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Modi forwards Shah's resignation to governor

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday forwarded the resignation of his Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, allegedly involved in the 2005 staged killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, to Governor Kamla Beniwal, recommending it be accepted. He had announced the resignation in New Delhi earlier, where he went to attend the 55th meeting of the National Development Council, the country's top policy forum. "Amit Shah has sent his resignation to my bungalow. I will complete the formalities after returning from here. I accept his resignation," Modi told reporters in the national capital. Shah is one of the 18 named in the chargesheet by the Central Bureau of Investigation for the Nov 26, 2005 killing of Sheikh in an alleged fake gunfight outside Ahmedabad.

After attack, Abu Salem shifted to Raigad jail

A day after he was allegedly attacked by a member of Dawood Ibrahim's gang inside the Arthur Road Jail here, mafia don Abu Salem was shifted to the Taloja Central Jail in Raigad district, his lawyer said today. "The decision came after Salem was attacked by a rival gangster in the jail. His safety was at stake and hence the decision was taken. He was shifted to the Taloja jail late last (Saturday) night," said Saba Qureshi, Salem's lawyer. According to state Home Department officials, Salem was shifted to avoid any further security breaches or clashes between him and rival gangsters. The 43-year-old was attacked during breakfast time on Saturday with a sharpened spoon inside the Arthur Road Jail, allegedly by Mohammed Dossa, a member of absconding mafia don Dawood Ibrahim's gang. Salem had injuries on the face and neck. A case has been lodged against Dossa at the N.M. Joshi Marg Police Station here. Besides his alleged role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case, Salem is also named as an accused in the killing of music baron Gulshan Kumar in 1997. Salem, whose name once spelt dread for Bollywood, is also considered instrumental in unsuccessful attempts on the lives of filmmakers Rajeev Rai and Rakesh Roshan a few years ago. He, along with his girlfriend and Bollywood starlet Monica Bedi, was extradited to India in November 2005 after an assurance by the former National Democratic Alliance government that the duo would not be awarded the death penalty.

Myanmar military chief on goodwill visit to India

Myanmar's junta chief Senior General Than Shwe departed today for a goodwill visit to India at the invitation of the Indian president, officials confirmed. Than Shwe departed Naypyitaw International Airport for a five-day official visit as guest of President Pratibha Patil, government officials in the military's capital said. Than Shwe heads the State Peace and Development Council, as Myanmar's junta styles itself. He last visited India in October 2004. India has cultivated close diplomatic ties with military-run Myanmar over the past decade to pursue economic and security interests and counterbalance China's growing clout in the country, which sits between the two Asian giants. Myanmar government sources said Than Shwe's visit was "religious in nature", although it would include discussions on border security and economic cooperation. Myanmar, a former British colony with close economic ties to India prior to independence in 1948, has been under military rule since 1962. The current regime is deemed a pariah by Western democracies for its refusal to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest, and reluctance to introduce democratic reforms. India, by contrast, is deemed Asia's most dynamic democracy. Myanmar's junta is expected to soon announce a date for a general election this year. The anticipated polls have already been condemned by Western democracies for excluding Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy. Myanmar's new constitution assures the military can control an elected legislature through its veto power in the Senate, where one-quarter of the seats are to be appointees by the military.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has become global threat: Mullen

The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has become "a very dangerous organisation and a significant regional and global threat", Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said. Talking to reporters at the US embassy here, Mullen stressed on Saturday that there was a strong need to take stern action to stop LeT?s activities. He said LeT was expanding into Afghanistan and other countries beyond the region, the Daily Times reported. Mullen also supported the statement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the presence of Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. "They are hiding in a very secure place and it is very difficult to trace them," he said. He claimed that the tribal belt on Pakistan?s western border had become the "global headquarters" for Al Qaeda. Mullen said that the Pakistani government had not taken any action against the Haqqani network. "The Haqqani group is the most lethal network faced by the US-led international forces in Afghanistan," he said. He said the US and Pakistan were very strong allies in the war against terrorism and the US had a strong desire to extend help and cooperation to Pakistan. Referring to the planned withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Mullen said it would not be the end of the mission, rather "it will be the start of a process". "The US military will stay there (Afghanistan) till complete revival of peace," he said.

Four CRPF troopers wounded in Srinagar blast

Four Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were wounded in an explosion in Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar late on Saturday, police said. A senior police officer said separatist guerrillas tossed a powerful hand grenade at a CRPF bunker in the uptown Batmallo locality. "The injured troopers were taken to hospital for treatment. The area was surrounded and searched by the security forces," the officer said. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, he said.

PM to constitute panel on urbanisation

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said a sub-committee of the National Development Council, the top policy forum of the country, will examine all aspects of urbanisation. "I propose to constitute a sub-committee of the National Development Council under the chairmanship of S. Jaipal Reddy, the union urban development minister, that would conduct an in-depth examination of these issues and present a report within a period of 12 months," he said. "This will be an input into the Twelfth Five Year Plan," Manmohan Singh told the 55th meeting of the council for a mid-term appraisal of the current Five Year Plan that runs till March 31, 2012. The prime minister thanked the chief ministers for the comments made on the issues and challenges posed by urbanisation, which he said was complex and challenging. Manmohan Singh, during his previous tenure as prime minister had set up an urban renewable mission, apart from promising a new deal for rural India.

Sunny Deol's back problem is back, action sequence stalled

There seems to be no end to Sunny Deol's troubles. He's back again in bed for a prolonged rest with his chronic back problem. And to compound his woes this time, stones were also detected in his kidney. Director Samir Karnik, who's making a family film for and with the Deols entitled "Yamla Pagla Deewana", is in a fix. Just when he needed to shoot a high-voltage action sequence with Sunny, the actor is laid up due to his chronic back problem thereby putting a question mark on the action sequence. Now Karnik has no choice but to push back the action sequence indefinitely and proceed with the post-production of the film. Informs Karnik: "Everything except the action sequence is done. Now I'm going ahead with the post-production. I'll wait for Sunny to recover." That is easier said than done. Along with his back problem Sunny also has stones in his kidney and he has gone to the US to get them removed. Says Karnik: "But for his back problem there's no remedy except complete bedrest. So even after the stones are removed by injection in the US, Sunny is still bedridden until his back is completely healed." Even then, would Sunny be able to perform the stunts for Karnik's film? Says Karnik: "I'll wait. I've planned 'Ghayal' kind of stunts for Sunny with the 'Ghajini' action director Peter Heines. And if he is not up to it, I'll cancel the action sequence. But I'm told after bedrest Sunny's back will be as good as new." Sunny's back problem can easily be considered chronic as for many years he has been suffering from it. On many occasions in his career recently Sunny has been laid off because of his back. This is his fourth enforced holiday due to his back. How long it lasts depends entirely on nature. Incidentally Akshay Kumar, who is bonded in strange ways with Sunny Deol (they've a Raveena connection in the past, and a Dimple connection in the present), also has a chronic back problem which he recently solved with water-therapy treatment in Germany. Shah Rukh Khan too suffers from a bad back. Filmmaker Manmohan Desai apparently took his own life because of unbearable back pain.

Antara Mali goes bald for Amol Palekar's film

Bollywood actress Antara Mali, famous for her glamorous roles, has shaved off her head for Amol Palekar's film "And Once Again", adopting a totally deglamourised avatar to essay the role of a monk in Sikkim. Directed by Amol, the film has been produced by Sangrila Kreations and also stars Rajat Kapoor and Rituparna Sengupta. The film talks about the repercussions of violence on human life and its lingering shadow on all of us with its startling shades. In the past, Antara has done films like "Company", "Road", "Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon", "Gayab" and "Naach", among others. She was last seen in "Mr Ya Miss" five years ago. The 30-year-old actress got married to Che Kurien, the editor of GQ magazine, last year.

Sparsh Shrivastav wins 'Chak Dhoom Dhoom'

Sparsh Shrivastav from Agra was declared the winner of children's dance reality show "Chak Dhoom Dhoom" on Colors channel on Saturday night. The 11-year-old, who specialises in folk, kathak and Bollywood dance forms, has been trained by his mother. He succeeded against Jammu's Piyush Bhagat, Orissa's Tejaswani Behera and Gauri Ingwale from Satara, Maharashtra, to win the show after 13 weeks of relentless practice sessions and performances. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and actress Trisha Krishnan graced the finale as the celebrity guests to promote their new film "Khatta Meetha". Singer Shaan and filmmaker Sajid Khan were also present. The show, which started off with 16 contestants, was judged by Pony Verma, Ahmed Khan, Bosco Caesar and Saroj Khan. It was hosted by Pravesh Rana and "Chhote Miyan" star Saloni Daini. The final saw a melange of performances ranging from disco, tango, kathak to lavni.

'Khatta Meetha' actress Trisha to star opposite Prateik Babbar

South Indian actress Trisha Krishnan has entered Bollywood following the trend of debuting with a leading man far older than her. In "Khatta Meetha", she stars opposite 43-year-old Akshay Kumar. The age difference doesn't bother her. She is currently shooting a Tamil film opposite 55-plus Kamal Haasan. But for her second Hindi film, Trisha will be seen with 24-year-old Prateik Babbar. "The second Hindi film is a love story with just me and the guy in central roles. It's a subject that can't go wrong. I've already done the Tamil version of this film 'Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya'. Now the same director, Gautham Menon, is remaking it in Hindi with Prateik and me," Trisha, 27, said. "I think we should be kick-starting it in August. I am excited because unlike 'Khatta Meetha', where I don't have a central part, this one has a central role for me." "It was important for me to line up a second Hindi film before the first was released," she said. Speaking excitedly from Europe, where she is shooting with Kamal Haasan, Trisha said: "I've been away from home for almost 40 days. Though I've my mom with me I do miss home. But the shooting with Kamal sir and Maddy (Madhavan) is great fun." Trisha confesses she had her lines in Hindi dubbed in her first film. When you tell her that Akshay said she spoke Hindi well, Trisha laughs it off. "Did he say that? I must thank him. The truth is I was a bit nervous about doing my own lines in Hindi. I've done so many Telugu films. But I don't know the language at all. I know the grammar in Hindi but I can barely manage to speak it." "In Chennai no one talks in Hindi. I was a little worried about my Hindi since my character in 'Khatta Meetha' is from a fluent Hindi-speaking belt. So both Priyan and I decided I wouldn't dub my own lines. But it's not a problem. I know I'll soon master it. It's simpler than the south Indian languages," the actress said. Trisha had got Hindi film offers earlier but didn't jump on to the Bollywood bandwagon until Priyadarshan's offer came along. "I was so busy doing Tamil and Telugu films that I didn't get time to consider Hindi films although offers did come. Also I wanted to do something that would give me a wide audience. I chose Priyadarshan and Akshay Kumar... Their combination always works." Trisha is candid to admit she didn't have that much to do in "Khatta Meetha". "It isn't a heroine-centric role. But I felt it would give me visibility. Look, I may be known in the south. But in Bollywood no one knows me... not yet. When I started in the south I did smaller parts with big heroes. That always worked for me. One needs to be a part of hit films specially at the start," she reasoned. Priyadarshan is Trisha's mentor. "He launched me in the south seven years ago. He had promised he'd launch me in the right vehicle. In five minutes I knew I wanted to do 'Khatta Meetha'. I want to first make sure I establish myself in Hindi before I do more experimental roles. This is the trend I followed in the south as well." On working with Akshay, she said: "In the 'Khatta Meetha' unit Akshay was the only person I didn't know. And he wasn't just my co-star, he was also my producer. He was really sweet. Priyan and Akshay are by now like family to one another. They made sure I was comfortable. This was one of the most professional units I've worked with." Trisha is open to shifting base to Mumbai. "It would depend on the offers. I've always had relatives in Mumbai. I've also done a lot of ads in Mumbai. Though my family won't move out of Chennai, I am hardly in one city any way," she said.

Horror fan Mugdha in supernatural thriller

Actress Mugdha Godse has had an unexplained, eerie experience in the past, but that hasn't stopped her from acting in a supernatural thriller. And she says she loves watching horror movies alone at home. Mugdha reveals that during her modelling days she had a scary experience - she heard a non-existent person talking on the mobile phone in her hotel room! "Once I actually experienced something very scary. I was modelling those days and I checked into a room with another girl in Frankfurt. We were very tired so we switched off the lights and were in our beds by 10 p.m. But till 2.30 at night I could hear the other girl talking on the phone. "Finally I woke up and told her to stop talking because I couldn't sleep. But to my horror, she told me that she wanted to tell me the same thing and that her phone had been kept aside for charging," Mugdha told media in an interview. "We got really scared and tried to put on the lights but the lights were not coming on. Then we felt something eerie around. We immediately called the hotel reception and asked for a room change. It's only when we reached the other room that we heaved a sigh of relief," she said. But the 24-year-old is not one to get completely spooked. She still loves to watch horror films all alone. "I like to psych myself out. Sometimes when I'm alone at home, I order horror film DVDS, put off the lights and then watch it. I like doing that because it gives me a kick," the actress said. Mugdha, who has done films like "Fashion", "All The Best" and "Jail", is now all set to scare audiences in supernatural thriller "Help". "It's a very interesting character. Also, I am a fan of horror films and I watch one horror film every week... I have a big collection. So I thought if I am getting an opportunity to act in one, then why not?" "In the film, I play the wife of a filmmaker who makes horror movies. One day they go to Mauritius and that's where unusual things start happening. The film is very international. It will have audiences on the edge of their seat," she claimed. Directed by Rajeev Virani, "Help" also stars Bobby Deol. After "Help", Mugdha will be seen in "Will You Marry Me?" that also features Rajeev Khandelwal, Shreyas Talpade, Celina Jaitley and Muzammil Ibrahim.

UBI expects growth in 2011

City-based United Bank of India (UBI) expects credit growth of 20 percent and deposits growth not crossing 22 percent during 2010-11, a senior official said here today. UBI would keep its advances growth under control till September by staying away from low-yielding loans. "We are deliberately avoiding low-return loans but hope to seize the opportunity of attaining higher credit growth after September," bank's chairman and managing director Bhaskar Sen told reporters at a press meet. The bank posted a net profit of Rs.107.86 crore for the first quarter (April-June) of the current fiscal (2010-11), up by 53.5 percent. Major factors behind improvement in profitability were growth in net interest margin to 2.98 percent from a low 1.90 percent a year ago and drop in cost of deposit to 5.40 percent from 6.47 percent, he said.

Maruti Suzuki's Q1 net profit declines 20.23 percent

India's largest car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Limited today registered a 20.23 percent decline in its net profit in the first quarter to Rs.465.4 crore as compared to Rs.583.5 crore in 2009-10. "The drop in net profit is due to higher commodity prices, increase in royalty and lower 'other income'. In addition, income from exports to Europe fell due to weakening of the Euro," the company said in a statement. The auto giant's net sales for the first quarter increased by 27 percent to Rs.8,050.7 crore as against Rs.6,340.2 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year. During the quarter, the company registered a total sales of 283,324 units, representing 25 percent growth. The company exported 40,437 units and sold 242,887 units in the domestic market. The company's sales volume in A2 segment which is the largest contributor to the overall sales in the country grew by 16.2 percent during the quarter, while C segment sales volume growth of about 50.8 percent was attributed to the new car Eeco. The manufacturer of Maruti Swift Dzire car in the A3 segment's sales volume also grew by 45.2 percent, compared to the like period of 2009. During the quarter, the company also opened 26 new sales outlet, which take the total to 828 outlets in 577 cities.

India steals limelight at Farnborough air show

Embarked on a spree of defence and commercial aviation deals, India was clearly in the limelight at the Farnborough International Air Show 2010 and the coming months may see increased efforts by foreign firms to woo the country. Summing up the air show, Mike Alvis, operative vice president of the American defence technology supplier ITT Defense International said at a press conference: "We're seeing unbelievable demand from India. There's a lot of willingness to spend on defence." Western firms are seeing India as the biggest spender among emerging economies. The impression is backed by ongoing deals which were talked about at the air show like the C-17 military transport planes and Dreamline 787 passenger craft from Boeing, the Hawk fighter jets from British defence group BAE Systems and military equipment from ITT Corp. These firms are also keenly awaiting India's choice of supplier for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for the supply of 126 aircraft to augment the Indian Air Force. Of the six firms short-listed, five are from the US and Europe, the sixth being a Russian firm. Defence deals are on top of the agenda as British Prime Minister David Cameron visits India next week, more so because of Britain slashing defence spending and looking for increased exports. British Trade and Industry spokesman Adam Thomas said at the air show: "We see huge opportunities from emerging markets. We have a global market share of close to 20 percent and we have been bringing delegates from as many countries as possible to Farnborough." Cameron will have in mind the fact that one of the competitors for the MMRCA deal is the Eurotyphoon fighter, manufactured by EADS, a consortium of which BAE is a partner. But the immediate British deal relates to the Hawk jets. BAE Systems hopes to sign a deal to supply more Hawk trainer jets to India, building on an established partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). BAE is also interested in selling the Type-26 Frigate. BAE's group business development director Alan Garwood said his company "is close to sealing" the Hawk deal. The Americans too seemed enthusiastic about growing defence ties with India at the air show. An American arms supplier, Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, who was at the air show, commented on Indo-US ties: "The relationship is at the best and highest level it's been." Christopher Chadwick, president of Boeing military aircraft - which too has a stake in India's MMRCA deal - said India was interested in buying more than the 10 C-17 planes already planned. The C-17 Globemaster deal at approximately 3.8 billion pounds is the largest Indo-US deal ever, overtaking the 1.4 billion-pound contract for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft inked last year. Russia, whose Ilyushin Il-76 transporters the C-17s will eventually replace, sought to downplay the impression that its deals with India were drying up. At a briefing at the Russian stall, Alexander Mikheiev, deputy director of the Russian agency Rosoboronexport announced details of the deal involving the fifth generation Russian fighter, T-50. "I can confirm that an addendum to the agreement on developing an engine for fifth generation fighter will be signed before the end of the year," he said. The Russians indicated the special efforts being taken to retain India's partnership by diversifying to commercial aviation. Igor Pshenichny, first deputy operative director for marketing and sales at Russian Helicopters -- which is selling four commercial machines to an Indian company -- said: "As to the commercial market for us it's a practically new market." "We have several commercial helicopter operators there, but it's not a big quantity for such a big and huge economically developing country as India. So we are putting additional emphasis on this market now," he added.

Hockey Controversy: Saini planning legal action against players

Anurita Saini, former assistant coach of the women's hockey team, said she is contemplating legal action against the players who have alleged that she had an affair with coach M.K. Kaushik. Saini, who was assistant to chief coach Kaushik till 2006, said she and her family are disturbed over the way her name has been dragged into the controversy. "It is very embarrassing for me and my family," Saini told the media. "I have contacted my lawyer. And I am going to file a defamation case against those who have taken my name," said Saini, who was part of the 1982 Asian Games gold medal winning team. A few players including former captain and goalkeeper Helen Mary had alleged that Saini had an affair with Kaushik. "How can they take my name without any evidence. And a senior player like Helen Mary is doing this. Do they know the meaning of having an affair with someone. I have left the team long back. Why are they defaming me after four years." "I had a professional relationship with Kaushik. We had good co-ordination and during our time the team performed well." "I want all this to be properly investigated by Sports Authority of India, CBI or any agency. Whatever is happening is not good for hockey."

Khanna, officials discuss Games projects' delay

With barely 70 days to go for the Commonwealth Games and several projects running behind schedule, officials from the central and Delhi governments today discussed issues linked to the smooth conduct of the event in October. Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna chaired the meeting of the high-level co-ordination committee which discussed in detail various aspects of security and traffic control besides sanitation. The meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi and Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta. "Several decisions were taken during the meeting to resolve inter-departmental issues for the smooth conduct of the Games," a Raj Bhavan official said. The committee will again meet on Aug 17 pertaining to the Games, which are to be held Oct 3-14.

1,000 Uttar Pradesh cops for CWG

At least 1,000 Uttar Pradesh policemen would be deployed to assist the Delhi government in the smooth conduct of the Commonwealth Games in the capital Oct 3-14, an official said today. Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal said: "About 20 percent of the required policemen would be sent within a week so that they can be trained for the type of duties they would doing." "In view of the Games, security would also be intensified in four districts adjoining Delhi -- Noida, Ghaziabad, Meerut and Mathura," he said.

Six more confirmed swine flu cases in West Bengal

Six people tested positive for swine flu in West Bengal today taking the number of confirmed cases of the contagious disease to 42, a health official said. "Six confirmed cases of swine flu were reported today (Saturday). The total confirmed cases of H1N1 infection is now 42 in the state," state nodal officer for swine flu Asit Biswas told the media. A 58-year-old man died last week due to swine flu, becoming the first victim of the flu in West Bengal. In 2009, a total of 135 people were affected by swine flu in the state. However, there were no casualties.

Amarnath yatra sees over 300,000 pilgrims

More than 300,000 pilgrims have come to offer prayers at the revered Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir so far, with a month still to go for the yatra to conclude. Shrine officials said today that the arrivals this year could surpass previous records. "On an average, almost 10,000 pilgrims a day have visited the shrine and if this trend continues, the number would surpass all previous arrivals," an official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board told the media. The pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine, situated at a height of 13,500 feet, started July 1 and will end on Aug 25. The board's official data collection centre has recorded 305,000 pilgrim arrivals. The figure is expected to touch 600,000 - at least 100,000 more than last year's arrivals, which was the highest. The shrine, which houses an icy stalagmite that is a symbol of Hindu Lord Shiva, saw 500,000 pilgrims arriving last year. This year too, devotees have come in hordes from all over the country, despite the turbulent situation in the Kashmir Valley. Most of them have preferred the traditional route of Pahalgam-Chandanwari, Sheeshnag and Panchtarni to the cave shrine, avoiding Srinagar. "We wanted to visit Srinagar, Gulmarg and other places in the Kashmir Valley, but returned because we were told that it's unsafe over there," said Vidya Sharma, a pilgrim from Delhi. Added Arvind Narang from Ferozepur in Punjab: "The primary purpose was to visit the Bhole Nath (Lord Shiva) shrine... it would have been better if the rest of the Valley would have been normal, then we could have visited Srinagar and had a shikara ride." The valley has been virtually paralysed due to violent protests against civilians being killed in firing by security forces. Fourteen people, including a 25-year old woman, have been killed in firing by security personnel across the Kashmir Valley since June 11. The army was called in to help maintain law and order as the violence spiralled.

Iran to build nucleur-fusion reactor

TEHRAN: Iran said on Saturday it planned to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, state television reported, at a time when the west is demanding that Tehran suspend sensitive nuclear work.

In 2006, Iran said it was pressing ahead with research tests on nuclear fusion, a type of atomic reaction which has yet to be developed for commercial power generation, but this was the first mention in years that the work was continuing.

"We need two years to complete the studies on constructing and then another 10 years to design and build the reactor," Asqar Sediqzadeh, head of Iran's Nuclear Fusion Research Center, said.
The US suspects Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb, and have imposed curbs on it in a drive to convince it to drop sensitive nuclear work.
source: agency

Child porn probe nets Pentagon big fish

WASHINGTON: A major federal investigation has found that dozens of military officials and defense contractors, including some with top-level security clearances, allegedly bought and downloaded child pornography, in some cases on government computers.

The Pentagon on Friday released 94 pages of reports of a sting investigation spanning several years that implicated individuals working with agencies that handle some of the nation's most closely guarded secrets, including the National Reconnaissance Office and National Security Agency.

Defense workers who purchased child porn put the department of defense, "the military and national security at risk by compromising computer systems, military installations and security clearances", a 2007 investigative report said. The suspects also put the defense department "at risk of blackmail, bribery, and threats", the report added.
The Boston Globe first reported the results of the investigation on Friday after obtaining the documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The defense department in turn released the reports, which are heavily redacted, with most names and details about each case omitted.

Some of the individuals have been prosecuted while other cases remain in limbo or charges were dropped, with prosecutors lacking sufficient evidence. In a Virginia case, a contractor working for the National Security Agency was indicted on child pornography charges but fled USand is believed to be hiding in Libya.
Because many important details are blacked out in the documents, it is impossible to determine how many individuals with ties to the Pentagon were either charged.
source: agency

BP boss could resign within days: Report

LONDON: The boss of troubled oil giant BP, Tony Hayward, is poised to quit within days, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.

Hayward, who has been heavily criticised over his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis, is set to step down before BP announces its half-year results on Tuesday, the paper said.

Reports have suggested for days that Hayward would resign at some point in the coming weeks as British-based BP battles to recover its reputation in the wake of the spill.

The Sunday Telegraph said that there could be wrangling over Hayward's severance package, under which he is likely to be paid a minimum figure just over a million pounds.

BP has said that Hayward "has the support of the board and management" but has declined to make further comment on media reports.
source: agency

19 die in Germany stampede

DUISBURG (Germany): At least 19 people died and more than 300 were injured on Saturday when revellers at the Love Parade music festival in the western German city of Duisburg set off a stampede in a crowded access tunnel, police said.

The stampede occurred at 1500 GMT as the final act of the day was beginning at the festival, which up to 1.4 million people were attending, according to local media.

Witnesses told of how ever more people, some drunk, attempted to get into the festival grounds by walking through a tunnel that led under a motorway and up to the former goods railway station where the massive party was taking place.

Sixteen people had died on the scene when the crowd in the tunnel panicked, with some being trampled to death, police said. More victims died later in hospital. The festival grounds were reportedly, at the time of the crush, closed off due to the high number of people already inside.

Early on Sunday, police drastically increased the number of people reported injured to 342 from an earlier estimate of 80. A police spokesman could not provide information on the severity of the injuries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her sorrow and shock at the fatal accident.

"In these difficult hours my thoughts are with the relatives of the victims. My sympathies and my sorrows go out to them," the chancellor said.

"The young people came to celebrate, instead there were deaths and injuries. I am appalled and distressed at the suffering and pain," she said.

Police said that 10 people were resuscitated at the scene by emergency workers.

The identities and nationalities of the dead have not yet been released.

The Love Parade, one of the world's largest electronic music events, had been founded in Berlin in 1989 as a peace parade shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

German President Christian Wulff said "such a catastrophe causing death, suffering and pain during a peaceful festival of joyful young people from many countries is terrible."

The president called for a full and immediate investigation of the incident.

The exact cause of the accident is not yet clear, although witnesses said that police had been informed of the dangerous build-up of people shortly before the fatal crush occurred.

"We were standing in the middle of it. More and more people were trying to get to the grounds. We were almost through the tunnel and were standing at the entrance, but (the crowd) went no further," 21-year-old Fabio said.

"We went back through the tunnel, and my girlfriend and I could scarcely breathe. We had to use our elbows to get through. We told the police that it would soon come to a mass panic," he said.

Video footage from the crush showed people clambering over fences and up concrete walls to escape from the overfilled tunnel.

A spokesman for the Duisburg city council told DPA that many of the injuries resulted from people falling from temporary steel fences at the site as they attempted to escape.

Even as emergency services attempted to reach the accident site, barring an adjacent motorway to land helicopters, the party continued. Organisers feared that a further wave of people trying to exit the event would create a second, possibly uncontrollable panic.

DJs played and the crowd continued to dance until at least an hour after the accident, seemingly unaware of the dozens of ambulances pouring into the accident site.

DJ Dr Motte, the founder of the Love Parade event - which has since been spun off to numerous cities around the world - said that the Duisburg organisers were to blame for the crush.

Unconfirmed reports suggested that only one tunnel exit was available for the hundreds of thousands of people wanting to access the main stage of the event on the railway yard grounds, as well as leave the area.

"They have made a huge management mistake. How can they let people go through only one tunnel to the grounds? It's a scandal," Motte said.
source: agency

Hockey India sacks Kaushik, sends case to cops

NEW DELHI: Hockey India (HI) has said that allegations against coach MK Kaushik by player Ranjita Devi carried "high credibility" and that it will no longer use him. On Saturday, HI referred the alleged sexual harassment incident to Delhi Police. The move comes just a day after the five-member enquiry committee reported on the incident.

"We are referring the matter to Delhi police and if they want they can suo moto file an FIR," HI secretary Narendra Batra said on Saturday.

Batra quoted from HI president Vidya Stokes’ letter to the sports secretary, saying action should be taken as the issue is serious. The letter was copied to the Delhi Police Commissioner and others.

"HI feels that Ranjita’s written version commands high credibility since it has made specific charges against MK Kaushik about oral advances made by him. Since our committee did not have coercive powers to verify and test the version of Ranjita Devi, we do not want to end here and are sending complete report to you so that spots ministry can take appropriate action after proper enquiry," HI secretary Narendra Batra told reporters, quoting from HI president Vidya Stokes’ letter.

The copies of the letter were also sent to Delhi police commissioner, Indian Olympic Association president, director general of Sports Authority of India as well as Kaushik and Ranjita. Batra further quoted from the letter: "The proposed enquiry under section 354 of IPC (outraging the modesty of a woman) can be done by police since only they have the power to take action under this section. We are marking a copy of this letter alongwith all enclosures to commissioner of police, Delhi for necessary action... and also hope that from now on the sports ministry will also take up the matter with Delhi police to bring this case to its logical end."

Batra said that "this case should be made an example so that such issues never occur in future in any sport in India."

Interestingly, HI letter pulled up its own committee for not recommending action in its report. "HI feels that the committee should have recommended action and not merely given suggestions to sports ministry." The committee, in its suggestions for proposed action, had said that the ministry should conduct an inquiry and take appropriate action against videographer Basavaraja.
source: tnn

IWF suspends coach on sexual harassment allegations

NEW DELHI: Indian Weightlifting Federation suspended SAI coach Ramesh Malhotra after Sydney Olympic bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari alleged sexual harassment by him on junior lifters.

Malhotra, who was recommended by the IWF for Dronacharya Award for the last two years, has been relieved of his job at the Bangalore SAI Centre with immediate effect.

"We have suspended Malhotra with immediate effect and has relieved him for his coaching job with Commonwealth core group weightlifters at Bangalore SAI Centre," IWF Secretary General Sahdev Yadav said.

Malleswari had alleged that a SAI coach, who has also been recommended for Dronacharya award, has been sexually harassing junior lifters for more than a decade now.

Yadav said a three-member committee to be headed by IWF vice-president Kumbasi Subramanya with veteran coach Pal Singh Sandhu and IWF joint secretary Madan Lal Salvi as other members, will submit a report within seven days after probing the matter.

He said the allegations levelled by Malleswari, also an IWF vice-president, were not related to the present executive committee which took over in December last year.

"The allegations might have related to incidents happened earlier. We took charge only in December last year and we don't have any complaint by anybody, including lifters, about sexual harassment by any coach or officials," Yadav said.

"But we don't want to ignore anything so we have decided to suspend Malhotra and constitute a three-member committee to look into the allegations," added Yadav, who was the treasurer in the earlier executive committee.

The federation also denied that Malleswari raised the sexual harassment issue during the executive committee meeting held in Udaipur in February before the National Senior Championships.

"No grievance or objection from any executive committee member had been received in the executive committee meeting (in Udaipur)," it said.

The committee though is unlikely to call Malleswari to present his case before the committee.

"It is upto the committee to decide. But the committee will look into past records whether there have been complaints of sexual harassment made by anybody, including players, against coaches or officials," Yadav said.
source: agency

My target is to regain world number one status: Anand

NEW DELHI: Having defended his World Championships title two months back, Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand has set his eyes on regaining FIDE number one spot by the year end.

"I wanted to win the world championship and now that I have done it, I will focus on ranking and regaining number one status by this year end," Anand said.

Anand, who defended his world title against Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov in May, said the priority, however, would be to win the big tournaments which are coming up in the next few months.

"But I believe, I should focus on the board rather than the scoreboard because once I do that, the ranking will take care of itself," he said on the sidelines of a seminar on 'Role of Chess in Developing Young Minds'.

"I have some big tournaments coming up in August, October and December in Spain, China and London. The emphasis would be to play in tournaments and win those as it will automatically lead to the surge in ranking," he explained.

Anand is currently ranked third with 2800 ELO points, which he touched for the first time since April 2008. Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen (2826) and Topalov (2803) are at the first and second spot respectively.

Anand said he would not only try to win tournaments but also study the games of his opponents as he faces the winner of the Candidates Tournament for World Chess Championship 2012.

"Magnus, who is currently number one, will pose a good challenge. Even Russia's Vladimir Kramnik, Topalav they all are fighting in the challenger. So I would have to study their games to chalk strategies for World Championship of 2012," he said.

The 40-year-old Indian has achieved literally everything in chess but he remains insatiable and said he doesn't even want to think about his retirement.

"I am still motivated to compete and I am doing well. It feels strange when people ask me about retirement. At times you don't need targets. Thinking about retirement is a wrong attitude to have," said Anand, who in April 2007 became the oldest person to become world number one.

In a career spanning more than two decades, Anand has seen the best and worst of times and he said it was in such moments he took to experimenting with his strategies and it helped him to improve.

"There are times when one hits rock bottom. I had a bad phase in 2001 when I started losing. I feel in such times one should experiment more with the strategies, may be try a different opening, it will bring more variety," said the 2007 Padma Vibhushan awardee.

Anand, who launched a study titled 'Developing Mindchampions through Chess' conducted by NIIT, feels there should be an institutional way of making children play chess.

"There should be an institutional way to make them play. There should be a mechanism like what NIIT is trying to do, try to engage them for a long term. Chess as we know improves concentration, problem solving and boosts self confidence," he said.
source: agency

OMG! Raju Hirani is back

After creating box-office history in Bollywood, Raju Hirani seems to be aiming at even loftier heights, the realm of the divine in fact.

If the grapevine is to be believed, Raju’s next film will be titled Hey Bhagwan! Raju has just finished his first draft and will think of an apt cast once the script is fully done.

Our source said, “Raju had met Abhijat Joshi a couple of months back in US and discussed the idea with him. Abhijat is Raju’s most trusted associate and he loved the idea; they started working on the script. Raju is already ready with his rough first draft. The film deals with the issue of our multi-deity culture in India and how there are different gods for different problems. The film will be molded in a typical Raju Hirani format, with humour and an underlying message.”

After 3 Idiots, speculation has been rife about what Bollywood’s hottest director will make next. Hirani’s films are usually popular for their zany plots that strike a chord with all demographics of movie-going audiences. Raju Hirani denied the story. Apart from this film, Hirani is also working on Munnabhai Chale Amrika, a sequel to the massively successful Munnabhai series.
source: mumbai mirror

US, South Korea start military drills, North protests

SEOUL: The US and South Korean militaries kicked off large exercises on Sunday to underscore deterrence against North Korea after accusing the reclusive communist state of sinking a warship.

Pyongyang warned that the drill had pitched the peninsula onto the brink of war. US naval vessels, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, began the drills by setting off from South Korean ports where they had called last week in a show of force timed with a high-level meeting between the two allies.

North Korea drove tensions to new heights after a team of investigators, led by South Korea's military, accused it of firing a torpedo in March to sink the corvette Cheonan, killing 46 men.

The United States announced new sanctions on the North last week, freezing the assets of Pyongyang's leaders it said were earned through illicit activities and cutting off the flow of cash to them.

The moves would also ban travel by some individuals. China had objected to the drills. Beijing criticized the introduction of large-scale military equipment into the Yellow Sea off the peninsula's west coast, prompting a move of the bulk of the exercises to areas off the east coast.

On Saturday, the North's powerful National Defence Commission vowed to launch a "sacred war" against the United States and South Korea at "any time necessary", in response to the drills, denounced as "reckless."

The drills involve more than 200 aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor fighter, and three destroyers, including the USS John S. McCain, part of the 97,000-tonne USS George Washington's strike group.

Four Japanese military officers will be on board the carrier to observe the drills.

Pyongyang has routinely been shrill in voicing its anger in the past when the allies conducted exercises. But US officials say further provocations are possible in coming months, especially as the North tries to build political momentum for the succession to leader Kim Jong-il, expected to hand power to his youngest son.

North Korea has called for the resumption of six-party nuclear disarmament talks that it had boycotted since late 2008, a move analysts said was an attempt to put the Cheonan incident behind it and win lucrative aid through negotiations with the South, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.

On Saturday, the North's foreign ministry said it was ready for dialogue but vowed to respond by force if it had to. "We are not the one who would be surprised by military threats or sanctions," a ministry spokesman said.
source: agency

Modi has no right to criticise CBI: Congress

The Congress today slammed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for criticising the CBI for its probe into the 2005 killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, saying he was attacking the Supreme Court by doing so. Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad said Modi has no right to criticise the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as the probe into Sheikh's killing was held under the supervision of the Supreme Court. "By attacking CBI, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is attacking the apex court. The CBI investigation is being monitored by the Supreme Court. And Modi is speaking against the Supreme Court," Hariprasad said. Modi, before announcing the resignation of Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah today, accused the Congress of "misusing" the CBI to "fabricate allegations" against his minister and also "conspiring" to hamper the development of Gujarat. Shah is alleged to be involved in Sheikh's killing and has been summoned by the CBI. Reacting to Modi's remark that the Congress has made Sheikh a national hero and tried to use this issue for the 2007 assembly elections, Hariprasad said "the Congress is not a party of sadists". He also called Modi a "champion" of dividing people. "It is the Bharatiya Janata Party who divide the people for electoral purposes. Modi is a champion of dividing people for electoral purposes," Hariprasad, who is also the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge general secretary of Gujarat, told the media. He added that the "law will take its own course." The Congress also asked Shah to surrender before the CBI. "He (Shah) needs to submit to the process of justice. He must set an example by surrendering," Congress spokesman Manish Tewari told a television channel. Sheikh was killed in an alleged gunfight with the police on Nov 26, 2005 and police accused him of being a Lashkar-e-Taiba activist. They claimed he had come to Ahmedabad to target senior political leaders. His wife Kausar Bi went missing later. The dead man's family alleged that Sheikh and his wife were abducted from a bus and then killed in cold blood near Ahmedabad.

Congress 'misusing' CBI, says Modi

Hitting out at the Congress-led central government, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today accused it of "misusing" the CBI to "fabricate allegations" against state minister Amit Shah and also "conspiring" to hamper the development of Gujarat. Before announcing the resignation of Shah, who is alleged to be involved in the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a staged shootout in 2005, Modi said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had misused the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to fabricate allegations against Minister for State for Home Shah. He insisted that Shah was innocent. "Amit Shah is completely innocent. The allegations have been fabricated." Shah has resigned from the state cabinet. Modi also accused the UPA government of "trying to create obstacles in the way of Gujarat's journey to development". He said the CBI implicating Shah in the Sohrabuddin case was an "example of a conspiracy to trouble the development of Gujarat". He also attacked the UPA government of having "failed on all fronts", from the talks with Pakistan to tackling the Maoist menace in the country. "They went for a dialogue with Pakistan and failed there. Maoists are killing innocent citizens and the government in Delhi is giving statements to which the Maoists reply with bullets. Srinagar is burning again. They have failed on all fronts," Modi told reporters in the morning after reaching Delhi.

I like only my movies: Aamir Khan

Actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan says he enjoys his own movies because they have universal appeal, something that other films lack. "I only like my movies, which are universal like '3 Idiots', 'Lagaan' or 'Tare Zameen Par'. Other people do not believe in making anymore films which are universal. According to me, the only director who caters to the non-multiplex audience is Raju Hirani, others make cinema for cities," Aamir said in an interview on Zee News Celebrity chat show "Kahiye Janab" to be aired on Saturday. The 45-year-old, who has produced "Peepli Live", a satire on farmer's suicides and subsequent media and political response in the country, rues filmmakers ignore rural India. "There is a clear divide between Bharat (Hindustan) and India. If I were to go to Hollywood to earn my living, I would feel much cut off from my roots, my home in Mumbai. Filmmakers these days no longer care about rural India," he added. Aamir, who is playing one of the lead actors in "Dhobi Ghaat", says getting the role in his wife Kiran Rao's directorial debut was not a cakewalk. "Kiran is a fantastic director. People think that I am a perfectionist, but I had to go through an audition, to help her decide that I am good for the role and then she cast me. I am one of the four lead actors in the movie".

35 years on, the 'Sholay' fire still burns

It drew its inspiration from multiple Hollywood movies but went on to become the quintessential Indian film, perfectly balancing drama and tragedy, romance and violence, comedy and action. This Aug 15 it will be 35 years since "Sholay" was released - three decades and more of Gabbar, Jai, Veeru and Basanti still striking a chord. Sometimes described as an Indian curry western, "Sholay" is still a reference point for Indian cinema and impossible to pin down to any one genre. It was about the undying friendship between Jai and Veeru, the unspoken love of a young widow, the exuberant romance between a garrulous 'tonga walli' and a flamboyant thief, the immensely tragic life of an idealistic police officer and, of course, Gabbar Singh, the dacoit who struck terror. It worked at many levels, and still does for generations of film-goers who watch the 1975 multi-starrer for the ultimate movie-going experience. For some, it's nostalgia and, for the young cinema buff, "Sholay" is a matter of curiosity. Director Ramesh Sippy was called a magician for the spell he cast. The film is the ultimate high point for many stars - from the lead stars Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Hema Malini to the unknown Amjad Khan who as Gabbar became one of Hindi cinema's best known villains. The cameos by character artists Asrani and Jagdeep were equally important to the success of the film and still remembered. Even Macmohan, who had barely a dialogue in the film, was "Samba" till the day he died in May this year. "We had no idea that this will become such a huge film. We conceived an idea and when we started working on the screenplay, gradually it dawned on us that the film has more than two important characters," Javed Akhtar, who co-scripted the cult film with Saleem Khan, told media. "After 35 years, even the minor characters are used in ads, promos, films and sit coms," he said. Ironically, there were few takers when "Sholay", which translates to fire, released Aug 15, 1975. At three hours and 20 minutes, it was deemed too long. But, in an era where there was no television and no effective visual marketing tools, word of mouth worked. It ran for five years straight at Mumbai's Minerva theatre, for instance. "No multistarrer worked as 'Sholay' did. It's got everything. It was a complete package. Initially, in the first two weeks, it didn't do well but it picked up from the third week onwards and became an overnight sensation," said trade analyst Taran Adarsh. "It remains the box office gold standard, a reference point for both the Indian film-going audience and the film industry. For 'Sholay' is not merely a film, it is the ultimate classic," film critic Anupama Chopra wrote in her book "Sholay: The Making of a Classic". "Even the starring animal, Dhanno the mare, has been immortalised." Technologically, too, the movie was one of its kind - "Sholay" was India's first 70mm film and also the first stereophonic sound movie. " 'Sholay' remains the Indian film industry's monument to 70 mm filmmaking," noted film historian Gautam Kaul told media. Produced by G.P. Sippy at a budget of about Rs.3 crore at that time, it was completed by Ramesh Sippy over a period of two-and-a-half years. It was released with as many as 250 prints. Scriptwriter duo Salim-Javed wrote themselves into posterity, their dialogues being mouthed across the country. They were at their creative best-from scripting action scenes, to flavouring it with romance and comedy-they served the tastiest ever curry for Indian audiences. Even all these years later, it is still that rare film whose dialogue soundtrack was released along with the music. Who can forget "Kitne aadmi the?", "Jo darr gaya, samjho marr gaya" or "Tumhara naam kya hai, Basanti?" "This film was also the watermark for film scriptwriters, who until 'Sholay' were not paid so well... film scriptwriting became a better, respected and lucrative profession after 'Sholay'," said Kaul. Item numbers may be a rage now, but legendary R.D. Burman served up one of India's best with "Mehbooba, mehbooba". Inspired by Hollywood films like "Once Upon A Time In The West" (1968) and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), "Sholay" still has to its credit a standing record of 60 golden jubilees across India. It was the first film in the history of Indian cinema to celebrate a silver jubilee at over 100 theatres across the country. The plaudits have never stopped. In 1999, BBC India declared it as the "film of the millennium". Its run at the Bollywood box office even caught the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records, where it was inducted for its five-year run. Corporate executive Harshad Jain sums up the "Sholay" magic. "I've seen it 300 times, I won't mind seeing it 100 times more. It was the best part of growing up."

Woman power in Bollywood: 'Aisha' proves a point

Producer, director, screenplay writer, lead actor..."Aisha" is one of those rare Bollywood projects where women seem to have called the shots for every little thing. And rightly so, says Rhea Kapoor, Bollywood star Anil Kapoor's younger daughter, who at 23 is proudly the youngest Bollywood producer. The film has her elder sister Sonam Kapoor in the lead. "Women do think in a way which is more detailed and meticulous than men. And they want to make everything around them beautiful. They have a mother-like feeling towards whatever they do and that's why so many women gravitated towards 'Aisha' because it was like everybody's baby," Rhea told media. While Rhea pumped in money, R Ojha wielded the megaphone, Devika Bhagat wrote the screenplay, Amita Sehgal was the casting director, and the production designing was done by Shruti Gupte. In the dialogues department, Devika teamed up with Ritu Bhatia and also created space for male member Manurishi Chaddha to come up with their wittiest best. "Women easily attach themselves to films and in a way it's good... because then you damn everything. You will make something you are proud of and not care about Rs.38 crore or Rs.40 crore... it's not like a 'bhindi bazaar' for them then. It becomes a passion and that's what happened with 'Aisha'," Rhea said. Sonam says she feels "empowered" to be a part of the film which boasts of an array of women in the cast and crew. There are three other women - Ira Dubey, Amrita Puri and Lisa Haydon - in the cast and the principal costume designer and hair stylist too are women. Not to forget that the film, releasing Aug 6, is itself inspired by Jane Austen's classic novel "Emma" about a high society girl caught up in a web of friendships and obsession with match making. Apart from four female actors, the film, of course, features male actors Abhay Deol, Arunoday Singh and Cyrus Sahukar for a balanced mix. "The men were frightened! 'Aisha' is a totally female-dominated project. There are people like Rhea and Sonam and so many others in the crew that people must now get out of the notion that Bollywood is all about hunky and good-looking men," said theatre actress Ira, who is making her mainstream Bollywood debut with "Aisha". Actor-filmmaker Anil Kapoor, who is extremely proud of his daughters Sonam and Rhea, says he is impressed by the way women have carved a niche for themselves in this industry once dominated by men. "What I like the most is to see how times have changed. Years ago, in the film industry and show business, there used to be only men. I used to feel bad about why girls were not treated equally. Now things have changed all over the world, specially in India. "The way girls are coming up, taking charge, holding situations, calling the shots... just at the age of 23, Rhea made the whole film. I am very happy not only for Sonam and Rhea, I feel happy for all girls," said Anil, 50. Even Cyrus and Arunoday feel it is a promising trend. "It was great fun having so many women on the sets! There was constant banter and they (women) used to keep huddling together. The best part was there was always some interesting food with them. Jokes apart, women today are really smart and they are good at what they do. As long as they know the craft, nothing else matters," said funnyman Cyrus. Arunoday agreed, but rued that female actors in Bollywood have nothing much to do once they reach a certain age. "Shooting for 'Aisha' was an ideal world where women were in charge. We don't get to see so many examples like that in the industry and, more than that, there should be better roles for them," said the two-film old actor. "It's sad that women are still seen as an object of a man's desire in most Bollywood films. I wish Bollywood creates more space for real cinema. Look at Meryl Streep, she can still act at 61, but for our veteran actresses, there are no roles. It's really sad," he added.

'Khatta Meetha', a satirical swipe at corruption

First things first. This is not, repeat not, a comedy. Not by any yardstick. For those expecting a typical Priyadarshan-Akshay Kumar comedy "Khatta Meetha" is not your cup of tee-hee. For those who know there's a more reflective and ruminative side to both the prolific director and the leading man, here's the thing.

"Khatta Meetha" takes stinging satirical swipes at the epidemic disease of corruption that has taken over the Indian ethos. Tragically the treatment is quite often heavyhanded. But the statement never drowns in the diatribe. Priyadarshan tends to fill up the outer edges with a profusion of incidental characters and over-elaborate gags and jokes that hold themselves in place in a world of unmitigated chaos like "De Dana Dan".

Here the clutter and the clamour just make you feel the director needed to respect his own tone of sobriety in this longish tickling treatise on malpractices in the middleclass.

The plot is a bit of a tangle. Akshay Kumar's family of discontented mal-paani-practitioners is a universe of brutish brothers and screechy sisters-in-law, and silently-suffering parents (played by those wonderful actors Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Aroona Irani).

It's a family of corrupt road contractors and initially, Akshay seems the most wickedly immoral of them all. But hang on! As the narrative - at time plodding - moves forward we begin to understand the wacked - out sinister yet satirical, chaotic yet orderly, corrupt yet weirdly - ethical world of Sachin Tichkule.

Here's a character that seems to have been written only for Akshay Kumar. And he gets hold of the 'muddle' - class morality of Tichkule's world with delightful earnestness. Frequently Akshay is exasperating in his efforts to explain why the middleclass is in a state of selfdestructive decline. But it isn't the actor to blame. It is the nature of the material offered to the actor.

The domestic and professional world of Scahin Tichkule is not easy to penetrate. Akshay, demonstrating a primetime ripeness in his body language and repertoire of Chaplinesque expressions, enters this wacky wounded world of the exploited and the damned with extraordinary empathy.

Akshay's is a performance that is far more accomplished than it may seem to the popcorn province. He's exasperating in his directness. He's partly a cartoon character, partly an emblem of our times and wholly entertaining in his chaotic comprehension of the inadequacies of world we've inherited from the freedom fighters and brutally disfigured.

But alas. Akshay's character is much much too wordy in his tongue type. The hallmark of Charlie Chaplin's social comment was his silent expressions of protest. Akshay's character and the film on the whole are much too verbose. The characters are constantly talking, as though not speaking would take away the audiences' attention. A film making a social comment didn't have to over-state its case so blatantly.

But the words do not cut into the narrative's basic flow of tongue-in-cheek satire. Some sequences such as the one involving the steamroller and the elephant consume too much footage. The art of understatement eludes this political statement.

Trisha Krishnan in wearing chunky ear-rings makes an unusual debut. She is different from the short-skirted hotties. But whether that difference makes a difference in Hindi cinema, time will tell.

"Khatta Meetha" stands tall in its message of restoring a semblance of moral order in the middleclass. The last half-hour after Sachin Tickule's sister is murdered, is thoroughly gripping. And the fight between Akshay and the corrupt goons in the crowded lanes is chilling in its realism.

Realism is a remotely but decidedly obtainable component in this parodic parable on the rotten fruits of excessively materialistic aspirations in post-Independence India.

Technically polished and many notches superior to Akshay Kumar's other recent entertainers "Khatta Meetha" conveys that sweet-sour taste of a universe that has rapidly degenerated into absolute self-gratification.

See it for what the film leaves unsaid, though that's hard to do when everyone is ceaselessly talking.

Murali's record tough to break: Sourav Ganguly

Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly today congratulated Sri Lanka spin wizard Muttiah Murlitharan for his landmark feat of 800 Test wickets and said it would be tough to break his record. "He has been a champion. I think his record of 800 wickets in Test matches will be very difficult to break. Murali has got better with age," Ganguly said. Muralitharan brought the curtains down on his illustrious Test career, claiming his 800th Test wicket in his last match against India Thursday in Sri Lanka.

Kapil Dev to fulfil Indian immigrant's last wish

Former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev has volunteered to fulfil the last wishes of an Indian immigrant to Australia who died 63 years ago and receive his ashes for immersing them in the Ganga. In 1899, Pooran Singh, then 30 years old, left Bilga village in Punjab state to migrate to Australia. He worked as a hawker, selling goods from his horse-drawn wagon, travelling across Australia. He spent the remaining 47 years of his life in Victoria, and died in 1947 in Warrnambool, aged 77. Single and childless, Singh left instructions to be cremated. His body was sent to Melbourne to what was the only crematorium in Victoria at that time. His ashes were sent back in a plastic cylinder to Warrnambool's Guyett's Funerals, a statement from the Australian High Commission said. Singh's last wish was that his ashes be returned to India and immersed in the Ganga, and so Guyett's Funerals kept his ashes for 63 years in case his family members came to claim them. In a radio programme broadcast in June this year, Alice Guyett-Wood said before her father Jack Guyett died in 1986, he expressed regret that Guyetts Funerals had been unable to fulfil Singh's wish. The story was heard by Indian cricketer Kapil Dev, who expressed his willingness to travel to Australia to collect Singh's ashes and return them to his family. Singh's relatives have been traced to a village in Punjab, where they still live in a house that was built with the money he had bequeathed them. The house in Uppal Bhopa village still bears the inscription "Pooran Singh (brother of Sultani Ram) of Australia". Harmel Uppal, one of Pooran Singh's great-nephews, who lives in Britain, heard of the story and will travel to Australia with Kapil Dev to receive Singh's ashes. The Victorian Sikh community will organise a special ceremony in Warrnambool on July 25 to bid farewell to the ashes. Photographs of the Indian hawker and even his horse-drawn wagon have been found, fully preserved. Pooran's ashes will travel back to India a day after the ceremony, accompanied by Kapil Dev and Harmel Uppal.

Probe panel submits report to Hockey India

The five-member inquiry committee probing the allegations of sexual harrasement against women's national hockey coach Maharaj Kishan Kaushik today submitted its report to Hockey India (HI). Both Kaushik and the player Ranjitha Devi had filed their replies to the committee on Thursday. The committee, comprising Rajiv Mehta (chairman), Olympians Ajit Pal Singh, Zafar Iqbal, Sudarshan Pathak and Anupam Ghulati met this afternoon to finalise the report. HI secretary-general Narinder Batra said the federation's recommendations to Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Saturday. "The inquiry committee has sibbmitted its report to HI today. We will go through the report and make our recommendations to SAI tomorrow," Batra told reporters. Mehta said they have had enough testimonies and they will not be talking to the players who are participating in the Asian Champions Trophy in Busan. "We have had a lot of testimonies, we have spoken to Kuishik, the girl (Ranjitha), and some of the players and the manager of the team (Madhu Yadav). We do not need to talk to anyone else." Kaushik Wednesday had resigned as the national coach, saying his position has become untenable after the charges by Ranjitha and some former players.

Work through the nights for Commonwealth Games: Dikshit

With just 71 days for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government has asked the civic agencies to work through the nights and hire 400-500 more labourers to complete their work before the deadline. "The government has received the required permission from the police to work during the nights. This would be beneficial as traffic in the daytime hinders the Games projects," Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told reporters after a review meeting with the agencies for the Games. The officials from the Public Works Department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Jal Board took part in the meeting. Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta was also present. "All the agencies were asked to work very hard and work to ensure that they meet the deadlines set for them," said a senior official, who was part of the meeting. Meanwhile, 400-500 labourers from the irrigation and flood control department and horticulture department will be asked to work for the touch-up and maintenance works. This was decided at a meeting chaired by PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chouhan today. "The extra work force will be paid an allowance on a daily basis," Chouhan told the media.

World Bank loan to improve Mumbai suburban railways

A $430 million (Rs.2,000 crore)loan agreement to improve the suburban railway system of the city was signed here today.

Representatives of the central and state governments, the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation and the World Bank signed the agreement.

The World Bank had last month sanctioned the loan for the second phase of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) project.

The MUTP first phase has managed to reduce the level of overcrowding in the suburban trains during peak hours despite traffic increase, said Hubert Nove-Josserand, the Bank's urban transport specialist and project team leader.

"The follow-up project will further improve the capacity, operational efficiency, comfort levels and strengthen the institutional capacity of the agencies in-charge of the suburban railway system in the city," he said.

With 720 new train coaches to be added during the second phase, the project will increase train capacity during peak hours, reduce peak hour overcrowding, shorten journey times, improve operational efficiency by reducing energy consumption and strengthen institutional capacity.

Over seven million people daily commute on the Mumbai suburban railway network - the city's lifeline spanning across the Central Railway, Western Railway and the Harbour Lines. trains.

The commuters are subjected to one of the most severe overcrowding conditions in the world with around 4,500 people cramming each 9-coach train against the rated capacity of only 1,700 - with a density of 16 persons per square metre.

Yahoo! hosting 24-hour 'hacking' event in India's tech hub

Global search engine Yahoo! is hosting a non-stop 24-hour "hacking" event from Saturday noon in this tech hub where about 300 whiz-kids will use its web tools and services to develop new applications, a company official said today. "About 300 developers across India will participate in the 24-hour hacking event, which involves using our web tools, services and application programming interfaces (APIs) to innovate new solutions for our global netizens," Yahoo! India Research and Development Head Shouvick Mukherjee told media here. Being held for the third consecutive year, the "Open Hack Day" is aimed at nurturing the open innovation ecosystem in India and drive domain expertise in the internet space. "Open Hack Days enable talented developers to create better, more relevant and more social experiences on our network. The spirit is to leverage our open APIs and developer tools to create newer applications," Mukherjee said. Clarifying that the web portal's hacking concept was different from the popular perception of gaining illegal entry into computers and network resources with a malicious intent, Mukherjee said the developers would get a lifetime opportunity to play with Yahoo! Query Language (YQL). "Our type of hackers will use the YQL to create and use their own table definitions, enabling the language to bind to any data source through the SQL-like syntax and fetch data," Mukherjee noted. The language platform also enables developers to query, filter, update and combine data across the web. Developers can also write new applications using the Yahoo Application Platform (YAP) in an open, self service web applications environment. "Participants will be allowed to write applications front-end in HTML (hyper text markup language, CSS (cascading styling sheets), Java Script and in the language of their choice," Mukherjee pointed out. With YAP, a developer can get in front of the largest daily audience on the web. Yahoo! began Hack Days as an internal event 12 years ago to bring its developers together and expanded into regular events in its offices the world over. The annual event was also held in Sunnyvale in the US, London, Brazil and Taiwan during the last decade. "Bangalore has the distinction of hosting for the third time consecutively," Mukherjee added.

Allahabad Bank net up 14.62 percent in Q1

City-based public sector Allahabad Bank posted a 14.62 percent surge in net profit in the April-June first quarter of the current fiscal to Rs.347 crore from Rs.303 crore during the corresponding period last year, a top official said here on Friday. The bank recorded a 19.29 percent growth in the operating profit in the first quarter. The net interest margin was up by 3.10 percent, said J.P. Dua, the chairman and managing director of the Allahabad Bank. The bank is also planning to open an office in Dhaka and Shanghai this year.

Delhi Metro orders 40 subway cars from Bombardier

Canada's Bombardier Transportation has won orders to supply 40 MOVIA type subway cars to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) at a cost of $55 million. Around 190 MOVIA cars are already being used by Delhi Metro. The Montreal-based rail and aerospace giant said the order won on Friday is in addition to 74 transit cars ordered by Delhi Metro in June. With the new order to be delivered by next year, Delhi Metro will have a total of 538 Bombardier-made subway cars in its fleet. "With the new order DMRC will be operating a fleet of 538 MOVIA metro cars, one of the largest in the world, benefiting from economies of scale in both acquisition and maintenance costs. Around 190 of these MOVIA cars are already operating successfully on Delhi's metro network," Bombardier said. The metro cars will be assembled at the company's plant at Savli near Baroda. Stephane Rambaud-Measson, president of Bombardier's passenger train division, said, "Our manufacturing operations in India are growing from strength to strength, already producing vehicles at an impressive rate of one metro car each day." Added Rajeev Jyoti, president and managing director of Bombardier in India: "Bombardier anticipated India's infrastructural requirements and was the first to significantly invest in the country. Today, the company is more than ready and willing to continue with additional successful industrial set-ups to match the industry's needs in terms of new products and technology." With the completion of its phase II, Delhi Metro will cover over 165 km and ferry 2.5 million passengers daily. Bombardier has so far sold more than 3,900 stainless steel-made MOVIA metro cars worldwide. Metros in cities like New York, Montreal, Toronto, Paris, London, Berlin, Bucharest, Stockholm, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and many more use its subway cars. Bombardier also won an order worth 59 million euros from Poland on Friday to supply 24 low-floor trams.

Banking on monsoon, PM expects inflation to drop by December

NEW DELHI: Under attack for surging prices particularly of food items, the government on Saturday said it expects good rains to help halve inflation to six per cent by December.

"We expect to see the rate of inflation in wholesale prices to come down to around 6 per cent by December," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his opening remarks at the meeting of the National Development Council, being attended by several central ministers and most of the chief ministers.

His remarks come ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, which is expected to be stormy over issues including price rise.

He said the government has taken a number of steps to curb price rise. "With normal monsoon, which is the expectation at present, the rate of inflation in food prices will abate in the second half of the year," Singh said.

Monsoon accounts for around 80 per cent of rains India receives and nearly 60 per cent of the cultivated land is rain-fed. Two years of poor rains had led to an upward spiral in food prices, the effect of which spread to manufactured goods.

Food inflation is above 12 per cent and overall rate of price rise is above 10 per cent, giving the opposition parties enough ammunition to corner the government in the Parliament session beginning Monday.

On the pace of economic growth, he said the country's gross domestic product is expected to expand by 8.1 per cent during the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-12) against the targeted nine per cent.

"This is lower than the target of nine per cent, but still the highest achieved in any plan period," he said.

India's economic growth slowed down during 2008-09 to 6.7 per cent from over nine per cent since 2005-06 due to the global financial crisis. However, stimulus packages to boost demand pushed it up to 7.4 per cent last fiscal. Economic growth is expected to be 8.5 per cent this fiscal.

On tax reforms, the Prime Minister appealed to chief ministers to extend their support to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which the government wants to implement from the next fiscal.

Since the introduction of GST would require constitutional amendments and ratification by at least half of state assemblies, the support of chief ministers, particularly NDA-ruled states is crucial for radical reforms.

The meeting of the NDC, the country's highest policy making body, was called to review the progress of the 11th Plan and set right anomalies, if any.
source: agency

Husband not fit for job, says Japan PM's wife

TOKYO: In a new book, the wife of Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan questions whether he is fit for the nation's top job and suggests his tenure might be short-lived.

In “You are Prime Minister, So What Will Change in Japan?” which was released this week, first lady Nobuko Kan lists a host of her husband’s shortcomings, from his failure to do any housework to his hot temper. But it also depicts the premier, who took the job in June, as a caring father of two sons. And when he speaks spontaneously, he can be inspiring, she says. But not when he reads his speeches.

Kan, 63, has often called his wife “the opposition at home.'' Asked by reporters about the book, Kan said he was too scared to read it. The book comes as Kan struggles to revive sagging public support after his ruling party suffered a heavy defeat in upper house elections.

Nobuko says her husband became PM “by chance” and that it felt “unreal” he had the position.

“I cannot help feeling a sense of wrongness” about Kan being prime minister, she said. “Since I've known him so well, I ask myself whether this person is right for prime minister.”

She even suggests that Kan’s tenure as leader might be short-lived: When the first couple moved into the prime minister's residence, Nobuko only brought summer clothes. “Depending on the outcome of September's party election, we may have to quickly pack up and leave,” she said.
source: agency

Cameron asked to discuss Kohinoor return to India

LONDON: Keith Vaz, the Indian-origin British MP, wants the Kohinoor diamond to be returned to India and asks Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the issue of its return during his visit to India next week.

Vaz said in a statement: "I believe that this is the perfect opportunity for the prime minister to discuss the issue of the Kohinoor. It would be very fitting for the Kohinoor to return to the country in which it was mined so soon after the diamond jubilee of the Indian republic and 161 years after its removal from India."

Vaz said the return of the treasure to India would give meaning to the new coalition government's desire to enter into a new era of partnership with India. "This will certainly convey a new age of Indo-British relations. The prime minister will certainly win the hearts of all Indians if he is prepared to discuss the display of the Kohinoor in India itself, and possibly even its permanent return."

The diamond was taken to England in 1849 following the defeat of the ruler of the Punjab region, Duleep Singh, and the annexation of the Punjab. As part of the Treaty of Lahore settlement, the gem was surrendered to Queen Victoria. It was last worn in public by the late Queen Mother and last seen set inside the Maltese Cross on the crown placed on top of the coffin at her funeral.

Since Indian independence, there have been several requests for the return of the gem to what all Indians consider its home in India. The latest was the demand made by the Archaeological Survey of India last month. It is also planning to join a campaign with the support of UNESCO and other countries to regain lost artefacts and treasures.

However, the British government rejected this demand saying that the diamond had been "legitimately acquired". It cited the British Museum Act 1963 to assert that it prevents the government from giving back the diamond.
source: agency

Women in veils denied bus ride in UK

LONDON: London bus company Metroline said in a statement on Friday that it was investigating claims by two Muslim women that they were not allowed to get on a bus in the capital because one of them was wearing a face veil.

The company confirmed an incident involving two 22-year-old students from Slough, Berkshire took place on a
No 7 bus at Russell Square on Tuesday.

The firm said the women had made a complaint to Transport for London (TfL) and that Metroline was following it up, but stressed it was still merely an allegation at this stage.

Interviewed by the BBC, Yasmin, who was wearing a hijab, which leaves the face and hands uncovered, and Atoofa, dressed in a niqab which covers the face but leaves the area around the eyes open, said they were stopped from boarding because of their appearance.

“He (the bus driver) said, ‘I am not going to take you on the bus because you two are a threat,’” Yasmin said.

A Metroline spokesman said, “We take this very seriously and will make a thorough investigation into the allegations as a matter of urgency.

“However, Metroline can unequivocally state that such views would not be representative of the company in any way and that we are committed to respecting equality and diversity for all.”

He said the company was still trying to establish the facts and had narrowed the incident down to three drivers who were being interviewed. “If it is the case that one of our drivers off his own back refused entry to someone for that reason then that,
obviously, is unacceptable,” he added.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was “deeply concerned”, but could not comment on individual cases. Metroline operates the service on behalf of TfL.
source: reuters

Two TDP leaders hacked to death in Kadapa district

HYDERABAD: Two leaders of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who were brothers, were hacked to death by unidentified assailants in Andhra Pradesh's Kadapa district in a case of fational killings, police said Saturday.

Vishwanath Reddy and Maheshwar Reddy, both brothers and local leaders of the TDP, were murdered late Friday in Nakkaladinne in Kadapa. A woman was also injured in the attack.

Some unidentified people, who came in a car, barged into the house of the two brothers after midnight and attacked them with sickles and other sharp-edged weapons, an official said.

Police suspect it to be case of factional killings. Eight people of a rival faction have been booked and searches are on to find them, the official said.

Kadapa is a part of Rayalaseema region, notorious for factional killings. The factions fighting for domination in villages kill their rivals mercilessly. The factions are supported either by the Congress or by TDP.
source: agency

Paul the Octopus 'to become silver screen legend'

LONDON: Paul the Octopus, who rose to fame with its incredibly accurate predictions of World Cup 2010 match results, is all set to become a part of the showbiz.

Filming of 'The Murder of Paul the Octopus' has already finished in South Africa and post-production work is well under way.

The film, which is expected to be hit theatres in August, has been produced by China Film Group Corporation and Beijing Filmblog Media Company.

However, Paul, who has gone into retirement, was not available to star in the movie so the director used a body double.

According to Sky News, the film will focus on Paul's amazing winning streak and explore "how the octopus acquires the ability and discuss his possible fates".
source: agency

Kumar Sangakkara feels ICC ranking system not "fair"

GALLE: Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has criticised the ICC ranking system as "unfair" even though the island nation was in the sight of becoming the top Test side after they spanked India in the first match.

Asked whether the players take seriously a system that has India at number one despite not having won a series in Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka since 1993, Sangakkara said, "You should have asked that question to Haroon Lorgat (ICC chief executive) who was here."

"If rankings can't be understood by the public, the players, or the administrators, what's the use of having rankings? If you want rankings, they should count towards playing a Test championship," he said.

Sangakkara said for the ICC ranking system to be acceptable, the FTP should be "fair" with each side playing each other at least once, home or away.

"Rankings need to be fairly done. A fair FTP is the first step towards having proper rankings. Once every two years each side should play each other at least once, home or away. That's how you get a fair deal when it comes to Test cricket," he said.

Sri Lanka themselves were ranked number two last year without having won a Test in India, Australia and South Africa, a spot they lost after their away loss to India.

About his own side's dismal record in the three countries ranked higher than them, Sangakkara said, "I don't think we have played enough Test cricket away. Two Test matches here, two Test matches there, I think that's not good. We need to play Tests regularly.

"We have a very good balanced attack, pace and spin. From 2006 to 2009 we have done well. We have won in New Zealand, in England, and in Pakistan. South Africa, Australia and India are the three places that we need to win. We need to play often in those places," said the suave Lankan skipper.

Interestingly, the current Test ranking system does not give extra weightage to victories away from home. The rating points earned or conceded are calculated based on the difference between where the teams stood before the start of the series.
source: agency

Bigg Boss 4 gets super thief Bunty

Delhi’s super thief Bunty, on whose life Oye Lucky Lucky Oye was based, has been signed for the next season of the show.

Remember the Abhay Deol starrer Oye Lucky Lucky Oye? The Punjabi rap song Superchor should ring a bell. The story of the film is loosely based on the life of Devinder Singh alias Bunty, the super chor who created quite a stir in Delhi with his clever robberies. Bunty robbed over 300 houses and 100 showrooms in Delhi, before he was finally nabbed in 2007.

But the super chor, as the film clearly elucidates, had the police clueless about his whereabouts for over five years.

Turns out Bunty the super chor is now reformed and will be seen making his TV debut in the popular show Bigg Boss as one of the contestants. Bunty has already been signed on to be one of the 13 contestants but the matter is still under wraps.

Our source said, “It was the idea of one of the creative heads of the channel and it was not an easy task to meet him. Bunty is known to be on the run and keeps on changing his phone numbers.

When he was finally contacted, he was surprised at the offer but eventually accepted it.

He has signed the contract and has also signed an agreement where he won’t be allowed to talk to the media or reveal anything about the show.”

Another source in the industry said, “This show is known to get controversial characters to grab eyeballs. When the show roped in Monica Bedi or Rahul Mahajan, who are both controversial figures, the show was discussed in the media extensively.”

When contacted, the channel officials refused to comment on the news. For now, Bunty too has managed to remain unavailable for comment but then again, this super chor has always been good at evading people.
source: mumbai mirror


Shah Rukh says no to Bigg Boss 4

Though the fourth season of Bigg Boss is around the corner the host for the show is far from being finalised. After hosting season 3 of Bigg Boss, Amitabh Bachchan will not be able to anchor the show again because the channel does not repeat hosts on this show.

Says a source, “Unfortunately the channel has a weird policy not to repeat hosts on Bigg Boss. Moreover, by the time the channel officials realised that it was difficult to get a replacement it was too late. Big B had already committed himself to hosting season 4 of Kaun Banega Crorepati. So they consciously decided to look for another host.”

The channel then started wooing Shah Rukh Khan since he is viewed as one of the very few people who can fill Big B’s shoes. But despite all their efforts, the channel’s deal with King Khan has now fallen through.

Says the source, “The channel went all out to get Shah Rukh to host Bigg Boss 4. They even offered him a larger remuneration than Big B. But SRK could not agree to play host because of lack of time. The dates for Bigg Boss 4 clashed with Shah Rukh’s shooting schedule for Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2 with Priyanka Chopra in Bali.”

Channel sources confirm that SRK won’t do Bigg Boss, as he will be shooting in Bali at that time. The latest buzz is that the channel is now trying to get Akshay Kumar to play host on Bigg Boss 4. If he doesn’t agree, the channel will opt for a non-film celebrity to host the show.

Can’t wait to know who this will be...
source: tnn

Expired BCG vaccine in health minister's shortlist?

CHENNAI: The Union health ministry came close to putting the lives of lakhs of children in danger by considering procurement of 274 lakh doses of BCG vaccine which were well past their expiry date.

A note from the vaccine procurement cell of the ministry, a copy of which is with TOI, shows that the ministry was either ignorant of its own previous decisions or dangerously careless while dealing with children's vaccination.

Sixty million children are given BCG vaccine every year across the country to prevent tuberculosis. According to the note initiating the procurement process in March, "BCG Lab vide letter dated 11.03.2010 has intimated that after testing approximately 274 lakh doses can be supplied. Programme division (has) confirmed acceptance of this quantity." While the procurement process is still on, BCG Lab's claim and the ministry's acceptance are flawed on two counts.

First, the last batch of vaccine was manufactured before February 20, 2008, when the drugs controller general of India (DCGI) suspended the lab's licence for not following good manufacturing practices (GMP) prescribed by WHO. The expiry date of freeze-dried BCG vaccines, which the Chennai lab has, is two years from the date of manufacture. Second, the DCGI's letter, which asked for a proposal "for destruction and writing off of the (vaccine) stocks," puts the total quantity of vaccine available at 220.8 lakh doses.

Since not a single dose has been manufactured here after that, though the licence was restored in February this year, there is no explanation where the remaining 54 lakh doses would come from.

When contacted, BK Prasad, joint secretary of health in charge of vaccine procurement, said only a quotation was sent and no procurement was made. "The quote was given after BCG Lab's licence was revoked without taking into consideration the validity of the vaccine, which has to be done later. Not a single vial will be procured unless the Central Drug Laboratory, Kasauli, gives clearance. As to why BCG Lab offered to give its expired vaccine, you have to ask the lab director," he said.

BCG Lab director Usha Soren Singh said the blunder was due to confusion. "Some of my subordinates misguided me to believe that the vaccines were valid. There is no technical officer here to assist me in such things.

Soon after that letter was sent, I realized that our vaccine stock was past expiry date and immediately informed the director general of health services," she said.

Procurement of vaccines from private labs in the past two years has cost the government tens of crores of
rupees as additional cost as the price of vaccines are higher in the open market.

The last CAG report had found that the government incurred an additional cost of Rs 10.71 crore in the first year because of the closure of BCG Lab.

The health ministry had ordered the closure of BCG Lab, along with two other public sector vaccine labs — Central Research Institute, Kasauli and Pasteur Institute of India, Coonoor — in

February 2008 for not conforming to GMP protocol of WHO. After two years, the suspension of licences was revoked with the condition that they can resume manufacturing after putting in place WHO-approved GMP and infrastructure.
source: agency

Azhar rubbishes media reports about romance with Jwala

NEW DELHI: Former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin on Friday sought to scotch speculation of his romantic relationship with Jwala Gutta, saying the ace badminton doubles player is just a "good friend."

According to media reports, Azharuddin has been dating 26-year-old Jwala and is on the verge of filing for divorce from his wife of 14 years Sangeeta Bijlani within a week.

However, Azharuddin, a Congress MP from Moradabad, rubbished all such reports, terming them as baseless, fabricated and in bad taste.

"These reports are completely rubbish, baseless and are in bad taste. I am very hurt by all these. I know Jwala, she is a good friend of mine and to write such reports which are completely false and fabricated is disgusting," a livid Azharuddin said.

Azhar said these are motivated by people in the Badminton Association of India, who want to tarnish his image since he tried to contest for the presidential elections last month.

"These are planted stories and motivated by people, who are against me in the Badminton Association of India. I think they should look into their homes first before casting aspersions on others and make such allegations," he said.

"Jwala is a very good player and she is a great prospect for the country. She has been doing well and will win many medals for the country in future. So I just want to request everybody to just leave her alone and not get her into this cheap controversy," he added.

World number seven mixed doubles player Jwala is married to India's ace shuttler Chetan Anand, who is also the current national champion.

According to the media report, which quoted a source from the Andhra Pradesh Badminton Association, Jwala was seen many times with Azharuddin after her practice session at the Gachibowli stadium.

The 47-year-old cricketer was also spotted with Jwala during the Asian Badminton Championship in Delhi.

Azharuddin played 99 Tests and 334 ODIs for India and has two sons -- Asaduddin and Abbasuddin -- from his eight-year marriage to first wife Naureen.

After his divorce with Naureen, he married Bollywood actress Sangeeta Bijlani.
source: agency

Sohrabuddin case: Gujarat minister Amit Shah resigns

NEW DELHI: Facing charges of murder and arrest, Gujarat minister of state for home Amit Shah, a close associate of chief minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday resigned from the state ministry.

"As I landed here in Delhi, I have information that Amit Shah's resignation has reached my residence in Gandhinagar. On return, I will accept it and complete the formalities," Modi, who is here to attend the National Development Council meeting, said.

Asked by reporters whether the resignation amounted to accepting that Shah was guilty, Modi said, "He was accepting it because under the Constitution, certain formalities have to be fulfilled".

He said Shah would fight the issue legally and expressed confidence that judiciary would provide him justice.

Shah's resignation comes a day after CBI charged him with kidnapping and murder of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi in November 2005.

Though Shah has resigned still nothing was clear about his whereabouts.

The CBI, which filed the chargesheet on Friday before a court in Ahmedabad, has already sent teams for arresting him after he refused to appear before an agency team by Friday's 1pm deadline for questioning.

Shah's anticipatory bail application before the CBI court on Friday was rejected and his lawyers were planning to approach the Gujarat High Court.

Attacking the Congress, Modi said, "The case against Shah was a revenge for its loss in the 2007 assembly polls when it had made Sohrabuddin a hero. This was a politically motivated action against Amit Shah and the BJP government in Gujarat to corner it and to put obstacles in development work it was carrying out".

He said, "Shah is completely innocent and the charges against him are fabricated. The CBI is being misused by the Congress against its political rival".

He said the BJP would go to the people along with those fighting the forces of terror.

Modi said the Congress and central government had completely "failed" in all fronts in facing the challenges of Kashmir, Maoists and problems from Pakistan.

"The Congress government at the Centre was fully using the CBI to target political rivals after it failed on all fronts," Modi said.

He said, "The government failed on the prices issue and was faced with an unprecedented bandh. Srinagar is on fire and the government came back fully beaten at the Indo-Pak dialogue in Islamabad and the Maoists were replying by bullets in the fight in which innocent people were killed".

In Ahmedabad, officials in the chief minister's office (CMO) said Shah's resignation has been accepted by Modi.

Shah had failed to appear before the CBI on Friday for questioning for the second time in two days following summons issued twice.

Shah's anticipatory bail plea shortly after he failed to show up before the CBI was on Friday rejected by special CBI court judge G K Upadhaya.

CBI also sent teams to the office and residences of the senior BJP leader in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad and recorded statements of Shah's staff but could not locate him.

The probe agency tightened the noose around Shah, who has been named as an accused along with 14 others including some IPS officers in the chargesheet filed on Friday in the special CBI court.

Shah has been listed as accused number 13 and the chargesheet notes he has not been arrested.

A CBI statement said the 15 accused were booked in the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin and for brutally killing his wife Kausarbi. The CBI probe was spread over five states--Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

About the summons to Shah, the statement said, "He did not appear and hence chargesheet was filed without his examination."

Besides the murder charge, the other charges against all the 15 accused included criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement, kidnapping and abducting to murder, extortion and destruction of evidence under various IPC sections.

The CBI is conducting a fresh probe into the November 26, 2005 encounter at the behest of the Supreme Court after questions were raised on the investigations by the Gujarat police. Sheikh, an alleged gangster, was killed in an alleged fake encounter by Gujarat Police.

The accused included IPS officers Abhay Chudasama, D B Vanzara, Dinesh M N and Rajkumar Pandian and eight other policemen. All of them are under arrest.

"Yes, we have sent teams," CBI sources said but avoided a direct reply when asked whether teams have been sent to arrest Shah.
source: agency