News in brief: World
Actress Charlize Theron has been made a messenger of
peace by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-
Moon. The South African-born actress, who won an Oscar
for her role in the 2003 film Monster, will have a special
focus on ending violence against women. She becomes the
UN's 10th peace envoy, joining the likes of US actors
George Clooney and Michael Douglas, British naturalist
Jane Goodall, and Brazilian author Paulo Coelho.
Oscar-winner Al Pacino has been given a lifetime achievement award at the Rome
Film Festival in Italy.
US space tourist Richard Garriott, an investor in Space Adventures,
returned to earth in a Soyuz space capsule.
One of China's most prominent human rights activists, Hu Jia, has won
the European Parliament's 50,000 euro Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought. Hu, is serving a jail term for inciting subversion
of state power.
Angelina Jolie is the highest paid actress in Hollywood according to an annual report by
the Hollywood Reporter thanks to her prized earning of $23 million for the action film
"Wanted". Julia Roberts followed second with $23 million for her film "Duplicity",
while third was Reese Witherspoon, who pocketed $14 million for her new romantic
comedy "Four Christmases".
Honda has decided to pull out its team comprising drivers Jenson Button and Reubens
Barrichello from F1.
The European Union will ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs from 2009 and
replace the market by fluorescent energy-saving bulbs.
Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo unveiled his lavish, $23 million ceiling painting at the
United Nations building in Geneva, a project that has evoked controversy over its hefty
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Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari received the U.N. prize
in the field of human rights on behalf of his mother and slain Pakistani former Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
Sonal Shah, the Indian-origin member of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's
transition team, whose links with VHP sparked criticism, has renounced her affiliation
with the Hindu outfit.
The U.K. has signalled an end to the policy which gave immigrants the "automatic" right
to citizenship if they had stayed for a minimum of five years. Under the proposed rules,
immigrants will have to "earn" British citizenship by demonstrating their commitment to
Britain that would include having a good grasp of English and knowledge of British
history and its institutions.
Actor Shahrukh Khan received the honour 'Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka' from the
government of Malaysia's Malacca State. He will now be referred to as Datuk
Shahrukh Khan and addressed as Datuk. Malacca authorities said Khan was given the
title because six of his movies were shot in the historical State, giving a boost to tourism.
The European Union is launching Operation Atalanta–a British-led anti-piracy armada
off the Horn of Africa in Europe's first joint naval operation.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, who presided over a massive post-Soviet revival
of the church, passed away at the age of 79. Alexy II, elected to head the church in 1990,
took advantage of the lifting of Communist restrictions on religious freedom to
dramatically rebuild the power and influence of the Orthodox Church in Russia and other
former Soviet states.
Russia has cut natural gas supplies to neighbouring Ukraine after talks on gas prices for
2009 fell through. Europe voiced concern over the row as 80% of Russian gas supplies to
Europe go through Ukraine. Ukraine's state gas company said it could not guarantee
uninterrupted transit of Russian gas to Europe if Russia cut off supplies to Ukraine.
After a lengthy and bloody campaign, the Sri Lankan army captured the northern town
of Kilinochchi, the administrative headquarters of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), and said its forces were continuing to advance towards remaining Tiger
Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of a Sri Lankan newspaper, was shot dead on his way
to work. In an article written before his death, he foretold his own murder and implied
that it would be the work of the security forces.
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Samuel Huntington, a political scientist best known for his views on the clash of
civilizations, passed away at the age of 81. He argued that in a post-Cold War world,
violent conflict would come not from ideological friction between nations, but from
cultural and religious differences among the world's major civilizations. He made the
argument in a 1993 article and then expanded the thesis into a book, "The Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," which was published in 1996.
U2 frontman Bono will write an opinion column for The New York Times. The singer
is well known for campaigning against debt for the world's poorest countries. Last year,
he received an honorary degree at Japan's Keio University for his work in the fight
against poverty and AIDS in Africa.
Guinea's despotic president, Lansana Conte, passed away after 24 years in power
recently. His death prompted a coup by army officers led by a hitherto unknown captain,
Belgium's parliamentary speaker, Herman van Rompuy, was asked to form a
government after the collapse of the coalition led by Yves Leterme.
The medieval prince Alexander Nevsky, canonised by the Orthodox Church as saint in
1574, has been named the Greatest Russian of all times in a nationwide poll, leaving
behind early 20th century reformer Pyotr Stolipin and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Israel intensified its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, sending ground forces to the
outskirts of the main urban areas as aircraft attacked suspected Hamas fighters, weapons
dumps, rocket-firing positions and arms-smuggling tunnels.
John Atta Mills was sworn in as Ghana's new president after a wafer-thin victory in a
run-off against the former ruling party's candidate.
Hillary Clinton has been endorsed as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state
by the US Senate's foreign relations committee.
Denis Mukwege, a doctor in Democratic Republic of Congo who treats women
traumatized by combatants in the war-torn country has been named "African of the
Year" by the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust. The doctor plans to use the $20,000 prize
money to fund a centre to help rape victims rejoin society.
Azerbaijan has banned foreign companies from broadcasting on national frequencies,
shutting off groups such as the BBC and Voice of America.
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Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah has formed a new cabinet, replacing
the previous government which quit after a dispute with parliament. Nasser had been
accused of intervening to help a controversial Iranian Shia Muslim cleric visit Kuwait,
even though he had been convicted by a Kuwaiti court of insulting the companions of
British lawyer and writer John Mortimer, creator of the criminal lawyer Horace
Rumpole, who appeared in a TV series and a string of novels and stories, passed away at
the age of 85.
John Lennon, the Beatles singer, who died 28 years ago, will appear in a television
commercial for charity. A voice dubbed over images of Lennon recalls the sentiment of
his 1971 hit song "Imagine' while promoting the "One Laptop per Child Foundation".
An asteroid has been named after Nandini Sarma, an 18-year-old girl of Assamese
origin, for winning the first place in the first place in the 2007 Intel International Science
and Engineering Fair for her microbiology project that advocates garlic as a replacement
for synthetic chemical food preservatives. The asteroid, discovered in Nov 2000, by the
Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) team in Socorro, U.S., has
been named 23228 Nandinisarma.
'What Next: Surviving The Twentieth Century' is a new book authored by Chris
Patten–the last governor of the United Kingdom's last colony Hong Kong, and later
European Commissioner for external relations, His earlier book 'Not Quite the
Diplomat: Home Truths about World Affairs' was largely devoted to explaining why
the traditional Conservative worldview may be out of synch with reality.
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) banned Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud Dawa
(JuD), a front group for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), blamed for the recent Mumbai terror
attacks, declaring it as a terrorist group. It also branded as terrorists four of its leaders
including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the suspected mastermind behind the deadly strike.
The climate change conference in Poznan, Poland has activated an Adaptation Fund
that will enable developing countries to send proposals for projects to safeguard
vulnerable communities and areas against impacts of climate change and global warming.
The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), released
after the end of the Poznan summit, mentioned activation of the Adaptation Fund and
the progress made in the area of technology with the endorsement of the Global
Environment Facility's "Poznan Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer", as
some of its achievements.
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The Cambridge University has started a Manmohan Singh Graduate Students
Scholarship Programme for Indian students.
News in brief: India
The Sino-Indian Joint Military Exercise "Ex Hand-in-Hand 2008," aimed at
developing combat strategies to counter terrorism, was organised in India recently.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
signed an agreement to supply nearly 2,000 tonnes of uranium to India.
India has struck a deal with France to provide 300 tonnes of uranium for two proposed
1000-MW light water reactors by Areva of France at Jaitpur in Maharashtra's
The Rajasthan Congress Legislature Party (CLP) chose the former Chief Minister and
Congress general secretary, Ashok Gehlot as the new Chief Minister of the state.
Odissi dancer Pritika Kalra Gandhi received the National Women Excellence Award
2008 of the foundation for religious Harmony and Universal Peace recently.
Nine young scientists from different research institutions have won the prestigious
Scopus Young Indian Scientists Awards for 2008. The awards are instituted by
Elsevier, the Netherlands based research publisher of scientific information. The winners
are: Govindasamy Bala of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (for Earth Sciences
category), Siva Athreya of the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore (Mathematics),
B.V.S. Reddy of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad (Chemistry),
Bhanuprakash Reddy of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad (Medicine), R.
Raman of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New
Delhi (Agriculture), S. Ganesh of IIT, Kanpur (Agriculture Biological Sciences),
Suman Chakraborthy of IIT, Kharagpur, (Engineering) and Satyabrata Patnaik of
JNU, Delhi, and Moulik Parikh of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and
Astrophysics, Pune (Physics).
Rajiv Mathur was appointed as the new Chief of the Intelligence Bureau from January
1, 2009. He took over from P.C. Halder, who retired on Dec 31, 2008.
The world-famous mangoes of Malihabadi in Uttar Pradesh have got Geographical
Indicators (GI) status.
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Historian Romila Thapar has been honoured with the $1 million Kluge Prize for
Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity, along with Peter Brown, a historian
of the post-Roman world.
Bharatanatyam danseuse and director of the Ahmedabad-based Darpana Academy
Mallika Sarabhai has been selected for the "Crystal award for 2009," given by the
World Economic Forum, for her two decades of work in the fields of women
empowerment and social justice as well as arts and culture.
Nobel laureate and Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Mohamed ElBaradei has been chosen to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace,
Disarmament and Development for 2008.
Editor-in-Chief of the IBN Network Rajdeep Sardesai has been unanimously elected
president of the Editors Guild of India. He succeeds the Chief Editor of Nai Duniya,
Alok Mehta, who served for two terms. Resident Editor of Malayala Manorama and The
Week K.S. Sachidananada Murthy was re-elected secretary-general.
The Supreme Court collegium, headed by the Chief Justice of India K.G.
Balakrishnan, has refused to reconsider its decision on elevation of three High Court
Chief Justices as apex court judges. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his
reservations about the elevation of these three judges on the ground that seniority had
been overlooked and certain States were not represented in the apex court.
Leather technologist T. Ramasami was selected for the prestigious Dr. Y. Nayudamma
Memorial Award for the year 2008.
Ashutosh Kaushik who hails from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh won the 'Bigg Boss 2'
title and a whopping Rs.1 crore in cash. Model-actor Zulfi Syed was declared the second
runner-up, while Raja Chaudhry became the first runner-up.
Avtar Singh Makkar was re-elected president of the Shiromani Gurdwara
Prabhandak Committee for the fourth time in a row.
Konkani writer Ravindra Rajaram Kelekar, 83, was declared winner of 42nd Jnanpith
award for 2006.
Visva Bharati has decided to confer its highest award, "Deshikottama" to the former
King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk. Among others who will be conferred the
award are former Visva Bharati Vice-Chancellor, Amlan Dutta, economist J. Endrez,
historian Irfan Habib and theatre personality Habib Tanvi