Saturday, December 31, 2011

The game is on

December 31, 2011

Some reasons why you may not want to miss the first big Hindi film of the year.It\'s the first big Hindi film of the year. But is there any other reason why you should attempt to see Abbas-Mustan\'s "Players"? If you\'re a Bollywood fan, the star cast — Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu (in a bikini!), Sonam Kapoor and Neil Nitin Mukesh among others — might entice you. That it is the official remake of "The Italian Job", that classic heist flick, might help. And there might be another reason or two: Abbas-Mustan, the directors have perfected a hybrid Bollywood genre in which big money/ jealousy/ revenge/ murder are laced with catchy songs and glamorous locales in a fast-paced package. Their storylines (often 'inspired\') are slick and Westernised, the settings international, but the dialogue and sentiments quite Indian. Sounds like a mish-mash, but it works — most of the time.

Their last outing, "Race", was a perfect example, with Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu and Akshaye Khanna playing double-crossing games in South Africa in a dark thriller that didn\'t let you settle down. For those with short memories, Abbas-Mustan\'s other hits include "Aitraaz" (the theme loosely borrowed from "Disclosure"), "Humraaz" (a version of "The Perfect Murder") and "Ajnabee". And don\'t forget they gave us — and Shah Rukh Khan — "Baazigar".

Sure, they\'ve had some duds — "Taarzan the Wonder Car" and "36 China Town" to name two recent ones. But if "Race" is any indication, they seem to be in good form currently. Besides, "Players" has a twice-tested storyline that has already been remade in Hollywood — the 1969 version with Michael Caine and the 2003 version with Mark Wahlberg and Edward Norton.

But, with two recent big, much-hyped movies — "Ra.One" and "Don 2" — not quite matching up to their many Hollywood inspirations, you might be advised to tread carefully with "Players". Can its actors bring the same careless charm that their Hollywood counterparts did? How well will the brothers in white Indianise a story whose broad outlines we already know? "Don 2", helmed by one of our coolest directors, delivered a damp squib of a heist and viewers will be understandably wary. With no chart-busting songs to boast of, "Players" will have to depend heavily on its directors\' skills. Bring on the masala, Abbasbhai and Mustanbhai.

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Salman, SRK vie for best actor award

New Delhi, December 31, 2011

Bollywood friends-turned-foes, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are in the race to for the best male actor trophy at the Zee Cine Awards to be held in Macau next month.Salman has been nominated for his performance in blockbuster Bodyguard, while Shah Rukh has got two nominations in the same category, thanks to RA.One and Don 2: The King Is Back. Other actors vying for the title include Hrithik Roshan for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Ajay Devgn for Singham and Ranbir Kapoor for Rockstar.Amongst the leading ladies, the battle for the best actor award is on between Vidya Balan (The Dirty Picture), Priyanka Chopra (7 Khoon Maaf), Kareena Kapoor (Bodyguard), Kangna Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu) and Katrina Kaif (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara).

The contenders in the best film category are Don 2, Bodyguard, Rockstar, Singham, The Dirty Picture and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.The trophy for the best director of 2011 will be chosen from among Farhan Akhtar (Don 2), Imtiaz Ali (Rockstar), Milan Luthria (The Dirty Picture), Rohit Shetty (Singham), Siddique (Bodyguard) and Zoya Akhtar (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara).The awards will be chosen by film enthusiasts from across the globe. The viewers can send in their votes for their favourite nominees, and 12 lucky winners chosen from amongst those who send in their votes will also be flown in to Macau to witness the live ceremony, Jan 21 next year.The star-studded extravaganza, to be hosted by Shah Rukh and Priyanka, will be telecast on TV Feb 5, 2012.
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I was almost ready to leave Bollywood: Jacqueline Fernandez


Sri Lankan beauty Jacqueline Fernandez was ready to pack her bags and quit Bollywood in 2011. But a slew of projects, and brighter prospects in the industry, have enticed her to stay.\"(The year) 2011 came really unexpected... because I was almost ready to leave the industry and then 2011 just caught me by surprise and things just started getting better,\" Jacqueline said on the sidelines of a performance rehearsal.The former beauty queen made her Bollywood debut with 'Aladin' in 2009, and went on to feature in 'Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai' -- both of which turned out to be duds. She also featured in 'Murder 2', but she was most appreciated for her item song 'Dhanno' in Sajid Khan`s 'Housefull'.

And now Jacqueline is looking forward to a promising new year.\"2012 is going to be a really important year for me. It will have the most amount of releases in a year. I`ve always had a maximum of one release in a year but in 2012, I am going to have three releases. It`s going to be really exciting year for me and it will be focused completely on work,\" she added.Among the films lined up for Jacqueline are 'Housefull 2', 'Race 3' and 'Raaz 3D' in the coming year.

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2012: A year of Bollywood weddings


The new year, it seems, will be of filmy weddings as quite a few real life couples in Bollywood are all set to solemnise their relationships in 2012. The year will witness Bollywood weddings of some celebrities who have been dating for a long time now.Those who have formally announced their marriage plans for next year include Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor and Ritesh Deshmukh-Genelia D`Souza; others have hinted at it. Saif and Kareena, lovingly called `Saifeena`, have been dating for five years strong.

The couple have declared officially that they will tie the knot in the beginning of 2012, after the release of their film `Agent Vinod`. Reportedly, the marriage is likely to take place between February-March next year.\"Both Saif and me are waiting for `Agent Vinod` to release. Once it releases we will announce the marriage,\" Kareena had said recently. The action-thriller film starring Saif and Kareena is likely to release in February.41-year-old Saif has two children from his previous marriage and Kareena ended her three-year relationship with Shahid Kapoor, before she chose the Nawab of Pataudi.Riteish, 32, and Genelia, 24, chose to be secretive about their eight-year-long relationship. They have been seeing each other since their Bollywood debut, `Tujhe Meri Kasam` in 2003.

Riteish, son of Congress minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, will seal their relationship with a wedding in February 2012. \"It`s an exciting new chapter in our lives and all your wishes and blessings make it even more beautiful and special for Riteish and me,\" Genelia had written on Twitter after wishes started pouring in for the couple.The couple, who have starred together in films like `Tujhe Meri Kasam` and `Masti`, will be next seen in `Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya` which is expected to hit theatres next year.Apart from these two weddings, there is a buzz about John Abraham-Priya Marwah getting hitched next year, and so is about couples like Vidya Balan-Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Soha Ali Khan-Kunal Khemu, Dia Mirza-Sahil Sangha.
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Kolaveri star Dhanush dines with PM

December 31, 2011

Tamil star and National Award winner Dhanush, who has became a rage after singing Why This Kolaveri Di was invited for a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, for his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda on December 28, 2011.

This soup song by Dhanush has been a phenomenon on internet and clocked over twenty million hits on You Tube.

The actor took out time and tweeted: \"It\'s a great honour dining with the Prime Minister of India and Japan. It\'s you guys who made it possible. I\'m glad god gave me an opportunity to make my parents feel proud of me. God bless.\"

The immense and unprecedented popularity of Why This Kolaveri Di from the Tamil movie 3 is being enjoyed by the actor.

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Team Anna postpones meet as Cong. reiterates stand on Lokpal

Mumbai, December 31, 2011

The core committee meeting of Team Anna, scheduled to be held at Ralegan Siddhi on January 2 and 3, has been postponed due to Mr. Hazare's ill health, his aides said on Saturday.

"The core committee meeting has been postponed due to Annaji's ill health. The date of next meeting will be announced after 4-5 days," Mr. Hazare's aide Suresh Pathare said.

Mr. Hazare's associates were to meet at his native village Ralegan Siddhi in western Maharashtra, about 300km from here, to chalk out the future strategies of India Against Corruption movement.

The 74-year-old social activist called off his three-day fast against a "weak" Lokpal Bill mid-way on December 28 due to poor health. He returned to his village the next day.

Notwithstanding the poor turnout at the protest venue in Mumbai, Mr. Hazare renewed the threat to campaign against the Congress in five poll-bound states, including Uttar Pradesh, for bringing in a "weak" Lokpal Bill.

Meanwhile, the Congress today insisted that the Lokpal Bill 'is not dead' and will be back soon.

"The Lokpal Bill is certainly not dead. It is not even in ICU or Emergency. It is merely under rest and recovery (R and R) and it will be back soon," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

A political war has broken out between the government and the Opposition over Rajya Sabha's failure to pass Lokpal Bill, with both sides accusing each of carrying out "well choreographed" chaos to scuttle it.

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Foreign banks join NRE deposit rate hike race

Mumbai, December 31, 2011

Citibank on Friday became the first foreign lender to hike interest rates on NRE deposits in the wake of RBI deregulating interest rate offered on deposits by non-resident Indians early this month.

Citi's rates vary between 5 per cent and 8.75 per cent across maturities, and are lower than the aggressive strategies adopted by domestic lenders who are offering as high as 10 percent per annum.

A deposit of over Rs 30 lakh but under Rs 50 lakh will earn an interest of 8.75 per cent for a 356-400 days bucket and 8.50 percent for 401-1095 days, Citi said in a statement issued here.

Meanwhile, the city-based private lender Development Credit Bank on Friday increased interest rates on non-resident external (NRE) deposits to 10 percent for an 18-month tenor on deposits of Rs 15-50 lakh, making it the highest offering.

For deposits under Rs 15 lakh for the same tenor, the interest rate is 9.75 percent, the bank said.

Almost all the domestic banks, including the country's largest lender SBI and ICICI have sharply upped their NRE deposit rates in the last fortnight following a Reserve Bank move to deregulate interest rates on NRE deposits earlier this month to attract more dollars into the economy in its bid to arrest the steep fall in rupee.

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TCS, now most valued stock

CHENNAI, December 31, 2011

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has become the most valued company on Friday in terms of its full-float market capitalisation at Rs.2,27,282 crore on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Reliance lost its number one position with its full-float market capitalisation at Rs.2,26,886 crore. The stock lost Rs.20 to close at Rs.692.90, its lowest level in the year. Infosys commanded third position at Rs.1,58,770 crore.

If one were to buy the free-float market capitalisation, Infosys, which closed with a gain of Rs.21.40 at Rs.2,765, has overtaken Reliance with its market capitalisation at Rs.1,34,954 crore against Reliance which stood at Rs.1,24,787 crore on Friday.

Free-float methodology market capitalisation is calculated by taking the equity\'s price and multiplying it by the number of shares readily available in the market. The free-float method excludes shares held by promoters and governments.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Basel III norms will kick-start from January 1, 2013

CHENNAI, December 31, 2011

The implementation of Basel III capital regulation will kick-start from January 1, 2013. It will be fully implemented by March 31, 2017. The Reserve Bank of India indicated this while releasing the draft guidelines outlining the proposed implementation of Basel III capital regulation in India.

These guidelines are in response to the comprehensive reform package entitled 'Basel III: A global regulatory framework for more resilient banks and banking systems\' of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), issued in December, 2010.

The draft guidelines prescribe minimum capital requirements and also capital conservation buffer.

The apex bank has said that the common equity Tier-1 (CET1) capital must be at least 5.5 per cent of the risk-weighted assets (RWAs). While stating that the Tier-1 capital must be at least 7 per cent of RWAs, it has proposed the total capital to be at least 9 per cent of RWAs. The implementation period of minimum capital requirements and deductions from common equity will begin from January 1, 2013, and be fully implemented as on March 31, 2017. Under the Basel III norms, Tier-I capital should predominantly consist of common equity.

The objective is to improve the quality of capital.

The draft guidelines have also proposed a capital conservation buffer in the form of common equity of 2.5 per cent of RWAs.

The capital conservation buffer is designed to ensure that banks build up capital buffers during normal times (that is, outside periods of stress), which can be drawn down as losses incurred during the stressed period. The requirement is based on simple capital conservation rules designed to avoid breaches of minimum capital requirements. The capital conservation buffer in the form of a common equity will be phased in over four years in a uniform manner. The capital conservation buffer requirement is proposed to be implemented between March 31, 2014, and March 31, 2017.

The draft guidelines have also indicated that a counter-cyclical buffer within a range of 0-2.5 per cent of common equity or other fully loss absorbing capital will be implemented according to national circumstances.

"The purpose of counter-cyclical buffer is to achieve the broader macro-prudential goal of protecting the banking sector from periods of excessive aggregate credit growth,\'\' the Reserve Bank says. The counter-cyclical capital buffer would be introduced as an extension of the capital conservation buffer range.

The implementation schedule indicated above, however, will be finalised taking into account the feedback received on these guidelines.

According to the guidelines, instruments, which no longer qualify as regulatory capital instruments, will be phased out during the period beginning from January 1, 2013, to March 31, 2022.

For OTC derivatives, in addition to the capital charge for counterparty default risk under current exposure method, banks will be required to compute an additional credit value adjustments (CVA) risk capital charge.

The parallel run for the leverage ratio will be from January 1, 2013, to January 1, 2017, during which banks are expected to strive to operate at a minimum Tier-1 leverage ratio of five per cent.

The leverage ratio requirement will be finalised taking into account the final proposal of the Basel Committee.

The apex bank has said comments/feedback on the draft guidelines, including implementation schedule, should be sent by February 15, 2012.

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Maldives stand-off hits a low

COLOMBO, December 31, 2011

The game of political brinkmanship plumbed to new depths in The Maldives with the government striking back — by conceding the demands of the December 23 protesters!

On December 23, protesters, largely from the opposition parties but claiming to be part of an NGO, sought to label President Mohamed Nasheed, a "bad" Muslim. He was accused of trying to open up the country to other religions, and some of those claimed that spas and massage parlours in resorts were actually promoting commercial sex trade. One opposition party wanted a blanket ban on alcohol.

The government responded by asking the Tourism Ministry to issue a circular to all resorts to close down their massage/spa parlours. Its reasoning: since some of those who run resorts made the accusations, there was no need for a separate investigation to find out if there was prostitution. "Insiders don\'t lie. The government went by their word," said one source.

The government was targeting Gasim Ibrahim, a businessman who owns five resorts, and key ally of the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Spas in his resorts were ordered shut last week which he challenged in court. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party believes that he has been bankrolling the protests. Other opposition leaders including Thasmeen Ali and Yamin Abdul Gayoom, own resorts and were at the rally.

The MDP is also taken aback by the attitude of the Big Boys in the Tourism Business. One source said Mr. Nasheed\'s call for expanding on the Maldivian brand of tolerant Islam did not evoke support among the big players in the industry — all of who run multi-million dollar resorts. For now, the stay in a local court has meant that the new order of the tourism department has not taken effect. But the rallies and the government\'s reaction will certainly hurt the industry said a promoter.

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Nuclear submarine damaged, but reactors safe: Russia

MOSCOW, December 31, 2011

A Russian nuclear submarine got badly damaged in a shipyard fire, but its two reactors are safe and there has been no radiation leak, said the military.

The fire broke out on Thursday afternoon during welding repairs on the Yekaterinburg submarine in a dry dock at the Roslyakovo shipyard of the Russian Northern Fleet in Murmansk Region. From burning wooden scaffolding the blaze spread to the rubberised coating in the nose section.

A video taken by an eye witness showed huge flames and black smoke billowing into the night sky. Eleven fire brigades, two navy fire ships and several helicopters fought the blaze for more than 20 hours and the submarine had to be submerged to prevent the fire that slipped beneath the outer hull from breaking out again.

Seven seamen and two firemen were hospitalised with smoke poisoning, said law enforcement officials.

The submarine had its two reactors switched off and all its nuclear missiles and conventional ammunition removed before entering the dock, defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told state television, adding that there was "no threat of nuclear radiation leak".

Experts said it may take at least six months to repair the damaged submarine.

"I am afraid the consequences will be very bad," said military analyst Igor Korotchenko. "The fire and high temperatures may have damaged metal structures between the outer and inner hulls of the submarine."

Yekaterinburg is a Delta IV class submarine which can carry 16 ballistic missiles, each with four nuclear warheads. To allay international concerns, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a special statement on Friday saying radiation levels around the shipyard were normal and continued to be closely monitored.

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Knighthood for Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

London, December 31, 2011

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, the Indian-American scientist whose pioneering work in molecular biology won him the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has been honoured with a Knighthood by the royal establishment here in a rare recognition of achievements by foreigners based in Britain.

58-year-old Ramakrishnan, known to most as Venky, is based at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

He has been conferred Knighthood "for services to molecular biology" in the New Year Honours List 2012, according to an official announcement here.

After the list was released early today, Mr. Ramakrishnan said that honouring him with a Knighthood reflects the contribution made by immigrants to British society.

In a statement to PTI, he said: "In the current debate about immigration, it is worth noting that this award is yet another example of the numerous contributions that immigrants make to British society."

"Indeed, many of the founding members of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology were immigrants themselves, and they helped to revolutionise modern biology."

Mr. Ramakrishnan said: "This is an honour that reflects the quality of science supported by the Medical Research Council, in particular at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. In my case, credit should go to the numerous dedicated postdocs, students, associates and colleagues who made crucial contributions to the work."

It is rare for foreign citizens to be honoured with Knighthoods.

Besides Mr. Ramakrishnan, two other foreign-born Nobel Prize winners based in the U.K. have been conferred Knighthood in the 2012 honours list.

They are Russia-born Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov based at the University of Manchester, who were involved in the creation of Graphene, a sheet of carbon just one atom thick. They won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.

Unlike foreign citizens who were conferred Knighthood in the past such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany, President Francois Mitterrand of France and Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York, Mr. Ramakrishnan, Mr. Geim and Mr. Novoselov are based in the United Kingdom.

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Emboldened by monitors, Syrians hold huge protests

BEIRUT, December 31, 2011

In the largest protests Syria has seen in months, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in a display of defiance to show an Arab League observer mission the strength of the opposition movement.

Despite the monitors' presence in the country, activists said Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad killed at least 22 people on Friday, most of them shot during the anti-government demonstrations.

In a further attempt to appeal to the monitors, dissident troops who have broken away from the Syrian army said they have halted attacks on regime forces to reinforce the activists' contention that the uprising against Mr. Assad is a peaceful movement.

While opposition activists are deeply sceptical of the observer mission, the outpouring of demonstrators across Syria underscores their wish to make their case to the foreign monitors and take advantage of the small measure of safety they feel they brought with them.

The nearly 100 Arab League monitors are the first that Syria has allowed into the country during the uprising, which began in March. They are supposed to ensure the regime complies with terms of the League's plan to end Mr. Assad's crackdown on dissent. The U.N. says more than 5,000 people have died as the government has sought to crush the revolt.

Friday's crowds were largest in Idlib and Hama provinces, with about 250,000 people turning out in each area, according to an activist and eyewitness who asked to be identified only as Manhal because he feared government reprisal. Other big rallies were held in Homs and Daraa provinces and the Damascus suburb of Douma, according to Rami Abdul-Raham, who heads the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The crowd estimates could not be independently confirmed because Syria has banned most foreign journalists from the country and tightly restricts the local media.

Positive effect

Haytham Manna, a prominent Paris-based dissident and human rights defender, said the observers' presence has emboldened protesters to take to the streets in huge numbers.

"Whether we like it or not, the presence of observers has had a positive psychological effect, encouraging people to stage peaceful protests, a basic condition of the Arab League peace plan," he told The Associated Press.

The observers began their mission Tuesday in Homs, often referred to by many Syrians as the "Capital of the Revolution." Since then, they have fanned out in small groups across Syrian provinces, including the restive Idlib province in the north, Hama in the center and the southern province of Daraa, where the revolt began.

The orange-jacketed observers have been seen taking pictures of the destruction, visiting families of victims of the crackdown, and taking notes.

On Friday, they were within "hearing distance" from where troops opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma, activist Salim al-Omar said. They later visited the wounded in hospital, he added.

The huge rallies have been met by lethal gunfire from security forces, apparently worried about multiple mass sit-ins modelled after Cairo's Tahrir Square. In general, activists say, security forces have launched attacks when observers were not present. But there have been some reports of firing on protesters while monitors were nearby.

Omar Shaker, an activist and resident of the battered neighbourhood of Baba Amr in Homs, said the observers were "laughable," often walking around with outdated cameras and without pens.

"Still, the bombardment and killings have decreased here in their presence. We see them as a kind of human shields, that's all," he said.

Mr. Shaker said around 7,000 protested Friday in Baba Amr, the first demonstration in the besieged district in more than a week.

"People are feeling optimistic," he said. "We've been protesting and dying for 10 months. We have the feeling that the worst is over and the end is near," he added.

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CEC “disappointed” over non-tabling of electoral reforms bill

New Delhi, December 31, 2011

Government has made significant changes in the proposal to debar criminal candidates from contesting elections and other issues, says Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi.

Expressing "disappointment" over the delay in bringing important legislations on electoral reforms and not passing them in the winter session, he hopes Parliament will make a beginning at least in the Budget session.

"We are disappointed that this (electoral reforms) did not happen in the winter session while 30-40 bills came and our bill did not come.

"The only benefit of doubt that needs to be given is that the government was kept busy with the Lokpal round the clock. I hope at least in the budget session the government keeps its promise and brings up this bill," Mr. Quraishi told PTI in an interview.

He said Law Minister Salman Khurshid came to the Commission a third time and gave an assurance that the government will bring major reforms in the winter session that included proposals to debar criminals and transparency of political funding.

"And he asked us whether we are ok if other issues can be taken up later. We said yes that these issues are the most important and crucial. We will be happy if these are brought up. He has some modifications to our proposals and we are ok with those also," he said.

Modifying the Commission's proposals, government has raised the period from six months to one year the chargesheet filed against a candidate for heinous offences to bar them from contesting.

"Our formulation and also that of the Law Commission, which consists of jurists, has been that at least in those cases which are of heinous nature, not petty law and order agitations but of heinous offences like rape, murder, dacoity, kidnapping, etc., where the FIR has been registered six months before the election and court has framed the charges, the candidates can be barred.

"The court is an independent and judicial body and framing of charges is done with judicial application of mind even if prima facie at that stage. At least in those cases they should be barred," the Commission had suggested.

On government's modification, he said, "We said no problem. Then they said instead of six months or one year from FIR, if it is one year from the chargesheet. We said no problem but please make a beginning. But we are hoping that in the budget session it will come."

He said the government has been saying that political consensus has been difficult on debarring criminals, which is also obvious because every party has its share of such candidates.

"And they say that false cases in politics by their rivals is a common practice. So it will be unfair to debar them on the basis of a possible false complaint."

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Cong not to rest till strong Lokpal Bill is passed: Rahul

Saharanpur, December 31, 2011

As the Lokpal Bill failed to get Parliament's nod, Rahul Gandhi on Friday said Congress will not rest till a strong law is passed and slammed the BJP, saying those who used to talk about India Shining defeated the proposed legislation.

"Those who used to talk about India Shining defeated a strong Lokpal," Mr. Gandhi told an election rally here.

He said he was of the view that the strongest Lokpal will be one with constitutional status.

"But they defeated it in Lok Sabha and when asked by reporters, they said did so as it was Rahul's dream. This is not Rahul's dream but the dream of the country's youth and we will rest only after brining it," he said.

He recalled that his father Rajiv Gandhi also met with same fate when he had introduced a Constitution amendment bill to provide constitutional status to Panchayati Raj institutions.

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Govt. has no moral right to continue, says BJP

New Delhi, December 31, 2011

Vowing to "expose" the government on the Lokpal Bill issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday demanded that it should quit and hold fresh elections as it had "lost" majority in both Houses of Parliament.

"The government has lost a majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha... This government should quit and hold fresh elections," BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, a day after the Rajya Sabha failed to pass the Lokpal Bill.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, "the BJP core group would be meeting later today to decide what it will do on the road (on the Lokpal issue). We will expose the government on the road and make the public aware in the wake of yesterday's developments. We will take up this Bill in the next session and expose the government there also." Mr. Jaitley said, "The government has lost its political equilibrium. The balance of this government has also been disturbed."

Terming yesterday's events as unfortunate, Mr. Jaitley said, "This was an act of political suicide with respect to the government's own credibility. "A government which runs away from voting, has no political or moral right to stay in power." Ms. Swaraj, on the other hand, said, "It is a defeat of an arrogant government.... It should do some introspection... The government wants to dump the Bill."

Charging the government with "orchestrating" the events on Thursday to avoid voting on the Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Jaitley said, "Government created disturbance with the help of a friendly party to run away from vote... If government shies away from voting on amendments it does not want, it is a sad day for Parliamentary democracy." Mr. Jaitley said there were only three major amendments sought by the BJP and the session could have been extended to allow voting on the Bill.

He also cast aspersions on the competency of Parliamentary Affairs department and found the statement of Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal "curious" that it needed time to work on the 187-odd amendments sought in the Bill.

He said the three basic amendments could have been brought in "if we had a more competent Parliamentary Affairs department".

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‘Thane’ claims 33 lives; thousands in relief camps

Chennai, December 30, 2011

Thane,\' the very severe cyclonic storm that crossed Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on Friday morning, claimed 33 lives, and left behind a trail of destruction and human suffering.

Throwing life off course, the storm, which passed the coast north of Cuddalore at 6.30 a.m. at a speed of more than 125 km an hour, uprooted trees and electric posts, disrupted power supply and transport services and damaged homes and standing crops.

Twenty-six people were killed in Tamil Nadu and seven in Puducherry. Besides, hundreds were rendered homeless and forced into relief camps set up by the governments.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa released Rs. 150 crore towards immediate relief works.

While 21 persons died in Cuddalore district, two persons lost their lives in the neighbouring Villupuram district. One person each in Tiruvallur and Chennai were among the dead as strong wind and heavy rain lashed the coastal areas.

Ms. Jayalalithaa announced a solatium of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of the victims. Puducherry Chief Minister N. Rangasamy said he had briefed Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on the situation.

Around 6,000 persons in Cuddalore, Villupuram, Nagapattinam, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts and Chennai and low-level areas were shifted to shelters.

Fifteen fishermen who put out to sea in Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts were reported missing. The samba crop grown on 1,700 hectares in Thanjavur district and 2,000 hectares in Tiruvarur district suffered damage.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, who reviewed the situation with the Chief Secretary and other officials, sent five Ministers to five districts to oversee the relief works.

Secretaries of various departments and Collectors of the districts that bore the brunt of 'Thane\' have been asked to send a report to the government after assessing the damage.

Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force based in Arakkonam were sent to Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Chennai and Tiruvallur. As a precautionary measure, electricity supply had been cut in Cuddalore, Villupuram and Nagapattinam districts since Thursday evening.

The Chief Minister said she had asked officials to clear the uprooted trees to ensure a smooth flow of traffic and resume power supply by Friday evening.

Unprecedented damage

In Puducherry, the Chief Minister convened a meeting of his Cabinet colleagues and senior officials to assess the situation.

"Probably by this evening or by Saturday morning, we will be sending an interim report," he told The Hindu. Though the damage could not be assessed now, he said, "it is unprecedented and heavy."

"Initial reports suggest that the wind speed was around 130 to 140 km after 3 a.m. We haven\'t heard of such a calamity in the history of Puducherry," he said.

Trains cancelled

Southern Railway cancelled six trains and partially cancelled three services. The arrival and departure of four international flights and more than 25 domestic flights were rescheduled.

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Know how Sunny uses ‘Bigg Boss’ to promote porn!


The Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), an independent body set by the Indian Broadcasters Foundation (IBF) had directed the entertainment channel airing 'Bigg Boss 5' to end the indirect promotion of Sunny Leone's porn site.

Related StoriesPooja Misrra calls Sunny Leone `fake Sati Savitri`

The body had asked the channel to withdraw all cross promotional activities that boosted the porn star's websites by 26th December. And the channel had agreed to comply with the order of BCCC.

Now here's an insight into how the adult film actress promoted her raunchy websites with the help of the show.

As reported by a daily, Sunny's website ran messages that read, "'As seen on 'Bigg Boss Season 5', 'Now watch her strip down and be naughty and see why the world is obsessed with Sunny Leone'."

The website also ran messages that stated her followers to vote in her favour. These messages that were apparent on the site have now been removed but there are certain eye-catching links in Hindi targeted to attract Hindi speaking surfers. Moreover, the homepage of her site carries an icon of Twitter that reads, 'How does Voting work this week? If there are no public votes...'.

Prior to Sunny's entry into the controversial house, very few Indian knew about her. But ever since she started featuring in the show, she has become one of the most Googled celebrities in India. She also became one of the most talked about personalities and even school children as young as 12 years-old were seen searching her on Internet.

Her presence in India has raised a number of eyebrows and scandalized many.

Talking to the daily, the channel's representative said, "BCCC requested us to use our commercial endeavours to persuade Sunny Leone to not use 'Bigg Boss 5' or Colors on her websites, and we assured BCCC of our efforts on the same. In the past, we have persuaded Sunny Leone to not use Colors or 'Bigg Boss Season 5' in any form, and now we have decided to write a letter to her informing that in case the references to 'Bigg Boss 5' are not removed from her website, we shall immediately terminate her contract and evict her from the 'Bigg Boss House'."

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B-Town at Salman\'s birthday bash

Mumbai, December 30, 2011

Salman Khan\'s 46th birthday turned out to be memorable for most celebrity invitees like his Dabangg co-star Sonu Sood and anchor Mini Mathur. Salman celebrated his birthday with family and friends in Mumbai Tuesday night. \"Had a mad, crazy time at Tiger\'s birthday yesterday!!\" tweeted Mini, while actor Nikhil Dwivedi posted \"Salman Khan\'s party was one of the warmest and coolest party that I\'ve been to in a long time...and to see Govinda dance on the floor.. Magic!\"

Sonu, who played villain in Salman\'s blockbuster Dabangg, especially came here for the party.

\"Came from Hyderabad to Mumbai for Salman bhai\'s birthday at 1 am and now at 5 am. heading back to Hyderabad straight to the location for my shoot,\" he posted on his Twitter page.

The party was held at his farmhouse, Arpita Farms, named after Salman\'s sister. The actor has had a successful year with movies like Ready and Bodyguard.

His success streak is expected to continue with movies like Dabangg 2 and Ek Tha Tiger.

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Only Katrina could have been Chikni chameli: Ganesh Acharya

Friday, December 30, 2011 (Mumbai)

Choreographer Ganesh Acharya, who directed Katrina Kaif\'s dance moves in the popular item number Chikni Chameli, says she was the perfect choice for the number and that nobody could have done justice to the song.

\"Katrina has done a lot of hard work for the song. She has given all the power and dedication that was needed. Only Katrina Kaif could have been Chikni Chameli, nobody else and she has proved it also,\" said Acharya.

\"We choreographers only choreograph the song, but it is the artist who makes all the difference. She did it very nicely,\" he added.

Acharya is known for choreographing item numbers like Beedi in Omkara and Shalu ke thumke in Bin Bulaye Baraati.

The song, composed by national award-winning duo Ajay-Atul and sung by Shreya Ghoshal, has become the USP of Karan Johar\'s Agneepath, a remake of Amitabh Bachchan-starrer 1990 movie of the same name. It has garnered over five million views on Youtube.

\"Public has given us a lot of love and appreciation. We gave our best... I did all that I could do from my end. I would like to thank everybody for all the love,\" he added.

The action-drama, slated for a Jan 26 release, features Hrithik Roshan as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, originally played by Amitabh. Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and Rishi Kapoor will also be seen in key roles in the movie.

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On 10th anniversary, euro takes blame for economy

PARIS, December 30, 2011

Just three years ago, the euro was being praised as the can-do currency that had delivered unprecedented prosperity in Europe.

Now, it's widely derided as a hugely flawed experiment in the wake of a debt crisis that's threatening its very existence an uncomfortable backdrop as the currency's notes and coins hit their first decade in circulation on Jan. 1.

The question is: Will it get to its 11th birthday, let alone 20th? In the euro's tumultuous short history, it has already been heralded as the ultimate mark of a peaceful, united Europe; scoffed at as a giant act of hubris by a distant political elite; and credited with giving Europe a more influential voice in the world.

These days, as it faces its biggest crisis yet, the euro is a daily reminder to more than 330 million people of the dismal state of the economy in the 17-nation euro zone. Many countries seem headed back into recession, and policymakers are grappling with a spiralling debt crisis.

While few Europeans are prepared to scrap the euro in part because they fear a chaotic collapse more than the current muddle some are nostalgic for the money they counted on before it arrived.

Parisians waiting to exchange their old francs outside a branch of the Banque de France before a Feb. 17 deadline harked back to the "rosy" days.

"Life was better before," said Mamia Zenak, a 52-year-old doctor. "It (the euro) is a misery for everyone."

But it was not always so.

In 2009, fanfare accompanied the 10th anniversary of the euro's "launch," when it began floating on international exchanges and banks and governments started using it in their accounting. It was widely credited with cushioning the countries that use it from the banking crisis sparked by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008, and for preventing proud euro member Ireland from descending into the economic chaos that befell non-euro Iceland.

"When the euro was launched there were plenty of people who thought it would crash and burn," the BBC wrote in a story on its website at the time. "Ten years on, its role as a global currency is secure."

It doesn't look so secure now. Events took a dark turn in 2010, when the debt-fuelled boom years finally caught up with Greece and the euro zone realized it didn't have the tools to deal with its economic implosion.

Eventually Greece's euro partners and the International Monetary Fund found the money to bail the country out but it wasn't long before Ireland had to be rescued too after its property and banking sectors collapsed. In 2011, Portugal's failure to deal with its chronically sclerotic economy meant it joined the bailout club too.

Now as 2012 dawns, the euro's role as even a regional currency is uncertain as the crisis has spread to much-bigger Italy, with many sceptical about its ability to survive, at least in its present form.

Today's pessimism recalls the early days, when consumers worried that the currency would do them in financially, as shopkeepers took advantage of the changeover to hike prices. Maria Esteban, a catering manager in Madrid, remembered the price of a beer jumping from 150 pesetas to 1.50 an increase of 66 per cent.

"People barely knew what they were paying," said the 50-year-old.

Prices that had been set for their ease 10 francs, which was one coin, for a cone of roasted chestnuts in Paris, for instance saw some of the most egregious markups. Overnight, those chestnuts rose by a third to 2, also a single coin.

A European Central Bank analysis found that while the perception that prices skyrocketed after the euro is generally exaggerated, 0.3 percentage point of 2002's 2.3 per cent inflation was due to the introduction of the new notes and coins.

But, after that first uneasy year, an EU survey found that just over half of respondents thought the euro was "overall advantageous," while nearly a third thought the opposite. By 2007, at the height of an economic boom and with calls for the euro to become the world's reserve currency, 72 per cent thought the currency was a "good thing" for Europe.

In the EU's latest survey, that figure has fallen to around two-thirds of respondents, and the economic downturn has renewed complaints about the squeeze exerted by the single currency.

While public affection for the euro vacillates frequently, Europeans have remained convinced of one thing- Few believe the currency has achieved one of its more lofty goals, forging a common European identity from Dublin to Tallinn.

The European Commission most recently asked citizens last year if the euro had made them feel more European. More than three-quarters said it had "no effect." That number has remained fairly intractable over the years; it was 80 per cent in 2002.

Dutchman Patrick Plomp, who collects and trades rare bank notes, said the bills' design is partially responsible for their failure to instil a connection to Europe.

Whereas his country's guilders carried pictures of the sunflower, Austrian schillings depicted a Lipizzaner stallion and Greece's drachma bore Apollo's head, the drawings on euros are merely examples of different types of European architecture. They don't represent real monuments.

"If you look at a euro, you'll see that it's made with buildings that don't exist, bridges to nowhere," said Plomp, 44. "The effect that this has is that people feel alienated from the money. It's something that comes from far away."

Taina Kovamaki, a 40-year-old nurse, added that a feeling of alienation from the note leads to worries about the currency in general.

"After all the Finnish markka was Finnish it was our own," Kovamaki said as she lined up at the Bank of Finland counter in Helsinki, where the markka can be changed until Feb. 29. "The financial crisis scares me. I'm just not sure those people in Brussels know what they're doing."

But as with all things euro, how people feel about it depends largely on what they had before.

While many deride their generic look, stationery store owner Yiannakis Ioannides compares the notes to the flimsiness of the old Cypriot pound.

"It's better quality than the pound, which wasn't as good," the 52-year-old said.

The view from outside the currency union has also been just as fickle. Once seen as a sign that eastern European countries had "made it," joining the euro is now a far more sensitive subject. Poland, for one, is carefully measuring its words, calling for reforms before it joins.

Pauline Frommer, the managing editor of the Frommer's travel guides, recounts the glee of the currency's early days, when an Italian shopping spree could be had on the cheap by Americans because of the favorable exchange rate and the eventual dismay as the rate turned around in recent years.

Now, the euro has moved into a new phase, she said.

"The euro has come to symbolize something that may not have been fully thought through and may come back to bite us," said Frommer. "I think we're all very worried about the future of the euro, that maybe its 10th anniversary will be its last."

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AI lenders to get preference shares worth Rs.7,500 crore

NEW DELHI, December 30, 2011

A proposal to issue preferential shares worth Rs.7,500 crore to Air India\'s lenders was approved by its board on Thursday, as the national carrier saw a significant rise in its yields and passenger revenue.

The board, at its meeting here, "approved the rearrangement of authorised share capital by the issue of preference shares worth Rs.7,500 crore, which are proposed to be allotted to the lenders of the working capital as part of the Financial Restructuring Plan (FRP)," an Air India spokesperson said.

In another development, he said a Cabinet note was being moved by the Civil Aviation Ministry for the purpose of equity infusion in Air India and to approve the restructuring plan.

While its yield went up by 10 per cent in November, Air India\'s passenger revenue also rose by 12.3 per cent.

The board, which reviewed the directors\' report on the airline\'s performance in 2010-11, was also briefed on the progress made in implementation of the FRP, including the debt recast plan finalised at a meeting of the bankers\' consortium late last month.

State Bank of India, as leader of the consortium, has approached the Reserve Bank of India for certain additional dispensations in the provisioning norms, the spokesman said.

The bankers have sought an extension of provisioning norms so that the provision could be spread over five financial years.

Air India officials said the issue "has already been taken up with the RBI and their reply is awaited.\'\'

The officials also maintained that Air India had the 'full support\' of its lenders to conclude this arrangement within 120 days of the RBI approval, that is, before the middle of March next.

The debt recast plan of Air India as approved by the RBI includes conversion of short-term working capital loan of Rs.7,000 crore into cumulative preferential shares and more time to repay the remaining debt amount of approximately Rs.14,000 crore.

The airline has total of Rs.21,511.10 crore as short-term working capital loans and it pays an interest of over Rs.2,600 crore annually.

Air India\'s key performance indicators such as passenger revenue, passenger carried and yield, in the April-November period, also showed improvement compared to the corresponding period of last year, the spokesperson said. The board was informed that the airline\'s passenger revenue went up by 12.3 per cent, yield by 10 per cent, the number of passengers carried by 7.7 per cent and the average seat per kilometre (ASKM) by 1.9 per cent.

The national carrier maintained a domestic load factor of almost 75 per cent (74.9 per cent) and international load factor of 64.1 per cent.

The board also approved the appointment of Vinod Asthana as the Managing Director of Hotel Corporation of India, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, he said.

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Siberian court throws out case against Gita commentary

Moscow, December 30, 2011

A Siberian court has thrown out a petition that sought to ban a translation of the Bhagavad Gita as "extremist" literature.

Judge Galina Butenko of the Leninsky District Court in Tomsk ruled on Wednesday that there were no grounds for recognising Bhagavad Gita As It Is as extremist because the book was "one of the interpretations of the sacred Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita."

The defence side said it was fully satisfied with the court verdict.

"This court decision shows that Russia is indeed becoming a democratic society," said lawyer Alexander Shakhov, who represented at the trial the local branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

India\'s Ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra, who had fiercely opposed the trial, welcomed the court ruling.

"The verdict of the Honourable Judge in Tomsk in dismissing the case pertaining to the Bhagavad Gita deserves to be applauded," said the envoy. "It is very nice to see that this issue has been conclusively resolved and is now behind us."

State prosecutors had filed the petition against Bhagavad Gita As It Is, claiming it sowed "social hatred" and called for "violence against non-believers." The case was built on expert testimony from local professors of philosophy and philology, who said the book expresses religious hatred and discriminates on the basis of gender, race, nationality and language. Prosecutors offered no comment as they left the court after the verdict.

"We are happy that the court showed reason and competence in passing the correct verdict," said Sergei Zuyev, vice-president of ISKCON in Russia. "It is not right for secular courts to try religions." On the eve of Wednesday\'s hearing, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had summoned the Russian Ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, asking the Russian government to provide all possible help to resolve the issue.

Russia\'s Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin welcomed the court decision. "I think the Russian government must draw the right conclusions from this incident. It should fight terrorism by exposing terrorist plots and outfits, not by passing judgment on ancient sacred scriptures," he said.

The case against the book had been filed on the basis of the 2002 Russian anti-extremism law, criticised in Russia for its very loose definition of extremist activity. Human rights activists said the law had been used to suppress legitimate criticism of authorities. The Russian Christian Orthodox Church has also been accused of using the law as a tool to fight "non-traditional religions", such as Scientology, Jehovah\'s Witnesses and the Hare Krishna movement in Russia.

In a particularly bizarre case, a court in Rostov Region two years ago accused Leo Tolstoy of extremism for his denunciation of the Russian Orthodox Church teaching as "a crafty and evil lie" and "a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft." Tolstoy was expelled from the Church nine years before his death for his repudiation of Jesus Christ and the Russian Church.

'India happy\'

New Delhi Special Correspondent writes:

"We are happy to learn that the case has been dismissed by the Hon\'ble Court in Tomsk in the Russian Federation. We appreciate this sensible resolution of a sensitive issue and are glad to put this episode behind us. We also appreciate the efforts of all friends in Russia who made this outcome possible," said the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.

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Syrian forces kill protesters near monitors

BEIRUT, December 30, 2011

Syrian security forces opened fire on Thursday on tens of thousands protesting outside a mosque in a Damascus suburb, close to a municipal building that members of the Arab League monitoring mission were visiting. Activists said at least four people were killed in the shooting.

The ongoing violence, and new questions about the human rights record of the head of the Arab League monitors, are reinforcing the opposition's view that Syria's limited cooperation with the observers is nothing more than a farce for President Bashar Assad's regime to buy time and forestall more international condemnation and sanctions.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said about 20,000 people were protesting outside the Grand Mosque in the Damascus suburb of Douma when troops opened fire. Some Arab League monitors were visiting a municipal building close to the mosque, he said.

The Observatory said a total of 16 people have been shot by security forces and killed so far on Thursday, most of them in several suburbs of Damascus. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said 28 people were killed. The differing death tolls could not be immediately reconciled as Syria bans most foreign journalists and keeps tight restrictions on the local media.

Leading opposition members have called on the Cairo-based Arab League to remove the Sudanese head of the monitoring mission to Syria because he was a senior official in the "oppressive regime" of President Omar al-Bashir, who is under an international arrest warrant on charges of committing genocide in Darfur.

The 60 Arab League monitors who began work on Tuesday are the first Syria has allowed in during the nine-month anti-government uprising. They are supposed to be ensuring the regime is complying with terms of the Arab League plan to end a crackdown the U.N. says has killed more than 5,000 people since March.

The head of the mission, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, is a longtime loyalist of Mr. al-Bashir and once served as his head of Sudanese military intelligence.

Amnesty International said under Lt. Gen. al-Dabi's command, military intelligence in the early 1990s "was responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, and torture or other ill-treatment of numerous people in Sudan."

Haytham Manna, a prominent Paris-based dissident, urged the Arab League to replace Lt. Gen. al-Dabi or reduce his authority because "we know his history and his shallow experience in the area."

Omar Idilbi of the Local Coordination Committees described Lt. Gen. al-Dabi as a "senior officer with an oppressive regime that is known to repress opposition" and said there are fears he might not be neutral.

"What do you expect from the head of a monitoring mission who is accused of genocide in his own country," asked Ausama Monajed, a member of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group.

"SNC is deeply concerned about having Mr. al-Dabi as head of the monitoring mission given the accusations around him and we will put a motion to the Arab League requesting that he be changed," Mr. Monajed told The Associated Press by telephone.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle demanded "unhindered access" for the Arab League observers to all key points in Syria, his Ministry said on Thursday.

That includes not just cities such as Homs, but "also the possibility to speak unhindered with representatives of the opposition, civil society and with prisoners of the regime," a Ministry statement said.

Mr. Westerwelle "expects from the observer mission a thorough approach and a clear, unvarnished picture of the situation," it added.

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Iran-U.S. war of words escalates

DUBAI, December 30, 2011

The war of words between Iran and the United States escalated sharply on Thursday with a top military commander of Iran dismissing the warning from Washington not to close the Strait of Hormuz — the principal gateway through which the world\'s oil supplies pass.

Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), announced on state-run Press TV that the "Islamic Republic of Iran asks for no other country\'s permission for the implementation of its defence strategies." He was responding to a Pentagon statement which asserted that Tehran\'s interference "with the transit or passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated".

Tensions have heightened after the U.S. began to prepare for sanctions that would cripple Iran\'s oil exports — the lifeline of the country\'s economy.

With these sanctions possibly kicking in next month, Iran\'s First Vice President had on Tuesday threatened to block oil supplies flowing out of Gulf terminals from the Strait of Hormuz. A day later, Iran\'s naval chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said his country would find it "very easy" to close the Strait the Hormuz — a prospect which can cause oil prices to zoom and undermine the fledgling recovery of the ailing western economies.

The back-and-forth between the Iranians and the Americans have acquired a sharper edge as both sides are backing their threats with large deployments of warships in an area east of the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian navy\'s ongoing exercise is being closely monitored by several U.S. warships which have been deployed in the vicinity, say media reports. Coinciding with its show of military strength, the Iranians on Wednesday asserted that the West was losing its ideological influence worldwide. Iran\'s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei whose pronouncements echo in large parts of West Asia said that the U.S. had no control over the wave of uprisings in Arab countries, which were bringing Islamists into power.

Speaking to Iranian diplomats, Ayatollah Khamenei chose to address a deep-seated apprehension among the region\'s intellectual, official and clerical elite that, in the end, the U.S. was manoeuvring the Arab rebellions which had already toppled entrenched regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Choosing his words carefully, Iran\'s chief jurisprudent said it would be a "delusion" to conclude that Washington has been steering the Arab revolt. He also compared these rebellions with the Iranian revolution of 1979, which toppled the regime of the Shah of Iran, a pillar of America\'s strategic influence in the oil-rich region.

"Some assume that the United States is stage-managing these developments behind the scenes, but it is sheer delusion, just as 30 years ago some were under the illusion that the Islamic revolution was engineered by the United States," he said.

Ayatollah Khamenei said the Arab Spring was an expression of an "Islamic Awakening".

However, this "does not mean that they all want an Islamic government or approve of the model of Iran\'s Islamic government."

Iran\'s top cleric anticipated that the leaderships thrown up by the popular Arab uprisings would stand naturally opposed to the United States and Israel.

In line with the Ayatollah Khamenei\'s assertions, Iran\'s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, compared the upheavals in the Arab world to a "political earthquake" that had shaken the West.

He stressed that "Islamic thoughts" were defeating "principles of western liberal democracy".

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Poverty forces Greek parents to give up children

Athens, December 30, 2011

Even before Greece\'s economic crisis, Dimitris Gasparinatos found it hard to provide for his six sons and four daughters. His wife, Christina, who was struggling to make ends meet with his salary of €960 a month and welfare aid of about €460 every two months, was unhappy and desperate.

Deep in debt, the couple owed money to the butcher, baker and grocer — the very people who had kept them going in the port of Patras, west of Athens. In their tiny apartment, the family slipped increasingly into a life of squalor.

"Psychologically we were all in a bit of a mess," said Mr. Gasparinatos. "We were sleeping on mattresses on the floor, the rent hadn\'t been paid for months, something had to be done." And so, with Christmas approaching, the 42-year-old took the decision to put in an official request for three of his boys and one daughter to be taken into care.

"The crisis had killed us. I am ashamed to say but it had got to the point where I couldn\'t even afford the €2 needed to buy bread," he told the Guardian. "We didn\'t want to break up the family but we did think it would be easier for them if four of my children were sent to an institution for maybe two or three years." The next day, his 37-year-old wife visited the local town hall and asked that her children be "saved".

"She was visibly distraught," said Theoharis Massaras, the local deputy mayor and director of social works. "Requests for support have shot up. Last year we sent food to 400 families in Patras at Christmas. This year, 1,200 asked for help and they weren\'t what I\'d call traditionally low-income people. Many had good jobs until this year when their shops and businesses closed.

"But to be asked to take children away was something new. When we visited their home and saw the situation for ourselves, the third world conditions, the poverty and filth, we couldn\'t believe our eyes."

In a nation as proud as Greece, where family always comes first, the plight of the Gasparinatoses quickly hit a nerve. Soon shocked reporters were knocking at their door. But testimony from charities, doctors and unions would suggest that they are not alone.

As Greece prepares to endure a fifth consecutive year of recession, as the crisis extends its reach, as cuts take their toll, as poverty deepens and unemployment climbs, evidence is mounting that society is tearing at the seams.

Like the middle class, society\'s great connector, families are beginning to unravel under the weight of a crisis that, with no end in sight, is as much human as it is financial.

Tell-tale signs abound that in its quest to beat off bankruptcy, Greece is being hollowed out, a little more, with each passing day.

"People are going hungry, families are breaking up, instances are mounting of mothers and fathers no longer being able to bring up their own kids," said Ilias Ilioupolis, general secretary of the civil servants\' union ADEDY. "Until now there has been a conspiracy of silence around the tragic effects of the austerity measures the IMF and EU are asking us to take." From cases of newborn babies wrapped in swaddling and dumped on the doorsteps of clinics, to children being offloaded on charities and put in foster care, the nation\'s struggle to pay off its debts is assuming dramatic proportions, even if officials insist that the belt-tightening and structural reforms will eventually change the EU\'s most uncompetitive economy for the better.

Propelled by poverty, 500 families had recently asked to place children in homes run by the charity SOS Children\'s Villages, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini.

One toddler was left at the nursery she attended with a note that read: "I will not return to get Anna. I don\'t have any money, I can\'t bring her up. Sorry. Her mother."

"Unfortunately, there\'s been a huge increase in demand from families in need," said Dimitris Tzouras, a social worker employed with the organisation for 19 years. "In the greater Attica region [of Athens], we\'re talking about a 100% increase partly because public welfare is in such disarray people have no one else to turn to."

Whereas in the past, pleas for help had come mostly from families where abuse was a problem, they are now from victims of the economic crisis.

"Parents who feel they can no longer look after children are calling in, but our policy is to do whatever we can to keep families united," added Tzouras.

"The crisis has exacerbated underlying problems that in the past may just have threatened to tear families apart. It\'s not only the vulnerable. It\'s now affecting the middle class."

Few know more about the plight of children abandoned, abused and neglected in Greece than Costas Yannopoulos, who chairs the local charity the Smile of the Child. The Athens headquarters of his 16-year-old organisation is home to children who have endured life\'s worst excesses.

Inside the tidy, two-storey building are cots for babies who were abandoned in hospitals, found in windowless homes or taken from unfit parents.

Yannopoulos recalls the baby he discovered in a rubbish dump and the eight-month-old boy whose body had "turned to jelly" lying unloved in an overworked maternity ward.

"The crisis has made a bad situation worse," he sighed. "Alcoholism, drug abuse and psychiatric problems are on the rise and more and more children are being abandoned on the streets."

With the country\'s health system severely hit by cuts and the spectre of its economy becoming worse before it gets better, Yannopoulos has a plan to host children affected by "this war" in specially established "farms".

There is, he says, another Greece "of kindness and hospitality and caring about others" that all too often is overlooked.

Last week Dimitris Gasparinatos got good news. After learning of his family\'s circumstances, the wife of a wealthy Athenian businessman donated money for him to move to a new home with his wife and 10 children.

"This good woman has changed our lives. She has allowed us to hope again," he said.

"The crisis has taken us places we never wanted to go. By the New Year, thanks to her, we will be in a new house, all together."

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Opposition wins Jamaican elections

Washington, December 30, 2011

The opposition People's National Party, led by former premier Portia Simpson Miller, won the Jamaica's general elections, preliminary results showed late Thursday.

The party had already won more than half the 63 seats up for grabs in Thursday's elections.

Karl Samuda, the campaign director of the governing Centre-Right Jamaica Labour Party, conceded defeat on national television.

The win for the Centre-Left People's National Party means Ms. Miller would return to office after a gap of four years.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness called the snap election after taking office when Bruce Golding resigned in October.

Final results were expected Saturday.

About 1.6 million citizens of the Caribbean island were eligible to vote.

A key election issue was the Caribbean island's high national debt of about 130 per cent of its gross domestic product. High unemployment and crime were also key issues in the campaign.

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Govt blames BJP for Lokpal fiasco

New Delhi, December 30, 2011 (Tehelkanews)

The government on Friday steered clear of apportioning any blame to Trinamnool Congress for the failure to pass Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha and put the blame squarely on the BJP.

"If BJP wanted the bill to be passed, it could have been passed without any problem," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters.

To a question, he said, "The Congress has only 71 members in the Upper House and the Government and the Congress hoped to pass the Bill in the Upper House but the BJP tactic was that support Anna and oppose Lokpal".

Rajya Sabha has 243 members.

Mr. Bansal said the opposition and a party, apparently referring to ally Trinamool Congress, were not willing to play ball. They were not willing to cooperate. "They would rather see the nation fail than the Government succeed."

Denying the charge of Government having choreographed last night's events in Rajya Sabha, he said, "They (opposition) are guilty of stalling the proceedings for the simple reason that they did not want the Bill to be passed."

The Minister said the effect of the enormous number of amendments (187 in number) was "confusing" and it was difficult for a Government to accept them and to get the Bill passed because it would lead to legal problems.

"It is not that the Bill is dead. The amendments will be taken up in the Budget session for consideration," Mr. Bansal said.

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Lokpal will be brought in budget session: Govt

New Delhi, December 30, 2011

Putting up a brave front after it failed to muster the numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the United Progressive Alliance government on Friday said the Lokpal Bill will "definitely" be brought before the Rajya Sabha during the budget session even as Congress leader Digvijay Singh defended the move saying extension of the House on Thursday night was not possible.

"Definitely we will bring it in March in the Budget session...we have to study the 187 amendments brought by Opposition parties as most are overlapping. Some amendments relate to only a part of a clause and not the entire clause, some demand removing the entire part of the Bill," Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said here.

He said after going through the amendments, the government will take a call on what to accept and what to reject and get back to the Opposition parties.

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh tweeted this morning saying "187 Amendments given till 6 pm on the day of debate and those too contradictory to each other. Extension of the House was not within powers of RS (Rajya Sabha)."

He also said, now that government has time, it must "try and bring about consensus and pass a strong implementable Lokpal Bill."

Referring to the amendments moved by key UPA partner Trinamool Congress on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Narayanasamy said its reservations are regarding the appointment of Lokayuktas in the states and "they have no grievances against Lokpal."

But at the same time the minister said Trinamool was part of the Cabinet decision to clear the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill introduced in Lok Sabha a few days ago.

"Thy voted with us in the Lok Sabha though they had some reservations about the Constitutional amendment...we are talking to them...there is still some time and we will bring them around," he said.

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No vote on Lokpal, Rajya Sabha adjourns abruptly

New Delhi, December 30, 2011

High drama in the Rajya Sabha over the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill that took acrimonious turns during the over 12-hour debate on Thursday ended abruptly at the stroke of midnight without the House taking a vote on the Bill as it ran out of scheduled time.

The House was adjourned sine die by Chairman Hamid Ansari after a verbal duel marred proceedings since 11.30 p.m. as some members including UPA ally Trinamool Congress interrupted Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy\'s stout defence of the provisions of the Bill that came under attack.

With a vociferous opposition insisting that the Bill be taken up for voting straightaway and the government maintaining it needs time to reconcile contradictory 187 amendments moved by the members, din and confusion marked the proceedings.

"This is an unprecedented situation…there appears to be a desire to outshout each other. There is a total impasse. The House cannot be conducted in the noise that requires orderly proceedings, I am afraid the Chair has no option…most reluctantly…I am afraid I can\'t and…,\'\' Mr. Ansari told the House as he asked for the national song Vande Mataram to be played, signalling the end of the proceedings and the extended winter session of Parliament.

Commotion began some 30 minutes away from the deadline as the ruling coalition led by the Congress and the Opposition engaged in a procedural wrangle pushing the fate of the Bill to the last minute with members expressing anxiety over adjournment of the House on expiry of the last date of the Rajya Sabha.

After a brief 15-minute adjournment between 11.30 and 11.45 p.m., Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, said the decision on extension of the House cannot be taken up on the grounds that it is the prerogative of the government to call for a session including an extension and it needed time to study the amendments moved by members to have the Bill taken up for passage.

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley charged that the government was running away from Parliament and that it amounted to the UPA being reduced to a minority and that the House and not the government should decide how long it should sit.

"A government which did not have the numbers in the House has consciously first choreographed a debate so that it cannot be concluded before 12 o\' clock," Mr. Jaitley said.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the House had been waiting since Wednesday for the Bill to arrive for discussion which came only on Thursday, the last day of the sitting.

As the Opposition insisted that the Bill be put to vote without delay, Mr. Bansal said the government was willing provided the House passed the Bill voted by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. This meant that the amendments proposed to be moved by the Opposition would have to be kept aside. As stalemate and wrangling continued, the Chairman called an end to the proceedings.

PTI reports:

Later, members of the BJP and the Left staged a protest in the Parliament complex for not passing the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

Throughout the day, there was uncertainty over the fate of the Bill after the Trinamool Congress\' stiff opposition to the provisions related to creation of Lokayukta by the Lokpal Bill.

The party, which is part of the government, had moved over 20 amendments and its main speaker in the House, Sukhendu S. Roy, demanded deletion of all the clauses related to Lokayukta in entirety from the Bill.

Mr. Roy said the party would oppose the bill in its present form.

The ruling coalition, which has less than 100 members in the 243-member House, found the going difficult when parties supporting the government from outside like BSP (18), SP (6) and RJD (4) announced their opposition to the Bill and their determination to vote against it.

Shameful day: Trinamool

The Trinamool later slammed the government over the Bill being deferred in the Rajya Sabha, saying it was a "shameful" day for democracy and a result of "orchestrated chaos."

Trinamool leader Dereck O\'Brien said his party was "disappointed" at the turn of events. The party had planned to push for some of its amendments and seek a division.

The Congress said it was the government\'s prerogative on how to take forward the Bill, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha.

Sinha calls Manmohan mauni baba

The BJP\'s Yashwant Sinha targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Sinha calling him "mauni baba" for remaining silent and failing to respond to his party colleague Mr. Jaitley\'s suggestion in the Rajya Sabha that the House should sit beyond midnight to take up voting on the Bill.

"It is a bad day for democracy," Mr. Sinha said, adding the developments were unfortunate.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jaitley, Singhvi cross swords over Lokpal Bill

NEW DELHI, December 30, 2011 (Tehelkanews)

Legal luminaries from the Opposition and the treasury benches in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday battled it out on the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Lokpal Bill, particularly the clause on the Centre legislating for Lokayuktas in States. This, as it turned out, was a sore point not only with almost all Opposition parties but also with the United Progressive Alliance\'s ally, the Trinamool Congress.

As soon as Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy finished his introductory remarks after moving the Bill, Opposition members were on their feet demanding the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also the leader of the Upper House. This led to a brief adjournment.

Leading the Opposition attack, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said the Bill would lead to a "constitutional havoc" as the Centre would be encouraged to usurp the powers of the States through the provision for setting up the Lokayuktas.

Terming the Bill "half-hearted legislation," Mr. Jaitley said the government strategy was to create a smokescreen by saying it was talking to civil society and then suddenly say it would give constitutional status to the Lokpal. "You wanted to create a phoney Lokpal and give it a constitutional status and say it will be a game changer. The game changer will not be a phoney institution but an effective institution.\'\'

Responding to the charge that the BJP did not want a Lokpal law, he said the people of the country would decide which side wanted a weak law and which side wanted "an amended and strong" legislation. "Not only that, this will also be the test for UPA allies — are they only proclaiming or are they willing to strike?\'\'

Charging the government with "assault on the federal structure" and creating a "constitutional cocktail" he said: "If setting up of the Lokayuktas is to be under the Concurrent List under Article 253, there is no provision for an option. First under Article 253 you want to enact a law that will dismantle the entire authority of the States in dealing with their own services. If you have the authority under the Concurrent List, then States do not have the authority. That means the 18 Lokayuktas in 18 States are all ultra vires. Constitutionally, the correct course would be to frame a law under Article 252 after obtaining resolution of two States.\'\'

Objecting to the provisions in the Bill that give powers to government to "control appointments and [have a] removal mechanism," Mr. Jaitley said there would always be the sword of Damocles on the Lokpal. "If it goes against the government, it can be suspended."

Pointing out that most people supported social justice and affirmative action, he said the legal phraseology of reservation in the Lokpal was "extra-constitutional\'\' and designed to make this law "vulnerable."

While reiterating the BJP\'s demand for autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation, he said Section 25 of the Bill needed to be amended where the power of administrative and financial control, superintendence and direction over the CBI should be given to the Lokpal.

He objected to the inclusion of non-governmental organisations, and other such institutions under the Lokpal, saying the government-controlled, government-appointed authority would be so intrusive that it would enter every area of even private life. "This is a revenge provision against civil society."

Referring to the "sense of the House" resolution to bring a Citizens\' Charter, and Group C and D employees under the Lokpal through a mechanism and creation of the Lokayuktas, he said Group C and D employees were to be under the Lokpal. But the Citizens\' Charter (for time-bound implementation of government services) was taken out of the ambit of the Lokpal. "Are we going to subvert the institution before it is born?\'\'

Mr. Jaitley said if the government accepted the amendments given by the BJP and other parties, the Bill could be passed.

'Don\'t hide behind excuses\'

Abhishek Singhvi (Congress) countered the BJP attack by asking the party if it was keen on passing the Bill. "The fundamental question is: do you want to pass the Lokpal Bill or not? It is no use putting a string of conditionalities. No use saying I want to pass a strong Bill after three months and refer it to the Standing Committee as your colleague (Sushma Swaraj) said in the other House.\'\'

"If you don\'t want to pass the Bill, say so and have the courage and don\'t hide behind excuses," he said adding the BJP was creating a fear psychosis over the issue of bringing NGOs and other institutions under the ombudsman. The provision was to cover trusts and institutions that received public donations and foreign funds above a certain amount.

During the debate, which saw an exchange of words between Mr. Jaitley and Mr. Singhvi, both lawyers, the Congress member rejected the Opposition\'s stand on reservation, saying the Bill did not have any provision for [extra-constitutional] quota but it only talked about ensuring "representation" to diverse sections of society. This aspect was later contested by the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, which wanted the government to clarify its stand.

Rejecting the charge of "assault on federal structure," Mr. Singhvi said that under the Constitution, Parliament had the power to make laws for the entire country or any part. "Your argument that it is a constitutional cocktail does not have any punch."

He said the Bill for the first time separated prosecution and investigative powers, abolished the practice of seeking sanction before prosecution of public servants and gave the Lokpal greater control of the CBI even though it did not bring the agency directly under the ombudsman.

Mr. Singhvi said the BJP\'s opposition to the Bill was just to score brownie points with an eye on the coming Assembly polls.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bidve family will have to wait for over two weeks for the body

PUNE, December 28, 2011 (Tehelkanews)

Almost two days after his son was shot dead in Manchester, Mr. Subhash Bidve has only one request: to get his son\'s body back. Twenty-three-year-old Anuj Bidve, who hailed from Pune, was shot dead by two unidentified men in Salford, Greater Manchester, early on Monday morning. While the family is yet to come to terms with the loss, their anxiety only increased when they were told by the authorities that bringing back the body to India will take more than two weeks owing to the long procedure and Christmas vacations.

Anuj was studying MS (microelectronics) at the Lancaster University and was spending his Christmas vacations in Manchester with nine other Indians when he was shot. He was an alumnus of Sinhgad College in Pune.

"The Indian Embassy in U.K. is meant for Indians in situations like this. We were told that the process to bring back the body will take two to four weeks. What is the embassy doing? Who is the government meant for?" Mr. Bidve asked, speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday evening.

"All we want the government to do is to take up the issue seriously and give us the body," he stated.

"Ever since we got to know of the death, every passing hour has become difficult for us. We cannot wait for two more weeks to get the body. We want to at least perform our son\'s final rites. What did we do to deserve this?" Mr. Bidve asked. He said the Greater Manchester Police "is kind of cooperative" but has said the process is getting delayed because of the Christmas vacations. "We are told that the coroner is on vacation till tomorrow [Wednesday]. She has to give a death certificate after which the police can decide if they need the body for further investigations," Mr. Bidve\'s son-in-law Rakesh Sonawane stated.

Mr. Sonawane stated that the news of the death reached the family only through Anuj\'s friends who tried to contact the family through Facebook on Tuesday afternoon. Anuj\'s mother who was inconsolable throughout this correspondent\'s interaction said: "The police should have contacted us directly when they took him to hospital. We should have been told first. We thought the U.K. is a safe place for our son."

Mr. Sonawane said he had contacted the Personal Secretary of S.M. Krishna, External Affairs Minister, who had assured him that the Indian embassy "will do the needful."

Mr. Bidve said no official of the Maharashtra government had come forward to help the family get Anuj\'s body soon, and to secure justice. "I request the Maharashtra government to take up the issue, for the sake of every person who dreams of going abroad," he said.

"As the family waits for the body, the feeling that the vacations are more important than a person\'s life is becoming more persistent," Mr. Sonawane said. He stated that he has been now assured by the Indian embassy and the police that the investigation will be completed as soon as possible

Mr. Sonawane said eyewitnesses told him that while the group of nine people was walking out for dinner, two "white men" had asked for the time. "After an exchange of words, one of them pulled out a gun and shot Anuj in the head. The police arrived on the scene and took him to hospital where he was declared dead."

Another resident of Pune, Sarang Kulkarni, said that he knew Anuj at the Lancester University. Asked about the details of the incident Mr Kulkarni said in an email, "I don\'t think I am at liberty to discuss the matter individually. You may contact the press office of the university and the greater Manchester police for information."

Alleging racial discrimination against his brother in law, Mr Sonawane stated that a serious issue like this should be condemned by the Indian government.

Mr.Biwde said that his son was a football enthusiast and had gone to Manchester on Christmas vacations from Lancaster to visit the football club's famous stadium. He had last spoken to him on Christmas. " I spoke to him on Sunday morning. He told me that he was going to Manchester for a holiday," he said.

"It was Anuj's dream to go to the UK. It was the family's dream, but unfortunately it is all over now," Mr. Sonawne said.

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Communications failure led to NATO attack: U.S.

Washington, December 28, 2011 (Tehelkanews)

Releasing a redacted, unclassified version of an earlier assessment, the U.S. military has conceded that chain-of-command failures led to Pakistani forces enduring 45 minutes of a sustained artillery and air attack from NATO forces near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on November 26.

Partially recasting its earlier assessment that "both sides" shared responsibility for the clash, in which 24 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives, the report noted that the delay in communication between a NATO operations officer in Afghanistan and a top allied-forces Commander resulted in the International Security Assistance Force leadership knowing about the PakMil presence in the area only after the shooting had already stopped.

Discussing some of the report\'s findings, U.S. Central Command commander Marine Corps General James Mattis said, "The strongest take-away from this incident is the fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination, and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border."

The report noted that "contact and lethal action" began after 11pm on November 25 with ISAF deploying Hellfire missiles during three specific engagements with Pakistani forces in the vicinity of the Salala checkpoint near the restive Af-Pak border region of Mohmand.

However, the report emphasised that ISAF ground forces "were executing Operation Sayaqa, approved by ISAF Joint Command headquarters, when they came under fire from positions on a ridge near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border".

The report noted that it was after the exchange of fire had come to an end that "Eventually, it became clear from various information exchanges that those engaged at the ridge were Pakistan military personnel."

As a result of the investigation, General Mattis was said to have directed ISAF forces to implement several actions "as soon as possible," including clarifying authorities, responsibilities and standard operating procedures for command, control; implementing a programme of full disclosure of all border area facilities and installations on both sides of the border; and developing and sharing with the Pakistan Army use of force-escalation measures

Yet the report was firm on the role of the Pakistani military that it had noted earlier, reiterating that "the catalyst for the engagement was the opening of fire by Pakistan soldiers and that their continued fire made the situation worse."

Nevertheless, the U.S. investigators noted that time-sensitive senior command override measures for border-area incidents were lacking and such a "series of miscommunications within the chain of command... delayed confirmation of the identity of the Pakistani forces."

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It\'s a farewell speech: Sinha

New Delhi, December 28, 2011 (Tehelkanews)

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yaswhant Sinha on Tuesday took a dig at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh\'s Lokpal Bill debate speech in the Lok Sabha, calling it a "farewell speech." Mr. Sinha\'s observation during the debate on the Lokpal Bill in the Lower House was countered a few hours later by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who sarcastically told the Opposition BJP not to be impatient for power.Mr. Sinha during the course of his speech referred to Dr. Singh\'s intervention and said he had listed the various achievements of his government as if it were his "farewell speech."

Replying to the debate, Mr. Mukherjee strongly defended Dr. Singh and took a jibe at Mr. Sinha. "I am sorry I did not expect Mr. Yashwant Sinha to say it was a farewell speech. Why are you in a hurry to come to the Treasury Benches, Mr. Sinha? Why don\'t you wait for another two-and-a-half years more or two years and four months to occupy these [ruling] benches." The present term of the Lok Sabha ends in mid-2014.

Mr. Sinha got up and sought to justify why he had described Dr. Singh\'s speech as a 'farewell\' one. He claimed that the buzz in the Central Hall of Parliament was that Dr. Singh was on his way out and that Mr. Mukherjee would be stepping into his shoes.

Mr. Mukherjee did not allow the matter to rest there and asked Mr. Sinha, "of all persons me?"

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Hazare loses weight, continues fast

Mumbai, December 28, 2011 (Tehelkanews)

Amid growing concerns over his health Wednesday, Anna Hazare's three-day fast entered its second day at the almost deserted MMRDA Ground here, his aides said.

Though the 74-year-old is on medication, his physician D.G. Pote ruled out the need to shift him to a hospital.

Speaking to reporters, Dr. Pote said Mr. Hazare had lost weight due to his illness and the hunger strike.

Mr. Hazare's weight is now 70.5 kg, a loss of around 1.5 kg in last five-six days. However, his blood test reports are normal.

"His temperature was 100 degrees fahrenheit compared to 102 last (Tuesday) night, pulse rate has come down to 72 from 96, and blood pressure is 152/90," Pote said after examining Hazare at the MMRDA Ground in Bandra—Kurla Complex Wednesday.

He said that Mr. Hazare has been advised rest, to speak less and to refrain from exerting himself.

Manish Sisodia, a key member of Team Anna, said that Mr. Hazare's health was a matter of serious concern and other team members have appealed to him to call off his hunger strike.

Mr. Hazare, who retired into his room adjacent to the stage Tuesday evening, has not ventured out since.

The mercury in Mumbai touched a 10-year low of 11.4 degrees Celsius Tuesday. Similar weather conditions are likely to continue for the next couple of days.

The sprawling MMRDA Ground, the fast venue, wore a deserted look with only security personnel, journalists and a handful of Team Anna activists in attendance.

Meanwhile, at least half a dozen vehicle-loads and a couple of buses carrying Hazare supporters are expected to arrive here later in the day from his native village Ralegan-Siddhi.

It was reported that over 200 people, including women, senior citizens and children, would go and appeal to Mr. Hazare to call off his fast in view of his health conditions.

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