Jaipur fire probe report in six weeks

File photograph of Jaipur depot fire
Six days after a devastating fire broke out at the Indian Oil Corporation depot near Jaipur, it is still not clear what caused the blaze.

 

Fire can now be seen only in two tanks. Smoke can be seen coming out of others.

A seven-member committee set up by the Petroleum Ministry is now investigating the causes that might have lead to the fire that killed 11 people.

Members of the panel, accompanied by civil and police authorities, visited the site and the surrounding areas affected by the fire.

They also spoke to the people in the area for first hand information about the blaze.

The team has to submit its report within six weeks.

The Jaipur police have already registered a case against IOC officials and employees for negligence.

Terror on tape, Kasab giggles

A tape played in court in Mumbai on Tuesday drove home some spine-chilling truths about the Mumbai attacks.

 

The scariest part of the 16-minute tape, played out during the trial of lone arrested terrorist Ajmal Kasab,  is a conversation during the 26/11 attack between one of the other terrorists and their Pakistani handler. “This is just the trailer. The government should see what’s coming,” says the handler.

The tape also has a conversation, between an Israeli negotiator in Washington and one of the terrorists at Nariman House. Even as the NSG was being called in, the Israeli government was apparently willing to negotiate – as long as their hostages were unharmed.

Israeli negotiator: We have contacted the Government in New Delhi, but they need two hours and to arrange for someone to call you. But this is on the condition that they (the hostages) are not harmed.

Terrorist: Tell them that two hours is too long.

Israeli negotiator: We have heard rumours that they are unconscious

Terrorist: They are not just conscious, they are fine. We have not even slapped them.

The Israeli official even asked the terrorists for demands. They asked for the release of their friend, Kasab, who had just been nabbed by the Mumbai Police. Kasab giggled in court, when this portion of the tape was played out.

The Pakistani handlers were also monitoring the Indian media to guide their operation.

Pakistani handler: We want you to talk to the media. Tell them that we want to negotiate. We want to solve this problem. But don’t tell them how many hostages we have, or how many of us  are here.

Hostage: Ok

Pakistani handler: This will give you a chance to live.

Hostage: When will you release us?

Pakistani handler: As soon as they meet our demands

Hostage: Can I talk from my heart?

Paksitani handler: Ok. Tell me what you want to say

Hostage: (Do) Nothing that will make anybody lose. After all, we have already lost enough.

The conversations underline the role of Pakistani nationals in the 26/11 attacks, and are critical evidence in court.

Now, Army chief warns of 26/11-type attacks

Army chief Deepak Kapoor on Tuesday warned that 26/11-type Mumbai terror attacks were a possibility and that India has to take all steps to counter such strikes.

 

“We have to take all steps to prevent any Mumbai-type attacks. We cannot rule out apprehensions of such possibilities,” Kapoor told reporters here on the sidelines of an Army function.

To a question if there were any terror alerts in the recent times, he said the South Asian region is infested with terror groups. Be it India, Afghanistan or Pakistan, “we have to collectively battle such threats.”

Noting that Pakistan too had come under terror attacks in recent times, he said both Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram had asked us to be cautious against such threats.

To allegations from Pakistan Army that they have seized some Indian-made weapons from terrorists involved in recent attacks, the Army chief said India had no intention of causing trouble inside Pakistan and that it did not support any terror group in the region.
“We want Pakistan to be stable and peaceful,” he said.

On Monday, NDTV reported that India is on high-alert, with intelligence inputs that suggest an attack by sea, originating in Pakistan, is expected before the one-year anniversary of 26/11. Government sources confirmed that India would not hesitate to retaliate.

Over the weekend, Home Minister P Chidambaram warned Pakistan against sending terrorists into India. The home minister said, “I’ve been warning Pakistan every time, to not play with us again and to stop with the Mumbai game. I’m warning Pakistan for the last time. If Pakistan attempts to send terrorists into India again, India will not only foil those attempts but also give them a crushing response.

Tropical storm kills 23 in Vietnam

 

Tropical Storm Mirinae unleashed severe flooding in parts of central Vietnam, killing 23 people, leaving two missing and stranding families on rooftops, disaster officials said Tuesday.

Five more bodies have been recovered, bringing the death toll in the hardest-hit province of Phu Yen to 15 people after the storm hit Monday, drenching the region with heavy rains, said disaster official Dang Thi Lanh.

“Many villages remain cut off by rising waters and we expect the death toll to rise,” she said.

Several villages in neighboring Binh Dinh province suffered the worst flooding in four decades after the Ha Thanh River surged over its banks, said disaster official Nguyen Van Hoa. Five people were killed by falling trees or washed away by floods in Binh Dinh and two others were missing, Hoa said.

In Khanh Hoa province, south of Phu Yen, three people were killed, a disaster official there said refusing to give his name.

The military sent two helicopters to drop instant noodles to people in isolated villages and to rescue people who were still trapped on rooftops a day after the storm, which lost force as it moved inland.

“We have received many calls for help from people who are still stranded,” Hoa said by telephone.

Ho Quoc Dung, vice chairman of Binh Dinh provincial People’s Committee, said some 400 soldiers were mobilized to use speed boats to reach areas cut off by flooding and have ferried out more than 1,000 villagers.

Several thousand remain stranded, he said.

Mirinae hit the Philippines with typhoon strength over the weekend, killing 20 people before losing strength as it moved across the South China Sea toward Vietnam.

Both Vietnam and the Philippines were still recovering from Typhoon Ketsana, which brought the Philippine capital of Manila its worst flooding in 40 years when it struck in September. Ketsana killed 160 people in Vietnam.

In the Philippines, Ketsana and two later storms killed more than 900. Some 87,000 people who fled the storms were still living in temporary shelters when Mirinae struck.

In a separate incident in northern Vietnam on Monday, one woman drowned and five others were still missing after a whirlwind toppled two boats in the northern province of Quang Ninh, disaster official Le Thanh Nam said.

Sixteen other passengers managed to swim to safety after the boats sank, Nam said.

Now, classrooms in your pocket

BRITAIN_APPLE_IPHONE_

Technology comes to help: Students of IGNOU can look forward to download their study course contents and get SMS alerts through mobiles

 The Indira Gandhi National Open University will soon start using third generation mobile technology to impart education to students across the country.

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is exploring the advantages of the 3G (third generation) mobile services in delivering education to the nook and corner of the country.

On October 29, the university signed a MoU with Ericsson India Pvt. Ltd. (EIL), an Indian chapter of Swedish multinational firm Ericsson, to start application of the third generation mobile in education delivery.

Students of IGNOU will soon get 3G mobile services at nominal rates. It will be only Rs.20 or Rs.25 more than what they are paying for the normal admissions.

Explaining the advantages of the new project, Vice Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai told The Hindu EducationPlus that the country had recently launched the third generation mobile services.

“This MoU is aimed at the effective use of facilities supported by 3G mobile services in open and distance education. It is a state-of-the-art technology being used to connect the remote area learners,” he said.

Pointing out that the common SMS today is already used in the course management through SMS alert services, Prof. Pillai said that students will be supported with access to parts of the course web pages, downloading files like assignments and video clips with the introduction of the 3G services.

Stating that the 3G technology would reach out to the heterogeneous echelons of IGNOU student communities, K.R. Srivathsan, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university, who is spearheading the project, said that it is not the distance education alone, which will be the beneficiary of the 3G mobile services. “Even in the conventional university system, the students using the technology will have an edge over others,” he said.

Describing that the 3G technology creates wider scope for a learner, Prof. Srivathsan said that it is a small-screen mega performer which has a browser to scan, stream, build capacities of the users by getting materials at shortest possible application methods.

“The 3G technology helps a learner stream through video, audio and selective Internet browsing. Downloaded files may be played through laptop or personal computer. New notebooks will have built-in 3G chip sets with advanced e-learning services. This will allow consulting with academic counsellors, course coordinators, and peer-to-peer discussions,” he said.

Prof. Srivathsan said that a small laptop or a notebook with a built-in 3G chip can be a wonderful utility tool for the distance education teachers, particularly for areas where infrastructure and electricity are not available.

“The 3G technology ensures both web-mentoring and web-proctoring. Web-mentoring is studying through the 3G chip, consulting with counsellors and engaging in peer-to-peer discussions. The web-proctoring is more expert-driven. It means only the experts and researchers in the m-learning technologies can participate to effect better application modules. Web-proctoring will ensure not only the two-way audio and video interactive but also makes possible a delivery of classroom discussion or a seminar in a three-party module,” he said.

Giving an example of a student using sign language, Prof. Srivathsan said that the candidate could take his/her classes through the mobile screen of the 3G model of mobile telephony.

“His/her learning is more by watching the signs created by the interpreter. In this case a lecture is given at a place, the interpreter interpreting it through sign language is stationed at a different location and a speech and hearing impaired learner watching the signs of the interpreter from a different place. All activities at three points take place simultaneously. The 3G technology can make this possible,” he said.

Explaining the students profile at IGNOU, Prof. Pillai stressed the heterogeneity of the communities of IGNOU. “We are not like the conventional universities. Our students come from all types of communities of the country. They are disadvantaged BPL families, lower income groups, middle-class societies and also are highly articulate professionals like engineers, doctors, scientists, professors etc. We cater to all kinds of life of the country. Our 2.5 million student bases are powerful receptors of the 3G technology,” he said.

No financial burden

Dispelling doubts that the technology will be a financial burden for the student community, Prof. Pillai said that the university students earn and learn in most cases. “They can provide for the 3G mobile services for education. Even then, from this collaboration we will charge them hardly Rs.20 or Rs.25 for the 3G mobile services. But the real cost is likely to be from the TRAI and other services providers,” he said.

Elaborating on the agreement with IGNOU, Ericsson India president Gowton Achaibar said that Ericsson and IGNOU would create an eco-system for the 3G mobile technology applied in education. “India has about 20 per cent of the world’s population. If we create an ecosystem, delivery of education through the 3G Mobile will become a great success story,” he said.

According to the university estimates, the 3G technology has a niche area of functioning for the university.

The cost of the service will increasingly come down with enrolment figures going up. IGNOU will be at an advantage in this situation.

At present IGNOU disseminates education to over 8 million homes through the Edusat-mediate beams of DTH services.

The university is also implementing the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) aimed at reaching out to the un-reached in the rural areas across the country.

Prof. Pillai said that scientists at IGNOU constantly evaluate the latest ICTs to use it for education services. This MoU by the university is yet another niche area specialisation for developing domain knowledge, he said.

IMF sells 200MT gold to India

Mr Dominque strauss kahn

A file picture of Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has sold $6.7 billion worth of gold to boost its own cash reserves, the crisis-lender said on Monday, completing about half of a sale that was authorized in September.

The IMF said it sold 200 metric tons to India’s central bank over a two-week period from October 19-30. Its executive board has agreed to sell a total of 403.3 tons, or about one eighth of the IMF’s gold reserves.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the sale marked an “important step” in the lender’s effort to secure its finances and step up lending programmes for poorer countries.

The IMF said the sale was made at prevailing daily market prices.

The lender is looking toward other central banks to complete the remaining gold sale but has said it will consider selling the cache in the open market

Sleep disturbances decrease after retirement

 

 -HLTH-RETIREMEN

REIRED LIFE: The general improvement in sleep is likely to result from the removal of work-related demands and stress rather than from actual health benefits of retirement

 Retirement brings with it a sharp decrease in the prevalence of sleep disturbances, says a new study.

The findings of the study suggest that this general improvement in sleep is likely to result from the removal of work-related demands and stress rather than from actual health benefits of retirement.

According to the results, the odds of having disturbed sleep in the seven years after retirement were 26 percent lower (adjusted odds ratio of 0.74) than in the seven years before retiring. Sleep disturbance prevalence rates among 14,714 participants fell from 24.2 percent in the last year before retirement, to 17.8 percent in the first year after retiring. The greatest reduction in sleep disturbances was reported in participants with depression or mental fatigue prior to retirement. The postretirement improvement in sleep also was more pronounced in men, management-level workers, employees who reported high psychological job demands, and people who occasionally or consistently worked night shifts.

Lead author, Jussi Vahtera, Professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Turku in Finland, noted that the participants enjoyed employment benefits rarely seen today, including guaranteed job stability, a statutory retirement age between 55 and 60 years, and a company-paid pension that was 80 percent of their salary.

“We believe these findings are largely applicable in situations where financial incentives not to retire are relatively weak. In countries and positions where there is no proper pension level to guarantee financial security beyond working age, however, retirement may be followed by severe stress disturbing sleep even more than before retirement,” said Vahtera. Results also showed that there is a slowly increasing prevalence of sleep disturbances with increasing age, which can be observed both before and after retirement. The authors conclude that currently when people are expected to live many years beyond the traditional age of retirement, consideration should be given to the restructuring of working life to enable older workers to remain economically active without compromising their future health.

The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Sleep.