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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From Swamy to Team Anna, some lessons in graft-busting

From Swamy to Team Anna, some lessons in graft-busting
For much of the past year, the anti-corruption movement that swept across India was personified by the Teletubby-like form of Anna Hazare and his band of loyal lieutenants.
They tapped into the popular mood against corruption, organised a succession of hunger strikes, mobilised large masses of people in cities and towns, and forced the government and the political parties – with the sheer persuasive power of their cause – to negotiate with them on the contours of an anti-corruption agency.
In terms of capturing the popular imagination, raising public awareness, and conducting a high-decibel, high-visibility campaign against corruption, they were enormously successful.
But by the end of the year, when Team Anna’s fast in Mumbai withered away for want of popular support, and the political establishment effectively killed the yearning for a strong Lokpal Bill, Anna and his fellow-crusaders against corruption were compelled to concede momentary defeat, fold up their tents, and retreat quietly into the night in order to redraw their strategy.
The real success over the past year in the campaign against corruption was won by Subramanian Swamy, a lone ranger, by chipping away within the existing legal system. PTI
On the other hand, the real success over the past year in the campaign against corruption was won by Subramanian Swamy, a lone ranger, by chipping and chiselling away within the existing legal system, and working the levers of the law and politics.
It was Swamy’s interjection, right from the time he sought prosecution of Telecom Minister A Raja in the 2G scam case — and his doggedness — that turned the heat on India’s biggest corruption case, and has ensured that Raja is cooling his heels in the slammer for a year, come February.
Building up a legal case is agonising, frustrating work, particularly because the due process of law, in all fairness, gives the accused a chance to defend himself. For Artful Dodgers, the law provides infinite loopholes to delay or even scuttle the investigation and the trial.
Yet, as Swamy has demonstrated, with a keen understanding of the law, and an unyielding determination, one can build a steady case against even the highest in the land – and persuade the highest court in the country of the merits of your case.
Like the members of Team Anna, Swamy also makes effective use of the media megaphone to advance his case. In many instances, this finds expression in his sending out veiled messages to others in high places whom he has on his radar. Some of these allegations are too libellous for media to broadcast, but Swamy revels in them, practically daring his targets to sue him.
In a recent profile of Swamy, which traces his politics and delves into his persona, journalist Ashok Malik recalled a (probably apocryphal) story about him.
“One day, a powerful editor with a blackmailing tendency walked into Swamy’s basement office in his south Delhi residence, and threw a sheaf of papers on the table. “Dr Swamy,” he thundered, “I have a file on you.” Unperturbed, Swamy reached out for a folder in his bottom drawer, placed them on the desk and said, calmly, with the chilling certitude so typical of his voice, “Mr Editor, I have a file on you.”
The provenance of that story has not been established, but it seems entirely plausible, given Swamy’s record of playing offence as defence.
Today’s Supreme Court verdict too represents a high watermark in the campaign against corruption, to the extent that it makes every citizen a potential stakeholder and invests him/her with the power (to be exercised responsibly, of course) to initiate enquiries and legal proceedings.
The cause that Team Anna championed was for a strong, independent anti-corruption agency: that cause is still valid, and the good fight must continue on that front.
But that effort, while legitimate, depended excessively on the creation of a parallel universe – one that would be required to be perfect in every way and one that (as was demonstrated) could easily be scuttled by the political establishment.
Swamy, on the other hand, has demonstrated over the past year that it is possible to fight the good fight against corruption in this very universe, using the existing legal avenues and levers. And, more importantly, win.
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I don't have a say in selection: Dhoni

The last time India flew in to Sydney, immediately after losing the Boxing Day Test, captain MS Dhoni was not a happy man. It wasn't just the loss in Melbourne that left him peeved, the captain had a larger issue that he wasn't pleased about - his limited say in the selection panel.

Speaking to HT before boarding the flight to Sydney, Dhoni lamented how he would give a list of players to the selectors only to find many of them he wanted not named in the squad. “I don't have a say in selection. I ask for certain players, send it in writing to the selectors and when the squad is announced their names are missing,” said Dhoni.
After his fine showing in the ODI series in the Caribbean, India coach Duncan Fletcher went up to Rohit Sharma and said he wanted him in the Test side. “After that innings (match-winning knock of 86 in Antigua), Duncan came up to me and said, 'I can't believe you're not in the Test squad',” Rohit told HT in an interview soon after that tour. India has played 11 Tests since then, and he is still to make his Test debut, despite the repeated batting failures overseas.
The above two examples illustrate how little say the India captain and coach have in team selection. It has long been known how much influence the market forces have in the players who do and don't get selected, with the bigger brand names given more weightage than actual performance. After being whitewashed in back-to-back away series, shouldn't the BCCI review its selection policy? The issue that Ian Chappell raised on the star culture prevailing in the Indian dressing room is a pertinent one. What makes it all the worse is that India has a captain and coach who have in the past made bold decisions.
It was here four years ago that Dhoni, fresh off leading India to triumph in the inaugural T20 world championships, asked the selectors that he didn't want ageing heroes Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in the ODI tri-series that followed the Test series, instead opting for younger faces. The ploy worked well as India won that series with many new names emerging. In his time with England, Fletcher opted for a host of unknowns, but with a vision that they had what it takes. Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Steve Harmison and Simon Jones are just a few examples of players who flourished under his regime.
Compare BCCI's methods with the revamped selection policy of Cricket Australia after the Argus Review which followed last year's embarrassing Ashes loss in its own backyard. One of recommendations was to have both the captain and coach as part of a five-man selection panel.
In the limited time that it has been implemented it has worked well. Just think of the new names Australia has unearthed over the past six months. Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, David Warner, Ed Cowan and Mitchell Starc are among the many new faces who've earned their Baggy Greens since the new policy was implemented.
Speaking of his own role in the selection panel, Australian captain Michael Clarke said, “I think it's been good to be able to voice my opinion. Obviously, you're only one of five votes. More than being a selector, it's the communication with the selectors that I've really enjoyed.”
As Dhoni said, at present there is a complete communication breakdown between the selectors and the team, which is why a team that has lost eight straight away Tests hasn't changed the batting order, much less the team.
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Kalmadi made a scapegoat in CWG scam: Venkaiah

BJP vice president Venkaiah Naidu accused Congress of making the sacked chairman of the Organising Committee (OC) Suresh Kalmadi a scapegoat in the Commonwealth Games scam. Addressing a rally in Mapusa town marking wrapping up of the fortnight-long 'Jana Sampark Abhiyaan' of his party, Naidu said, "Why Delhi chief minister (Sheila Dixit) was not arrested in connection with the financial irregularities in the Commonwealth Games?".
Suresh Kalmadi
Suresh Kalmadi

The campaign launched on January 15 by senior leader Arun Jaitley toured 39 constituencies and reached 2 lakh people. Keeping heat on Congress, Naidu, without taking names said, "why was union sports minister not arrested? Why was union urban development not arrested for their role into the scam?".

The senior leader also targetted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for "remaining silent" on corruption. Appealing the people to vote for BJP in March 3 Assembly polls, Naidu said his party could only provide transparent governance.

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Sneak peek: 3

Sneak peek: 33' is an upcoming Tamil movie that stars Dhanush and Shruti Hassan
 Sneak peek: 3The movie has been in the news for its track 'Kolaveri Di' that was 2011's biggest desi internet sensation
 Sneak peek: 3The movie also is Rajinikanth's daughter Aishwarya's directorial debut
 Sneak peek: 3The film is produced by Dhanush's father Kasthuri Raja
 Sneak peek: 3Debutant music director Anirudh has made quite a splash with the music of the movie
 Sneak peek: 3Before Shruti Hassan was signed on, Aishwarya had roped in Amala Paul to play the female lead. However she dropped out of the project when she was unable to commit dates for shooting
 Sneak peek: 3Dhanush penned the lyrics for the song 'Kolaveri Di' in between takes
 Sneak peek: 3This is the first movie where Dhanush will be working under the direction of his wife, Aishwarya
 Sneak peek: 3Shruti and Dhanush have sung a duet in the movie
 Sneak peek: 3The song 'Kolaveri Di' has inspired many spin-offs including one sung by Sonu Nigam's son
 Sneak peek: 3Dhanush was even invited to dine with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Japanese PM, after he burst onto the scene
 Sneak peek: 3Kolaveri Di' is the first Tamil song to be broadcast on MTV
 Sneak peek: 3
AR Rahman has called Dhanush the 'Aamir Khan of the South'
 Sneak peek: 3
The movie's cinematography is handled by Velraj
 Sneak peek: 3The song 'Kolaveri Di' gave birth to lingo like 'soup boys'
 Sneak peek: 3Kolaveri Di' has already crossed 30 million views on YouTube
 Sneak peek: 3
'3' will release on February 3. We can't wait to see if the movie will be as popular as the song 'Kolaveri Di'
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Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! to fight email spam

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and Facebook are setting aside their online rivalry to fight a common enemy: email spam and "phishing" attacks. The Web giants said today they have teamed up with Bank of America, PayPal and others to combat spam and phishing, where emails seeking to obtain passwords or other information are sent to unsuspecting recipients.
Representative pic
Representative pic

Following 18 months of private collaboration, they announced the formation of a technical working group known as DMARC.org, drawn from the acronym for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance.

"Email phishing defrauds millions of people and companies every year, resulting in a loss of consumer confidence in email and the Internet as a whole," Brett McDowell, the chair of DMARC.org, said in a statement.

"Industry cooperation -- combined with technology and consumer education -- is crucial to fight phishing," said McDowell, the senior manager of customer security initiatives at PayPal.
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2G case: SC accepts Swamy's petition

Setting aside the Delhi High Court judgement on sanction of prosecution in 2G case, the Supreme Court today held that filing of a complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a constitutional right of a citizen and the competent authority should take a decision on giving the sanction within a time frame. If the sanction is not given within four months then it is deemed to have been granted, the two judge bench of the apex court held in a case filed by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy seeking a direction to the Prime Minister for sanction to prosecute the then Telecom Minister A Raja.
 Subramanian SwamyThe bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly held that Swamy had the locus standi to seek sanction for Raja's prosecution. It said sanction should be granted within a time frame and the competent authority shall take action in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the apex court in the Vineet Narain case of 1996.

Justice Ganguly, who wrote a separate judgement, agreed with Justice Singhvi and said sanction would be deemed to be granted if the competent authority fails to take a decision within a period of four months. The bench said that right to file a complaint against a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a constitutional right. The bench said it was not accepting certain submissions made by the Attorney General in defending the stand of Prime Minister's Office. The court said it was not declaring as ultra vires the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The apex court had reserved its judgement on November 24, 2010 on the petition filed by Swamy alleging that there was delay in taking action on his plea seeking sanction to prosecute Raja.

Swamy, who had made the Prime Minister a party in the case, had initially sought a direction to the Prime Minister to take decision on sanction to prosecute Raja but later on he sought framing of guidelines on the issue as his plea became infructuous with the resignation of the DMK leader as telecom minister on November 14, 2010. He had alleged that there was an "inordinate delay" on part of the prime minister in taking a decision on his plea for grant of sanction to prosecute Raja in the scam and his plea was neither allowed not rejected for over 16 months.

The PMO had, however, refuted all the allegations and filed an affidavit before the apex court maintaining that the request for sanction for prosecution of Raja was considered by the prime minister and that he was advised that evidence collected by CBI was necessary before taking a decision. The government said as the CBI probe was going on it was necessary to wait for its completion before taking any decision on granting sanction. Swamy had approached the apex court challenging the Delhi High Court judgement that had refused to pass any direction to the prime minister for taking decision on sanction.
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Sachin should have retired after World Cup: Imran

Sachin TendulkarFormer Pakistan captain Imran Khan feels that iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar should have retired after the "ultimate high" of India wining the World Cup last year.
"We all want to go with a big bang but you always don't get it right. For Sachin the ultimate time to go was after that World Cup win. He had such a great World Cup. He is a great player and there is not replacement for him," Imran said.

"He has to decide for himself and he must time it right. You don't want to go having lost to Australia 4-0. If he had gone after that World Cup that would have been the ultimate high," Imran told reporters.

Imran said Indian players has the right to decide when they want to retire and the management should first get the replacement for them.

"It`s a very difficult question for a sportsman to know when to leave...It`s a very difficult decision and many great players have not got it right," he said.

"For Indian cricket it`s not one player now but three or four would have to take decision. But the big question is whether you have got their replacement. If the gap between the young and old player is too much then you have to stay with the old players."

Asked about Tendulkar's impending 100th international ton, Imran said it doesn't matter whether he gets that elusive hundred or not as statistic doesn`t matter for a great player.

"Records must be broken within the team winning. You should not be playing to break records. Records should be part of the win. Sachin is a great player. Would I think of Sachin whether he is of 99 hundreds or 100 hundreds! No," Imran said.

"Greatest player I've played is Viv Richards. I don't need to look at his records. He is great because he loves challenges. Records are after all statistics and statistics did not matter to great players," he said.  
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Riteish & Genelia's love story!

Riteish & Genelia's love story!Bollywood actors and lovebirds Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'souza are finally set to get married on February 3. We take a look at their charming love story...
Riteish & Genelia's love story!
 The actors first met on the sets of 'Tujhe Meri Kasam', which marked the Bollywood debuts of both Genelia and Riteish. The movie bombed, but a lasting frie
ndship blossomed on the sets

 Riteish & Genelia's love story!Riteish and Genelia were paired together again in the 2004 comedy 'Masti'. The movie marked the couple's first bonafide Bollywood success. Photo: Viral Bhayani
 Riteish & Genelia's love story!Riteish, son of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, went on to do more comedy roles in movies like 'Kyaa Kool Hai Hum', 'Dhamaal', 'Heyy Babyy' and 'Housefull'. Photo: Viral Bhayani
 Riteish & Genelia's love story!Genelia branched out into the South Indian film industry and was part of several regional blockbusters like 'Bommarillu' (Telugu) and 'Santhosh Subramaniam' (Tamil). She then made a smashing return to Bollywood with the role of Aditi in 'Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na' opposite Imran Khan in 2008. Photo: Viral Bhayani
 Riteish & Genelia's love story!The couple will tie the knot after having dated for eight long years. Their wedding on February 3 is bound to be a star-studded affair, and will be followed by a reception on February 4. Photo: Viral Bhayani
 Riteish & Genelia's love story!The sangeet will take place on February 1, and will be coordinated by none other than director Karan Johar. Riteish's brother Dheeraj, Jackky Bhagnani and Fardeen Khan are expected to perform at the ceremony. Photo: Viral Bhayani
 Riteish & Genelia's love story!The couple will also star together again in the movie 'Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya', that releases on February 24.

Continue reading...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Filmfare: Rahman, Ranbir, Vidya big winners at Filmfare Awards

Ranbir Kapoor bagged the coveted Filmfare Best Actor award while Vidya Balan took the Best Actress award at the 57th Filmfare Awards.

Ranbir Kapoor won Best Actor for Rockstar.

Vidya Balan won Best Actress for The Dirty Picture.

Allah Rakha Rahman scooped his 28th Filmfare Award for Best Music Director for Rockstar.

The prolific and hugely talented Rahman has won 14 Filmfare Awards and 13 Filmfare Awards South earlier, in addition to his international wins, including at the Academy Awards, Grammys and Bafta and Golden Globe.

The trophy, also the 2500th to be awarded, was a special 47 ct diamond studded one.

Rani Mukherjee, seen in 2011's January release No One Killed Jessica, bagged the Best Supporting Actor (female) for her role as intrepid reporter Meera Gaity.

Farhan Akhtar bagged the Best Supporting Actor (male) for his sensitive and witty portrayal of Imran, who has never met his biological father.

Meanwhile, a rather surprising choice for the Best Debut Director award met with a barrage of tweets and posts with many asking how the ad filmmaker turned director had scooped the debut award for his second film. Deo has been awarded for his second film, Delhi Belly. His first film was the action flick Game. Released three months before Delhi Belly, Game was a box- office dud.

The Best Debut awards for acting were picked up by Parineeti Chopra and Vidyut Jhamwal.

Cousin to Bollywood's other famous Chopra, Priyanka, Parineeti, picked up the award for her feisty yet fun role in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. Vidyut Jhamwal , overlooked in other award shows held earlier, scooped the coveted Filmfare award for his sinister portrayal of a psycho killer in action flick Force.

Earlier, the 57th Filmfare Awards began with main show hosts Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor on stage.

SRK, battling a cold and fever, managed to bring his usual energy on the stage. "Damn cold & fever winning the battle,slowly taking over my robust pathan constitution. Cigarette tasting bad in mouth now...this is serious!" he posted on Twitter this evening.

In one segment SRK and Ranbir even showed up dressed as mangoes.

The Filmfare Awards began on a somber note with artists from Coke Studio paying a tribute to iconic actors Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor on stage.

Amid tight security and paparazzi, stars arrived for the 57th Filmfare Awards in Mumbai .

Priyanka Chopra wore a light blue gown on the red carpet.  Priyanka who performed today, is also under the weather like "special friend SRK. "Very out of sorts..Bruised from falling during rehearsals.too much damage...god this act better be good! Looking forward to Filmfare tonight," she posted on Twitter earlier.

Prateik Babbar walked in with his co-star and rumoured girlfriend Amy Jackson. "Feeling kinda cool an stylish in my #troycosta.. after all its a @filmfare event.. n its excellence all around.. glamour talent entertainment," Prateik posted on Twitter.

Music director Anu Malik was among the first few guests to walk the red carpet. Other stars such as Madhuri Dixit and Abhishek Bachchan headed for the show too.

"What a match!!!! #AusOpen and now off to an even bigger match #FilmfareAwards", Abhishek Bachchan posted on Twitter a short while ago.

Among the oldest and best-known film awards, the Filmfare Awards were instituted in 1954.

The awards show was held at the Reliance MediaWorks Studios in Filmcity, instead of Yash Raj Studios, where it has been previously held.
Continue reading...

The web, at your service, at your doorstep

It is always easy when you know where to eat and what to eat. But if not, won't it be ideal to have a friend who tells you where exactly to go and, a waiter who guides you through the menu to find the dish you want to have?
Click here to download the .pdf version of the graphic
A month-and-a-half-old company, ‘StorElf,' in Chennai takes the burden of ordering food for home delivery. Modelled on an older venture in Bangalore, Amrutash Misra's initiative is based on innovating on the call centre side. “We are trying to train our employees in food, tastes, allergies to ease the customer's experience of ordering the food he wants,” he says. Feedback from customers, details of those who prefer to order home delivery on certain days of the week and recommendations are also keyed in to ensure that regular users avail themselves of discounts from restaurants that have tied up with his company.
The idea of finding a plumber, a cobbler, or someone to collect garbage from your house at the click of a mouse, or getting a packet of broccoli and cereal delivered after a single call is indeed fascinating, but there are not too many people who swear by these services. The e-commerce industry that is vastly dominated by travel actually has hundreds of service-oriented sites going live every day. The environment has also brought in more pressure on these ventures to succeed.
“There were about four vegetable delivery sites and two grocery delivery ones launched in south India two years ago. All of them have disappeared, and at least ten new ones exist now,” says IT consultant Vishal Karikurva, recalling how almost all online vegetable delivery models failed in the U.S. “Marketing is very important, which these initiatives can't afford, at least for now. And, they need to focus more on the calling part to retain their customers rather than the website.”
While almost all metros have at least one carwash and cleaning service provider, most have several who promise to provide drivers and local help for hire. “It does not often work out because you are not sure of the quality and trustworthiness. But once you are satisfied, you hang in there,” says Mala Kumar, a homemaker in Chennai, who calls for a plumber or an electrician through a site. “Even in case the of appliances, the toll-free numbers of service centres are not accessible often, but when you approach some of these start-ups, they get it done within two days because of their association with the companies, all for an extra Rs. 100,” she says.
Since a lot of these businesses require scaling, they will need deep pockets to survive. And since most of them are labour-intensive, the training costs can be huge too, reckons Arnab Bose, a social media expert. “They might fail if they do not address the last-mile connect with the customer.” Also, now with the smart phones, these start-ups need to have mobile apps.
Today's entrepreneurs require people relevant to their business, and funds that can be channelled to add value to the venture. The flash effects-laden website with video testimonials and clippings of how they work, functional numbers, addresses, feedback, and follow-up plans show that many of these ventures are planned in a very intelligent way.

Right model

“These are IIT and IIM grad entrepreneurs who believe in ideas and innovation, and they are tapping into an existing need. So, if they get the model right, they will surely succeed,” says Mr. Bose.
Continue reading...

Deepa Venkatraman

From simple designs for daily wear to intricate ones for weddings, paper jewellery seems to have caught everyone's fancy. A few designers talk about their creations
From simple designs for daily wear to intricate ones for weddings, paper jewellery seems to have caught everyone's fancy. A few designers talk about their creations
TWIST TO A PAPER: Shrikriti's creation. Photo: Special ArrangementFrom the Heart

Priya Kannan

“Paper is easily available. There is often an excess of paper lying in our homes. Instead of disposing it, why not use it in a creative fashion?” asks Priya Kannan, a paper jewellery designer. Her jewellery is made out of pamphlets, calendars, gift wraps, glossy magazines and even restaurant place mats.
Priya's collection ‘From the Heart' is eye-catching, and blends the trendy and the ethnic. “I have an eye for all kinds of paper and love to make the best out of it. My family and friends give me different kinds of paper to create jewellery,” says Priya.
And, Priya does not repeat her designs. “I do not want people to have the same collection of jewellery,” says Priya. “It is a challenge to always come with new designs, but I enjoy it.”
How long does it take her to finish one set of jewellery? “The art is time-consuming. Earlier, it used to take a few hours, but I can now finish a piece in two hours.”
Her earrings are priced between Rs. 60 and Rs. 180, and sets comprising a chain, earrings and bracelet, between Rs. 250 and Rs. 1,500.
For details, mail kannanpri@gmail.com.
Ten Fingers

Deepa Sekar

That coffee-brown pendant intricately woven around a wearable wire does not look as if made of paper. That is the high spot of Deepa Sekar's both ethnic and contemporary creations Ten Fingers.
Deepa Sekar says: “Those are daily wear, and go well with Indian and Indo-Western tunics, kurtas, saris and salwar sets.”
The collection is in earthy colours, said to be made of wood-free fibre. “While designing a set, I follow fashion trends, while making sure the jewellery is functional and sturdy.”
Depending on the intricacy of the design, paper used, and the composition, the price for her collection ranges between Rs. 240 and Rs. 400.
For details, call 98403-26354.

Usha Natrajan & Y. Satyakumar

Traditionally, brides-to-be and their parents have looked for for jewellery in gold and silver with precious stones. But that could change! The intricate sets at Shrikriti, an eco fashion boutique at Mahalingapuram are waiting to be part of a bride's jewellery collection.
Usha Natrajan and Y. Satyakumar customise bridal accessories. Some of their clients have ordered the entire jewellery for their wedding from them. Satyakumar says: “Colourful paper is embellished with semi precious stones and culture beads. We consult brides on the pattern that suits their attire. There is a separate team that designs and assembles the jewellery.” Usha says: “We have about 40 shades of vegetable dyes to choose from.”
A cost for a wedding set comprising earrings, a short and long chain, anklets and head set begins at Rs. 9,000. “The price of the jewellery depends on the materials used. Though the jewellery look heavy, they are extremely light in weight. They are sweat-proof, and do not contain chemicals. But, as with any other jewellery, they need to be handled with care,” cautions Usha.
The duo is looking at e-commerce too. Satyakumar says: “There are a lot of enquiries from overseas.”
For details, call 99623-00820 / 99624-00820.
From the Heart

Priya Kannan

“Paper is easily available. There is often an excess of paper lying in our homes. Instead of disposing it, why not use it in a creative fashion?” asks Priya Kannan, a paper jewellery designer. Her jewellery is made out of pamphlets, calendars, gift wraps, glossy magazines and even restaurant place mats.
Priya's collection ‘From the Heart' is eye-catching, and blends the trendy and the ethnic. “I have an eye for all kinds of paper and love to make the best out of it. My family and friends give me different kinds of paper to create jewellery,” says Priya.
And, Priya does not repeat her designs. “I do not want people to have the same collection of jewellery,” says Priya. “It is a challenge to always come with new designs, but I enjoy it.”
How long does it take her to finish one set of jewellery? “The art is time-consuming. Earlier, it used to take a few hours, but I can now finish a piece in two hours.”
Her earrings are priced between Rs. 60 and Rs. 180, and sets comprising a chain, earrings and bracelet, between Rs. 250 and Rs. 1,500.
For details, mail kannanpri@gmail.com.
Ten Fingers

Deepa Sekar

That coffee-brown pendant intricately woven around a wearable wire does not look as if made of paper. That is the high spot of Deepa Sekar's both ethnic and contemporary creations Ten Fingers.
Deepa Sekar says: “Those are daily wear, and go well with Indian and Indo-Western tunics, kurtas, saris and salwar sets.”
The collection is in earthy colours, said to be made of wood-free fibre. “While designing a set, I follow fashion trends, while making sure the jewellery is functional and sturdy.”
Depending on the intricacy of the design, paper used, and the composition, the price for her collection ranges between Rs. 240 and Rs. 400.
For details, call 98403-26354.

Usha Natrajan & Y. Satyakumar

Traditionally, brides-to-be and their parents have looked for for jewellery in gold and silver with precious stones. But that could change! The intricate sets at Shrikriti, an eco fashion boutique at Mahalingapuram are waiting to be part of a bride's jewellery collection.
Usha Natrajan and Y. Satyakumar customise bridal accessories. Some of their clients have ordered the entire jewellery for their wedding from them. Satyakumar says: “Colourful paper is embellished with semi precious stones and culture beads. We consult brides on the pattern that suits their attire. There is a separate team that designs and assembles the jewellery.” Usha says: “We have about 40 shades of vegetable dyes to choose from.”
A cost for a wedding set comprising earrings, a short and long chain, anklets and head set begins at Rs. 9,000. “The price of the jewellery depends on the materials used. Though the jewellery look heavy, they are extremely light in weight. They are sweat-proof, and do not contain chemicals. But, as with any other jewellery, they need to be handled with care,” cautions Usha.
The duo is looking at e-commerce too. Satyakumar says: “There are a lot of enquiries from overseas.”
For details, call 99623-00820 / 99624-00820.
Continue reading...

India, Japan Coast Guard units demonstrate capabilities

Indo-Japan Coast gaurd joint excersise under way in the Bay of bengal Off Chennai. photo: K. Pichumani
A mock drill on the deep seas by the Indian and Japan Coast Guard units on Sunday demonstrated the inherent capabilities of the two forces to jointly counter a range of maritime threats in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Indo-Japan Coast Guard Joint Exercises, which alternates between India and Japan every year, was organised off the Bay of Bengal where fleets headed by the newly-commissioned Indian Coast Guard vessel Vishwast and the Japanese ship Settsu simulated a range of search-and-rescue, pollution control and anti-piracy operations.
The joint exercise named “Sahyog-Kaijin-XI” was supervised by ICG Director-General Vice-Admiral M. P. Muralidharan and his Japanese counterpart Admiral Hisayasu Suzuki, Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard. The Commander Coast Guard Region (East) Inspector General S.P. Sharma and a delegation from the Singapore Information Sharing Centre of the regional cooperation agreement to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea and a group of journalists were also among those who witnessed the exercise.
The drill that formed part of initiatives between the two Coast Guards framed out in a Memorandum of Understanding dating back to November 24, 2006, began with a pollution response demonstration featuring a helicopter operation, during which spraying in undertaken to contain an oil spill.
A vertical replenishment sortie, mail transfer and search-and-rescue drill followed.
One of the high points was a dramatic anti-piracy operation in which bright orange hand-flares are created to mark out the hijacked ship for the storming operation to follow where hovercrafts are deployed to round off the ship and commandos on a smaller boat break into the vessel in distress.
The fleet deployed for the near two-hour exercise included 11 surface units — Coast Guard ships Sagar, Sarang, Vigraha, Vajra, Rani Abbakka, Sarojini Naidu and Priyadarshini — high-speed interceptor boats C-151 and C-146, hovercraft H-151 and H-181 and six air units comprising three Dornier aircraft and three Chetak helicopters.
The show ended with an impressive fly-past with the crew of participating units saluting the chiefs of the two Coast Guards.
Later, addressing the media both Coast Guard chiefs stressed the value of the joint exercise in patrolling, search-and-rescue and anti-piracy and anti-terrorist operations in the region.
Mr. Hisayasu Suzuki stressed the growing importance of the cooperation between the Coast Guards especially as Somali pirates were expanding operations into this region.
In fact, the association between the two units dates back to a piracy incident in 1999, when the Japan-flagged ship MV Alondra Rainbow, hijacked by pirates and repainted as MV Mega Rama, was apprehended by Indian Coast Guard in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai.
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U.S.-Taliban dialogue in Qatar raises peace hope

A former Taliban militant (left) shakes hands with a police official during a joining ceremony with the Afghan government in Baghlan, north of Kabul, Afghanistan. Around 40 former Taliban militants from Baghlan province handed over their weapons and joined with Afghan government as part of a peace-reconciliation programme. Photo: AP
Several Taliban negotiators have begun meeting U.S. officials in Qatar, where they are discussing preliminary trust-building measures, including a possible prisoner transfer, said several former Taliban officials on Saturday.
The former officials said four to eight Taliban representatives had travelled to Qatar from Pakistan to set up a political office for the exiled Afghan militant group.
The comments suggested that the Taliban, which has not publicly said it would engage in peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, was at least gearing up for preliminary discussions.
U.S. officials would not deny that meetings had taken place, and the discussions seemed to have at least the tacit approval of Pakistan, which has thwarted previous efforts by the Taliban to engage in talks.
The Afghan government, which was initially angry that it had been left out, has accepted the talks in principle but is not directly involved, a potential snag in what could be a historic development.
The former Taliban officials, interviewed on Saturday in Kabul, were careful not to call the discussions peace talks.
“Currently there are no peace talks going on,” said Maulavi Qalamuddin, the former minister of vice and virtue for the Taliban, now a member of the High Peace Council. “The only thing is the negotiations over release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo which is still under discussion between both sides in Qatar. We also want to strengthen the talks so we can create an environment of trust for further talks in the future.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has said Marc Grossman, Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had “a number of meetings” related to Afghanistan when he visited Qatar last week.

Move draws fire

The Taliban's announcement this month that it would open an office in Qatar, which could allow for direct negotiations, drew fire from some Afghan factions as well as some U.S. policymakers, who fear the militants would use negotiations as a ploy to gain legitimacy and continue their efforts to re-impose an extremist Islamic state in Afghanistan.
Mr. Grossman, at a news conference in Kabul last week, said real peace talks could begin only after the Taliban renounced international terrorism and agreed to support a peace process to end the armed conflict.
The Afghan government and the Qataris must also come to an agreement on the terms under which the Taliban will have an office. Mr. Grossman has been regularly briefing the Afghan government but Afghan officials have complained that they were being kept out of the loop.
The Taliban officials now in Doha, Qatar, include a former secretary to the Taliban's leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, as well as several former officials of the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, according to Qalamuddin and Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister of higher education. The former Taliban officials here described fairly advanced discussions in Qatar about the exchange of prisoners. One former official Syed Muhammad Akbar Agha, who had been a Taliban military commander, said five Taliban prisoners were to be released in two phases. “The first group of two to three Taliban prisoners will be released, and then two others,” he said.

Kill or capture lists

There has also been discussion of removing some Taliban members from NATO's “kill or capture” lists, the former Taliban officials said.
In return, the Taliban have offered to free an American soldier they are holding.
Mr. Grossman, in his comments last week, played down talk of detenu releases, saying the U.S. had not yet made any decision on the issue. “This is an issue of United States law first of all, that we have to meet the requirements of our law,” he said.
He said the Obama administration would also consult with Congress. Under U.S. law, the Defence Secretary must certify to Congress that the transfer of any Guantanamo prisoner to a foreign country would meet certain requirements, including that the country maintains control over its prisons and will not allow a transferred detenu to become a future threat to the U.S.
If any detenu were released, Western and Afghan officials said, they would likely be transferred to Qatar and held there, perhaps under house arrest.
The former Taliban officials said they were most surprised by Pakistan's decision to allow the Taliban delegates to obtain travel documents and board a plane to Qatar. The former officials have long contended that Pakistan has obstructed talks. “This is a green light from Pakistan,” said Mr. Rahmani.
Pakistan “definitely supported this and is also helping,” Mr. Qalamuddin added. He said if Pakistan did not approve of the talks, it would have arrested the Taliban delegates to Qatar, just as it did with Mullah Baradar, a senior Taliban official, after he began secret talks with the Afghan government in 2010. — New York Times News Service
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Feeling anxious?

ANXIOUS ABOUT ADVANCING YEARS? Practise yoga to experience inner calm. Photo: Special Arrangement
Age and anxiety sometimes go hand in hand. Hema Vijay on how the elderly can lead a stress-free life
Growing older and feeling increasingly anxious as each day rolls by? Well, you are not alone. Studies indicate that Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may be the most common mental disorder among the elderly. Social anxiety disorders, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and phobias are other anxiety disorders elders are vulnerable to. Many older people don't seek treatment for anxiety, assuming it is part of the process of aging. But since anxiety seriously impacts the quality of life, treatment can make a world of difference. The difficulty lies in distinguishing between normal age-related anxiety and anxiety disorders, but qualified psychiatrists, neurologists or geriatricians will be able to identify the condition.
Unsuitable treatment
While seeking medical help for anxiety, many elders make the mistake of approaching a general or family physician, who often prescribes medication that's unsuitable. Worse, some elders resort to over-the-counter anti-anxiety drugs. “This can accentuate anxiety problems in the long run. Elderly persons can get addicted to some medication, and withdrawal from it can cause depression too,” warns Dr. S. Yogaraj, senior consultant neurologist, Apollo hospitals.
Anxiety can manifest itself in the form of physical problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, excessive sweating, belching, skin eruptions, an aggravation of psoriasis, hand tremors, attacks of wheezing, palpitations, aggravation of blood pressure conditions, lack of sleep and talking incessantly about a somatic problem. “We all have vulnerable body parts and these get impacted the most, when a person is experiencing anxiety,” says Dr. Lakshmi Vijaykumar, psychiatrist and founder, SNEHA, an organisation that works to prevent suicides.
Physical manifestation
Constant worries that are difficult to control, and physical symptoms such as fatigue and headache may accompany GAD. Phobias can be recognised when those gripped by them show severe and excessive fear of a place, thing, or event. Panic attacks of extreme anxiety and fear are of sudden-onset and short-lived (lasting less than 30 minutes) and may be accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and/or other physical symptoms. “Panic attacks and heart attacks may have similar symptoms; so seek emergency medical attention to rule out a heart attack,” warns Dr. Lakshmi warns. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (characterised by undue repetitive actions such as repeated checking of doors or washing of hands) gets worse with age, informs Dr. V.S. Natarajan, geriatrician and recent Padma Bhushan Awardee.
Anxiety may be a stand-alone symptom. But, it is often associated with depression and physical illness. It can also be an early symptom of Alzheimer's or other dementias. So, if a person exhibits signs of anxiety, look for underlying or associated issues. “There is also a higher chance of anxiety or depression occurring in the surviving spouse in the year following the death of a spouse,” says Dr. Lakshmi. Retirement from one's job or children moving out of the home can cause anxiety in elderly persons.
Finally, here is something for younger people to think about. Joint pain, constipation even if for a day, problems with digestion… all these may seem monumental for an elderly person and may even lead to further symptoms. It could raise questions like “Will I continue to be independent?” or, “Am I a burden?”
Youngsters may laugh at this, but in an elderly person, these are neuro-psychological symptoms. Elaborates Dr. Lakshmi, “To understand, think of the somatic reactions you had before writing a crucial exam, especially one you were underprepared for. Also, elders constantly have underlying thoughts about death, and how the end is going to be. In the West, the fear of death is prevalent among senior citizens. But in our country, it is more of a wish for a problem-free death, rather than fear of death per se.”
Fight fear
* Alcohol and some kinds of medication can aggravate anxiety; so have your medication evaluated.
* Staying physically active is crucial, even if you have cardiac, lung or other problems.
* Some older people, especially those living alone, neglect their nutrition out of laziness or disenchantment but, actually, older people need good nutrition.
* Many elderly people sleep less, wake up early and become restless. Practising good sleep hygiene helps. This involves going to bed at a particular time, eating meals an hour-and-half before bed time, and drinking a glass of hot milk after dinner. Good sleep by itself will improve the quality of life and reduce anxiety. But as older people need just three to five hours of sleep a day, don't fret if they don't sleep like you do.
* A daily schedule of yoga, meditation or such calming exercises can provide great relief.
* Keep occupied, as worries occur mostly when you have nothing to do.
* To feel useful/active in society, participate at least once a week in social/philanthropic activity.
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Djokovic reigns supreme after an epic encounter

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (left) and runner-up Rafael Nadal of Spain (right) talk with Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, after the Serbian retained the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup at the Australian Open on Sunday.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic battled past Rafael Nadal in an epic, five-set Australian Open final which clocked in at 5hr, 53min — the longest title match in Grand Slam history — here on Sunday.
Djokovic fought back from losing the first set to take a 2-1 lead, but he was then taken to a gripping fifth set by resurgent Nadal before winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 for his third consecutive Major title.
The nail-biting match of wildly swinging fortunes, played in front of an enthralled crowd, started before 8:00 p.m. (local time) on Sunday and did not wind up until 1:40 a.m. on Monday, and was also the longest in the tournament's history.
“Good morning everybody,” Nadal told the crowd afterwards. “I will never forget this match. Even though I lost, it was something really special for me. Thank you very much, I will come back here a lot and I will keep fighting.”
Djokovic, who picked up a cheque for Aus$2.3 million ($2.4 million), has now beaten the Spaniard in three consecutive Grand Slam finals and seven consecutive title matches overall.
Total respect
“Rafa, you're one of the best players ever. You're one of the most respected guys on the tour,” he said.
“We made history tonight, and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners. But I wish you all the best for this season and I hope that we will have many more matches like this and many more finals.”
Djokovic's win, his fifth Grand Slam title, means he joins a rarefied company. Only Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer (twice) and Nadal have previously won three consecutive Grand Slams in the open era.
The Serb, who had a gruelling five-set semifinal win over Andy Murray, came into the final with a day less rest than Nadal, and having complained about allergy-related breathing problems in Melbourne.
He struggled to get into the match early on against his never-say-die opponent, slamming racquet to the ground when he was broken and falling a set behind but, re-energised, he found his rhythm in the second set to level.
Starting to dictate, the defending champion ran away with the third set, overpowering Nadal and breaking him to love to win it 6-2.
But the 25-year-old from Majorca, deposed from the top ranking by Djokovic after his losing last year's Wimbledon final, refused to be beaten and dragged himself back into the contest through sheer force of will.
The Spanish left-hander saved three break points in the eighth game of the fourth set, producing a fist-pumping celebration when he levelled at 4-4.
But in a surreal addition to the mounting tension, action was suspended for rain to organisers could close the stadium roof and dry the court.
When play restarted the set went to a tie-break, with Nadal clinching it at his first opportunity on a Djokovic forehand error to set up the decider.
And in the dramatic fifth set, Nadal secured a crucial break in the sixth game, but with the Spaniard now suddenly looking the more likely winner, Djokovic battled back to secure a break of his own.
With players refusing to give an inch, the Serbian top seed broke again in the 11th game when Nadal netted with a backhand and then, in almost unbearable tension, saved a break point as he served out for the championship.
The Serb ripped off his shirt in celebration and marched to his players' box, flexing his muscles and then hugging his coach as he claimed his third Australian Open title, after 2008 and 2011.
The match was longer than the 1988 U.S. Open final between Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl, which lasted 4hr, 54min, and also beat the Australian Open record of 5hr, 14min set by Nadal and Fernando Verdasco in 2009.
The Results:
All finals
Men’s singles: 1-Novak Djokovic bt 2-Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5.
Mixed doubles: 8-Bethanie Mattek- Sands & Horia Tecau bt 5-Elena Vesnina & Leander Paes 6-3, 5-7, 10-3.
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Punjab, Uttarakhand go to polls amid tight security today

New Delhi: Around 1.76 crore voters will seal the fate of 1,078 candidates, including the two Chief Ministerial aspirants Parkash Singh Badal of ruling SAD-BJP and Amarinder Singh of opposition Congress, in fray for 117 assembly seats in Punjab where polling began on Monday amidst tight security at 8 am. The battle for electoral politics in Uttarakhand is also taking place on Monday.
Polling commenced in 70 Assembly constituencies in Uttarakhand amid tight security with over 60 lakh voters expected to exercise their franchise in the single-phased elections. Over 63 lakh electorates will decide the fate of 788 candidates with the top contenders from the ruling BJP and Congress contesting all the 70 seats.
Top state leaders, including chief minister BC Khanduri from Kotdwar, former chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Doiwala, Leader of Opposition Harak Singh Rawat from Rudraprayag and PCC chief Yashpal Arya from Baajpur seats will try their luck at the polls.
Polling commenced at 0800 hrs and would end at 1700 hrs, Uttarakhand Chief Electoral Officer Radha Raturi said. She said elaborate arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of polling and all the personnel deployed in high-altitude areas have been provided with sleeping bags, snow-boot and jackets.
An Indian Airforce helicopter has also been stationed at Sarsawa as part of rescue efforts to meet with any eventuality, Raturi added. She said 9744 polling booths have been set up across the state out of which 1794 stations have been declared as "sensitive" and 1252 as "hyper-sensitive".
A total of 75 companies of Central paramilitary force besides 10,000 home guards from Uttar Pradesh, 2000 home guards from Himachal Pradesh and 10,000 personnel from Uttarakhand Police have been deployed for the polls. Raturi said nearly Rs 1.40 crore in cash has so far been seized in various parts of the state.
All government, non-government offices, schools, colleges, industrial establishments and shops have been asked to remain closed on Monday, the official said.
Security has been tightened around all polling stations as the Election Commission clearly not wanting to take any chances after violence that broke out during Saturday's assembly elections in Manipur where 7 people lost their lives. Security forces staged a flag march in Ludhiana on Sunday. But the big worry in Uttarakhand is the weather. Parties are afraid that heavy snowfall in hilly areas may cause a low turnout.
One of the big names facing off in Punjab's single phase election on Monday is Parkash Singh Badal who is currently serving his 4th term as Chief Minister since 2007. The Shiromani Akali Dal leader is contensting from Lambi. Looking to wrest power from Badal is the Maharaja of Patiala Capt Amarinder Singh. The Congress leader had served as Chief Minister from 2002 to 2007.
Also in the race is Badal's son Sukhbir Singh Badal who is currently the Deputy Chief Minister and President of the Akali Dal. He's contesting from Jalalabad. Then there's Manpreet Singh Badal who left Akali Dal in March 2010 following differences over governance issues. He's contesting on a People's Party of Punjab ticket from Gidderbaha constituency.
Among women there's former state congress chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal contesting from Lehra. She was Punjab's first woman to serve as Chief Minister in 1996. And finally former DGP Param Deep Singh Gill who is contesting on an Akali Dal ticket from Moga.
The key issues that have dominated this election are corruption, farmers' issues and unemployment in Punjab. The question is will these concerns dominate voting patterns. And can the Akalis defy the anti-incumbency and return to power in Punjab? More importantly, will the BJP propel or drag down the performance of their alliance with Akalis? Also, will Manpreet Badal's Punjab People's Party make an impact on poll outcome?
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

We will take corrective measures: BCCI

New Delhi: An under-pressure BCCI on Saturday promised "corrective measures" after the Indian cricket team was humbled 0-4 by Australia in the Test series but refused to comment on the future of the struggling senior players, saying that remains in the hands of selectors.
India lost the fourth Test by 298 runs in Adelaide, completing an eighth consecutive Test loss on foreign soil and second successive series whitewash abroad.
Struggling to explain the debacle, senior BCCI functionary Rajiv Shukla conceded, "We haven't performed well, everyone accepted that...the Australians played very well and we all recognise that. We are equally concerned and certainly corrective measures will be taken."
Shukla, also the IPL chairman, pinned his hopes on the ODI tri-series, also featuring Sri Lanka, starting from February 5.
He hoped that the team would script a recovery in the shorter format.
"We hope that we will do well in the ODI series, the BCCI President has also expressed this feeling. We are quite optimistic about the ODI series. Sometimes it happens, our top batsmen were not in form. We should accept this fact," said Shukla.
Asked why the promised 'corrective measures' did not come about when a similar humiliation happened in England last year, Shukla retorted, "...corrective measures were taken.
That's why we could beat them 5-0 on our soil. We beat West Indies also but the problem is that everybody forgets about the series we win and remember the series we lose."
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the team's senior players -- most notably the batting trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman -- are under scrutiny following poor performances. But Shukla refused to say anything on their future.
"That is the selectors' domain. We can't comment on that.
Whatever they decide, we would accept that. It's the job of selectors to decide about captain. Whatever anybody has said in a press conference does not mean anything to us unless it is communicated officially," he said.
On whether the Board is unhappy with the way things are going under new coach Duncan Fletcher, Shukla said, "There is no such things. We are not disappointed."
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Australian Open 2012: Maria Sharapova v Victoria Azarenka - as it happened

To be consistent or inconsistent, that is the question. While Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have carved up 26 of the last 27 men's grand slam titles between them, predicting what will happen in women's tennis has become almost as perilous a task as guessing what Mario Balotelli will do next.
Some might say it's good for the game. After all, if you knew how every match was going to play out, what would be the point in watching? The capacity for surprise is one of the reasons we follow sport. Who would deny Francesca Schiavone her wonderfully unexpected French Open win in 2010, or Sam Stosur her shock victory in the eye of a Serena Williams storm in last year's US Open final?
Except there's an overriding feeling the women's game has lost a little credibility in its unpredictability, and that it desperately needs a player to step up to the plate. Two or three would be even better. There's nothing that captivates us more than a great sporting rivalry, and tennis has had its fair share over the years, whether it be Borg v McEnroe, Federer v Nadal, Navratilova v Evert, or Graf v Seles.
But for now, that will have to wait. Today, the run of four different women's champions in the last four grand slams will be stretched to five. OK, Maria Sharapova is a three-times major winner, but her last victory came four long years ago in Australia, before shoulder surgery made her question whether she would ever hit a ball in anger again. Someone with lesser spirit and determination might not have done.
For Victoria Azarenka, this is her first major final. The 22-year-old Belarussian announced herself to the game in 2009 by winning in Miami, a tournament often called "the fifth grand slam". But her progress since has been slower than expected and she even briefly considered quitting last year. Hopefully it had nothing to do with this.
I hope you've got your ear plugs close at hand for this one. Personally I think there's far too much focus on shrieking/grunting in the women's game, but that hasn't stopped me from including a nice little graphic for you at the top of this page. Michelle Larcher de Brito excluded, these two can pierce the eardrums like no others.
Stat attack There's nothing between these two on paper. They've met six times before, winning three apiece. Azarenka has prevailed the last two times they've played each other on a hard court, but doing it on the biggest stage against one of the gutsiest competitors in the game is an altogether different proposition.
There's also the added pressure of the world No1 ranking as a prize: whoever wins today will take Caroline Wozniacki out of the firing line by replacing the grand slam-less Dane at the top of the rankings.
Azarenka has probably been hitting the ball and serving better than Sharapova during the tournament so far, but the Russian's experience could prove telling. That said, it didn't in last year's Wimbledon final against Petra Kvitova.
Sharapova and Azarenka are in the bowels of the Rod Laver arena winding their way on to court. Surprisingly there are no pre-match interviews, so the players strut straight out.
Thump, thump, thumpity thump, they're warming up. Sharapova is wearing a white dress with a radioactive green trim that is the same colour as her visor. Azarenka's headband is the exact same shade, but she opts for a long-sleeved blue top and white shorts. Not even a screech to speak of so far.
Sharapova won the toss, by the way, and has elected to receive.
First set: *Sharapova 1-0 Azarenka (denotes next server)
A cheap first point, as Azarenka tamely nets. Then it's Sharapova's turn to throw in an error, as she goes a foot or so long with a cross-court forehand. Signs of nerves as Azarenka double faults to slip 15-30 down. She takes a deep breath and rolls back her shoulders, but another double at 30-30 and it's break point to Sharapova. Azarenka wallops away a forehand winner to avert the danger, but not for long. Sharapova carves out another break point and this time Azarenka goes wide. A mixed bag that opening game.
First set: Sharapova 2-0 Azarenka*
At 15-0, the best point of the match so far - and the longest rally so far - which Sharapova eventually wins with a deep, punishing stroke to Azarenka's backhand wing. The Belarussian can only prod the ball back into the tramlines. Sharapova moves 40-0 up, then throws in her first double of the day, before holding to 15. A smattering of applause from the crowd, but to be honest, it's not completely full at the moment. There are a few rows of empty seats at the back. Not good for a grand slam final.
First set: *Sharapova 2-1 Azarenka
Azarenka's ball toss is all over the place at the moment and a third double gives Sharapova the initiative at 0-30. Azarenka digs deep and reels off the next three points to forge 40-30 ahead. And she gets her name on the board with a darting forehand winner down the line. Even though it's 8pm it's a balmy 29 degrees in Melbourne and sunny. The picture out my window in King's Cross meanwhile? Two degrees and cloudy.
First set: Sharapova 2-2 Azarenka*
Azarenka has got her eye in now, she has. 0-15, 0-30, 0-40 and it's three break points. A loose backhand from Sharapova and she needs just the one. Sharapova appeals to Hawk-Eye but the call stands.
First set: *Sharapova 2-3 Azarenka
Azarenka is cranking up the pressure and a drive volley on the backhand wing puts her 30-0 up. Seemingly aggrieved, Sharapova gives back as good as she gets on the next point, slamming a backhand winner. Undettered, Azarenka rattles off the next two points to take her third game on the spin. "COME ON," she cries. A fantastic recovery after a nervous start.
First set: Sharapova 3-3 Azarenka*
Both these players love to duke it out from the back of the court with their powerful ground strokes, and these two are starting to bash the balls around with some real intent. Deuce. Advantage Sharapova. Deuce. Advantage Sharapova. And Sharapova holds with the first ace of the match and the quickest serve of the match so far. The camera pans to the great Rod Laver, who's back for more even after the five-hour marathon Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic served up yesterday.
First set: *Sharapova 3-4 Azarenka
They're right into this match now, they are. At 15-0, a punishing cross-court backhand from Azarenka draws the error. Cue a fist pump and another "COME ON", which to be fair, is probably louder than any shrieks or wails we've heard so far. Sharapova comes back with interest, crunching a forehand drive volley into the open court. Azarenka eventually holds to 30, finishing things off with a lovely change in tact, drawing Sharapova in before leaving her stranded with an inch-perfect lob. Anyone out there? Or are you all reading Mr Lutz's over-by-over? Bah.
First set: Sharapova 3-5 Azarenka*
A wonderful point at 15-15, which Sharapova finishes off when she wrong-foots Azarenka and drives a backhand winner down the line. Sharapova should close the game out from 40-15, but loses focus on her serve and Azarenka forges her way to advantage. Break point. Sharapova bludgeons a cross-court forehand winner, but can't repeat the trick when Azarenka brings up another break point. That's five of the last six games now for the Belarussian and she will serve for the opening set. Her greater variety and ability to finish the points by coming into the net is the difference at the moment.
Azarenka wins the first set 6-3
Azarenka moves 40-15 up with the minimum of fuss, and strides purposefully back to the baseline with the knowledge she has two set points. Just the one will do as Sharapova nets. The set is Azarenka's after 47 minutes. She's halfway to her first grand slam title and the world No1 ranking. Will her nerve hold?
And an email! From Seamus Whitehead: "Hello, I'm alive and kicking - keeping an eye on the rival OBO but following the tennis really - one thing though, how many of the ladies have quite scary looking coaches?! Is it a pre-requisite?" Considering some of the intimidating characters we've had in women's tennis in the past, such as Mr Pierce, Mr Capriati and Mr Dokic, I'd say probably yes. Though no glare can surely be as scary as Sharapova's herself.
Second set: Sharapova 3-6, 0-1 Azarenka*
Sharapova is going for broke now. She knows Azarenka is the better mover, volleyer and has the more variety, and she's trying to batter the poor life out of the tennis balls to counter it. It doesn't some off, and Azarenka breaks with a delightful cross-court winner with Sharapova stranded at the net.
"Azarenka, down 0-2, wins 6/7 games to take the set," says Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim on Twitter. "A key to match was how well she'd handle occasion. So far, so good. and i might be in the minority but soundtrack not really detracting from enjoyment." Very true.
Second set: *Sharapova 3-6, 0-2 Azarenka
One thing Sharapova does have though is fight, probably like no other in the game, bar Serena Williams. She's a difficult player to love at times, but she's easy to respect. The Russian carves out a break point at 30-40, but nets. Azarenka takes the next two points to hold. Could be a big moment that. That's eight of the last nine games now.
Second set: Sharapova 3-6, 0-3 Azarenka*
That notorious Sharapova mettle is not enough. She slips to 15-40 down in the blink of an eye and it's two break points. She goes wide and it's a double break to Azarenka. What a cushion to have when you're attempting to win your first grand slam title. Make that nine of the last 10.
Second set: *Sharapova 3-6, 0-4 Azarenka
That scary coach Seamus mentioned earlier is urging Sharapova to step in a foot or two to counter the Azarenka onslaught, but it's to no avail. She's struggling to control and ball and looks all at sea. She does hit a return winner at 40-15 down, but on the next point Azarenka moves Sharapova left and right and left and right and left and right and Sharapova nets. A vital service game coming up for Sharapova.
Second set: Sharapova 3-6, 0-5 Azarenka*
The luck isn't with Sharapova either. At 0-15, she nails a winner, but it's called out. It's overruled on Hawk-Eye, but they'll replay the point. Sharapova keeps her focus to take it. 15-all. More controversy on the next point as this time Azarenka is on the wrong end of a bad call. Another replayed point. Justice is again done. 15-30. Sharapova tries to dictate the next point but Azarenka's consistency from the back of the court is brutal and Sharapova nets. 15-40, two break points. Sharapova saves one but not the other and Azarenka will serve for the title. What a shellacking for Sharapova. "Beatdown city," parps Patrick McEnroe on Twitter.
Azarenka wins the Australian Open title 6-3, 6-0
Azarenka's arm probably feels like it weighs about 100kg right now but you wouldn't know it as she takes the first piont. There's still some fight in Sharapova as she darts a forehand winner down the line but surely it's too little, too late. The fire alarm then goes off at Guardian Towers which I have to say is more distracting than the sounds these two have emitted during the course of this match. Sharapova buries another winner, before Azarenka does the same with interest, 30-30. A lucky net cord for Sharapova and it's 30-40, break point. She doesn't take it and from deuce it becomes advantage Azarenka, championship point. Sharapova nets after a lengthy exchange. Azarenka sinks to her knees. Gone is her usual my-finger-is-a-gun post-match celebration, instead she puts head in her hands in disbelief. Exceptional tennis from the Belarussian in her first slam final. And not only has she now stepped up to the major winners' circle, she's also the new world No1. Not bad for day's work (or 82 minutes, to be exact). Sharapova, meanwhile, slumps into her chair and understandably looks rather stunned.
Presentation time. Martina Hingis, the Australian Open champion between 1997 and 1999, is here to present the trophy. But first there's the pre-requisite speeches from tournament suits.
Sharapova then trudges up to collect her runners-up prize. Somehow she always seems more gracious when she loses than when she wins, and this time is no different as she says to Azarenka: "It was an honour to play against you. You have deserved this trophy, cherish it for as long as you can. As in any sport you have your good days, tough days and days when things just don't work out. Today Victoria was just better."
Then it's Azarenka's turn. After getting her hands on the trophy she seems lost for words. She thanks Sharapova for her speech, then it's her team, her family, the sponsors, the volunteers, the drivers (who apparently she's been feeding doughnuts to all fortnight), the physios, the ball kids and just about every man and his dog.
It's time for me to take my leave, but here's Simon Cambers's match report and also a stat to finish with: it's the first time in tennis history all four grand slams are held by four different women who are all first-time winners.
Could Azarenka now be about to bring some consistency to the game? She's got a good chance, if todays' performance is anything to go by. Her and Kvitova certainly look like the most likely contenders.
But for now, if it's consistency you crave, please join me tomorrow for the latest instalment of Nadal v Djokovic. It should be a cracker. Thanks for reading. Bye.
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Poll violence: Terrorists gun down 5 in Manipur

GUWAHATI: Suspected NSCN (IM) terrorists gunned down five persons at a polling station in Chandel district of Manipur, hours after polling of the 60-member state assembly started on Saturday.

Police said the dead included a CRPF soldier, three home guards on duty and a woman voter at Tampi in Chandel assembly constituency at about 1 pm. Polling started at 7 am.

The terrorists are believed to have attempted a booth capture, which failed when security forces deployed at the polling stations retaliated. One of the attackers has been injured in the retaliatory firing by security personnel and has been nabbed.

Of the 2,357 polling stations in the state, only 160 are classified as normal by the Election Commission, with 1,325 termed sensitive and 872 hyper-sensitive. The elections are being held under the security cover by 350 companies of paramilitary forces apart from the state's own security resources. The army also has its deployment on counter-insurgency operations while the Assam Rifles and BSF guard the border with Myanmar, where NE militants are mostly based.

Chandel district situated in the southern tip of Manipur borders Myanmar in the east and south. The district is also one the Naga-dominated hill districts of the state. The NSCN (IM) has strong presence in the four Naga-dominated districts of Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong and Chandel. Its general secretary Th Muivah is from Ukhrul district in Manipur.

The ministry of home affairs has earlier expressed its worry about involvement of NSCN (IM) in Manipur elections, particularly in the 11 Naga-dominated constituencies in the hill districts of the state and has ordered security forces to use maximum force against all outfits involved in poll related violence in the state.

On Friday in two separate attacks by militants, two CRPF jawans and a woman were killed two others injured in Ukhrul district.

Ahead of assembly polls scheduled on January 28, an IED blast outside the residence of Manipur speaker, Hemochandra Singh, the Congress candidate for Sangjemei constituency on Sunday. The seven Meitei outfits, which have jointly banned the Congress from any electioneering owned responsibility for the blast. Earlier an IED was recovered form in front of the Congress headquarters in Imphal. Security forces have also killed at least four militants so far.

A key MHA official said, "We have been receiving several complaints about NSCN (IM)'s interference. We have evidence of the outfit's direct involvement in the election in Manipur in terms of putting up proxy candidates."

The 11 Naga-dominated constituencies in the four hill districts are crucial for any party to claim power in the 60-member assembly. These 11 constituencies have always sent only members from the Naga community to the assembly. In the plural state, the Nagas are the second community after the dominant Meitei community and they mostly
live in the hill districts along the third largest group, Kukis, while the Meiteis are concentrated in the valley.

Nagaland's ruling party, Naga Peoples' Front (NPF) is making its debut in Manipur elections and has fielded 11 Naga candidates and a Kuki candidate, which has fuelled fresh debate over Nagas' demand for territorial integrity. While launching the election campaign NPF chief and Nagaland chief minister Neiphir Rio told an election rally in Manipur's Tadubi the NPF's entry into Manipur politics is aimed at "integrating the Nagas politically."
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Hrithik mobbed by fans

Hrithik mobbed by fansHrithik mobbed by fansHrithik mobbed by fans
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Bankrupt companies that made it big

Bankrupt companies that made it big
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Agneepath is revenge served steaming hot

Heaven be praised, a real action hero is finally here. He's not the sort who deflates footballs with his crotch. He isn't wearing a shiny suit, that looks like it belonged to a crew member from Apollo 13. He's not perfect but anyone who can look that darn good, even when covered from head to toe with gulal, gets two thumbs up from us. Ladies and gentlemen, the Khans of 2011 are well a thing of the past. Raise your glasses to Bollywood's true grit for 2012, Hrithik Roshan.
Agneepath stars Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor and Om Puri. It releases on January 26
Agneepath stars Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor and Om Puri. It releases on January 26
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What's it about?
When headmaster Dinanath Chauhan, who is a man of principles, opposes the twisted Kancha's (Sanjay Dutt) plans to turn the hamlet of Mandwa into a cocaine hub, Kancha brutally hangs Dinanath in front of his son Vijay (Hrithik). The boy and his pregnant mother flee to Mumbai, but Vijay swears that he will return to Mandwa one day to avenge his father's death. He turns to a life of crime under the wing of a local slum lord Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), but it is the honest Inspector Gaitonde (Om Puri) who he regards as a father figure. Vijay finally has to confront the demons of his past, that bring him and Kancha head-to-head.

Hrithik proves his acting mettle in a role that seems tailor made for the beefy actor. The director has done well to not give him a song that showcases his dancing prowess, and also thankfully cut out a sappy number that would have taken away from a character so hungry for bloody justice. Sanjay Dutt is also a treat to watch as the unhinged Kancha, who is as raw around the edges, as polished as Danny was in the original.

On the flipside, Priyanka's cutesy performance is less than endearing. As Viju's love interest Kali, she shone only in the last 15 minutes of her performance. The gore also seemed a tad over the top in parts and Katrina's 'Chikni Chameli' has to figure as one of the laziest-made item numbers in the recent past.
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Arab Spring in the offing in Punjab: Manpreet Badal

Manpreet Badal, who till last year was with the ruling Akali Dal as its finance minister in the coalition government, feels an Arab Spring is in the offing in Punjab to unseat the government headed by his uncle Parkash Singh Badal.
Manpreet Badal
Manpreet Badal
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Citing the anti-government protests across the Arab world, Manpreet feels people in Punjab are also in mood for a change.

President of newly-formed Punjab People's Party, which is emerging as a third force in the state, Manpreet claims the results of Punjab elections would be quite different than expected.

"If in the Arab world, in Africa or in Islamic countries, the girls and women could bring about a revolution, it is a different ball game in Punjab. People are in a mood to script a new story this time. You see, the results are going to be a lot different than what you think. People were sick of this system and their patience is running out," he told PTI.

Manpreet claimed his PPP-led 'Sanjha Morcha', which comprises CPI and CPI-M [ Images ] also, said his combine would extend his support to "whichever party agrees to implement our agenda or our manifesto in toto".

He said this when asked what he would do if his party held the key to government-formation.

"Otherwise, we will ask the governor to order fresh elections," he added.

Manpreet, the estranged nephew of the chief minister, who resigned as finance minister when he did not agree with the state's fiscal policies, feels Punjab's problems cannot be solved with coalition governments and urged the people to vote decisively.

"Punjab's problems cannot be solved by a minority or a coalition government. The people of Punjab must give a very decisive verdict. We cannot afford a fractured verdict, even if it is against PPP.

"They (voters) must give a very decisive verdict and a decisive government can only take such decisions. Some very tough political decisions are to be taken and they can only be taken by someone who is very sure and confident. This system of coalition government is like throwing Punjab behind by another five years. Punjab does not have that luxury of time," he said.

On his party tying up with Team Anna, he said, "We have higher mountains to climb than just the Lokpal. Our agenda is much wider. We have drugs, unemployment, we have poverty, we have all sorts of things to tackle."

On Lokpal, Manpreet said, "We are going to be the first state where the Lokpal will not be a Punjabi. Not only will there be a Lokpal but he will be a non-Punjabi to avoid favouritism and nepotism. Ours will also be a first government where the vigilance department will not be under the CM or government. We are also planning to have a district Lokayukta so that people can complain."

On his party's poll plank, he said, "I think we are the only party probably in India [ Images ] which has come up with a 100-day agenda. The first thing we are going to do is to effect a 5 per cent cut in non-plan expenditure of every department. We have a non-plan expenditure of Rs 40,000 crores, we are going to take out 5 per cent of that and divert that into primary, secondary, technical, medical education.

Manpreet said his party wanted to reform the police set-up by depoliticising and delinking the men in uniform from politics. "That's a big impediment in the growth story of Punjab. Rule of law must prevail. The entire system of postings, transfers, promotions has to be out of the purview of politicians", he said.

On his contesting from two seats, he said, it is part of election strategy as he did not wish to be confined to Gidderbaha alone, the seat that he has been representing for the last four times.

Admitting that the Dera Sacha Sauda votes are quite crucial in Punjab assembly polls, he said, "I would respect them much more if they say they that the Dera is non-political."

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Two eminent doctors arrested for AMRI fire

Two eminent doctors attached with the AMRI Hospital in different capacities were arrested today
in connection with the country's worst-ever hospital fire that claimed 93 lives on December 9 last.

Dr Mani Chhetri and Dr Pranab Dasgupta are taken into custody in connection with AMRI fire
Dr Mani Chhetri and Dr Pranab Dasgupta are taken into custody in connection with AMRI fire
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Both the doctors - Mani Chhetri and Pranab Dasgupta - who were earlier questioned by police, were arrested from their residences here this morning, Joint Commissioner of Police Damayanti Sen said.

Chhetri and Dasgupta were also board members of the hospital. With them, 13 persons have so far been arrested in connection with the hospital fire in which 90 patients and
three nurses died.

Three board members are absconding.
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Not competing with Dabangg: Arbaaz

Actor-producer Arbaaz Khan, who is donning the hat of a director for the sequel of Salman Khan starring blockbuster 'Dabangg', says he is not looking to compete with the original movie.
Arbaaz Khan says that he is not trying to compete with the 2010 blockbuster
Arbaaz Khan says that he is not trying to compete with the 2010 blockbuster
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"When I did the first one ('Dabangg') my intention was to tell or make a story that I believed in and I was excited about. This is exactly what I am going to take forward..to get excited about the story that I am going to tell and not worry what happened in the past," he says.

"If that kind of sincerity, honesty and dedication is there to this film, then everything else will be taken care of by itself. So I am not competing with the first 'Dabangg', I am trying to create another 'Dabangg'," he adds.

The 2010 action film, directed by debutant Abhinav Kashyap and produced by Arbaaz, became the highest grossing film of the year. The Salman-Sonakshi Sinha starrer went on bag several awards at different award ceremonies, including the National award.

Arbaaz will not only produce the sequel and but also take over as director from first-timer Abhinav Kashyap, who has opted out of the second installment, that will see story being shifted to a larger city.

Though the original lead cast of Salman and Sonakshi Sinha has been retained, actor Sonu Sood, who played the baddie in the first part, has been replaced by Prakash Raj to play the villain.

"I have not finalised the location yet. There are a couple of locations that I am looking forward to. I had recce Bhopal, I might even look at Lucknow and Kanpur for some work there. I will finalise the location in sometime," says Arbaaz.

The sequel will go on floors in March and will be released Christmas this year.
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