News in brief-World
President Barack Obama has lifted a Bush Administration ban on using federal funds for
human embryonic-stem-cell research, which scientists believe could help treat illnesses
like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Pro-life advocates criticized Obama's move, saying it
could lead to the destruction of human embryos in the name of research.
India, with 196 of its languages listed as endangered, tops the list of countries having the
maximum number of dialects on the verge of extinction in UNESCO's latest Atlas of
World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing. India is closely followed by the U.S.
which stands to lose 192 languages and Indonesia, where 147 are in peril.
Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) men surrendered their arms to the authorities ending their twoday
revolt after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ultimatum to do so and go back to the
barracks or face tough measures.
The mutineers killed an unspecified number of Army officers, including Director-
General of the BDR Major General Shakil Ahmed, posted in the paramilitary border
force. Several thousand jawans are said to have revolted against their "corrupt officers."
President Hugo Chavez has ordered troops to temporarily seize control of all Venezuelan
rice processing plants to ensure they produce at full capacity. The President had accused
some companies of slowing production to evade price caps that have slashed their profit
Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probe, impacted the Moon recently, thereby ending its 16-
month mission. The probe, named after a legendary Chinese Moon goddess, was
launched into space on October 24, 2007 and sent the first full map of the Moon's surface
back to China one month later.
Renegade soldiers assassinated the President of Guinea-Bissau Joao Bernardo Vieira
in his palace, hours after a bomb blast killed his rival, but the military said no coup was in
progress in the fragile West African nation.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has resigned to pave the way for the
formation of a national unity government comprising Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas' Fatah and rival Hamas.
(3) of (8)
The Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has said the washing
machine has done more to "liberate" women than the contraceptive pill.
President Barack Obama has said he will not allow human cloning in U.S. even as he
lifted the eight-year-old ban on government funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Delhi born 34-year-old Vivek Kundra was appointed the first ever Federal Chief
Information Officer by President Barack Obama recently.
Actor and director Clint Eastwood has been awarded a prestigious Palme d'Or award,
three months before this year's Cannes Film Festival starts in May 2009. Ingmar
Bergman is the only other director to receive the award, in 1997.
US animation director and producer John Lasseter will
receive a lifetime achievement award at this year's Venice
Film Festival in September 2009. Lasseter is the creative
force behind box office hits including 'Toy Story',
'Monsters Inc' and 'Finding Nemo'. He will share the
award with the directors of Disney Pixar studios, the first
time an entire team has been honoured with a career award.
The Piaggio Group: A venerable heritage
Based in Pontedera, Rinaldo Piaggio founded Piaggio
encompasses seven brands producing scooters and
motorcycles. As the fourth largest producer of scooters
and motorcycles in the world,
Piaggio produces more than 600,000 vehicles annually,
with five Research and development centers, more than
6,700 employees and operations in over 50 countries. It
had revenues of $ 2.53 billion and net profit of $ 89.68
million in 2007. The most famous design associated with
this large industrial design company was the Vespa motor
scooter designed by the aeronautical engineer Corradino
D'Ascanio at the end of the Second World War.
(4) of (8)
Founded by Rinaldo Piaggio in 1884, Piaggio initially produced locomotives and railway carriages.
During World War I the company focused on producing airplanes.
During World War II the company produced bomber aircraft, but Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its
Pontedera plant completely demolished by bombing.
Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio's founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order
to address Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation. The idea was to design
an inexpensive vehicle for the masses.
Aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio, responsible for the design and construction of the first
modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle by
Consequently, in 1946 Piaggio launched the Vespa (Italian for "wasp") scooter, and within 10 years over a
million units had been produced.
With strong cash flow emanating from the success of the Vespa, Piaggio developed other products,
including the 1957 Vespa 400, the only passenger car ever produced by the company.
In 1959, Piaggio came under the control of the Agnelli family, the owners of car maker Fiat SpA.
Resultantly, as the wider ownership of Fiat in Italian industry, in the 1964 the two divisions (aeronautical and
motorcycle) split to become two independent companies; the aeronautical division was named IAM Rinaldo
Today the airplane-company Piaggio Aero is controlled by the family of Piero Ferrari, who also still holds
10% of the famous car maker Ferrari.
Founded in 1884, Piaggio's product range includes scooters, mopeds
and motorcycles from 50 to 1,200cc under the Piaggio, Vespa, Gilera,
Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi and Scarabeo brands. Piaggio also
operates in the 3-and 4-wheeled light transport sector with the Ape,
Porter and Quargo.
Fiat's Giovanni Alberto Agnelli was elected President of Piaggio.
In 1994, Sfera, the first scooter with plastic bodywork was produced
In 1994 a milestone was reached with the launch of maxiscooter
Piaggio models include Liberty, NRG, Fly and Zip.
Vespa models include Granturismo and GTS.
Gilera models include Runner and Nexus.
Aprilia models include SR, Sportcity, Leonardo and Atlantic scooters & Scarabeo, Tuono, Caponord
and Pegaso bikes.
Moto Guzzi, founded in Mandello del Lario 1921, is famous for models like Norge, California Vintage,
California Touring, Breva, Griso, Nevada Classics and Corsa.
Derbi's current range is composed of the Mulhacén and the Senda, Atlantis, GPR, GP1 and Boulevard
(5) of (8)
Sometimes likened to the Ford Model T automobile (1908-
27), which sold 15 million units in its lifetime, the Italian
Vespa motor scooter designed by Corradino D'Ascanio
and manufactured by Piaggio since 1946 has been the bestselling
two-wheeler, with more Vespas than Model Ts having
been sold by the end of the 20th century.
In terms of public visibility and capturing the public
imagination, the Vespa has also featured in countless films
spanning several generations, including 'Roman Holiday' (in
which it was ridden by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn),
Vincente Minnelli's 'An American in Paris', Federico Fellini's
'La dolce vita', Franc Roddam's 'Quadrophenia', George
Lucas's 'American Graffiti', and Jay Roach's 'Austin Powers'.
The Vespa scooter (named after the wasp whose buzzing it
imitates) proved to be a stylish, affordable means of
transportation in the reconstruction period of the later 1940s,
epitomizing the democratic spirit that infused the outlook of
many designers in the years immediately after the end of the
Able to be ridden by men and women alike, easy to operate,
with three-speed gears operated from the handlebar, a pedal-operated rear brake, and a stylish body casing
to protect riders from dirt, the final form evolved from D'Ascanio's 1945 Paperino and MP6 prototypes and
was launched in April 1946. It proved immensely popular throughout Europe and the rest of the world later.
Established in 1921 in Mandello del Lario, Italy, Moto Guzzi has led
Italy's motorcycling manufacture, enjoyed prominence in world-wide
motorcycle racing, and led the industry in ground-breaking innovation —
for the greater part of its history.
Moto Guzzi was conceived by Carlo Guzzi, Giovanni Ravelli and
Giorgi Parodi, two aircraft pilots and their mechanic serving in the
Corpo Aeronautico Militare (the Italian Air Corp, CAM) during World War I. The three were assigned to the
Miraglia Squadron based outside Venice.
The trio envisioned creating a motorcycle company after the war. Guzzi would engineer the motor bikes,
Parodi (scion of wealthy Genovese ship-owners) would finance the venture, and Ravelli (already a famous
pilot and motocycle racer) would promote the bikes with his racing prowess.
Guzzi and Parodi formed Moto Guzzi in 1921. Ravelli, ironically, had died just days after the war's end in an
aircraft crash – and is commemorated by the eagle's wings that form the Moto Guzzi logo.
(6) of (8)
Derbi's origins began with a little bicycle workshop in the village of Mollet near Barcelona, founded in 1922
by Simón Rabasa Singla.
In 1944, Singla formed a limited liability company named Bicicletas Rabas with the
aim of moving into manufacturing bicycles.
In 1950, the company changed its name to the Nacional Motor SA and unveiled its first motorcycle, the Derbi
The name Derbi is an acknowledgement of the company's history and is an acronym for DERivados de
BIcicletas (derivatives of bicycles).
Aprilia is an Italian motorcycle company, one of the seven marques owned by Piaggio, the world's fourth
largest motorcycle manufacturer. Aprilia started as a scooter manufacturer, but
has more recently come to be known for its race-winning sportbikes–V-twin
Superbike, the RSV Mille.
Aprilia has introduced a number of technological innovations–the first catalytic
converter for scooters and the first water cooling system for 125cc bikes. It
has introduced completely new segments, like Scarabeo.
Gilera is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer founded in Arcore in 1909 by Giuseppe Gilera. In
1969 the company was purchased by the Piaggio & Co. SpA.
In 1935 Gilera acquired rights to the Rondine four-cylinder engine. From the mid-thirties
Gilera developed a range of four-stroke engine machines. The most famous of which was the
Piaggio's commercial vehicles: Ape, Porter, Quargo, Trackmaster.
News in brief-India
Liquor baron Vijay Mallya bought Mahatma
Gandhi's personal belongings that included
including sandals, a Zenith pocket watch and some
utensils for $1.8 million (Rs 9.4 crore) at an auction
conducted by Antiquorum Auctioneers in New
York. Mallya rejected Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni's claim that the government
had arranged for procurement of the items through him.
Just before the auction, owner of Mahatma Gandhi's personal belongings James Otis
had agreed to withdraw these from the auction. But the auction house did not agree.
Mallya has presented these items to the government of India.
(7) of (8)
President Pratibha Patil has rejected Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami's
recommendation that Navin Chawla be removed as Election Commissioner. The
President's decision is said to have been based on a recommendation given by the Union
Gopalaswami is due to retire on April 20 and by rejecting his recommendation, the decks
have been cleared for Navin Chawla's appointment as the next CEC. Acting on the
BJP's complaint, the outgoing CEC made a suo motu recommendation to the President.
Chawla will hold charge till July 29, 2010 when he will turn 65. The new CEC has
authored a number of books, including a biography of Mother Teresa that became
Minister of State for Commerce and Power Jairam Ramesh
resigned from the council of ministers to devote more time to the
party. He was the architect of the Congress manifesto for the
2004 Lok Sabha elections.
The manifesto prepared by Jairam Ramesh later morphed into
the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), the document on the basis of which the
United Progressive Alliance government moved forward. The slogan 'Congress ka
haath, Aam aadmi ke saath' was Ramesh's brainchild.
The Union government has appointed Justice Gurbax Rai Majithia as the new
chairman of the National Wage Boards for Working Journalists and Other Newspaper
Employees. He replaces Justice K. Narayan Kurup, who resigned from the post on July
30, 2008 after the wage boards recommended 30% interim relief
for newspaper employees.
Career-diplomat Satyabrata Pal joined the National Human
Rights Commission (NHRC) as its member after retiring from
service recently. A 1972-batch IFS officer, Pal, who was till
recently India's high commissioner to Pakistan, will have a fiveyear
term in the NHRC.
Hindi film singers Shaan and Roop Kumar Rathore have been roped in by the BJP to
sing their publicity jingles for the coming Lok Sabha polls. The ads, which will be
signed off with the slogan "Mazboot Neta, Nirnayak Sarkar" (Strong leader, Decisive
government), have been designed by Frank Simoes-Tag and Utopia.
(8) of (8)
India Post released a stamp in the denomination of Rs 5 to commemorate the 60th
anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights on
December 10, 2008.The stamp features Abraham Lincoln,
Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, and Mother Teresa
the acknowledged champions of human rights.
A special court in New Delhi sentenced the former Union
Minister of State for Communications, Sukhram, to three-year
rigorous imprisonment and ordered forfeiture of his assets worth
Rs. 4.35 crore, disproportionate to the known sources of his
The French government will lend its support to the setting up of a new Indian Institute
of Technology (IIT) in Jaipur, which will focus on the study of aeronautical engineering
and energy research.
Nirmala Venkatesh, member of the National Commission for Women, was removed
from her office for failing to conduct an unbiased enquiry into the Mangalore pub attack
on girls last month by the Sri Ram Sene activists.
India has won formal approval for an Additional Protocol (AP) to its safeguards
agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from the agency's
Board of Governors. This completes all of its major commitments stemming from the
July 2005 nuclear agreement with the United States.
Nirmala Venkatesh, who was removed as a member of the
National Commission for Women over the Mangalore pub attack
probe, has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh's Jan Morcha merged
with Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP). V.P.
Singh's son Ajay Pratap Singh — who heads the Jan Morcha —
will be the party's candidate from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
have sealed a seat-sharing pact for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.
The Election Commission cracked the whip on the Congress party and Saakshi TV
channel for telecasting an advertisement depicting the alleged back-stabbing of NTR by
his son-in-law and Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu.