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Pakistan for cooperation between FIA, CBI over terrorism, 26/11

Singalling a step forward, Pakistan on Saturday indicated its willingness to provide voice samples of the handlers of the Mumbai attacks and said that the investigating agencies of the two countries will work together to prevent any future 26/11-like attack. Turning the spotlight firmly on its continuing concerns over cross-border terror, India conveyed to Pakistan that more people were behind the Mumabi terror spree and asked for "visible" action against those involved in 26/11 that led to the suspension of the composite dialogue between the two countries.

In a joint press interaction with Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik suggested that its Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) and India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) work together on the issue of terrorism, including on the Mumbai terror attack.

"We will like our FIA and CBI to interact with each other in matters of terrorism including the Mumbai attacks," Malik said.

"We have resolved together that both agencies from India and Pakistan will be working together and we will not allow any such incident in future," he replied when asked about India's contention that another 26/11 would derail the resumed dialogue process.

Both ministers struck a positive and hopeful note on the course of future engagement.

"I will leave tomorrow with the conviction that we have both exchanged views, we both understand the requirements of the situation," said Chidambaram about his talks with Malik here Friday evening.

"We both agreed that we shall address the situation with seriousness it deserves. So I go back with confidence that the outcome of our meeting and interaction will be very good for both the countries," he said.

"Nobody is questioning anyone's intention. It is the outcome that will decide whether we have the right track," Chidambaram replied when asked about the slow pace of the probe and trial by Pakistan in the 26/11 case.

"Let the outcomes be visible. We have agreed that there are certain outcomes we are looking forward to."

Malik, on his part, promised to bring the Mumbai trial to its logical conclusion. "Our resolve is against terrorism and the resolve is to take the Mumbai attack terrorists, criminals to their logical conclusion."

"We are both against the acts of terrorism and we will work together to clear this menace in this region," he said.

Addressing a press conference separately, Malik said that Pakistan "will provide every possible assistance in addition to what you are talking about - voice samples".

In a hard-hitting reminder to Pakistan to come clean on the Mumbai attacks, Chidambaram said: "We think more people were behind the Mumbai attack and more people should be prosecuted."

"That point has been made to the Pakistan government and I wish to remain positive on the outcome of the meeting with Rehman Malik," he said.

Without going into specifics, Malik told journalists: "What we have discussed we should have discussed. The idea is to strike heavily against terrorists. We will take India into confidence."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who had a separate meeting with Chidambaram, assured India that his country would move with "full force" against terrorists.

Saying terrorists wanted to derail the dialogue between India and Pakistan, he said: "We ourselves are victims of terrorism. We should join hands to defeat the common enemy."

India called off the dialogue with Pakistan after the November 26-29, 2008 Mumbai carnage that killed 166 Indians and foreigners and which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani terrorists.

After initially denying any Pakistani link to Mumbai, in which one Pakistani terrorist was caught alive, Islamabad later blamed "non-state" actors.

Chidambaram did not elaborate on what he and Malik had discussed one-on-one.

"We know seven people are being prosecuted (for Mumbai). How far this prosecution has proceeded, this is for Pakistan to tell," he said, while noting that the trial scheduled for Saturday had been adjourned for a week.

"I have conveyed whatever was unnecessary to my Pakistani counterpart, and he has conveyed whatever was necessary.

"We spoke with each other. We spoke directly to each other, and I am confident that something good will emerge out of that meeting. So, let us try to remain positive."

Pakistan, too, stressed the need to remain positive ahead of next month's meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers, S.M. Krishna and Qureshi, in Islamabad.

Qureshi said when India suspended the dialogue with Pakistan following the Mumbai attack, the net beneficiaries were the terrorists.

"It is in our mutual interest to have tangible progress, and we will make tangible progress," he said. "I am confident these meetings will develop into positive outcomes."

In his discussions with Malik, Chidambaram impressed upon his host to address India's core concerns over terrorism with the seriousness they deserve and asked Islamabad to take concrete action against the Mumbai attackers and their handlers in Pakistan.

Building on the June 24 talks between the two foreign secretaries in Islamabad, Chidambaram sought concrete action against Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 26/11, he sought the evidence presented by the Pakistan government against Saeed. Islamabad had earlier cited legal grounds due to which Saeed could not be prosecuted.

Stop drug trafficking to wipe out poverty: UN

Fighting drug abuse, trafficking and other social evils must be parts of the battle against poverty, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said. "Our work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and fight drugs must go hand-in-hand. In seeking to eradicate illicit crops, we must also work to wipe out poverty," Ban said in his message on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Ban said that significant health challenges, including spred of HIV, stem from drug abuse. One of the eight MDGs includes reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS. The MDGs also target environmental sustainability, which is threatened by drug trade effects such as coca cultivation in the Andean Rainforest or chemical runoffs from cocaine labs, the UN chief said. The secretary-general also called on member states to become parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, which includes three protocols against human trafficking, illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, the media reported. In his message, Ban linked the booming trade of cocaine and other drugs to increased corruption and insecurity which threaten the sovereignty of States. "That is why the United Nations is putting a stronger emphasis on enhancing justice and fighting crime in peace-building and peacekeeping operations," Ban added.

G20 leaders for talks on global recovery

Leaders of the world's 20 leading economies arrived on Saturday in Canada, aiming to smooth over differences on financial regulation and how to keep the global economic recovery afloat.

Major developing economies including China, India, Brazil and South Africa joined a three-day gathering that began on Friday with the Group of Eight (G8) meeting of wealthy nations, about 220 km north of Toronto in Huntsville.

Outside a sealed-off convention centre in the heart of Toronto, there was sporadic violence as at least 10,000 protesters clashed with an estimated 12,000 Canadian police and security forces.

Inside, the US and European Union were working to ease tensions over the direction of government spending, agreeing to the need for budget cuts without harming a fragile recovery in their economies.

Many EU countries have announced tough austerity measures in the wake of a debt crisis in Greece, amid fears that it could spread to other eurozone members. The US is mulling more stimulus for its own economy and worries that the EU's budget cuts could choke off the global recovery.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said all sides agreed that exiting from stimulus programmes was critical to curb budget deficits, though there were "differing opinions on the speed" of such exit plans.

US Secretary Timothy Geithner also sounded a conciliatory tone. "We have to find the right balance" between public spending and budget cuts, as countries were recovering from last year's economic recession at differing speeds.

Leaked drafts of a G20 summit statement due out on Sunday indicated that the bloc is likely to call for fiscal stimulus to be completed this year "where appropriate."

From 2011 on, the talk is of "growth-friendly fiscal consolidation," with budget deficits to be halved by 2013 and government debt to be "stabilised" by 2016.

"To sustain recovery, we need to follow through on delivering existing stimulus plans. At the same time, recent events highlight the importance of sustainable public finances," the drafts said.

The leaders will also be discussing how to balance the global recovery over the long term, with the US pressing export-oriented countries like Germany, China and Japan to boost domestic consumption.

China, hoping to ease complaints over its massive trade surplus with Western nations, announced ahead of the summit that it would allow its yuan currency to begin appreciating.

The G20 draft statement welcomed China's announcement and commits to "greater exchange-rate flexibility in key emerging markets" over the coming years.

In a nod to the growing power of developing countries, the G20 is likely to end the 60-year-old arrangement by which an American heads the World Bank and a European leads the IMF.

The leaders of the G20 "agree that the heads and senior leadership of the international financial institutions should be appointed without regard to candidate nationality," the draft statement read.

G20 leaders still have to approve the text but are not expected to change it, according to diplomats.

They are not, however, expected to back EU calls for a worldwide levy on banks or a tax on financial transactions to curb risk-taking, Merkel acknowledged.

US President Barack Obama Saturday touted an agreement in Congress on overhauling financial regulation and his own plans for a levy on US banks. But Obama has not supported pushing such a levy on other G20 members, nor has he backed EU calls for a separate tax on financial transactions.

India, Bangladesh next had Taliban taken over Pakistan: Malik

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik today said that had the Taliban taken over Pakistan, their next targets would have been India and Bangladesh.

Malik's claim came during an interaction with media persons at the conclusion of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) interior ministers meet, Online news agency reported.

He said Pakistan was conducting investigation into the 26/11 Mumbai attack in a transparent manner.

Malik warned the terror forces that SAARC member countries would foil their nefarious designs through their joint efforts. Asserting terrorists would have to face defeat, he said every religion upholds the message of peace while the non-state actors have no religion or boundaries.

Terrorists would not be allowed to exploit the name of religion, he added.

Malik stressed Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against any other country, adding if any terrorist or non-state actor would try to do so, then stern action would be initiated against them.

India to consider Pakistan's offer to talk commerce

India will positively consider a proposal from Pakistan for formal talks between the commerce secretaries of the two countries to push bilateral economic ties that can potentially take their two-way trade to $10 billion, officials said.

"The Pakistanis are very keen we reengage with them at the commerce secretaries level. We feel it is a constructive idea," a top Indian official said here today, referring to the talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries in Islamabad.

"Pakistan's Planning Commission had recently commissioned a study. They assessed the potential for two-way trade at $10 billion and said Pakistan should look at the win-win situation by engaging with India," the official added.

At present, while bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is officially put at around $2 billion, a large ammount of merchandise is routed through third countries, notably the Gulf nations, which is estimated at another $8 billion.

India's Foreign Secetary Nirupama Rao met with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir Thursday, following which Home Minister P. Chidambaram had a meeting with his Pakistani couterpart Rahman Malik Friday, both in Islamabad.

New Delhi has also conveyed to Islamabad that among the other issues they could consider is to expand the list of items that can be imported by Pakistan from India.

"There is a feeling that there should be a negative list of imports, rather than a positive list and most-favoured nation status also very much forms a part of expanding relations with us and confidence-building measures," the official added.

India had accorded most-favoured nation status to Pakistan in terms of bilateral trade and commerce over a decade ago. But Islamabad has been reluctant on reciprocating the gesture because of lack of political will.

Regional cooperation essential to fight terrorism: Zardari

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari today stressed the importance of regional cooperation and trans-national linkages to wipe out the scourge of terrorism from the South Asian region.

"It is therefore, national and collective responsibility to make sincere efforts and implement strategies to rid the South Asian region of terrorism and militancy," he said at a meeting with the interior/home ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, Online news agency reported.

"Each act of terror reminded us of the gravity of the issue of terrorism which transcended national boundaries and considerations of ethnicity, religion and civilizations," he said, reaffirming his country's position that it is opposed to all forms of terrorism regardless of where from they originated or where they struck.

Zardari said that the countries should join hands to identify and punish the perpetrators of terrorism instead of resorting to a blame game which, he said, was counter productive and played into the hands of militants.

He said Pakistan had embarked upon a plan to reform the education sector as part of a long term strategy to fight the militant mindset.

Zardari said that regional cooperation in South Asia is the only realistic way forward for which SAARC should be made more relevant and visible.

Those who called on the president included India's P.Chidambaram, Afghanistan's Mohammad Munir Mangal, Bhutan's Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, Maldives' Mohamed Shihab, Nepal's Bhim Bahadur Rawal and Sri Lanka's Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka.

The interior secretaries of the SAARC countries and SAARC Secretary General Sheel Kant Sharma were also present during the meeting.

Kunal Kapoor learns to fly, sing, and run fast - all for movies

Kunal Kapoor has been missing from the silver screen for a year. However, the lanky star was making full use of the time - learning to fly a plane, training in the sporting activity of parkour, working on his vocals to play a singer, and not to forget, beefing up for a superhero role. "I wasn't on a sabbatical. I may have not shot for one year but it has been the most productive year of my life," said Kunal. He was last seen in a full-fledged role in Madhuri Dixit starrer "Aaja Nachle" in 2007. After that, Kunal just made special appearances in 2008 in movies like "Bachna Ae Haseeno" and "Welcome To Sajjanpur". He was missing from the silver screen in 2009. "I was doing a lot of things so I wouldn't call it a hiatus. I've got the chance to work on myself as an actor all this while, to fly a plane, to learn sky diving, work on stories that I really want to be a part of. There's an action film ("Doga") that I'm doing, so I was learning parkour (an acrobatic street sport) for it," Kunal told IANS over telephone from Mumbai. "I was working...There's never really a dull moment. It's just that I didn't have a release for a while. As an actor, it is exciting for me to have lots of releases but at the same time, there have got to be movies that I really want to be a part of," he added. Kunal will be now seen as a young politician in Rahul Dholakia's "Lamhaa". Releasing on July 16, it also stars Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu and Anupam Kher. Set in Kashmir, it deals with the sensitive issue of militancy and the presence of the army there. So did he take flying lessons for a movie? "That was passion. That was something I really wanted to do since a really long time," he replied. The 34-year-old is learning to fly a single engine Cessna 172 at Sagar in Madhya Pradesh. So has he mastered the controls completely? "It's a never-ending process. You keep adding hours and as much as you can do. There's no fixed amount of days. You keep doing it and you keep learning," said the actor, who debuted with M.F. Husain's "Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities". Kunal is now trying for a pilot's license. "I don't have one right now but that's what I'm working towards. The only thing I am petrified of is giving exams...I haven't given exams in a long time. That should be a whole new experience now." That's not all. The actor is working hard on his physique as well to bulk up for Anurag Kashyap's superhero movie "Doga". "'Doga' is a process and it's going to take a while. Doga is a character who is 25 kilos of muscle more than what I am. I have to work towards that so I've just begun right now." He is also working on his vocals for Navdeep Singh's movie "Chamkila", based on the "Punjabi music world" and shows a "never seen before, raw side of Punjab". "I play a singer in the movie. I am terrible at it but I'm working on it (too)," he said. All the learning has left the actor brimming with confidence. "I've never felt so sure about myself as an actor. I am really excited about starting new stuff for me has never been about one thing. "We make life more about work than anything else. It's about discovering a lot of things. There's so much to it and that's what I am working at," Kunal said.

Luis Suarez joins World Cup top scorers

Uruguayan hit-man Luis Suarez scored his side's two goals against South Korea on Saturday, joining the ranks of the World Cup's top scorers and heralding his arrival among the elite of the world's strikers. Currently playing for Ajax Amsterdam, where he was the Dutch league's top scorer and player of the year last season, he had been on the radar of Europe's richest clubs even before his brace of goals on Saturday sent his team through to the last eight of the World Cup. Those goals are likely to increase his value substantially. The first showed him coolly finishing from an acute angle, while the second came when his team were under pressure after South Korea had equalized. He controlled the ball and sent an unstoppable curler in off the far post from just inside the box. After the game Suarez, 23, described that goal as the most important of his career, but shrugged of report naming him among the world's elite."It doesn't really matter who scores the goals," he said. "Because I'm a forward of course I try to get the ball in back of net. But most of all I think about my team and getting as far as we can in the tournament." Born in Salto, Uruguay on Jan 24, 1987, he began his career in his home country with Club Nacional de Football, for whom he scored 12 goals in 29 appearances. At age 19 he signed for Dutch side Groningen in a deal that was worth around 800,000 euros (995,000 dollars). His 10 goals in 29 games brought him to the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs, and he signed for Ajax for a fee of 7.5 million euros in August 2007. He was an immediate hit with the famous Dutch side, racking up 20 goals in his first season, and scoring 35 league goals in 33 games last season (49 in all competitions). His current tally for Ajax stands at 74 goals in 97 matches. Ajax manager Martin Jol was quick to recognize his talent, naming him Ajax captain at the start of last season, at the age of just 22. With that kind of pedigree it's no surprise that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have all been linked to the prolific striker. He has said his sights are high. "He will only leave us if the opportunity comes up to join one of Europe's best teams," said Jol. Suarez is under contract to the Dutch giants until 2013 and insists he's in no hurry to leave. "I'm enjoying myself at Ajax and I like living in Amsterdam. I have not renewed my contract for nothing. I am here to stay." Suarez made his international debut in February 2007 and was sent off in his first game. But coach Oscar Tabarez kept faith with him and has been amply rewarded by his 13 goals in 34 games for the national team. Prior to Saturday's late game at the World Cup, he is joint top scorer on three goals along with with Spain's David Villa, Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain and Robert Vittek of Slovakia.

'Proposed law against communal violence in negotiation stage'

A proposed law against communal violence, which the central government is reported to have drafted, is still in the negotiation stage, representatives of civil society said today. "I saw these articles (in the media) which said that the government had incorporated the bill. This bill has not been incorporated till now, the reports are a complete lie. We have just proposed it to the National Advisory Council (NAC), the negotiations are still going on," said activist Shabnam Hashmi of NGO Anhad. According to John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council (AICC), on June 24 the civil society representatives had a meeting with the NAC but none of their demands were met. "In 2009, we proposed few suggestions to be included in the bill which the government promised to revise. In a recent meeting, though they made few changes, the clauses we asked them (NAC) to include in the bill were not incorporated," he said. Six amendments have been proposed to the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill -- command responsibility of public servant and non-state actor, requirement of new definition of sexual crime, repartition commission or council, witness/victim protection, duties/accountability of public officials and the state government should not get the power to declare a communally disturbed area. "The NAC proposed that areas which are commonly disturbed by violence like Kashmir and the northeast should be declared as communally disturbed areas which we rejected. If this clause is included, then the power will come in the hands of police and the armed forces who may abuse this power given to them," Hashmi added. The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha Dec 5, 2005.

Omar reiterates commitment to rights, warns mischief mongers

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said today his government will not tolerate human rights violations but will take severe action against all those disturbing the peace. Chairing a meeting of senior ministers, senior bureaucrats and police officers here, Abdullah said: "The perpetrators, instigators and disruptive elements will be dealt with severely". He asked the administration to take proactive preventive measures and also be careful that no innocent civilian causalities occurred. Abdullah laid stress on the need to strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) laid down to deal with any situation. "The death of any innocent civilian is a cause of deep concern for the government. However, the government cannot afford to be complacent against those who want to be a law unto themselves and disturb the peace and tranquility in the state." He said his government is committed to maintaining peace and order and shall take strong measures against those elements, who for their own political considerations and vested interests, want to exploit and misguide the youth of the state. The chief minister said all forces deployed in the state have to exercise utmost restraint while dealing with the civilians and those found guilty of human rights violations will be dealt with strictly as per law.

Europe proposes UN Security Council reforms: Sarkozy

Europe's most powerful states have proposed concrete reforms to the UN Security Council to give developing powers more say, the French president said on Saturday at a Group of Eight (G8) summit in Canada. The council has five permanent members with veto powers: Britain, China, France, Russia and the US. Other major states, such as Germany and India, have been calling for years for that elite group to be expanded. "France and Britain have proposed an interim reform of the UN Security Council. (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel supports this reform," Nicolas Sarkozy said. Diplomats from the countries involved would not be drawn on the substance of their proposal. But the president of the Council of European Union member states, Herman Van Rompuy, said that it was "an important initiative to rebalance, after 50 years, the composition of the UN Security Council". Developing states argue that the Security Council is unbalanced because it is dominated by developed states and has no permanent place for new powers such as Brazil, India and South Africa. There was "extensive discussion" of the proposal at a G8 dinner on Friday, Van Rompuy said. Four of the five veto holders - Britain, France, Russia and the US - are G8 members. Their leaders are set to hold talks with China's president later on Saturday at a meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies in Toronto.

Excessive calcium could be harmful

Excessive intake of calcium supplements may have adverse effect on health, notes a study.

Postmenopausal and pregnant women, transplant recipients, patients with bulimia (an eating disorder) and individuals on dialysis face the highest risk of developing the calcium-alkali syndrome.

The incidence of the calcium-alkali or the milk-alkali syndrome is growing in large parts, because of widespread use of over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Study authors Stanley Goldfarb and Ami Patel from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (UPSM) recommend changing milk-alkali syndrome's name to calcium-alkali syndrome because it is now associated with a large calcium intake, not just milk.

The syndrome arose in the early 1900s when patients ingested abundant amounts of milk and (alkaline) antacids to control their ulcers.

This practice increased individual risk of developing dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood, which could cause high blood pressure and even kidney failure.

The incidence of the milk-alkali syndrome declined when newer ulcer medications became available, but it appears to be on the rise again.

Thanks to the increased use of over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements, used mainly as preventive and treatment measures for osteoporosis, many patients with the syndrome now require hospitalisation.

The obvious preventive strategy against the calcium-alkali syndrome is to limit the intake of calcium to no more than 1.2 to 1.5 grams per day, the study co-authors said.

"Calcium supplements taken in the recommended amounts are not only safe but are quite beneficial. Taken to excess is the problem," said Goldfarb, according to a University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine release.

"Even at the recommended dose, careful monitoring of any medication is wise and yearly determinations of blood calcium levels for those patients taking calcium supplements or vitamin D is a wise approach," he added.

These findings will appear in the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN).
source: agency

G20 must act to pursue reform, spark growth: Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama on Friday called on world leaders meeting at the G20 summit in Toronto this week to strive for financial reform, spur growth and bolster the global economy.

Obama noted that this weekend's gathering in the Canadian business hub was the third summit of G20 developed and developing nations since he took office last year, and would be preceded by a G8 rich nations summit.

He said previous meetings had pulled the global economy back from the brink of disaster and cemented a fight for balanced growth.

"This weekend in Toronto I hope we can build on this progress by coordinating our efforts to promote economic growth, to pursue financial reform, and to strengthen the global economy," Obama said at the White House.

"We need to act in concert for a simple reason: This crisis proved and events continue to affirm that our national economies are inextricably linked.

"And just as economic turmoil in one place can quickly spread to another. Safeguards in each of our nations can help protect all nations."
source: agency

Palestinian girls race through gender barrier

RAMALLAH (WEST BANK): Palestinian women are speeding into the record books by competing in the first all-female car racing team — the Speed Sisters. Along the way, they're crashing through another gender barrier in this conservative Muslim society. The eight women have entered a popular race called 'Speed Test.' Souped-up cars race around a track, weaving their way around obstacles and spinning circles around others.

"I love sports that are tough and dangerous, because I am a dangerous woman," said Nour Dawood, 20, after a race this week outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. She wore a yellow-and-black racing suit, sunglasses and a helmet as she leaned against her car, her curly hair pushed back into a ponytail. Around her, drivers revved their engines.

Arabic music pounded out of loudspeakers. A group of fans crowded around the track to watch, including a small contingent of women with large sunglasses. It's another step for Palestinian women who have been claiming more positions of influence in an otherwise still male-dominated society. This year, the first female Palestinian governor was appointed to oversee the West Bank district of Ramallah. The mayor of the district's main city is a woman, as are four ministers in the Palestinian cabinet.

Speed Test began in the West Bank in 2005, as violence between Israel and the Palestinians began petering out. Races take place throughout the territory that is ruled by Israel, with Palestinians administering parts of it.
source: agency

G8 leaders condemn North Korea for ship sinking

TORONTO, Canada: G8 leaders on Saturday condemned the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on North Korea in an official communique released after two days of talks.

"We deplore the attack on March 26 that caused the sinking of the Republic of Korea's naval vessel, the Cheonan, resulting in tragic loss of 46 lives," the communique said.

Recalling that a multinational investigation had found that Pyongyang was to blame for the attack that sank the ship, the statement added: "We condemn, in this context, the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan.

"We demand that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea."
source: news agency

Tendulkar leads sports stars in Wimbledon royal box

LONDON: Sachin Tendulkar was among a host of sports stars who packed out the royal box on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Saturday, with top internationals and Olympic gold medallists among the throng.

India's master batsman Tendulkar and West Indies hero Brian Lara were in attendance from the world of cricket, while England football greats Bobby Charlton and Glenn Hoddle were also invited.

Former Wimbledon champions included Martina Navratilova, Budge Patty, Jan Kodes and Australian trio Ashley Cooper, Neale Fraser and Evonne Goolagong-Cawley.

Romanian tennis legend Ilie Nastase and former British number one Roger Taylor joined them.

From rugby union, the world's most capped forward Jason Leonard, England captain Lewis Moody, and former England internationals Alastair Hignell and Martin Bayfield watched the action.

Among the British Olympic gold medallists present were cyclists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, athlete Kelly Holmes, canoeist Tim Brabants and skeleton racer Amy Williams.

US skiing gold medallist Julia Mancuso, New Zealand golfer Bob Charles, who won The Open in 1963, and British former swimming world record holder Mark Foster also attended.

Saturday was Armed Forces Day in Britain and representatives from the military in the royal box were given a standing ovation.

The stars saw reigning women's champion Serena Williams defeat Dominika Cibulkova, 2008 men's champion Rafael Nadal take on Philipp Petzschner and British favourite Andy Murray play Gilles Simon.
source: news agency

Ghana stun US for World Cup quarterfinal berth

RUSTENBURG: A spectacular left-foot strike by Asamoah Gyan in extra time sent Ghana into the World Cup quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over the United States on Saturday in a dramatic finale to an absorbing contest.

Gyan ran onto a long ball from midfield, shrugged off two defenders and fired home a venomous shot that sees Ghana match the best previous performance by African teams at a World Cup.

The goal came after Ghana had been subjected to long periods of sustained American pressure with the teams having gone into extra time with the score tied at 1-1.

Ghana, who face Uruguay in the last eight on Friday at Soccer City in Johannesburg, are only the third African team to reach the quarters after Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002.

"I'm the happiest man in the world," said Gyan. "I'm pleased that Africa's happy that we qualified for the quarter-final. We have made Africa proud not Ghana alone but the whole of Africa."

U.S. coach Bob Bradley saw Ghana striker Gyan as the key difference on the night. "Gyan caused us trouble and got the winner," he said. "Physically, he's a real handful and at the end of the day that's probably the area that too care of things.

"At this moment it's a stinging, tough defeat... we knew Ghana was a good team yet tonight we didn't get the job done."


The U.S. had fought back strongly after a sluggish first half, in which they fell behind to a fifth-minute goal from midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Landon Donovan, who had been the hero of their dramatic qualification for the knockout stage in midweek, equalised just after the hour mark from the penalty spot.

German-born Boateng, who qualified to play for Ghana on the eve of the finals, stole the ball from Ricardo Clark in midfield and ran on to fire home from the edge of the area in a perfect start for Africa's last representatives at this World Cup.

Ghana's teenage defender Jonathan Mensah gave away a 62nd minute penalty when he brought down Clint Dempsey.

Donovan struck his spot kick in off the post to give the Americans a deserved equaliser as they suddenly found the energy to stage what has become a customary second-half rally.

Jozy Altidore might have snatched victory for the Americans 10 minutes from the end of normal time after getting the better of the Ghana defence, but hooked his shot wide.

After Gyan's goal, his third of the tournament, substitute Benny Feilhaber had a shot blocked in a goalmouth melee as the Americans attempted another comeback but it was not to be.

"We were a little naive tonight and at this level you can't do that," said Donovan. "It is frustrating considering all the work we have put in, it just sucks man.

"I'm proud of what the team has done. Soccer is a cruel game sometimes. One minute you are on top of the world, the next minute you are at the bottom of the mountain," he added.
source: agency

Panel suggests 70% weight for Class 12 marks in IIT entry

NEW DELHI: In what may mark a major shift away from the current scheme of admission to the country's bluechip engineering institutions, an HRD ministry panel has recommended 70% weightage to class XII marks and 30% for performance in an aptitude test to be conducted more than once a year, for the IIT-Joint Entrance Examination.

A cut-off list on the basis of the class XII result and the aptitude test will be prepared in the month of June every year and the top 40,000 will have to take the additional test for IITs. Right now, more than four lakh students appear for IIT-JEE in a single test.

The panel headed by Damodar Acharya, director of IIT Kharagpur, that gave its report to HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday, has also suggested that the aptitude test be an ongoing affair which students can take more than once.

However, the best score in the aptitude test -- which will have questions on reasoning, numerical ability and communication skills -- should be taken into account. It is only the add-on test for the top students that will have questions on physics, mathematics and chemistry. However, the panel has put a restriction on the number of times the add-on test can be taken.

Also, unlike the present system, right at the beginning, students will have to give their choice of IIT or other institutes -- like Indian Institute of Science Education & Research -- whose admission test is conducted through JEE. Students will also have to spell out their choice of branch of engineering or stream of pure science.

HRD sources said the ministry's first task would be to bring all state boards as well as CBSE on par with each other by developing a comprehensive weighted performance index so that there is no gross inequality among them and students do not suffer. Already, a core science and mathematics syllabus has been mooted by the HRD ministry and approved by the Council of Board of Secondary Education. "The move will ensure that students from small towns and even those who cannot afford expensive coaching can aim to be in IITs," a source said.
source: TNN

India for greater SAARC cooperation in combating terror

Underlining the "serious security situation" in South Asia, India today pitched for "fullest cooperation" among the SAARC countries to share information "on potential terrorists and planned acts of terrorism" to combat the common menace. "The increasing threat of terrorism poses a major challenge to the maintenance of peace and security and adversely affects economic development in our region," Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said at the SAARC home ministers conference here. "We can all undoubtedly agree that the South Asian region is faced with a serious security situation," he said.

Home ministers from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives, besides India and Pakistan, are participating in the conference that focuses on security and counter-terror cooperation among South Asian countries.

Stressing that only the "fullest cooperation" will enable SAARC countries "to effectively tackle the grave threat of terrorism in our region", Chidambaram asked whether the existing conventions have been effective.

"We also need to cooperate with each other in sharing information on potential terrorists and planned acts of terrorism, and all other forms of criminal activities in order to create a more secure environment," he said.

"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the instruments and the resources at our disposal are put to the best possible use in our fight against terrorism," he added.

Chidambaram praised his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik for his opening remarks which highlighted the threat of terrorism and the fallout of 9/11 attack in New York and the 26/11 strike in Mumbai.

This is the first visit by an Indian home minister to Pakistan in decades and the first ministerial visit from India to Islamabad since the terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008 that froze the composite dialogue between the two countries.

During his bilateral talks with Malik Friday, Chidambaram pressed for urgent action against alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack and their handlers.

Manmohan Singh arrives in Toronto for G-20 Summit

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here today for the G-20 Summit on Sunday where he is to hold talks with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper and sign a bilateral nuclear cooperation pact on the lines India has with the US.

The prime minister's special aircraft Air India One, made an overnight technical halt in Frankfurt.

Officials said Manmohan Singh has a packed itinerary over the next two days.

The prime minister returns to New Delhi late on June 29, again after an overnight technical halt at Frankfurt.

Kashmir rights panel chief to probe Sopore firing

The Jammu and Kashmir government today appointed state human rights commission chief Justice (retd) Syed Bashir-ud-Din to conduct an enquiry into Friday's firing incident in Sopore in which two youth were killed. According to an official statement here, the commission will enquire into: "The causes of death of Shakeel Ahmad Ganai, son of Abdul Aziz Ganai, resident of Lalad (Sopore) and Firdous Ahmad Khan, son of Nazir Ahmad Khan, resident of Ningli (Sopore) in firing at Krankshivan, Sopore, district Baramulla; To determine the persons responsible for the said deaths and to fix responsibility for use of excessive force, if any." The commission has been asked to submit its report within one month. Ganai and Khan had been killed in the firing by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Sopore town, 54 km from here, when an agitated mob attacked a CRPF vehicle and torched it. Five other people injured in the firing are being treated in hospitals in Srinagar city as an indefinite curfew remained in force in Sopore town. The curfew was imposed on Friday in the wake of the widespread violence following the deaths of the two youth.

Chidambaram plays down Indian flag faux pas

A diplomatic faux pas was resolved amicably when Home Minister P. Chidambaram pointed out to his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik that the Indian flag was being displayed upside down during their meeting and Malik quickly corrected it after regretting the lapse.

"I detected the mistake and he (Malik) corrected the mistake. I told Malik about it and he was extremely regretful of that," Chidambaram told reporters here today after his talks with Malik at the interior ministry on Friday night.

"I think its a minor mistake and I don't think we should make much of it. The flag was put right...," he said.

Terror attack feared during Amarnath Yatra

Security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir fear a possible terror strike during the Amarnath pilgrimage commencing on July 1. The concern was voiced at a meeting of the core group of security agencies including the army, police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) with civil administration officials today. At the meeting at the headquarters of 16 corps at Nagrota, 13 km north of Jammu, the corps commander, Lt. Gen. Rameshwar Roy, said: "There is a need to be more vigilant in view of the possibility of terrorists attempting to disrupt the existing peace in the region, especially during the months of the pilgrimage." Tens of thousands make it every year to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir, dedicated to Lord Shiva, located at a height of 13,500 feet. Roy, who is also security advisor to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, reviewed the security situation in Jammu region, a military spokesperson said. Roy said that "all areas must be appropriately sanitised" in view of the two-month-long pilgrimage

Anti-Cholesterol Drugs may lead to Depression

According to a latest research, anti-cholesterol drugs may cause depression in people. The long-term use of stains, used for lowering the cholesterol level is not good for mental health, says the study.

The study revealed that statins affect serotonin - a neurotransmitter in brain. Since neurotransmitter helps in controlling the mood and behavior, long-term use of statins may prove detrimental and lead to depression.

The research was conducted by Amitabha Chattopdhyay and his team at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). The findings were published in Biochemistry Journal, owned by the American Chemical Society.

source: agency

Mumbai terror suspect held near South Africa border

Two Pakistanis, one a suspect in the Mumbai terror attack, were arrested in Zimbabwe as they tried to enter South Africa, a media report said today. But a South African police officer denied they were terrorists. Zimbabwean police said 33-year-old Imran Muhammad, wanted in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attack, was arrested near the Beitbridge border post, the media said. He was travelling with another Pakistani national, Chaudry Parvez Ahmed, 33, the media said. South African Police have, however, downplayed suggestions that the arrests had anything to do with terrorism. South African police official Vish Naidoo said the two Pakistani men were arrested on suspicion of being illegal immigrants, not terrorists, the media reported. Imran had a fake Kenyan passport and the two Pakistanis reportedly came to Zimbabwe from Saudi Arabia via Tanzania, the report said. Earlier, the media said that at least one of the men was wanted by Interpol in connection with terrorist activities. The media also adds: The men had tried to enter South Africa via the Beitbridge border crossing with Zimbabwe about a week ago. "They are in Harare and in custody as investigations continue," the media quoted a police spokesman as saying. South Africa's border with Zimbabwe has the reputation of being very porous, but security has been stepped up for the World Cup, as authorities fear even a small attack could create massive disruptions. Zimbabwean police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said investigations into the case were going on, but did not say whether the two posed a threat to the World Cup soccer.

'Ready' has action scenes for Salman's fans: Producer

Salman Khan's forthcoming film "Ready" is a romantic comedy, but the director has incorporated some good action sequences so as not to disappoint the popular actor's fans, revealed T-series honcho and film producer Bhushan Kumar. "'Ready' is a romantic comedy, a fun film, but we incorporated a few action scenes as well so that Salman's fans can enjoy and watch him do dare-devil stunts on screen," Kumar told the media. "Apart from the action sequences, 'Ready' is a complete entertainment package, where we will give special importance to the music, something that is usually not up to the mark in comedy films," he said. "Ready", also starring Asin Thottumkal and Paresh Rawal, is being directed by Anees Bazmee who is known for his hit comic capers "No Entry" and "Singh Is Kingg". The film is being shot in Sri Lanka. Besides this, T-series is producing a film called "Patiala House", directed by Nikhil Advani and starring Akshay Kumar and Anushka Sharma.

Malaysian animation film comes to India

After smashing box office records in Malaysia, 3D animation film "Geng" will become the first Malaysian movie to get a commercial theatrical release in India when it opens here in the last week of July. "This movie is one of the biggest blockbusters in Malaysia and this is the first ever launch of a Malaysian film in India. So, for us it is getting the Malaysian culture into India," Aneesh Singhal, chairman, Ken Films told the media. Ken Films along with the producers of the film are bringing the film to India. "Geng" is the story about Upin and Ipin, who along with their friends unfold the mystery in the scenic village of Balipur. The film released in Malaysia last year in February. "We started making the film in 2006 when a few university graduate came to me," said Burhanuddin Bin Md Radzi, producer of the film. "We did not employ any foreign experts for the film, it was all done by Malaysians. We made the film on a budget of roughly $2.5 million," he added. When asked why they think a Malaysian animation film has the potential to do well in India, Singhal responded: "Though it is a Malaysian movie but we have planned its release in a way to make it a global product." "The film has an Asian feel... When you watch the film, you'll see many Indian characters like a Sikh and a Tamilian," he added. "This movie is very different from other animation films. Usually other animation films are more based on mythological characters in India. But this movie is based on promoting Asian and Indian culture," he added. Radzi also revealed that animation was not big in Malaysia but after the success of "Geng", it has really picked up. "Animation was not so popular in Malaysia earlier, but now after the film, it has become a rage. Our film was so popular that we are also making a 42 episode TV series on it," said the producer. When asked about the potential of animation films in India, Singhal said that the industry is quite big here and ready for innovations, and that is the reason why they want to bring animation films from various parts of the world here.

My disaster team now favourites: Maradona

Taking a dig at his country’s media, Argentine coach Diego Maradona said today his "disaster" team was now the favourites to win the World Cup.

Maradona looked relaxed today on the eve of Argentina’s pre-quarterfinal match against Mexico and said his team is on the verge of creating history.

After a closed training session, Maradona hinted that he was still not happy with the fitness of defender Walter Samuels.

"We had a training with Samuels. He felt well, but I will be fielding the ones who will be in a better shape. We don’t want to mess up things in the match," said Maradona at a crowded press conference here.

Maradona said his team is in great shape, but there are little things that are still bothering him.

"It's not easy to go from being nobody in your country and then going on to win three matches and stay focussed. People were saying we were a disaster, we were the worst team they've ever seen, and now they are saying we are an excellent team, that this team is great on the pitch.

"We have the same players as before, so you shouldn't believe what everyone says, just go on working the same way you have been working with the same ideas."

"I always say that others are favourites. This is a fight for our history. When the roads become shorter and narrow then you start your walk towards history," said Maradona.

Asked if he was hurt with the criticism when the team had a bad run in the qualifiers, Maradona said: "I am 50 years old. All this criticism doesn’t affect me. But I feel bad for the boys. What makes me mad is when people lack respect for the players.

"There are many players today who are being considered gods in Argentina and others who have been slaughtered by the media, and we simply want that these same journalists apologise to the players. It's just a matter of being honest."

Looking ahead at Sunday’s clash at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium, Maradona said: "Mexico are a team who you need to respect, and we are going to do that. But they should also respect us and our history. Mexico have a number of players who concern us. But we have our match to play, we have our players to field.

"We know the match is going to be tough but with the team we have and the players we have we can move forward.

"The present situation is great because we have fulfilled our duty to win the league matches and from here on we start building physically and mentally for the next step," said Maradona.

ISRO to launch university-built nano satellite

The Indian space agency will be launching a nano satellite being built by the SRM University here after testing, an official today said. "The satellite is being built by the students. It has to be tested before it can be included as a payload. Perhaps in September, the satellite may be launched," V.S. Hegde, scientific secretary, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the second edition of Indian Youth Science Congress (IYSC) at SRM University, he also said that ISRO will soon launch Cartosat, a cartography satellite. About the failure of ISRO's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) that flew with indigenously developed cryogenic engine April this year, Hegde said: "The failure analysis committee is looking into the causes. The committee is expected to submit its report soon.

Sharad for 'Bharat bandh' against price rise

Accusing the Congress-led government of cheating the common man, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) president Sharad Yadav today called for a "Bharat bandh" by opposition parties against price rise.

Yadav told media persons here that he will talk to leaders of various political parties to decide a date for the shutdown.

"They (parties) should forego their differences and decide a single date for the Bharat bandh," said Yadav, who is also the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance.

Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of failing to check rising prices, Yadav said his main achievement in the past six years has been the Indo-US nuclear deal.

"Food inflation is increasing by the day, making life difficult for people. But the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government is busy making arrangements for the Commonwealth Games. What is the use of this show when common people of the country are finding it difficult to survive?" he said.

Yadav said that increase in prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas, announced by the government on Friday, would further push up prices of essentials and food.

"The poor are being hit hard by the constant rise in prices of all the commodities. The UPA is not for common man but for the rich people only," he said.

He said his party's relations with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were "on track" in Bihar.

Bangladesh minister to visit India in July: Sangma

Bangladesh Commerce Minister M. Faruk Khan will visit India in July to sign an agreement for reopening border "haats" (markets) along the international border, former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma said here today. "The Bangladesh commerce minister will visit Meghalaya in July to sign the final agreement with India for reopening the traditional border haats," Sangma, who arrived here from Bangladesh Friday, told the media. The markets will be set up at the border points between Kaliachar in Meghalaya's West Garo Hills district and Lawar Ghar in Bangladesh's Sunamganj district and between Balat in West Khasi Hills district and Narayantala in Bangladesh's Sunamganj district. These border haats stopped after the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. Border markets are popular among people on both sides of the border living in remote enclaves and hilly areas as they find it difficult to buy and sell products needed in everyday life. India had proposed setting up 22 border markets. What is now the border between the two countries was dotted with markets when India was undivided. Some of them continued to exist until the independence of Bangladesh. Sangma, who led an Indian-delegation to Dhaka, met Bangladesh leaders and officials. He arrived here on Friday after attending an international seminar on war crimes trial. "Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed to have land, air and waterways connectivity and especially to allow India to use the Chittagong Port to transport goods to our landlocked region (northeastern states)," Sangma said. The strategic Chittagong Port located in southeastern part of Bangladesh could help India's northeastern states and boost its economy. The Indian government has decided to construct a bridge over the Feni river in south Tripura to get access to the port. "The Chittagong port is being upgraded to take extra load and the authorities are hopeful to complete (upgradation of port) within 18 months and it will be ready to handle cargos from northeastern states," Sangma said. During Hasina's New Delhi visit in January, it was agreed that the construction of the proposed Akhaura (Bangladesh railway station)-Agartala railway link would be financed by India. A joint team of the railway authorities of the two countries will identify the alignment for connectivity. Bangladesh had earlier agreed to allow India to use its waterways to transport heavy machines for a 740 MW power project under construction in south Tripura. The project is expected to be operational by 2011.

Red wine could help prevent eye disease

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that Resveratrol — found in red wine, grapes, blueberries, peanuts and other plants — could prevent and control angeogenesis (formation of damaging blood vessels) in mouse retina.

“A great deal of research has identified resveratrol as an anti-aging compound, and given our interest in age-related eye disease, we wanted to find out whether there was a link,” says Washington University retina specialist Rajendra S. Apte, the study’s senior investigator.

“We have identified a novel pathway that could become a new target for therapies.

“And we believe the pathway may be involved both in age-related eye disease and in other diseases where angiogenesis plays a destructive role," Apte adds.

Another advantage is that patients can consume Resveratrol orally and avoid eye injections, but they may need to take pills since it is required in high doses in humans, as compared to mice. The compound also is easily absorbed in the body.

Apte says that the compound may well be one day actively used to prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer, too. The findings are reported in the July issue of the American Journal of Pathology.

China bans military from blogging

BEIJING: China has issued regulations banning its 2.3 million soldiers from creating web sites or writing web blogs, adding to the nation's existing Internet curbs, state press said Saturday.

"Soldiers cannot open blogs on the Internet no matter (whether) he or she does it in the capacity of a soldier or not," Xinhua news agency quoted Wan Long, a political commissar of the People's Liberation Army, as saying.

"The Internet is complicated and we should guard against online traps," it said, citing concerns about military "confidentiality".

The new rules are laid out in revised PLA Internal Administration Regulations and went into effect on June 15, the report said. They ban soldiers of the PLA, the world's largest standing army, from creating homepages, web sites or blogging.

China operates a vast system of web censorship, sometimes referred to as the "Great Firewall," that blocks access to or censors content deemed unacceptable, ranging from pornography to political dissent.

Earlier this month, the government cited state security as it defended its right to censor the Internet and warned other nations to respect how it polices the world's largest online population of 400 million web users.

At the same time, the government insisted it "guarantees the citizen's freedom of speech on the Internet as well as the public's right to know, to participate, to be heard and to oversee".

The latest moves come after a very public row with Google over web freedoms earlier this year that prompted the US Internet giant to shut its Chinese search engine.

The spat over censorship and cyberattacks touched off a war of words with the United States, at a time when ties were already suffering due to US arms sales to Taiwan and trade and currency issues.

Police investigation in model's suicide draws blank

MUMBAI: Police probe to uncover the mystery behind the alleged suicide of top model and former Miss Mauritius Viveka Babajee drew blank even as they questioned her family members, friends and relatives.

Viveka was last night found hanging self in her apartment at Continental Towers in suburban Bandra.

A mobile phone, laptop, diary and a few letters addressed to her boy friend Gautam Vohra were among the various things that were recovered from her residence, said Khar Police Station senior inspector Mangesh Pote.

"Post mortem report received from Cooper Hospital states that the 37-year-old model died as a result of hanging. There appears to be no foul play," he added.

Viveka's family members, friends and relatives have been called for questioning, police sources said, adding that no suicide note was found in her apartment.

"According to her friends, Gautam and Viveka were dating since the past few months. We are yet to call Gautam for questioning," an official said.

The model also featured in several well-known advertisements, including those for Kamasutra condoms. She debuted in the film 'Yeh Kaisi Mohabbat' opposite Sharad Kapoor and Deepak Tijori in 2002 and acted in a few Hindi and South Indian films.

Police sources said that they would go through the diary and last phone calls she had made and received.

"We have asked the mobile service provider to provide details of all her phone calls. A few days back, Viveka had a heated argument with her boyfriend. Her friends have also told us that she appeared depressed since past few days due to some personal problem," another official said.

The model had tried to commit suicide earlier as well, the official added.

Viveka originally hailed from Mauritius and entered the Indian modelling scene at the age of 26.

In the past, she was engaged with director Rohit Jugraj and was to tie the knot with him but the marriage plan did not come about.

Chandigarh on radar of terrorists: Police

CHANDIGARH: Pointing out that Chandigarh has been on the radar of terrorists, the administration of the union territory has decided to induct more commandos in the Quick Reaction Team (QRT) constituted in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008.

The Chandigarh administration has decided to not only increase the strength of the QRT from 45 to 100 commandos, trained on the pattern of the National Security Guards (NSG), but also arm them with latest sophisticated weapons to stop hi-tech terrorists from having the better of them in a given situation.

S S Srivastava, SSP, Chandigarh Police, said here today that the city has been on the "radar of terrorists".

"Recently, disturbing reports have come in hinting at the presence of some suspected terrorists in the neighbouring states. This made us take the decision to increase the strength of QRT commandos and equip them better," he said.

Giving out details of the equipment and firearms being provided to the commandos, Srivastava said they would be given two bullet and grenade-proof vehicles costing Rs 50 lakh each.

The commandos will be armed with latest sophisticated weapons.

The commandos will also be provided special kits given to NSG commandos at the time of operation.

"The QRT personnel are being trained in making dynamic entry into a building, dealing with active shooting situations, rescuing entrapped hostages and citizens in the custody of armed people, coping with cases of vehicle and bus assaults and a variety of special threat and high risk incidents besides bomb detection etc," Srivastava added.
source: agency

Pak national with suspected 26/11 link nabbed in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG: A Pakistani national suspected to be linked to the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, was nabbed in Zimbabwe while attempting to enter South Africa, raising fears that terror groups could be trying to target the FIFA World Cup underway here.

Imran Mohammad, 33, and compatriot Chaudhry Pevez Ahmed, 39, were intercepted at the Beitbridge Border Post between Zimbabwe and South Africa by alert immigration officers last Sunday after they were found to be travelling on fake passports.

"Indications were that... Mohammad is wanted in Pakistan, as he was allegedly involved in the terror attacks that rocked Mumbai, India, in November 2008," the state-run Zimbabwean newspaper Herald reported.

The paper reported that Mohammad and Ahmed flew from Saudi Arabia to Tanzania, where they fraudulently acquired Kenyan passports before connecting to Zimbabwe by road.

The paper quoting a police spokesman said investigations were continuing.

Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said the two were assisting police with investigation.

"They are in Harare and in custody as investigations on the case continue," he was quoted as saying by news portal Zimdiaspora.

Assistant regional immigration officer Evans Siziba added: "It's an issue that is before the police. Maybe when they are through we will be at liberty to comment."

Police and Immigration officials did not comment on if an international arrest warrant had been issued against the arrested persons.

With the purpose of the duo's visit to the country unclear, the arrest raised concerns over the possibility of terror groups targeting the World Cup, but South African and Zimbabwean police assured visitors of all efforts to maintain security.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup, which started on June 11 will end on July 11.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are operating a joint command post at Beitbridge for the duration of the tournament.
source: agency

India wants more action from Pak on 26/11: Chidambaram

ISLAMABAD: Home minister P Chidambaram said India wants more action from Pakistan against those involved in the Mumbai terror attacks and expressed confidence of a "positive outcome" in the matter after his meeting with his counterpart Rehman Malik.

Briefing reporters about his meetings with Malik, Chidambaram said India believes that more people were behind the attacks and more people should be prosecuted.

"We know that seven people (are being) prosecuted in the case. How far the prosecution has proceeded, it is for the Pakistani government to tell," he said, when asked about the status of Pakistan's trial of the 26/11 attacks case.

He also noted that the trial of seven people, including LeT operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was adjourned for a week today.

"We think that more people were behind the attacks and more people should be prosecuted. That point has been made to the Pakistani government and as I said, I wish to remain positive on the outcome of the meeting with Rehman Malik," the home minister said.

Terming his over 2-hour-long meeting with Malik yesterday as good, he said they both identified what needs to be done other than what has already been done.

"I think the meeting that I had with Rehman Malik was a good meeting. We spoke with each other. We spoke directly to each other and I am confident that something good will emerge out of that meeting. So, let's try to remain positive," he said.

Chidambaram, the first Indian home minister to visit Pakistan in three decades, met Malik at the Interior Ministry here, and sought action against JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.
source: agency

Nalini drops demand for transfer from Vellore prison

NEW DELHI: Rajiv Gandhi's assassin Nalini Sriharan, who had sought transfer from Vellore prison alleging harassment, has decided to drop the demand, saying conditions had improved in the jail, her counsel said.

"She said that she will no more seek transfer to another prison as things have improved after Deputy Inspector General of Police Govindarajan conducted an inquiry in the prison," said P Pugalenthi who met her today.

Nalini, who is serving life imprisonment, had earlier given a three-page complaint and had decided to move the Madras High court, seeking a direction to transfer her from Vellore Prison to Puzhal Central Prison.

"In her three-page complaint to the IG prisons she had alleged that prison manual rules regarding rights of prisoners were being violated by jail authorities inside the prison while dealing with her. She has decided to drop the move as there is no harassment after Mr Govindarajan conducted an inquiry after she petitioned Inspector General of Police," Prisons," the lawyer said.

Meanwhile, Pugalenthi said that they will try to approach Tamil scholars, who have come from various parts of the world to attend the World Classical Tamil conference in Coimbatore, to request them to take up the case of Nalini's early release with Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi.

Nalini completed 19 years in jail on June 13.
Source: news agency

Censor board rejects film on Nepali Maoists

Citing the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country, the censor board has refused to certify a documentary film which it feels justifies the ideology of the Maoist movement in Nepal.

“It does not have a single word about the Indian Maoist movement. I could have juxtaposed it, but I specifically did not do it,” says Anand Swaroop Verma, the frustrated producer of the film ‘Flames of the Snow: Revolution in Nepal'. “It is a chronological history of the Nepali people's struggle against autocratic regimes.”

Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Sharmila Tagore says “India does defy definition,” indicating that something which justifies the Nepali movement may also reflect on its Indian counterparts. “Are there similarities in the ‘-ism'? Can parallels be drawn,” she asks. “I do feel that there sometimes has to be some restriction in view of peace, of law and order — the bigger picture.” She will personally view the film when the Reviewing Committee considers Mr. Verma's appeal next week.

The board communicated its refusal to certify the film for public screening on June 14, after a four-month period during which consultations were held with the Ministry of External Affairs, a former Ambassador to Nepal who gave his objections in writing, and experts on Maoists and Nepal.

“In the opinion of the Examining Committee, any justification or romanticisation of the ideology of extremism or of violence, coercion, intimidation in achieving its objectives would not be in the public interest, particularly keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country,” said the board's letter, which also quoted the Cinematograph Act's provision that a film must not be “against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order …”

Given the sensitivity of the issue and the current Maoist violence, the Examining Committee may have erred on the side of caution. “There is no intention to muzzle anyone,” says Ms. Tagore. “The problem may have been that it wasn't a balanced film. It may have been entirely pro-Maoist.”

Mr. Verma admits that while he has been writing about Nepal for the past 30 years, he is also a known Communist who has written extensively on Indian Maoists, though he is “critical of them on some issues.” However, he reiterates that his film simply tracks the history of Nepali people's movements from the 1770s, including the peasant movement which produced the “first martyr” Lakhan Thapa, the Praja Parishad and Nepali Congress movements, and finally the Maoist armed struggle and the toppling of the monarchy, ending with the proclamation of the republic in 2008.

“It is not possible to make any film on Nepal's history or politics without mentioning Maoists,” he says, adding the Maoists are a legitimate movement, with the largest number of seats in the Assembly. “India has even welcomed a Nepali Maoist Prime Minister,” he points out.

Mr. Verma has appealed the decision to the Revising Committee, and if the film is rejected again, he will take his case to the appellate tribunal and courts.

source: news alert

IAF conducts joint exercises with French, Singapore air forces

Enthused by the results of the Garuda 2010 exercises conducted jointly with the Indian Air Force, the French Air Force plans to send its multi-role combat aircraft, Rafale for the next edition in India.

Since the exercise got under way at Istres air base in France, the air forces of India, France and Singapore have flown over 60 missions carrying out various manoeuvres including implementing ‘no fly zone' and large force engagements both at day and night.

The exercises were conducted by six IAF SU-30MKI along with the Mirage 2000-5, with Rafale and F-16 being fielded by their counterparts.

IAF frontline fighter Sukhoi-30 also took part in the high-value airborne asset protection and protection busting missions.

In yet another exercise, IAF IL-78 planes carried out cross-refuelling, which involves refuelling the fighter aircraft of other air forces. Making the mission difficult was to practise refuelling denial missions, Wg. Cdr. Mahesh Upasani, spokesman for the exercise said.

The SU-30 was subjected to ‘swing roles,' during which aircraft switch roles from an offensive to a defensive one. The E-3 AWACS provided the radar coverage.

The IAF ‘Garud' special forces team also carried out two jumps by day and night along with the French special forces. The troops were para-dropped by IAF's IL-76 transport aircraft.

Wg. Cdr. Upasani said the French officials have expressed the desire to take the Rafale for the next round of exercises to be held in either 2011 or 2012.

source: news agency

Centre to release 5 m tonnes of wheat in open market to check prices

The Centre will release five million tonnes of wheat in the open market to enhance availability and maintain a check on prices.

The wheat would be available directly from depots for traders and retail buyers at a reserved price of approximately Rs. 12.54 paise. Wheat is selling in Delhi markets at about Rs. 14 per kg.

This decision was approved here on Friday by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) chaired by Pranab Mukherjee. The wheat released for sale under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) would be in addition to the 3 million tonnes released last year through State governments.

The meeting however, deferred the decision on reducing the levy obligation on sugar millers from the present 20 per cent to the proposed 16 per cent saying that the sugar availability and price situation was still vulnerable. Levy sugar is sold to Below Povertyline beneficiaries of the public distribution system.

The EGoM also decided to retain the zero duty on wheat and sugar imports in view of the high food inflation. India has imported about 6.1 million tonnes of sugar since February 2009, according to industry sources.

Wheat will be sold from the government depots between July and March at acquisition cost plus freight from Ludhiana to State capitals. Small buyers and traders would be able to lift one tonne per day during the period. Bulk buyers would have to go through the process of tenders as before.

On the proposed National Food Security Bill, the chairman decided that it would be discussed after Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council takes a view on it.

source:the hindu

India, Pak must work jointly in tackling militancy: Rao

New Delhi and Islamabad must work jointly in tackling militancy and not let the militants any opportunity to derail the peace process between the neighbours. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao stated this while addressing the media persons at a joint press conference after her meeting with Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir in Islamabad on Thursday. Both the sides said the talks were marked by 'a great deal of cordiality, sincerity and earnestness' that will pave the way for a more comprehensive dialogue, signalling a possible - and unexpected - thaw.

Say no to drugs! -Rohit khurana

For all those who didnt know,June 26 is celebrated as the Inter national Day Against Drug Abuse.Ronit Khurana,the actor who plays Vansh,a recovering drug addict in Uttaran,feels very strongly about the issue especially now after playing this role.
I had never done anything of this sort.I did my homework and met a few recovering addicts and tried to understand why they made the choices they made.I had to understand every aspect of being a drug addict in order to portray it honestly on screen, says Rohit.It always helps to have a strong support.In the show,Ichcha is the one who can cut through the darkness and bring Vansh back to life.So,I would say Vansh was incredibly lucky to have met Ichcha.I hope other addicts meet their saviours too.
Rohit also recalls an incident from college where someone he knew had succumbed to heavy use of drugs.He started stealing money from his friends just so he could pay for the the drugs.Soon he became very weak and was always unresponsive.He was ultimately taken to rehab where it took a long while for him to recover, he recounts.Something done for fun has cost people their lives.If you are depressed or if you have a problem,turn to loved ones.Dont be weak.Dont turn to drugs.Say no to drugs!"says Rohit.
Source: TNN

Sylvester Stallone may stop acting: Sylvester Stallone has hinted

Sylvester Stallone has hinted to draw an end to his acting career as he wants to concentrate on being a director.Speaking at the Los Angeles Film Festival the 63-year-old actor said his new movie 'The Expendables'where he plays a gang leader of veteran mercenaries on a deadly mission,could be his last as an actor.
Source: agency

Fans around the world honour MJ

A year after Michael Jackson's death caused a worldwide outpouring of shock,tears and tributes,the anniversary of his passing was being marked Friday on a quieter scale,as fans remembered their fallen King of Pop with vigils,prayer and,of course,music.Some radio stations woke up listeners to Jackson's music;on US television,all the major networks devoted a portion of their morning programs to Jackson.Events were planned across the globe,from Tokyo to New York.AGENCY

Now,computers recognize human speech

Artificial Intelligence Has Moved Further To Understand Human Speech
Thanks for coming,the medical assistant says,greeting a mother with her 5-year-old son.Are you here for your child or yourself
The boy,the mother replies.He has diarrhoea.Oh no,sorry to hear that, she says,looking down at the boy.
The assistant asks the mother about other symptoms,including fever (slight) and abdominal pain (He hasn't been complaining).She turns again to the boy.Has your tummy been hurting Yes,he replies.
After a few more questions,the assistant declares herself not that concerned at this point.She schedules an appointment with a doctor in a couple of days.The mother leads her son from the room,holding his hand.But he keeps looking back at the assistant,fascinated,as if reluctant to leave.
Maybe that is because the assistant is the disembodied likeness of a woman's face on a computer screen a no-frills avatar.Her words of sympathy are jerky,flat and mechanical.But she has the right stuff the ability to understand speech,recognize paediatric conditions and reason according to simple rules to make an initial diagnosis of a childhood ailment and its seriousness.And to win the trust of a little boy.
Our young children and grandchildren will think it is completely natural to talk to machines that look at them and understand them,said Eric Horvitz,a computer scientist at Microsoft's research laboratory who led the medical avatar project,one of several intended to show how people and computers may communicate before long.
But in recent years,rapid progress has been made in machines that can listen,speak,see,reason and learn,in their way.The prospect,according to scientists and economists,is not only that artificial intelligence will transform the way humans and machines communicate and collaborate,but will also eliminate millions of jobs,create many others and change the nature of work.
The artificial intelligence technology that has moved furthest into the mainstream is computer understanding of what humans are saying.
People increasingly talk to their mobiles to find things,instead of typing.Both Google's and Microsoft's search services now respond to voice commands.
Yet if far from perfect,speech recognition software is good enough to be useful in more ways all the time.Take call centres.Today,voice software enables many calls to be automated entirely.And more advanced systems can understand even a perplexed,rambling customer with a misbehaving product well enough to route the caller to someone trained in that product,saving time and frustration for the customer.They can detect anger in a callers voice and respond accordingly usually by routing the call to a manager.NYT NEWS SERVICE

ARTIFICIAL HEART SOON -Scientists in US create artificial lungs,of sorts

Chicago: Two US teams have taken major strides in developing lab-engineered lung tissue that could be used for future transplants or testing the effects of new drugs.
In one study,a team at Yale University in Connecticut implanted engineered lung tissue into rats that worked like the real thing,helping the animals breathe and supplying their blood with fresh oxygen.
In another,a team at Harvard University in Massachusetts developed a tiny lung device from human tissue and synthetic materials to test for environmental toxins or see if new drugs work.
Both studies published on Thursday highlight advances in tissue engineering,in which researchers combine synthetic materials and human cells to work like natural organs.
"This is an early step in the regeneration of entire lungs for larger animals and,eventually,for humans,"said Dr.Laura Niklason of Yale,whose study appears in the journal Science.
Niklason's team stripped away cells from rat lung that could cause organ rejection,and used the remaining shell as their starting point.
They infused this tissue with lung-specific stem cells and placed them in a bioreactor -- a kind of incubator built to resemble fetal-like conditions.
"What we found very much to our surprise was the cells generally landed in their correct anatomical location.We think that means the decellularized matrix has (postal) zip codes,"Niklason said in a telephone interview.
When implanted into rats,the lung functioned much like a normal lung for up to two hours,Niklason said.AGENCIES

Mkts give thumbs up to Ambanis deal

Mumbai: Following the signing of a gas deal as directed by the supreme court,Reliance Industries will get to keep about Rs 3,000 crore a year that it would have lost to RNRL,had the energy-to-education major sold gas at a rate of $2.34 per unit as per the earlier agreement the brothers signed in 2005 while dividing the family empire.
This arrangement would give visibility to Reliance Powers projects.Now that RNRL has the gas,it can start building power plants, said Deepak Pareek of Angel Broking.Reliance Power is the company engaged in setting up power plants and RNRL would supply gas to the company to fuel its power generation.Dikshit Mittal of Alchemy also felt the pact would help Reliance Power raise funds for its power projects.A major concern for fund houses was that fuel allocation was not declared up till now for RNRL.Therefore,this arrangement will be a great relief for them. Typically,setting up a power plant takes at least four years and Reliance Powers proposed power plants are months away from getting switched on.Its biggest gas-based project in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh is in a limbo,after its land acquisition faced legal hurdles.The dispute is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
The revised gas supply agreement as well as the government de-regulating the price of petro products have enthused investors.Shares of RIL closed 1.14% higher at Rs 1,063 on Friday on BSE.
Unconfirmed reports,citing sources,suggest that RIL would supply 28 million metric standard cubic metres a day of gas for 17 years to RNRL at a price of $4.2 per unit initially.This price is fixed for five years till 2014.
As of now,Anil Ambani group has just one gas-fired power plant in southern India.The group plans to set up more gas-fired stations in the country,specifically in Dadri (8,000 MW) and Shahapur in Maharashtra (2,800 MW).The group also has plans to step up the capacity of its plant in Samalkot in Andhra Pradesh to 1,400 MW from 220 MW.This plant is part of the governments gas utilization policy and has been receiving gas from RIL and GAIL at the current government-set price of $4.2 per unit.

Karachi-bound ship with explosives intercepted

Kolkata: Security agencies on Friday intercepted a Karachi-bound ship at Diamond Harbour,laden with explosives,arms and ammunition.M V Agean Glory,a St Vincent registered vessel,had set sail from the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh.
The shipping agent,who was to handle the vessel at Kolkata,declared that the cargo carried a container and some vehicles.
The master of the vessel said that apart from the container and cars,he was carrying military cargo which included Grade-I explosives.The pilot immediately got in touch with Kolkata Port Trust officials and found out that this part of the cargo had not been declared.We immediately directed the pilot to stop the vessel and informed security agencies.Customs,Navy,Coast Guard and state police officers got into action and are carrying out a detailed inquiry.The ship has remained anchored at Diamond Harbour since 2.30 pm, a senior KoPT official said.

H1N1: 4 more test positive

Hyderabad: Four relatives of the 27-year-old woman from Mahbubnagar who succumbed to swine flu on Thursday,tested positive on Friday.The four have not been admitted to the hospital but have been home quarantined.All four had been in contact with the woman before she passed away.These four cases are among the 14 who are currently under observation for showing symptoms of the virus.State health officials said that people with swine flu symptoms should report to notified health facilities at the earliest.
Meanwhile,the state health department has called for a meeting with private hospital managements to discuss the measures that hospitals need to take to tackle swine flu cases that have risen ever since the onset of monsoon.

Source: TNN

Rs 70 lakh seized from rly engineer -Hyderabad

Officials of CBI on Friday seized over Rs 70 lakh cash from the residence of a senior divisional engineer (West) of South Central Railway,V Gopal Reddy,who was earlier in the day caught red-handed while allegedly taking bribe.
Apart from cash,CBI officials found gold and silver ornaments,fixed deposits and property documents from his residence at railway quarters in Secunderabad.
The searches are still going on.The railway officer had acquired properties worth more than Rs one crore apart from cash.Actual value of his assets will be known after all formalities are completed, CBI deputy inspector general of police VV Lakshmi Narayana told TOI.
Earlier in the day,the engineer was caught red-handed while allegedly accepting Rs 10,000 bribe from a contractor.
Lakshmi Narayana said Gopal Reddy took the amount as part of Rs one lakh bribe approving variation statement for the work executed by the firm of the complainant.

credit: TNN

ULFA intelligence network busted, three held

Security forces today killed an ULFA militant and busted one of its intelligence networks by arresting three college student members, officials said. Police said the three militants were tech savvy and worked for Paresh Baruah, the elusive commander-in-chief of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). They were entrusted with sending e-mails and fax messages to the media and other organisations, besides acting as spies for Baruah. "We were working on definite leads about some people working directly for Paresh Baruah. Based on specific inputs we raided a house in the city and arrested the three," a police official said. Several electronic gadgets, including laptops, five mobile phones, pen drives and hard disks, were recovered from them. "It is apparent that the ULFA was using tech savvy people for their operations and the arrests vindicate our suspicions," the official said. One of those held is a student in a computer institute while the other two studied in different colleges. "Now we can identify people who actually wrote the ULFA press statements and then passed it on to these three boys, who in turn mailed it to media houses and other organisations," he added. Security forces, meanwhile, shot dead a hardcore ULFA militant early today near Kalaigaon in northern Darrang district. Arms and explosives were recovered from the dead man.

We endorse India-Pakistan dialogue: US

The United States has expressed its appreciation for the increasing dialogue between Pakistan and India, saying it's in their self-interest and larger US interest to reduce tensions through talks.

"Just as we've said many, many times, we appreciate and certainly endorse increasing dialogue between Pakistan and India," State Department spokesman Phillip J Crowley told reporters Friday when asked about the talks in Islamabad.

"It is in their self-interest and our larger interest to see dialogue that can help to resolve tensions that exist between the two countries," he said.

The US comments came as Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram met his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Friday.

Chidambaram, the first Indian minister to visit Pakistan since the 26/11 terror attack and the first Indian home minister to visit Islamabad in three decades, is to participate in the SAARC home ministers' conference in Islamabad today.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao had on Thursday held talks her Pakistani counterart Salman Bashir focused on trust-building measures between the two counties.

BJP to take up cause of Pakistan Hindus fleeing to Punjab

The Bharatiya Janata Party's Punjab unit on Friday announced that it would take up the cause of Hindu families from Pakistan who have been forced to settle in the state after being driven out of their country. The state unit has set up a three-member committee under Rajya Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna to look into all aspects of the issue, including relief to such families who have taken shelter in Punjab. Most of these families are living in Amritsar and nearby areas and fear for their lives if they are forced to return to Pakistan. Khanna said that most of the families driven out of Pakistan have settled in three places - Rajpura, Amritsar and Jalandhar. The committee will hold a meeting in Chandigarh on June 29 to get inputs from BJP legislators and other leaders about the exact number of families from Pakistan living in Punjab and suggest future course of action for them. The committee will also visit the three cities and meet with the distressed families. Khanna said that the Hindus and Sikhs were hounded out of Pakistan for fear of their lives. "The options before them are to either convert to Islam or run for their lives, leaving their property and businesses behind," he said. Khanna added that the Punjab and central governments will be approached to get relief for the families.

Nanavati panel's stand on June 30 on summoning Modi

The suspense on the stand of the Nanavati-Mehta judicial inquiry commission, probing the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, on summoning Chief Minister Narendra Modi for questioning will continue till June 30.

The state government pleader Friday submitted a sealed cover to Gujarat High Court's special bench of Chief Justice S.J.Mukhopadhyaya and Justice Akil Kureshi containing the commission's stand on the Jan Sangharsh Manch's demand for summoning Modi. The envelope shall be opened in court on June 30.

Mukul Sinha, representing the Jan Sangharsh Manch, questioned the need for such lengthy process and argued the commission's decision could have been announced. However, he was advised restraint for five more days.

The Manch had filed the petition in the high court seeking direction to the commission to summon Modi after the commission held up a decision on the issue for over three years. The Manch had also demanded summoning six others, including some top bureaucrats and police officials, for cross questioning.

India has shortage of six lakh doctors: Trivedi

India has a shortage of 600,000 doctors and 10 lakh nurses, Union Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi said here today. To combat the human resources shortage in the healthcare sector, Trivedi laid stress on more private-public partnerships. "Currently there is a shortage of 6 lakh doctors and 10 lakh nurses," the minister said while addressing a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) programme. Trivedi said he was not in favour of propagating health tourism because it would create more pressure on the healthcare system. Trivedi said the union health ministry has adopted a three-pronged initiative in April that encompasses initiatives like a comprehensive National Health Portal, a 24-hour 3 digit National Emergency Media Service Number and I- HIND (Indian Health Improvement Network Information Development).

Bhopal gas affected protest new compensation package

Organisations championing the cause of the Bhopal gas victims today protested the new compensation package announced by the government and demanded proper categorisation of the victims. Protesting the government's new package announced on Thursday, seven organisations contested the government's figures of the victims, claiming that the actual number stands in lakhs. "The government says that only 3,000 victims died in the mishap, but the actual number is over 574,000. Even the proper number of the dead and the injured is not in the hospital records," N.D. Jayprakash of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti told reporters. The government on Thursday announced a hike in ex-gratia relief for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims with the cabinet approving assistance of Rs.1,265.56 crore for the medical and social rehabilitation of those affected by the disaster. "We want a proper categorisation of those affected by the tragedy. The compensation which was given on the basis of earlier categories needs to be revised," said Hamida Bi of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan. Meanwhile, Jayprakash said the organisations had filed a petition in the Supreme Court on April 23 for the enhancement of compensation. "All the 574,000 victims need to be provided proper medical examination," he added. The organisations also demanded a proper study of the extent of damage caused by the toxic waste on the ground water and soil of the area around the Union Carbide plant. "No study has been carried out till now in and around the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) plant area and the report which has been submitted is worthless and incorrect.. This shows that the government is trying to evade a solution," Syed M. Irfan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purus Sangharsh Morcha said. They wondered why the government was reluctant in taking action against Dow Chemicals, which has bought Union Carbide, as liable for the disaster. The government should ensure that Dow pays for clean up of the area, Irfan added. However, the organisations welcomed the government's move to extradite then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson in the Bhopal case.

Films dont fail, budgets fail: Sonam Kapoor

Sonam Kapoor has begun to understand the nuances of movie business rather well. After witnessing the box office debacle of her two big-budget movies, Sonam has realised it is wiser to do small budget films like her forthcoming "I Hate Luv Storys".

"I decided let's go the other way. Quite a few seasoned directors offered me films. When you work with Sanjay Bhansali ('Saawariya') and Rakeysh Mehra ('Delhi 6'), the audience expects so much from you. Both the films were big budget films," Sonam, 25, told media in an interview.

"I think films don't fail, budgets fail. For example 'Saawariya' broke even, but it was neither a hit nor a flop. Had it been made in say Rs.15 crore or less, it would have been a hit. So I thought let me try doing films of lesser budget."

After debuting with Bhansali's "Saawariya" (2007) and then doing another seasoned director Mehra's "Delhi-6", Sonam had to convince herself to work with first-time director Punit Malhotra in "I Hate Luv Storys", which also stars Imran Khan in the male lead.

"When Punit came to me, I thought he is such a good-looking guy, he should be into acting, why he is directing. When I saw that he has written the script and dialogue all by himself, I thought this guy has something in him. When he was speaking about the characters, he was very specific about what he wants," she said.

"I found that he has worked as assistant director for 10 years. He knows the technical elements and he has his own point of view. I thought he is not a bad guy to work with. I also wanted to work with Imran and we both were his first choice," she added.

In three years Sonam has had just two releases. Asked about it, she said: "I believe in quality and I believe if you don't saturate yourself you can't be creative."

"I Hate Luv Storys" is a romance saga. It revolves around two people who are completely opposite when it comes to finding true love. While Imran's character Jay doesn't believe in love, Simran, played by Sonam, swears by it and is quite filmy when it comes to love.

Sonam has no qualms in accepting that her actor father Anil Kapoor's reputation in the industry has helped.

"I have my dad's experience behind me. I am his daughter not son; so there is not much comparison. People have too much respect for him and he holds a good reputation. So people think that an apple can't fall too far from the tree, and she may be good as her father and I get work. I have no qualms in accepting that it's all because of my dad," said Sonam.

She says that both her parents are her guiding force.

"My parents are very honest in showing me my shortfalls. They have always guided me on what to do and what not to do. They told me not to get into the rat race because there you need to do lots of manipulation. And I am keeping up with that. My dad is very proud of me."

After "I Hate Luv Storys", Sonam will be seen in her home production "Aisha" and Pankaj Kapoor's "Mausam".