Rosaiah’s Sankranti gift: VAT goes up

When everybody in the state is happily celebrating Sankranti festival, the Rosaiah government completely spoiled their festival mood on Wednesday night.

The government silently issued an order increasing the value added tax on most of the goods from 12.5 per cent to 14.5 per cent. This is expected to fetch nearly Rs 400 crore to the state exchequer.

The government had already increased APSRTC bus fares to a large extent and is now working out increase in power tariff. Similarly, it is planning to hike the excise duty on liquor. So, far more tough days are ahead for the people of the state. Be prepared for the worst!

Jr NTR-Kavitha deal for 1.5 cr?

Rumours are agog in the political circles that Jr NTR has struck a deal with Telangana Jagriti president Kavitha to ensure smooth running of the film Adhurs, which was released in all parts of the state, including Telangana, on Wednesday.

Grapevine has it that Jr NTR had offered an amount of Rs 1.5 crore to Kavitha to withdraw her call given to the Telangana activists to stall the movie in Hyderabad and nine other districts. Though Kavitha reportedly demanded Rs 4 crore for the same, Jr NTR managed to convince her to settle with Rs 1.5 crore, since the producers were not aware of the profit the film could make. For Jr NTR, the film is a prestigious one as it was released after a long gap of nearly one year.

However, Kavitha told Jr NTR that the boycott call would be in force for a day or two, since the sudden withdrawal of the call would get her a bad image. “The boycott call would also bring a lot of publicity to the film and would be in the news. That way, it would offset the loss caused in the first two or three days,” she is learnt to have told him.

No harm to Andhra settlers: T-JAC

The Joint Action Committee of Telangana political leaders on Wednesday gave a firm assurance to the settlers from Andhra and Rayalaseema that there would be no harm to the properties and lives of Andhra settlers in Hyderabad and rest of Telangana.

The steering committee of the JAC which met here made this statement in the wake of the strong reaction from some parties over TRS party’s call to stall the screening of Telugu film “Adhurs” starring Junior NTR. Apparently, the TRS leaders came under pressure from the other political parties not to resort to such steps that evoked wild protests from all sections of the people.

The JAC discussed the issue that there were still 22 MLAs who had not submitted their resignations to their assembly seats in Telangana. “We will meet all of them, including those from the MIM and request their cooperation to the movement by resigning from their seats,” JAC convenor M Kodandaram said.

Facebook teams with McAfee to tighten security

SAN FRANCISCO- Facebook has announced an alliance with Internet security specialty firm McAfee to get members of the world’s leading online social network to better defend their computers.

Facebook users whose accounts are breached by malicious software or other cyberattacks will need to have their computers cleansed by McAfee before returning to life in the online community.

Facebook members are also being offered free six-month subscriptions to McAfee security software and then discounted prices for continued service.

“If we get people’s machines this protection, it is better for them, for Facebook, and the Internet as a whole,” Facebook director of communications and public policy Barry Schnitt said Tuesday.

Previously, Facebook simply reset passwords of members whose accounts were vexed by hacking, phishing, or other cyber-mischief and advised members to have “malware” purged from their computers.

“We found that they wouldn’t fix the problems and got infected again,” Schnitt said.

“Now, we’ve integrated a solution where they actually have to get machines scanned and cleaned.”

McAfee and Facebook have collaborated on a free tool for cleaning up infected computers and Facebook said it will not share in any revenue that McAfee makes from security software or services.

“The common goal is to help protect users of the Internet globally,” said McAfee vice president of marketing Brent Remai. “We are pretty excited about this partnership.”

Facebook selected McAfee after a competitive review process.

McAfee Internet Security Suite software is available to Facebook users in Australia, Britain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. It will be spread to more countries in coming months.

Facebook and McAfee cited research indicating that 78 percent of computer users do not have updated virus and spyware protections on machines.

“By partnering with the market leader McAfee, we are taking an unprecedented step towards making the entire Internet more secure and reducing the possibility of threats being brought onto our service by unsuspecting users,” said Facebook vice president of global communications Elliot Schrage.

“Keeping the Internet secure requires that users, security vendors and Internet companies all work together.”

‘Facebook fugitive’ recaptured by British police

LONDON- A criminal who taunted police via Facebook while on the run from prison in Britain has been recaptured, four months after his break-out, police said Wednesday.

Craig “Lazie” Lynch, 28, became a cult figure thanks to his defiant status updates on the Internet social networking site.

Dubbed the “Facebook fugitive” by media, Lynch — whose profile picture showed him raising his middle finger to the camera — notched up tens of thousands of “friends” from around the world.

There was also a separate Facebook page, “Where is Craig ‘Lazie’ Lynch?”, calling for information which could lead to his capture.

Lynch was serving a seven-year term for aggravated burglary when he escaped prison in Suffolk, eastern England, in September.

But he could now have his spell behind bars extended after being charged with escaping from lawful custody.

Lynch, who was recaptured in Kent, southeast of London, on Tuesday night, is due to appear in court later Wednesday.

A spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed Lynch had been recaptured but could not say whether information posted on Facebook had helped officers locate him.

UN Haiti peacekeeper chief believed dead in quake

PARIS – The Tunisian head of UN peacekeepers in Haiti and “all those around him” are believed dead after their headquarters collapsed in the huge earthquake there, France’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

“The building of the UN peace mission… collapsed and it would appear that all those who were in the building, including my friend Hedi Annabi and that all those who were with
him and around him are dead,” Bernard Kouchner said.

Annabi is the head of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Lives of the Flight 1549 passengers, crew altered, for the better, following Miracle on the Hudson

Passengers Andrew Gray and Stephanie King reunite after the Miracle on the Hudson landing.

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Passengers Andrew Gray and Stephanie King reunite after the Miracle on the Hudson landing.

Passengers exit downed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009.
Passengers exit downed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009.
Some found God. Two found love. Most found a second family.

In the year since they walked off Flight 1549 with a new lease on life, most of the 151 people aboard have concluded the traumatic ordeal was actually a blessing.

“I believe that 1549 was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” said Brad Wentzell of Charlotte, N.C., who helped a mother and baby off the plane and dragged a drowning man from the frigid Hudson.

“I don’t worry about stuff anymore. There were a lot of things that I used to beat myself up about, things that I couldn’t get out of my brain. After what happened, I was able to forgive myself and move on. I actually sleep better now.

“Sometimes a nice plane crash is exactly what the doctor ordered,” Wentzell said.

The passengers and crew about the US Airways jet spent two minutes certain they were going to die as their plane, disabled by a flock of geese, lost altitude as it tried to take off over New York City Jan 15, 2009.

Instead, cucumber-cool pilot Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger glided them down to a textbook splashdown onto the icy river.

Mark Hood, a medical equipment salesman from Charlotte, said staring down death – and having death blink – has been “a rebirth.”

“I view the world differently now. When I came out of the door of that plane and took that first breath of cold, clear air, it was a new beginning. The touch of my wife, hugging my kids – all new,” he said.

Hood, already a man of strong faith, has become more openly religious – and more open in general, he said.

“I’ve always been a very closed person emotionally,” said Hood, 49, a Marine veteran of Operation Desert Storm who now regularly speaks to church groups about what happened. “The nice part of the experience is I was able to open up.”

Two groups of passengers collaborated on books, though no one is getting rich. The real payoff, they say, is the strong bonds that have formed among the travelers who took a five-minute flight from LaGuardia to the river.

Denise Lockie, the exec who was in seat 2C next to Hood, has become a friend: She spent Thanksgiving with his family.

Gifts every day

And in what may be one of the all time best “meet cute” stories, software developer Ben Bostic, 39, and department store manager Laura Zych, 31 – who didn’t meet the day of the crash – fell in love six months later when they were introduced at a reunion in Charlotte.

“Life gives you gifts every single day if you look for them,” Bostic said he learned.

Wentzell, 32, now calls his 63-year-old crash buddy and fellow Boston transplant Carl Bazarian “Uncle Carl.” They saved people together and flew home to Charlotte together hours after the mishap. Since then, they’ve done joint TV interviews, shared dinners, become authors and gotten a private tour of Fenway Park, courtesy of the Red Sox.