Atlantis ready to return to Earth
Astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis
are preparing to return to Earth after an
ambitious and risky mission to refit
There are two chances to land on Friday:
one at 1500 BST and a second at 1639
The mission was intended to give a new
lease of life to Hubble. The orbiting
observatory is regarded as one of the most important scientific tools ever built. The fifth and
final mission to service Hubble has been hailed as a great success.
Over five spacewalks, astronauts installed new instruments and thermal blankets, repaired
two existing instruments, replaced gyroscopes and batteries. The only disappointment was the
failure to restore the high resolution channel (one of three) on Hubble's main camera the
Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).
Cloudy skies and stormy weather could yet pose a problem for 22 nd May landing attempts,
NASA has said. The shuttle has enough supplies to remain in orbit till Monday they added.
The US space agency has cleared Atlantis for its fiery reentry
into Earth's atmosphere
inspections of its heat shield by the crew.
Mexico City lifts swine flu curbs
Mexico City has lifted all restrictions imposed last
month, following an outbreak of swine flu across
Mexico. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said no new infections
had been reported for a week in the capital and there
was no longer a need to wear mask in public places.
The city virtually ground to a halt at the height of the
flu emergency, with schools, bars and cinemas closed.
Mexico's flu death toll rose by three to 78 officials
said. Some 4,000 people have been infected.
Authorities in the sprawling capital lowered its fourlevel
alert system from "yellow" to
lowest level. "We can calm down now," Mayor Ebrard said.
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"Now you can come to the city without any risk," he said, adding that there was "no longer
any need" to wear masks in public places. However, the mayor urged residents of the city to
The World Health Organization said that 41 countries had reported 11,034 cases of swine flu,
or influenza A(H1N1) infection, including 85 deaths. The world remains at the secondhighest
flu alert level, which means an "imminent pandemic".
Russia alarmed over new EU pact
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned the
European Union not to turn a proposed partnership with
former Soviet countries against Moscow.
Mr Medvedev was speaking at the end of the RussiaEU
summit held against a background of deep divisions
over security, trade and energy supplies.
He also signalled a new gas crisis may lie ahead,
suggesting Ukraine lacks the money to pay for gas
which Russia provides. A row over prices severely affected supplies to Europe in January.
News Reporter Richard Galpin in Moscow says divisions between Russia and the European
Union seem to be growing ever wider, and this latest summit, held in the far east of Russia,
made that abundantly clear, with little sign of progress on any significant topic.
"We would not want the Eastern Partnership to turn into partnership against Russia. There
are various examples," Mr Medvedev told a news conference at the end of the summit. "I
would simply not want this partnership to consolidate certain individual states, which are of
bent, with other European states," he said.
Moscow has accused the 27member
bloc of creating new dividing lines in Europe by
offering closer ties to six former Soviet republics. The Eastern Partnership Initiative aims to
forge close political and economic ties in exchange for democratic reforms.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have signed up to the
initiative, which seeks to bolster stability in the region. However it does not offer the
prospect of eventual EU membership.
On the divisive issue of energy supplies, President Medvedev raised questions about whether
Ukraine can afford billions of dollars to top up its gas stocks. "We have doubts about
Ukraine's ability to pay," he said.
He also proposed that Moscow and the EU should help Ukraine get a loan for gas payments.
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Ukraine has denied there is any problem. Russia supplies more than a quarter of EU gas
needs. Its decision to cut all gas to Ukraine a
vital transit country meant
that many EU
member states also lost their supplies of gas for two weeks in January. Speaking in
Khabarovsk, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned there should be
no more disruptions to gas supplies from Russia.
Drop in World Infant Mortality, says WHO report
Infant mortality under five has fallen 30% since 1990,
which shows how stronger health systems have performed,
a World Health Organisation report has said.
This reduction shows the validity of a better health care,
use of mosquito nets to fight malaria, oral rehydration
against diarrhoea, more vaccines and clean water and
sanitation, a WHO official said quoting the report.
More actions are, however, needed to achieve similar
results in other areas, including mother and newborn child health care, WHO Health Statistics
and Information Technology Director Ties Boerma said.
The figures are contained in a report titled 'World Health Statistics', the first drafted by WHO
on public healthrelated
tasks as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals slated to be
achieved by 2015.
NATO service member killed in southern Afghanistan
NATO forces say one of their service members has been
killed in fighting in southern Afghanistan. The
international coalition says the service member died Friday
in a "direct fire attack."
The Taliban have taken back control of large areas of
southern Afghanistan in the past three years, reversing much of the victory won by
international forces when they invaded in 2001. President Barack Obama is deploying 21,000
additional U.S. troops to try to turn back the Taliban insurgency.
The top U.S. General in eastern Afghanistan said Friday he is seeing "some very interesting
movement" of insurgents across the border into Pakistan this spring, possibly to join Taliban
militants battling government troops.
Fighters from both nations have long moved back and forth across the porous frontier, a
mountainous region that has been a sanctuary belong to both AlQaida
and the Taliban.
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But Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser's remarks in an interview with The Associated Press
suggest a larger transfer into Pakistan than has been seen previously, as the fighting between
Pakistan's troops and the Taliban has intensified.
There has been concern in Islamabad and Washington that the buildup of 21,000 additional
U.S. forces in Afghanistan may push Taliban militants into Pakistan, further destabilizing the
border region there. The Obama administration has declared eliminating militant havens in
Pakistan vital to its goals of defeating AlQaida
and winning the war in Afghanistan.
Schloesser suggested that most of the movement in the past has been from Pakistan into
Afghanistan, calling the new development "an interesting movement backward." He did not
provide details or numbers of those heading toward Pakistan. It is unclear to what extent the
Taliban is moving to help militants in Pakistan or fleeing from U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Schloesser suggested that both factors could be at play.
At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. military official on Friday cited concerns by Pakistani military
Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani that the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan has been pushing the
Taliban into Pakistan over the last several months.
But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk more candidly about the issue,
downplayed the urgency of the situation and said there's plenty of time to plan for and deal
with any Taliban migration if it comes. A second official said there's no intelligence or
evidence to indicate a specific strategy by the Taliban to move back into Pakistan as a result
of the recent fighting in the nation's Northwest Territories. Most Taliban safe havens are in
Pakistan, and U.S. officials have for months pointed to its border with Afghanistan and
Pakistan as a place where extremists have been able to move freely.
Schloesser, who commands American troops in eastern Afghanistan, suggested that some of
the current movement may be intended to reinforce Taliban fighters in Pakistan."I would
suppose that some of that movement is fighters going back to help their insurgent groups that
are involved in fighting, for example in Bajur or the fighting that is occurring in Buner or in
the Dir area or potentially even in Swat," Schloesser said.
Pakistani troops launched an offensive last month in the Swat region against militants who
had pushed into the adjacent Buner district within 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad.
Pakistani military officers say Afghan, Tajik and Uzbek fighters are taking part in the current
fighting in Pakistan's Swat Valley and in other border regions, but that the vast majority is
Schloesser's troops helped the Pakistani offensive by trying to prevent militants from crossing
from Afghanistan into Bajur.
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The current movement of fighters into Pakistan could also partly be a result of pressure from
the thousands of new U.S. troops that have joined the fight in Afghanistan this year,
In Washington, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said that he was
concerned that the U.S. troop buildup to roust insurgents from Afghanistan could further
destabilize Pakistan. However, Mullen, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
said the military planning is under way to try to avoid that.
Mullen said he believes the upcoming increase of 21,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan "is about
right" for the new strategy of trying to quell the insurgency and speed up training of Afghan
Airtel, Infosys, TCS, Wipro among world's top tech
Telecom player Bharti Airtel and IT firms Infosys, TCS and Wipro have made it to the list of
100 best performing technology companies in the world, compiled
by American magazine BusinessWeek.
The 'Infotech 100' list for 2009 based on shareholder return, return
on equity, total revenues, and revenue growth is topped by
Amazon.com for the second straight year.
Ranked at the sixth position, telecom giant Bharti Airtel leads the
pack of Indian companies featured in the list. The three IT majors
TCS and Wipro find a place in the top 50. Infosys is
ranked 25, TCS is at the 30 th spot and Wipro is placed at the 43 rd position.
The "2009 ranking of the tops in tech showcases companies that managed to thrive even in
the face of a bruising global recession," the magazine said. At the second spot is Oracle
followed by SAP (3), Inventec (4) and IBM (5).
Two American entities led by Indiaorigin
CEOs also find a place in the top 100. Francisco
Cognizant Technologies is ranked 51 while Adobe Systems headed by Shantanu
Narayen has cornered the 99 th spot.
Bharti Airtel is ahead of South African telecom entity MTN Group (12 th rank), maker of
Blackberry phones Research in Motion (14), technology giant Apple (19), software major
Microsoft (22) and Google (37), among others.
According to the publication, the number of US companies in the list has shot up to 43
against 33 last year. There are five firms from China in the top 100.
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BusinessWeek said that it combed the financial results of "tens of thousands of publicly
traded businesses and ranked tech players on shareholder return, return on equity, total
revenues, and revenue growth" to prepare the list. To qualify, the companies should have
revenues of at least $500 million.
The magazine said that return on equity is the "net income available for shareholders divided
by common equity, in native currency" while total return is the "return to shareholders,
including dividends for the 12 months ended April 30, 2009".
NTPC Q4 net profit up 57.77% at Rs 2113.35 crore
power producer National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC)
said its net profit for the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2009 rose 57.77
per cent to Rs 2,113.35 crore over the same period last year.
The company had a net profit of Rs 1,339.48 crore in the same quarter
ended March 2008, NTPC said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Net sales of the company rose to Rs 11,445.78 crore for the quarter under
review, from Rs 10,743.59 crore in the same quarter ended March 2008.
For the year ended March 31, 2009, the company has posted a consolidated net profit of Rs
8,092.55 crore, up 8.33 per cent from Rs 7,469.92 crore in the same period last year.
Tata Group companies to invest Rs 2000 crore to set up
Tata Group firms Drive India Enterprise Solutions and Tata
Realty and Infrastructure plan to set up logistics parks across the
country with an investment of Rs 2,000 crore which will mark
their foray into the sector.
The two companies would set up 78
logistics parks with a total
warehousing space of 38.5 million sq ft in the next four to five
years, Drive India Enterprise Solutions CEO Ajay Chopra told
reporters here today.
"Tatas intend to enter this space (logistics and warehousing) to
effectively exploit the emerging landscape and become a market leader in this space.
"While Tata Realty and Infrastructure (TRIL) will make an investment of Rs 2,000 crore and
set up infrastructure at the parks, Drive India will be the service provider in these parks," he
said. However, he declined to give details on how TRIL would raise the proposed investment.
The companies would set up parks in Gurgaon, Kolkata and Nagpur initially. Another one
would be built in the vicinity of either Hyderabad or Chennai, he said.
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IAF to get its first AWACS on Monday
The first Indian Air Force AWACS (Airborne Warning
and Control System) platform, which is set to alter the
dimension of the seethrough
capability of the IAF
beyond conventional visions of groundbased
tethered electromagnetic sensors, will arrive in India on
On its maiden flight from Israel to India, the veritable
with an allpervasive
will land at Jamnagar, Gujarat, and arrive at the Palam
airport the following day.
Although slated to operate from Agra, home to the
mammoth Ilyushin family, an induction ceremony awaits
the first AWACS in the national capital. The ceremony will be attended by among others the
Chief of the Air Staff, ViceChief
of the Air Staff, Air Officer CommandinginChiefs
Western and Central Air Command and other senior dignitaries from the Ministry of
Defence, Air HQs besides air warriors from the squadron itself, a Defence Ministry release
The AWACS is an airborne mission support system fitted on an Il76
aircraft with improved
engines. With radar that can help detect even a cruise missile or an aircraft at ranges far more
than the ranges detected through the present groundbased
radars, the AWACS radar, most
sophisticated to date, can collate surface information about troop movements and missile
launches even while listening to highly confidential communications between enemy
Murugadoss signs record deal
A.R Murugadoss, the Tamil film director who became an all India
brand with Aamir Khan's Ghajini, has signed a record deal to do
two joint venture projects in Tamil. The deal has Fox Star Studios
(FSS), a production and distribution concern set up between
Twentieth Century Fox and Star Group entering into a multifilm
deal with Murugadoss and his production company.
FSS has struck an exclusive deal where Murugadoss will direct and
execute all the Tamil films coproduced
by them. FSS will have the
exclusive rights for distribution and marketing of these films. FSS had successfully marketed
and distributed the Oscar winning Danny Boyle`s Slumdog Millionaire in India. As per the
deal, Murugadoss will initially coproduce
and direct two Tamil films on a whopping budget
of Rs 60 crore.
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