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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.


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.