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20101106

Barack Obama pays homage to Mumbai terror victims

Mumbai: US President Barack Obama today paid homage to victims of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, saying those who organised it needed to be punished.

Addressing families of some of the dead at the Taj Mahal and Palace Tower Hotel, one of the targets of the Pakistani terrorists, Obama said he "will never forget the awful image of 26/11".

Calling the terrorists "murderers", he said they sneaked into Mumbai to kill "innocent civilians".

A total of 166 Indians and foreigners, Americans included, were massacred when 10 terrorists from Pakistan went on a killing spree in Mumbai for three long days from Nov 26.

"Those who attacked Mumbai wanted to demoralize this city and this country but they failed," he said.

"The very next day, Mumbaikars came back to work... Within weeks, this hotel was welcoming guests from around the world."

He said the Indian and US governments were working more closely than ever to keep people safe by sharing intelligence.

He said he looked forward to deepening counter-terror cooperation "when I meet Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh in New Delhi".
source: agency

Barack Obama's India trip could tip power balance: Pakistan officials

Washington: The delicate balance of power between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan faces the risk of being upset by US President Barack Obama's four-day visit to India beginning today, Pakistani officials have warned.

Obama's decision to visit India while bypassing Pakistan has sparked anxiety among government officials in Islamabad, The media reported. The officials have warned that the trip risks upsetting the delicate balance of power between the two countries.

Pakistan's main concerns are the Obama administration's apparent unwillingness to get involved in the long-standing dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, the blossoming US-India civil nuclear partnership, and the symbolism of Obama starting his visit at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, site of the 2008 terror attack that has been blamed on Pakistani militants, the Post said on Friday.

Although the US has recently announced a $2 billion aid package for the Pakistani army and last year signed off on a $7.5 billion civilian aid deal, government officials in Islamabad said the US has yet to prove itself a reliable partner.

"Unfortunately, on core issues, the US continues to stick to its traditional anti-Pakistan policies - whether it is our nuclear energy programme, the Kashmir dispute, our relations with India or our position vis-a-vis Afghanistan," the media quoted a senior foreign ministry official as saying.

"So long as Washington does not revisit these issues, it will continue to be very difficult for Washington to make any headway on winning hearts and minds in Pakistan," the official added.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi requested several times that Obama should also stop in Pakistan during this trip, according to Pakistani officials, but the president declined and instead promised to visit Islamabad next year.

The Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said: "Pakistan looks forward to President Obama's visit to our country in 2011 and hopes that his trip to India will help bring lasting stability to our region."

Still, the decision could prove risky for Obama, whose popularity here is lower than it is in any other Muslim country. A recent poll found that just 8 percent of Pakistanis expressed confidence in Obama, down from 13 percent in 2009, the media said.

Pakistani officials say they are particularly interested in seeing Obama push India to do more to settle the Kashmir issue.

"We expect America to use its influence to nudge India in the direction of initiating a peaceful dialogue on the Kashmir situation," said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US.

"And if that is difficult, then at least use your position to point out to India that the interest in human rights is deep and broad-based in America and you cannot have daily violations of human rights," Fatemi said.

Pakistani officials said at least they expect Obama to avoid the confrontational stance taken by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said during his India visit in July this year that Pakistan is promoting the "export of terror".

The officials also fear that the president will seek to enhance the civil nuclear partnership with India. That, they said, could disturb the military balance in the region, the report said.

"If there is an effort to build India up as a regional influence, a country that is assigned the responsibility for security in the region, that is unacceptable for Pakistan," said Maleeha Lodhi, another former ambassador to Washington. "Clearly, for deterrence to work, we need the minimum threshold of conventional balance."
source: agency

Namaste India! Barack Obama to read from teleprompter

New Delhi: Namaste India! In all likelihood that will be silver-tongued Barack Obama's opening line when he addresses the Indian parliament next week. But to help him pronouce Hindi words correctly will be a teleprompter which the US president uses ever so often for his hypnotising speeches.

According to parliament sources, a technical team from the US has helped the Lok Sabha secretariat install textbook-sized panes of glass around the podium that will give cues to Obama on his prepared remarks to 780 Indian MPs on the evening of Nov 8.

It will be a 20-minute speech at Parliament House's Central Hall that has been witness to some historic events, including first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's "tryst with destiny" speech when India became independent.

Obama will make history for more than one reason during the Nov 6-9 visit. This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls.

Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama.

"We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact," an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, told the media. .

Obama is known to captivate audiences with his one-liners that sound like extempore and his deep gaze. But few in India know that the US president always carries the teleprompter with him wherever he speaks.

Teleprompters, also called autocue or telescript, are mostly used by TV anchors to read out texts scrolling on a screen and attached to a camera in front of them.

Parliament officials have had a busy week preparing for a red carpet welcome for Obama and his wife Michelle. Parliament House these days looks fresh with a new coat of paint, new carpeting and new green plants in mud vases decorating the corridors.

Sources said the Obamas will pose for a photograph with Indian leaders at one of the three well laid-out courtyards that have lush green lawns and fountains.

On the dais in the Central Hall will be Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The sources said the event will be an hour-long affair and will start with Ansari's welcome address and end with a vote of thanks by Meira Kumar after the US president's address.

The Obamas would sign the Golden Book, the visitor's diary in parliament, before leaving the eight-decade old building.

"Thank god they won't eat anything or have tea or coffee from our canteen. We would have to go through a tough security drill otherwise," quipped an employee.

Security managers in parliament also had a tough job for the high profile visit even as the house is already highly protected following a terrorist attack in 2001.

A team of US security officials, including from the CIA, were in the Indian capital and visited the complex to review security measures to be taken during the parliament event.

Parliament security officials have decided that barring special invitees and former MPs, no visitor would be allowed inside when Obama addresses the MPs.

Only journalists who have permanent radio-frequency passes would be allowed inside the Central Hall to cover the event.
source: agency

William Shakespeare's play comes to Indian villages - in tents

New Delhi: William Shakespeare will soon travel to the villages of India when a leading French repertory company in collaboration with the Mumbai-based Prithvi Theatre stages his masterpiece "The Tempest" in a mobile tent.

The 35-year-old Paris-based Footsbarn Company is a travelling tent theatre troupe. It has announced a two-year theatre exchange project between India and France, "Dream Project", which will see the troupe tour India with Shakespeare's "The Tempest" in a customised tent in 2012.

The troupe is already in Delhi with another production. However, it will begin rehearsing for "The Tempest" in Portugal, the cultural capital of Europe, where it has been offered a six-month residency project.

"We have started designing the tent for the play. It will be equipped with an open-on-all- sides circular central stage and surrounding seats that can accommodate 600 people. The portable tent, made of cloth, can be carried to far-flung venues," Paddy Hayter, artistic director of the Footsbarn Company, told the media in the capital.

The troupe is likey to travel to southern India, Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

"After the end of the tent tour, the tent will be gifted to India for future productions," he added.

Tent theatre takes plays out of the proscenium format and closed theatre houses to the common people in small cities, circus venues, streets and villages. It is a form of traditional nomadic theatrical genre prevalent in India as well as Europe.

The genre combines elements of circus, Shakespearean stage performances, acrobatics and conventional theatre. A dress parade on the streets, in the style of medieval English and French roots theatre, announces the arrival of the production company to the venue.

The company uses mask, puppetry and live music in its productions. While performing, the company camps in gypsy trailers around the tent in remote locations for days. The company, which has been visiting India since the mid-1990s, has performed at the Globe Theatre in London.

Hayter, who is leading the 15-member repertory company in India with his wife Fredericka, will stage Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs" on Nov 16 at the Baha'i House of Worship, Lotus Temple, Delhi.

The play, set in the England of 1690, will be presented by Alliance Francaise.

Sanjana Kapoor of Prithvi Theatre is helping the Footsbarn Company design the tent along with designer Fredericka and her son, a designer at the Globe theatre from London.

The theatre company has also moved to the National School of Drama (NSD) to liaise with regional and local theatre companies for collaboration.

"With four extensive national tours, workshops and two productions, including local artists from Kerala behind us, the time has come to tour India in a tent," Hayter said.

In 1994, the company had collaborated with local artists of four Kerala drama companies for "Odyssey".

"We had improvised on the play for 12 days in Thiruvananthapuram with members from four troupes after which we staged the play to an overwhelming response. In March 1995, five artists were chosen from Kerala to tour Europe with the company," Hayter recalled.

The same year, Footsbarn toured Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata and New Delhi with "Romeo and Juliet" in collaboration with Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai.

"At a time when theatre is becoming contemporary with special effects around the world, we prefer to cling to the roots and people, to make it a live art," Hayter said.

Tent drama is common in northeastern India, specially Assam where troupes like the Kohinoor mobile theatre carry their productions across the state in tents. A play like "The Titanic" has achieved cult status.
source: agency

Aparna Sen's 'The Japanese Wife' rated best in Calgary

Washington: Aparna Sen's Bengali film, "The Japanese Wife", has won the best film award at the recently-concluded Hidden Gems Film Festival in Calgary, Canada.

The film, distributed in North America by Databazaar Media Ventures (DMV), was awarded the stunning Amolite Trophy which is the official gemstone of the Province of Alberta.

The story of the film in English, Bengali and Japanese revolves around a young village school teacher (Rahul Bose) marrying his Japanese pen friend (Chigusa Takaku) over letters and remaining true and loyal to her throughout his life, while actually never meeting her.

"We knew that the film would do well at the festival, but it was beyond our comprehension that 92 percent would vote in favour of this film," stated DMV chairman Oney Seal.

The Hidden Gems Festival normally has a distinguished jury which selects the movie. This year the audience was asked to vote.

Festival Director Niru Bhatia hailed the film as a "love poem on celluloid". "Taj Mahal is known as the love poem in marbles, if you want to see a love poem on celluloid, see Aparna Sen's 'The Japanese Wife'," she added.

"We are very proud to be a part of 'The Japanese Wife'. Aparna Sen is one of India's most talented directors and most deserving of the Amolite Trophy," said Apurv Nagpal of Sa Re Ga Ma Films, producers of this film.

DMV acts as an exclusive gateway for Bengali films to North America, combining the latest in digital technologies with the best in traditional methods in a new, fusion distribution model that will maximise North American film revenues.
source: agency

Anusha Rizvi can't remove herself from 'Peepli Live': Aamir Khan

Mumbai: Reacting to director Anusha Rizvi's decision to disassociate herself from "Peepli Live", actor-producer Aamir Khan said it would be difficult for her to do so because it's her film.

"She has made the film, now removing herself from the film will be difficult for her," Aamir on Thursday told the reporters at the DVD launch of "Peepli Live", which is India's entry at the Oscars this year.

Rizvi feels critical acclaim and commercial success of the film have boosted Aamir's fame instead of serving the actual purpose of making the film, so she decided to steer clear of promoting her directorial debut for the Oscar.

But Aamir said: "Every one has his or her opinion, she has her own. As far as my opinion is concerned, I will shoulder all my responsibilities. The film is neither mine nor her, it's audiences'. I have fulfilled every responsibility as a producer and will do it until death."

"My point of view is that as it's such a good film, I should make it reach to a broader spectrum of audience and the message should reach to as many people as possible."

Asked if Rizvi is shying away from her responsibility, he said: "I can't comment on that. Each one has their own thoughts; each one has their own take on what their responsibility is. As far I am concerned, I will stick to my responsibilities."

"Peepli Live" is a satire on farmers' suicide in India and how media, politician and bureaucrats individually try to use it for their advantage.
source: agency

Good opening for 'Golmaal 3', 'Action Replayy' yet to pick up

New Delhi: With "Golmaal 3", director Rohit Shetty completed a successful rib-tickling trilogy, striking the right chord with the audiences and giving tough competition to Vipul Shah's romantic "Action Replayy" at the box office.

Both the biggies were scheduled for a Diwali release and hit the screens today.

"The content of 'Golmaal 3' is very good. People are enjoying it a lot and it has been houseful so far. It is a good time pass and full paisa vasool movie. 'Action Replayy' has opened a little weak and is not pikcing up," Ashwini Singh, business head of SRS cinema, told the media.

Satish Garg, owner of G3S Cinemas, said: "'Golmaal 3' is going very good. We have an occupancy of 100 percent and the advance booking is rocking. 'Action Replayy' is okay with close to 40 percent occupancy."

For "Golmaal 3", Shetty teamed up with Kareena Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Mithun Chakraborty, Kunal Khemu, Tusshar Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Johny Lever and Ratna Pathak-Shah.

Just like its previous two installments, it is full on entertainment and people are lapping up the laughthon, while Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai-starrer "Action Replayy", in which the story travels to the past, has got a lukewarm response.

"'Golmaal 3' has taken the screens by storm and is doing better at all sites across Delhi. It has 60 percent occupancy, while 'Action Replayy' has 30 percent. Both have good advance for Sunday, however, 'Golmaal 3' has much more. 'Action Replayy' should pick up tomorrow onwards," said Jayendra Banerji, vice president Satyam Cinemas.

Yogesh Raizada of Waves Cinemas said: "All votes are in favour of 'Golmaal 3'. It has got a good initial and public swing due to its recall value. It has an occupancy close to 70 percent. It has good advance booking till Sunday and the ratio is 60:40. 'Action Replayy' is a new concept and its acceptance is yet to be seen. It has managed to get an occupancy of 40 to 50 percent only."
source: agency

BSNL to expand 3G services to 120 more cities by December

New Delhi: State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will expand its third generation (3G) services to 120 more cities across the country by December, Minister of State for Communications Sachin Pilot said today.

Currently, the operator runs 3G service in 640 cities.

BSNL is also expecting to increase its subscriber base in this segment by 2.5 million by March 2011, Gopal Das, BSNL chairman and managing director, said on the sidelines of a telecom event here.

BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) were awarded 3G license much before the private telecom operators by the government.

In order to give a phillip to its the mobile business, BSNL has launched a plan, "pyari jodi", under which a BSNL landline customer can take a free SIM card and make free local calls to his landline.

In addition, the customer can also call two BSNL local numbers at a reduced rate of 20 paise per minute and one BSNL number anywhere in India at a reduced rate of 20 paise per minute without paying any additional monthly charges.

On activation, the customers will also get a talk time of Rs.15, 1,000 national SMS and 1,000 MB data free.

"The aim of this promotional scheme is not only to boost mobile business of BSNL, but also arrest steep decline in the landline business," said Pilot.
source: agency

Obama embarks on a sales trip to India

Washington: President Barack Obama embarks today on a history-making trip to India to take Washington's ties with what he himself describes as an "indispensable partner of the 21st century" to a new level.

From Obama down, officials have held out prospects of significant announcements during his Nov 6-9 without spelling out the specifics, but the president himself has made clear his focus would be on selling US goods and creating jobs in the US.

That has been Obama's consistent message, more so since voters unhappy over the slow pace of recovery gave his Democratic party what has been called a "shellacking" in the mid-term elections.

On the India trip, "the primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States of America," he said Thursday after a cabinet meeting to take stock after the debacle.

"And my hope is, is that we've got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we're doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth," Obama said.

Officials are also at pains to temper Indian expectations about US support for permanent membership of the UN Security Council or easing of US export controls of high technology items to India with Obama calling it a very "complex issue".

National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer though left out an opening on Thursday saying, the two sides were "working through it" and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and others "have been very engaged with our Indian counterparts, and so we'll see where this ends up."

More than 200 business leaders, including those from the Fortune 200 to small and medium enterprises, are making the trip to India for the Obama visit.

During his India visit, Obama will meet top US business leaders, including India-born Pepsico chairperson Indra Nooyi, to "discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in India," according to the White House.

The business delegation meeting Obama will include Honeywell International Inc's David Cote, who co-chairs the India-US CEO Forum with Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata, Boeing Co's Jim McNerney, General Electric Co's Jeffrey Immelt and Mcgraw Hill Companies' Terry McGraw, who is also USIBC chairman.

Louis Chênevert, CEO of aerospace major United Technologies Corporation and Ellen Kullman, chief executive of chemicals giant DuPont may also be joining.

Trade between the US and India more than doubled to $37 billion in 2009 compared with 2003, according to US Commerce Department data. In the first eight months of 2010, total trade topped $32 billion, Commerce figures show.

Ahead of Obama's trip, a major US trade association representing 300 top US companies doing business with India, has backed India's aspirations for a permanent Security seat as also removal of barriers to high technology trade

In a five-point agenda for advancing India-US economic partnership, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) also seeks a free trade agreement, educational collaboration, interventions to 'grow' agriculture; and infrastructure collaborations.

Washington is also eyeing some multi-billion-dollar defence deals, including a $10-billion project for 126 fighter bombers that the Indian Air Force plans to buy and for which two American companies-Boeing and Lockheed Martin-are among six contenders.

Obama will be the sixth president to visit India after Dwight D. Eisenhower (December 1959), Richard Nixon (July 1969), Jimmy Carter (January 1978), Bill Clinton (March 2000) and George Bush (March 2006).
source: agency

More women respected in Pakistan than India: report

New Delhi: Compared to India, a higher percentage of women in Pakistan feel they are treated with respect, says a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

According to the report, 81 percent women in Pakistan are treated with respect as compared to 79 percent in India. Even Bangladesh - with 86 percent - fares better on this index than India.

The report, titled "The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development", had a global launch on Thursday evening and is the 20th anniversary edition.

India's other neighbours - Sri Lanka and Nepal - however, have fewer women feeling that they are treated with dignity. In Sri Lanka, the percentage is 75 percent and in Nepal it is 44 percent.

When it comes to overall life satisfaction, however, India leads its neighbours.

This index was measured on a scale of 0-10 (0 being the least satisfied), on the basis of perceptions of individual well-being and happiness.

In this context, India scored 5.5 in overall life satisfaction. Pakistan scored 5.4, Bangladesh 5.3, Nepal 5.3 and Sri Lanka 4.7.

While a greater percentage of people in India were satisfied with the standard of living and personal health, when it comes to job satisfaction, fewer Indians said they were satisfied.

As compared to 86 percent respondents in Sri Lanka, 80 percent in Nepal, 76 percent in Bangladesh and 77 percent in Pakistan, only 74 percent people in India who are employed said they were satisfied with their jobs.

India ranks 119 on the Human Development Index (HDI) among 169 countries, the report said.
source: agency

Musharraf disappointed over Obama skipping Pakistan

London: Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf has expressed disappointment that US President Barack Obama will not visit his country on the sidelines of his maiden trip to India, the media reported today.

"I would take it as a disappointment, yes, indeed," Musharraf told the media.

The former army chief also criticised Obama for not speaking about Kashmir, saying: "It doesn't resonate well with the people of Pakistan."

"They take it that the US or the president of the US is not that concerned about Pakistan's own sensitivities and interests," he said.

Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, ruled Pakistan as the military dictator when the US with western allies invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attack. He stepped down in 2008 and left Pakistan. He now lives in London.

Obama was en route on Friday for Mumbai and New Delhi on a trip aimed at convincing India that he wants to push ahead relations between the world's two largest democracies after an early focus on Pakistan and China, the report said.

For many US policy-makers, it would be unthinkable for Obama to visit Pakistan on the sidelines of the long-promoted trip as Obama is hoping to show India that he sees it as a global power and not simply as a regional player.

But Obama has a delicate balancing act as he has also tried to convince Pakistan that he sees the country as more than simply a conduit into Afghanistan for war operations.

Ahead of the India trip, Obama invited Musharraf's civilian successor, President Asif Ali Zardari, for a future visit to Washington and announced that he would travel to Pakistan next year.
source: agency

Barack Obama uses chopper for short Mumbai flight

Mumbai: Marine One helicopter, used by Barack Obama for a short flight after landing here today, ferries the American president to avoid traffic snarls in cities he goes to.

Obama disembarked at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport from Air Force One and boarded the waiting Marine One chopper that flew him to the Indian naval base INS Shikra.

Not just during foreign trips, the Marine One is extensively used when the president travels within the US.

According to the media, there have been, over time, many different helicopters used for the US president's transport.

These include the Bell UH-1 Huey, the Sikorsky CH-3 Sea King, the Sikorsky CH-34C Choctaw, the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight, the Bell 47-J Sioux, and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.

According to defence analyst Daniel Goure, the new Marine One must be able to fully protect the president.

"The president will be able to do anything and everything he does on Air Force One or from the national command post in the White House," Goure has said.

The media said the future "Marine One" would be one of the world's most technologically advanced choppers. It would be designed to safely and reliably transport the president at home and abroad.
source: agency

20101105

Say no to crackers, Himachal CM urges children

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today appealed to children to say no to crackers and celebrate Diwali with lights.

"To prevent pollution and reduce our carbon footprints for a cleaner Himachal, let us spread the light and not smoke. Celebrate a safe and pollution-free Diwali," Dhumal said in a message in various newspapers.

In an appeal to children, Dhumal said indiscriminate use of crackers alarmingly increases the level of toxic chemicals in the air and noise, which is not only detrimental to the environment but also affects the eyes, throat and respiratory system.

The message was issued by the state pollution control board.

Misty Diwali morning in Delhi, chilly evening ahead

New Delhi: It was a misty Diwali morning for Delhiites today as the city saw a thin layer of fog. And the weatherman said it could get chilly by the evening.

"The skies will remain clear during the daytime but the evening will be cold and there will be a nip in the air," an India Meteorological Department (IMD) official said.

The minimum temperature was recorded a notch above average at 15.5 degrees Celsius and the maximum is expected to hover around 29 degrees.

The humidity levels will waver between a high of 94 percent and a low of 49 percent, the official added.

I'm tired of singing film songs: Asha Bhosle

Mumbai: From romantic film songs to cabaret to ghazals - the legendary Asha Bhosle has sung them all in her six-decade long career and says she has now minimised her presence in film music because she has had enough of playback singing.

"People retire at the age of 50, but I'm still singing and have sung so much. Singing 13,000 songs is not an easy task. I've sung so many songs with great singers, great music directors. Now I'm tired," Asha, 77, told media in an interview.

"Now whenever I get offered something very special then I will definitely sing, but otherwise I've sung enough. I've left no genre. Today you pick any song and you won't be able to say that Asha has not sung a song like this," she added.

It's not that the crooner has stopped singing and she now concentrates on world concerts.

"I still sing and will keep doing that till I can. I do shows. I like it when I sing in English or Spanish or in any other language. I feel good," said Asha.

The Padma Vibhushan awardee, who is the younger sister of veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, is known for her versatility and inimitable style and stresses on the fact that every singer should possess that.

"Everyone should form one's own style because when you copy someone then it's not your own style. Lata didi is a great singer, but I never copied her style because I didn't want to become like her.

"I never wanted people to say that Asha sings like Lata. Asha and Lata are different and I like it that way," said the singer, whose work profile includes film music, pop, ghazals and bhajans to traditional Indian Classical music, folk songs, qawwalis and Rabindra Sangeet.

The singer has recently been named the goodwill ambassador of the Chevrolet Global Indian Music Awards (GIMA).

"I really like the concept of these awards and I have a lot of responsibility on my head as goodwill ambassador of this initiative. New singers and good music that is lost will come out with these awards," she said.

"It's very important to get good music in the forefront; otherwise the music of India is getting finished," she added.

Asha, known for songs like "Dum maro dum", "Mehbooba mehbooba", "Mera kuch saaman", "Piya tu ab to aaja" and "Chura liya hai tum ne" and her masterpieces in "Umrao Jaan", including "Dil cheez kya hai", believes that today's singers don't get their due.

"Me and other singers of my time were lucky to get a chance to sing film as well as non-film music. But today's singers face many problems. Even though they sing well, they don't get a chance. They don't get recognition and that's very sad.

"People don't even come to know who the singer is or who has written a song. Only composers get the credit. No one else gets credit," she said the singer who has sung in over 18 languages including Assamese, Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, English, Russian, Czech, Nepali, Malay and Malayalam.

'Golmaal 3' completes a rib-tickling trilogy

New Delhi: It is touted as the first trilogy of Indian commercial cinema. It's about time that the distant cousin of Hollywood had one. Yet, what's important is that Bollywood did not need to have trilogies as one hit film has the habit of spawning a whole generation of films that look and feel like the original. "Golmaal 3" also suffers from that syndrome. Thankfully, it only feels like its previous avatars.

Despite retaining most characters from its previous outings, "Golmaal 3" enters a hitherto uncharted territory. Madhav (Warsi), Laxman (Khemu) and Lucky (Kapoor) are the three scheming sons of Pritam (Mithun) who manage to lure Vasooli (Mukesh Tiwari) into one scheme after another.

However, as luck would have it, in everything they start, they find competition from three other down-on-their-luck kids Gopal (Ajay Devgn), Laxman (Shreyas Talapade) and Dabbu (Kareena Kapoor) with funding from Puppy bhai (Johnny Lever). Gopal and Laxman are the sons of Geeta (Ratna Pathak Shah).

Inevitably, locking horns they end up destroying each others businesses. What the two groups don't know is that their parents are unrequited ex-lovers. When Dabbu finds out she schemes and unites the two lovers in a marriage without letting their children know about their step-brothers. All hell breaks loose when they finally find out and a hilarious war engulfs between the two groups right under their parents noses.

Like its predecessors "Golmaal 3" has enough laughs going through the film to keep the momentum. Johnny Lever as the Ghajini-style forgetful don who adopts a new filmy avatar every few minutes has the audience in splits. The few spoofs of old Hindi films, full of camera pans and quick zooms, will nostalgically tickle the funny bone. The twists of various popular phrases and known adages, raises more than a chuckle.

Mithun gets to do his "Disco Dancer" once again. Theatre veteran Ratna Pathak-Shah waltzes through the film with aplomb. Arshad Warsi is his usual tapori self while Shreyas Talapade and Kunal Khemu do a good job. It is however the beefed up Tushar Kapoor who seems to be trying too hard, and despite raising giggles, fails to arouse laughter. In the first part he, looking the most vulnerable, was the funniest of the lot.

Director Rohit Shetty tries his best in merging comic vignettes into one comprehensible film. However, had it not been for the funny dialogues, his lack of directorial verve would have shone out. He is spared the fate by some ingenious dialogue writing by Robin Bhatt ("Aashiqui", "Sadak", "Baazigar") and Yunus Sajawal.

Now that Bollywood finally has a trilogy, will it please also make one that also has some real standing in the world of cinema?

Akshay visits Hadimba temple for 'Action Replayy' success

New Delhi: Bollywood star Akshay Kumar went to the Hadimba Devi temple in Kullu Manali today to pray for the success of his film "Action Replayy", releasing on Friday.

"I quickly flew from Dubai to Delhi where I waited for the fog to clear so I could fly to Kullu Manali to visit the wonderful Hadimba Temple. This is where I came when shooting with Ash," Akshay posted on his Twitter page.

The actor was in Dubai with co-star Aishwarya Rai for the premiere of "Action Replayy" on Tuesday.

"I promised I would return before my movie released and here I am sitting at the foot of the temple surrounded by Yaks and the biggest of smiles on my face. I feel at so much peace right now… that's all I can ask for," he added.

Akshay, who is currently seen on the small screen as the host of Star Plus' "Master Chef India", will be flying back to Mumbai for Diwali.

"I'm now quickly flying back to my family so we can start celebrating Diwali together. I know my wife, with a little help from (my son) Aarav has decorated our home while I was gone. And I can't wait to get back and see it," he posted.

Tight security, alert in Kashmir ahead of Obama visit

Srinagar: Security across the Kashmir Valley has been tightened and an alert sounded ahead of US President Barack Obama's four-day India trip. Also, curfew was re-imposed in parts of Srinagar though separatists have not called for a shutdown on Diwali.

"Extraordinary security arrangements have been made across the state and a general alert has been sounded throughout to ensure that militants don't carry out any major strike," a senior intelligence officer here said.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said that he was more concerened about Obama's visit than his Maharashtra counterpart although the US president would not be coming to Kashmir.

Obama arrives in Mumbai Saturday and heads to New Delhi Sunday.

Abdullah said that separatist guerrillas might try and attempt something that would focus the US president's attention on Kashmir.

The apprehensions of the state government about the guerrillas attempting a major strike in the state stem from the massacre staged way back in March 2000 when then US president Bill Clinton visited India.

On March 28, 2000, unidentified gunmen killed 35 Sikh villagers in Chattisinghpora village of south Kashmir Anantnag district.

The identity of the perpetrators of that massacre is still shrouded in mystery although the state government maintains it was carried out by separatist guerrillas.

"Minority pockets throughout the state have been put on extraordinary vigil and deployments around sensitive installations have been strengthened," the intelligence officer said.

"We have taken all possible steps to defeat any designs by militants," he added.

Other senior officers responsible for counter-insurgency operations say they have increased their offensive against militants to keep them at bay.

"Attack is the best form of defence. We have increased our offensive against the militants and this is the most effective way of preventing them from planning something big," an officer on counter-insurgency duties in the Valley said.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has asked people to observe civil curfew during Obama's India visit and ensure that the shutdown called by his group is successful.

"This is very essential to tell the world, especially the US president, that permanent peace will continue to elude South Asia unless the people of Kashmir are given their inalienable right to freedom," Geelani said here.

Authorities, meanwhile, imposed curfew in eight police station areas in summer capital Srinagar to prevent post Friday prayer violence.

The separatists, however, have not called for any shutdown or protests today so that the non-Muslims living here are able to celebrate Diwali without any hardship.

Kashmir bilateral issue between India and Pakistan: US

Washington: With President Barack Obama arriving in India on Saturday, the US has reiterated its hands off approach on Kashmir saying while it supported an India-Pakistan dialogue, "clearly it is something that the two need to resolve" directly.

"As you've heard repeatedly from others in the Administration, we support and encourage ongoing efforts between India and Pakistan to resolve their issues directly," US National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer said on Thursday.

"We've seen some efforts in the past and the meetings that they've had are encouraging, but clearly it is something that the two need to resolve," he said briefing foreign media on Obama's "very important trip to Asia".

The 10-day trip takes Obama to India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan and includes two major economic summits, the G-20 in Seoul and the APEC summit in Yokohama.

Asked by a Pakistani correspondent how Islamabad should view Obama's visit to India, Hammer said: "The United States does enjoy very positive and fruitful relations with both countries, with both India and Pakistan. And one is not at the expense of the other."

On the issue of sharing information on Pakistani American David Headley, who has confessed to his role in 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Hammer said US had provided India access to Headley and "shared information relating to terrorist threats as we had them at the time that we had them."

"The Director of National Intelligence was conducting an after-action review to look back and see if there are lessons learned that can be taken from whatever information was out there," he said.

Hammer said US enjoys "terrific and excellent counterterrorism cooperation with India," and Obama "administration in particular has gone to great lengths to make sure that we are working together."

"Both India and the United States suffered tragic losses in the Mumbai bombing and it's a shared experience. And we both. want to ensure that incidents like this never occur."

"In the broad umbrella, I can assure you that strengthening counterterrorism cooperation will be on the agenda" of talks between President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said.

On US companies' concerns about the nuclear liability law despite India signing the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, Hammer said the US saw it as "a positive step" and "It's something that's continuing to be worked and that the American companies are addressing themselves."

Nikki Haley victory triumph for Indian diaspora in North America

Toronto: Ecstatic over the victory of Nikki Randhawa Haley as governor of South Carolina in the US on Tuesday, Indian Canadian lawmakers have congratulated the fellow Indian-origin leader for making it to the top position.

"It is really a great and sweet moment for us in the Indian diaspora that an Indian-origin woman has made to the top in the US. I am really excited by Nikki's victory,'' MP Nina Grewal, who in 2004 became the first Indian-origin woman MP in Canadian history, told the media.

"For me, her victory is a reminder of how much the Indian diaspora has accomplished here (in North America). Nikki has made us all very very proud,'' said Grewal who, like Nikki Haley, traces her roots to Punjab.

Considering that America is now going through some very tough times, Grewal said, "It will a test for Nikki to tackle the crisis and I am sure she will turn out to be a great leader.''

For top Indian Canadian leader Ujjal Dosanjh, who too made history 10 years ago by becoming the first-ever non-white premier of any province in Canada when he won the top post in British Columbia in 2000, Nikki's victory was another sign of the spread of diversity in North America.

"I am pleased that browns are making to the top along with the blacks in the US. I am happy that diversity is spreading everywhere (from Canada to the US) and this is a new era. After Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana), Nikki is the second person of Indian origin to become a governor in the US,'' Dosanjh, who till 2008 also served as Canada's health minister, told the media.

He said, "Her victory is doubly significant because she is not only of Indian origin but also a woman.''

Deepak Obhrai, who as parliamentary secretary is the highest-ranking Indian Canadian in the current government, said, "Every time someone from our community reaches high office, it is a momentous occasion for all of us.

"Nikki's success sends a very strong message about the strength of our community globally.''

Obhrai said India's greatest export to the world are its people.

"That's what I told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he was here in June. We have made a name for ourselves wherever we have gone and the Indian diaspora is breaking new ground everyday,'' said Obhrai who in 1997 became the first Hindu MP of the Canadian parliament.

20101104

Let Rahul Gandhi first learn politics: Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: Railways Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday brushed aside queries on Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's recent visit to West Bengal to strengthen his party, saying the young leader first needed to learn the nuances of politics. "I don't want to say anything about his (Rahul Gandhi) visit to Bengal. Please don't ask me to say anything on him. Ask me about Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi, I will talk. I can comment on those people with whom I have worked in politics.

"But I want to say one thing. It's good that he is in politics. He has my blessings, but first let him cut his teeth in politics," Banerjee said in an interview to private Bengali news channel Star Ananda when asked about her reaction to Rahul Gandhi's recent visit to the state.

Gandhi was on a tour to West Bengal Sep 14-16 to boost the Youth Congress' membership drive in the state.

When asked whether she is trying to imply that Gandhi was a kid in politics, Banerjee said: "I am not saying any such thing. You are saying."

She added that every party had the right to strengthen its organisation. "That is ok".

Prior to Gandhi's September visit to the state, Banerjee - without naming him - had said: "I am not a seasonal Cuckoo which comes and goes."

Banerjee's comment had drawn sharp reactions in the Congress with most of its leaders condemning her.

The Congress and the Trinamool had forged an alliance in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls to decimate the ruling Left Front.

However, the two parties failed to clinch a seat sharing deal in the civic elections earlier this year, with the Congress leaders repeatedly complaining to the leadership that they were not been treated with dignity by Banerjee.

This prompted Gandhi to say "There can be no alliance without dignity. We will extend our hand but not bow our heads."
-agency report

984 anti-Sikh riots: Canadian party seeks justice

Toronto: Canadian opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which is desperately trying to woo the Sikh community, today described the anti-Sikh riots following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination as "the tragic pogroms of 1984 that targeted Sikh men, women and children".

"The New Democratic Party of Canada stands in solidarity with the Sikh community, demands justice for the survivors and an explanation for why and how this community was targeted by organised mobs and government officials," NDP leader Jack Layton said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said, "The victims and survivors of 1984 cannot sit idly by, waiting for the Indian government to recognise their plight and frustration. Rehabilitation and support for the broken families, especially the widows, must be prioritised.

"The negligence of the police must be examined. The truth and those guilty must be brought to justice."

He said, "These are not demands - these are obligations of a democratic government to its people."

Over 3,000 Sikhs across Delhi were killed in the communal frenzy in the days following Indira Gandhi's assassination Oct 31, 1984.

The Sikh community in Canada is traditionally drawn to the main opposition Liberal Party. But the left-leaning NDP is trying to woo them to its side.

To boost its standing in the community, the party also demanded the restoration Punjabi commentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on ice hockey at night.

"We would like to bring to your immediate attention the fact that CBC Television has cancelled the Punjabi broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada. We urge you to reinstate this broadcast for the Punjabi-speaking community across the country," two MPs of the party wrote to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore on Wednesday.

The MPs said, "As are you are aware, CBC initiated the weekly Punjabi broadcast across Canada in 2008. Since then, watching the games has become a household tradition enjoyed by the entire family - from grandparents to grandchildren.

"It is been a bonding experience that also provided new immigrants an opportunity to learn about Canada's favourite sport and get a taste of Canadian culture."

Kamala Harris winning in California attorney general race

Washington: After a dramatic turn around, Indian-American Kamala Harris is clinging to a razor-thin majority in the race to be attorney general of California. But the race is still not over. And it won't be for weeks to come.

Initially trailing, Democrat Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and African-American father, pulled ahead of her Republican opponent Steve Cooley overnight and, with over seven million votes counted, was winning by two-tenths of a percentage point, or 14,800 votes on Wednesday night.

But tens of thousands of provisional, absentee and damaged ballots still have to be tallied, and both campaigns expect that it will be weeks before the final numbers are in.

Harris' campaign says they are confident they'll pull out the win, while Cooley's camp isn't making any bets. They had declared victory around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, but Harris kept creeping up and by early on Wednesday pulled ahead.

If her victory holds, Harris would become the first Indian-African-American and first woman ever to hold the job of California attorney general.

Born and raised in the East Bay, Harris was elected as the first woman district attorney in San Francisco's history in December 2003, and as the first African-American woman and South Asian American woman in California to hold the office.

She was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term in November 2007.

In the only presidential endorsement of an Indian-American candidate, President Barack Obama had said: "Kamala has done a remarkable job in San Francisco. Now it's time to send her to Sacramento so she can get those same results for all Californians-but she needs our help if she's going to win this race."

Harris is the daughter of Shyamala Gopalan, a Tamilian breast cancer specialist who came to the US from Chennai, to pursue her graduate studies at University of California, Berkeley.

After attending public schools, her strong commitment to justice and public service led her to Howard University, America's oldest historically Black university, and then to the University of California and Hastings College of the Law.

Harris was recognised as a 'Woman of Power' by the National Urban League and received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the National Black Prosecutors Association.

She has featured on the Oprah Show and in Newsweek as one of "America's 20 Most Powerful Women".
source: agency

Defeated Obama to focus on opening up markets on Asia trip

Washington: "Humbled" in defeat, US President Barack Obama has vowed to "re-set" the button with American business by focusing his trip to Asia, starting with India, on opening up markets to create more jobs at home.

"As I plan for my trip later this week to Asia, the whole focus is on how are we going to open up markets so that American businesses can prosper, and we can sell more goods and create more jobs here in the United States," he said on Wednesday the day after his Democratic party's rout in the mid-term poll.

"And a whole bunch of corporate executives are going to be joining us so that I can help them open up those markets and allow them to sell their products," said Obama promising to "work harder" to build consensus and admitting that on Tuesday had been a long night for him.

"Some election nights are more fun than others," he told reporters in the East Room of the White House. "Some are exhilarating. Some are humbling."

Obama blamed the anaemic economy for the "shellacking" his fellow Democrats experienced, but also acknowledged his policies hadn't done enough to bring down high unemployment.

"I've got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make," he said.

His administration has "stabilised" the economy and spurred private-sector hiring, "but people all across America aren't feeling that progress," Obama said.

Obama faced the media the day after Republicans seized control of the House with a 238-185 majority in the 435-member House and whittled down the Democratic majority in the Senate from 59 to 52 seats in the 100-member Senate Obama acknowledged that he has to push a "reset button" with businesses in America, who he said believe that they have been treated unfairly.

Upon reflection, businesses have drawn the conclusion from his policies that they are "the bad guys" and he accepted responsibility for managing that message poorly, he said.

Going forward he will need to make "absolutely clear that the only way America succeeds is if businesses are succeeding," he said

The "shellacking" he received by the voters on Tuesday made him realise how important it is for a president to get out of the "bubble" of the White House.

"When you're in this place, it is hard not to seem removed," he said.

Sohrabuddin case: farmhouse owner's bail plea rejected

Ahmedabad: A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Gujarat today rejected the bail plea of a farmhouse owner held in connection with the 2005 allged staged shootout of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauserbi's disappearance.

Rajendra Jirawala, owner of Arham farmhouse on the outskirts of Gandhinagar, was arrested following indications that his farmhouse was allegedly used as a safe house by police for keeping Kauserbi before her disappearance.

Jirawala told the CBI that he was out of Gujarat during the period when the police reportedly kept Kausarbi at the farmhouse.

The CBI court has also reserved its order till Nov 18 on the interim bail application of Abhay Chudasama, suspended Ahmedabad deputy police commissioner of the crime branch, who has sought three months' bail for undergoing hip joint operation in a private hospital.

The Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has been accused of killing Sheikh in a staged shootout on Nov 26, 2005, in Ahmedabad. His wife Kauserbi is suspected to have been killed at a farmhouse near the city two days later.

Over a dozen policemen have been arrested for the killings.
-agency report

Rain-battered coastal Andhra braces for cyclone

Hyderabad: The coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, already battered by heavy rains that have claimed 26 lives so far, is now threatened by a cyclonic storm, officials said today.

Fearing further damage and loss of lives and property during the cyclone, the army, air force and navy, besides the Disaster Management Response Force, have been kept on standby.

Under the influence of a depression over the Bay of Bengal that is threatening to unleash a cyclonic storm, rains and thundershowers would occur at most places, from Saturday morning, weather office said.

Isolated heavy to very heavy rainfalls were also expected over north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts, it added.

Wind speeds could touch 65 kmph, and commence along and off north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coast, the weather office said in a statement.

Sea conditions will be rough to very rough, and fishermen have been advised against venturing into the sea.

"The depression over southeast Bay of Bengal is likely to intensify into a cyclone and move west-northwestwards towards north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coast during next 72 hours," the Indian Meteorological Department statement said.

"Latest satellite imagery indicates that a depression has formed over southeast Bay of Bengal and lay centred at 0530 hrs IST of 4th November, 1150 km east of Batticaloa, 1400 km east-southeast of Chennai and 1450 km southeast of Visakhapatanam," the statement explained.

Heavy rains, caused by low pressure over Bay of Bengal and vigorous northeast monsoon, have caused widespread devastation in six districts of coastal Andhra.

Officials said the rains have claimed 26 lives in four days, though the downpour has stopped now. Nearly 600,000 people in 1,000 villages and two towns have been affected, and standing crops over seven lakh acres were damaged, dashing the farmers' hopes of a bumper crop this season.

About 50,000 people were shifted to 110 relief camps in the affected districts. More than 126,000 houses were submerged.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah is scheduled to conduct an aerial survey of the affected areas in East Godavari and Krishna districts today.

I rehearsed 'Red' fight scenes for three weeks: Bruce Willis

Mumbai: Bruce Willis is 55 and hasn't stopped fighting. In his latest film "Red", the Hollywood star says he will be seen in a major fight sequence for which he rehearsed for three weeks with actor Karl Urban.

"I have been a fan of Karl's since he started working. We have this big fight scene in the film that has been compressed down to hopefully what looks like a real fight. We rehearsed the scene for three weeks and shot for two weeks," Bruce told media in an email interview from the US.

"Karl and I learned most of the sequence using mixed martial art fighting-- like what you see in cage fight matches. There are things I did in 'Red' that I haven't done in a long time like running through a glass window, getting thrown around. But I really enjoyed fighting with Karl," added the star.

"Red", which is being distributed by PVR Pictures, is due to hit theatres in India Nov 12. The film was released in the US Oct 15. The action comedy is a screen adaptation of graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hanmer.

Willis is known for doing films like "Pulp Fiction", "The Sixth Sense", "The Fifth Element", "Unbreakable" and "Die Hard".

Asked why he agreed to "Red", Bruce said: "I liked the script; I was one of the first people to get involved in it, myself and Karl Urban."

"Red" has a star-studded cast led by Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich.

"Just before we started shooting, an unusual thing happened - a lot of movie stars signed up for the film - Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfus, Marie Lou Parker, that whole list and more, so it was like Christmas! Every four or five days some one or the other big movie star showed up," he added.

"Red" is about Frank (Bruce Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) who used to be the CIA's top agents and are now the agency's top targets for the secrets they know.

Framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive. To stop the operation, the team embarks on an impossible, cross country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history.

The film has been directed by Robert Schwentke and produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian.

Even though the film is an action comedy, it supposedly also has a hint of romance; so what is the expected target audience?

"It's definitely an ambitious movie because you try to put in all those things into a movie. You make a film about action, or comedy or humour, but we put it all into this film and somehow Robert Shwaynke, the director, made it work. So, I would say, it's a film for everyone," clarified Bruce.

The film was the closing film at the recently concluded 12th Mumbai Film Festival.
source: agency

20101103

Not worried about PILs against 'Guzaarish': Ronnie Screwvala

New Delhi: A case against "Guzaarish" has been dismissed as "frivolous" and producer Ronnie Screwvala says he is not afraid of more "loose" PIL (public interest litigation). He describes the Hrithik Roshan-Aishwarya Rai film as a "love story" with the controversial issue of euthanasia as part of its narrative.

"PILs are loose too, for people with hidden agendas. The film is a love story of a man and his life and, yes, euthanasia is part of the narrative," Screwvala told the media in an email interview.

"We have been true to our story and while we cannot stop people in a democracy to file wasteful PILs, we see no issue at all. Relevant is that the first PIL was dismissed by the court as frivolous."

A lawyer, Aditya Dewan, has filed PIL in Delhi High Court alleging that "Guzaarish" promotes euthanasia or mercy killing, which is illegal, and portrays the legal profession in bad light. He demanded a disclaimer from the producers saying mercy killing is not legal in India and there is a debate on whether such deaths can be allowed.

But the case was dismissed by the court saying the facts averred in were inadequate for the court to appreciate...and that it cannot be entertained in its present form.

In the past, UTV Motion Pictures made meaningful movies like "Khosla ka Ghosla" and "A Wednesday" as well as commercially viable box office hits such as "Rang De Basanti" and "Raajneeti". It also produced Ashutosh Gowariker's magnum opus "Jodhaa Akbar".

But Screwvala, who doesn't like calling his production ventures "meaningful", says his banner invests in movies on the basis of scripts and the director's vision. And even for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Guzaarish", they did the same.

"Let's be clear - we do not make 'meaningful' cinema as we don't know what that means. We make movies with strong narratives, strong genres backed by a solid script and a clear-cut director's vision and all this to be a commercially successful movie.

Ready to hit the screens on Nov 19, "Guzaarish" stars Aishwarya as a nurse and Hrithik as a paraplegic patient. This is their third outing together after "Dhoom 2" and "Jodhaa Akbar".

So does the film carry any message?

"All narratives - whether you read a book, hear a story, see a movie or hear someone's life story over coffee - have messages; otherwise it's 'time pass'. So, no, there is no 'meaningful' message, but there is a strong narrative."

The film's promos are out and some feel it is similar in look and feel to Bhansali's "Saawariya". But Screwvala doesn't think so.

"We have not got this feedback at all - there may be some diehard people who call themselves 'trade pundits' and those opinions are not relevant to us. I would say the visual treatment of the movie is what everyone loves and comes to see a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie for.

"I think if his near perfection visual treatment, eye for detail -- that takes you into a real and different world -- is there in all the movies; why single out 'Saawariya ' - except to be non-constructive?"

Asked about the movie's USP, he said: "Hrithik and Aishwarya as brilliant actors and their on-screen presence and chemistry (and chemistry does not always have to result in a kiss); visual experience of the world of Ethan...".

"It's a short two-hour film packed with love, drama, relationships; fight for what is right and for what we believe and, above all, a story well told, which is finally why we all go to the movies except on X-Mas, Diwali or after cricket on TV - we go just on those days for 'time pass'."

"So for all who only want 'time pass', don't watch this movie and for all others it's a must see," he said.
source: agency

India making it easier to do business: World Bank

Washington: India is one of the 40 most-improved economies which made significant changes in business regulation at a steady pace over the last year to make it easier for firms to operate, according to a new report.

Since 2005, India has implemented 18 business regulation reforms in seven areas, creating more opportunities for local firms, according to the "Doing Business 2011: Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs" report.

Many of these reforms focused on technology-implementing electronic business registration, electronic filing for taxes, an electronic collateral registry, and online submission of customs forms and payments, notes the report

The eighth in a series of annual reports published by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank, the report ranks 183 economies on key aspects of business regulation for domestic firms.

Since 2005, business regulation has become more effective for entrepreneurs worldwide, with about 85 percent of the world's economies making it easier for firms to operate, thanks to 1,511 improvements in business regulations, it says.

Other economies in South Asia are also improving regulation with faster, transparent, electronic systems, the report says.

Pakistan, the region's highest-ranking economy on the regulatory ease of doing business (with a global ranking of 83 among 183 economies), reduced the time for exporting by improving electronic communication between the Karachi Port authorities and private terminals in the past year.

"New technology underpins regulatory best practice around the world," said Dahlia Khalifa, an author of the report. "Technology makes compliance easier, less costly, and more transparent."

Doing Business 2011 finds that from June 2009 through May 2010, four of eight economies in South Asia reformed business regulation to expand opportunity for local firms.

Globally, doing business remains easiest in the high-income economies of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development and most difficult in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

But developing economies are increasingly active. In the past year, 66 percent reformed business regulation, up from 34 percent six years earlier.

For the fifth year running, Singapore leads in the ease of doing business, followed by Hong Kong SAR China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Among the top 25 economies, 18 made things even easier over the past year.
source: agency

India wins toss, to bat against New Zealand

Ahmedabad: India won the toss and decided to bat against New Zealand in the first of the three-match cricket Test series here today.

Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, who played key roles in India's win in the last match of the Australia Test series, have to sit out. V.V.S. Laxman and Gautam Gambhir make a comeback. S. Sreesanth has been picked ahead of Ishant Sharma.

Kane Williamson and Hamish Bennett make their Test debut for New Zealand.

Teams:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper), Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, V.V.S Laxman, Pragyan Ojha, Suresh Raina, S. Sreesanth.

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Brendon McCullum, Tim McIntosh, BJ Watling, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Gareth Hopkins (wicket-keeper), Jeetan Patel, Hamish Bennett, Chrish Martin.

Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia) and Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) TV umpire: Shavir Tarapore

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
source: agency

Michelle Obama to bring a touch of compassion in India

New Delhi: When US President Barack Obama talks serious business with corporate honchos in Mumbai on Saturday evening, First Lady Michelle Obama will be interacting with differently-abled children at the library of Mumbai University, bringing a touch of compassion and social care to the presidential visit.

Michelle will have two stand-alone engagements in India which will be independent of those of her husband. In Mumbai, she will meet and interact with differently-abled children at the programme organised by NGO Making A Difference (MAD).

Michelle will accompany Obama to a school in Mumbai where they will celebrate Diwali with children on Sunday morning before touching down in New Delhi late afternoon.

The two will head to the Roosevelt House, the residence of the US ambassador, to interact with staff of the US embassy here and go to Humayun's tomb in the evening before sitting down for a private dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday night.

Next day, when Obama will be locked in a deep dialogue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday morning, Michelle will find time to sample Indian artefacts at the National Craft Museum, Pragati Maidan.

Michelle is known for bringing a touch of compassion to the White House. Last year, during the first state dinner Obama hosted for Manmohan Singh in Washington, Michelle interacted with underprivileged children and shared with them finer details and ceremonies that go with a White House state dinner, including the choice of cutlery and butler's uniforms.
source: agency

Sara and Ali's Marriage in Big Boss House

Sara Ali and Ali Merchant might get married in the Bigg Boss house. Watch the video to find out.

Baby falls from 7th floor, bounces off awning, lives

PARIS: A 15-month-old baby girl survived a fall from a seventh-floor apartment in Paris almost unscathed after bouncing off a cafe awning and into the arms of a passer-by , police said .

The infant had been playing unsupervised with her four-year-old sister when she somehow fell out of the window, a spokesman for local city police said.

A young boy saw the baby starting to fall and alerted his father, who raced to get into position, arms outstretched, to catch her after she hit the awning, the Le Parisien newspaper reported.

The man with the quick reflexes and good hands, a doctor, looked over the girl and didn't find any injuries, but handed her off to an ambulance crew to be safe, according to Le Parisien . "My son saw a little baby on a balcony. The baby had gone right outside the railing... I said to myself I mustn't miss the baby," the toddler's saviour, local doctor Philippe Bensignor , said recounting Monday's drama.

"I had time to move from side to side to get in the right position," he added. "The little baby was fine and cried a little bit but calmed down straightaway."

"He must have played rugby for years to have developed reflexes like that," a bystander who saw the incident told the paper.

Police said the girl appeared to have no serious injuries and was under observation in a nearby hospital.
The owner of the cafe, located at the foot of the block of flats in the northeast of Paris, said it was a stroke of luck he had decided to leave the awning open that afternoon.

"I usually close it to stop it catching fire as people tend to throw their cigarette butts onto it," he told the television station i-tele .

"It's a real miracle," said the cafe's barman , who gave his name as Gaby, pointing to a small tear in the awning where the toddler bounced off.

The police spokesman said the circumstances behind the accident were unclear. "The parents were absent, and it's a bit difficult questioning the two girls, given their age."

Police say they have detained the parents of the baby for questioning. According to police , the parents had gone for a stroll on Monday , a French holiday, and left the 15-month old with his four-year-old sister in the family apartment in eastern Paris.
source: agency

Shabana Azmi, Javed's dinner with Obama

Actress Shabana Azmi and her lyricist husband Javed Akhtar have been invited by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for dinner with US President Barack Obama on November 7.

"Javed and I invited by Prime Minister for dinner with Obama on 7th Nov," Shabana wrote on Twitter.

" USA full of doubts whether he will get a second term. I am pretty sure he will," the actress, who is currently out of the country, wrote, referring to reports that opinion polls have predicted defeat for Obama in the mid-term Congressional elections.

She is currently touring the US with her play 'Broken Images'.

Azmi is a former Rajya Sabha member while her husband was nominated to the Upper House of Parliament earlier this year.

Facebook admits apps leaked personal data

WASHINGTON: Facebook said some of its applications violated the social networking company's policies against sharing user information, and promised to fix the problem.

Most transfers of information to other companies were inadvertent, Facebook Vice President Marne Levine wrote in a letter. Levine in the letter said Facebook would fix the problem.

Facebook sent the letter to Republican Congressmsan Joe Barton and Democratic Congressman Edward Markey, both of whom had written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after reports about how third-party applications on Facebook were sharing data.

"We have taken enforcement action against the applications in question, and steps to ensure the deletion of the Facebook user data that was improperly transferred," Levine wrote.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Farmville and other popular Facebook applications transmitted user IDs to outside companies. Facebook's letter also said a handful of applications intentionally shared information with a data broker.

"The third-party data broker in question has also agreed not to operate on Facebook Platform in the future," Levine wrote. She did not identify the broker or the applications.

Barton, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and in line to run it after Tuesday's Republican election gains, said the panel would focus on Internet privacy policies.

"It's good that Facebook was in a hurry to respond to our concerns, but the fact remains that some third-party applications were knowingly transferring personal information in direct violation of Facebook's privacy promises to its users," said Barton.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the privacy group EPIC, said he was pleased with the Barton-Markey pursuit of Facebook. "The most recent Barton-Markey letter to Facebook is a powerful signal to the new Congress that privacy will be high on the legislative agenda and that it will have bipartisan support," he said.
source: agency

Qantas A380 plane makes emergency landing in Singapore

SINGAPORE: A Qantas jetliner made an emergency landing Thursday in Singapore with 459 people aboard, after one of its four engines shut down over western Indonesia and following witness reports of a blast that sent debris hurtling to the ground.

The airliner denied there had been any explosion, and said the plane landed safely with no injuries. Qantas had no immediate comment on whether the engine troubles were related to eruptions of Indonesia's Mount Merapi over the past 10 days.

Given the timing of the malfunction, 15 minutes after takeoff from Singapore, and the airliner's flight path, there appeared to be no connection.

A Qantas statement said the double-decker A380 plane experienced an "engine issue" soon after taking off from Singapore for Sydney. It made a safe emergency landing in Singapore at 11:45 a.m. local time with 433 passengers and 26 crew on board, the statement said.

"Some media reports suggested the aircraft had crashed. These reports are incorrect. No Qantas aircraft has crashed," it said.

Qantas spokeswoman Emma Kearns in Sydney, Australia, said there were no reports of injuries or an explosion on board. When asked if the engine trouble was related to ash hurled from Merapi, Kearns said she had no further details.

A series of powerful eruptions from Indonesia's most volatile volcano, which was spewing massive clouds of gray ash 850 miles (1,400 kilometre) west of Batam, earlier prompted officials to close some air routes above the mountain.

"We have no way of knowing what at this point caused the problem," said Tatang Kurniadi, the chief of The National Transportation Safety Committee, when asked if there were fears volcanic ash clogged the Qantas airliner's engine.

Witnesses on the western Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore, reported hearing a large blast and seeing pieces of debris, including panels painted white and red, falling onto houses and a nearby shopping mall.

Pictures of metal, some the size of a door, were shown on Indonesia's MetroTV broadcaster, with people milling around.

"I heard a big explosion at around 9:15 a.m. and saw a commercial passenger plane flying low in the distance with smoke on ³ke of its wings," Rusdi, a local resident, told MetroTV.

"The debris started falling on my house." A British Airways flight suffered engine failure in 1982 after it had flown into a volcanic cloud in western Sumatra and was forced to make an emergency landing at Jakarta.
source: agency

Sara's fiance Ali Merchant enters 'Bigg Boss'; time for confrontations!

New Delhi: The ‘Bigg Boss’ house seems to be one with continuous shockers and unexpected developments. The reality show aired on channel ‘Colors’ springs another surprise by sending in the house a new wild card entry in the form of Ali Merchant who happens to be the fiancé of Sara Khan.Now, this is an interesting move from ‘Bigg Boss’ where the two lovers will confront each other in the house amid some testing and embarrassing situations. Before entry into the house, Sarah had expressed her commitment to Ali, but what transpired during the show was there for everybody to see. The relationship between Sara and Ashmit Patel couldn’t be just termed as friendship- there was certainly something more!

However, the entry of Veena Malik in the scene was a dampener for Sara, as bothe Ashmit and Veena are very much behaving like love birds and Sara is left to rue her acts so far. She even tore photographs of Ali in front of camera, and with the same Ali on the show, one could expect some Hungama!
Sara has also realized after seeing the footage in the secret room of 'Bigg Boss' for two days that Ashmit was attracted towards Veena and she was merely being fooled or utilised. But whatever Sara has done so far on the show would have certainly not gone down well with Ali.

Now, it is confrontation time, and the episode that will be aired on Wednesday will introduce Ali in the house. Bigg Boss has given some puppy care task for the inmates, and Ali will also enter the house in a puppy getup who will be received by none other than Sara herself on the order of Bigg Boss.

It is said that Ali prepares to spend a week to sort out his love life considering Sara's affections towards Ashmit and her ever confusing remarks about her relationship with Ali. Definitely the confrontations between the two will be interesting not only for the viewers and inmates, but it would also decide the fate of their relationship.

Delhi: No sniffer dogs at Rajghat during Obama visit, says trustee

New Delhi: No "sniffer" dog will be allowed into Rajghat before US President Barack Obama visits the Mahatma Gandhi memorial, a mistake committed during then president George W. Bush's 2006 visit that sparked a huge row, Rajghat Samadhi Committee's secretary said.

"We learn from mistakes and don't repeat them. It was a mistake to bring sniffer dogs to Rajghat in 2006 and it will not be repeated when Obama visits next week," Rajnish Kumar, secretary of the Rajghat Samadhi Committee, told the media.

In 2006, Bush was received at Rajghat by noted Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande. Now that she is no more, Obama will be welcomed by Kumar.

Earlier, Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi had cautioned Indian American authorities against repeating the 'sniffer dog' mistake.

"I know security is a concern and it has changed the way we live. But would they have allowed sniffer dogs at Lincoln Memorial or Washington monuments before our prime minister and president visits? There should be dignity in bilateral relations," Tushar Gandhi said on Tuesday.

"I also understand that Mani Bhavan (the Gandhi museum in Mumbai) will be closed for two days prior to Obama's visit. That is also not right," he added.

Obama is scheduled to visit India from Nov 6-8. He will visit Rajghat on Nov 8.

Deputy Commissioner of Police for security U.K. Chaudhary said he was aware of the 2006 incident and promised it will not happen this time.

India on alert over parcel bombs

New Delhi: India today sounded an alert at all air and sea ports to closely check all overseas shipments coming into the country following detection of two parcel bombs at Athens and London airports, and a third in Berlin.

Sources said that the union home ministry has directed the postal department to thoroughly check all parcels coming from Yemen and Somalia.

The alert follows last week's discovery of the two parcels containing explosives on US-bound flights in London and Dubai, sent from Yemen.

Meet hot-headed Katrina in 'Mere Brother Ki Dulhan'

Mumbai: In Yash Raj Films' next project Katrina Kaif's character is so volatile and unpredictable that she needed special preparation to essay it.

Written and directed by debutant Ali Abbas Zafar, the film titled "Mere Brother Ki Dulhan" will star Imran Khan as the male lead. According to producer Aditya Chopra's brief, Katrina would have to play the temperamental girl after much preparation.

"All I can say about my role is that this girl is quite a number. The closest I came to playing something so challenging was in 'Namastey London' and that was a cakewalk compared to this. The girl in Ali's film is… something else. I have to go completely outside myself to play her. Whom am I observing to play the role? I am not telling," said Katrina.

This romantic comedy is scheduled for release in 2011. Ali has been with YRF for many years and had assisted on films such as "Badmaash Company", "New York", "Tashan" and "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom".

Kareena-Aamir coming together again?

Mumbai: A hunt is on for a leading lady for Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan in Reema Kagti's next directorial venture. If the buzz is to be believed, Kareena Kapoor has been finalised.

A source close to the project says: "Kareena is extremely keen to work with Aamir again. While shooting with Aamir for Raj Kumar Hirani's '3 Idiots', she got along very well with him. And the part in Reema Kagti's film suits Kareena."

At the moment, Kagti is not willing to reveal details about the cast.

"The film has strong parts for two leading ladies. And we're in talks with quite a few girls," she said.

However, a source reveals that Kareena has been confirmed.

Chirag Paswan celebrates birthday with Kangana

New Delhi: Chirag Paswan, son of politician Ram Vilas Paswan, celebrated his birthday with co-star Kangana Ranaut on the sets of his debut movie "One And Only".

"Chirag's birthday was celebrated on the sets. Kangana has started shooting for the film and it is shaping out well," producer Anuj Saxena said in a press statement.

Made under Saxena's Maverick productions, it is being directed by Tanveer Khan and also stars Sagarika Ghatge, Neeru Bajwa, Poonam Dhillon, Vinod Khanna and Dalip Tahil.

Sajid-Wajid have composed music for the film, while Javed Akthar has penned the lyrics. Baba Azmi is the cinematographer.

When Dev Patel punched Freida Pinto

London: Freida Pinto remembers how co-star and boyfriend Dev Patel once accidentally punched her in the face while promoting "Slumdog Millionaire".

The 26-year-old actress took a blow from Dev while they were promoting "Slumdog Millionaire", the Oscar-winning movie that brought them together in the year 2008. She, however, seemed to enjoy it.

"Small things bring so much joy to us, like when we were first doing interviews, there was one time when Dev punched me in my face by mistake," femalefirst.co.uk reported Freida as saying.

This accidental punch was one of the many intriguing events that took place on the sets of the movie and the actress believes only she and Patel can understand them.

"The only two people who can understand what happened on 'Slumdog...' are the two of us. Even our families, who appreciate and support us, are still on the outside and that is why we hold it so very dear to our hearts," she said.

Jagjit Singh plans seven albums, 70 concerts in his 70th year

Mumbai: Ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, who is turning 70 Feb 8 next year, has grand plans for his birthday - he will celebrate the whole year by performing and releasing albums.

"I am not free for any playback singing next whole year. I am celebrating my 70th birthday whole year by performing at 70 concerts and releasing seven albums that will have 70 songs," said Singh at the music launch of "Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu" at Novotel Hotel here today.

Jagjit has lent his voice to two songs in the film and sang one of them - "Bhool jaana use dafnna dena" - at the event.

"Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu" is actor Makrand Deshpande's first Hindi directorial venture. The veteran theatre actor had earlier directed Marathi films "Danav" (2003) and "Hanan" (2004).

Releasing on Nov 19, "Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu" is a romantic movie that revolves around a roadside flower girl whose life changes when her dream hero (Shah Rukh Khan) praises her looks while passing by a traffic signal where she was selling flowers.

Tata Docomo to launch 3G services on Nov 5

New Delhi: Tata Docomo, the telecom joint venture between Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) and Japan's NTT DOCOMO, will launch its third generation (3G) services on Nov 5, enabling subscribers to access high speed Internet and video telephony.

"We have been able to complete the ramp-up of our network to support 3G services due to the superb 3G-ready network we created at the time of our 2G launch itself last year," said Anil Sardana, managing director, Tata Teleservices Limited, today.

"Our 3G rollout across all nine circles will be completed this year itself," he added.

The operator has won spectrum in Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh-Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, UP (West), Punjab, Haryana and Maharastra circles.

"We have cherry-picked the best telecom circles in the country from the perspective of cumulative market potential for our 3G services. We will cover 51 percent of Indian towns with a population of over a million and 60 percent of towns that have over half-a-million people," said Sardana.

The operator has been powered with technology support from its partner NIT Docomo Inc. of Japan. It's HSPA (high speed packet access) along with 3G network supports high-speed Internet access with speed up to 21.1 mbps.

The network also supports high-definition voice for a superior voice experience on calls.

3G services will change the way consumers use their mobile phones, riding on the back of game-changing products, applications and services.

This service makes the device the gateway to a world of information and entertainment purely for personal consumption, assists the user with a host of location-based services and helps consumers get more out of life through a host of clever applications.

Noted Indian magician P.C. Sorcar Jr. all set to enthral Oman

Muscat: People of Oman will soon be mesmerized by noted Indian magician P.C. Sorcar Jr., when the wizard performs here in the sultanate later this month.

Sorcar Jr. will perform on Nov 24 and 25 at the Al Bustan Palace Inter Continental Hotel, Oman's The Week newspaper reported.

"Be it a historical edifice or a coin in his palm, the 'merchant of vanish' can convince his audiences at the drop of the proverbial hat that it never existed. His performances have included wiping out a whole passenger train, the Taj Mahal and the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata in front of an audience," the newspaper said.

His presentations require 50 tonnes of equipment, 150 staff members, dozens of settings, laser lighting systems and feature original music by his own orchestra.

Sorcar Jr. performs over 400 shows a year.

Nikki Haley to rule largely Caucasian South Carolina

New Delhi: South Carolina, the southern US state that Republican Nikki Haley, a daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from Amritsar is set to rule as the new governor, has a surprisingly sparse population of Indian Americans.

According to the 2000 census there were only 8,356 Indians among 36,014 (0.9 percent) Asians in a total population of 4,012,012, 67.2 percent of them White and 29.5 percent Black. The state's estimated population in 2009 was 4,561,242 and ranked 24th among the US states.

Bordering Georgia to the south and North Carolina to the north, South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence from the British Crown.

Once primarily agricultural, South Carolina today has many large textile and other mills that produce several times the output of its farms in cash value. Charleston makes asbestos, wood, pulp, steel products, chemicals, machinery, and apparel. Farms have become fewer but larger in recent years. South Carolina ranks third in peach production; it ranks fourth in overall tobacco production.

Other top agricultural commodities include nursery and greenhouse products, watermelons, peanuts, broilers and turkeys, and cattle and calves.

The only commercial tea plantation in America is 20 miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island.

Key Facts:

Capital: Columbia

Nickname: Palmetto State

10 largest cities (2005 est.): Columbia, 117,088; Charleston, 106,712; North Charleston, 86,313; Rock Hill, 59,554; Mount Pleasant, 57,932; Greenville, 56,676; Sumter, 39,679; Spartanburg, 38,379; Summerville, 37,714; Hilton Head Island, 34,497

Six Indian Americans bite the dust in US polls

Washington: Even as Republican Nikki Haley, a daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from Amritsar, became the first woman to win the governor's race in South Carolina, six other Indian-Americans, all Democrats, bit the dust in the face of an anti-establishment vote.

In California, Democrat Kamala Harris, San Francisco district attorney, was trailing after giving a tough fight in Tuesday's poll to Republican Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County district attorney, in the race for California attorney general.

A record half-dozen Indian Americans - all Democrats - mounted runs this year for the House of Representatives. Five of them lost on Tuesday in districts in California, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The sixth, hedge fund lawyer Reshma Saujani lost in her primary challenge to nine-term Representative Carolyn Maloney in New York, but has vowed to run again in 2012.

Amerish "Ami" Bera, 45, a physician and medical school administrator was trailing to sitting Republican Congressman Dan Lungren in his California district despite raising more money than his rival.

Lawyer and State Representative, Raj Goyle, 35, of Wichita, Kansas conceded defeat to Republican Mike Pompeo who had received 59 percent votes to Goyle's 36 percent half way through the count.

Attorney Ravi Sangisetty, 28, of Houma, Louisiana, lost to Republican Jeff Landry of New Iberia, who won 64 percent of the vote.

So did Manan Trivedi, a former Navy surgeon who served in the Iraq war as an officer in a unit which experienced the first war casualty, after posing a tough challenge to four time Representative Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania's 6th District.

Surya Yalamanchili, 28, a Procter & Gamble marketing executive in eastern Cincinnati, with just 34 percent votes failed to dislodge Republican Jean Schmidt (59 percent) seeking her third full term in Congress.

Only a couple of Indian-Americans have been elected to date to US Congress. The first was three-term Representative Dalip Singh Saund, who won back in 1956.

Then, for almost 50 years, there was no one else until Bobby Jindal, was elected to the House after his first failed run for governor of Louisiana. He left office in 2007 and went on to win the state's top job.

PETA honours VJ Cyrus Broacha

New Delhi: Popular veejay Cyrus Broacha has been awarded by PETA for refusing to do a stunt involving bulls in the action-adventure show "Khatron Ke Khiladi 3".

The actor and comedian has been chosen for the Hero to Animals Award by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He will get a framed certificate and a letter of appreciation from the group, said a press statement.

Cyrus participated in the third season of "Fear Factor-Khatron Ke Khiladi", which was hosted by Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. During the show, the participants were asked to do several stunts and he refused to do the rodeo stunt.

"I wouldn't do this because this is like bullfighting and the bull surely doesn't enjoy this," Broacha had said on the show, for the stunt, which required him to sit atop an angry bull for as long as possible.

PETA is proud of Broacha's stand.

"Cyrus Broacha is known for his funny pranks, but he knows that exploiting animals is no laughing matter. We hope that his decision to stick up for bulls will serve as an example for other entertainers to follow - and that they, too, will demand an end to any roles that involve harming or harassing animals," said Abhinav Gogia of PETA India.

No curfew in Srinagar despite separatist shutdown

Srinagar: No curfew or restrictions were imposed in this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital today despite a separatist shutdown and educational institutions, private transport and government offices functioned normally. "No curfew has been imposed anywhere in Srinagar today. Restrictions have been imposed in north Kashmir's Sopore, Palhalan and Delina towns of Baramulla district," a senior police officer told media here. As part of his 'Quit Kashmir' campaign, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has called for a protest shutdown across the Kashmir Valley today.

Shops as well as other businesses remained closed and public transport was off roads here in response to the shutdown call. But private transport, educational institutions and government offices functioned normally.

To ensure that the work in government offices did not suffer because of the shutdown call and non-availability of public transport in the city, authorities instructed government employees to stay close to their places of posting.

Geelani has asked the people to resume normal activities on Thursday and Friday.

In response to appeals by the non-Muslim communities of the valley, Geelani has modified his protest calendar and withdrawn the shutdown call on Friday to enable them to celebrate the festival of Diwali without any hardship.

The authorities believe that with the levels of public violence coming down remarkably during the last fortnight, things are gradually returning to normal.

This has also been confirmed by union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who visited the valley earlier this week. In a statement in New Delhi, he said the situation in Kashmir is gradually returning to normal.

A senior police officer in Srinagar said: "Going by the level of tension that gripped the valley in the last four months, there is no doubt the situation is returning to normal now."

Adarsh Housing Society Scam: Decision on Maharashtra CM to be taken after Obama visit

New Delhi: It is expected that the upcoming India trip of US President Barack Obama would offer some respite for the Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan who has been facing a tough time of late owing to the Adarsh Housing Society Case.

It has been indicated that the top leaders of Congress would not be looking into the case till Obama's India trip finishes on 8th November. It is expected that the probe committee, consisting of AK Antony and Pranab Mukherjee, would be submitting its report by that time.

The committee would be looking at files that were used by the state government of Maharashtra to legalise what may be termed an illegal housing society in the posh Colaba area in Mumbai. The top leadership would be required to make a political decision regarding the replacement for Ashok Chavan.

It seems that Congress leadership would be looking to replace Chavan as his defence has not been deemed satisfactory by the powers that be. He has faced difficulty in explaining the logic behind allotment of flats at the multi crore housing society. Chavan has however stated that the land where the society was erected was government property.

However, in view of the way the flats were allotted to politicians and bureaucrats Chavan's argument may not be sufficient. Besides, it is pretty evident that the previous chief ministers did not have similar levels of involvement as Chavan in the whole affair.

Digvijay Singh, the general secretary of AICC has said that no decision can be made on basis of media reports. Sushil Kumar Shinde, the power minister, has said he had indeed signed the files for the Adarsh Housing Society but was not aware of the way they have shaped up.

It is expected that Chavan could remain on the hot seat if the Congress leadership feels that removing him could lead to problems. However, such a situation could be unlikely as the momentum in the supposed scam may suggest. It is being assumed that Chavan's place may be taken by Prithviraj Chavan or Vilasrao Deshmukh. However, Congress would need to look into the details once it decides to remove Chavan.

India should open retail to spur 'Ever-Green Revolution': US trade association

Washington: Ahead of US President Barack Obama's trip, a major US trade association suggested action in three key areas, including opening of India's retail industry to foreign direct investment to help India usher in an "Ever-Green Revolution".

The US-India Business Council (USIBC), representing 300 top US companies doing business with India, has also suggested lowering US and Indian tariff and non-tariff barriers for agricultural commodities and adoption US best practices in water utilisation and crop management.

Asking India to open its retail industry to foreign direct investment, the group says: "Doing so would bring efficiency, infrastructure, technology and know-how to Indian farmers, food processors, food service providers and other suppliers."

"The direct connection between farmers and markets will minimise costs to consumers and reduce pressures on food prices as wasteful intermediaries are removed from the supply chain," it argues suggesting big multinational retailers have the expertise India needs in reforming its farm-to-market processes.

"No sector of the Indian economy is more important to the people of India than agriculture," says the trade group, which is organising an executive summit in Mumbai Nov 6 featuring a speech by Obama.

Noting that the US was instrumental in bringing about the Green Revolution in India in the 1960s, where high-yielding seeds and fertilisers helped India achieve self-sufficiency in food, USIBC now sees scope for an "Ever-Green Revolution."

Adoption of US best practices in water utilisation and crop management could propel India further to promote greater food security by addressing problems that lead 40 percent of the country's food harvest to spoil before reaching market, it said.

Asking the US and India to agree to back up their joint agriculture dialogue with both resources and solid deliverables, USIBC suggests lowering US and Indian tariff and non-tariff barriers which are affecting trade in fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, pistachios, dairy products, and horticultural products.

It also sought reduced customs duties on items such as processing equipment, restaurant equipment, and related goods saying, "reductions in tariffs on processed goods will allow businesses to test product markets so as to properly invest in manufacturing and production facilities in the future, as well."

US companies should also be encouraged to showcase in India their own success stories of business sector intervention in agriculture and food processing, it said to raise awareness about how 'best practices' and technologies can deliver greater efficiencies.

"The result can be the 'Ever-Green Revolution'-a noble objective important to all," USIBC said.

India and the US agreed to set up an Agriculture Dialogue during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's state visit to the US in November 2009. The inaugural dialogue was held in New Delhi last September.

Under the dialogue the two sides have set up three working groups for strategic cooperation in Agriculture and Food Security; Food Processing, Agricultural Extension, Farm-to-Market linkages; and Weather and Crop forecasting.