Monday, May 3, 2010

Current events-India

Advani promises to bring back money from Swiss banks

L K Advani, prime-ministerial candidate of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),

said he would bring the Indian money deposited secretly in Swiss banks

and other tax havens across the world back, in case his party got a

chance to rule the country after the next Lok Sabha elections.

Advani, who announced this as the BJP stepped up its campaign for the

coming elections, also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss

the issue at the G-20 summit, which he is going to attend in London on

April 2.

He said the return of Indian money deposited secretly with banks abroad

— which was estimated to be about $1,400 billion (Rs 70,00,000 crore) — would be a key

issue in the BJP's campaign.

The BJP's idea is to link the plank of "Indian money in foreign banks" with its agenda for

development during the campaigning. The BJP leader said the "estimated Indian wealth in

foreign banks is enough to relieve the debts of all farmers and the landless; is sufficient to lay

highways and roads across the country; provide Rs 4 crore to each of the 600,000 Indian

villages, etc."

"The BJP sees in secret banking the RDX that has the potential not only to blow up national

financial systems but also to support and fund global terror networks whose attacks on India

increased during the UPA regime," Advani said.

The BJP leader accused the Manmohan Singh government of not pursuing the German

government's offer to all countries to avail of the information it had got from the Swiss

government on some 1,400 secret accounts. He asked the PM to follow the line taken by the

United States and other Western nations, which are facing economic recession, to seek details

of secret accounts of Indians from these banks.

Gujarat's absconding minister resigns, surrenders

In a big setback for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the

general elections, the Gujarat High Court rejected the anticipatory

bail application of absconding minister Maya Kodnani, holding that

"religious fanatics are no better than terrorists".

After the verdict, Kodnani, who is the minister of state for higher

education, women and child education, resigned from the post. The



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bail plea was made in connection with the 2002 Naroda Patia riot case. The minister was

arrested on March 27.

Kodnani is accused of leading a rioting mob in Naroda Patiya and Naroda village area during

the post-Godhra riots. More than 100 people were killed in the riots there. The Supreme

Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) had declared Kodnani and Vishwa Hindu

Parishad (VHP) leader Jaideep Patel as absconding. However, SIT had challenged the lower

court's decision in the High Court.

Earlier today, Gujarat HC Justice D H Vaghela held that the accused did not take any steps to

control the mob despite being present at Naroda Patia when the crime was in progress.

Kodnani has thrice won from the Naroda Assembly constituency.

The SIT, headed by former CBI Director RK Raghavan, is reinvestigating nine major cases of

violence, including the Godhra carnage in the wake of burning of a coach of Sabarmati

Express at the Godhra station on February 27, 2002.

BJP manifesto promises rice at Rs. 2 a kg for BPL families

With the promise of ushering in a 'Ram Rajya,' the Bharatiya Janata Party unveiled its

manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha election.

The party promised to give each 'below the poverty

level' family a quota of 35 kg rice or wheat at Rs. 2 a

kg, bettering the Congress offer at Rs. 3 a kg. It

promised to set up community kitchens in extremely

impoverished areas and expand the mid-day meal

scheme for school-going children as part of a package

of measures to make India hunger-free.

The party's prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, said, "Ram Rajya is possible". And, of

course, the Ram temple issue was part of the manifesto, with the BJP promising "to explore

all possibilities, including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction

of the temple at Ayodhya."

Other references to Lord Ram were in the promise to look for an alternative alignment for the

proposed Sethusamudram Channel Project while declaring Ram Sethu a "national heritage."

The party promised to carve separate Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh, and said it favoured

the creation of smaller States. BJP president Rajnath Singh said the party was sympathetic to

the demand for a Gorkhaland.

The party announced a slew of measures to help farmers: a complete loan waiver for all

farmers, which would presumably include the kulaks, which some of their allies are in Punjab

and Haryana; availability of loans to farmers at 4 per cent interest; a guaranteed farm income

and crop insurance; irrigation of 35 million hectares of additional farm land; and revision of

minimum wages to help the landless agriculture labour.



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Security issues have been given a major thrust: all armed forces and paramilitary force

personnel to be exempt from I-T; one rank, one pension to be implemented; a separate pay

commission for them; and better rehabilitation measures.

Generous and low interest loans for students, tough measures against ragging, schemes for

the girl child, exemption from personal income tax for those earning up to Rs. 3 lakh per

annum, and for women and senior citizens up to Rs. 3.5 lakh, are among the other promises.

CIA chief meets Chidambaram

Terrorism, post-26/11 Mumbai terror strike, the security scenario in South

Asia, the situation in Pakistan and Bangladesh and cooperation in operational

areas of security were some of the topics that came up for discussions which

the visiting United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, Leon

Panetta, had on Thursday with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and top

officials in India's security and intelligence establishment.

Panetta, who is the third high-ranking U.S. official to visit India after the

26/11 attack, first met Chidambaram for nearly half an hour at North Block.

Though it was described as a "familiarisation trip" of the CIA chief to India, his first visit

outside the U.S. after assuming office, sources said he discussed ways of further

strengthening cooperation with India in the fight against terrorism.

Dhaka, New Delhi renew water treaty

India and Bangladesh have renewed the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Travel for two

more years.

Bangladesh Shipping Minister Afsarul Amin said there was no change in the

terms. He, however, said the agreement had to be updated if Bangladesh was

to benefit further from the arrangement.

Bangladesh Shipping Secretary Mohammed Masud Elahi and visiting Indian

Additional Shipping Secretary Bijay Chhibber signed the agreement. Both sides said the

renewal was to enhance inland water trade.

The bilateral agreement which was to expire on March 31 is for the use of waterways for

commerce and keeping river routes navigable. The protocol, signed in 1972, is renewed every

two years. Both countries allow each other four points as ports of call to ferry goods.

Aviation pioneer Captain Gopinath will contest polls

Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath (Capt G R Gopinath), who helped the

common man find his place in the sky courtesy affordable air travel, is now

training his sights on a political career.

Leon Panetta



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The former Army veteran and no-frills airline pioneer said he had decided to take the plunge

after discussions with friends and well-wishers.

"The country has witnessed traumatic events like the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, the economic

slowdown and violation of human rights in Karnataka in recent times. This has prompted me

to consider entering politics", Gopinath said.

He outlined a three-point agenda for his political foray —to fight terrorism, communal

violence and divisive forces, and foster socio-economic development, particularly, in


Gopinath had last contested elections to the Karnataka Assembly in 1994 from Kansi

constituency in his home district of Hassan. "I was a novice then, though the experience of

trying to cover voters in 410 villages, pitted against Congress and Janata Dal candidates gave

me an idea of the amount of money and clout required to win the elections."

Asked to rate his chances, Gopinath said that regardless of victory or defeat, the bigger goal

of uniting people behind the common goal of discovering greater ethics and probity in public

life was paramount. "It is not important that I win or lose. When good people take a stand and

decide to enter politics, it is a strong statement against the existing system. I do not wish to

take the high moral ground here, but let us remember that the best way to let evil triumph is

for good people to do nothing. Active participation in the democratic process as candidates

and as voters can help build movements and reinstate popular faith in the electoral system,"

he said.

Current events-World

Militants target police academy near Lahore

Pakistani security forces took control of a police training school in a grim eight-hour gun

battle with armed militants who seized the premises on the outskirts of Lahore early on

March 30 after killing at least eight recruits and taking others hostage. The training school at

Manawan is a mere 10 km from the Wagah border with

India. Government officials said eight police trainees were

killed and 95 injured in the attack. At least one civilian

bystander was also killed in militant fire, while two others

were injured.

Interior Ministry head Rehman Malik said that of an

undetermined number of gunmen who captured the school

and tore through it with grenades and automatic weapons,

three blew themselves up during the siege. None was

captured alive from the premises. But one suspect was

arrested outside the school, with police saying they found

two grenades on his person. The man is said to be from Paktika district in Afghanistan, close

to the Pakistan border.



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Following successful operations against militants in FATA (tribal areas) and in the NWFP,

terrorists were turning to other parts of the country, Malik said. "We now have two choices:

to hand over the country to the Taliban, or to fight them."

The media deliberated on the "Indian hand" and the closeness of the location to the Indian

border, especially after another remark by Malik that "foreign involvement" was a possibility,

although he did not name any country. The incident shook Pakistan for the brazenness and

apparent ease with which it was carried out within a month of the March 3 terrorist attack on

the Sri Lankan cricket team.

The attack began at 7.30 a.m., when an estimated 850 unarmed recruits at the school were

assembled for the morning parade. The gunmen, said to be at least 10 in number, jumped

over the 6-foot wall, threw grenades at the assembly and fired indiscriminately. All the

personnel who were killed fell victim in this first assault.

The attackers were in their 20s, dressed in salwar-kameez, had beards and carried backpacks,

in which they were apparently carrying a huge stock of arms and ammunition. Media reports

said some were wearing police uniforms. They quickly took control of the buildings.

When it became clear within an hour that the situation was beyond the local police force, the

government called in the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and the Army. Television footage

showed troops closing in on the school, while some terrified looking police trainees,

including those with injuries, were seen scampering or crawling out.

It was 3.30 p.m. when troops emerged on the roof of the building, showing the victory sign.

France ends four-decade NATO rift

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his country is to return to NATO's military

command, reversing four decades of self-imposed exile. President

Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO's integrated military

command in 1966, saying it undermined France's sovereignty.

Critics say France will now be no more than "a clone of Great

Britain". But Sarkozy said there was no sense in France - a founder

member of NATO - having no say in the organisation's decisions

on military strategy. "This rapprochement with NATO ensures our

national independence," said Sarkozy. "To distance ourselves

would limit our independence and our room for manoeuvre."

He went on: "A solitary nation is a nation that has no influence

whatsoever. "We need strong diplomacy, a strong defence and a strong Europe." He said

NATO remained a central element of France's security and defence policies, but stressed that

he would not give up the country's independent nuclear deterrent. Sarkozy is expected to

formalise the move with a letter to NATO before the alliance celebrates its 60th anniversary

next month with a summit in the French city of Strasbourg.



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Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warmly welcomed Sarkozy's announcement.

"[France's] full participation in all the civil and military decision-making and planning

processes cannot but strengthen the alliance further," he said.

France's "independence" from NATO is dearly treasured by many French, and Sarkozy's

move has provoked a furore among those who worry it will now have to bow to US

dominance. The fear is that France will now be at the beck and call of the US, and may well

be dragged into conflicts in which it did not want to be involved. But Defence Minister Herve

Morin rejected claims France would now be forced to go along with the US on issues like the

war with Iraq, which it vehemently opposed. Germany, he noted, has remained fully

integrated in NATO yet opposed the war.

A rising dollar lifts the U.S. but adds to the crisis abroad

As the world is seized with anxiety in the face of a spreading

financial crisis, the one place having a considerably easier time

attracting money is, perversely enough, the same place that started

much of the trouble: the United States.

American investors are ditching foreign ventures and bringing their

dollars home, entrusting them to the supposed bedrock safety of

United States government bonds. And China continues to buy

staggering quantities of American debt.

These actions are lifting the value of the dollar and providing the Obama administration with

a crucial infusion of financing as it directs trillions of dollars toward rescuing banks and

stimulating the economy, enabling the government to pay for these efforts without lifting

interest rates.

And yet in a global economy crippled by a lack of confidence and capital, with lending and

investment mechanisms dysfunctional from Milan to Manila, the tilt of money toward the

United States appears to be exacerbating the crisis elsewhere.

The pursuit of capital suddenly seems like a zero sum game. A dollar invested by foreign

central banks and investors in American government bonds is a dollar that is not available to

Eastern European countries desperately seeking to refinance debt. It is a dollar that cannot

reach Africa, where many countries are struggling with the loss of aid and foreign


Private money invested in so-called emerging countries plunged from $928 billion in 2007 to

$466 billion last year and is likely to fall to $165 billion this year, according to the Institute of

International Finance.

Economists liken this episode to the financial crisis that assaulted much of Asia in the late

1990s. Then, as now, investors borrowed in foreign currencies. When investment left the

region, local currencies plummeted, particularly in Thailand and Indonesia, setting off

defaults and sowing job losses and poverty.



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Iran ready for role in Afghanistan

Iran has expressed its readiness to support efforts aimed at improving security and economic

development of Afghanistan. Asked to comment on host Italy's invitation to Iran for

participation in a G-8 meeting on Afghanistan in the city of Trieste on June 27, Iran's Foreign

Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said the response to Italy was positive.

Afghanistan and Pakistan Presidents

Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari, had

sought a positive response from Tehran

on Iran's participation in international

diplomacy to resolve the Afghan crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

had earlier said Iran would be invited to

an international conference on


Commenting on Iran's position on the

approach adopted towards Afghanistan by the new Obama administration, . Qashqavi said

Tehran would study whether Washington would solely depend upon military force or also

consider political options to tackle the Afghan situation.

He pointed out that Iran was patiently waiting for the U.S. pledge on change to be

accomplished. He added that Iran was neither pessimistic nor optimistic about U.S. foreign

policy as the Obama administration was still experiencing its first 100 days in office.

"World 'better off' by next year"- Jiabao

China's Premier Wen Jiabao has said he expects that China and the rest of the world will be

better off by next year. He was speaking at a news conference in Beijing at the end of the

annual session of China's National People's Congress - the country's parliament. It is the only

time each year that the premier takes questions from reporters.

Wen said that this year would be the most difficult China has faced

this century. He said the government's economic stimulus

programme included 1.18 trillion yuan ($172bn) in central

government spending on "public welfare, technological innovation,

environmental protection and infrastructure projects".

In November, the government announced a $585bn (£413bn)

economic stimulus programme. Wen said the authorities had

contingency plans in case of greater difficulties. "We have prepared

enough 'ammunition' and we can launch new economic stimulus

policies at any time," he said. The government is targeting annual growth of 8% and wants to

boost consumption and raise consumer demand.

Presidents: Ahmednejad (Iran) and Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan)



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The Communist Party fears that if annual growth slips below 8%, there will be social


Madoff admits $50bn fraud scheme

Disgraced US financier Bernard Madoff has been jailed after pleading guilty to all 11 charges

surrounding an estimated $50bn (£35bn) fraud. The 70-year-old defrauded thousands of

investors in a fraud he admitted had been running since the early 1990s. He

could receive up to 150 years when he is sentenced in June.

A former chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, Madoff has been a Wall

Street figure for more than 40 years. The only person accused in the giant fraud

surrounding his firm, Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities, Madoff is said to

have run a Ponzi scheme, whereby early investors were paid off with the money

of new clients.

Madoff's 11 charges include four counts of fraud. In addition, he pleaded guilty to three

counts of money laundering, making false statements, perjury, making a false filing to the US

financial watchdog, and theft from an employee benefit plan. Madoff himself estimates that

the fraud totalled $50bn.


A fraudulent investment scheme paying investors from money

paid in by other investors rather than real profits

Named after Charles Ponzi (pictured) who notoriously used the

technique in the United States in the 1920s

Differs from pyramid selling in that individuals all tend to

invest with the same person

Iraqi journalist jailed for Bush shoe attack

An Iraqi journalist hailed as a hero in the Arab world for throwing his shoes at the then US

President George W Bush has been jailed for three years. Muntadar al-Zaidi had told the

court his actions in December were "natural, just like any Iraqi" against a leader whose forces

had occupied his country.

Shoe hurling is a grave insult in Arab culture, but Bush - on a

farewell trip to Iraq - shrugged off the attack.

Defence lawyers described the sentence as "harsh" and said they

would appeal. The head of Zaidi's team Dhiaa al-Saadi said the

sentence was "not in harmony with the law" because his client had

not meant to cause injury, but rather to express contempt for Bush.

There has been no statement about the verdict from the Iraqi government of Prime Minister

Nouri Maliki, which correspondents say suffered acute embarrassment over the incident. In

mid-December 2008, a news conference with Bush and Maliki was drawing to a close when



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Zaidi, of al-Baghdadiya TV, called Bush "a dog" and threw his shoes as "a farewell kiss"

from Iraqis who had been killed, orphaned or widowed since the US-led invasion.

He was overpowered and arrested. His actions were condemned by the Iraqi government as

"shameful". But the shoe attack, at a globally televised news conference, were celebrated

across the world by critics of the outgoing US president who ordered the 2003 invasion of the


S Africa to host Champions Trophy

The 2009 Champions Trophy has been moved to South Africa by the

International Cricket Council. The competition was due to take place in

Pakistan in September 2008 but was postponed over security fears. Sri

Lanka had offered to step in but concerns about wet weather in the

country saw it step aside and now the ICC has decided on South Africa.

The eight-team tournament is scheduled to take place from 24

September to 5 October across two venues. ICC president David

Morgan said: "I think the board has made a sensible decision that will give the event every

chance of success."

CSA chief executive Gerald Majola added: "We now await the ICC's financial model, and

provided the government protocols to host major events have been clarified, and our board

agrees to accept the invitation, then we have the infrastructures and the expertise from

recently hosting two ICC world championships to stage a successful tournament at short


The ICC also decided the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies would be held

between 30 April and 16 May. The 2009 event is being hosted by England between 5 and 21


US lawmakers vote for bonus tax

US lawmakers in the House of Representatives have voted in favour of a bill to levy a 90%

tax on big bonuses from firms bailed out by taxpayers. The move follows outrage over the

decision by AIG to award its employees $165m in bonuses after taking $170bn in aid from

the government.

Members of the house voted 328-93 in favour of the legislation. The bill targets companies

that received $5bn in taxpayer aid, and would levy a 90% tax on bonuses paid to employees

with incomes above $250,000.

The bill was opposed by some Republicans, who argued that the

legislation diverted attention from the administration's handling of the

affair. Some Republicans have called for US Treasury Secretary

Timothy Geithner to step down. In total, 243 Democrats and 85

Timothy Geithner



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Republicans voted in favour of the bill, which was passed with unusual speed. It was opposed

by six Democrats and 87 Republicans.

President Barack Obama has also reiterated his anger at the bonus payments. Edward Liddy,

the boss of AIG, called the bonuses paid to executives "distasteful" and said he had asked

some recipients to return at least half of what they had been paid.

But Liddy, who took over AIG in September, told a Congressional committee that the Federal

Reserve knew in November of the bonus payments to executives. He said he spoke regularly

with the Fed, expecting them to pass on the details to Treasury officials. In a separate move,

AIG gave details of bonus recipients in investigation by New York's top legal officer, who is

trying to determine whether banks broke securities laws.

Bank of America is also expected to hand over the names of the 200 highest bonus earners in

2008 at Merrill Lynch, which it took over last year.

Pakistan govt orders Sharif ban review

Pakistan's government has asked the Supreme Court to review a ruling

that bans former PM Nawaz Sharif and his brother from holding elected

office. The ban on Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif had added to recent political

turmoil. Their Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had joined

forces with lawyers to demand the reinstatement of sacked chief justice

Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The protest ended when the government agreed to restore the judge and to

look again at the ruling on the Sharifs. The Supreme Court had upheld a

lower court ruling banning the Sharifs. That meant Shahbaz Sharif had to

step down as chief minister of Punjab province - a PML-N stronghold. The government then

imposed federal rule.

This move - coupled with the decision to reinstate Chaudhry - is a big step towards dispelling

mistrust between Pakistan's two biggest parties, which have a record of fierce rivalry.

A "long march" protest organised by lawyers and the PML-N was called off after President

Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People's Party backed down over the sacking of Chaudhry

and other judges ousted by former President Pervez Musharraf.

The judges were dismissed in 2007. Most were reinstated but not Chaudhry. One reason was

thought to be that he had challenged an amnesty given by Musharraf that enabled Zardari to

return to Pakistan ahead of 2008 elections.

Land boost for Brazilian Indians

A ruling by Brazil's Supreme Court has boosted the efforts of the

country's disadvantaged indigenous groups to keep control of their

lands. By 10 votes to one, judges ruled to maintain an Indian

Nawaz Sharif



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reservation in the northern border state of Roraima as a single, continuous territory.

It means that a small group of outside rice farmers with plantations in the area will now have

to leave. The head of the court also accused the government of failing the Indians. This was

the third occasion the court had met to reach a decision on the question, and the delays

appeared to be just another indication of the sensitivity involved.

The Raposa Serra do Sol reservation, which stretches more than 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres)

along the Venezuelan border, is home to up to 20,000 Amazonian Indians. Indigenous leaders

had feared a ruling against them would have signalled to land-owners and loggers that it was

acceptable to invade their territory. The decision confirmed a decree issued by Brazil's

President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who established Raposa Serra do Sol in 2005

exclusively as an area for use by the local Indian population.

The land dispute has turned violent on occasion with several Indians shot and injured in May

of last year.

The case has raised fears in military circles that it would create an effectively autonomous

Indian reservation running along a lengthy section of Brazil's border. To meet those concerns,

the court imposed a series of conditions that guarantee access by the police and military to the


US rethinks Afghanistan strategy

US President Barack Obama has confirmed a fundamental rethink of US strategy in

Afghanistan and Pakistan to combat an "increasingly perilous" situation. He said growing

radical forces in the area posed the greatest threat to the American people and the world. He

said an extra 4,000 US personnel would train and bolster the Afghan army and police, and he

would also provide support for civilian development.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan said they welcomed the new strategy. Pakistani President Asif

Ali Zardari said it would strengthen democracy in his country, while the Afghan government

said Obama had recognised that the al-Qaeda threat came mainly from Pakistan, and that it

was a regional problem.

Obama has taken ownership of the Afghan war in the face of deep misgivings among some of

his supporters and what he acknowledges to be daunting difficulties on the ground. America's

new president has decided he has no choice but to relaunch

the Afghan offensive.

President Obama said his "comprehensive new strategy" was

an outcome of a "careful policy review" in which military

commanders and diplomats, regional governments, partners,

NATO allies, NGOs and aid organisations were consulted.



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He painted a bleak picture of the situation, with insurgents increasing their control of territory

in the region around the Afghan-Pakistan border – which he termed "the most dangerous

place in the world" for the American people - and attacks rising.

He said American strategy must relate directly to the threat posed to the Americans by al-

Qaeda and its allies - who, he reminded his listeners, were behind the 9/11 attacks on

American soil eight years ago. And he said multiple intelligence estimates suggested fresh

attacks on the US were being planned.

US to consult Pakistan on strikes

US President Barack Obama has said he will consult Pakistan's

leaders before targeting militants in that country. "If we have a

high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan,

we're going after them," Obama told CBS television.

But Obama ruled out deploying US ground troops inside Pakistan.

The US leader announced a major policy review on Afghanistan

and Pakistan, saying the situation on their border was "increasingly


Kabul and Islamabad have welcomed the review, but Pakistan has

urged the US to halt recent cross-border missile strikes by unmanned Predator drone aircraft.

Obama told CBS television's 'Face the Nation' that the main thrust of US policy was "to help

Pakistan defeat these extremists".

He noted that Pakistan was a sovereign nation and added: "We need to work with them and

through them to deal with al-Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable."

Unmanned drone strikes have triggered fury in Pakistan. Senior US military officials have

alleged links between Pakistan's military intelligence, the ISI, and militants on the country's

borders with both Afghanistan and India.

Obama's remarks suggest the US may be willing to take the one-year-old Pakistani civilian

government on board regarding a highly sensitive issue. Earlier President Zardari said his

country would not allow anyone to violate its sovereignty, although he did not specifically

criticise the US missile strikes as he has done in the past. He also said Pakistan would not

allow use of its soil for militant activity.

Obama wins biography prize at the British Book Awards

US President Barack Obama fought off competition from Paul O'Grady and Dawn French to

take the biography prize at the British Book Awards. The president won with his memoir of

his youth, 'Dreams From My Father'. The book was written before Obama

thought of entering politics and was originally published in 1995. It tells of



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his early life as a black boy growing up with his white grandparents and is frank about his

drug use and flirtations with the Black Power movement.

The British Book Awards are given annually and promoted by the UK publishing industry

trade journal Publishing News. They are also known as the Nibbies because of the golden

nib-shaped trophy given to winners.

The president was beaten to a second award by Aravind Adiga who took home author of the

year for his Booker Prize-winning novel 'The White Tiger'. Obama's political thesis, 'The

Audacity of Hope', had been in the running in that category.

Kate Summerscale took home two prizes as she collected the non-fiction award and book of

the year for her Victorian murder mystery, 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher'.

Stephenie Meyer won children's book of the year for 'Breaking Dawn' – the final instalment

of her teenage vampire drama series 'Twilight'.

Stieg Larsson posthumously won the crime thriller of the year award for 'The Girl with the

Dragon Tattoo'. The book was published in English last year, four years after the Swedish

author's death at the age of 50.

Sebastian Faulks won the popular fiction award for his James Bond story, 'Devil May Care'.

(3) India 54th in networked readiness index

India has been ranked 54th among 134 countries in the latest edition of

a global report that evaluated the capability of nations to leverage

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for their overall

benefit and economic progress.

The country has slipped down four positions compared to last year in the Networked

Readiness Index (NRI) 2008-09, which primarily evaluates the ICT environment, readiness

and usage in different nations, taking different variables into consideration.

The eighth edition of The Global Information Technology Report (GITR) was prepared by

the World Economic Forum in partnership with INSEAD, a leading business school.

Denmark occupies the first position in the index and Chad comes last. As for India's

neighbours, Pakistan occupies the 98th position and Nepal the 127th.

The report finds out the extent to which nations have an ICT-conducive environment, by

looking at the broad business environment, regulatory aspects, the soft and hard infrastructure

in place, the degree of preparation needed for its use by various stakeholders (individuals,

business and government segments) and the actual degree of ICT use by them.

China has gained 11 positions to occupy the 46th spot, overtaking India in the process. India

has been ranked 60th in the environment component sub-index, 40th in the readiness



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component sub-index, and 59th in the usage component sub-index. The report described India

as having come up with a "very mixed performance," citing the ranking of the country in

terms of key indicators.

While mobile telephony had emerged as "one of the most important and widespread forms of

ICT in recent decades," the study found that high mobile telephony penetration was not

inevitably synonymous with high networked readiness.

Accused Nazi guard stalls deportation

John Demjanjuk, accused of being a Nazi death camp guard, marked his

89th birthday by winning a reprieve of his ordered deportation to Germany

to face possible trial. An immigration judge in Arlington, Va., ordered that

Demjanjuk's deportation be put on hold until the court can rule on his

request to reopen the U.S. case that ordered his removal.

Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker who lives in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills has kept

out of sight for years. He has argued that his deportation would amount to torture, given his

frail health. A German arrest warrant issued in March accuses the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk

of 29,000 counts of acting as an accessory to murder at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland

during World War II.

Demjanjuk came to the United States after the war as a displaced person and became a

naturalized U.S. citizen. His citizenship was revoked twice, first in 1981. Demjanjuk was

extradited in 1986 to Israel, where he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death in

1988. In 1993, the Israeli Supreme Court determined he was not the notorious Nazi death

camp guard Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka in Poland, and he was allowed to return home.

Demjanjuk's U.S. citizenship was restored in 1998 and revoked again in 2002. The U.S.

Department of Justice renewed its case, saying he had indeed been a Nazi guard and could be

deported for falsifying information on his U.S. immigration paperwork.

Military industrial complex bracing for tough times in US

Lockheed Martin Corp's F-22 fighter jet and Boeing Co's Future Combat Systems are among

programmes at risk as the Obama administration begins to

close the "spigot of defence spending" that opened with the

2001 terror attacks.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to disclose

which programmes get curtailed tomorrow in his effort to

rein in defence spending that may reach $654.1 billion in

the budget year ending in September, a 72 per cent gain

since 2000. Cost increases and the expense of supporting

two wars contributed to the run-up, with new weapons now accounting for 37 per cent of

Pentagon spending, up from 30 per cent.



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Gates must decide whether to keep buying Lockheed F-22s while waiting for its F-35 to

reach full production, military analysts said. Lockheed's new VH-71 presidential helicopter, a

procurement program President Barack Obama said has "gone amok," may also be under

review, along with the Littoral Combat Ships made by Lockheed and General Dynamics


Programmes under review also include Boeing's ground-based and airborne-laser missile

defence programs and aircraft carriers built Northrop Grumman Corp.

Gates, who was hired by President George W. Bush and kept on the job by Obama, in

January said the "spigot of defence spending that opened on 9/11 is closing." The former

director of the Central Intelligence Agency has conducted his weapons review in secrecy in

an effort to reduce leaks and lobbying.

Obama on Feb. 24 called upon the Pentagon to "reform our defense budget so that we are not

paying for Cold War-era" weapons. The changes Gates is contemplating "are not changes

around the margins," a Pentagon spokesman told reporters. "This is a fundamental shift" in

how the Pentagon buys major systems and supports combat troops, he said.

Many of the rising costs in defence procurement are the fault of the military services for

changing requirements after work has begun. Companies share the blame. Contractors "make

themselves a target when they underestimate costs and over promise what they're going to

deliver," said one defence analyst.

Among options the Pentagon considered in its review of the 2010 defense budget is a White

House suggestion to target $21.7 billion in cuts, including the cancellation of Boeing's

airborne laser and postponing a new competition for the U.S. Air Force's refueling tanker

program, according to a Jan. 29 proposal from the Office of Management and Budget.

Carrie Underwood is the top winner at Country Music Awards

American singer-songwriter Carrie Underwood has taken the coveted entertainer of the year

title at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Underwood had shot to fame in 2005 when

she won American Idol. The singer was also named top female vocalist but was beaten to

best album by 19-year-old newcomer Taylor Swift. Underwood becomes the seventh woman

in 39 years to win the entertainer prize.

The singer beat four male nominees to take the entertainer award, including Kenny Chesney

who won the award in the four previous years. Chesney criticised the organisers for this year

allowing fans to pick the entertainer of the year, saying he preferred the traditional method of

Academy of Country Music members deciding the winner.

The singer made her debut at the awards in 2006 when she

picked up the best new female vocalist prize and best single for

'Jesus, Take the Wheel'. This was the third year in a row she

has been named best female vocalist. Collecting the award,



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Underwood told the audience it felt like winning American Idol again.

Taylor Swift was presented with a trophy as the top-selling country artist. Her album

Fearless, which won the best album category is a multiplatinum seller in America. Brad

Paisley took home three awards, top male vocalist, best video and vocal event of the year for

his duet with Keith Urban, Start a Band. Trace Atkins took home the single of the year award

for You're Going to Miss This, while Rascal Flatts was named top vocal group.


Entertainer of the year - Carrie Underwood

Female vocalist - Carrie Underwood

Male Vocalist - Brad Paisley

New Artist - Julianne Hough

Vocal Group - Rascal Flatts

Vocal Duo - Sugarland

New Female Vocalist - Julianne Hough

New Male Vocalist - Jake Owen

New Due or Vocal Group - The Zac Brown Band

Single of the Year - Trace Adkins, 'You're Gonna Miss This'

Album of the Year - Taylor Swift, 'Fearless'

Song of the Year - Jamey Johnson, 'In Colour'

Vocal Event of the Year - Brad Paisley & Keith Urban, 'Start a Band'

Music Video of the Year - Brad Paisley, 'Waitin' on a Woman'

RSC Energia to build Soyuz successor

RSC Energia has been selected to lead the development of a next-generation Russian manned

spacecraft. The company was selected by the federal space agency, Roscosmos.

The new ship will be capable of taking six cosmonauts to low-Earth orbit, and a variant

would also be required to reach the Moon. The spacecraft will replace the venerable threeseat

Soyuz capsule, which has carried Russian cosmonauts into orbit for more than four


Energia produced the very first series of Soyuz capsules in the late 1960s. The new

spacecraft, currently known only by the Russian abbreviation PPTS, is likely to fly before the

end of the next decade.

The Russian effort parallels that of the US which is in the process of

developing its own next-generation spacecraft, known as Orion.

In recent years, Russia and Europe did look at the possibility of

developing a vehicle together, but the two parties could not agree on

the work share. Europe will now separately pursue the possibility of upgrading its robotic

ATV space freighter to a manned ship, but still using some Russian technology. European



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member states approved a limited development fund for the project at their ministerial

meeting in The Hague last November.

Bangladesh to announce war probe

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina Wajed is set to announce plans to

investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes during the country's

war of independence nearly 40 years ago. The government says

those suspected of collaborating with the Pakistani army in the

killing and rape of thousands of civilians will be put on trial.

The party which fought for independence in 1971, the Awami

League, has recently been returned to power. The plan is opposed

by one of the main opposition parties, Jamaat-e-Islami. Its leaders are among those accused

of alleged war crimes.

The government says these crimes were committed in 1971 by the Pakistan army and their

locally raised militia, when they embarked on a campaign to hold on to what was then the

country's eastern province by terrorising its civilian population.

Bangladesh says three million people died, though some historians dispute this figure saying

it does not take into account people who fled the conflict into India and then did not return

afterwards. Many collaborators were jailed after the war, but the issue was quietly dropped as

consecutive governments preferred not to re-open old wounds.

It has now become a major political issue, because the party which fought for independence,

the Awami League of recently returned to power with a huge majority. One of its main

opponents, Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest religious party, also opposed the creation of


(3) US space tourist lands on Earth

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying US space tourist

Charles Simonyi and two other crewmembers has landed

in Kazakhstan. The craft touched down as planned, a few

hours after undocking from the international space station

(ISS). Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive, is the

world's first space tourist to visit the ISS twice. Also

onboard were cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and astronaut

Michael Fincke.

Commander Fincke and Flight Engineer Lonchakov had each spent six months at the space

station. They have returned with the results of scientific experiments conducted there.



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The Soyuz rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on 26 March,

ferrying its three-person crew, including Russian Commander Gennady Padalka and US

Flight Engineer Michael Barratt, to the ISS.

Padalka and Barratt have remained on the platform, along with Japanese long-stay resident

Koichi Wakata who arrived last month on a US space shuttle.

Simonyi, a software billionaire, paid $35 million for the 11-day trip. He will be the last space

tourist for foreseeable future. Seats on Soyuz craft are needed to service the platform's

increased crew complement which is about to rise from three individuals to six.

'Lifetime Bafta award' for Tracey Ullman

British actress Tracey Ullman is to receive a lifetime

achievement prize from BAFTA's Los Angeles branch.

Trade paper Variety said the comedienne will take home

BAFTA's first ever Charlie Chaplin award at the British

Comedy Festival and Awards on 8 May.

Ullman began her career on British TV, with shows like 'Three

Of A Kind'. She later created The 'Tracey Ullman Show' for the US Fox network, winning

several Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The show famously spawned 'The Simpsons',

which started out as short sketches either side of the commercial break.

The British Comedy Festival and Awards take place as part of Los Angeles' annual BritWeek

festival. The event, which honours British involvement in the city's cultural and business life,

is the brainchild of American Idol producer and reality TV judge Nigel Lythgoe.

Military backs Madagascar rival

Military leaders in Madagascar have conferred full powers on 34-year-old opposition leader

Andry Rajoelina, hours after the president resigned. The officials said they had rejected an

invitation from President Marc Ravalomanana to take up power as a military directorate.

Rajoelina earlier installed himself in the president's offices, seized by pro-opposition troops.

He announced a new constitution and elections within two years. The military seems to have

given clear backing to Rajoelina, apparently resolving a long power struggle on the Indian

Ocean island.

Rajoelina has led protests against Ravalomanana that began in

January. The crisis has left more than 100 people dead.

Ravalomanana had said he was handing over to the military

during a radio address in which he announced his resignation.

Ravalomanana was re-elected for a second term in office in 2006

and under him, Madagascar's economy has opened up to foreign Andry Rajoelina



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investment, particularly in mining. But 70% of the 20 million population still lives on less

than $1 a day and the opposition has tapped into popular frustration at the failure of this new

wealth to trickle down.

Rajoelina had said the president has been a tyrant who misspent public money but

Ravalomanana's supporters said his rival is a young troublemaker who has not offered any

policy alternatives.

Stadiums gear up to host IPL in SA

It's rather a loss that the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is not being held

in India. But South Africa is not a bad choice to stage the tournament, if one considers the

quality of the stadium infrastructure.

India has no parallels in terms of the sheer enormity of passionate

followers of the game. However when it comes to cricketing

infrastructure, the venues in South Africa are leagues ahead of Indian

stadiums. All the stadiums are either architectural marvels or are gifted

with stunning backdrops. Here is a snapshot on the venues.

Newlands, Cape Town: This is probably the most beautiful stadium in the world, and host for

the IPL's glittering opening ceremony. Cloud-capped mountains overlook the ground, while

tasteful chalets and trees, impressive stands and open grassed areas grace the ground.

The Wanderers, Johannesburg: Venue for a semifinal and the IPL finale, the stadium also

hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup final. It is aptly named the "Bullring" for its electric,

sometimes intimidating atmosphere. It accommodates 27,000 people and 171 corporate

suites. High stands surround most of the field, although there is a small grassy area that is

very popular with spectators.

Supersport Park, Centurion: Venue for the other semifinal, it is rated as one of the 10 best

grounds in the world by none other than Kapil Dev. It is a 20,000-seater that boasts a

wonderful grandstand and open, grassy embankments.

Kingsmead, Durban: A 25,000-capacity stadium located within walking distance of Durban's

famed Indian Ocean shoreline. Here it is believed the ocean tides help swing bowlers move

the ball nicely through the air.

St George's Park, Port Elizabeth: Saint George's Park boasts excellent stands as well as green

embankments. It is also famous for its enthusiastic band that is always in attendance at oneday

internationals and test matches.

Buffalo Park, East London: It is a small ground with embankments and a beautiful view of the ocean in the background

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