Monday, May 3, 2010


US will not allow nuclear armed North Korea: Gates

The United States warned it would not accept a nucleararmed

North Korea as China appealed for calm amid fears

that Pyongyang was readying for a longrange

missile test.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a highlevel

security forum in Singapore that North Korea's actions,

including its nuclear test earlier this week, could spark a

regional arms race.

"Our goal is complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the

Korean peninsula, and we will not accept North Korea as a

nuclear state," Gates said. "North Korea's nuclear

programme and actions constitute a threat to regional peace and security. We unequivocally

reaffirm our commitment to the defence of our allies in the region," he added.

Tensions have been running high since Kim Jongil's

regime said it staged its second atomic

bomb test on Monday and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. The

communist North has warned it could launch an attack on the South, which hosts US military

forces, and vowed to respond strongly to any fresh sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

North Korea fired another shortrange

missile Friday and US satellite photos have revealed

vehicle activity at two sites in North Korea, suggesting the regime may be preparing to

launch a longrange

missile, two US defence officials said.

The vehicle movements' resembled work done before North Korea fired a longrange


last month, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told news agency.

But Gates said Washington "will not stand idle as North Korea builds the capability to wreak

destruction on any target in Asia or

on us."

If North Korea continues "the path they are on, I think the consequences for stability in the

region are significant," he added. "I think it poses the potential for some kind of an arms race

here in this region," he said, although he said the likelihood of Japan moving to acquire

nuclear capability was "at this point remote."

Meanwhile, a top Chinese military official appealed for calm in Singapore, which is hosting

an annual meeting of defence ministers and military officials known as the ShangriLa


"The Korean peninsula should move towards denuclearisation and we hope that all parties

concerned will remain coolheaded

and take measured measures to address the problem," said


Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff at the People's Liberation



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Gates had earlier underscored the importance of cooperation, including in the area of defence,

with China, seen as the nation with the most leverage on the diplomatically isolated regime in

Pyongyang. The United States, China and the two Koreas were part of sixnation

talks that

agreed in 2007 to provide aid and security guarantees to North Korea in return for


Pyongyang stormed out of the accord last month in protest after the UN Security Council

unanimously condemned its longrange

missile launch.

The United States, China and other UN Security Council members have been mulling

possible fresh sanctions against North Korea.

The White House said that China was being "very helpful" in the efforts to censure North

Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.

Touching on other regional security issues, Gates urged Asian allies to step up support for its

military campaign and nationrebuilding

efforts in Afghanistan. "The challenge in

Afghanistan is so complex, and so untraditional,

that it can only be met by all of us working

in concert," he said.

The US Defence Secretary also pressed Myanmar's military rulers to free prodemocracy

leader Aung San Suu Kyi and reopen dialogue with the opposition following her latest arrest

after an eccentric American man swam to her lakeside home.

Pakistani forces kill 28 Taliban in Swat

Pakistani security forces killed 28 more militants and

arrested another seven in an ongoing massive

operation against the Taliban in the northwestern

district of Swat.

The Pakistani Army said in a statement that five

soldiers and two civilians were also injured in clashes

and exchange of fire with the militants at various

places in the area.

The army launched operations against Taliban

militants in Swat, located nearly 140 km from

Islamabad, early this month when the militants failed

to observe a peace deal with the government.

The officials claim that over 1,100 militants and some 90 soldiers have been killed in the

operation, which also displaced nearly three million people from Swat and three

neighbouring districts.

The army said that it successfully cleared the Taliban's stronghold at Peochar village as its

cordon and search operation continued to wrest back complete control of strategic Peochar

valley, a stronghold of Maulana Fazlullah who has led the Taliban uprising in Swat.


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"Security forces destroyed miscreants' hideouts including one madrasa and recovered 12 UNregistered

vehicles. Four tunnels were discovered with ration items stolen from NGOs and a

huge cache of arms, including 12.7 millimeter guns (from Peochar)," the army said.

The security forces also secured the Bahrain area in Swat and killed nine terrorists, including

the commander of Bahrian, Khush Mir Khan, also known as Abu Huzaifa. It was not possible

to independently confirm the military claim as the areas is closed to journalists.

The Swat operation, which has been cheered by the US and other Western allies, has

triggered a violent response by various Taliban groups which have intensified attacks on

security forces and civilians targets in recent days. On Thursday, a series of explosions

rocked North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) where Swat is located, killing 15 people.

Two backtoback

time explosive devices planted in parked motorbikes detonated in a busy

street, Qissa Khwani Bazar, in Peshawar, the NWFP capital. Six people, including two

children, died and more than 70 were injured.

Following the blasts, a police officer killed three suspects and arrested two more after a

shootout in the area. An hour later, two suicide bombers detonated an explosiveladen


when they were stopped at a security check post on the outskirts of Peshawar. Five people,

most of them law enforcers, died in the attack.

Five more people were killed in a separate suicide bombing at a security post in another

NWFP district, Dera Ismail Khan. "Foreseeing their defeat, they are targeting the cities.

These are cowardly acts," NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain said Friday, adding:

"The government will never bow to them (the Taliban)."

Swine flu cases pass 15,000 marks: WHO

Swine flu has now infected 15,510 people in 53

countries since it were first uncovered last month in

the United States and Mexico, the World Health

Organisation said.

The number of deaths rose to 99 after two more

deaths were reported by Mexico and one each was

reported by Canada and the United States, according

to the latest WHO tally of confirmed influenza A

(H1N1) cases.

Most of the new cases were reported by the United States, with 1,163 new infections,

bringing its total to 7,927. Mexico also posted a significant rise of 369 cases, bringing its total

to 4,910. In the southern hemisphere, where winter and the regular flu season is starting,

Australia reported 108 new infections and Chile 79 new cases.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Uruguay

reported cases to the WHO for the first time.


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Slovakia and Czech Republic posted a case each, Uruguay and Dominican Republic had two

cases each and Romania reported three. Some affected countries no longer keep track of all

cases according to the WHO, while others do not report daily. The WHO is now only

updating its tally thrice a week, rather than daily.

Afcons bags Rs 1,750 crore ONGC contract

Shapoorji Pallonji group's, Afcons Infrastructure has bagged a

contract to develop an offshore platform for staterun


Bombay High, signalling its entry into the sector. The group,

which is also one of the largest shareholders in Tata Sons with its 18.4% equity, will execute

the contract valued at Rs 1,750 crore through a JV with Indonesia's Gunanusa.

"The offshore platform will be completed by the first quarter of 2011 and will be our first

venture in this segment," Afcons' MD K Subrahmanian said. The company is also setting up

an oil and gas fabrication yard at Mahuva in Gujarat.

Afcons is currently acquiring land for the Rs 600crore

oil yard project. "The first phase of

the yard will be completed by the end of the current fiscal," said Mr Subrahmanian. Phase

one of the project will have an investment of Rs 125 crore that will be funded through a

combination of internal accruals and debt.

Afcons has reported revenue of Rs 2,250 crore and a profit of Rs 60 crore for the year ended

March and is planning to intensify its focus on offshore businesses by tapping opportunities

in West Asia and South Africa.

ONGC is slated to invest about $60 billion in the next five years which would give Afcons an

opportunity to increase its presence in the sector, said Mr Subrahmanian.

Afcons has developed about 50 structures along the Indian coastline including infrastructure

and marine structure development for Reliance's oil and gas facilities. It is also engaged in

the execution of projects in West Asia and Africa.

Sky puts content on Xbox console

British broadcaster Sky has struck a deal with Microsoft

that will see live football, TV and film content brought

to the Xbox 360. The deal marks the Xbox's first move

into live linear broadcast TV.

Rival consoles, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's

Wii, can access catchup

TV content via the BBC's


Sky's channels will be available on the Xbox 360 from

the autumn, but no specific lineup

or pricing details

have been given.


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Users of Microsoft's Xbox Live online service in the UK and the Irish Republic will be able

to watch Sky's live sport, programmes, catchup

TV and on demand films, without the need

for a satellite dish or settop

box, or being an existing Sky customer.

Sky's commercial Group Director Stephen Nuttall hinted there could be deals for some

current Sky subscribers. Sky customers who have subscribed to premium content packages,

or have multiple settop

boxes or one of the bigger broadband packages could get content via

their Xbox at a reduced cost.

Neil Thompson, head of Xbox for UK and the Irish Republic, said: "The entertainment world

is changing immensely, with consumers looking for choice, flexibility and convenience.

The lineup

of channels and content available via the Xbox would be similar to the existing

Sky Player service, available on PCs and Macs, said Mr Nuttall. Xbox Live users will also be

able to watch Sky content together virtually, chatting over the broadband connection, and

sending messages via their avatars, or virtual personas.

The community viewing aspect will start with sport broadcasts, and could potentially roll out

to other live TV content as well.

Mr Nuttall said Sky on Xbox was an "extra convenience, a choice; it's a complement and

alternative to the existing methods of experiencing Sky's content". Currently, users can get

content via a satellite service, a PC service and a mobile service, either separately or in

combination. Sky has 9.3 million subscribers in the UK, and the firm said "hundreds of

thousands of people" were using its online Sky Player regularly. The video content from Sky

will be streamed in standard definition, "DVD quality" and will require at least a one megabit

per second connection.

Mr Thompson said the deal with Sky did not rule out the BBC's iPlayer ever appearing on the

Xbox 360. Mr Nuttall said putting content on the 360 did not signal the end of the settop

box. He said: "It's about the expansion of choice. The Sky plus HD box has got a lot of

distinct features that distinguish it from any sort of competition, including the Xbox 360."

Basalog insulin from Biocon

Biocon launched its long acting, nonpeak

Basalog insulin

analogue Glargine. The product replaces other forms of insulin

that do not act for a full 24 hours and require multiple

injections. Glargine would come in 10 ml and 3 ml vials.

Biocon Chairman and Managing Director Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said Glargine would be

priced 40 per cent less than comparable injectibles in the market. "The number of diabetics in

the world, now 200 to 230 million, is expected to double by 2020. India alone may have 40

million diabetics and one out of every five diabetics in the world is likely to be of Indian

origin by then." she said. Only 50 per cent of cases were diagnosed in India and half of them

actually treated. Affordable treatment became important.


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Biocon has also signed an agreement with Bayer Polychem India, a subsidiary of the


company, for marketing and distribution of Bayer's blood glucose

monitoring system Breeze 2. Asked about Glargine in the international markets, Ms.

Mazumdar Shaw said certain related patents would expire by 2014 when exports would

become possible. There could also be licensing agreements with overseas companies.

Biocon's diabetes medications had 60 per cent market share within India and $500 million in

sales was possible in a few years.

Kavya Shivshankar won the US National Spelling Bee

Championship for 2009

There was an air of inevitability as yet another precocious


of Indian origin won the US National

Spelling Bee IndianAmerican

Kavya Shivashankar lifts

the trophy after winning the 2009 National Spelling Bee

Championship for 2009 extending a decade long run in

which Indian Americans kids have won the title seven

times out of ten.

Kavya Shivshankar of Olethe, Kansas, effortlessly spelt

the word Laodicean which

means indifferent or

lukewarm especially in matters of religion to

claim the

title after her only remaining American opponent Tim

Ruiter flubbed Maecenas, which means a generous


Some eleven million American school kids participated in

the National Spelling Bee championships this year, and when the final 293 made the cut to

Washington DC (which hosts the grand finale) this weekend, there were 32 kids of Indian

origin. It was the usual 1015

per cent, which is handsomely disproportionate to the IndianAmerican

population in the US, which at around 2 million is less than one per cent.

There were 14 'desi' kids in the 41 who made the semifinal

round in Washington DC, and

six among the 11 who made to the final rounds. When that was whittled down to three by

bedtime when many kids were nodding off, one lone American boy was up against two


girls Kavya,

and Aishwarya Pastapur from Springfield, Illinois, who

exited soon after when she made a meal of 'menhir.'

Kavya, who had finished fourth last year, lived up to her billing as a hot favourite this year.

Seemingly encyclopaedic in her knowledge of words, she wore down the final eleven,

cracking words such as ergasia, escritoire, hydrargyrum, blancmange, baignoire, huisache,

ecossaise, diacoele, bouquiniste, isagoge, and phoresy. Yeah, don't even try.

Kavya's victory means backtoback

titles for IndianAmerican

kids after Sameer Mishra

took the title last year. Previous winners in this last decade include Nupur Lala (1999),


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George Thampy (2000), Pratyush Buddiga (2002), Sai Gunturi (2003), Anurag Kashyap

(2005) and Sameer Mishra (2008). Chicagoan Balu Natarajan was the first IndianAmerican

to win the title in 1985, followed by Rageshree Ramachandran in 1987.

Why IndianAmerican

kids have begun to dominate Spelling Bee (and its companion event

the Geographic Bee) isn't a mystery anymore. Parental and peer pressure and inspiration have

resulted in almost every Indian household pushing their kids into nationwide competitions in

every sphere of school life, not just spelling competitions. The results show up in many


academic competitions.

The Spelling Bee championship itself has taken a new aura, with big time prize money

(Kavya picked up $40,000 in cash and prizes and will most likely breeze through college on

scholarships that could amount to as much as $100,000) and walltowall

media coverage.

Kavya's role model in this regard is Nupur Lala, the 1999 winner who became somewhat of a

media celebrity and went on to feature in a documentary called Spellbound on the Spelling

Bee event. Lala is now a researcher at MIT. Kavya wants to be a neurosurgeon.

Kavya's world will be a whirl for the next 48 hours as she will be rushed from studio to

studio for interviews, starting with an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on

Friday morning. Across America, many Indian parents will be sitting their kids across the

study table to prepare for Spelling Bee 2010.

Barcelona defeat Manchester United in 2009 Champions

League Final

Claiming their major trophy of the season, FC Barcelona

dominated reigning champions Manchester United F.C. at

the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to win the 2009 Champions

League Final 2 –0.

United got increasingly desperate, earning three yellow

cards in the final 12 minutes, but could not score and

Barcelona took their second Champions League title since

the 2005–06.

Barcelona along with Champions League earned two domestic trophies, earning both the La

Liga and the Copa Del Rey titles.

Manchester United also earned three major trophies, earning the Premier League title, the

League Cup title and the Community shield. In addition United defeated the best international

club teams in 2008 Club World Cup.

Both teams will be eligible for the Champions League 2009–10, with Barcelona as title

holders and winners of La Liga and Manchester United as the winners of the Premier League.

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