Google to digitise ancient Italian books

The Italian government has signed a deal with Google to put the contents of two national libraries on the internet.

Up to one million antiquarian books – including works by Dante, Machiavelli and Galileo – will be scanned and made available free on Google Books.

There is no copyright issue as all the works were published before 1868.

The Italian authorities welcomed the scheme as budget pressures have cut the amount that can be spent on preserving the collections in Rome and Florence.

Mario Resca of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage said the deal would help save the books’ content forever, noting that the 1966 Florence flood ruined thousands of books in the city’s library.

Previous attempts by Google to scan books have run into legal troubles in the US and France.

A French court ruled that Google had committed copyright violation to the detriment of three publishers by scanning entire books or excerpts and putting them online. Google is appealing the ruling.

And Google had to settle a 2005 class action lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers, which also charged the company with copyright infringement.

Japan opens 98th national airport in Ibaraki

apan’s 98th airport has begun operations – offering just one flight a day.


Japan’s 98th airport has begun

Ibaraki airport cost 22bn Yen ($220m, £147m) to build and is being seen in Japan as a prime example of wasteful public expenditure.

It is located 80km (50 miles) and a long bus ride north of Tokyo.

The airport was conceived as a hub for budget carriers but the check-in counters were almost deserted as operations began.

There is just one plane a day, to South Korea. Another flight, to the Japanese city of Kobe, will begin next month.

The airport has become a symbol of decades of public spending to prop up the economy that has left Japan studded with bridges to nowhere and unneeded dams.

The new centre-left government, which came to power last year, has criticised the links between previous conservative administrations and the construction industry, and vowed to cut waste.

International travellers tired of long queues and crowded departure lounges should perhaps consider flying to Ibaraki.

But Ibaraki itself has little to commend it to Korean tourists who might be thinking of catching the single daily flight from Seoul.

Apart from one well-known Japanese garden the prefecture’s main claim to fame is the locals’ skill in making natto, a fermented soy bean dish that many consider an acquired taste.

Chile’s new leader Sebastian Pinera to be sworn in

Chilean tycoon Sebastian Pinera is due to be sworn in as president of the country, which was recently devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Sebastian Pinera in Santiago, March 2010

Mr Pinera not only faces the challenge of reconstruction, but takes over from a highly popular outgoing leader.

Michelle Bachelet leaves office with a record 84% popularity rating despite criticism of the government’s slow reaction to last month’s disaster.

Meanwhile, Chile’s disaster management chief has resigned over the response.

Carmen Fernandez is the second Chilean official to leave her post in the aftermath of the 27 February quake and ensuing tsunami that killed close to 500 people.

On Friday, Ms Bachelet dismissed the head of the navy’s oceanography service for failing to provide a clear warning of the tsunami.

Thousands homeless

The inauguration ceremony in the port city of Valparaiso is set to be an austere affair. The planned dinner has been cancelled and the whole event scaled back out of respect for victims of the quake.

Ms Bachelet, Chile’s first woman president, was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

She will hand the red, white and blue presidential sash to Mr Pinera, whose presidential win ended 20 years of centre-left rule in Chile.

Seldom can an incoming president have faced such a massive and immediate challenge, says the BBC’s Gideon Long in Santiago.

Thousands of people have been made homeless by the quake, and around half a million homes destroyed.

“We won’t be the government of the earthquake, we’ll be the government of reconstruction,” the 60-year-old billionaire said recently.

Last month, the conservative leader named his cabinet, leaving out any figures linked with the former military ruler, Augusto Pinochet.

In his election campaign, Mr Pinera said he would focus on boosting economic growth and producing jobs while continuing with the outgoing president’s social policies.

Mr Pinera is one of the country’s richest men. He made his fortune introducing credit cards to Chile, then went on to buy a television channel, a stake in Chile’s most successful football club, and put millions of dollars into other investments.

Waqar Younis Shocked With PCB’s Decision

The ban imposed by PCB on several leading national players has shocked new coach Waqar Younis. PCB’s decision has not only suspended skipper Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf for life-time but has also laid hefty fines on many others.

Waqar, who is due to take in charge of Pakistan coach later this month, said he was unaware of the punishment handed out to the players.

Waqar said,”This is a shocking and surprising development. I need time to get more details. Waqar is currently in Sydney but is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan within the next few days.

Waqar came as a replacement for Intikhab Alam as Pakistan’s coach after the team’s disappointing Australia tour.

Former Pakistani Cricketers Criticize PCB’s Action

Former cricketers on Wednesday slammed the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for its “harsh” action against several leading players and alleged it was only trying to “save itself”.

The PCB banned former captains Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf for life on Wednesday and took stern action against five more national cricketers for affecting the team’s performance.

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif claimed the PCB will be unable to implement the bans because the players will go to court and will also win.

“These bans will not stay for long and the players will win cases in court,” Latif was quoted saying.

“I don’t understand why the board didn’t take action earlier when there were so many problems in the team.”

“I feel the board is trying to save itself by taking these decisions,” he said adding that the life bans on Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan are unjustified. Inzamam-ul-Haq, another former Pakistan captain, also threw his weight behind the national cricketers and advised them to go to court and challenge the decision.

“Players should go to court against the ban,” said Inzamam. “Only players are not responsible for the performance, PCB is also responsible.”Ramiz Raja, also a former Test captain, also criticised the PCB action.”Life-time bans on players are harsh,” said Ramiz.

Sonia Gandhi Meets Railway Minister On Women’s Bill

Ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi met Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday and sought an assurance that her Trinamool Congress will vote for the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, Congress sources said.

“The meeting was cordial and the outcome was positive,” said a senior Congress leader, who was present at the meeting. Sonia Gandhi had expressed surprise at Banerjee’s last-minute objections to the bill. The Congress president said she had been told by a minister who sat next to Banerjee at the last cabinet meeting that she was very “enthusiastic” about the bill.

The Trinamool Congress, with 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and two in the Rajya Sabha, is the largest ally of the UPA government. The party’s stand could be crucial in ensuring that the bill sails through the Lok Sabha, which is the next hurdle for the legislation to become a law. The Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday. The bill, which seeks to set aside for women 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 of the 4,109 seats in the 28 state assemblies, is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha next week.

It is being opposed by parties that mainly have their support base in the Hindi heartland of northern India, but enjoys majority support from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties.

United AP in the interest of Rayalaseema: Reddy

Keeping Andhra Pradesh united is in the interest of Rayalaseema and the region should be clubbed with Telangana if a split becomes inevitable, senior Congress MLA J C Diwakar Reddy said today.

“Rayalaseema would be worst affected if the state is split. If division is inevitable, we (Rayalaseema) should be with Telangana. We are not going to benefit in any way if we are with coastal Andhra,” he said at a meeting of legislators from Rayalaseema.

Reddy felt that Rayalaseema will have to be dependent on Telangana for procuring water which may create trouble for the region in case of division.

Reddy, a former minister and a senior MLA in the ruling Congress, stressed the need to impress the Sri Krishna committee about keeping Andhra Pradesh united.

The meeting was attended mainly by legislators from ruling Congress and Praja Rajyam.

“3 Idiots” took a critical look in education system

Bollywood star Aamir Khan, whose recent release “3 Idiots” took a critical look at India’s education system, says that he gets inspired by stories of real-life heroes who go beyond their limitations to bring change in one’s life and in society.

“When I see real heroes and listen to their stories, it really inspires me. I think we have, in different degrees, strengths and abilities,” said Aamir presenting an award at a function.

“When we use our abilities and strengths to better our lives, that’s normal but when you use your strength and abilities to help others, you become a real hero,” he added.

Irfana Ismail Mujawar, who was honoured in the Education and Children Category, is a teacher by profession. Irfana along her colleague Gazala, used the money set aside for her wedding and started a school that provides free education to those who cannot afford it.

“It was really a long struggle. I started with 34 non-privileged students and now around 350 students are there in my school,” Irfana told.

Twenty-four real-life heroes from across six regions of the country were shortlisted and their work classified into categories such as Women’s Welfare, Social Welfare, Health and Disability, Youth Education and Children and Sports.

Ace cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was present on the occasion and received a standing ovation before he gave away the award in the Sports category.

“Real heroes are not ordinary people, they are extraordinary people. They haven’t got anything, but they still have the courage to go through all the obstacles, find the solutions and they are selfless. They don’t have any expectations. All they want is to see smiles on the faces of people around. We should get inspired from them,” Tendulkar said.

Merzaban Patel, who was presented the award in the sports category, is on a mission to hunt for the best hockey talent in the country.

“I am extremely happy to get this award. I would appeal to everyone that they should do something to promote hockey,” Merzaban told.

Among those who attended the function were actors Sunil Shetty and Rahul Bose, producer-director Yash Chopra, businessman Mukesh Ambani and the entire Mumbai Indians IPL team.

Mukesh Ambani fourth richest man in the world

Oil magnate Mukesh Ambani and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal made it to the top 10 on the 2010 Forbes list of world’s billionaires.

Ambani ranked fourth with $29 billion and Mittal ranked fifth with $28.7 billion on the Forbes list of billionaires.

The biggest loser in the world this year was Mukesh Ambani’s younger brother Anil Ambani, who lost $32 billion – 76 percent of his fortune – as shares of his Reliance Communications, Reliance Power and Reliance Capital all collapsed, Forbes said on its website. He was last year’s biggest gainer.

Ambani is one of 24 Indian billionaires, all but one of whom are poorer than a year ago. Another 29 Indians lost their billionaire status entirely as India’s stock market tumbled 44 percent in the past year and the Indian rupee depreciated 18 percent against the dollar, Forbes said.

India is no longer the top spot in Asia for billionaires, ceding that title to China, which has 28.

Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helu topped the list, with $53.5 billion, $500 million ahead of long-time list topper Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who ranked second. Legendary investor Warren Buffet was third with $47 billion.

Pall of gloom in OU – HYDERABAD

A few minutes before he ended his life, chemical engineering student Saikumar sent an SMS to his relative Naresh Yadav conveying his decision to end his life for the cause of Telangana.

Naresh Yadav, a civil engineering student of Osmania University, was in the class and his mobile was in silent mode when the SMS landed.
By the time he saw the message, it was too late.

Saikumar’s suicide note also reportedly contained the same message.
“Naresh Yadav was close to Saikumar. Last night, Saikumar slept in Yadav’s room after they returned from an outing,’’ Saikumar’s grief-stricken classmates, sitting in a corner of the Gandhi hospital, told Expresso. “Saikumar was self-dependent and used to give tuitions at the HMT Colony,” recalled his hostel mate K Hareesh.

Saikumar was also popular among his seniors and they too are yet to come to terms that their junior is no more.

“I saw him just a few minutes before his death. I was attending a lecture, and suddenly there was commotion in the corridor outside our class. I could not immediately make out what was happening. Later, on enquiring with a student, we came to know that Saikumar committed suicide. I can still recall his pleasant smile,” G Narasimha, a B.Tech (Chemical) final year student, said.

Immediately after the suicide, some students went to meet Vice- Chancellor T Tirupathi Rao. As he was not available, the agitating students approached Registrar YC Venudhar and picked up a heated argument.
Meanwhile, Saikumar’s father, M Lingayya, and other family members started off for Hyderabad from Nalgonda district soon after hearing the shocking news. It is, however, learnt that they were stopped by the police at Narketpally.

Sources said they were `counselled’ by the police to take the body directly to Kodada and not give in to the pressure of students to shift the body to OU.

Airport scanners violate rights: UN official

A senior official in the United Nations has warned that the growing use of full body scanners at airports breaches individual rights.

Martin Scheinin, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur, said the scanners are more of a political response to terrorist attacks than a carefully designed security measure.

He added that the technology which intrudes excessively into individual privacy is also ineffective in preventing terrorism.

Not only are they “ineffective in detecting a genuine terrorist threat” but they also create “a false feeling of security and allow the real terrorists to adapt their tactics to the technology in use.”

Scheinin also told journalists that although the scanners violate human rights generally, there are “particular sensitivities in respect of women, certain religions and certain cultural backgrounds.”

The top official, who has been in charge of monitoring the impact of anti-terror measures on individual freedoms for the last five years, suggested that other existing detection technologies which do not harm privacy should be used instead.

Scheinin’s comments come just days after the US Transportation Security Administration announced that eleven more airports will begin using the technology soon.

The full-body scanners, otherwise known as the “virtual strip searching,” see through clothing to produce images of the whole body.

The plan to use the device at airports was introduced after the failed Christmas Day bombing of a US-bound airliner by a young Nigerian man.

Ram dev baba Political ambition ?

The other day, yoga guru Baba Ramdev held interactive sessions with the judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and policemen of the 82nd battalion of the Punjab Armed Police ( PAP).

While making his intentions of taking a political leap clear, Baba Ramdev told the audience that he was keeping the name of the political party under wraps. “ You will get to know about it at the right time,” he said.

During the sessions, Ramdev stressed that he intended to make the nation healthy — free of illness and corruption.

He urged the judges and policemen to carry out their duties honestly. The function at the high court was organised by the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association while Kunwar Vijay Pratap, commandant, 82nd battalion, took the initiative for the policemen’s interactive session with the yoga guru. Kunwar — credited with jail reforms in Punjab and busting a kidney racket a few years ago — says he wants his men to stay healthy and fit.

Baba sleeze taken to court

Even as the sleaze case against Paramahamsa Nithyananda awaits the Tamil Nadu police chief’s nod to be transferred to Karnataka, a petition was filed before the high court of Karnataka seeking restraint order on television channels from airing the raunchy clippings.

Sources in the Tamil Nadu police said the case would be transferred to Karnataka only if director general of police Letika Saran rejoined duty on Wednesday. She had gone to visit her native state, Kerala.

Chennai police commissioner T Rajendran had on Monday said that the case, registered based on a complaint by former Nithyananda devotee Karuppa Lenin, would be transferred to Karnataka, as all offences alleged in the petition happened at Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam in Bidadi.

Lenin had accused Nithyananda of “misbehaving” with “beautiful” women and “forcing” them into performing sexual acts with him.
Meanwhile, in Karnataka, advocate and former president of the advocates’ association KN Subba Reddy, in his petition filed before the high court, named the chief secretary, police commissioner and the association of Broadcasting Company Private Limited as respondents.

Reddy contested that TV channels depicted illegal and immoral clips of Nithayananda with a woman, which had shocked everyone believing in the sanyasi dharma. Reddy named the woman as Ranjitha in the petition.

Children and teenagers, who had watched the repeated telecast of visuals, were misled into believing wrong things, the petitioner said, adding that the visuals had embarrassed viewers.
In a related development, the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetamsought advice to initiate legal action against Lenin, who claimed responsibility for taping the swami’s acts.

Following the sex scandal, the ashram was likely to postpone the Mahakumbabhishekam, originally scheduled for March 21, according to Sri Nithya Pranananda, a senior executive of the ashram.

New releases fail to impress, ‘M.N.I.K.’ continues to dominate abroad

My Name Is Khan’ continued to dominate the key markets, for the fourth weekend in a row. The new release, ATITHI TUM KAB JAOGE?, hasn’t found patronage in U.K. and U.S.A. Last week’s KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK had a drastic fall, while ‘Teen Patti; is a colossal disaster.

MY NAME IS KHAN [last weekend: No. 15, this weekend: No. 23]: In its fourth weekend, the film has collected £ 87,141 on 56 screens, with the per screen average working out to £ 1,556. Total: £ 24,79,880 [approx. Rs. 16.93 crores].

ATITHI TUM KAB JAOGE? has debuted at No. 27 position. In its opening weekend, the film has collected £ 52,382 [approx. Rs. 35.76 lacs] on 27 screens, with the per screen average working out to £ 1,940.

KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK [last weekend: No. 23, this weekend: No. 40]: In its second weekend, the film has collected £ 18,421 on 16 screens, with the per screen average working out to £ 1,151. Total: £ 1,07,409 [approx. Rs. 73.32 lacs].

Barack Obama has not received Nobel prize money yet

Three months after receiving the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, US President Barack Obama is yet to receive the USD 1.4 million cash award, the White House said today.

“Not that I am aware of, no,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at his daily press briefing when asked if Obama has received the check of USD 1.4 million from the Norwegian Nobel Committee; which awarded him the coveted peace prize on December 10 last year.

Gibbs told curious reporters that Obama has not asked for the money yet.

“I assume it (money) is with the committee,” he said.

Soon after receiving the award, the White House had said that Obama intends to donate this money to charities.

“That’s what we’re working on. That’s quite perceptive,” he said.

“There will be a process to evaluate that, from his perspective. I assume it will be many different charities.