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Another Indian student attacked in Oz

Melbourne, June 12 (ANI): In yet another attack on Indians in Australia, a 22-year-old student was allegedly assaulted by a teenager in Adelaide's busy Rundle Mall.

According to the police, the attack took place on Thursday. The student suffered a broken nose.

A 17-year-old youth has been arrested in connection with the case.

Meanwhile, Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney organised another rally against what they claimed were racially motivated attacks by groups of Middle Eastern men.

There have been a string of attacks in Melbourne during the past few days, which Australian authorities insist have been crime-related.

Indian students believe that the attacks were acts of racism and warned of "curry bashings" in Australia, where foreign students more than 12 billion dollars contribute. (ANI)

India is an 'absolutely critical country' for U.S.





Washington: U.S. President Barack Obama has despatched a personal letter to New Delhi making it clear that India is "an absolutely critical country" with which Washington is keen to work, a top official has said.


U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, who is in New Delhi to make the first high level contact with the Manmohan Singh government since its return to power, would be delivering the "presidential letter", the envoy, Richard Holbrooke, told reporters Wednesday without providing details on the contents.



"It's a private letter," said Holbrooke. "But the important thing is that the number three person in the Department of State has gone to India to reaffirm immediately after the election,"said the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Burns is now beginning the dialogue with the newly elected government in an atmosphere of great positive feelings," he said. "And without getting into Indian politics, all I can say is that all of us - Secretary (of State) Hillary Clinton, Bill Burns, myself, President Obama - everyone looks forward to working with the newly elected Indian Government."

"He is carrying the messages that I would have carried if I had had time to go to New Delhi on this trip, but I couldn't do it," said the envoy, who visited Pakistan last week to assess relief efforts to help the estimated two million people who have fled a Pakistani offensive against the Taliban.

"All I can tell you is that this Administration believes that what happens in Afghanistan and Pakistan is of vital interest to our national security. And ...that India is a country that we must keep in the closest consultations with."

"And we consider India an absolutely critical country in the region," Holbrooke said. "They're not part of the problem, but they are vitally affected, and we want to work closely with them," he added explaining what some observers have described as a hole in Obama administration's foreign policy focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The Indians were very frank with us. They wanted to keep in touch with us during the election period, but they had to wait through the election, just like we do. It's the world's two greatest democracies."

Holbrooke, who visited New Delhi on his first two trips to the region, said next week he would be meeting the new Indian ambassador to the U.S., Meera Shankar, whom he already met twice.

As TV moves on, millions may face blank screens in US




San Francisco, June 11 (DPA) In a land where television has long been a basic necessity of life, millions of people may find themselves without access to television Friday when the US switches from analog to digital broadcasting.

The change is part of a long-delayed update in the allocation of the wireless spectrum, which is used to broadcast everything from TV signals to mobile phone services and emergency radio traffic.

It is designed to free up valuable frequencies previously used by television stations to broadcast their signals and which will now become part of the information superhighway on which users of iPhones, Blackberries and other smartphones and mobile laptops will increasingly get the information they need to stay connected 24/7.

Those broadcast spectrums have already been sold by the US government to mobile phone companies for billions of dollars. But at least for now the scheme is far from a win-win situation on the road to communications nirvana.

Critics complain that it is the poor and disadvantaged who once again are paying the price for progress as the analog signals of local and network stations are terminated - forcing people to either subscribe to costly cable or satellite service or to buy and install digital converters for their TV sets.

Industry trade group DTV Across America estimates that between 20 and 30 million household faced the need to transition to the new system.

Aware of these issues, the US government has spent more than $2 billion on a voucher programme, in which every household can get two vouchers worth $40 each to buy two converter boxes.

However, despite a massive advertising campaign and a three-month postponement of the switch date, millions of households are estimated not to have availed themselves of the new service and are set to lose their signal entirely when analog broadcasting becomes a relic of history June 12.

The latest survey by the Nielsen Company indicates that as of the end of May, more than 10 percent of the 114 million households that have television sets are either completely or partly unprepared.

Many of those are likely to turn to a 4,000-people strong call centre set up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help people make the switch.

In an interview with the New York Times, acting FCC chairman Michael J. Copps conceded that the impact was likely to be hardest on poor families, the handicapped, the elderly and in homes where little English is spoken.

'We are much better prepared than we were in February, when the original transition was to have occurred, but there will nonetheless be significant disruptions,' Copps said. 'In the past five months we've tried to accomplish what should have been done over the last four years.'

There are advantages and disadvantages to watching TV through these converter boxes. Firstly, the boxes can be a hassle to install - especially for those not fond or adept at moving their televisions and dealing with the mass of cables in the back. Numerous companies do offer installation services for the new converter boxes but these services bump the cost of conversion far above the $40 value of the coupons.

In some areas the digital signal can be better than analog - though in others it can be worse or even nonexistent. Many digital boxes do offer a useful viewing guide - though some elderly people complain that learning how to navigate the system with a new remote control is fiendishly complicated.

'It has all been a nightmare, and it's very, very upsetting,' said Frances Lim, a 72-year-old woman in San Jose California. 'We don't have money for cable or satellite and were very happy with the few stations we have been getting for years. Now we have to change. I didn't know how to do it. Luckily my grandson helped me. But I'm still learning the new remote control.'

US President Barack Obama is helping the effort to prepare for the switch.

'The number of households unprepared for digital television has been cut in half. Still, some people are not ready,' said Obama in a statement last week. 'I encourage all Americans who are prepared to talk to their friends, family, and neighbours to make sure they get ready before it's too late. I urge everyone who is not yet prepared to act today.' Obama said.

Indian internet startups fail to meet VCs expectations

Bangalore: Internet Services companies in India are one of the largest venture capital [VC] funded companies in India. However, these firms have not delivered as per the expectations of the VCs. "With broadband penetration and PC affordability still an issue, internet companies have not met the expectations we had set two years back," said Sachin Maheshwari, Principal at Draper Fisher Jurvetson [DFJ] India. DFJ has funded many Internet startups like naseeb.com and seventymm.com. VCs had earlier expected the number of internet users in country to grow to 80 million by 2012. But so far it has just reached 40 million and therefore the traffic is too low to generate good revenue.



Many internet companies rely on online advertisement for revenue. They might find it difficult to survive due to low internet users. The internet advertisement revenue in country is $200 million, but majority of it is generated by Google. Few VCs feel that internet companies have not found the correct business model. "The business models that work abroad do not necessarily work in India," says Ritesh Banglani, Senior Investment Advisor, IDG Ventures India.

According to Alok Mittal, General Partner, Canaan Partners, the most successful internet companies in India are subscription based or lead generating like Naukri.com. But despite not meeting expected results, internet companies are still amongst the most favored by VCs. "We expect these companies to do better as when the internet penetration picks up and monetization models are clearer," said DFJ's Maheshwari.

According to Venture Intelligence, 21 percent of the VC deals struck between July 2008 and June 2009 were in internet services. The value of these deals was around $120 million.

American tech-firms fight Obama's H1-B visa stance





Bangalore: U.S. President Barack Obama's 'Say no to Bangalore, yes to Buffalo' rhetoric, which has gained strong ground after the introduction of the Durbin-Grassley's anti H-1B visa bill, has failed to accrue support of the American companies. Many of the U.S. firms have jointly, launched a campaign against the newly proposed law as it would lead to a job loss of as many as 2.2 million Americans.

The Technology CEO Council, a Washington-based advocacy group of U.S. American tech-companies, in its protest has released a report that reveals the affects of the new policy of Obama administration to end 'tax breaks'. The new law that ends tax incentives to those firms which create jobs overseas, would also lead to a decline in investments in the U.S. plants, equipment and property by as much as $84.2 billion. Repealing or sharply limiting deferral would not generate large tax revenues, since substantial job losses, wage cuts and lower investments would reduce tax revenues, the report said. The report commissioned by the council has been authored by Robert J Shapiro, a former Clinton administration economic official, and Aparna Mathur, a Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

As per the new law, the tax incentives would now go to those creating jobs inside the United States, in places like Buffalo city, bordering Canada in upstate New York. "We will stop letting American companies that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits," Obama said.

Samsung launches solar-powered phone





Noida, June 10 (IANS) Leading white goods and mobile handset manufacturer Samsung Wednesday launched a low-cost solar-powered mobile phone, and said it was planning to introduce about 20 more models by year-end.

The new handset, launched under its low-cost line of products - 'Guru' - at a price of Rs.2,799, has a solar panel on the back, which can be used to charge the battery anywhere the sun is shining.

'We have developed this phone keeping in minds the needs of the consumers, especially for people in areas where the electric supply is unstable,' said J.S. Shin, president and chief executive of Samsung, Southwest Asia.

The phone, christened the 'Guru E1107', can provide around 5-10 minutes of talk-time with one-hour of solar charging when the handset is turned off and sunlight has adequate intensity.

'Solar charging can give you enough time to make few important calls when there is no electricity or you are not close to a plug point,' said Sunil Dutt, country head of Samsung India.

The battery will attain full power with about 40 hours of solar charging.

'But that is really not the intention behind the launch of this phone. It is to enable customers to make a call when there is no electricity,' said Dutt.

The handset, the 11th model in the Guru series, will be in shops by month-end.

The first few batches of Guru E1107 will be imported from South Korea.

Saumsung has already launched about 20 models this year and plans to take this number to about 40 across categories.

Asked whether the company would consider introducing solar charging features in high-end phones, Dutt said: 'We would definitely consider doing so.'

Samsung, which has invested about $44 million in developing its mobile manufacturing facility in Noida, also has ambitious plans for the huge Indian mobile market.

'Our market share is in the early double digits currently. We plan to increase it by about 5-6 percent this year,' said a company official.

The company is also planning to introduce in India its solar-powered touchscreen mobile handset, Blue Earth - unveiled at a technology conference in Barcelona, Spain early this year.

Prabhakaran was tortured before being killed, says report




New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was tortured by the Sri Lankan military before being killed, a leading human rights body said in a report released Wednesday.

The University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) quoted high-level military sources as saying that Prabhakaran was tortured in the presence of 'a Tamil government politician and a general'.

The torture, it said, took place probably at the headquarters of the army's 53 Division, which battled the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) before crushing it last month.

'Several army sources have said that Prabhakaran's (younger) 12-year-old son Balachandran was killed after capture. Our (sources) said that he was killed in front of his father,' said UTHR, which has always been critical of excesses both by the military and the LTTE.

'These sources added that this information is correct unless officers at the highest level are fibbing to one another.

'Our sources in addition to several others have said that all the LTTE persons remaining in the NFZ (No Fire Zone) were massacred,' it added in a 48-page report, an advance copy of which was made available to IANS.

Sri Lanka announced May 18 that Prabhakaran, founder leader of the LTTE, was killed in a lonely coastal stretch in the northeastern district of Mullaitivu where the Tigers had massed their forces before going down.

His body was put on display, placed on a stretcher, the back of the head blown off.

Sri Lankan minister Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, a former confidant of Prabhakaran, had told IANS that the LTTE chief was shot dead with 18 of his guards.

Prabhakaran's death marked the end of the LTTE's dragging conflict that claimed 90,000 lives since 1983.

UTHR said: 'Information seeping into the public domain from within the army points to capture or surrender, but the official responses dismissing this are a rehash of stories that public no longer finds credible. It is left to an impartial enquiry to answer this and related questions.'

UTHR pointed out that the government was evasive about the fate of Prabhakaran's wife Mathivathani.

It quotes a brigadier as saying: 'We had to look for Prabhakaran's body because the world was interested in seeing it. But the body of his wife is not of any importance to us.'

The UTHR report said: 'That would be the fate of the unknown hundreds of civilians and militants killed in those last days (of fighting).'

According to the report, among the LTTE leaders who surrendered to the army included Baby Subramaniam, a member of the group since 1976 and one of Prabhakaran's oldest associates.

Others reportedly now in government custody included former eastern province political leader Karikalan, former spokesman Yogaratnam Yogi, former head of the LTTE international secretariat Lawrence Thilakar, political advisor V. Balakumar, Jaffna leader Ilamparithi and Trincomalee political leader Elilan.

Attack on Indian students: Time to issue advisory on Australia






NEW DELHI: As the spate of attacks against Indian students continued in Australia, India increased pressure on Australia to ensure the safety of
Indians protest
Indian students studying in different parts of the country and warned that the attacks could have an adverse effect on that country’s education sector.

At the same time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raising the issue in a telephonic conversation with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd who had called to offer his congratulations on a second term. Mr Rudd assured the Prime Minister that action was being taken.

“Prime Minister Rudd said that the overwhelming majority of Indian students were safe and that he took the issue of the security of all foreign students in Australia very seriously. He said that he was appalled by the attacks and that the concerned authorities would work to bring the perpetrators to justice,’’ a PMO release said.

In a similar vein Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith called up external affairs minister SM Krishna and assured him that steps were being taken to not only protect students but also to arrest the culprits behind the attacks. As news of yet another attack came in, New Delhi conveyed its concern to Canberra at the highest levels both in Australia and India. The ministry of external affairs on Friday called in Australian ambassador to India John McCarthy to convey India’s “deep anguish and continuing concern’’ about the attacks and to push the Kevin Rudd government to take steps for the security of students.

“It was conveyed to the Australian High Commissioner that, continuing sense of unease and insecurity, for Indian students in Australia, can have an adverse effect, in a sector that holds much promise,’’ said a statement by MEA official spokesperson Vishnu Prakash. Mr McCarthy apprised MEA secretary N. Ravi of the steps taken by the authorites for the security of students.

Indian students in Australia to hold peace rally on Sunday





MELBOURNE: Deeply concerned over the spate of attacks on its members, the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) has called for a
peace rally Sunday "in response to the growing anger in the community".

The spurt in crimes against Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne has left one battling for life while another is recuperating from a deep stab injury.

The call for the rally came Saturday, a day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd and urged him to take all steps to ensure the security of Indians in Australia.

FISA, an organisation which "integrates, empowers and represents" Indian students in Australia, said the rally would begin Sunday morning from Royal Melbourne Hospital, where one of the injured students is battling for life, and conclude at Victorian Parliament House.

The rally will end with a candle light vigil in support of the victims of the crimes.

"The purpose is to create an awareness about an increasing number of hate crimes within the state and to promote racial harmony and peace," FISA said in a statement.

It appealed to Australians to support people from different ethnic backgrounds. "We encourage all Victorians to show support for residents of all ethnic backgrounds," it said.

There are over 80,000 Indian students in Australia.

The friends and acquaintances of the 25-year-old Sravan Kumar Theerthala, who was attacked with a screwdriver over the weekend and is admitted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, have expressed their concern over the attacks.

"We are not feeling safe basically in Australia, we are not feeling safe at all," one of them told the Herald Sun.

Another Indian said: "They told us that it is a multicultural country, you know, but after living here for three years, I will just say it is a multi-racism country you know."

Another Indian student Rajesh Kumar sustained burn injuries after a petrol bomb was thrown into his apartment in Sydney. This incident took the number of such assaults in Australia to four in the past three weeks.

Representatives of FISA and National Union of Students (NUS) had met the Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh two days ago to discuss the issue.

Obama to create 'Cyber Czar' to protect computer networks in US





Reports indicate that US President Barrack Obama is planning to create a "cyber czar," a senior White House official who will have broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation's government-run and private computer networks.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the adviser will have the most comprehensive mandate granted to such an official to date and will probably be a member of the National Security Council.

But, he will report to the national security adviser as well as the senior White House economic adviser, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are not final.

The announcement will coincide with the long-anticipated release of a 40-page report that evaluates the US government's cybersecurity initiatives and policies.

The report is intended to outline a "strategic vision" and the range of issues the new adviser must handle, but it will not delve into details, administration officials told reporters last month.

Cybersecurity "is vitally important, and the government needs to be coordinated on this," said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"The report gives conclusions and next steps. It's trying to steer us in the right direction," he said.

Sources say Obama was briefed a week ago and signed off on the creation of the position. But, discussions are continuing as to what rank and title the adviser would have.

The idea is to name someone who can "pick up the phone and contact the president directly, if need be," an administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Obama pledged during his presidential campaign to elevate the issue of cybersecurity to a "top priority" and to appoint a national cybersecurity adviser "who will report directly to me."

Sources said that having the adviser report to both the national security and economic advisers suggests that the White House is seeking to ensure a balance between homeland security and economic concerns. (ANI)

US economy showing signs of recovery



The longest U.S. recession of the postwar era is showing further evidence of losing steam.

Encouraging signs appeared on various fronts yesterday, with the number of first-time jobless claims falling sharply and bargain-hungry shoppers boosting April sales for discount retailers. Earlier this week, a report showed the pace of decline in the service sector slowing.

Along with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's relatively optimistic assessment Tuesday, those developments suggest that the economy may finally be stabilizing.

"The bottom is forming," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "It doesn't say we're out of the woods . . . but I think things are turning."

Analysts stressed that while the panicky period that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers last fall is over, a recovery is still months away and is likely to be grinding and slow. Unemployment, which trails other indicators, is likely to keep rising after the recession officially ends. Analysts expect the jobless rate to rise from 8.5 percent to 8.9 percent or so when the government releases its April employment report today.

Yesterday, the Labor Department reported that first-time jobless claims dropped to 601,000 last week. But even if they continue to fall, they will likely remain above 500,000 for some time, said Arpitha Bykere, lead analyst for RGE Monitor.

"These are very sharp job losses," she said. "This clearly affects the U.S. consumer, who is already under pressure because of tight credit and falling home prices."

Indeed, other data released yesterday by the Federal Reserve showed many consumers in the grip of a credit crunch. Consumer credit in March fell by more than 5 percent, the biggest drop in nearly 20 years. Analysts attributed much of the decline to tougher lending standards as well as reduced spending.

Trouble accessing credit, mounting job losses and the need to rebuild savings mean consumers need to stretch every dollar they have. And they appear to be doing that by shunning luxury for bargains. Value-conscious shoppers flocked to discount stores such as Wal-Mart and T.J. Maxx last month. Wal-Mart said sales at its stores open at least a year - a key measure of success in retailing known as same-store sales - rose 5 percent during April compared to the same month last year.

Some industry experts cautioned that any improvements in retailers' performance was largely driven by better management of prices and inventory rather than an increase in consumer demand. Luxury department stores continued to suffer double-digit declines, with Nordstrom down 11 percent, Neiman Marcus dropping 23 percent and Saks falling 32 percent.

"All we're really seeing is a continued flight to value," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consulting firm.

Despite such warnings, many economists are voicing hope. When he appeared on Capitol Hill earlier this week, Bernanke endorsed the view that the nation's "pace of contraction may be slowing." He also said that consumer demand "may be stabilizing" and that the housing market has "shown some signs of bottoming."

In a telling sign, many lawmakers quizzed Bernanke not about how much the economy would contract, but about how the Fed would wind down lending programs and tame inflation once economic growth resumed.

"Clearly, the massive economic stimulus from the administration and the Federal Reserve have had a very positive real, as well as psychological, effect on the economy," said California State University economist Sung Won Sohn. "The economy seems to be coming out of this recession faster than I expected."

Realtors cut price of flats to lift business




May 9: Taking a cue from Tata group’s “Subha Gruha”, realtors have slashed prices of apartments considerably to suit the wallets of the middle class.

A two bedroom flat with all basic amenities at Rs 10 lakh was a dream last year. However, with changing times, it is turning into a reality now.

“We can build a small flat at less than Rs 2.92 lakh,” said Mr C. Sekhar Reddy, president State Builders’ Forum.

“It is possible in all the adjoining municipalities which were recently merged with the Greater Hyderabad.”

According to him, in 225 square feet, a decent one room and kitchen flat can be built at a cost of Rs 1,300 per square feet and sold for Rs 2.25 lakh.

Several builders have started focusing on budget apartments. The basic model has a room, a kitchen and a bathroom.

And to get back customers, real estate giants like Ashoka Builders, Aliens and PBL Constructions are coming out with additional facilities.

Apartments under construction in and around Hyderabad, Guntur, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam are now being offered 20 to 30 per cent discount, and most of the builders are offering children’s play area, cable connection, water filter unit etc for free.

Consider the case of Ashoka Builders: it only used to take up projects to cater the high-end consumers with prices ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 per sq.ft.

Now it has launched a project to build 100 flats at Madhapur at Rs 2,500 per sq.ft price.

“The middle class segment has turned out to be a gold mine. So we have changed our plans to suit their needs and purses,” said Mr K. Laxma Reddy, chairman of Ashoka Developers and Builders Ltd.

Mr Sekhar Reddy says prices can be reduced further if the government provides loans to this sector at 3 per cent interest and changes are made in the floor space index.

Vishal’s love for Shriya





Vishal declared that he is not in love with Shriya, as reported by the media. There were reports that Vishal shared a special friendship with Shriya in the sets of Thoranai. However, the actor said that Shriya will remain his best buddy for ever and the fans should not read more than that in their relationship.

The actor also refuted director Tarun Gopi’s allegation that he was not paid for directing the film Thimiru. The actor clarified that he is neither the producer nor the financier of the film and hence the allegation against him is baseless. Vishal added that Tarun should have brought this up when the film was released and he could not comprehend why the director brought up the issue after all these years.

YSR is a copy cat, says Naidu






Why did Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu announce his Cash Transfer Scheme only a few days before polling?

Naidu said he had to keep the scheme under wraps till last moment, because he feared Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy would copy it and announce it well in advance, had it been leaked earlier. “YSR copied the Rs 2 a kg rice scheme in the same manner,” he alleged.

According to the TDP sources, Naidu had planned Rs 2 a kg rice scheme well in advance and was about to be discussed at the TDP politburo meeting. But a few hours before, it was leaked to YSR, allegedly by Naidu’s erstwhile personal secretary Vijayakumar (who later shifted loyalties to YSR and is now in SV Bhakti channel). Without wasting time, YSR announced the scheme without even discussing it with the officials of the finance and civil supplies department.

Though Naidu’s driver Ravi complained to Naidu that the information was leaked by Vijayakumar, he did not believe it; instead, he sacked Ravi. A few days later, Ravi was found dead in his room, while Vijayakumar shifted loyalties to YSR.

`It's ok for men to beat wives`




Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: A Saudi judge told in a conference on domestic violence that a man has the right to slap his wife if she spends lavishly on such things as clothing, a Saudi newspaper reported, drawing criticism from rights activists in the conservative kingdom.

The remarks by the judge do not carry the weight of law, as they were made out of court. But such public pronouncements by Saudi judges who are also Islamic clerics are often widely respected.

Those campaigning for women's rights in Saudi Arabia said the comments were another setback in efforts to gain the right to vote, drive and freely participate in politics.

"If a person gives 1,200 Saudi riyals ($320) to his wife and she spends 900 riyals ($240) to purchase an abaya (head-to-toe robe) from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment," Judge Hamad Al-Razine was quoted as saying by the English-language Arab News newspaper on Sunday.

Former Kerala minister cleared of sexual harassment charges





Chennai/Kottayam (Kerala), May 11 (IANS) A Tamil Nadu court Monday acquitted former Kerala public works minister P.J. Joseph of charges that he had misbehaved with a woman passenger on a flight. Mons Joseph, who now holds the portfolio in the state government, said he would resign to enable his predecessor to return to the post.

The Sriperumbudur magistrate's court near Chennai acquitted P.J. Joseph in the sexual harassment case filed against him by television anchor Lakshmi Gopakumar in 2006.

While P.J. Joseph hailed God for the favourable verdict, Gopakumar's counsel said they would appeal against the decision.

Gopakumar had complained to the Chennai airport police, accusing P.J. Joseph of misbehaving with her on board a Kingfisher Airlines flight from Chennai to Kochi Aug 3, 2006.

Besides the Chennai airport police probe, the Kerala government had asked Inspector General of Police B. Sandhya to investigate the charges.

In her report late August 2006, Sandhya said the victim stood by her allegations and 'it was possible that such an act might have occurred on board'. The report ruled out any conspiracy theory as suggested by P.J. Joseph.

P.J. Joseph, the chairman of the Kerala Congress-Joseph, was replaced by T.U. Kuruvilla as public works minister in September 2006 after the former quit the cabinet over the misbehaviour allegations.

Mons Joseph took over from Kuruvilla, who also resigned in the wake of a land scam involving his children.

P.J. Jospeph's supporters took out a rally shouting slogans in favour of their leader in his hometown in Thodupuzha as soon as the news of the acquittal came.

Current Public Works Minister Mons Joseph addressed reporters in Kottayam in Kerala minutes after his party chairman P.J. Joseph got a clean chit and said he would step down.

'I informed the chairman that I am holding a press conference here to announce my decision to resign to make way for him. He said that he and his family were leaving on a pilgrimage to the Velankanni church (in Tamil Nadu),' Mons Joseph said.

'It is for the party to decide the future course of action but I am clear I will step down in favour of my party chairman. This acquittal is going to give a huge boost to our party,' he added.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said in Thiruvananthapuram: 'I am happy to hear about the acquittal. Whether or not he becomes minister has to be decided by his party and the LDF.'

Vaikom Viswan, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) convenor, told reporters in Kottayam that he welcomed P.J. Joseph's acquittal, but said his re-appointment as minister would be decided later.

'If Joseph will go on to become a minister (or not) will be decided later at the appropriate forum and cannot be disclosed now,' said Viswan.

Jayaprada might commit suicide if loses poll Amar singh





Tanda/ Bisalpur, May 11 (ANI): General Secretary of Samajwadi Party, Amar Singh on Sunday said that actor-turned-politician and his party's candidate from Rampur seat, Jayaprada might commit suicide if she loses the poll. Few days back, an argument between Singh and senior SP leader Azam Khan had hurt Jayaprada's prospects, which is seeking her re-election from the seat.

Chandrababu Naidu praised me: CM


The Telugu Desam chief, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, complimented his political arch-rival and Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

The Chief Minister wrote in his personal blog that the manifesto prepared by Mr Naidu was a clear compliment to his policies.

“The first thing that struck me about the manifesto is that it is an unwitting tribute to our government’s policies. Just about every promise represents a departure from Naiduism and towards our line since 2004. I take it as a compliment to our governance,” observed Dr Reddy.

Referring to the different poll sops included in the TD manifesto, Dr Reddy pointed out that many of them are already in vogue.

“Mr Naidu says he will give free power for 12 hours, health insurance, interest-free loans to farmers, etc. I humbly submit that we have already taken a lead in these schemes. Mr Naidu’s manifesto, therefore, abandons Naiduism and acknowledges our welfare policies as the way to the future. The details may differ, but much of what he is promising now has been delivered by us over the last five years,” Dr Reddy explained.

Demand for H-1 B down by 50% due to IT slump



BANGALORE: The slump in demand for IT, combined with protectionist pressures in the US, has led to a dramatic decline in the demand for H-1 B visas. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS ) has announced that it has received only 32,500 applications for H-1 B visas — or about 50% of the available quota of 65,000 — during the five-day window that it had provided for. And since the quota is nowhere near being met, the USCIS has said companies can continue filing these applications.

Just last year, it had received 1,31,800 applications — or twice the available quota — in the five days it accepted them. In 2007, the number of applications exceeded the quota on the first day the government began accepting them and compelled the USCIS to stop accepting applications after two days. In both years, it then used a lottery to award the visas.

H-1 B visas have been used by companies to bring foreign workers into the US mostly for IT work. In recent years, about 60% of the recipients of these visas have been Indians . Infosys, Wipro and Satyam together are said to have received 9,154 visas last year. The same for Microsoft was 1,037 and Intel 351.

The demand had encouraged many to call for an increase in the visa cap to at least 100,000. That move will now certainly falter. But it’s unlikely that the number of applications this year will fall short of 65,000, something that last happened 13 years ago. Navneet S Chugh, attorney in the US-based The Chugh Firm, said he expects the quota to get filled by the end of the year. “It’s unlikely it will last till September 30, 2010, as it is supposed to,’’ he said. He expects Indian numbers will continue to be around 60% this year.

This year’s decline in demand for H-1 Bs is seen to be on account of three reasons: one, the sharp decline in IT demand in the US because of the recession; two, the preference to do the same work offshore, in locations like India , where it’s significantly cheaper; and three, the protectionist pressures in the US, which is pushing US companies to prefer Americans to do the same jobs.

Microsoft had said it planned to file substantially fewer H-1 B applications because of the economic downturn. T V Mohandas Pai, head of HR in Infosys Technologies, said the fewer applications is a reflection of the business climate . “But the H-1 B window is not yet closed,” he said, suggesting that the company could file more applications.

Stella Nagesh, head of immigration (APAC) in Perot Systems, said she does not entirely blame it on recession. “Companies are generally tightening travel and therefore their spends on visas. Earlier, each company would keep hundreds of visas ready. It was a purely anticipation driven process. Also, companies are increasingly spreading their geographic footprint beyond the US and to the domestic market.’’

Rahul Gandhi Campaigns in Andhra Pradesh




Hyderabad, Apr. 10 : Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address various rallies across the Andhra Pradesh on Friday and Saturday.

Andhra Pradesh is getting ready for the first phase of polling on April 16.

Rahul Gandhi will address public at Maylavaram in Krishna District and Wyra in Khammam District on Friday afternoon.

He will also try to generate public support by interacting with the masses at Devarakonda in Mahabubnagar District and Qutbullapur in Ranga Reddy District in the evening.

On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi is expected to resume his electioneering by addressing rallies at Ramagundam in Karimnagar District and at Bhanswada segment in Nizamabad District.

Home Ministry says Chidambaram did not avoid journalist's query

Home Ministry says Chidambaram did not avoid journalist's query









New Delhi, Apr 7 : The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday refuted media reports of Home Minister P. Chidambaram refusing to answer a question put to him by journalist Jarnail Singh on the "clean chit" given to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in connection with the 1984 Sikh riots case.

According to a Home Ministry statement, the videotape is there and the Minister answered the question.

"The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) does not come under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Neither the Ministry of Home Affairs nor any other Ministry put of pressure on the CBI. The CBI has only given a report to the Court. It is for the Court to accept the report or reject the report or order the CBI to do further investigation. Let us wait for the Court to take a decision on the report," Chidambaram is reported to have said.

Earlier, it was reported that Chidambaram had refused to answer and said that he did not want to make any political statement at a platform not meant for it.

Jarnail Singh, an accredited correspondent, then flung his shoes in Chidambaram's direction.

Later, Singh told NDTV: " My method (of throwing a shoe) could be wrong, but not my cause. There is no question of apologising for what I did."

The journalist was perturbed over no action being taken by the government to alleviate the miseries of Sikh riot victims, who had been waiting for 25 years for justice.

In a similar incident, last December, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network, had thrown shoes at former President George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad.



Journalist hurls shoe at P Chidambaram

New Delhi A journalist threw a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram at a press conference on Tuesday, protesting against the minister's reply on his question on CBI's clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 Sikh riots case.

The shoe did not hit the minister and the journalist, a senior reporter with Dainik Jagran, was taken into custody.

The press conference was being held at the Congress headquarters where Chidambaram was presenting his party's report card on terrorism. The journalist asked the minister whether letting Tytler off the hook ahead of the elections was not politically motivated.

To which Chidambaram replied that CBI had only presented a report to the court and it was up to the court to either accept or reject it. The journalist wanted to ask another question but Chidambaram said he did not want to get into an argument and refused to take further questions.

The journalist then threw his shoe at the minister, saying 'I protest'.

It is the first of its kind incident in India but throwing shoes at political leaders has become a high-profile form of protest. The trend was started by an Iraqi journalist who had thrown shoes at former US President George Bush at a press conference in Baghdad last year.

Thereafter, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was meted a similar treatment while delivering a speech at Cambridge University. The Israeli ambassador to Sweden was also hit by a shoe when he was addressing an audience in Stockholm University.

Jarnail Singh released

Journalist Jarnail Singh who hurled a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram at a press conference was released by police after brief detention.

Station House Officer of Tughlaq Road Police station Anil Kumar Yadav told reporters that the scribe has been freed for the time being.

"No case has been registered against him. He has regretted about his action," the official said, adding that the journalist was questioned for his action and then he was released.

After being freed, the Sikh journalist of a Hindi daily, who has caused a flutter in the political circle, said the issue that he raised was an appropriate issue and the victims should get justice.

"May be my way of protest was wrong," said the scribe who later left with his journalist friends and Sikh supporters.

Meanwhile, Sunita Tiwari, who claimed to be his lawyer and had come to meet him at the police station, alleged that she was not allowed to talk to her client.

"I was misbehaved. The SHO asked the constables to take me out of the room. I wanted to talk to Jarnail as he was mentally disturbed," she said.

BJP condemns shoe hurling incident

BJP condemned hurling of a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram by a Sikh journalist at a press conference in New Delhi. "We condemn the incident," BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj said in New Delhi.

Jarnail Singh of a Hindi daily hurled a shoe at Chidambaram protesting against CBI's clean chit to senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler accused in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

Chidambaram was addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters.

2009 a "very dangerous year" - World Bank's Zoellick





World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned on Saturday of the consequences of an expected steep decline in economic growth across the world this year.

"I think 2009 is going to be a very dangerous year," Zoellick told a conference in Brussels, citing World Bank forecasts of a spike in infant mortality associated with the economic crisis, and a fall-off in world trade.

Zoellick proposed that the Group of 20 major and emerging economies -- whose leaders are due to meet in London next month -- establish a review process to see whether further stimulus measures would be needed to kickstart recovery.

3 UK teenagers jailed for total 19 years for killing Indian




LONDON: Three British teenagers who pleaded guilty to the sensational killing of an Indian sailor in Southampton in a racist attack in October
2007 have been sentenced to six and a half years each in prison.

Teenagers, Chay Fields, Stephen Pritchard and Daniel Rogers had attacked Goa-origin Indian sailor Gregory Fernandes "like a pack of dogs" minutes before he collapsed and died, Winchester Crown Court was told.

The jail sentences were delivered yesterday. Fernandes, 32, was set upon by the teenagers who boasted that they wanted to 'beat a Paki' when they saw him and his colleague, Vinod P return to their ship, The Garonne, after a drink in a local hotel in Fawley, Southampton.

In the incident that hit headlines here and in India, the two were attacked until passerby Jody Miles rescued Fernandes and took him to nearby docks, where he collapsed and died. Vinod, 29, suffered a broken collar bone.

Justice Royce, jailed Fields, 16, Rogers, 18, and Pritchard, 18, to six and a half years each. All three had pleaded guilty to manslaughter during a hearing in February as well as a further charge of grievous body harm on Vinod.

A fourth teenager, now aged 15, was sentenced to a 12-month detention and training order. He admitted inflicting grievous body harm on Vinod.

A fifth teenager was given a non-custodial 18-month supervision order. Justice Royce ordered that 250 pounds be released from public funds for Jody Miles as a token recognition of his bravery.

Detective inspector Dave Dilly of the Hampshire police said: "Mr Fernandes suffered heart failure brought on by the stress of the attack.

"He was having a drink and then a takeaway and there were lots of youths hanging around who had been drinking. Some part of that group chased him and his friend up the road and set upon him.

"A member of the public, Jody Miles, intervened and rescued Mr Fernandes, put him in his car and drove him to Fawley refinery. He then went back to help Mr Vinod.

But within seconds of being dropped off at the front gate, Mr Fernandes dropped down dead from heart failure brought on by the attack."

He added, "There was evidence that some of [the defendants], prior to setting eyes on Mr Fernandes, were saying they wanted to beat up a 'Paki' - that was the sort of language being used."

The village of Fawley which had never witnessed such a racially motivated attack, was plunged into shame and mourning. An emotional candlelight vigil was held in the village square and funds raised to help Fernandes' family in Goa.

Sudarshan announces retirement, Mohan Bhagwat new RSS chief





NEW DELHI: Rashtriya Swayayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief KS Sudarshan on Saturday announced his retirement citing health reasons, paving way for
Mohan Bhagwat
A file photograph of Mohan Bhagwat.
general secretary Mohan Bhagwat to succeed him.

Mohan Bahgwat is the new 'Sar Sangh Chalak' (chief) of the RSS.

Bhagwat’s appointment is expected to redefine relations with the BJP at a time when the saffron party is trying hard to come back to power at the Centre, PTI reported.

He replaces KS Sudarshan who steps down after being at the helm of the Sangh Parivar fountain head for nearly nine years when there were ups and downs in its ties with BJP during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's term as Prime Minister of the NDA government.

The election of Bhagwat as ‘Sar Sangh Chalak’ came on the second day of the three-day RSS conclave which is expected to redefine its relationship with the BJP.

BJP president Rajnath Singh and Bal Apte, on deputation from RSS, were present on the occasion.

59-year-old Bhagwat, who has good relations with the BJP leadership including L K Advani, was replaced as general secretary by veteran ideologue Suresh Soni. Soni used to be in the BJP hierarchy a few years ago as a joint general secretary.

A veterinary doctor, Bhagwat hails from Chandrapur in Maharashtra and became a pracharak (full time volunteer) of RSS from his early years.

Bhagwat's name had recently figured in the ATS chargesheet when one of the accused in the Malegaon blasts had linked him to ISI, a charge he had strongly denied.

Sudarshan's early years as RSS chief were tumultuous with the BJP in power at the Centre at a time when the Sangh Parivar came under attack due to the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat and the Jinnah controversy triggered by Advani during a trip to Pakistan.

Lost job? Banks may rework your home loan

BANGALORE: If you have trouble repaying a home loan because you or your spouse lost a job or suffered a salary cut or your builder has overshot
his delivery schedule, your bank
may be willing to help by reducing the monthly repayment and extending the loan tenure. Small enterprises faced with cash flow issues are also likely to find banks far more amenable today to restructuring their loans.

Partly under pressure from the RBI and the Centre, banks are on a drive to bail out small enterprises and individuals who have started to default or are close to defaulting on loan repayments. The RBI has told banks that if a customer has been regular in his loan repayments till September 1, 2008, but has subsequently faced difficulties, the account can be restructured.

Normally, after a 90-day delinquency period, banks go about recovering the loan by measures such as attaching assets. This fresh approach could be a relief for many. But the application for restructuring, as per the RBI notification, needs to be made by March 31.

"Home loans and SME (small and medium enterprise) loans are coming up most for restructuring. Some real estate developers too are making requests," says Albert Tauro, CMD of Vijaya Bank.

Mahpara Ali, chief general manager of SBI, agrees: "We have received a fairly large number of applications for restructuring. Home loan borrowers come from good educational and professional backgrounds, so they have the intention to pay back their dues. It is just the difficult times that have compelled them to delay payments. So we are reducing the EMIs and increasing the tenure period. We tell them they can pay as much as they can now. Later, when their situation improves, we can restructure the loan again to what it was."

SMEs too have been badly hit by the slowing economy. Many have not been receiving payments on time from their customers, many others — especially exporters and auto ancillaries — have seen sales slump, forcing them to default on loans. Tauro says a short period loan repayment moratorium is being considered for deserving SMEs.

SBI estimates to restructure about 50,000 accounts for SMEs. Some banking
officials expect one to two lakh SME accounts will be restructured.

D Muralidhar, president, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI), says some members have applied for restructuring, and some have already received a fresh package. "But we have been getting complaints from the districts that bank branches are not taking enough interest," he says.

Even in Bangalore, not everybody is happy with the banks' approach. J R Bangera, promoter of Premier Starch Products, says he had asked for an additional loan limit because his customer payments had been delayed, and his tax payments were falling due. "But the bank has only granted an ad hoc limit for 15 days. So I'll have to go to the bank again soon. So much time is spent sitting in front of bank managers. The top brass in banks may have the right approach, but down the line, the managers don't understand the trouble we are in," he says.

Dell launches ultra-thin laptop

Dell has officially launched a high-end laptop computer which the company said is the thinnest in the world.

The laptop is the first product under Dell's Adamo brand. Adamo is derived from the Latin word meaning 'to fall in love'.
With a thickness of 0.65 inches (1.65 cm) and available in onyx and pearl colours, the new Adamo laptop is thinner than Apple's MacBook Air.

Adamo will 'serve as a flagship in a line of products created to disrupt the personal computing space with the combination of new design aesthetics, personalisation choices and sought-after technologies', Dell said in a statement.

However, some analysts doubt how the Adamo laptop, with price tags starting at $1,999, will be received by the cash-strapped consumers under the current economic environment.


Earlier this month, market research company Gartner predicted that as a result of economic downturn, global personal computer shipments will drop 11.9 per cent from last year in 2009, the sharpest year-over-year decline.

The Adamo laptop is available for on-line pre-order from Tuesday and will start shipping March 26, Dell said.

Lahore Police fired 423 bullets without even nicking a single 3/3 terrorist!





Lahore, Mar.18 (ANI): The Lahore police has been widely criticized for its incompetence to retaliate during the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has now claimed that it fired 423 bullets during the shootout, but none of them hit the attackers.

According to a report submitted by the police officials, 17 policemen through 21 weapons fired 423 bullets at the assailants, but all escaped unhurt.

"The attackers were firing from a safe place, due to which they could not be hit," the report stated.

It also said that the security officials chased the terrorist after the incident, but they failed to arrest any of the terrorists.

The report, amazingly, also has a meticulous detail of arms used and shots fired from them during the gun battle.

245 fires were made through six SMGs, 73 fires through four MP5 rifles, 52 fires through five Glock pistols and 25 fires through three Beretta pistols, The Daily Times reports.

However, according to sources privy to the police department said that the policemen could not fire as many bullets as it is being claimed.

"The policemen found no time to take their positions and open fire at the militants, and were injured before firing bullets,"

Gandhi items to return to India after New York auction






Items that belonged to revered Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi were sold at auction for $1.8 million on Thursday to an Indian tycoon who plans to donate them to his country.

The seller had tried at the last minute to withdraw the items -- Gandhi's trademark wire-rimmed glasses, worn leather sandals, a pocket watch and a metal bowl and plate -- after the planned sale caused uproar in India.

But the auction in New York went ahead despite protests by the Indian government.

The items were sold by Antiquorum Auctioneers to Vijay Mallya, chairman of UB Group, said Tony Bedi, who bid for Mallya.

Mallya, who as head of UB Group runs Kingfisher Airlines and United Breweries that owns Kingfisher beer, will donate them to India for public display, Bedi said.

"I am sure all Indians will be pleased that these Gandhi items will be coming home," Bedi told reporters.

California-based collector James Otis, the seller, said earlier on Thursday that the items had been withdrawn. A lawyer for the peace activist said the sale was illegal.

"I never intended for my actions to cause such controversy," Otis told reporters before the sale. "I pray the outcome is positive and one that Gandhi would approve of."

He said he would have donated the items to India if the government had agreed to increase spending on the poor.

NATIONAL HERITAGE

The auction was sharply criticized in India. Many view the items as part of the national heritage and want them placed in a museum.

Some Indians said the sale went against the philosophy of a man who shunned material possessions and led an ascetic life.

"The issue here was not to put Mahatma Gandhi's legacy on the auction block," Ravi Batra, a lawyer for Otis, told reporters.

The Indian government announced earlier on Thursday that it planned to bid for the items, which had been expected to fetch $300,000.

It had previously held talks with the auctioneers to stop the sale, government officials said.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi, pioneered the philosophy of nonviolent resistance and was a major figure in the struggle for Indian independence. He was assassinated in 1948 in New Delhi by a Hindu radical.

The Zenith pocket watch was given to Gandhi by Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi, who was not related to Mahatma Gandhi, was the daughter of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and was herself an Indian prime minister. She was assassinated in 1984.

Mahatma Gandhi used the plate and bowl for his last meal.

High drama before Gandhi items' auction




New York, March 6 (IANS) Confusion prevailed for hours in the run up to Thursday's auction of Gandhi memorabilia as a throng of journalists gathered at the East 57th Street headquarters of Antiquorum Auctioneers handling the sale.


But shortly after 1 p.m., the auctioneers' chairman, Robert Maron, said that despite some news reports that Los Angeles collector James Otis had decided to pull out, the auction would proceed.

'There is a lot of propaganda because the Indian government is trying to get this item,' Maron was quoted as saying by the New York Times. 'The consigner has not pulled the item. The auction is not going to stop. In two hours, we'll know the outcome,' he said.

But around 2:30 p.m., Ravi Batra, a lawyer who said he was representing the owner, Otis, a peace activist, pro bono, entered the auction house, and announced that Otis was trying to halt the sale. Within an hour, Batra was booted from the auction house by employees, the Times said.

'Escorting me off the premises is the same as escorting James Otis and his wishes off the premises,' he said as he was leaving. He criticised the auction house for trying to make money on 'the altar of Gandhi's legacy.' Batra said: 'The right to sell belongs solely and singularly to James Otis and not to Antiquorum.'

Robert Maron, the chairman of the auction house, declined to comment on Otis's last-minute change of heart. 'We fully complied with the consigner's wishes,' he said, referring to Otis. 'We now have a fiduciary obligation to the buyer.'

The auction house argued that it was too late for Otis to withdraw from the sale. 'Anyone who consigns an item for sale has entered a legally binding agreement to put that item up for sale,' said Julien Schaerer, an official at the auction house. Asked if Otis had tried to pull the items out of the auction, Schaerer declined to comment.

Before the auction began, about 40 bidders had registered, from Australia, Germany, Austria, India, Canada and the US, among other countries. In comparison, there were only six registered bidders in October for a watch belonging to Albert Einstein, which sold for almost $600,000.

Six Sri Lankan cricket players wounded in bus attack in Pakistan





Six members of the Sri Lankan cricket squad were wounded when around a dozen gunmen attacked their bus as it drove under police escort on Tuesday to a stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore, witnesses and officials said.

Lahore Police chief Habib-ur-Rehman said five people were killed in the attack by the unidentified gunmen, who fired AK 47s and rockets and hurled grenades as the team bus drove to the 60,000-seater Gaddafi stadium in the eastern city.

Sri Lanka's sports minister said five players and an assistant coach were wounded, two of whom were being treated in hospital.

"Police are chasing the terrorists," police chief Habib-ur-Rehman said. "They appeared to be trained men."

The attack had echoes with one on the Indian city of Mumbai in November which led to the Indian cricket team cancelling its planned tour of Pakistan.

India blamed that attack on Pakistan-trained militants and the incident sharply raised tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Sri Lanka, which had been invited to Pakistan after India pulled out, immediately cancelled the rest of the tour.

"We are trying to bring the team back as quickly as possible," a Sri Lankan cricket official said.

Pakistan TV showed footage of gunmen with rifles and backpacks running through the streets and firing on unidentified vehicles.

The driver of the Sri Lankan team coach said one of the attackers had thrown a grenade under the bus, but it did not detonate.

A witness told Reuters he believed two police commandos were killed along with a regular policeman and a traffic warden.

Shopkeeper Ahmed Ali said the two police commandos had been driving behind the team bus when they were hit.

"It was a very heavy firing and I heard at least two explosions at the time," said a Reuters witness who had been on his way to cover the test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Cricketer Thilan Samaraweera seemed to be the worst hit, suffering a thigh injury, a player on the team bus who did not wish to be identified told Reuters by phone.

It was unclear whether injuries were caused by bullets, shrapnel or flying shards of glass.

Check Your Luck by Gemstones.....



Science is built on reason; reason alone deals with externals. But wisdom involves the inner heart"

Modern Science recognizes the potencies of gems in their technological uses, such as the use of crystals in watches, computers and lasers. However, the subtle uses to cure disease, balance human emotions and infuse other potencies to the wearer, are looked at with skepticism.

Though science may explain the chemical structures of stones, it is as yet, unable to fully explain their power. Sometimes, as one author says, it is a matter of a greater consciousness or perspective, and sometimes acceptance of their power through individual experience. There are certain basic laws of the universe that are to be utilized, recognized and respected. The use of gems for many purposes—one of them being healing—have been chronicled since ancient times, in various cultures of the world, and therefore, their contribution to healing needs to be explored.

From time immemorial, Gemstones have been used by all cultures of the world. Their inherent beauty is second to no other material in the mineral kingdom. The word Gem itself, used in any context, denotes a superiority and indicates exquisiteness.

There are three kingdoms, as we know them—the Animal kingdom, the Plant kingdom and the Mineral kingdom; each has its own living power in existence. The mineral kingdom is the body of the earth, and all growth stems from it. The stones that we term as precious, are nurtured in its womb - sacred process - for centuries, before they are prised away to satisfy human need.

These stones are manifestations of life and light, colors, textures, vibrancy, transparency ... and each one of them has, sealed within itself, a small piece of the earth's secret ... its magic, mystic and mystery. Believed to be created from the elements of the earth and cosmic influences, the human connection to the mineral and plant kingdoms cannot be denied.

Gem therapy is not a new-fangled notion. There is evidence to show that the healing properties of gemstones were recognized as far back as the days of the legendary lost city of Atlantis. The ancient civilizations of May and Hebrew, the Far East and Native America have all evidenced the use of these earthy gifts. History records systemic mining in Egypt, over 7000 years ago, as well as in the Oxis valley of Afghanistan prove this.

The Vedas have the greatest wealth of information on the metaphysical and physical properties of Gems and their correct application. They are acknowledged as the authority on Gems - their description, potencies and prescription for effective use. According to the Vedas, imbalances may be set right either by wearing the appropriate gems against the skin or, using them as an ingredient to make medicines and potions that are taken internally.

Gems, it is believed, were worn by royalty, apart from the obvious adornment, primarily for their powers to influence the powers of nature, protect the wearer. According to the sages of ancient times, they were worn to divert negative planetary influences. Instructions on their usage are given in the texts of Guruda Purana and Jyotish. The Brihad Samhita, Sarngadhara Samhita and Susruta Samhita - in the section of Rasayana, talks of elixirs for a long and youthful life of a thousand years - also mentions healing with Bhasmas, by incineration of metals or minerals.

Gemstones react differently with different people, and people use gems for different reasons. It is imperative to understand, based on existing evidences, how these little nuggets of the earth wield so much power!

Slumdog kids on the block

Starry-eyed, excited and wearing little tuxedos and dresses for the first time, a motley of Indian slum kids from Academy award winning 'Slumdog Millionaire' walked the Oscar red carpet with panache despite the stark contrast between their everyday living and the glitzy event. Take a look at the 'new kids on the block.'
It was a fairytale experience for nine-year-old Rubina Ali who starred in Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Rubina now wants to become actor even though she might continue to live in her makeshift homes in Mumbai's slum. In photos: Rubina Ali Qureshi is seen in her uncle's home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India. Rubina played the young Latika in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire.'

Rubina Ali, who still lives in the slums of Bandra, Mumbai, is optimistic about her life and feels that it will change for good, one day. In photos: Rubina Ali Qureshi, 9, left, straddles a blocked drain next to an open area strewn with garbage near her home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India. Rubina played the youngest version of the leading lady Latika, in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire'.
Rubina Ali was phenomenal as little Latika and was able to paint a true picture of life in slums and the difficulties they face everyday. In photos: Rubina Ali, 8, left, waves to her relatives at the international airport in Mumbai, India. Rubina played the youngest version of the leading lady Latika, in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire.'
Ismail, who essayed the role of young Salim, the protagonist's brother, was also thrilled with the dream-come-true Oscar experience. In photos: Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, center, stretches as his mother Shamim Begum, left, 35, father Mohammed Ismail, second left, 47, and friend Sonu look on outside Azhar's home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India. Azharuddin played the youngest version of Salim, the brother of the main character Jamal, in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

It was a dream come true for Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail from Mumbai. Within days of wearing rags and staying in slums, he managed to join Hollywood's A-listers at the Oscar ceremony. In photos: Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, left, arrives at the international airport in Mumbai, India. Azharuddin played the youngest version of Salim, the brother of the main character Jamal, in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire.'

Rubina Ali was phenomenal as little Latika and was able to paint a true picture of life in slums and the difficulties they face everyday. In photos: Rubina Ali, 8, left, waves to her relatives at the international airport in Mumbai, India. Rubina played the youngest version of the leading lady Latika, in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire.'
Rubina Ali, who still lives in the slums of Bandra, Mumbai, is optimistic about her life and feels that it will change for good, one day. In photos: Rubina Ali Qureshi, 9, left, straddles a blocked drain next to an open area strewn with garbage near her home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India. Rubina played the youngest version of the leading lady Latika, in the Oscar-nominated film 'Slumdog Millionaire'.




Tanay Chheba has also acted in Aamir Khan's 'Taare Zameen Par' and has shown great promise as an actor. In photos: Young stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" arrive for the 81st Academy Awards in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. From left front are Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubina Ali, and Tanay Hemant Chheda.
Tanay Chheda said that he is excited and it is an amazing feeling to have won so many Oscars. In photos: Cast of 'Slumdog Millionaire', front left, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Rubina Ali, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, back left, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar and Tanay Hemant Chheda arrive for the 81st Academy Awards in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.

It shouldn't have won



Frankly, I don't think Slumdog Millionaire deserved the Oscar for best film. And even more frankly, I don't think Resul Pookutty should have invoked "my country and my civilisation" in his acceptance speech for best sound mixing. India was not up there in the Kodak auditorium for approval. It was a British film financed by the indie subsidiary of an American studio which happened to be set in India and as a result they could not help but involve Indian actors (including Indian-origin Britishers) and shoot it in India. We crave too much for international recognition. A bit too much than is seemly. Even as all of us go around strutting, pretending to be a superpower.

Other than Slumdog, I have seen only one film out of the other four nominated. But I've read about all of them. The one that I saw is The Reader. The subject is far more intellectually challenging, emotionally moving and morally disturbing than Slumdog can ever hope to be. Not since A Last Tango In Paris has nudity (both male and female) been so necessary to a film's narrative, and so non-titillating and so touching. A film which stretches over 30 years and with essentially only two characters, and yet a film that is as gripping as a thriller. It's a film that, as my friend told me, demands and requires to be seen in one sitting, with no interruption by commercials and visits to the loo.

But look at the themes of the other movies that were nominated this year. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the love story of a man who is born as an extreme geriatric and keeps getting younger and dies as a newborn. Only for a brief period of time are the man and his beloved around the same compatible age. Of course it's an impossible concept and completely unbelievable, but it's a high concept. Milk is about the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States; Frost/Nixon about the first interview disgraced US President Richard Nixon gave, to has-been TV journalist David Frost. For both of them, it is a chance for redemption, for a somewhat sane life. These are all big themes. I am not doubting Slumdog's quality as a film in any way. Danny Boyle is one of the most talented directors around. But comparing Slumdog to The Reader is almost impossible. It's like comparing A Christmas Carol to Great Expectations.

Scrooge won, little Pip lost. But that's the way it has been with the Oscars. Sometimes the nominations reflect the mood of America's liberals, sometimes the winners reflect political correctness. In 2006, the following five films were nominated: Good Night and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Capote and Munich. Good Night and Good Luck is about a TV broadcaster who took on the McCarthyist witch hunt in the 1950s; essentially about freedom of the press. Brokeback Mountain deflated the entire mythology of uber-macho frontiersmen by portraying a deep homosexual relationship between two cowboys. Crash interlinked several stories to study racism in all its forms and in startling ways. Capote was about the gay writer Truman Capote who travels to the South of the US to write a book on two multiple murderers. Munich told the story of the Israeli agents who hunted down the Black September terrorists who killed Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics, and asked the question: To take revenge, do we become as base as the men who are our targets?

There's a clear pattern: anger over the Iraq war, the stifling of the media, the stranglehold of neo-conservatism, the contempt for minorities. The denizens of Hollywood were simply reacting to their world as they saw it. The other major critically-acclaimed movies of that year were Transamerica, about one man's battle to change his gender, and Syriana, which told Americans that their nation's policies were largely responsible for Islamist terrorism.

Then there's political correctness. Gandhi won Best Picture over ET. The Academy decided that the biopic of a great and influential leader was more "important" than the woes of a cute alien stranded on our planet. (This incensed Steven Spielberg so much that he decided to give the Academy the "important" films they felt comfortable with, and made The Colour Purple - which didn't win any Oscars - and Schindler's List - which raked them in.) Tom Hanks won his first best acting Oscar for Philadelphia, as much for his acting as for being the first major star to portray a gay man suffering from AIDS. In Hollywood, that's called "courage".

So The Reader can't win. After all, its female protagonist is a former Auschwitz guard who let 300 Jews burn alive in a locked church. The film's position on morality is too nuanced for the general Academy member to grapple with with any success. But Kate Winslet can be given the award for best actress. By taking this controversial role and baring her body so naturally for the purposes of art, she has shown "courage". Milk is about homosexuality, so Sean Penn gets the statuette for "courage", but not the film. Benjamin Button, which was co-produced by its star Brad Pitt, is probably seen as too much the case of an actor showing off, while being aided by more-than-state-of-the art visual effects. Frost/Nixon? Who's interested?

So Slumdog has won, and we should really rejoice for the six children who acted in it, for they are the real stars of the film. We should rejoice for AR Rahman, though the music he has got his two Oscars for is not even of his average quality, forget his sublime and exhilarating stuff. But the Academy has decided. But I really think it's a bit too much if we take this as a victory for Indian cinema. It's a non-Indian film which happened to have an all-Indian cast. We shoot entire films abroad nowadays, especially in the US, remember?
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