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
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
"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
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.
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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,"
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
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
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
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.
WHAT IS A PONZI SCHEME?
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
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
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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
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
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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
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
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
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