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.

Map

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.