Friday, April 30, 2010

Louisiana fishermen losing patience over spill

(Reuters) - Louisiana fishermen, who say they face ruin because of the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill, were fast losing patience on Friday with what they say is the slow pace of efforts to contain the slick.


Federal, state and local authorities and London-based BP, which owns the offshore well that is the source of the spill, are engaged in a campaign to speed up efforts to protect the coast.

But for many fishermen the effort smacks of too little too late for the Gulf waters they plow, which teem with shrimp, oysters, crabs and fish and support a $1.8 billion U.S. fishing industry second only to that of Alaska.

Jason Melerine, 26, said the root of the slow containment work lay in the imbalance between an oil giant and small fishermen. \"They should not have waited so long. They should have addressed this (slick) very fast,\" he said.

\"But they (the oil industry) have got so much money they don\'t have to worry about this.\"

Once offshore shrimp beds are contaminated, the shrimp season -- which is just beginning -- will effectively end and clean-up efforts could last for years, fishermen said.

\"They (authorities) should have done something quicker instead of waiting for it (the oil) to get so close,\" said Christopher Creppel, 25.

State authorities on Thursday declared the shrimp season open early because of the crisis, Creppel said, so he took his 20-foot (six-meter) boat out overnight, placing framed skimmer nets in the water and catching $1,100 worth of white shrimp.

Creppel said he doubts he would get that chance again, adding that most of the fishermen were still preparing for the season and had not even gone out.

Fishermen faced hardships due to an immediate loss of income in a part of southern Louisiana dominated by the oil and fishing industries. Several also said they were repaying boat loans worth tens of thousands of dollars and while those boats were insured, the income was not.

To make matters worse, sport fishing, which provides a secondary income for many commercial fishermen, will also likely be hard hit.


Hundreds of fishermen came to a school in Boothville, Louisiana, on Friday for a meeting called by Plaquemines Parish (county) to register to be part of the clean-up effort.

They sat in the school\'s darkened gymnasium while officials gave a crash course in how to avoid oil poisoning during the clean-up. Their involvement is partly altruistic but it has another purpose: now that the fishing season has ground to a halt, they need jobs.

BP is also offering contracts to fishermen to use their boats in the clean-up effort, sad Vince Mitchell of O\'Brien\'s Response Management, which is contracted by BP.

\"Is this just a show to make BP look good, or are they actually going to hire us?\" asked fisherman Mike Bruner, 48.

\"If we can\'t go out and shrimp then at least give us a job,\" said Rangsey Pich, 24, part of a community of around 44 families from Cambodia who fish off the Louisiana coast. \"It\'s your (BP\'s) fault that the oil is out there.\"

Fishermen said they feared much of the clean-up business would in fact go outside of the community.

That happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when a giant storm surge put a community strung out along a narrow peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Mexico under many feet (meters) of water, fishermen said.

\"There is a lot of bitterness. Most of these people are second, third and fourth generation fishermen and now they are looking at the end of their industry,\" said Roger Halphen, a local teacher.

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3G revenue at Rs 38453 crore

NEW DELHI: The price bid for a single pan-India block of 3G spectrum hit a whopping Rs 9,521 crore on Friday. This surpasses the total revenue of Rs 9,000 crore earned from the allocation of 120 licences for 2G spectrum by telecom minister A Raja on a first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis in January 2008.

The total revenue accruing to the government from the sale of four pan-India 3G slots and five extra slots in Punjab, WB, HP, Bihar and J&K is Rs 38,453 crore. Bidding activity was raised from a level of 80% to 90% for the first time on Friday and the real price will emerge when this is raised further to 100%.

This huge price differential between the FCFS process for 2G versus the transparent auction process for 3G exposes the real motivation for alleged lobbying activities for 2G licences. Each of the 120 2G licences given in January 2008 came along with 4.4 MHz of start-up spectrum, with a cumulative average yield of Rs 17 per MHz of spectrum.

This places the loss to the exchequer from 2G closer to Rs 40,000 crore and climbing. This is double Rs 22,000 crore estimated by the CBI in its FIR in the alleged 2G scam.

At Friday's closing 3G price, the price per MHz has already touched Rs 86, already five times the Rs 17 per MHz price received for 2G spectrum.

A comparison across telecom circles that received the highest, medium and lowest bids in A, B, and C circles, shows the 3G auction earnings are 5 to 30 times higher than the 2001 price set by Raja for the same circles for 2G spectrum (see chart).

In his defence, Raja compared 3G spectrum to Basmati rice and 2G spectrum with PDS rice in Parliament recently, in a desperate attempt to exhibit a difference between the two types of spectrum.

Experts rubbish this claim. "This is a shocking statement and betrays the most basic understanding of telephony, public policy and economics. Given that even today, 3G is used worldwide primarily for voice, there is no case for a massive premium. India, more than anywhere else, will use 3G for voice telephony exactly similar to 2G spectrum as 92% of the market is and will be voice for a long time. If auctioned, 2G would have yielded the same, if not higher revenue, for the government," says a telecom analyst.

Raja had vehemently opposed the cause of auctions for 2G spectrum, describing them as anti-consumer.

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SC notice to Centre, IRDA on SEBI plea

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre, the insurance regulator and insurance companies seeking their response on

allegations that some insurers mis-represented features of the popular unit-linked insurance plans, or Ulips, while selling them.

The apex court's action follows market regulator Securities & Exchange Board of India's plea seeking transfer of all public interest litigations on Ulips in various courts across the country to the Supreme Court.

A three-judge bench of the court headed by Justice SH Kapadia also sought responses from litigants who filed public interest litigations, or PILs, in the Bombay and Allahabad high courts. The court would hear the matter on July 8.

Case is not about SEBI-IRDA tussle

This case does not deal with the dispute between SEBI and the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority, or IRDA, on who among them has the jurisdiction to regulate Ulips.

That would be settled in a high court separately. "SEBI and our problem is of jurisdiction," said IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan. "The PILs do not deal with the issues relating to dispute about jurisdiction, but about mis-selling. Does SEBI have the right to regulate Ulips? That is the question. That is not the question in the PIL."

Ulips, the most popular instrument among investors to save for the future and get some insurance cover too, has led to a regulatory turf war between SEBI and IRDA. SEBI says that since the product has the features of investment, it should be regulated by it. But since insurance companies are regulated by IRDA, the Hyderabad-based insurance regulator says SEBI has no business to interfere with the entities which fall under its purview.

SEBI had banned 14 insurance companies from selling Ulips. An uncomfortable peace was brought in by the finance ministry, which broke. SEBI's petition was mentioned before the court by Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati.

"SEBI is in Mumbai, insurance companies are in Mumbai, LIC is in Mumbai," the court said indicating that the matter could be heard by the Bombay High Court.

Why not club all petitions at a Mumbai civil court, the court asked. Mr Vahanvati said the Supreme Court would be the appropriate forum to resolve the issue since civil courts lack authority under Section 90 of the Civil Procedure Code to resolve jurisdictional disputes.
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ICICI scraps teaser rates

NEW DELHI: Despite money supply tightening by RBI in its credit policy, the country\'s largest lender SBI has extended its special home loan scheme by two months till June 30. However, ICICI Bank allowed the product to expire on Friday. ''This scheme is very popular with our customers. As far as liquidity is good, we can continue with this scheme,\" an SBI official said. The scheme was to expire on Friday.

An ICICI spokesperson, however, said, ''We have decided not to extend the teaser rates.\" HDFC\'s teaser rate scheme was also to expire on Friday, but the lending institution has not taken a final view on the issue. The contrary stand by two leading lenders comes at a time when the government has said these schemes are a matter of regulatory concern and may impact financial stability of the lenders.

Teaser rate scheme provides concessional home loans to borrowers in the initial years, after which interest rates increase to align with prevailing market rates. Experts believe that there could be default on these home loans, if borrowers are not aware about the higher interest rate structure in the subsequent years.

While SBI has retained the rates for the first three years, the rate for fourth year onwards has been slightly reduced. For the first year, the loan would carry 8% interest rate and for the second and third year it would attract 9%. From the fourth year onwards, loans up to Rs 50 lakh will be charged 9.25% interest rate, while fatter loans will carry 9.75% rate. Currently, the scheme carries 10% interest rate from the fourth year onwards. ICICI Bank had extended the teaser rate for home loans till April-end. ICICI\'s teaser plan offered home loans at 8.25% for two years and existing floating rate thereafter.

Steel tycoon LN Mittal and two other non executive directors — Anupam Puri and Marti Subrahmanyam— will cease to be on its board effective May 3, 2010. Besides, the bank has approved a proposal for the appointment of Rajiv Sabharwal as its whole time director.
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Uninor fuels fresh tariff war

NEW DELHI: Taking mobile tariffs to a new low, telecom service provider Uninor, a joint venture between Unitech and Norwegian firm Telenor, on Friday announced call charges as low as 20 paise per minute. Uninor has introduced a concept of dyanamic pricing under which its subscribers can avail discounts of between five to 60%, depending on their location.

Telenor has a 67.25% stake in the company, while Unitech holds the remaining equity. The offer, dubbed the 24/7 Badalta discount plan, will be initially available to Uninor users in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Under the plan, subscribers will get changing discounts on their calls based on traffic on the network. This means a one-minute call could cost as low as 20 paisa and never more than 50 paisa. \"The new plan will not only help customers make significant savings on their bills, it will also help us utilise our network capacity better, which will help in traffic growth and revenue growth,\" Uninor executive vice-president (operations) Rohit Chandra told reporters here.

The plan is being launched at a time when tariffs are already at rock bottom. Call rates in India are as low as one paise per second. With new players entering a market where half a dozen telecom players are already jostling for space, the tariff war has started showing up on the balance sheets of the telcos.

Market leader Bharti, caught in a margin-chomping price war, had posted a 8% drop in January-March profit, its first fall in the last three yaers. Bharti had said going forward, the propensity to drop prices looks very bleak. But with Uninor launching this new scheme, it seems there is room for tariffs to drop further.
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Cambodians say World Expo in China \"Amazing\"

PHNOM PENH, May 1 (Xinhua) -- As the China 2010 World Expo began Friday night, many Cambodians were watching live television broadcasting from Shanghai and expressed their enthusiasm by saying the Expo and celebration was \"Amazing\".

Chea Racmoon, 24, a third year student of journalism school at Royal University of Phnom Penh said that she was watching live television broadcast with her whole family including her parents, and that she said \"it was really amazing.\" \"China is taking this opportunity to tell the world through the media of its country\'s development and the need of cooperation of all nations around the world,\" she said. \"I am happy to see China trying to get involved with many countries from across the continents through the participation of artists from different cultures around the globe,\" she added.

In a separate interview on Friday night in Phnom Penh, Chea Sokha, 63, said he was joyful to watch the opening of the World Expo in Shanghai, China with which he was really appreciative to the great preparation with great performance that he has ever seen before. \"I think, China, is the best so far in spending so much money with great artistic performance,\" he said, and added \"it is unlikely that other countries would be able to do the same thing as that of China.\"

He was referring to the lavish riverside display and launching of fireworks, fountains and laser lights that even more extraordinary than the Beijing Olympic in 2008.

The Expo is set to publicly open on Saturday and as many as 70 million people from around the globe are expected to see and visit the site over the six months period.

Van Thoeun, 45, said he would be more amazed to be in Shanghai for the display.

\"I don\'t know how much I would be more enjoyed by the display if I were in Shanghai by this time,\" he said. \"Through the display, I can imagine how strong China is for today,\" he added.

\"Cambodians who have watched the opening ceremony of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China on Friday night were greatly excited and impressed,\" local reporters said.

Ek Tha, deputy director for press department of the Office of the Council of Ministers, said that \"I wished I was at the Expo Park so that I could see them all in Shanghai.\"

Performance, lighting showing and fireworks staged for opening ceremony of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.

A number of world leaders were invited to join the opening ceremony including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. \"This is more than just the World Expo itself but also brings the world to see and learn more about China on what are the key factors brought China to become a world\'s economic power,\" he said. \"The stronger China\'s economic growth the greater positive contribution to this Asian region,\" said Ek Tha, who has half- Chinese blood. \"The Shanghai World Expo will also attract more investments from not only in the region, but also the west.\"

Keo Remy, secretary of state of the Office of the Council of Ministers, said that \"China is sending message to the whole world that China did not suffer from the global downturn.\" \"Every country was hit hard by the economic crisis, but at the same time China still enjoyed high economic growth, I think,\" Keo Remy told Xinhua.

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Veil a \'walking prison\' for women, say Belgian MPs

BRUSSELS: Belgium's ban on the burqa will be imposed in streets, public gardens and sports grounds or buildings ''meant for public use or to provide services'' to the public, according to the bill.

''We're the first country to spring the locks that have made a good number of women slaves, and we hope to be followed by France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands; countries that think,'' said liberal lawmaker Denis Ducarme.

All governing parties and the opposition agreed on the move — most for security reasons linked to the fact that people cannot be recognized while wearing the clothing. They added that the veil was a ''walking prison'' for women. The bill's chief promoter, Daniel Bacquelaine, said local mayors could suspend the ban during festivities such as Carnival when people traditionally wear costumes, including masks.

The vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, warned the vote could set a dangerous precedent and pave the way for a crackdown on other religious symbols such as Sikh turbans. Human rights group Amnesty International also said the vote violated rights to freedom of expression and religion.
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Anti-government clashes in Thailand bring stalemate to a city and nation

BANGKOK -- Thailand is gripped by a drama involving an ailing king and a monarchy in jeopardy, a topless princess and a poodle named Fu Fu. It features mysterious assassins in black suits, drugs and thugs, and a billionaire former prime minister forced into exile, where he spent more than $160 million to buy a British soccer team and bankrolls thousands of protesters occupying the heart of this steamy capital city.

This Story

Stalemate for a city, and a nation

Thai protests cripple central Bangkok

Seven weeks of episodic chaos have claimed the lives of 27 people and injured nearly 1,000, while scaring off tourists and infuriating commuters. It has also spooked investors in one of the best-performing economies in Southeast Asia, a bustling import-export center that has become, among other things, the second-largest market for pickup trucks, after the United States.

In the shadow of a fancy downtown mall that calls itself Thailand\'s \"premier lifestyle shopping destination,\" thousands of Red Shirts, as the demonstrators are known, have brought commerce to a halt while building medieval-looking barricades out of sharpened bamboo poles.

The protesters, some of them armed, massage one another\'s feet, snooze sweatily in lawn chairs and make ferocious speeches about the universal importance of one-person, one-vote. They say they won\'t go home until new national elections are called. They have reason to believe they would win: Their rural-based party has won before, but the government they voted into power was overthrown four years ago in a military coup.

Beyond all the plot twists and colorful characters, the story of Thailand\'s spring of fitful discontent is fundamentally economic. After decades of economic growth, the country\'s rural populace thinks that the elites in the capital have selfishly hoarded Thailand\'s increasing prosperity.

It is a view not shared by those elites, who regard their country cousins as little more than hired muscle for the exiled former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who wants to return to Thailand and power. Those city-dwellers sometimes take to the streets to fight back, wearing competing Yellow Shirts, in what has become an unpredictable standoff with regular bouts of bloodshed.

Thaksin\'s Red-Shirt-supported government was ousted in a 2006 coup that had the broad support of business leaders and social elites in Bangkok. The unelected government, which is resisting the protesters\' demands for an immediate election, is supported by those same urban elites.

The Red Shirts, though, have more than just the potential to win another election. Elements among them came to Bangkok in March with military muscle: rocket-launched grenades, improvised propane bombs and a shadowy force of trained fighters with military training.

The Thai army could not disperse them in an April 10 shootout that claimed 25 lives. The government and the military have since sought to contain the Red Shirts and wait them out. Leaders on both sides say the situation could spark widespread class-based civil conflict.

\"The Red Shirts have tasted something that is real,\" said Sulak Sivaraksa, a Buddhist activist and political analyst. \"They have experienced what it means to have power, and they will not be marginalized anymore.\"

The sticking power of the Red Shirts also raises questions about the future of the Thai monarchy. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is widely loved and has been a stabilizing figure in politics for more than six decades. But he is 82 and ailing.

The king\'s son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 57, is widely disliked, and his private life has tongues wagging. A recent documentary broadcast on Australian television showed the crown prince and his wife at a birthday party for his poodle, Fu Fu. The crown princess appears topless in the video.

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China tightens school security after 3rd attack

TAIXING, China — Armed police will patrol schools in China\'s capital after a farmer attacked kindergarten students with a hammer, then burned himself to death in the third classroom assault in as many days.

The government ordered schools across the country to tighten security after Friday\'s attack, and anxious parents of students targeted in an earlier attack marched in protest Friday night, demanding a better government response to the crisis.

In the latest assault, Wang Yonglai used a motorcycle to break down the gate of the Shangzhuang Primary School in the city of Weifang and struck a teacher who tried to block him before hitting students with a hammer, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Wang then grabbed two children, poured gasoline over his body, and set himself on fire. Teachers pulled the children to safety, but Wang died. None of the five injured students had life-threatening wounds, Xinhua said.

The attack was confirmed by an employee at the Weifang Public Security information office. Wang\'s motive was unclear. Xinhua described him only as a farmer.

Chinese schools have had five such attacks in just over a month — unusual in a country where extreme violence is comparatively rare and strict controls keep most people from owning guns. Sociologists suspect the rampages — usually by lone, male attackers — could be copycat actions.

State media reports have largely shied away from why students have been targets. Experts say outbursts against defenseless children can be due to social pressures in a rapidly changing society.

The attacks have been particularly shocking because most urban families in China have only one child due to government population control policies.

\"Children are the ones people care about the most, and they are the most innocent,\" said Ma Ai, a sociology professor at the China University of Political Sciences and Law in Beijing.

Targeting children is \"beyond the bottom line of human morals,\" he said.

State media either ignored or played down Friday\'s attack. It wasn\'t mentioned on the evening news in the eastern province of Shandong, where it occurred, and Xinhua didn\'t release a Chinese-language story on its website. Experts have worried openly about copycats, but authorities may also have wanted to avoid overshadowing Friday\'s opening of the World Expo in Shanghai, a pet government project.

On Wednesday, a 33-year-old former teacher broke into a primary school in the southern city of Leizhou and wounded 15 students and a teacher with a knife. The attacker had been on sick leave from another school since 2006 for mental health problems.

At a school in the eastern city of Taixing on Thursday, a 47-year-old unemployed man armed with an eight-inch (20-centimeter) knife wounded 29 students aged 4 or 5 — five of them seriously — plus two teachers and a security guard.

A group of parents marched Friday night outside the Taixing People\'s Hospital, demanding a better government response and proper care for their children.

Two witnesses, including a parent, confirmed the protest by phone and said police were at the scene. A photo posted online showed what looked like hundreds of people outside the hospital. Another showed broken glass on a sidewalk, describing it as the hospital entrance.

A Twitter feed later showed a photo of city leaders meeting with parents and said they told the crowd that four people remained in grave condition. The scene outside the hospital was quiet Saturday morning, and phones for Friday\'s witnesses were switched off.

The government on Friday issued an urgent directive to schools to tighten security. In the capital, the Beijing Education Commission ordered armed tactical police to begin patrolling around nursery, primary and secondary schools starting May 4, the first day back to school after the May Day holiday. Police will be on site when classes begin and end.

The education vice minister, Hao Ping, said emergency management is a \"heavy task\" with 270 million students across China, according to a Xinhua report Saturday. Hao said the government was setting up a 22-member expert team to focus on \"public incidents\" in the education system.

According to news reports Friday, guards will be armed with police batons and pepper spray in a district of the eastern city of Nanjing, and guards at kindergarten, elementary and middle schools in one Beijing district have been given long-handled metal restraint poles with a hook on the end. In Jinan, the capital of the province where Friday\'s attack occurred, police posts are being built on elementary and middle schools campuses.

The Education Ministry\'s directive Friday, posted on its website, urged \"concrete actions,\" including strictly implementing a rule already on the books to register all visitors to school campuses and preventing unidentified people from entering.

The central government first ordered increased school security in 2004 following an attack that left nine students dead at a Beijing school. Since 2006, schools have been required to register or inspect all visitors.

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6 days to go, it\'s advantage Cameron

BIRMINGHAM: The economy was billed as the centrepiece of the third and final debate; and so it was for the first half of the 90-minute exchanges. But, it was immigration that turned out to be the most explosive issue in the clash between leaders of Britain's three main political parties, with the Conservative party's David Cameron emerging a clear winner in an average of five instant polls. The polls are on May 6.

Where the Labour party's PM Gordon Brown could not help incessantly attack the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg was impatient, Cameron in a blue tie — the colour of the right — exuded calmness and poise. His fellow Etonian and Finance Minister-in-waiting, George Osborne, later exulted: "He did fantastically well."

At the media centre nicknamed spin alley, ministers and their shadows jostled for attention to their interpretation of the deliberations. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson described Brown's showing as "barnstorming". Vince Cable, Lib-Dem's economics guru, portrayed Clegg's display as "sturdy".

"When it comes to immigration,"Brown asserted, "I want to see a situation where we increase jobs that people trained in UK can take as we lower the number of people coming to this country."

Clegg claimed, "The immigration system itself, the way it works has become utterly chaotic under a succession of Labour and Conservative governments."

But it was Cameron's clear-cut stance that won the day. "Immigration in this country has been too high for too long; and that's why we have a clear approach to cut it and cut it quite substantially,"he said. It's moot, though, whether appreciation of his presentational skills will translate into electoral support.

Brown and Clegg rounded on him for not giving a figure and for not conceding that 80% of migration into Britain is from the European Union, which cannot be controlled other than by transitional caps. And Brown and Cameron pounced on Clegg for his proposal to provide amnesty to illegal immigrants who have lived in UK for 10 years.

While both wriggled out, Brown's suggestions of biometric visas, identity cards for foreign nationals and computer records of entries into and exits from Britain fell on deaf ears. He was once again adjudged as third in the polls.
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Soren’s decision irks JMM MLAs

The party leadership's "unilateral" decision to hand over the reins of the Jharkhand government to the Bharatiya Janata Party has irked some Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) legislators.

JMM legislature party leader Hemant Soren, who is Chief Minister Shibu Soren's son, met the legislators on Friday. But MLAs Simon Marandi and Teklal Mahto have opposed the move outright.

Marandi said he would not support a BJP-led coalition. "The BJP has divorced us," he said, adding Shibu Soren should undergo a medical test to ascertain the reasons for his loss of memory.

"I am appealing to bureaucrats to set up a medical board for Soren for a thorough clinical checkup," he said. "Shibu Soren should come out and talk to the media."

Mahto said the JMM was with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) now.

The party legislators whose support Marandi and Mahto are claiming to have are Lobin Hembrom, Bidyut Baran Mahto and Ram Das Soren.

Aquil Akhtar, Sita Soren and Jagarnath Mahto are maintaining a neutral stand.

Though the rank and file in the party appears divided on the issue, a split within the JMM appears unlikely even if the party goes ahead with its proposal of replacing Shibu Soren as chief minister by someone from the BJP.

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Resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue a positive development: US

Washington, DC: Terming the decision taken by India and Pakistan to resume talks as \"positive development\", the White House has noted that there is a long way to go with regard to improvement of relationship between the two South Asian neighbours.

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\"Well, obviously, a long way to go. But a positive development in terms of de-escalation of that tension gives us a chance to focus on extremists like al-Qaeda and the Taliban, particularly in Pakistan,\" the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Gibbs was responding to a question about the meeting between prime minister Manmohan Singh, and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines of the 16th SAARC summit in Bhutan.

The two leaders agreed to resume talks on all issues between the two countries at the foreign minister level.

While the Obama administration remains sensitive to India\'s concern over any attempt to mediate between the two countries, and has categorically ruled out to play any such role despite repeated request by Pakistan in this regard, its officials have been impressing upon the leaders of both India and Pakistan to engage themselves in dialogue and resolve all outstanding issues through talks.

On the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last month, Obama had met both Singh and Gilani separately within a matter of few hours.

At a press conference at the conclusion of the summit, Obama had stressed on the need to reduce tension in South Asia.

The Wall Street Journal in a news report last month had reported that Obama in December last year had issued a secret directive for diplomatically working towards reduction of tension between India and Pakistan.

There was no White House confirmation of this Obama directive.

The assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Robert Blake who was recently in Pakistan and India, after his return told foreign journalists that he talked with the leaders of both the countries on the need to reduce tension.

A day earlier, the State Department said it is encouraged by the Indo-Pak decision to resume talks.

\"Our understanding is, it was a very positive cordial meeting. There were the pledges of further conversation by their foreign ministers. We are very encouraged by it,\" assistant secretary of state for public affairs, PJ Crowley said.

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Radiation safety officers: A rare tribe of monitors

While private corporate-run hospitals offering fat salaries lure RSOs away from government setups, vacancies in developed countries take the rest out of India.

Now, DU has decided to appoint an RSO for the chemistry and physics departments.

DU's department of Physics and Astrophysics, which, perhaps, is the maximum user of radioactive sources, doesn't have even one RSO.

"It turns out that a lot of people in Chemistry and Physics are conducting research using radioactive material which is of much stronger intensity than we had presumed. And now we've learnt that the AERB requires us to have an RSO," said Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental.

"We will appoint an RSO in each department."

DU, however, doesn't want its faculty members trained as RSOs.

It will advertise the two posts and appoint "independent officials" who will "dedicatedly look into the safe handling of radioactive material.\"

DU announces compensation

Delhi University has announced a compensation of Rs 8 lakh for Rajender, who died of multiple organ failure due to exposure to radiation, and a job for his wife.

"DU accepts moral responsibility for the tragic occurrence," DU Registrar A K Sinha said in a release.

A sum of Rs 2 lakh will be given to the families of the five sill undergoing treatment.

Meanwhile, an AERB officer visited DU's department of Physics and Astrophysics on Friday and checked the department's laboratory and inventory to ensure that safety norms were being followed.

"Radiation levels here are within permissible limit. The material used here is weak and students are not at risk. We will submit our feedback in the next few days," he said.

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Dantewada massacre with CRPF ammunition?

LUCKNOW: The Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh police has busted a racket in illegal arms trade and arrested six persons and recovered a huge quantity of ammunition for prohibited weapons, following a tip-off from Intelligence agencies probing the Dantewada massacre of 76 Central Reserve Po lice Force (CRPF) personnel by Maoists.

Police suspect that the racketeers might have sold ammunition to Maoists who carried out the- Dantewada massacre on April 6. The victims included about two-dozen from Uttar Pradesh.

Among the arrested are three CRPF personnel and three policemen. The first arrest was made late on Thursday night in Basti district where police armourer Ram Kripal Chaubey had hidden ammunition inside flower pots, the TV set and almirahs, according to SSP (STF) Navneet Rana.

The ST F later arrested Yashodanandan Singh, a retired sub-inspector, along with Vinod Paswan and Vinesh Singh who were head constable armourers at the CRPF group centre in Rampur.

Nathi Ram, a constable armourer at the Ambedkar Police Academy Moradabad was arrested from Moradabad.

Additional Director General (Crime, Law & Order) Brij Lal, who also heads the ST F said, "We suspect they could be involved in selling these to Maoists or some large groups. But we are yet to confirm links with Maoists."
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Pak spy Madhuri names 2nd ISI handler

New Delhi: The Indian Embassy staffer turned Pakistani spy Madhuri Gupta, has revealed during her interrogation, name of her second ISI handler.

She was arrested on charges of passing confidential documents to the Pakistani intelligence agency. Gupta, whose five day police custody ends today, will be produced before a Delhi court on Saturday.

Although Gupta told investigators that she passed on crucial information to the ISI just to teach the Indian Foreign Service a lesson, the police are verifying her claim by going through her bank accounts in India and Pakistan.

Madhuri Gupta has also claimed that the ISI agent Rana was not her only handler. She says a man named Jamshed was also in close touch with her.

Rana and Jamshed both reportedly tried tap her through two Pakistani journalists before 2007 but finally succeeded towards the end of 2008.

Gupta\'s confessions will be shared with the Ministry of External Affairs to verify importance of the information she passed on. Her computer records will also be examined

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Decorated and emotional send off to Comptroller GADVASU

On the eve of retirement on superannuation on 30-04-2010 Sh. Bahadur Singh Randhawa, Comptroller, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University (GADVASU), Ludhiana was fared well in a decorated and emotional send off by the staff of the Comptroller and of the Registrar offices of GADVASU. He was holding the additional charge of the Registrar also since 1-12-2009. Sh. Randhawa thanked the staff for their full co-operation and excellent team work due to which, they could complete the targets/aims laid down by Hon'able Vice-Chancellor. He invited the staff member's alongwith the offices of the University for a dinner in Lodhi Club today in the evening.

Dr. A. S. Nanda, the Director of Research, presided over the function and appreciated Mr. Randhawa's position and pro-active attitude towards solving financial matters. He spoke that Sh. Randhawa was retiring with unblemished record, who worked hard with dedication honesty to achieve the directions/goals laid down by the Hon'able Vice-Chancellor of the University.

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Placement week finishes in PCTE

Punjab College of Technical Education (PCTE), Ludhiana organized a placement week starting Monday 26th April 2010 with Helix Technologies, Hyderabad. The company visited the PCTE campus on Monday at a package of 7.69 lac per annum. "200 students from PCTE, Chitkara Rajpura, GIM Amritsar, GNIMT Ludhiana, GNE Ludhiana, LPU Phagwara, RIMT Mandi Gobindgarh and Rayat & Bahara Ropar also participated in Placement drive by Helix Technologies. 20 students were shortlisted in Helix and out of them 9 were PCTE students," informed, Dr. K.N.S.Kang, Director General, PCTE Group of Institutes.

On Thursday, 12 companies visited the campus. Crisil, Auto Dynamic, Oshego Technologies, Birla Sun Life, Bajaj Alliaz, Metlife, Ralson, GTech Technologies, HK Sidhu Institutes, Janpath Real Estates, Nikkamal Jewelers were the companies which recruited PCTE Students on Thursday. Oshego Technologies conducted a written test also and offered a package of 3.5 lac per annum. Neva, HDFC Standard Life, Bajaj Capital and KAD Machines visited the campus on Friday concluding the PCTE Placement week

Dr. K.N.S.Kang, Director General, PCTE Group of Institutes said, "The Placements started in Nov 09 for this batch and companies have been visiting the campus since then. A total of 61 companies have offered jobs to the current batch of MBA, so far. Some students have got more than three offers in hand. Fedex, Standard Chartered, Lilliput, Deutchse Bank, Apollo Munich, Infosys, SBI Life , DLF Pramerica, Eastman Hand Tools, Eastman Global, Eastman International, HSBC, Axis bank , IOL Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, Lupin were among the other companies which recruited students from PCTE."
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

2 girls found missing

Jammu April, 29: Two girls namely Sonam Sharma d/o Dev Raj r/o Gajia,Rilway Line R.S.Pura and Shifalli Pandey (B-Ed) student d/o Subash Chander r/o Akhnoor have reportedly been missing since April ,22 and 26, 2010 from their residences respectively. Police have taken cognizance and efforts are in progress to trace out them.
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Terrorist hideout busted, cache recovered

Jammu April, 29: Police and Security forces recovered arms and ammunition from the hideout of terrorists during a joint search operation in the forest area Nagali Nallha under the jurisdiction of Police Station Mandi of district Poonch today. Reports revealed that State Police in association with security forces 19 RR launched a joint search operation at Nagali Nallah . The suspected area was cordoned off and during the search troops noticed a natural hideout of terrorists which was smashed. The arms and ammunition recovered from the busted hideout include 02 AK 47 rifles with 02 Magazines, 02 Pistols with one magazine and 242 Pika rounds.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

फिर फिरंगी हसीना की बाहों में रितिक

'काइट्स' में बारबरा मोरी से अंखियां लड़ाने के बाद अभिनेता ऋतिक रोशन अब शेखर कपूर की अगली फिल्म 'पानी' में अमेरिकी अभिनेत्री क्रिस्टन स्टीवर्ट के साथ इश्क करते नजर आएंगे। लगता है ऋतिक रोशन को इन दिनों विदेशी नायिकाओं के साथ रोमांस करना कुछ ज्यादा ही रास आ रहा है।

अपने होम प्रोडक्शन की फिल्म 'काइट्स' में मेक्सिकन ब्यूटी बारबरा मोरी से इश्क फरमाने के बाद अब ऋतिक निर्देशक शेखर कपूर की आगामी फिल्म 'पानी' में अमेरिकी अभिनेत्री क्रिस्टन स्टीवर्ट के साथ रोमांस करते नजर आएंगे। हॉलीवुड फिल्म 'ट्विलाइट' और इसके सीक्वल 'द मून' जैसी हॉलीवुड फिल्मों के जरिए सुर्खियां बटोरने वाली क्रिस्टन की यह पहली बॉलीवुड मूवी होगी। भविष्य में होने वाली पानी की समस्या पर केंद्रित शेखर की यह फिल्म अंग्रेजी में बनाई जाएगी।

शेखर से जुड़े एक करीबी सूत्र ने बताया कि हाल ही में शेखर ने ऋतिक के साथ मिलकर इसके बारे में चर्चा की है। ऋतिक भी इस प्रोजेक्ट को लेकर उत्साहित बताए जाते हैं। वह इस फिल्म में निम्नवर्गीय आम मुंबइया लड़के का किरदार निभाएंगे, जो मुंबई की एक निचली बस्ती में रहता है और जिसका शहर के उच्च तबके के इलाके में अक्सर आना-जाना होता है।

कहानी के मुताबिक यहीं ऋतिक की मुलाकात एक अमीर सुंदरी से होती है और दोनों में प्यार हो जाता है। यह एक तरह से रोमियो-जूलियट की कहानी जैसी है। शेखर नायिका के किरदार के लिए कमसिन उम्र की गोरी, लंबी और खूबसूरत लड़की को लेना चाहते थे और क्रिस्टन इस लिहाज से उन्हें उपयुक्त लगीं। क्रिस्टन भी शेखर की प्रशंसक हैं और इस किरदार का प्रस्ताव मिलने पर उन्होंने फिल्म में काम करने के लिए तुरंत हामी भर दी।

जब इस बारे में शेखर से संपर्क किया गया तो उनका कहना था, 'फिलहाल मैं इसकी स्टारकास्ट के बारे में कुछ नहीं बता सकता। कई बार मेरे ऐसे प्रोजेक्ट के बारे में चर्चा की जाती है, जो कभी थे ही नहीं। क्या मैंने कभी बुद्ध या मंडेला पर फिल्म बनाने की घोषणा की? नहीं। लोग अपने हिसाब से कुछ भी सोच लें, मैं इसमें कुछ नहीं कर सकता। हां इतना जरूर कह सकता हूं कि मैं 'पानी' फिल्म बना रहा हूं और इसे इसी साल बनाऊंगा।'(

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Roadside Bomb Kills 12 Civilians in Afghanistan

At least 12 civilians, including women and children, have been killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan.

Local officials said the improvised bomb struck a passenger vehicle Wednesday in the Tani district of Khost province.

In southern Afghanistan, NATO says one of its soldiers was killed in a roadside bombing Wednesday.

Also in the southern part of the country, officials say a tribal leader was killed Wednesday in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province.

The attacks are the latest sign of deteriorating security in the region. On Tuesday, a suicide bombing near Kandahar city killed at least three people.

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and the site of a planned offensive by Afghan and NATO forces to clear the city of Taliban insurgents.

The U.N. announced Monday it was temporarily moving some of its foreign staff from Kandahar to Kabul. It also asked more than 200 Afghan personnel in Kandahar to stay home.

Elsewhere in southern Afghanistan, NATO says a joint Afghan and international patrol confiscated more than 2,000 kilograms of raw opium from a vehicle in the Reg-e Khan Neshin district of Helmand province Wednesday.

The production and trafficking of opium helps fund the Taliban insurgency.(

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WWE Extreme rules 2010 Results

Teddy Long announced a new match for Extreme Rules. The Miz and Big Show will face three tag-teams in a gauntlet match. Teddy says if they lose, the team who will beat them will get a Unified tag team Title shot on Raw tomorrow night.

Gauntlet Match:

The Miz and Big Show defeated John Morrison and R-Truth by disqualification. Big Show went to chokeslam Morrison, Morrison responds with a triangle choke, but was hanging over the top rope during the hold. The ref counts to 5 while Show is in the ropes, and it results in a DQ.

The Miz and Big Show defeated MVP and Mark Henry by pinfall. The Miz pins MVP to get the win. MVP hits playmaker on Miz but Show hit the knockout punch from behind. Miz pins MVP and gets the three count.

The Hart Dynasty defeated Big Show and The Miz by pinfall. They hit a Hart attack on Miz to get the pin. They get the title shot on Raw tomorrow night.

CM defeated Rey Mysterio by pinfall. Punk hits Rey Mysterio with G2S to get the win.

JTG defeated Shad Gaspard in Strap Match. JTG hits Gaspard with boxcutter to get the win.

Jack Swagger defeated Randy Orton in Extreme Rules Match for World Heavyweight Championship by pinfall. Swagger hits Orton with wrench powerbomb to get the win. Jack Swagger is still our World Heavyweight Champion.

Sheamus defeated Triple H in Street Fight Match by pinfall. Sheamus hits Triple-H with pump kicks to get the win.

Beth Phoenix defeated Michelle McCool in Extreme Makeover Match for Women's Championship by pinfall. Phoenix hits McCool with Glam Slam to get the win. Beth Phoenix is our new Women's Champion.

Edge defeated Chris Jericho in Steel Cage Match by pinfall. Edge hits Jericho with a spear to get the pin.

John Cena defeated Batista in Last Man Standing Match for WWE Championship. John Cena is still our WWE Champion

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Terrorists planning attacks in Punjab, Peshawar: reports

LAHORE: Intelligence reports on Wednesday warned that two explosives-laden vehicles have entered Punjab and that terrorist activities could intensify in Peshawar in the next few days.

According to one of the reports, the banned militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is planning to hold the students of English-medium schools across Punjab hostage to force the government to free its arrested members. The report also mentioned that a Hyundai Shehzore and a Toyota Corolla, bearing registration numbers 8849 and 6849 respectively, were likely to be used in car bombings. It suggested putting security across Punjab on high alert, strict checking on entry and exit points of all the districts of the province, thorough inspection of all cars and increasing security at all educational institutions. The Punjab government has sought details from intelligence agencies regarding threats to educational institutions, the sources added. According to another report, 15 terrorists belonging to the Qari Hussain group, have entered Peshawar and reportedly plan to target the city's English-medium schools, the Peshawar Garrison Club, American centres and hotels. The report stated that Peshawar could become the focal point of the terrorists' activities as they try to pressurise the government and security forces, the sources said.

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Hisar hottest in Punjab and Haryana at 43.7 degree celsius

Chandigarh: The summer heat continued to prevail in Punjab and Haryana today, with Hisar being the hottest place in both the states at a high of 43.7 degree celsius.

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Karnal in Haryana also had a hot day at 40 degrees while it was 41.4 degrees in Bhiwani, the Met office said.

Ambala registered a high of 39.1 degrees and the maximum temperature in Chandigarh was recorded at 39.6 degrees.

In Punjab, Patiala saw the high settle at 41.5 degrees and Ludhiana experienced a maximum temperature of 40.2 degrees, while daytime temperature in Amritsar stood at 40.3 degrees.

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Badals in US, chief secretary is the boss in Punjab

Chandigarh: With chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir in the United States, Punjab is being run by bureaucrats.

Incidentally, Punjab governor Shivraj Patil is out of the state too — in Rajasthan. Patil was given charge of Rajasthan after the death of that state's governor, Prabha Rau.

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While the deputy chief minister has been away for more than a week, the chief minister joined him on Sunday evening. Both are in US to attend to Surinder Badal, Parkash's wife.

However, what's surprising is that the chief minister has not deputed anybody to officiate in his absence. As a result, hardly any minister is attending office in the secretariat and no important meetings are being convened.

Local bodies and industries minister Manoranjan Kalia, who's from the BJP and is the seniormost cabinet member after the chief minister said there's no official word on who's ruling Punjab now. Kalia agreed the norm is to appoint an officiating minister when the chief minister is not present.

In the absence of the two bigwigs, the job of running day-to-day affairs in the state has fallen on chief secretary SC Aggarwal, who contacts the chief minister or his deputy only in emergencies.

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3 HM Over Ground Workers nabbed by Reasi Police

Jammu (Jaspal)

Reasi Police achieved a big success when they apprehended three Over Ground Workers working for the terrorists of Hiz-bul- Mujahideen outfit at village Belli Dougga Tehsil Mahore under the jurisdiction of Police Station Mahore of district Reasi today .

The OGW's have been identified as Haji Mohd Hussain s/o Raj Mohd , Mohd Farooq s/o Haji Mohd and Danesh s/o Haji Mohd Hussain all residents of village Belli Dugga tehsil Mahore.

Reports revealed that the these hardcore OGWs were giving logistic supports, providing eatable items and shelter to the terrorists of HM outfit and are close in touch with the terrorist operating in Mahore area.

After developing information regarding the presence of these OGW's in the Mahore area, police swung into action, launched search operation in the area . During search they apprehended all hardcore Over Ground Workers. They have been put on sustained interrogation to know their links with other terrorist's outfits. Case to this effect stands registered at Police Station Mahore.


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CBI gets more time to quiz MCI chief

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Wednesday was allowed to interrogate Ketan Desai— president of Medical Council of India— and three others for three more days by a trial court in connection with alleged transaction of Rs 2 crore meant for according recognition to a Punjab-based private medical college.

The CBI, which had produced the accused after the completion of five-day police custody, got an extension in custodial interrogation after the agency alleged that the accused were not co-operating. Seeking police remand, the CBI counsel said that they have got information on one man, who was mediator between the MCI chief and private college authorities.
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Abhishek backed out of Raavan\'s Tamil version

Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, says he opted out of director Mani Ratnam\'s Tamil version of Raavan, where he was originally slated to play the role of Dev, due to language problems.

\"When Mani decided to make Raavan it was only in Hindi. The idea of Tamil version came in later. He told me to swap roles from Beera in Hindi to Dev in Tamil. Even though I agreed initially, I realised that I would not be able to do justice to the role since I am not comfortable with the language,\" Abhishek told PTI.

\"I told Mani that I did not want to do a film in a language which I did not understand. It is important for an actor know the language... Aishwarya is in both the versions because she knows it,\" he said.

\"Even though Mani was adamant, I managed to convince him that I would not be able to do the best job,\" the actor said.

Moreover, I had my hands full with Beera which was a tough character to play, the actor said.

Southern actor Prithviraj now plays Dev\'s character in the Tamil version and superstar Vikram essays Raavan. Abhishek clarified that Raavan had no connection with the mythological epic Ramayana.

\"It would be futile to unnecessarily draw parallels because the only connection is the name \'Raavan\'. It is an apt title for the film because of the different shades of Beera\'s personality,\" he said.

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hideouts of terrorists busted in Ramban


Police and Security Forces recovered arms and ammunition from the two separate hideouts of terrorists at different places during a joint search operation in general area of Dalgach Laksherwan Charwan Khari Banihal and Chabba Ganote falling under the jurisdictions of o Police Station Banihal and Ramban of district Ramban respectively.

Reports revealed that on specific information regarding the presence of terrorist in general area of Dalgach Laksherwan Charwan Khari Banihal , Police party in association with column of 17 Rashtriya Rifle launched a joint search operation . The suspected area was cordoned off and during the search operation troops noticed a natural hideout of terrorists which was smashed. The arms and ammunition recovered from the busted hideout which includes one Chinese Grenade with one magazine 12 blankets, 30 Kilogram ration, spices, 06 Kgs. kerosene /mustered oil ,one axe ,clothing items , bedding and some medicines .

Another hideout was busted today at Chabba Ganot under the jurisdiction of Police Station Ramban. The hideout was smashed during a joint search operation launched by Police and 12 RR after developing an information. The arms ammunition recovered from the busted hideout are one AK 56 rifle with 02 Magazines and 25 rounds and 08 Pika rounds.

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Imran Khan sweats out for bare-chested scene

You will see Imran Khan as if you have never seen him before. After SRK in Om Shanti Om, and Aamir Khan in Ghajini, this bare-chested Khan is sending temperatures soaring with his new lean body. Imran presently has just seven per cent body fat - the same as top international athletes.

Buzz up!The actor will be seen in this new avatar in his film I Hate Luv Storys that releases on July 2. The Jaane Tu... boy who has always been more \'brain\' than \'body\' (that\'s changed for good now), built the physique at the behest of his director.

How I did it

Imran says, \"Karan had wanted a certain look for the photo shoot and the bare -chested scene in the film. We had a break for a month as Sonam was shooting for Aisha. I started working out at that time. My trainer Yasmin Karachiwala and I worked out a different diet and exercise regime for those 30 days. My diet consisted only of steamed veg and fish and brown rice.

Three days before the shoot, I cut salt intake in my food as that decreases the water content in the body. A day before the shoot, I completely stopped taking salt. A lot of actors do what I did to tone their body for a film but it\'s not healthy. I would work out twice a day.

In the morning, I would do pilates while in the evening, I would do strength training and functional training. I get bored of working out in the gym but I enjoyed functional training which is real life workouts doing stuff we would do in real life. After the shoot, I went to Don Giovanni in Juhu at night and gorged on lasagne.\"

It took a whole month!

I Hate Luv Storys director Punit Malhotra says, \"I wanted Imran to pump it up a little more - have a kind of boy-man look. He took the whole month to train for the shoot and had regular workouts with his trainer and followed a strict diet. He was feeling miserable that entire month but the results are worth all that pain.\"

He adds that one of the best scenes in IHLS has Imran in a bare-bodied shot. \"He has a bare-chested scene in the film wearing track pants and he\'s looking very hot!\"
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Katrina Kaif: Actress with the Midas touch

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A decade ago, it would have been unimaginable for an actress with a pronounced British accent who barely spoke Hindi to make it big in Bollywood.

But that was before Katrina Kaif arrived on the scene.

The 25-year-old has carved a niche for herself in an industry which is usually not very forgiving of upcoming actresses, that too without any connections in Bollywood.

Kaif came to India as a 17-year-old. Born to a Kashmiri father and a British mother, she had lived in the U.S. and the UK, and is known to be very close to her sisters and mother.

She made her debut in Kaizad Gustad's \"Boom\" in 2003, a performance that went unnoticed. It was only when she appeared in \"Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya\" two years later with then boyfriend Salman Khan that Bollywood took note. But the critics still panned her, describing her acting as stunted and her accent a hindrance.

\"There is no place for any negativity in my life,\" says Kaif, when asked about those early days. \"Everyone has a destiny and I got what was written in mine.\"

Industry bigwigs like filmmaker Prakash Jha say it would be wrong to ascribe Kaif's success today to mere destiny.

\"Katrina is where she is today because of only one thing -- her dedication. She drove for three hours to come back to the dubbing studio because she felt she had pronounced a word wrongly. One word. And then she drove back to catch a flight,\" says Jha, who directed Kaif in her latest project \"Rajneeti\".

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Hrithik taught me how to abuse: Barbara

Mexican hottie Barbara Mori spills some beans about her relationship with 'Kites' co-star Hrithik Roshan.

How did Kites fall in your kitty?

Rakesh Roshan and Anurag Basu met me in LA. Anurag narrated me this story of a Mexican girl and an Indian guy and how their life changes when they fall in love. The story was so beautiful that I fell in love with it and couldn't say no to Anurag.

Tell us something about your earlier work.

I started working as a waitress when I was 14 years old. I got into modeling at 16 and started acting at 18. I wanted to be a teacher because I love kids but ended up becoming an actor.

How was the experience of working in Bollywood?

It was an exciting and completely new experience for me. Kites has a lot of firsts for me – my first English language film, first Hindi language film and first action film. This is totally different from what I have done earlier.

Did you know about Bollywood earlier?

I had an idea of Bollywood but knew nobody. I had never heard of Hrithik, Shah Rukh or Rakesh Roshan. But I feel fortunate working with Hrithik now because he is a God here and I am surprised and happy that I have worked with someone like him. I am glad to be part of such a big and beautiful film. I never watched Hindi films earlier, forget Hrithik's. But now I have seen all his films and loved Lakshya and Koi Mil Gaya .

Weren't you wary of the film since you are not familiar with both English and Hindi?

I know a little bit of English but Hindi was completely new to me. Earlier I thought it would be really difficult but Hrithik became my translator on the sets.

Kites promises a lot of action sequences. Was it intimidating?

The underwater scenes were very difficult for me. There were lots of stunts and I was apprehensive at first. But once on sets, my fear disappeared. I wouldn't deny that the dangerous stunts have been performed by professionals. But I did most of the other stunts myself.

Any homework you had to do for your character?

I studied my character Natasha in Mexico because I couldn't stay in India for a long time. My family is in Mexico. I prepared mentally and was on diet for 6 months.

How important is love in your life?

Love is the most important thing in my life.

Who was your first love?

I fell in love for the first time when I was 14. Sadly he was a really bad guy. He was Mexican.

After that did you ever fell in love again?

Yes. With my son's father but we never got married. I have a 12 year son. And I don't want to get married now.

Who is the most important person in your life?

My 12 year old son – Serjio! I feel mother-son relationship is the most endearing relationship in the world. I live my life with lot of honesty and dignity. I have taught the same to my son.

What do you have to say of your linkup stories with Hrithik?

Nothing! I laugh on it. I have been linked up with all my costars in Mexico so this is nothing new to me. I am used to it. At beginning I used to cry and think why I have been linked up but now I don't take it seriously.

So how is your relationship with Hrithik and his wife Suzanne?

I met Hrithik when Suzanne was pregnant. I was away from my home but they are so warm people that they made me feel like a family. I am a very emotional girl. When I met the Roshan family, I fell in love with them. Hrithik and Suzzanne will always be in my heart. I went out with Suzzanne many times. We are good friends. I had been to their place for dinner many times. The food was so spicy that I couldn't eat it. So the next time they diluted the spice with more sweet texture to the menu.

What is the one thing you learnt from Hrithik?

Hrithik taught me abuses like ' ullu ke pathe ' and lines like ' main tumse pyaar karti hoon ' though I didn't knew the meaning of it for a long time.

Have you got any other offers post Kites?

I haven't got any offers yet. Only Anurag Basu has offered me his next film.

Isn't your brother also in India?

My brother has been living in India since a year. He is a singer and wants to make a career in music. But I want to go back to Mexico. I will come back whenever work calls. I want to come to India for vacations. I am fascinated by the country. I have seen Goa and want to see Taj Mahal now.

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Ripple effect on D-Street as Europe crisis spreads

MUMBAI: After Greece, it's Spain, as the contagion seems to be spreading fast across Europe. Ratings major Standard & Poor's (S&P) on

Wednesday cut its ratings on Spain by one notch to AA from AA-plus.

Earlier in the day, Indian shares joined the worldwide slide in equities and commodities, after S&P had lowered Greece's debt rating to junk and that of Portugal by two notches on Tuesday.

Brokers and fund managers said the outlook on India's economy and corporate earnings remained upbeat, notwithstanding the latest upheavals in Europe. But the flow of foreign money into the stock markets could be affected as global investors booked profits in emerging markets like India, to offset losses in other parts of the world, they said.

"The developments in Europe are unlikely to hurt the earnings potential of Indian companies, but investors may question the price-to-earning multiple of (Indian) equities," said Kenneth Andrade, head-investments, IDFC SSKI Asset Management.

Indian shares are trading 16-17 times estimated earnings for the current financial year, and most investment managers say they are neither cheap nor too expensive.

BSE's 30-share Sensex shed 310.54 points, or 1.8%, to close at 17,380.08. The 50-share Nifty crashed 92.90 points to close at 5,215.45. Key markets in Asia ended 1-2% down, and European markets too declined 1-2%.

"While valuations in India are not too stretched, in the immediate term, we remain anxious about the global risk trade unwinding," said Keshav Sanghi, MD and head of equities, Citigroup Global Markets, India. Bond prices moved up a little and traders expect that the 10-year government paper to be auctioned on Friday will have a yield of below 8%.

Provisional data on the stock exchanges showed foreign funds were not heavy sellers even as many second-line shares fell sharply. Overseas investors net sold Rs 131 crore of shares while domestic institutions bought Rs 324 crore of shares on a net basis. So far in 2010, foreign funds have net bought $6 billion of Indian shares.

Market players expect more volatility on Thursday because of the expiry of derivatives contracts. If the downtrend persists, many traders holding long positions may choose not to carry them forward.

"Emerging markets in Asia have not yet seen a knock-on contagion impact on account of Greece and Portugal and retraced less than Brazil or Mexico today," Mr Sanghi said. "I believe that there are quite a few macro international variables that still need resolution and the market is in a wait-and-watch mode near term," Mr Sanghi added.

In the global markets, yields on Greek two-year debt soared to a record 26% and the euro hovered around near a one-year low against the dollar as investors worried that the sovereign debt crisis in parts of Europe may soon spread to markets as well.

Shares of metal, oil and gas, and realty companies were the worst affected, with the respective sectoral indices on BSE falling 2-3%. Shares of FMCG and healthcare companies closed flat to slightly lower, as investors moved a part of their money to defensive stocks.

"The problems of Greece do not have any direct implications for India," said Vikram Kotak, chief investment officer, Birla Sun Life Insurance.

"But the big worry is a series of bad news—interest rate hike, inflation, high valuations, spate of share offerings—hitting all at once. We see the Sensex moving in a range of 14,000-18,000 over the next few months. But at the moment, a correction appears more likely," said Mr Kotak.
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Bharti net dips 8% on rising competition

NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel, India\'s top mobile operator, posted an 8% fall in quarterly profit to Rs 2,055 crore as fierce competition among 12-13 operators cut into earnings despite higher subscriber growth. During the period, total revenues grew 2% to touch Rs 10,056 crore. The company recorded the highest ever traffic on its network, up by 19.6 billion minutes or a 13% growth over the third quarter.

Underlying EBITDA margins declined by 2% on a year-on-year basis but continued to be robust at 39% as a result of concerted cost optimization initiatives. \"Bharti Airtel continues to be strongly positioned in India despite a hyper competitive market\", chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in a statement.

Last year, Bharti has accomplished a 41% ramp up of its customer base to 137.6 million across India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Net income for the full year showed a 7% growth at Rs 9,103 crore. The consolidated total revenues for the full year ended March 31, 2010 grew 7.2% to Rs 39,615 crore and underlying EBITDA grew 6% to Rs 16,124 crore. It sustained its underlying EBITDA margin for the year at 40.7%, which is in line with the previous year\'s margin of 41%.

Domestic pressures are forcing Bharti to look for external growth markets. In March, Bharti signed a $10.7 billion deal to acquire the operations of Kuwait\'s Zain Telecom in 15 African countries, which will make Bharti the world\'s fifth-largest wireless company, serving 1.8 billion people. Bharti has secured financing for the Zain acquisition, but faces another huge bill for 3G spectrum and rollout.
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SJVN, Jaypee Infratech IPOs open for subscription

The initial public offerings of Hydropower generator Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and Jaiprakash Associates\' subsidiary Jaypee Infratech opened for subscription today. Retail investors will get shares at 5% discount to offer price through both IPOs.


The government is offering 41.5 crore equity shares through SJVN issue, which will close on May 3, 2010. IPO price band is at Rs 23-26 per share.

The offer comprises a net offer to the public of 411,650,000 equity shares and a reservation of 3,350,000 equity shares for purchase by eligible employees at the offer price. The offer shall constitute 10.03% of the paid-up equity capital of company..

The shareholding stake of President of India, acting through the Ministry of Power, Government of India will be reduced to 64.47% from 74.50% post issue. The Governor, State of Himachal Pradesh holds 25.50% stake in the company.

The purpose of the offer is to achieve the benefits of listing and the company will not receive any proceeds from the offer.

It is a hydroelectric power generation company originally established as a joint venture between the Government and the state government of Himachal Pradesh to develop and operate the NJHPS. Based on information published by the CEA, the NJHPS is currently the largest operational hydroelectric power generation facility in India based on installed capacity, with an aggregate generation capacity of 1,500 MW, and is located on the Sutlej River in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

For the period of nine months ended of December 2009, it has reported net profit of Rs 775.37 crore on total income of Rs 1,510 crore; it has debt of Rs 1,769.90 crore on its books.

The book running lead managers to the issue are JM Financial Consultants Pvt Ltd, IDFC Capital Ltd, IDBI Capital Market Services Ltd and SBI Capital Markets Ltd. Link Intime India Pvt Ltd is the registrar.

Jaypee Infratech, a part of Jaypee Group, is aiming to raise a maximum of Rs 23.5 billion (USD 530 million) through its issue.

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SC: Did we deviate from rules in post-Godhra riots?

NEW DELHI: After the pro-active monitoring of Gujarat riot case trials and setting up the special investigation team (SIT) to plug loopholes in probes, the Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared to be standing at a crossroads with a strong doubt -- Did it deviate from the procedure laid down in the law?

Despite being targeted by petitioner NGO `Citizen for Justice and Peace\' that he has \"unethically\" switched sides by now appearing for an accused though he had appeared for CJP earlier, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani was relentless in pointing out that the court did deviate from the course prescribed by the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

\"Why is the SIT being cross-examined about the lapses in the investigation by the apex court even after filing of charegsheets? Is it not the prerogative of the accused to point out these lapses to the trial court? Is it not for the accused to cross-examine the investigating officer at the fag end of the trial? Why are these statutory rights of the accused being interfered with by the SC,\" Jethmalani asked.

An exasperated Bench comprising Justices D K Jain, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam said: \"We are deviating from the real issue. It concerns all of us. But we are deviating for reasons best known to the petitioner and the state government.\"

The lead judge of the Bench, Justice Jain, appeared to express reservations on the manner in which the proceedings have gone so far in the riot cases. \"At least as far as I am concerned, it appears very, very unusual. Whatever little knowledge of Criminal Procedure Code I had, I have forgotten. Where does it end?\"

Adding to Jethmalani\'s persistent legal barrage, Gujarat government counsel Mukul Rohatgi added a flurry of questions -- \"Is the Centre controlling the public prosecutors? How come the Centre comes to know about the grievance of PPs first and the state has no knowledge of it? How are they commenting against the trial judges?\"

He was referring to Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam pointing out to the court during the last hearing about a second public prosecutor who expressed displeasure over the manner in which the apex court-appointed SIT headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan was probing the riot case and the way the trial court judge was handling the proceedings.

Amicus curiae Harish Salve attempted to put a lid over the charged emotions by saying \"politics must be kept out of these proceedings\" and told the court that henceforth he would not share any information with anyone, not even the SG, relating to the riot cases.

But, Justice Jain still gave vent to his frustration over the conduct of the present lot of public prosecutors, especially the PP in question in the Gujarat riot case.

\"I do not approve of PPs and investigating officers coming out of the trial court and giving statements to the Press as if to show they were the best PPs and IOs. What are they trying to say? I do not like this,\" he said.

Taking a swipe at the conduct of the Gujarat PP, Justice Jain said: \"Now PPs are trying to tell that the judge is not conducting the trial properly. The trial judge is a senior judicial officer selected by the Chief Justice of the HC on the request of this court specially for the trial of the riot cases. We know under what pressure the trial judges are working. And now the PP is taking the role of a judge. If every PP stands behaving like this, then how would the justice delivery system function? PPs cannot make such statements.\"

\"If the PP was facing any problem, he was free to withdraw himself from the case. Now he is writing e-mails saying I am not happy with the judge. If he is not happy, the only thing he can do is quit after pointing it out to the seniors and not writing e-mails to all and sundry,\" said an anguished Justice Jain.

Jethmalani chose to respond to CJP counsel Kamini Jaiswal\'s charge that he had appeared for CJP and now for the accused by saying she was too small to make ethics an issue and to level accusations against him. When Jaiswal said that at the Bar everyone was equal, Jethmalani said he had fought elections against Atal Bihari Vajpayee demanding transfer of the trials from Gujarat to other states and that he did not need a certificate from anyone.

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AT&T sells 7% stake in TechMa for Rs 660cr

AT&T Inc, the biggest US phone company, sold a 7% stake in Tech Mahindra Ltd, which controls India\'s Satyam Computer Services, after exercising an option to buy 8% last month.

AT&T raised Rs 660 crore ($147 million) selling shares in Tech Mahindra for Rs 762.4 apiece. Citigroup Inc advised AT&T on the stock sale. The phone company exercised an option to acquire Tech Mahindra shares by purchasing an 8.07% stake in the Indian software developer.

AT&T had the option to buy about 9.9 million shares before July 31 or when fees AT&T, a customer, paid to the software developer reached a certain level, according to the Pune, India-based company\'s initial share sale document in 2006.

AT&T paid Rs 898 crore ($34.5 million) for the stake. The Dallas, Texas- based company purchased a total of 9.87 million shares in an \"off-market transaction,\" Tech Mahindra said last month, without disclosing the sale price. Mahindra BT Investment Co owned the shares, according to the sale document.

Tech Mahindra won control of Satyam at an auction last year. A state-appointed board sold the Hyderabad-based computer-services company at the centre of India\'s biggest corporate fraud investigation to prevent clients and employees from defecting. Tech Mahindra shares fell 4% to Rs 772 in Mumbai trading, while the benchmark Sensitive Index slid 1.3%. The stock has declined 22% this year.

Tech Mahindra, which employs 30,000 people, is a leading provider of solutions and services to the telecommunications industry. As on December 31, 2009, Mahindra and Mahindra, the utility vehicle and tractor maker, has 44% stake in Tech Mahindra, while UK\'s telecommunications company BT has 38% stake.
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Sensex tanks on Greece crisis

MUMBAI: The rising sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone, led by Greece whose bonds were cut to junk status by ratings major S&P on Tuesday, pulled global markets down on Wednesday. Dalal Street, too, felt the jitters and the BSE sensex finally settled 311 points down at 17,381, with real estate, oil & gas and metal stocks leading the slide.

Across Asia, Nikkei in Japan was the worst hit, tumbling 2.6% while Hang Seng in Hong Kong ended 1.5% off. In Europe, in early trade, most of the leading indices tumbled. As result of the combined effect, the sensex dipped to an intra-day low at 17,345 and ended marginally off that level. The day\'s 311-points slide is the benchmark index\'s worst single-session loss in nearly two months. The day\'s close was also the lowest closing level for the sensex in six weeks. Wednesday\'s slide made investors poorer by Rs 94,000 crore with BSE\'s market capitalisation now at Rs 61.8 lakh crore.

The day\'s selling was led by foreign funds with a net outflow of Rs 131 crore, BSE data showed. On the other hand, domestic institutions were net buyers at Rs 324 crore. Institutional dealers said with the European market feeling the heat from Greece\'s debt problems and also the downgrades of Greece and Portugal, some more FII outflow could be expected over the next few weeks, unless the situation there improves.

Among the sensex shares, Jaiprakash Associates ended 4.5% off at Rs 146. The other top losers were index heavyweight Reliance Industries, which ended 4.2% lower at Rs 1,017, while Tata Steel lost 3.5% at Rs 625. Of the 30 sensex shares, 25 ended in the red. In the broader market, laggards outnumbered winners by a margin of 3-to-1 with 2,176 stocks declining to 720 advancing.
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Seoul\'s dilemma over sunken warship

Since the end of World War II only two navies, the British and the Pakistani, are known to have used a submarine to sink a battleship.

Now though there appears to be growing evidence that North Korea\'s underwater fleet may have become the third.

The 26 March sinking of the Cheonan, with 40 lives lost and six men still missing, is certainly a South Korean military disaster.

But it has the potential to become much more than that.

If concrete proof of the North\'s involvement is eventually produced, it would reinforce with shocking clarity just how easily this smouldering cold-war conflict could reignite.

And it would present the international community with a serious strategic challenge - how to send a message of deterrence without risking further escalation?

External blast

The shattered wreck of the 1,200-tonne gunboat has now been winched to the surface, in two pieces, and is being examined at a naval dockyard.

The investigation team includes American, Australian and Swedish experts, in part, to ensure that its conclusions are seen as free from South Korean political influence.

And after an initial examination the following observations and explanations have been announced to the public.

•The skin of the ship was bent inwards, pointing to an external rather than an internal explosion, a conclusion given further weight by the fact that the ship\'s weapons storage area is intact

•There are no signs of scraping, or of a collision, ruling out the possibility that the ship ran aground

•There is no evidence of soot or melting on the skin of the ship, suggesting that the external explosion took place some distance away from the hull

Little wonder, then, that suspicion is mounting, with South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young concluding that a torpedo attack is among the \"most likely\" causes.

An underwater non-contact explosion is exactly what many modern torpedoes are designed to produce, because the shock-wave from such a blast can cause much more damage than a direct hit.

And North Korean submarines, capable of carrying these kinds of torpedoes, are known to have been operating off the Korean coast at the time of the sinking.

A further clue perhaps lies in the location of the blast, close to the gas turbine room, much of which was destroyed.

\"Acoustic homing\" torpedoes, of the kind North Korea is thought to possess, can track and target the engine noise from a ship.

The fact that there was no warning of an attack from the Cheonan\'s radar operators does not necessarily make a torpedo strike unlikely.

The South Korean Defence Ministry has been quoted as saying that in the busy, shallow waters of the Yellow Sea, a torpedo fired from a range of 2km (1.25 miles) would have a 30% chance of remaining undetected.

And there are precedents.

In 1987, for example, while on patrol in the Persian Gulf, the USS Stark was struck by two anti-ship missiles, fired from an Iraqi fighter plane, neither of which were picked up by the ship\'s radar.

Mine misfortune?

But the torpedo theory is called into question by at least one aspect of the incident - there were no unusual military movements picked up from North Korean forces prior to the sinking.

If North Korea was planning a torpedo attack, knowing just how provocative such an action would be, would it not at least have boosted its naval defences?

The final question that should be asked is, what would North Korea have to gain from sinking a South Korean warship?

There is another explanation that could fit the scenario of an underwater, non-contact explosion and one favoured by the naval warfare expert, Norman Friedman.

\"If it\'s a torpedo firing then that\'s about as big a thing as you can do short of rolling across the border,\" he told me.

\"Unless you have a desire to start World War III then you don\'t do it. That\'s why I put my money on a mine.\"

Mines that were in use at the time of the Korean War were sophisticated enough to distinguish between big and small ships, and could be primed to detonate some distance from the hull.

The sinking of the Cheonan was a military disaster for South Korea

Could the Cheonan have had the misfortune to run into one that had been lying undisturbed for more than half a century?

The torpedo theory is given added weight by the circumstantial evidence - the fact that the sinking took place in disputed waters close to North Korea, where the two navies have clashed a number of times.

What is missing, at least from what we have been told so far by the investigation team, is conclusive proof - a fragment of a North Korean weapon - that would show beyond doubt what sunk the ship.

And with the strong currents surrounding the area, any evidence may have long been swept away.

Difficult response

Some observers have suggested that the South Korean government may prefer that evidence, if it exists, to remain undiscovered because of the political difficulty of formulating a response.

Military retaliation is highly unlikely because of the danger of escalation and because at the very least, it would panic the markets and damage the South Korean economy.

North Korea is already subject to United Nations sanctions

The diplomatic route through the United Nations is also problematic because North Korea is already one of the most isolated and sanctioned countries on the planet.

And yet, if clear evidence of an attack on the warship is produced, South Korea will of course want to send a message that such acts cannot be tolerated.

But how? North Korea is often said to have learned the lessons of the second Gulf War its own way, precisely the opposite lesson, in fact, than the one the invasion of Iraq was meant to send to so called \"rogue states\".

It would lose a conventional war of course, but not without first inflicting unimaginable damage on the South Korean capital, Seoul with a combination of conventional, chemical and biological artillery.

And it has a growing nuclear weapons programme, precisely it says, to guarantee its survival from a hostile outside world.

Motive fears

But the final question that should be asked is, what would North Korea have to gain from sinking a South Korean warship?

Using a submarine in such an attack is an act of extraordinary provocation, and one that goes a big step beyond the previous surface engagements between the two navies.

Despite North Korea\'s military strengths, it would still be a very risky act indeed.

If it is shown to be a torpedo that hit the Cheonan, then perhaps it can be seen as retaliation for the fact that North Korea is reported to have come off worse in the most recent naval skirmish.

Or maybe it was an attempt to rally the military around the leadership of the ailing Kim Jong-il, reportedly trying to manage a difficult transition of power to his youngest son.

But others have suggested that it might be the military acting alone, a sign of a dangerous shift in the balance of power inside North Korea, and a far more worrying prospect.

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Manmohan, Gilani meeting is good for region: U.S.

On the eve of a crucial meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani, the US said that it encourages such development which is good for the region.

Dr. Singh and Mr. Gilani are scheduled to meet today on the sidelines of the on going 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu, the Capital of Bhutan.

"We have encouraged the leaders of Pakistan and India, to restore, direct dialogue that has been characteristic of the relation between those two countries within the last few years. We're encouraged that they are taking steps to do that," Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley told reporters.

"I think we always think that when leaders of countries, you know, particularly countries with the history of -- the unique history of India and Pakistan -- any time they can get together for high-level, constructive dialogue, that is good for the region, and we support it," Mr. Crowley said in response to a question.

Noting that the US is having its own strategic dialogue with both India and Pakistan and is planning for the next round of discussions with India in the next few weeks, Mr. Crowley said the United States has always encouraged the two South Asian countries that they need to restore a high-level dialogue that they have had in the not-too-distant past.

"You know, there have been significant steps by both countries, restore dialogue, both at the leader level and lower levels, and we certainly encourage that," Mr. Crowley said.

When asked about the SAARC Summit, where Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake is attending the meet as an observer, Mr. Crowley said this is one of a number of important structures that is there, across the broader Asia region.

"We think they're important. We encourage them. And, as you see, both with, Secretary Blake's appearance at the SAARC, you know, the secretary is committed to strengthen the United States' ties to other structures, like ASEAN, this is an indication of our ongoing and deepening commitment to the region," Mr. Crowley said.

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Thai troops struggle to contain Bangkok protests

(Reuters) - The Thai army said on Thursday it would step up efforts to stop anti-government protesters in Bangkok getting more weapons, a day after a soldier died in the latest clash in a seven-week campaign to force early elections.

World | Thailand

The violence stoked fears of more unrest ahead which could sink consumer confidence in southeast Asia\'s second largest economy. The central bank is due to release growth forecasts later on Thursday.

Another three months of protests could shave 0.64 of a percentage point off a 2010 economic growth forecast of 4.5 percent, according to government forecasters.

Tourism, a major industry that supports 6 percent of the economy and employs 15 percent of the workforce, is crumbling. Arrivals at Bangkok\'s Suvarnabhumi Airport have fallen by a third since violence broke out.

Thailand\'s stock market, an emerging market darling over February and March, has lost more than 3 percent in April against a 1.8 percent rise in Asian markets outside Japan.

On Wednesday violence flared when a group of some 2,000 protesters moved out of the central shopping area they have occupied since April 3, heading to meet supporters in a northern suburb. Soldiers barred the way and fighting broke out on a crowded highway.

Soldiers fired live rounds into the charging protesters in the chaotic clash on a congested highway 40 km (25 miles) north of central Bangkok, Reuters photographers and witnesses said. Nineteen people were injured.

The red shirts hurled stones, shot metal balls from sling-shots and launched fireworks at the cordon of 450 soldiers.

Witnesses said the dead soldier was shot through his helmet while riding on a motorbike toward security forces, apparently caught in friendly fire. Another soldier was among the wounded.

The fighting finally stopped when a tropical rainstorm drenched the area.


There was no further violence during the night after the protesters pulled back to the Rachaprasong shopping area and their numbers had dwindled to less than 1,000 by dawn.

The crowd tends to build up during the day, especially from late afternoon, and army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told Reuters that troops at checkpoints on roads leading into the area would stop people bringing in weapons.

\"We will continue to try to separate the innocent from those who are bent on violence,\" he said, although he admitted it was not easy, especially as many protesters were no longer wearing their usual red shirts as they wanted to be less conspicuous.

Reuters reporters said the troop presence was not especially heavy, with only sporadic checkpoints on roads around the area despite the increase in tension after the latest violence.

In all, 27 people have died and nearly 1,000 have been wounded in the latest crisis, which pits protesters seeking elections against the embattled, military-backed government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

\"The red shirts were testing the will of the security forces and now we saw that the government is getting serious about this,\" said Somjai Phagaphasvivat, a professor at Thammasat University. \"But it\'s hard to pronounce victory for either side.\"

Hopes for a negotiated end to the crisis were dashed last weekend when the British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit rejected a proposal by the protesters for an election in three months, saying he would not negotiate in the face of threats.

The red shirts oppose what they say is the unelected royalist elite that controls Thailand and broadly back former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 but before that built up a devoted following among the poor through rural development and welfare policies.

The former telecoms tycoon was convicted in absentia on corruption-related charges and lives abroad to avoid jail.

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U.N. Chief Seeks to Strengthen Nuclear Pact

UNITED NATIONS — With the international treaty seeking to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons already wobbly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for it to be buttressed with renewed commitments toward disarmament and for tackling the knotty issue of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.

An international conference on the treaty will convene here on Monday. A similar effort five years ago collapsed, with nonnuclear states critical of the nuclear powers for not reducing their arsenals enough and with extended bickering over how to grapple with the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

With President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran expected to lead his country's delegation, Mr. Ban suggested that Iran needed to convince other states that its nuclear program was strictly peaceful.

"If he brings some good constructive proposal in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, that will be helpful," Mr. Ban told reporters. He said he had been telling Iran that "the onus is on you, and you have not satisfied the requirements of the international community that your nuclear development program is for peaceful purposes, as you claim."

Facing a fourth round of Security Council sanctions over the lack of transparency in its nuclear program, Iran has embarked on a global diplomatic campaign. Mr. Ahmadinejad's presence in New York is evidently part of that effort because heads of state are relatively rare at the conferences, held every five years.

Mr. Ahmadinejad wants to attend the conference to reaffirm Iran's commitment to the nonproliferation treaty, said Muhammad Reza Sahraei, the spokesman for the Iranian Mission.

Western Security Council members had sought to avoid negotiating a new round of Iran sanctions at the time of the conference, to prevent the Iranian issue from becoming a rallying cry for nonnuclear states, which often accuse nuclear weapons states of using the treaty to keep their club exclusive.

But the six states negotiating over new sanctions — the five permanent Security Council members and Germany — have no end in sight for their negotiations, according to diplomats from the nations involved. They said negotiators were going over each proposed sanction line by line, and because some of them involve technical financial issues, they have to be referred back to finance ministries for advice.

At the 2005 conference, the United States engendered widespread hostility by playing down disarmament issues, diplomats and analysts said. The Obama administration created a better atmosphere this time by endorsing disarmament, they said, and by curbing the scope of when American weapons might be used and convening a summit meeting on security for nuclear materials in Washington earlier this month.

Mr. Ban said the world should take inspiration from the recent agreement between the United States and Russia to further reduce their active warheads.

Although Israel does not take part in the treaty, its nuclear arsenal has overshadowed recent conferences. Egypt and other nonnuclear states have refused to back stricter inspections and other global measures as long as Israel is outside the treaty.

Maged A. Abdelaziz, the Egyptian envoy to the United Nations, said the cases of Iran and Israel should be dealt with simultaneously. "To be able to deal with the Iranian issue, you have to deal with the nuclear capabilities of Israel," he told reporters.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 29, 2010, on page A8 of the New York edition..Sign In to E-Mail



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