Powerful quake destroys buildings in Indonesia

Powerful quake destroys buildings in Indonesia AFP – Indonesians evacuate the Mall Sun Plaza on the Sumatran city of Medan. A powerful 7.9-magnitude quake …

JAKARTA (AFP) – A powerful 7.9-magnitude quake struck off Indonesia’s Sumatra island on Wednesday, destroying large buildings and starting fires in the major city of Padang, geologists and reports said.

“A number of hotels in Padang have been destroyed,” Indonesian geophysics and meteorology agency tsunami warning head Rahmat Triyono said, adding the agency did not release a tsunami alert.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii however issued a tsunami watch for Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Thailand but later cancelled it.

“Up to now we haven’t been able to reach Padang, communications have been cut,” Triyono said.

The quake struck at sea at 5:16 pm (1016 GMT) at a fairly deep 87 kilometres (54 miles), 53 kilometres northwest of Padang city in West Sumatra province, the United States Geological Survey said.

Local news channel Metro TV reported fires amid hundreds of collapsed houses in Padang, a city of 900,000, where panicked residents had run onto the streets as the quake hit.

“We haven’t received any reports of casualties yet because communication lines in the areas close to the epicentre like Pariaman and Padang have completely broken down,” Indonesian geophysics agency head technical head Suharjono told AFP.

“Several hotels in Padang such as the Minang Hotel have also collapsed but all this needs to be confirmed,” he said.

The quake was felt in the capital Jakarta 940 kilometres away and sent panicked office workers streaming out of buildings in nearby Singapore and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

“The shaking was the worst I had ever felt,” Yuliarni, a resident of Pariaman district outside of Padang, told TVOne news channel.

“Houses have collapsed, the lights and electricity were cut off… People were fleeing to higher ground and some were hurt,” she said.

The quake caused a landslide that destroyed houses at lake Maninjau inland from Padang, local resident Hafiz told the channel.

Geologists have said Padang, which lies near the colliding Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates, is the most likely in the country to fall victim to the next major quake or tsunami.

The city is most at risk from a final segment along the zone shifting to unleash a massive amount of energy.

The zone’s other segments have already cracked, including a large portion off Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, which triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 220,000 people.

Plans for evacuation shelters and improved roads to provide better escape routes from tsunami have mostly not been realised.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

A quake on the main island of Java earlier this month killed 123 people.

Vaishno Devi, Mata Vaishnodevi Pics, Vaishno Devi Temple, Navratri Festival

Vaishno Devi Mandir (Hindi: वैष्णोदेवी मन्दिर) is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Shakti, located in the hill of Vaishno Devi, Jammu and Kashmir, India.

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In Hinduism, Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess.

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The temple is near the town of Katra, in Jammu district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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It is one of the most revered places of worship in Northern India.The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board maintains the shrine. A rail link from Udhampur to Katra is being built to facilitate pilgrimage.

Vaishno Devi Temple near Jammu ahead of the nine-day ‘Navratri’ festival.The nine-day Navratri festival will begin from Saturday and the authorities claim to be in full control of the situation.There is much fanfare in Katra during Navratra festival and the inflow of tourists also rises manifold during those days. We have made proper security arrangements.

Navratri’, which literally means nine nights, is observed twice a year.

The festival lasts for nine days in honour of nine manifestations of Durga, goddess of power ,and fall in the months of April-May and September-October.

It is believed that during the Navratri, Goddess Durga descends on earth to rid it of the demons and blesses her devotees with happiness and prosperity.

Air India Strike Ends, Air India Latest News, Air India Pilots Begins To Work

Air India

Four-day long standoff between the Air India management and its pilots ended today after both sides reached an agreement. Sources said that pilots would be returning to work.

Calling off their strike, Pilots expressed their gratitude towards the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for intervening into the matter. The pilots said that they civil aviation minister Praful Patel’s word.

The crisis was started five days ago as the pilots flashed a strike protesting against the cut in PLI.

Earlier, Air India cancelled 16 domestic and two international flights which were scheduled for today. Giving an ultimatum to the striking pilots, the Government had told the pilots to return to their duty.

In a significant statement, Indian Airlines said that it wouldn’t cut salaries of ground staff and executive pilots and their allowance would be paid by October 7.

Tata Tele, BSNL sign 15-year infrastructure sharing deal

Tata Tele, BSNL sign 15-year infrastructure sharing deal

A view of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) building, Bharat Sanchar Bhawan, in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Hindu A view of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) building, Bharat Sanchar Bhawan, in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Tata Teleservices today joined state-owned BSNL for sharing infrastructure across the nation, in a first such partnership that would help the private firm expand its GSM network expeditiously.

After signing the 15-year deal, Tata Tele said: “This is a moment of pride for us, as we have become the first private telecom operator to enter into such a strategically important agreement with BSNL, one that will allow us to expand our telecom footprint across the country much more quickly.”

TTSL, however, declined to give financial details of the deal.

“The agreement, which is valid for 15 years, will be applicable to both TTSL and TTSL (Maharashtra) Limited in all of India’s 22 telecom circles,” TTSL’s Legal and Regulatory Affairs president, Madhav Joshi, said.

The deal comes at a very strategic time for Tatas as the company is in the process to launch its GSM mobile services under the Tata DoCoMo brand name and BSNL has infrastructure assets across the country — the largest for any telecom firm.

In the last three months, the company has rolled out GSM services in nine circles — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Haryana.

The infrastructure-sharing would be advantageous to the company in terms of reduced cost and the same would be reflected in the tariff structure of both the firms.

“This agreement has the potential to not just speed up our network expansion and roll out process, but would also have a substantial impact in terms of reduced costs,” TTSL Chief Technology Officer, A. G. Rao, said.

Under the terms of the agreement, TTSL and TTML will have access to thousands of BSNL towers all across the country.

Sources said the financial details of the deal would actually depend upon the usage of towers by each company in respective circles and thus it would be decided later.

.Obama to honour India with his first state dinner

President Barack Obama's administration is all set to honour Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the first state dinner during Singh's visit to the United States on November 24.

PTI President Barack Obama’s administration is all set to honour Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the first state dinner during Singh’s visit to the United States on November 24.

And the first state dinner of President Barack Obama’s administration goes to … India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is coming to the United States for a state visit on November 24. Such visits include an elaborate arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn, one-on-one time with the President and, in the evening, a state dinner.

But why India first?

It was just four years ago that President George W. Bush and Singh raised their glasses and toasted the U.S.-India relationship at the start of a July 2005 state dinner.

Indian officials, however, have watched warily since then as the U.S. has become more engaged with Pakistan, focusing on greater military cooperation in dealing with militants there and in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Honouring Singh with what is considered one of the grandest and most glamorous of White House affairs 10 months into Obama’s presidency may allay some of those concerns, along with perceptions that Pakistan has surpassed India as America’s best friend in South Asia.

It also may be Obama’s way of closing the loop with all the major U.S. allies as his first year in office draws to a fast close.

Obama’s first-year international itinerary has taken him to the major European power centres of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. He has toured the Middle East and is scheduled to visit China and possibly other Asian countries in November, before Singh visits.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hand-delivered the state visit invitation from Obama during her July trip to India.

Singh and Obama met on the sidelines of a London economic summit in April, and discussed cooperating on the economic downturn, climate change and counterterrorism. Obama later called him a “very wise and decent man.”

After years of mutual wariness during the Cold War, U.S.-Indian relations are at a high point, thanks partly to the Bush administration’s push to allow American civilian nuclear trade with India. The Obama administration has used that accord as a foundation for improving ties and hopes of cooperation on the president’s priority issues, such as climate change and countering terrorism.

“We are very committed to this relationship,” Clinton said of India when questioned about deepening U.S. relations with Pakistan.

But a trip to India so far has escaped the sights of the President’s travel planners.

That is where the state dinner comes in.

Obama’s first one will be the talk of the town, perhaps second only to his inauguration and the parties that followed in terms of celebrity star power and got-to-be-there fever.

A ton of planning is involved, from creating the invitation itself to compiling a guest list. Meals, desserts and wines are tasted until the right pairings are found. Flowers must be chosen and arranged just so, along with the seating, place settings and entertainment.

Responsibility for the planning falls to First Lady Michelle Obama and her staff, and people will be waiting to see what twists she and her social secretary, Desiree Rogers, will put on one of the White House’s most staid traditions.

Early state dinner rumblings after Obama took office were about opening the events up to “real people.”

Inquiring minds also want to know what other changes may be in store. Will they eat in the State Dining Room or shift chairs to the larger East Room? Will dinner courses be prepared with vegetables pulled from Mrs. Obama’s popular South Lawn garden?

Would they consider putting their well-dressed guests on boats headed down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon? John F. Kennedy did that for his first state dinner a just few months into his term, in May 1961, for the president of Tunisia.

Or how about dinner and black-tie inside a big tent in the Rose Garden? Bill Clinton did that for his first such dinner a year and a half into his presidency, in June 1994, for the Japanese emperor.

Bush held his first dinner eight months in. It was for Mexico, less than a week before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Breast Cancer — a wake up call for Indian women

A woman undergoing external radio therapy for Breast Cancer at the MNJ Institute in Hyderabad. File photo: K. Ramesh Babu

THE HINDU A woman undergoing external radio therapy for Breast Cancer at the MNJ Institute in Hyderabad. File photo: K. Ramesh Babu

Breast cancer, a dreaded disease has got deadlier for the modern woman who with her late marriage, unhealthy eating and growing weight is becoming vulnerable to the illness. Experts project breast cancer to strike approximately 2.5 lakh women in India by 2015.

“Breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer to become the leading cause of cancer-related mortality among women living in metropolitan cities,” says the Indian Council of Medical Research which places incidence of the disease at 30 to 33 per 1,00,000 women in urban India.

Smart government-sponsored advertising that spreads awareness about self screening as well as timely checkups, which include mammographies and diet control, prove good safety mechanisms for early detection crucial to curb the spread of the curable disease, advice doctors.

“We have seen a considerable change in the level of awareness among women in semi urban and urban areas. Initially they were shy but when we told them about the gravity of the disease and the ease with which they can do a self exam, we found women losing their reticence,” says Isha Bhandari, ROKO Cancer, a voluntary organisation that runs mobile cancer units across India.

The number of breast cancer cases in India is about 100,000 women each year and there will be approximately 2,50,000 new cases of breast cancer in India by 2015, says ICMR.

The Roko cancer mobile units — air conditioned buses— ply in remote areas providing pre-cancer screening facilities, play relevant audio visuals and carry educational kits to be distributed in various camps.

“We started the campaign almost four years ago and aim to make mammography tests a routine for every woman in this country. We are also working for a polio like campaign to reach the masses,” says Ms. Bhandari.

Cancer rates could further increase by 50 per cent to 15 million new cases in the year 2020, according to the World Cancer Report, the most comprehensive global examination of the disease to date.

The report also reveals the developing world is expected to account for more than half of all cancer cases in the world by 2020. The WHO is also warning that Asia’s annual death toll from cancer, currently at about 4 million, could reach 6.4 million by 2030 if current trends continue.

Said to be a western disease, the incidence of new cases in Asia is rising by around 60 per cent in some parts.

“The rise is particularly affecting younger women between 30 and 40 years. Unlike in the West where typically women after 50 years get early stage disease, breast cancer in Asian women occurs at a younger age and is usually presented and diagnosed at a later stage,” Dr. Col. C. S. Pant, Vice Chairperson for the Forum for Breast Cancer Protection.

The forum, supported by Hard Rock Cafe, is organising a women’s car rally from Delhi to Agra, to raise funds and generate awareness about breast cancer prevention and its early detection.

Though there is no known cause for the illness, a cure is possible if detected early.

“I have been in this field for over 25 years and have found that breast cancer creates psychological havoc for a young woman usually in her 40s and with one or two children,” says Dr. Pant.

“The fault, to a certain extent, lies with the doctors too who do not encourage screening. Every woman after 40 should go for a mammogram test,” Ms. Bhandari.

Government advertisements also should not talk about advanced mammography techniques like digital ones and should focus on disseminating ordinary ones because these tests are expensive and the more advanced ones, with their more expensive rates, prove as a deterrent in many cases, say experts.

“A regular mammogram costs between Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000, digital ones can cost as much as Rs 8,000. “Even in the U.S. the usage of digital instrument is limited to just 32 per cent. It requires volumes to make it cost-effective,” says Dr. Pant.

“The cause for the cancer is not known but it has been statistically found that Japanese and Chinese are least prone. Perhaps it is a good idea to take a look at their food. Sipping green tea, having more vegetarian diet and plenty of exercise can be act as a deterrent,” says Dr. Pant.

Kasab confessed voluntarily: Magistrate


A city Magistrate today told the 26/11 trial court that prime accused Ajmal Amir Kasab had confessed before her voluntarily, his role in the terror attacks, saying he wanted others to draw inspiration from his confession.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Rama Vijay Sawant Vagule said Kasab was produced before her on February 17 where he said he wanted to confess.

He was given 24 hours to reconsider if he wished to confess, she said.

“On February 18, when Kasab was produced again before me, he reiterated that he wanted to confess. He showed no remorse for his crime and told me that he wanted to confess so that others may derive inspiration from his action,” Ms Vagule told the Court.

“I also asked him whether there was any promise or force exerted upon him to confess and I also reminded him again that it was not obligatory on his part to confess and also that it would be used against him in the trial for sentencing him,” the Magistrate who deposed as a witness told Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nigam.

The Magistrate was examined as a witness because Kasab had retracted his confession saying that he had made it under police duress.