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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Benitez and Moyes vow to fight on

At the end of what has been, on and off the pitch, a disastrous week in the city of Liverpool, both Rafael Benitez and David Moyes said that if they were to leave Anfield or Goodison Park they would have to be prised from their jobs. Neither man intends tomorrow's Merseyside derby to be their last.

Asked about his future in the wake of Liverpool's exit from the Champions League and a sequence of results that has left them 13 points off the pace domestically, Benitez listed the Real Madrid team that lost to Liverpool in the 1981 European Cup final. He had been part of that squad but never became close to joining the first team. But he had stuck it out at the Bernabeu and he would do the same at Anfield.

"I decided to stay at Madrid after years of receiving offers from top sides, offering more money, it is the same here," said the Liverpool manager. "I have had massive offers from different clubs but I wanted to stay and fight and to do my best in every single game. If we win two or three in a row, everything will change and I am 100 per cent convinced we will finish in the top four. At least the top four. I have a five-year contract because of my commitment to the club, fans, staff, players and all the other people at Liverpool. Hopefully, in five years we can talk about another contract extension."

Comments by the former Liverpool captain, Jamie Redknapp, that Benitez "manipulates" the club's supporters and has created a team "that is not going anywhere" caused Benitez to question where his loyalties lay. "I am surprised people so close to Liverpool are working hard to keep Tottenham [Redknapp's father Harry's club] in the top four."

Just as in May, when Liverpool had finished with their highest points total since they glided to the title in 1988, it would seem impossible that Benitez would have to make this statement, the turnaround in Everton's fortunes has been equally perplexing and at Goodison demoralising. This week a club that has lost to Burnley, Bolton and Hull saw its long-term financial future imperilled with the rejection of a proposed new stadium at Kirkby. Yesterday, Moyes' accent may have differed from Benitez's but his message was the same.

"That is complete nonsense," he said when asked if the collapse of the Kirkby project had triggered thoughts of resignation. "I've been here seven and a half years and worked really hard to get here. We are in a bad moment just now but I'll carry on trying to get through this. Why would I stay? Because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to get on with it."

Moyes added that after the failure of the "Goodison on the Water" project, which would have given Everton a home on the city's iconic waterfront, and now Kirkby, it was time for the city council to approach the club, rather than the other way round.

"The [Kirkby] stadium might have made us bigger, better known in Europe and attracted bigger players. It might have enhanced our identity. All I know is that we need a stadium. What stadium did they go down to London with for the World Cup bid? I am a football manager, not a CEO, but I am looking at it and thinking they should now show us their goods."

Of all the goods Benitez has bought in his five years on Merseyside, few have raised more question marks than the £21m he paid Roma for Alberto Aquilani; a midfielder who was supposed to replace Xavi Alonso, but who will make his full league debut after Liverpool have been eliminated from the Champions League, the Carling Cup and, realistically, the seemingly endless quest for the Premier League.

"People ask why I don't play him." Benitez said. "The games have been so close that if you put someone on the pitch who isn't ready, maybe he cannot settle. If you are playing Lucas [Leiva], [Javier] Mascherano and [Steven] Gerrard and play Aquilani, maybe you make a mistake and lose control. If we were winning every game 3-0, then it would be easy to bring him on and allow him to settle.

"The problem we have with him is that when I talked to the surgeon who was doing his [ankle] operation, he said he would be available in August. We did our tests and it was two months instead of one and then there were problems and it was three months. But we have signed him for five years, not one season. And, if we had signed him when he was fully fit, the price may have been up to £30m."

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Lampard returns for Arsenal clash

Carlo Ancelotti insists that Sunday's Barclays Premier League showdown with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium will not decide the title or rule the Gunners out of the race.

Victory for Chelsea would put them 11 points ahead of Arsene Wenger's side and the Blues have been boosted by a fit again Frank Lampard.

The England midfielder injured his thigh on international duty but has regained full fitness in time to play against the Gunners.

"Frank is fit, yes," said Ancelotti. "He trained for the last two days and did very well. He's in good condition.

"He's ready to play. I think that our physio and our doctor worked very well with him. He is a fantastic professional player. He stayed to improve his condition for a long time in Cobham."

Lampard travelled to Serbia for placenta treatment but despite the miles, the player and the club doctor decided to undergo just one hour of standard massage treatment.

"He stayed one hour with the doctor for treatment and 80 hours - I don't know - in Cobham here to work," confirmed Ancelotti.

"But it is a very important game because Arsenal are one of the most important teams in England and Europe.

"They're playing very well. I like their style - they try to play and attack to create difficulties for the other teams.

"It will be a very good test for us. We want to put the best on the pitch against Arsenal. I think it will be a fantastic match because both teams want to play football. All the fans will have a fantastic opportunity to see a good game."

"This is not a decisive match for Chelsea or for Arsenal. It's an important match. Arsenal will want to win the game, and Chelsea also, but it's not decisive for the title.

"It would be 11 points if we won, but Arsenal would have a game in hand. It's not so important for the title."

A win for the Blues would also give them a clean sweep over their top four rivals, having already beaten Manchester United and Liverpool.

But Ancelotti played down the significance of success over their rivals.

"We don't want to send out a message," said Ancelotti. "We want to win to try to improve our position, that's all, not send a message.

"When you play against a strong team like Arsenal or Manchester United, it's an important test. This is an important test for us, but nobody else."

Much has been made of Arsenal's physical weakness compared to Chelsea but Ancelotti does not believe it will come down to whichever side is the strongest on the day.

"I think they have scored a lot of goals from free-kicks," added the Italian. "I don't want to think about this game only on free-kicks. We have to think about other things, that Arsenal have very good midfielders who we have to control. This can be a difficult match for us if Arsenal keep control of midfield.

"There is not a big difference between Arsenal and Chelsea in terms of their systems of play.

"I feel we have players in very good condition. I want to rotate in the next few games, like the last games against Wolves and against Porto.

"This is important. Maintaining players in good condition, with good feeling and a good atmosphere, is important."

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Jeev, Jyoti take India to tied 7th

Shenzhen: Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa combined for yet another steady performance and turned in a four-under 68 to take India to the tied seventh spot after the second round of the World Cup of Golf here Friday.

The duo mixed seven birdies against three bogeys in the foursomes play, in which the players take alternate shots with the same ball, to total nine-under 135.

On the second day in a row, it was a bogey for the Indians on the second hole but the pair made amends with a birdie on the very next. Another couple of birdies followed on the seventh and ninth hole before the Indians made the turn at two-under.

The back-nine journey turned out to be topsy-turvy as Jeev and Jyoti found four birdies against two bogeys. “We are pretty pleased with the way we played today (Friday). We combined really well. We left a few shots out there but that’s part of the game. We played the par-fives really well, making birdies on all of them.

“We are going all out tomorrow (Saturday) when we revert to the four-balls as I think both of us are playing really well and we are looking forward to a low one tomorrow,” Jeev said.

Saturday’s round would be played in the better-ball or four-ball format in which each player of the team plays with his own ball until completing the hole. The lower of the two scores is recorded as the team score for that hole.

Jyoti said the format would help the Indians turn in a low card.

“Like Jeev rightly said, we combined really well. Whenever he was out, I was in… We made a few putts coming in and that changed a lot of things. I was a little jetlagged yesterday (Thursday) but now I am back to swinging the club well so we should get a low number tomorrow,” he said.

At the top of the leaderboard, the Irish team of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy maintained their three shot lead after a four-under 68. Ireland’s two-day total stands at 18-under 126 at the halfway stage at Mission Hills, with Sweden being their nearest challengers after Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson’s brilliant 65 took the defending champions to 129.

Italy occupy the third spot, one stroke behind Sweden after a second round of 66. Japan were fourth on 11-under after a 71 with Wales (68) and Venezuela (67) sharing fifth on 10-under.

England, one of the pre-tournament favourites, shot a 69 to stand nine shots off the pace, while the Sergio Garcia-led Spanish team shot a 71 and would need to make up 14 shots on the leaders over the weekend.

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Tiger crash after row with wife

Tiger crash after row with wife

GOLF superstar Tiger Woods was knocked out for six minutes and suffered face injuries in a 2am car crash after a bust-up with his wife.

The 33-year-old was pulled from the vehicle by Swedish model missus Elin Nordegren after hitting a fire hydrant and a tree close to their Florida home.

Tiger Woods
Crash scene... Tiger hit hydrant, left,
and tree, right, after leaving home

Elin, 29, heard the accident and is reported to have rushed out of the house with a golf club to smash out the back window and pull Tiger clear.

The world's highest-paid sportsman was drifting in and out of consciousness with his wife hovering over him when cops arrived.

Tiger had cuts on his lips and blood in his mouth.

Police gave him first aid until he was taken to hospital about ten minutes later.

Bust-up ... Tiger and Elin rowed
Bust-up ... Tiger and Elin rowed

Sources said Tiger and beauty Elin had been arguing before the accident.

Reports in the US claim he has been cheating on her with party hostess Rachel Uchitel, 34.

Rachel is said to have followed Tiger around the world.

She was photographed at the same hotel where Tiger was staying while playing in the Australian Open.

Lawyers for the golfer have denied the allegations.

Tiger had not been wearing a seat belt when he crashed, shortly after pulling out of the driveway of his £15million home.

He smashed his face into the windscreen.

The air bags on his car, a Cadillac Escalade SUV, did not deploy, indicating he was travelling at a low speed.

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Dubai debt crisis and its impact on India

The memories of last September, when a vicious spiral of rumors and relentless pressure from investors pushed Lehman Brothers to the brink, came to the fore on Friday with UAE announced to restructure Dubai World, an investment company

that spearheaded the emirate's breakneck growth.

On Wednesday, Dubai said it would reschedule debt on two state owned entities delay payments for six months.

By Thursday, rumors of a possible default on Dubai sovereign debt started to hit markets. The same day, the Dubai ruling family clarified concerns but credit default swaps reflecting the chances of a default kept rising.

The result was a sharp turn in sentiment which led to investors selling risk assets across equities, commodities and currencies and forcing regulators across the world including India to sit up and take notice.

"We shouldn't react to instant news like this. One lesson that we learnt from the (global financial) crisis is that we must study the developments and measure the extent of the problem and hence study the impact on India," said Dr D Subbarao, governor of RBI.

For India, the real impact from financial concerns in Dubai will be limited. Remittance flows from Dubai, which account for about 10 per cent of overall remittances, could see a slowdown in the short term.

Capital flows may see a mild reversal turning the equity and currency markets

volatile but corporate exposure to Dubai appears to be limited to a handful of realty and infrastructure companies.

And barring a few banks like Bank of Baroda which has operations in Dubai, the Indian banking sector seems relatively insulated.

But the Reserve Bank of India is not taking any chances and has asked all banks to submit a detailed report on exposures to Dubai.

While the macro economic impact on India and most other nations may be limited, the fear of a debt default from Dubai may end up being a much needed reality check for global investors, who seem to have forgotten one of the worst financial crises in history a little too fast.

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Dubai debt crisis may hit Indians hard

Reacting cautiously to the financial crisis in the United Arab Emirates, caused by the debt repayment crisis of Dubai World, the Indian financial establishment on Friday said there was no visible impact of the shock as of now.

Bumpy ride: Cars drive on a highway in the Gulf  emirate of Dubai on Friday. AFPBut there are fears that thousands of Indian expatriates in the Gulf could lose their jobs.

This has left thousands of Indian families worried, as the region accounts for half of the country’s $25-billion remittances. Gulf countries employ five million Indians, out of the 25 million total strength of the Indian diaspora in 130 countries, and Dubai being a key driver of the region’s economy, a shakeout there is seen unsettling the job market – and the incomes of relatives.”

“The Middle East meltdown has been there for the past one year. People have been coming back to India for the past one year,” said E Balaji, director of a leading headhunting firm, Ma Foi Management Consultants. “Now, there will be at least 25 percent contraction in the job market.”

The Indian stock market lost over 600 points initially, but recovered sharply to end with a 223-point loss as reassuring sentiments expressed by corporates, the finance and commerce ministries as also the RBI helped control the erosion.
While the government exuded confidence that the crisis, which pulled down stock markets across the globe, should not have any major impact on employment and exports, the RBI said that developments and the extent of the problem need to be studied.

Having asked his subordinates to study the impact and make necessary recommendations, RBI Governor D Subbarao said: “We should not react to instant news like this. One lesson that we learnt from the (global financial) crisis is that we must study the developments , measure the extent of the problem and hence study the impact on India.” The debt crisis in Dubai, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) chairman C Rangarajan said, might slow down remittances but would not have any impact on country’s growth.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said “the Indian real estate is doing well.”
Major real estate players like DLF, Unitech, Parsvnath Developers and Emaar MGF all said they had no exposure in Dubai, although Delhi-based Omaxe said it has an exposure of Rs 40 crore, which it has already asked for refund.

“Indian property market is very robust and largely dominated by internal demand. So there will be no adverse impact on us,” DLF Executive Director Rajiv Talwar said. The Dubai government promptly promised to pump in all necessary resources for success of Dubai World.
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Dubai debt crisis rattles recovery

The Finance Ministry today said it did not expect the Dubai debt crisis to impact remittances to India, or affect the real estate sector in the country. RBI said it was studying the fallout of the developments, and would ask banks to furnish details of their exposure to Dubai World, the state investment company at the centre of the crisis.

The crisis spooked markets across Asia Friday. The Sensex sank over 600 points mid-session before recovering to end the day at 16,632.01, down 222.92 points. Hong Kong dived 4.8 per cent, and major indices in Tokyo, Taipei and Seoul fell over 3 per cent each. Late Friday night India time, however, European shares had closed higher and US stocks pared initial losses.

The Dubai government announced Wednesday that it was requesting creditors for a “standstill” on paying back until May 2010 some of the $60-billion debt of Dubai World and its real estate arm, Nakheel. The default request sent shockwaves through the financial world. Nakheel has a roughly $3.5 billion Islamic bond due in December.

In New Delhi, asked if Dubai’s ripples could reach India, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said, “I don’t think... developments in real estate sector in Dubai are going to impact (India)... Besides, Indian real estate is doing well.”

Asked if Indian exports to West Asia could be impacted, Sharma told reporters, “I hope not.”

Also in Delhi, Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla said it was “somewhat unlikely” that remittances from the Gulf might be hit.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jackson's glove sells for $350,000 at auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Jackson's famous white glove sold for $350,000 at a memorabilia auction on Saturday, soaring far past pre-sale estimates, while a black jacket he wore during a 1989 world tour fetched $225,000.

The Jackson memorabilia was the highlight of an auction of hundreds of rock'n'roll items, including many not associated with the "King of Pop," who died in June.

Darren Julien, CEO of Julien's Auctions, which ran the auction, called the glove "the Holy Grail of Michael Jackson," and many expected it to sell for far more than its pre-sale estimate of about $50,000.

With the added commission, the final price excluding taxes, ran to some $420,000.

The buyer was Hong Kong businessman Hoffman Ma.

Bidding for the black, strap and zipper-laden jacket Jackson wore during the 1989 "Bad" tour soared to $225,000, more than 20 times its estimate. With commission, the tab came to about $275,000.

Fans and dealers turned out at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York's Times Square for the sale that included a car driven by Jackson, as well as David Bowie's guitar and memorabilia from the Beatles to Bo Diddley.

"I never got to see Michael, and now that he's gone this is the closest I could get," said Jazmynn Moore, 19, a student from Manhattan.

The glove was worn by Jackson when he first staged the famous moonwalk dance at the 1983 Motown 25 television special. The opening bid of $10,000 leaped immediately to $120,000 before peaking at $350,000.

Most of the 80 Jackson lots consisted of items that came from friends and family to whom Jackson had given them, the auctioneer said.

Jackson was somewhat of a collector himself, having paid more than $1.5 million for the "Gone With the Wind" best picture Oscar statue at Sotheby's auction, one of the highest prices ever paid for memorabilia at auction.

The auction house had valued the Jackson collection at $80,000 to $100,000. But Julien said such pre-auction estimates were intentionally conservative to help generate interest. Many of Jackson's items sold for 10, or even more than 20 times the estimates.

Julien's had been preparing for a huge auction of Jackson memorabilia in April that was canceled after an agreement with Jackson, who had filed a lawsuit demanding the return of certain items.

During the promotion for that sale, Julien's had amassed a large database of Jackson collectors from Asia to the Americas, and many of the winning Internet bidders were from Japan or Hong Kong.

Chris Michaud

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Swine flu may have hit one peak; more to come

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The pandemic of swine flu may be hitting a peak in the Northern Hemisphere, global health officials said on Friday, but they cautioned it was far from over.

Officials also said they were investigating several troubling outbreaks of drug-resistant H1N1 but noted they were limited so far and that there were no indications yet the virus was mutating in a sustained way.

The World Health Organization said H1N1 flu was moving eastward across Europe and Asia after appearing to peak in parts of Western Europe and the United States.

At least 6,770 deaths have been recorded worldwide since the swine flu virus emerged in April -- but officials always stress the confirmed count represents only a fraction of the actual cases, as most patients never get tested.

There are "early signs of a peak in disease activity in some areas of the northern hemisphere," the WHO said in a statement.

Transmission keeps intensifying in Canada, with the highest number of doctor visits by children. But U.S. officials saw signs of a slowdown.


"We are beginning to see some declines in flu activity around the country but there is still a lot of influenza," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Dr. Anne Schuchat told a news conference.

"It is still much greater than we would normally see this time of year."

A team at flu test maker Quest Diagnostics analyzed 142,000 U.S. flu tests and found a similar pattern, with tests showing a decline in flu-like illness since October 27.

WHO said Norway and countries farther east including Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova and Serbia were reporting sharp increases in influenza-like illness or acute respiratory infection.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and parts of Afghanistan -- particularly the capital, Kabul -- are reporting higher numbers of flu cases. Israel is also reporting sharp increases.

"Essentially what is happening is that it is spreading eastward," Anthony Mounts of WHO's influenza team told Reuters. "Typically, seasonal influenza always starts west and moves eastward. It seems to be following that pattern except it is coming very early this year."

Influenza can hit several peaks in a single season. Experts said weeks or months more of disease could be expected and noted that during the 1957 pandemic, a busy autumn was followed by a lull and then infections surged again starting in January.

Vaccination campaigns are beginning in many countries but companies reported some trouble making vaccine from the H1N1 virus. The United States was still struggling to distribute vaccines but Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said enough vaccine for almost half of Canada's population would have been shipped out by the end of the next week.

British health officials said they were investigating the likely person-to-person spread of a drug-resistant strain of swine flu.

The Health Protection Agency reported five confirmed cases in Wales of patients infected with H1N1 resistant Roche AG and Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Another antiviral, GlaxoSmithKline and Biota Inc's Relenza, were effective in the patients, the HPA said.

The patients had serious conditions that suppressed their immune systems, which can give the virus a better than usual opportunity to develop resistance, the HPA added.

U.S. CDC officials also said they were investigating four cases of H1N1 resistant to Tamiflu at Duke University hospital in North Carolina. "All four patients were very ill with underlying severely compromised immune systems and multiple other complex medical conditions," Duke said in a statement.

Health experts are looking for any sign that H1N1 is mutating into a drug-resistant form. Last year, the seasonal version of H1N1, a distant cousin of the pandemic strain, developed resistance to Tamiflu.

In Norway, officials were investigating a mutated strain in some patients that they said could be responsible for causing severe symptoms.

"The mutation could be affecting the virus' ability to go deeper into the respiratory system, thus causing more serious illness," the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said in a statement.

WHO said the mutation did not appear to be widespread in Norway and the virus remained sensitive to antivirals and pandemic vaccines.

A similar mutation had been detected in H1N1 viruses in several other countries, including China and the United States, in severe as well as in some mild cases, it said.

Maggie Fox
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China mine explosion death toll reaches 87

HEGANG, China (Reuters) - The death toll from China's latest coal mine disaster reached 87 as hopes dimmed on Sunday that more survivors would be found a day after a gas blast at a colliery in the country's icy far northeast.

Xinhua news agency reported 528 workers were in the mine, at Hegang in Heilongjiang province, at the time of the blast, and 420 had been rescued by Sunday.

Some 21 miners remained trapped or unaccounted for, Zhang Jinguang, a spokesman for the mine company, told reporters, who were taken by officials to see 20 or so rescue workers descending into a tunnel still belching smoke. By later on Sunday, none of the 21 had been found, Xinhua reported.

Zhang Fucheng, an official in charge of rescue efforts, told Chinese television that efforts were held up by dense gas and collapsed tunnels. Temperatures were near freezing.

The blast was the latest accident to hit the world's deadliest major coal mining industry. The explosion was so violent it shook the surrounding area and nearby buildings partly collapsed.

Some of the survivors were badly injured.

"When I saw my husband, this mess of blood and flesh, I didn't recognize him at first," said Huang Guizhen, the wife of injured miner Qu Zhongliang, a Heilongjiang province news website (www.northeast.com.cn) reported.

"Then the doctor told me it was my husband and I burst into tears."

Compared to other manual jobs, Chinese coal miners can earn relatively high wages, tempting workers and farmers into rickety and poorly ventilated shafts.

Safety staff knew gas in the mine had reached dangerous levels and were rushing to evacuate the miners when the blast erupted 500 meters (1,500 feet) below ground, the website report also said, citing workers at the mine.

Central government prosecutors went to Hegang to oversee investigations into any possible crimes or official misconduct behind the blast, the China News Service reported.Zhang Jinguang, the mine spokesman, told Reuters that "as far as I know, there were no signs (of the accident beforehand)."Police in Hegang kept a close eye on locals near the mine, and people organized by the government sought to prevent reporters speaking to residents. "There's no hope," said one resident who said two friends were victims of the blast.

Maxim Duncan
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India ‘alive’ to security challenges

India’s minister of home affairs has sought, ahead of the first anniversary of last year’s terror attacks in Mumbai, to reassure international business leaders that the country’s security challenges will not affect its growth.

On the last day of the World Economic Forum meeting in New Delhi, Palaniappan Chidambaram said the “clipping rate” of India’s economic growth had created “deep divisions within society”.

However, the minister assured executives that the government was “alive” to the domestic and international security challenges it faced.

India’s most serious internal security threat comes from Maoist rebels, known as Naxalites, who have taken over resource-rich areas where state governance is weak. Mr Chidambaram said he was not asking Naxalites to lay down their arms, but that the government was prepared to talk.

Rs730bn ($15.5bn, €10.5bn, £9.4bn) of India’s stimulus plan has been set aside for an ambitious road infrastructure plan in Naxalite-occupied states such as Madhya Pradesh. Last week the minister of road transport and highways, Shri Kamal Nath, told a meeting of ministers in New Delhi that illegal occupants of the land would be dealt with in a “fierce manner”.

Mr Chidambaram also said that, since the attacks on Mumbai last November, the Indian government had increased its intelligence capacity as well as its police force.

India is facing pressure to commit to its promises of building up needed infrastructure for foreign companies to enter the domestic market. Carlos Ghosn, Renault and Nissan chief executive, told WEF participants that India now needed to “execute its plans” so that growth would follow.

Mr Chidambaram also noted that the security issue in India’s north eastern border states, where tribal groups are fighting for independence, were, “by and large, under control”.

Alexandra Stevenson

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Indian software industry will hold out against competition'

New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) The $60-billion information technology industry in India will continue to attract overseas business, despite competition from other emerging markets that also offer lower costs, says the India head of global software giant Computer Associates.

'Our costs will still be competitive. There are markets like China, Singapore, and the Philippines which offer lower costs. But they are not in the same league as India,' said the software gian't India chairman Saurabh Srivastava.

'China has an issue with language, a lot of other countries don't have the same levels of competency and, moreover, a lot of them are still in process of learning business norms,' Srivastava, an industry veteran and noted venture capitalist, told IANS in an interview.

According to him, the average spending on information technology by a fair-sized firm was usually two percent of the entire budget. 'You will not risk saving on this two percent and endangering the rest of the 98 percent.'

Though the sector, which has been hit by the global financial crisis, will grow at a modest 4-7 percent this year, Srivastava contended a turnaround should happen by next year when companies start loosening their purse strings.

'You may not see the 30 percent growth rates of the past. But for the next few years, the growth certainly would be in the range of 15-20 percent,' said the alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kanpur and Harvard University.

Co-founder of such companies as software major IIS Infotech and venture capital fund Infinity Ventures, Srivastava is not quite perturbed by the slowdown in the business. In fact, he is optimistic about the trajectory of the Indian IT growth story.

'We will grow from the current $50 billion to about $200 billion by 2020. However, companies will need to shift their stance and become more focused on intellectual property and have an increased global presence.'

According to him, Indian educational institutions will also have to produce quality graduates to fuel this growth rather than creating thousands of engineers whose knowledge and skill levels are, at best, mediocre.

'In India, there is an employability factor. There are engineers who pass from second string institutions, whose quality is low, and that is a problem,' said Srivastava, adding that 10 years down the line, big cities alone will not house global Indian firms.

'As infrastructure develops and connectivity increases, you will see IT companies set up shop in more tier-2 towns. But it's not just the cost factor that will drive this movement,' he said.

'Realty prices will be lower. It will be easier to retain talent. Folks in India like to live closer to home, not always possible in large cities,' said Srivastava, founding member of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

James Jose

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Cyclone Phyan: 250 TN fishermen still missing

Chennai: Cyclone Phyan may have crossed India's west coast ‘peacefully’ on Wednesday but several hundred fishermen are still reported to be missing.

Reports said on Saturday that nearly 250 fishermen, who ventured into the sea in rough weather from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district, have still not returned three days after the cyclone brought heavy rains along the country’s west coast.
The fishermen hail from six villages in Kanyakumari district. The Coast Guard have dispatched boats and choppers to search for the missing fishermen.

Around 1,000 fishermen from Kanyakumari had gone to the Arabian Sea from November 1 onwards for fishing off the Kerala and Gujarat coasts.

The Tamil Nadu government had yesterday assured of the safety of the fishermen.

Assuring the distressed families of the fishermen, the Tamil Nadu government said the Coast Guard has been asked to help in rescuing the fishermen in the high seas.
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Extreme Terror: The men behind the attacks on India

With the advent of the War on Terror, India has become a frontline in this global battle. With the scars of Mumbai still fresh, we profile a selection of terrorists who pose the most threat to India and her security.

Hafiz Muhammed Saeed:

Hafiz Muhammed Saeed:

Considered one of India's most wanted terrorists, Hafiz Muhammed Saeed is the Amir of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah, an organization widely believed to be a cover for the militant group, Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Under the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq, Haifz was appointed to the Council of Islamic Ideology, and later served as an Islamic Studies teacher at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore. As part of this position, he was sent to Saudi Arabia in the early to mid 1980's for further studies.

While in Saudi Arabia, he became allegedly became associated with Saudi sheikhs who were heavily involved in the jihad against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. This association had a profound effect on him, leading him to play an active role in supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. This sowed the seeds for the establishment of his organization.

In 1987, he, along with an associate, Abdullah Azzam, founded Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad, from which the feared Lashkar-e-Toiba sprung.

It is believed that Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence officers played an active role in founding Lashkar-e-Toiba, with the stated aim of 'liberating' the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. It also has stated its designs on the likes of Hyderabad state and Junagadh.

Following the Mumbai train bombings in July 2006, Hafiz was finally arrested by the Pakistani government, but was later released the same day.

After the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, India submitted a formal request to the U.N. Security Council to place Saeed and the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah on the list of individuals and organizations sactioned by the U.N. for association with terrorism.

India believes that Saeed and his organization are virtually interchangeable with the LeT and that the close association between them is of "immediate concern with regards to their efforts to mobilize and orchestrate terrorist activities". Saeed has denied these charges in an interview on Pakistani television, claiming to have never been chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba.

He placed under house arrest once again, but was released when the Pakistani high court deemed his containment to be 'unconstitutional', much to India's disappointment.

Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against him, and he was placed under house arrest again, but once more the Lahore High Court released him and allowed his organization a free rein to pursue their stated agenda.

Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar

Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar:

India's most wanted man, he is suspected as being the mastermind behind a number of terrorist attacks on Indian soil, including the 1993 bomb attacks in Bombay.

Having fled India following the 1993 attacks and intense pressure from both the Indian government and his erstwhile lieutenant, Chota Rajan, Dawood is believed to have set up base in Pakistan, running a criminal empire that is involved in everything from drugs trafficking, to arms smuggling, to the funding of militant Islamist groups.

Dawood is believed to be closely involved with Laksha-e-Toiba and Al Qaeda, and is said to have the support of a number of high profile Pakistani government officers, including those in the ISI.

The Indian government has continuously lobbied for his extradition from Pakistan, even approaching the United States to bring their influence to bear, but to no avail. The Pakistani government flatly denies his presence in Pakistan, despite Indian government agencies insisting they have proof.

In 2002, an Indian delegation was sent to the United States to lobby for the handover of Ibrahim from Pakistan. L.K. Advani, who led the delegation, expressed his dissatisfaction with the inaction faced, saying that they faced hurdles at every step and that it was 'not a very happy experience'.
India's worst fears were realized when Ibrahim was implicated in the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2006 and 2008. Sources claimed that he was heavily involved in planning the logistics of the attacks.

Dawood's personal wealth is estimated to be in the region of 30 billion rupees and his crime syndicate is said to have its arms all across the world, including India, Sri Lanka, the U.K., Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. He is said to be heavily involved in obtaining information for the ISI on India, using his extensive network of contacts and sources, which are able to sniff out anything he may ask for.

Chota Rajan:

Dawood's nemesis, and successor to his title as the head of Mumbai's underworld, Chota Rajan is wanted on a number of criminal cases, including 17 murder cases and several more attempted. He is also wanted in conjunction with several cases of extortion, smuggling and drug trafficking.

Chota Rajan rose to prominence as a member of Dawood Ibrahim's gang, having previously been a petty thief and bootlegger, working for a local gang leader called Bada Rajan, explaining the origin of his nickname. Following the murder of his mentor, he took over control of the gang and began to expand operations, eventually merging with Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company.

Together with Ibrahim, Chota Rajan established an iron grip over Mumbai, having control over everything from drug trafficking to Bollywood.

Rajan's relationship with Dawood altered irreversibly after the 1993 Bombay blasts, as he was infuriated that Dawood would target the Hindu community and the country in such a way. It is speculated that growing religious differences between the two led to the split. Chota Rajan decided to form his own gang, taking a number of high level Hindu leaders with hm.

Soon, things escalated into an all out war between the two gangs, and bloody shootouts became all too frequent. It is believed that Rajan's gang was responsible for the deaths of ten members of Dawood's inner circle. With the pressure from the Indian authorities and the gang war taking its toll, both Dawood and Rajan fled the country, with Rajan moving between Thailand, Kenya, Indonesia and Malaysia.

There have been numerous assassination attempts on both sides, with Rajan narrowly escaping an attempt in Bangkok. His revenge for this attempt struck a major blow to D-Company, killing Dawood's chief finance manager and money laundering agent. It is suspected that while the Indian government does not overtly support Rajan, the intelligence agencies occasionally pass on information regarding Dawood to him, when they feel it would benefit them. Rajan has declared that he is a 'staunch Indian nationalist'.

Despite this, numerous warrants have been issued for Ranjan, but till date he has managed to evade capture, the closest coming when an Interpol warrant was issued for him in Malaysia, but wasn't executed.

Koteshwar Rao (Kishanji):

Kishanji is the leader of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is considered to be responsible for hundreds, if not thousands of deaths and terrorist activities across 17 states in India.

He is the head of an estimated 22,000 combatants, who have committed more than 1,000 attacks in the last year alone.

The CPI(M)'s stated aim is to capture political power through an armed uprising based on the concepts of guerrilla warfare. This entails building up bases in remote, rural areas and transforming them into 'liberated' zones. The Maoist insurgency began in 1967 as a peasant rebellion in the village of Naxalbari, which has now spread through a large part of eastern India. In 2004, two rebel organizations, the People's War Group and Maoist Communist Centre of India merged to form the CPI(M).

There have been several efforts to capture Kishanji, most notably in October 2009, when a crack team of Indian Police Services officers had his hideout surrounded but were inexplicably ordered to stand down, due to the presence of hostages being held inside.

Mulana Masood Azhar:

The militant leader and founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Mulana Masood Azhar is listed as one of India's most wanted terrorists due to a long and bloody history of militant activities.

As a young man, Azhar became involved with the militant group Harkat ul-Ansar, which lead to his participation in the Soviet-Afghan war. Suffering injuries there, he was made the head of Harkat's department of motivation and editor of their newspaper mouthpieces.
From there, he rose swiftly in the organization, becoming general secretary and travelling to various locations to recruit and raise funds for the cause of Pan-Islamism.

In 1994, Azhar was arrested in Srinagar, having snuck into Kashmir to ease tensions between two feuding factions of militants. In retribution, a group known as Al -Faran kidnapped foreign tourists and demanded the release of Azhar, among other things. This was refused, and barring one escapee, the hostages were killed.

In 1999, the Indian government was forced to free him following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight, lead by Mulana's brother Ibrahim. Once he was handed over, the hijackers fled into Pakistani territory despite Islamabad's earlier assertion that they would be arrested at the border. Shortly after his release, Mulana addressed a crowd of 10,000, stirring up anti-Indian and American feelings.

Following his release, Jaish-e-Mohammed carried out a string of deadly attacks against India, including an audacious attack on the Indian parliament which very nearly caused a full scale war between the two countries.

He was detained for a year by Pakistani authorities, but never formally charged, before being released by the Lahore High Court. The Pakistani authorities have since denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.

Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Healey:

Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Healey:

The two men have been arrested by the U.S authorities in connection with a plot to attack the offices of two Danish newspapers. Further investigations revealed links with LeT and a plot for a major terror attack in India.

Indian authorities are attempting to probe into their motives, and if they'd travelled to Mumbai together to conduct reconnaissance of vital points in the city. Investigators from Indian agencies have travelled to the U.S. to interrogate the men, in order to find out more about their trips, including ones to Pakistan and their contacts with Lashker-e-Toiba leaders.

It is believed that on one of the occasions, both the men travelled on different passports. Evidence uncovered by the FBI includes videos containing inflammatory speeches by Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders. There is also evidence that attacks were planned against Doon School, Dehradun, Woodstock, Mussorie and the National Defence College, New Delhi.

Rana, a 48 year old Canadian citizen, living in Chicago and David Healey, a 49 year old American citizen, began plotting in late 2008, and travelled to Pakistan to meet with a leader of a group with ties to Al-Qaeda. They also communicated with Lashkar-e-Toiba leaders about their plans to attack the newspaper, the U.S. government said.

The Justice Department is continuing its investigation.

source:India Syndicate

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Sachin, greatness that goes beyond cricket IANS

Just when the Berlin Wall was being broken down 20 years ago, the cricketing world started talking about a boy wonder who would rise to be a cricketing colossus. Two decades in sport is more than a generation and Sachin Tendulkar carries on and on--not wanting to think about the day he would have to stop playing the game.

Everyone who writes about cricket has to write about Tendulkar. The two are inseparable entities. It clearly underscores the fact that he is one of the greatest cricketers and in modern day parlance an entertainer par excellence with the highest TRP rating because he scores runs by tons with relentless brilliance.

Tendulkar's greatest quality is--whatever he might say about his pre-match nervous energy--that he has an air of deliberate confidence before he goes in to bat that he is going to make runs. And make runs he did with regularity. This uncanny ability places him a cut above two of his contemporaries whose names are invariably taken in the same breath, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. But both admit that Tendulkar has something extra that makes him stand out.

The greatness of Tendulkar is that he spreads his skill through his teammates, lifting their morale and competence. Anyone who has played with him swears that he has benefited by his ability to transmit the knowledge about the game. Every player, who has shared with him the dressing room, struggles for words to describe the genius of the man. He is beyond their comprehension.

If ever a player has overshadowed him, for sheer class of batsmanship, it is V V S Laxman. After a record 353-run fourth-wicket partnership in the 2004 Sydney Test when Laxman hit 30 fours in his 178 to Tendulkar's 33 in his unbeaten 241, the master put the artistry of V V S in perspective.

"When Laxman was playing those shots, I decided it was best to just watch and enjoy his batting rather than try to do what he was doing."

Tendulkar made quite a few subtle and not so subtle corrections in his batting from time to time to suit his physical ability. There are some hundreds of his wherein he chose to drag his second fifty inexplicably after reaching the first fifty in no time. He sought to justify that the bowling was of top class or that he was playing in the interests of the team. It is difficult to agree that any bowling could chain him.

Looking at the unabashed praise lavished at Tendulkar it may appear he has few failings, both as cricketer and person. None of his contemporaries or his huge league of admirers, including some greats of the game, seems to find any human weakness in him. This is quite unlike Don Bradman who was not spared by his teammates who found chinks in his persona even as they praised him sky-high as a cricketer. Sachin, his admirers say, is more humane and likeable, though as captain he was too stubborn, refusing to deviate from his pet fads.

Watching him these 20 years was one of the pleasures of making a living watching sport. Memories take one back to New Zealand in 1989-90, Tendulkar's second international tour after the debut one to Pakistan a couple of months earlier under a different captain. Those were the days when on tours there was not so much of nitpicking by the media and the teenager got all the protection he needed.

Seldom has a player caught the imagination of a country as he did on that tour. He was the talking point wherever people discussed cricket. "What's special about that kid," the cabbies wanted to know and "I can't imagine a 16-year-old facing Richard Hadlee who has taken 400 Test wickets," said an amateur painter as he sketched the ambience of Christchurch, the garden city with Gothic architecture in South Island, as a memento to be given to him.

Twelve years down the road in an interviewed at Harare, he was a confident young man. He knew what to expect from the media and how to sidestep uncomfortable questions. Asked about the two captains he played under, he would say he had played only under Azharuddin and it was too early to assess Sourav Ganguly. Anticipating the next question, he hastened to add that the '92 side was the best team he had played in.

The only time he was irked by criticism was when, in the aftermath of the World Cup disaster in the Caribbean two years ago, there were shrill calls in the media for his head. He took on coach Greg Chappell and the Indian cricket board asked him to show cause for his outbursts. Otherwise, he always let his bat do the talking and it silenced and shamed his critics.

He continues to make politically correct statements, though, for once, he did not mince words on Marathi Manoos, saying that he was a proud Maharashtrian, but an Indian first, and that Mumbai belongs to India.

Perhaps, Tendulkar from now on will be taken seriously when he speaks on subjects other than cricket.

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30 years ago in India Today

A triumphant return (January 16-30, 1980)

The golden rays of the winter sun bathed the schoolchildren rehearsing for the Republic Day parade at Raj Path in New Delhi. The soldiers in smart uniforms marched past India Gate and policemen and women in brown uniforms took their crowd-control positions along Raj Path. Most of them were too engrossed in their drills to bother about the momentous ceremony being held simultaneously a fewhundred yards away in the Rashtrapati Bhavan's plush Ashoka Hall, once the ballroom of the British Viceroys. There Mrs Indira Gandhi, 62-year-old daughter of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was being sworn in as India's prime minister for the third time by India's sixth President, Sanjiva Reddy. "She could well be crowned the Empress of India," said an admirer who could not get into the hall, "considering her spectacular victory." And she looked like a queen whose lost crown was being restored to her by the nation after being banished for 34 months.

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Moderate quake in parts of Maharashtra

An earthquake of moderate intensity measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale was felt in parts of western Maharashtra and Mumbai this evening,
officials said.

The epicentre of the tremor was stated to be in the region of Koyna dam in Satara district, about 150 km from Pune, according to the chief executive engineer of Koyna dam, U V Sidahmal.

The quake which occurred at 6.34 pm lasted for 15 seconds and was experienced in Satara, Kolhapur, Sangli, Ratnagiri, Mumbai and Pune, he said.

There were no immediate reports of any damage to life or property due to the quake, sources said.

Panic-stricken people in Satara came out of the streets in pitch dark due to load-shedding in the area.

In Mumbai, a number of people felt the mild tremor, and the police control room received several calls, police said.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A lot of water, a little alcohol

New Delhi, Nov. 13: A medical and nutritional panel has released new guidelines for Indians to tweak their diets and lower the risk of chronic diseases.

They suggest reducing carbohydrates, adjusting fat quality, taking less salt and drinking more water — and a little alcohol, but only by those who are already in the habit.

The dietary guidelines developed through consultations involving nearly 100 experts from across India are designed to match the revised cut-off waistline and weight values for overweight and obese Indians finalised by a similar panel last year.

The new rules are also intended to replace guidelines produced by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, in 1998. They prescribe lower carbohydrate intake, lower sugar, lower salt, higher protein and more water than had been recommended by the institute. The guidelines also specify upper limits for harmful fats such as trans fats (less than 1 per cent) and saturated fatty acids (less than 10 per cent).

“These guidelines apply to anyone who is otherwise healthy,” said Anoop Misra, director of diabetes and metabolism at the Diabetes Foundation, India, a non-government agency in New Delhi campaigning against obesity and diabetes.

A detailed version of the guidelines now under review by a medical journal will contain special diet charts from northern, southern, western and eastern regions of India, taking into account local food habits and preferences, Misra said.

The adoption of these guidelines by the public is expected to reduce prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease as well as other conditions associated with poor diet, said Seema Gulati, project officer for nutrition at the foundation.

“A bad diet can influence body physiology in many ways and increase the risk of gout, fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian disease and some types of cancer,” she said.

The reduction in carbohydrate intake is really important for Indians who tend to develop high triglycerides which is a risk factor for heart disease, said Misra. This could be achieved by slightly reducing rice and wheat intake.

Under the revisions, people who consume small quantities of alcohol (not more than 30ml twice a week) will not be discouraged — a shift from earlier guidelines that had asserted that alcohol intake should not be encouraged at all.

“This applies only to people already consuming alcohol — we do not want non-consumers to start alcohol,” Gulati said. Several medical studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption has a protective effect on the heart.

Nutrition experts have long been concerned about ignorance among the public about the quality of fats. The new guidelines specify that alpha-linolenic acid, a fat present in walnuts, flaxseeds and canola oil should make up 1 to 2 per cent of total energy.

“These guidelines appear mainly intended to focus on a diet aimed at preventing disease,” said Boindala Sesikeran, director of the institute.

“When we release guidelines, we also take into account issued such as under-nutrition in segments of society,” he said.

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Students celebrate Children's Day with PM

Children's Day is celebrated on November 14, every year, in India. To make the day special for the kids, CNN-IBN celebrates the day with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at 7 RCR in New Delhi.

Student: Sir, were you ever punished as a child?

Dr Manmohan Singh: I was punished as a child by my father. I recall that once my father had lost his watch and some money. Some guest at our home had taken it away but my father suspected me. I got a thrashing from him but later when my parents got to know it was someone else they felt very sorry about punishing me.

Student: How important is religion in your life?

Dr Manmohan Singh: Religion is very important because it is a source of values and I imbibe a lot of my value system from various Sikh teachings which I was exposed to at a very early age. These teachings have left a very deep impact on my thinking process. Faith plays a very important role in smoothening tensions of one's life.

CNN-IBN: India, Pakistan relations start and then stop somewhere. There is opposition in India, there are daily attacks in Pakistan, yet you keep trying for the dialogue process. Why is that?

Dr Manmohan Singh: I sincerely believe that out country cannot attain its legitimate position in the committee of nations unless there is peaceful atmosphere in the country, sub-continent and unless all the South Asian countries work together towards growth and development. In this context I feel that peace and amity is important between India and Pakistan.

Student: Do you like singing?

Dr Manmohan Singh: I am very fond of music and my wife is a very good singer. She use to recite the Gurbani when we both were young. Apart from that I am also fond of other music like Ghazals, especially by Mirza Galib.

Student: Eight per cent of India's population today spends only Rs 20 per day. With the price rise, how do you expect them to grow?

Dr Manmohan Singh: Well, we are trying very hard to control the price rise. But when you talk about price rise there are two aspects to it - why have prices gone up? In the recent years we have deliberately raised the prices of foodgrains and number of other agriculture commodities because our farmers need more purchasing power. So, it has two effects. When the consumers will spend more, the farmers will have more purchasing power. However, we are trying that the prices get stabilised and we hope in a year we will see a better control on the price rise.

CNN-IBN: Mrs Gursharan, we know you like to go out for shopping at times. Do you come back and tell the Prime Minister that the prices are really high?

Mrs Gursharan Kaur: I always tell him that we are eating Daal without any problem, but there people who cannot afford even Daal, so how do you think they manage? But even I get the same answer from him and that is that we have to import Daal and it is not easy to reduce prices. But then I wonder that there is so much of hoarding and black marketing in our country. If businessmen can be more honest and avoid hoarding we will be in a better position.

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Train derailment -accident or sabotage?

Jaipur, Nov 14 (PTI) Northwestern Railways and police are trying to ascertain whether the derailment of Mandor Express near here was a case of sabotage as the mishap occurred hours after a phone call that a bomb was planted in the Jammu Tawi-bound Puja Express turned out to be a hoax. The call was made at the Dausa railway station ten minutes before the departure of Puja Express from here and the information was passed on to Jaipur Railway Control Room that a bomb was planted in the train, an official of the Government Railway Police (GRP) said today.

Since the Mandor Express derailed between Jhir and Jatawat stations in Dausa section, railway authorities, GRP and the anti-terror squad of the state police are exploring the sabotage angle. After extensive search and frisking passengers of Puja Express no suspicious or abandoned object was found by the bomb detection squad at the railway station here and also at Dausa station.

NWR GM R M Verma said the sabotage angle could be looked into by the railway security machinery, if required, "but there appears to be no prima facie sign of any sabotage". When contacted, Director General of Police (ATS) Kapil Garg said the hoax call was made for the Puja Express by a 13- year-boy in Dausa.

"We will also examine whether there is any link between the hoax call and the train mishap," Garg said. Based on the call details, the parents of the boy were interrogated and the boy confessed to making the call.

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W.H.O. Rushes Drugs to Nations Hit by Swine Flu

Emergency supplies of antiviral drugs are being sent to Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where Hospitals report that they are being overwhelmed by patients with swine flu, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Ukraine in particular has “a shortage of ventilators and they have counted more than 100 deaths by now,” Dr. Nikki Shindo, a medical officer with the organization’s global influenza program, said at a news briefing.

Alarmed by deaths that health authorities believe could have been prevented with rapid treatment, the agency said it was revising its guidelines and urging more people to take antiviral medication even before they are sure they have the flu.

The new guidelines say that anyone with flu -like symptoms for three days, along with people in several high-risk groups — pregnant women, children under 2 and people with underlying respiratory problems — should not wait for laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis but should be treated right away with drugs like Tamiflu.

“The pandemic virus can cause severe pneumonia even in healthy young people,” Dr. Shindo said, adding that “the virus can take life within a week.”

“The window of opportunity is very narrow to reverse the progression of the disease,” she said. “The medicine needs to be administered before the virus destroys the lungs.”

Although antiviral medications are most effective when used within 48 hours after symptoms start, Dr. Shindo said the drugs should be given even after that if a person is very sick.

Dr. Shindo said the guidelines, similar to those in use in the United States, had not been adopted sooner because the agency was not yet confident, as it is now, about the safety and efficacy of the antivirals, Tamiflu and Relenza. Doctors there were also worried about shortages.

The agency said the countries most affected were Afghanistan, Mongolia, Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. The first four have already been sent supplies; the other two are to receive them soon.

“Doctors involved in caring for very sick patients in intensive care units regretted that the patients arrived too late and even the most sophisticated medical procedures could not save their lives,” she said. “We asked what could have been done differently to avoid the tragic outcomes. All of them answered, without exception, that things may have been very different if they had been treated with an antiviral drug earlier.”

In Ukraine, it appeared to take about two weeks from the time the first deaths were reported in October for the authorities to link them to the H1N1 flu.

Although Tamiflu had been stockpiled, protocol required doctors to prove a patient had H1N1 with laboratory testing before prescribing the medicine, said Nadezhda Rudnitskaya, the chief of pulmonology at Lviv Medical University.

When authorities in Lviv, in Western Ukraine, finally officially connected the deaths to swine flu and called for quarantine measures, frightened residents began buying up inventories of masks and gauze, and prices of home remedies like garlic and lemon shot up. Politicians took to the airwaves with contradictory or incorrect information about the flu, and ambulance calls increased fivefold.

In the United States on Thursday, theCenters for Disease Control and prevention released new estimates of the number of American swine flu deaths: about 3,900, or more than three times the number authorities had previously used. The earlier number, about 1,200, represented laboratory-confirmed cases; the new numbers represent estimates that include people who ultimately died of other conditions, like pneumonia, but whose illnesses were trigged by the flu.

The new numbers, representing cases between April and Oct. 17, indicate that about 22 million people have contracted H1N1, and that the virus is “disproportionately affecting children and adolescents and relatively sparing the elderly, very different from seasonal flu,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of immunization and respiratory diseases for the disease control agency, said at a news conference.

Unlike seasonal flu, in which about 90 percent of the deaths occur in people 65 and over, in swine flu, they account for about 11 percent of deaths. About 540 children under 18 have died.

“I do believe that the pediatric death toll from this pandemic will be extensive and much worse than we see with seasonal flu,” Dr. Schuchat said.

pam belluck

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

End not soon enough for 2012

Jake Coyle
Cataclysmic disaster and apocalyptic doom, as foretold by Hollywood, have a way of bringing together broken families, revealing the unseen heroism of deadbeat dads and neatly disposing of their rivals.

This, too, is the micro-level drama of 2012, the latest nihilistic disaster flick to revel in the destruction of the planet. John Cusack plays the cast-off father (Jackson Curtis), a failed novelist getting by as a limo driver. We greet him as he rolls out of bed, spilling his copy of Moby Dick as he rushes out the door, dishevelled and late for a camping trip with his kids.

His ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet), has shacked up with a plastic surgeon named Gordon Silberman (Tom McCarthy) who drives a Porsche, an obvious clue that we're not meant to like him.

When the apocalypse comes, Gordon, for a time, proves quite useful as an amateur pilot. But it's no spoiler to say Gordon is not long for this world-after all, he stands in the way of Jackson's redemption.

Check out the 2012 special page

The Curtis family may be our ground-level protagonists in 2012, but the ground is shifting. Due to explosions on the sun, neutrinos (that old action movie villain) are heating up the earth's core and will soon destabilise the planet's crust, birthing volcanoes and shifting tectonics.

Hip to this development is government scientist Adrian Helmsley, played by the exceptional Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose gravity-best seen in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things-elevates 2012. He alerts the president's chief of staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who quickly brings Helmsley to the president (Danny Glover, apparently filling in for Morgan Freeman).

The government secretly establishes what Anheuser calls "the most important timetable in the history of mankind"-a schedule for the most important and most wealthy to be evacuated in confidential arks.

Curtis catches wind of the conspiracy theories of a loony radio DJ (Woody Harrelson, perfectly cast to type). Thus, he and his family are just moments ahead of the collapse of Los Angeles. A number of close scrapes follow, as Curtis narrowly steers them through volcanic explosions, earthquakes and, at one point, a subway that somehow soars above their airplane.

California falls into the ocean and much of the world follows suit.

The director of 2012, Roland Emmerich, has destroyed the world before. His films include The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and Godzilla. He seems to enjoy nothing more than seeing the most famous monuments toppled. The White House, vaporised in Independence Day, here meets its end by not only a tidal wave, but a tidal wave bearing an aircraft carrier.

The origins of the current rash of doomsday movies isn't hard to decipher: Science has determined the earth won't exist in its present state forever and global warming may well expedite things. 2012 has no overt reference to environmental issues, but there's a smack of familiarity when the scientists in the movie realise the planet's destruction is coming faster than they predicted.

But 2012 is less interested in plausible truth than it is in blockbuster box-office. Publicity for the film has stoked interest in December 21, 2012 as doomsday, a prediction often attributed to the Mayans, who foresaw the date as the end of a cycle, not of the planet.

As the destruction of 2012 spirals around the globe, one can't help a quaking feeling watching the mayhem-especially in a theatre cackling at its absurd cheesiness. Should we entertain ourselves in images of the Sistine Chapel collapsing on praying priests? Do we think so little of the world we've made that we can't resist the impulse to wreck it, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the flames?

Check out the 2012 special page

After the deaths of billions, interest in the fates of the Curtis family (who are eventually joined by a Russian family trying to make it to one of the arks) becomes laughable. Their narrow, sometimes belaboured escapes carry less and less emotion-the audience knows they, themselves, are among the imagined dead.

There is, for some reason, much made of Curtis' book, Farewell Atlantis, which is held up as a classic for the post-apocalyptic generation. (We will spare you an excerpt.) Helmsley and the president's daughter (an underused Thandie Newton) also make a rousing stand for a handful of stranded passengers even once most of the planet is destroyed.

The most grounded thing here is the acting-Cusack, Ejiofor, Platt, McCarthy and Harrelson are all better than But instead it's just another doomsday film, with new digital effects and stock scenes patched together from Jaws, The Poseidon Adventure and Armageddon.

And a long one at that. For too much of the 2 1/2-hour 2012, the end is not near.


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Best quotes on Sachin Tendulkar

In our series of features on Sachin completing 20 years in International cricket, we present some of the best quotes that current and former cricketers have made on the master-blaster. Find what Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar, Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell, have to say about Sachin Tendulkar.

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Cyclone misses Mumbai, leaves behind Rs 100 cr dent

New Delhi: Cyclone Phyan may have missed Mumbai on Wednesday but it has managed to cause considerable damage to the Maharashtra Government.

Post-cyclone damages are being estimated to be well over Rs 100 crore in Maharashtra and Konkan alone.

A major fallout could be a further rise in the prices of vegetables and fish.

Meanwhile, the cyclone has weakened. According to reports, the deep depression over north central Maharashtra has weakened into a depression and is now practically stationary.

For the next 12 hours, the MET Department has predicted rainfall at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Konkan, central Maharashtra and Marathawada.

Rains are also likely over Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

However, there have been no rains reported in Mumbai since Wednesday evening though the sea is likely to remain rough.

Fishermen have been advised against venturing into sea.

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Looking for a job? They are hiring!

It's time to say goodbye to recessionary blues. Companies are back with their hiring plans as the economy shows signs of recovery with a boost in domestic demand.

Hiring has rebounded to 51 per cent currently after a dramatic fall of 29 per cent at the beginning of 2009, according to a quarterly survey by global recruitment firm Antal International.

Globally, the current hiring levels have improved to 50 per cent from 46 per cent in April.

While telecom, infrastructure, life sciences and energy have seen a 25-30 per cent rise in recruitment, IT, retail, banking, consulting, FMCG have seen 8-10 per cent hiring in the second quarter compared to the first quarter of this fiscal.

Hiring outlook for the next three months is promising, with as many as 66 per cent Indian companies likely to recruit. Moreover, the job cuts are expected to drop to 21 per cent over the next quarter.

Here is a look at the companies hiring in India.
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BJP calls for bandh in protest against bus fare hike

Delhiites may have to face inconvenience on Friday as BJP has given a 'bandh' call to protest against hike in bus fares and skyrocketing prices of essential commodities.

The party on Thursday appealed to all sections of the society, including traders, industrialists, workers and students to support the 'bandh' protesting Delhi government's "anti-people policies".

Police said they have made adequate arrangements to maintain normalcy in the city.

General Secretary of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) Praveen Khandelwal said all major wholesale and retail markets will observe the bandh to protest the hike in bus and metro fare as well as price rise of essential commodities.

He said the crime rate against the trading community has increased considerably in the city. Khandelwal said the traders will participate in a unique two-hour 'half naked' protest march from Red Fort to Chandni Chowk on Friday to express their anger against the government.

Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly V K Malhotra said the Sheila Dikshit-led Government is least "bothered about the plight of the common people" as it has been mercilessly taking decisions to increase burden on the citizens.

"The common man is suffering. Bus fairs have surged to such an extent that people do not prefer travelling in the buses at all. All this is done to benefit the blueline buses, while the government always claims to wipe away these buses from the roads," Malhotra told reporters.

Slamming the government for its "gross negligence" in checking prices of essential commodities, he alleged that it is encouraging profiteering and hoarding.

"The Government has become despotic and it has completely disassociated itself from curbing the price rise," the senior BJP leader added.

He said transport and essential services will be allowed to run during the bandh so that people do not face any inconvenience.

Accusing the UPA government and the Delhi government of deceit and betrayal, Senior BJP leader M L Khurana said, "The 'deaf and dumb' government doesn't care about the public and is just deceiving them."

The party also demanded that the sugar bungling case should be enquired and a PDS system be strengthened as soon as possible.

"We have just called for a bandh tomorrow, we will opt for severe means if the price rise isn't controlled and our demands not met," said M L Khurana.

Also castigating the government on the occasion were former Central Minister Vijay Goel and former State BJP Chief Harsh Vardhan.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pak SC lists cases against Zardari

Pakistan's Supreme Court has listed a graft as well as a criminal case against President Asif Ali Zardari for hearing on November 16 and 17, raising fresh questions about his fate.

Both cases, titled "Asif Ali Zardari vs the state", have been added to the apex court's 'Cause List' and will be taken up by a two-member bench.

Notices have been issued to lawyers, including Mehr Khan Malik and Deputy Attorney General Chaudhry Akhtar Ali in connection with these cases.

A statement issued by the apex court on Wednesday, however, clarified that the two cases involving Zardari pertained to 1998-99 and were included in the 'Cause List' that was prepared in August.

"Out of these matters, one relates to the transfer of a case from one court to another while the other case was filed against the order of the High Court of Sindh, Karachi... in which the learned High Court was pleased to release the property of the appellant declared before income tax authorities but restrained to dispose of the same," it said.

These cases "were proposed in routine, being old cases relating to the year 1998-99" and should not cause "any misunderstanding", the apex court said without giving details.

The move comes at a time when a question mark hangs over Zardari's fate following the government's decision to drop its plan to seek parliamentary ratification of a controversial law that granted him immunity in graft cases
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Koda bought 600 vehicles to please supporters

Former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, who was Wednesday interrogated for his role in a Rs 2,500 crore money laundering scam, distributed hundreds of vehicles to supporters and used the mines department and electricity board to expand his financial empire, officials here said.

Koda, an independent Lok Sabha MP, purchased and distributed around 600 bikes, 25 to 30 Scorpios, Boleros and other four wheelers to his supporters during the Lok Sabha elections this year, officials in the income tax department said.

On Tuesday, informed sources said, IT sleuths searched two showrooms of motor bikes and four wheelers. They found that 200 bikes had been sold in one day from one showroom and have now sought help from the transport department to seek registration details.

Koda is also charged with misusing his position as mines and geology minister and later as chief minister. In the name of allocating mines, Koda allegedly sent a recommendation to the central government suggesting a list of names for the lease of 17 iron ore mines, sources said.

The state government recommends to New Delhi the allocation of bauxite and limestone as well as survey work of gold and diamonds.

He also used his influence to push certain private groups for the lease of coal blocks, an official said.

The list is long, he added.

Koda is also accused of disposing of 40 files related to mines in just one day in February 2008.

The IT department is scrutinising mines deals from 2004 onwards.

Koda's associates, according to sources, had approached a Gulf-based company for limestone business. He also bought a mine in Liberia and is said to have used his associates to purchase land in Thailand.

The charges against him include converting black money into white by acquiring sick companies.

"We are trying to unearth the channels through which money was generated and channelised inside the country and how they were sent to foreign countries. The focus of investigation is Koda and his associates," said an official, adding that they were acquiring new information every day.

Koda and his associates, he added, got the momentum to generate money when he became chief minister in September 2006 and kept key departments like mines and geology as well as electricity board with himself.

In the name of rural electrification, the official added, tenders worth hundreds of crores were allegedly awarded to Koda associates.

On Oct 9, the ED filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Koda, three more former ministers as well as his associates Vinod Sinha and Sanjay Chaudhary. Vikas Sinha, brother of Sinha, was on November sent to ED custody for 10 days.

The scam was unearthed Oct 31 following which Koda was admitted to hospital with complaints of nausea and stomach ache. He was released on Sunday and is being questioned at home.


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