Taslima Nasreen denies writing for Kannada Newspaper

New Delhi: While Shimoga and Hassan towns in Karnataka remained tense for the second consecutive day over Taslima Nasreen’s article in a Kannada newspaper, the controversial writer has denied writing any article for the news daily.

“I have never written an article and Monday’s protest in Shimoga has really shocked me. The article was published to malign me”, said Taslima Nasreen.

At least three people were killed and several others injured during the clashes between police and protesters in Shimoga. Both Shimoga and Hasan witnessed large-scale violence, arson and protests. A dawn-to-dusk curfew was imposed in Shimoga.

The trouble began when an article against the burqa tradition was published in a Kannada newspaper named ‘Kannada Prabha’. The article was attributed to Taslima Nasreen, triggering protests in Shimoga and Hasan.

No political consensus on women’s quota bill

New Delhi: Opposition from three political parties may still derail the bill seeking to reserve 33 percent seats in parliament and state legislatures for women.

Though the union cabinet decided last Thursday it would introduce the bill, it does not have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, to get it passed. “The original idea of reservation for women came from former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) is emotionally attached to the issue. We want it to come as soon as possible but it is for the government to decide the timing,” added party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed.

The three parties — the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) — are demanding a quota for weaker sections within this one-third quota.

The SP and the RJD have threatened to withdraw support to the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) if the government forces the legislation in its present form through parliament. The JD-U has said the government should strive to build consensus on the issue.

The bill provides for reservation of seats for women for 15 years from the date of commencement of the act on rotational basis. The proposal for providing reservation to women in legislatures has been pending for over 13 years — since 1996 when it was first brought to parliament by the H.D. Deve Gowda government.

In its present form, the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008, has the backing of the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left.

For the bill to be passed, it has to be supported by two-thirds of those present and voting. This figure should also be at least 50 percent of the total number of MPs in the house.

The Congress, BJP and Left together have 348 MPs in the 545 member Lok Sabha — close to the two-thirds mark. In the Rajya Sabha, their number adds up to 138 against the two-thirds majority figure of 162.

The government is hoping for support from smaller parties while mustering the required numbers.

The bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2008 and was referred to the standing committee on law and justice that gave its report in December 2009.

President Pratibha Patil in her address to parliament Feb 22 had said the government was committed to the early passage of the bill.

According to the SP, the legislation in its present form will only facilitate entry of women from affluent and urban backgrounds in assemblies and parliament.

RJD MP Rajniti Prasad said the party wanted reservation for weaker sections within the 33 percent quota for women. “We will not agree to the bill in its present form. The party can also withdraw its support to the government on the issue.” he said.

JD-U spokesperson Javed Raza said the government should convene an all-party meeting on the bill and build consensus. “We will also raise the issue at meeting of National Democratic Alliance,” he said.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said his party had already declared its support for the bill and it was for the government to declare its intention.

He added the BJP was also open to alternative suggestions such as double-member constituencies.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia said his party had no problems. “They should bring the bill now.”

Thirteen killed, 33 injured in mishap in Rajasthan

Jaipur: Thirteen passengers, including six women and a child, were killed and 33 others injured today when a Rajasthan Roadways bus in which they were travelling collided head-on with a truck in Tonk district.

The injured have been hospitalised in Tonk and Kota hospitals where condition of 20 of them is stated to be critical, police said.

The mishap occurred near Deoli in the district, 162 km from Jaipur, in the afternoon when the bus was on its way from Kota to Jaipur.

Victims were rushed to a nearby hospital where eight persons were declared brought dead while five others succumbed to injuries.

King Saud University confers honrary doctorate on Manmohan

Riyadh : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was conferred an
honorary doctorate by King Saud University on Monday.
He was given the honorary degree at a function organised by
the University.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Singh called for better cooperation
between the two countries in the field of education.
He said the linkage between the two countries in terms of
cultural and educational exchanges was that to millennium but the
linkage had weakened and needed to be revived.

FIH reduces ban on Shivendra Singh to 2 Matches

New Delhi: According to latest reports, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has reduced the three-match ban imposed on Indian striker Shivendra Singh to two matches. The decision was taken by a three member panel of the FIH.

So, Shivendra will miss the crucial matches against Australia and Spain in the ongoing Hockey World Cup 2010, but will be available for the matches against England and South Africa. Shivendra was banned for three matches by tournament director, Ken Read for allegedly hitting a Pakistani player above the eye during Sunday’s match.

According to PTI reports, the Hockey India has expressed disappointment over the verdict. “We are not at all happy with the decision because the foul was not intentional. We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict but we don’t have any option now and he will have to sit out”, said Hockey India Secretary General Narinder Batra.
Shivendra Singh had scored the first goal for India against the high-voltage match against Pakistan at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium inNew Delhi. India went on to win the match 4-1.

JeM Militant involved in Kandahar Hijack, arrested in Dhaka

Dhaka (Agencies): Breaking News! Nannu Mian alias Belal Mandol alias Billal, one of the five terrorists involved in the hijacking of IC-814 flight to Kandahar in 1999, wasarrested in Dhaka. Four other militants were also arrested along with him.

Bilal is a Bangladeshi national and was jailed in Guwahati for 10 years. The elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh arrested Bilal and four other militants near the Dhaka College.

All arrested militants belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and they were involved in fueling militancy in India using the soil of Bangladesh. Some of them are said to be Pakistani nationals.

The militants were captured during a raid on a flat in the Sukanya Tower near the Dhaka College. Three passports issued in Pakistan, a knife, a CPU, four national Id cards, five mobile phone and Indian currency worth Rs 2,000 were seized from thearrested militants.

I am very disappointed with ban decision, says Shivendra

New Delhi: The ban on him has been reduced by a match but Indian forward Shivendra Singh today said even the lighter penalty amounts to “injustice” on him as he has been punished for no fault.

During India’s World Cup opener against Pakistan on Sunday, Shivendra’s stick hit rival player Fareed Ahmed who suffered a cut on his eye as a result.

Tournament Director Ken Read, while handing out the initial three-match suspension to Shivendra, said the act was “deliberate”.

The Indian player, who after the reduced ban will sit out of the matches against Australia and Spain, however, insisted that he had no intention to hurt the Pakistani player and it was just an accident.

“I am very disappointed with the decision. The penalty is injustice to me because I never committed the fault intentionally.

British delegation to meet Indian railway officials

Kolkata: British businessmen are looking for opportunities in the Indian railway sector, members of a delegation said . The delegates will meet railway board officials in New Delhi Wednesday.

“We are looking for our member companies to identify opportunities in India to bring in new efficiencies and technologies here,” Tim Gray, International Business Development director, Railway Industry Association, Britain said here.

He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Gray said the delegation is open to the formation of both joint ventures with Indian companies as well as product supply for railway parts.

The association is looking at micro sectors in railway manufacturing like track product, signalling, service and technology.

The association, comprising 160 companies, will also travel to Hyderabad.

Apart from India, the delegation is looking at similar opportunities in China and the Middle East, Gray said.

Obama and Clinton offer support to Tiger Woods

New York: US President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton have come out in support of Golfer Tiger Woods, who has been under fire from several quarters for his sex affairs with many women.

“President Obama made a personal call to offer encouragement. So did Bill Clinton, whose experience might be particularly instructive”, reported the Golf Digest magazine. Both leaders

The Golf Digest also confirmed that Tiger Woods visited the Gentle Path clinic in Mississippi for sex rehab.

After tendering a public televised apology on February 19, Tiger Woods spent a week with his wife Elin Nordegren and two children at Scottsdale, Arizona. Later, Elin returned to her Florida home.

Russia says its stealth jet ready for use in 2015

T-50

A new Russian T-50 fighter lands at an airfield of the Sukhoi aircraft manufacturing plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Russia’s fifth-generation stealth jet fighter will be ready for use in 2015, its designer said on Monday, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pressed the aviation industry to design a new strategic bomber.

Moscow is scrambling to update its ageing fleet of military aircraft. It test-flew a long-awaited stealth fighter at the end of January, presenting it as Moscow’s first all-new warplane since the 1991 Soviet collapse and a challenge to the technological supremacy of its Cold War foe the United States.

Asked to compare his brainchild to the US F-22 Raptor, built more than a decade ago, the Russian jet’s chief designer Alexander Davydenko told reporters: “The basic features are the same but we tried to do it better.”

He said Sukhoi, which produced the T-50 prototype of the jet, had simulated duels with the US stealth fighter.

“I think we will have a competitive price. As for the efficiency-and-cost ratio, we will be much better,” Davydenko said.

The first MiG-29 and Su-27 prototypes of the previous fourth generation took to the air in 1977. Analysts say several nations, including Libya and Vietnam, had expressed interest in the fifth-generation fighter.

Putin, who toured Sukhoi’s design bureau in Moscow on Monday, said Russia still had much work to do before it starts producing the plane.

“Before this machine can go into serial production, there are over 2,000 test flights left. There is still a lot of work ahead,” he told a government meeting on the aviation industry.

Bomber says he lured CIA operatives with misleading intel

An al-Qaeda suicide bomber who killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan has claimed that he lured American and Jordanian intelligence officers into a trap by offering them doctored information about terrorist targets as well as videotapes of senior leaders of his group.

In a posthumous video message posted on an extremist website, Jordanian physician and double agent Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi claimed that he intended to kidnap only a single Jordanian intelligence officer, but then stumbled on an unexpected opportunity to attack a large group of Americans and their Jordanian allies at once.

“It wasn’t planned this way,” Balawi says in a 44-minute undated videotape released on Sunday by as-Sahab, the media arm of al-Qaeda.

He attributes the change to “the stupidity of Jordanian intelligence and the stupidity of American intelligence” services that invited him to Afghanistan to help set up a strike against al-Qaeda targets.

The video was apparently filmed shortly before the 32-year-old al-Balawi blew himself up at a CIA facility on December 30 in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost where he’d been invited to reveal information on al-Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri. The attack killed nine people, including seven Americans. It was the deadliest attack on the US intelligence agency’s staff in a quarter-century.

Pak won’t accept preconditions to resume talks with India: Spokesman

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry has said that while it is ready to resume a composite dialogue with India, it won’t accept any preconditions set by New Delhi for the process.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said in an interview to a private TV channel that Islamabad could also set a number of preconditions for starting the dialogue, but “it believes in settlement of bilateral issues with India through a positive negotiation process”.

“The ball is in India’s court. We are ready for a proper process of composite dialogue,” the ‘Daily Times’ quoted Basit, as saying. He added that Pakistan shared India’s desire to resume dialogue.

Basit said that resuming a dialogue was not only in the interest of India and Pakistan, but also in the interest of South Asia. Islamabad and New Delhi should cooperate to resolve the terrorism issue, he added.

Tsunami sweeps away entire town on Chilean coast

When the shaking stopped, Marioli Gatica and her extended family huddled in a circle on the floor of their seaside wooden home in this gritty port town, listening to the radio by a lantern’s light.

Chile quake

A boat lies marooned on a street in Talcahuano, Chile.

They heard firefighters urging Talcahuano’s citizens to stay calm and stay inside. They heard nothing of a tsunami – until it slammed into their house with an unearthly roar about an hour after Saturday’s magnitude 8.8 quake.

Gatica’s house exploded with water. She and her family were swept below the surface, swirling amid loose ship containers and other massive debris that smashed buildings into oblivion all around them.

“We were sitting there one moment and the next I looked up into the water and saw cables and furniture floating,” Gatica said.

She clung to her 11-year-old daughter, Ninoska Elgueta, but the rush of water ripped the girl from her hands. Then the wave retreated as suddenly as it came.

Two of the giant containers crushed Gatica’s home. A third landed seaward of where she floated, preventing the retreating tsunami from dragging her and other relatives away.

Soon Ninoska was back in her mother’s arms – she had grabbed a tree branch to avoid being swept away and climbed down as soon as the sea receded.

Gatica’s son, husband and 76-year-old father were OK as well, as were her sister and her family. The only relative missing was her 76-year-old mother, Nery Valdebenito, Gatica said as she waited in a hundreds-long line outside a school to report her losses.

Fresh attack on Indian, Sri Lankan in Oz

In a fresh incident of violence against Asians in Australia, a Sri Lankan man and his Indian wife were attacked and racially abused by a group of drunken men at their home in Melbourne.

A group of 25 drunken thugs bashed up 60-year-old Ranjit Sahasranaman, who is married to Indian-origin Agalya Sahasranamn, outside his own home in Carrams Down suburb on Sunday morning.

Sahasranaman, a Sri Lankan national, revealed his over two-and-a-half hour ordeal of how he fought back with the thugs till police arrived and dispersed them, the Herald Sun reported on Tuesday.

Sahasranaman, who has lived in Australia for 19 years with his wife and two kids, said he was assaulted and racially abused by the gang of mostly white men who damaged his back fence and gained entry to his yard.

He said he was forced to fight back with a bar when the intruders got within centimetres of his back door.

Interestingly, this time the police dropped home one of the injured offender who allegedly got hurt by Sahasranaman.

“They were throwing punches at me,” Sahasranaman said, adding “they were calling names and told me to get lost from this country.”

The attack came at a time when Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith is in India to discuss with authorities there the security preparation for the Commonwealth Games and the issue of attacks on Indians here.

There have been over 100 cases of attacks on Indians, mostly on students, in Australia since the last year.

Meanwhile, Sahasranaman also alleged that police was slow to respond to his ‘SOS’.

PM rules out rollback of fuel price hike

Manmohan singh

Manmohan Singh said: ‘Any increase in fuel prices does hurt some people, but we have to take a long-term view.’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ruled out rolling back a price hike in fuel prices despite pressure from his main allies, saying populist policies would hurt the economy in the long-term.

Petrol prices rose about 6 per cent and diesel prices by 7.75 per cent after the government increased factory-gate taxes and import duties on the fuels as part of last week’s 2010/11 federal budget, which stressed fiscal prudence to cut a wide deficit.

But with food prices rising at an annual rate of nearly 20 per cent, UPA allies Trinamool Congress and the DMK party, have said higher fuel prices will further hurt the poor.

“Any increase in prices does hurt some people, but we have to take a long-term view,” Singh told reporters on his way back to India from a visit to Saudi Arabia.

The government sets retail prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene to help control inflation and protect consumers, particularly the poor, from sharp fluctuations in energy prices.

But it is now considering abandoning control of fuel prices, which require huge state subsidies, in order to cut the fiscal deficit to an estimated 5.5 per cent of GDP in 2010/11 from 6.9 per cent.

The economy, which is forecast to grow at 7.2 per cent in the year to March 2011, has the capacity to absorb the increase in fuel prices without putting much additional pressure on inflation, the PM said on Monday.

“The increase in fuel prices, the direct effect on Wholesale Price Index will be no more than 0.40 per cent,” he said.

NASA radar on Chandrayaan-I detects ice deposits on moon

Scientists have detected more than 40 ice-filled craters in the moon’s North Pole using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-I.

NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 2 to 15 km in diameter.

The finding would give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit, a NASA statement said, adding it is estimated that there could be at least 600 million metric tons of water ice in the craters.

“The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon,” Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, said yesterday.

The new discoveries show that the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than previously thought, he said.

Aboard Chandrayaan-I, the Mini-SAR mapped the moon’s permanently-shadowed polar craters that are not visible from the earth. The radar uses the polarisation properties of reflected radio waves to characterise surface properties. According to the findings which are being published in the latest issue of the Geophysical Research Letters journal, results from the mapping showed deposits having radar characteristics similar to ice.

“After analysing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit,” Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, said.

Shivendra’s ban reduced to 2 matches, HI not happy

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Tuesday reduced the three-match ban on Indian forward Shivendra Singh, for “deliberately” hitting a Pakistani player during his team’s World Cup opener in New Delhi, to two.

The verdict of the FIH jury means that Shivendra, who scored a goal against Pakistan on Sunday, will miss tonight’s crucial game against Australia and the one against Spain scheduled for Thursday.

“We have just been told about the FIH’s decision that his ban has been reduced to two matches,” Hockey India Secretary General Narinder Batra said.

“We are not at all happy with the decision because the foul was not intentional. We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict but we don’t have any option now and he will have to sit out,” he added.

Tournament Director Ken Read had stated that Shivendra “deliberately” hit Fareed Ahmed by lifting his stick in the 39th minute of the match which the hosts won 4-1, leaving the Pakistani player with a small cut above the eye.

The Pakistan team management did not make any complaint but Read concluded that Shivendra breached the FIH’s Code of Conduct and was guilty of a level 2 offence – physical assault without serious injury.

“The action of lifting the stick was deliberate. A four-match suspension is appropriate but given the (good) history of Shivendra, I consider three-match suspension appropriate,” Read said.

Shivendra had argued that he had no intention to hit the Pakistani player after the jabbing and just wanted to run faster.

‘Withdrawals unlikely after IPL’s new security promises’

It warned of mass withdrawals from the Indian Premier League but the Federation of International Cricketers Association now says such a scenario is unlikely to arise as IPL organisers have given fresh commitments on the security of players. After the al-Qaeda threat against the event was deemed “not credible” by various security experts, FICA chief Tim May said IPL’s new promises would “certainly improve confidence in security”.

“This is a significant step forward. The more information you provide the players with, the greater the likelihood that they will attend the event,” May said.

After refusing to deal with players’ bodies all along, IPL commissioner Lalit Modi said he was ecstatic that “everybody is on the same page about the security arrangements”.

“This is very good news for us – I don’t think there will be any withdrawals at all. Already a lot of the players are on planes on their way to India and will arrive in the next few days,” he said.

Modi, who had earlier claimed that heavens won’t fall if foreign players refuse to come for the IPL, said security was paramount.

“Security is very important to us. We have not had to change our plans, I think it is more a case of the players now understanding them. I think they are more comfortable with the plans being implemented,” he said.

Meanwhile, May said after struggling to get information of security plans from the IPL in the past few weeks, some details are finally trickling in. “We have a significant amount of information we did not 0have previously, which will assist players making far more informed decisions about whether to go or not,” he said.

Aus to brief India on actions taken against racist attacks

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has arrived in India for a three day visit to brief the Indian Government on the actions taken by authorities to create a safe and rewarding study environment for Indian students in Australia.

“This is my third visit to India as Minister for Foreign Affairs. My visit to India will advance Australia and India’s bilateral, regional and international cooperation under the framework of the Australia-India Strategic Partnership,” Smith said in a statement.

“During my visit to India, I will also brief the Indian Government on the actions taken by authorities to create a safe and rewarding study environment for Indian students in Australia,” he added.

Smith will meet with Minister for External Affairs S M Krishna to discuss Australia’s and India’s close cooperation in trying to solve the recent problems faced by some Indians in Australia.

The Australian Foreign Minister will also discuss Australia-India education, science and technology links and the importance of trade and agriculture for two countries, as well as discuss the progress in the joint Australia-India Free Trade Agreement feasibility study.

“I will brief the Indian Government on Australia’s recently announced Counter-Terrorism White Paper. I will also seek an update on security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year,” Smith said.

12-year-old girl warned Chilean islanders of tidal waves

Santiago:  A 12-year-old girl saved the lives of many inhabitants on the Chilean archipelago with her timely warning about the tidal waves that were to devastate the islands after last weekend’s earthquake.

The Santiago daily La Tercera reported Monday that Martina Maturana heard about the magnitude-8.8 temblor from her grandfather, a resident of the mainland port city of Valparaiso, and ran to the central square of Robinson Crusoe Island to sound the gong that is used to alert people in such emergencies.

The gong woke a number of islanders, who also began to ring bells and flee to the highest points on the island, minutes before a giant tidal wave destroyed a large part of the territory. In that area, eight fatalities have been confirmed and 13 people were missing.

Martina, daughter of a policemen stationed on Robinson Crusoe Island, perceived the earthquake as a slight temblor and told her father about it, who in turn called Valparaiso to find out how the family was doing.

Hearing the magnitude of the quake, the girl looked through the window and saw that the boats anchored in the bay were lurching around on the water and crashing into each other. She then ran to the town square and sounded the alarm.

The governor of Valparaiso province, Ricardo Bravo, went Sunday to the archipelago, where he said “nothing was left”.

He said that the waves crashed some 300 metres inland and wiped out the dwellings of 200 local residents, who sought shelter in nearby homes.

More than 700 people died in last Saturday’s earthquake and some two million have been affected by the disaster.