to get a total in excess of 270 in order to put pressure on the opposition.

Team News

Australia have concerns over the form of captain Ricky Ponting and Cameron White. The bowling of Jason Krejza will be severely tested by the Indian batsmen and Australia will be depending a lot on their pace trio.

Virender Sehwag is expected to play in this game and that means either Yousuf Pathan or Suresh Raina will have to be left out. After Pathan’s poor showing in the last 6 games, Raina who is also a brilliant fielder will most likely get the nod.

Match Odds

It was 8 years ago that Australia took on India in a world cup final and defeated them by a massive margin. India 8/11 have the upper hand this time because they are playing at home and the wicket will suit their spinners. However, Australia 6/5 know that if they get a few quick wickets, the pressure of playing at home will get to the Indians and could cause another batting collapse.

Top Batsman

Mitchell Johnson has said that he plans to take out the dangerous Virender Sehwag 10/3 with short pitch bowling. Sachin Tendulkar 10/3 and Yuvraj Singh 11/2 will be the other key players to watch out for.

Shane Watson 7/2 failed in the last game but Mr. Consistent will be the key wicket for the Indians. Michael Clarke 9/2 has been in great form and along with Michael Hussey 11/2 will look to anchor the Australian innings.

Featured Bet

Either Sachin Tendulkar or Virender Sehwag will score a century in this match and a total close to 300 will be on the cards if India bats first.

Match Predictions

India have the advantage of playing at home and because of the conditions have their noses ahead of the Australians. They should move on to the semi-finals and most probably face Pakistan.

Best Bet: Virender Sehwag 10/3

ED arrests Hasan Ali’s aide Tapuriah

Prominent Kolkata based businessman Kashinath Tapuriah, who is alleged to be an associate of India’s biggest tax evader Hasan Ali Khan, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Thursday.

74-year-old Tapuriah is said to be closely associated with Khan and allegedly played a role in the transfer of money to a Swiss bank via Hasan Ali’s investments in 14 of his companies.

Tapuriah was arrested here after three days of questioning, ED sources said. He would be produced in court later today.

The ED claims that Tapuriah and his wife, Chandrika, operated a series of overseas bank accounts along with Khan. While Khan has an I-T notice of Rs 50,000 crore; Tapuriah and Chandrika have pending notice of Rs 591 crore and Rs 20,540 crore respectively against them.

As per reports, his name had cropped up in the documents recovered from Khan’s Pune residence.

He was earlier also questioned about his links with Khan; his premises in Kolkata were raided too.

Tapuriah, chairperson of RM Investment and Trading Company and is better known as the brother of late Priyamvada Birla and the executioner of her will.

For the record he has been claiming all along that he has no accounts in Swiss banks and that he is a transparent and honest man.

53-year-old Hasan Ali Khan has been arrested by the agency on charges of stashing huge amounts of black money in banks abroad. He is currently out on bail.

England's Bresnan in injury scare

Team officials say England bowler Tim Bresnan went through a precautionary scan on his calf after feeling discomfort in his right leg.

Bresnan felt minor pain on Wednesday but a team official hoped the medium fast bowler, who also bats lower down the order, will be fit for Saturday's quarterfinal against Sri Lanka.

Bresnan flew back home during the one-day series against Australia earlier his year when he suffered injury in the same muscle.

He has shouldered the burden of England's seam attack by taking nine wickets in six World Cup group matches as his fellow pace bowlers have struggled on the slow wickets of the subcontinent.

Buddha opposes Mamata’s arrest

Deviating from his party line to drag Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee to a controversy, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhdeb Bhattacharjee said on Wednesday that he was against arresting the Opposition leader.

CPM’s North 24 Parganas district secretariat member Amitava Nandi had lodged a complaint with the Chief Election Commissioner S Y Khureshi on last Tuesday about the discrimination in executing an arrest warrant against the Opposition leader in a 17-year-old case.

“There is no question of arresting or harassing her,” Buddhadeb said at a media conference at Allimuddin Street, the CPM state committee office, on Wednesday.

In 1994 when Mamata Banerjee, who was then the state Youth Congress leader, had led a demonstration before District Magistrate of Barasat when a scuffling ensued between the police and the Congress supporters.

The police had lodged a case of attempt to murder against her. The chargesheet was filed later and labelled Mamata Banerjee as an absconder. Later the court had issued a warrant of arrest in 2005.

Since then the police did not take any action to execute the arrest warrant. The CPM North 24 Parganas district committee had lodged the complaint with Kurshi after the police arrested a powerful CPM leader of district Majid Master - allegedly involved in a murder case -- last week following the pressure of the Election Commission. “Why didn’t Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s police arrest Mamata Banerjee? They should arrest her if they have the guts,” Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly said.