Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sania crosses first hurdle, Somdev crashes out

Sania Mirza won her fourth match on the trot to cruise to the second round of US Open but it was an early exit for Somdev Devvarman, who lost his opening round in the men’s singles event.

Sania, who entered the women’s singles as a qualifier, scored an easy 6-3, 6-2 win over fellow qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in the first-round match.

Somdev, who earned a direct entry into a Grand Slam for the first time, went down fighting against the South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 3-6 4-6 3-6 in his first round in the men’s singles event.

The defeat means that Somdev has not gone beyond the first round in Grand Slams this season.

He had failed to qualify for the Australian Open and the Wimbledon and lost in the first round of the French Open.

A second round appearance at the U.S. Open last year remains his best performance in the Slams.

It took Sania one hour and 17 minutes to dispatch her rival and set up a second round clash with Russian 20th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“For me, the fact that I am still capable of going on court and winning four matches in a row gives me a lot of confidence that I still have the ability,” the number one female Indian player said after her win.

“I am just going to enjoy it. I was happy when I won the first round of the qualifiers and I am happy again today. I love playing here on the hard courts in New York and always seem to do well here,” she added.

Sania was forced to go through the qualifiers of Grand Slam for the first time since 2005 due to low ranking.

Poor form and wrist injury dented her ranking heavily as she is languishing at 159 in world.

Anantapur turns into a hub for porn material

Anantapur district has turned into a hub where pornographic CDs and DVDs are easily available.

District police, who recen-tly launched a crackdown on internet centres after receiving orders from police top brass, failed to raid nerve centres where largescale obscene CDs are piled up in several CDs shops.

Anyone can purchase pornographic movies with utmost ease at the busy Kamalanagar area and Srikantam circle in Anantapur city. Youth and middle aged persons are addicted to these as CDs are easily available for Rs 30. The illegal trade is also flourishing in Kadiri, Tadipatri, Puttaparthi and Hindupur.

City two town police raided Excellent internet centre at the municipal complex and seized more than 1,000 pornographic movies stored in a computer a week ago.

They registered a case under IPC sections 292, 294 against the shop owner and sent him to police remand. However, the accused is a small fish in this racket.

The trade is unabated in the district as is evident with a bank field officer, who shot pornographic videos of Self Help Group women in his cellphone when they approached him for bank loans, shared those videos with a CD shop owner for making business in Vajrakaroor. However, police busted the racket and registered a case against him.

According to sources, traders are secretly shooting college girls and prostitutes’ pornographic videos and putting these up for sale in Kadiri.

People allege that police are not paying attention on this illegal trade due to bribes.

Two town circle inspector Mr A. Srinivasulu, said that raids would be conducted on CD shops if higher officials ordered him to do so.

Flood threats rise after severe rains

Parts of the state are in imminent danger of floods as rain continued to lash the districts on Monday. Thousands had to be evacuated to safer places in the West Godavari district due to the incessant rains.

In Khammam district, a couple were killed when their house collapsed due to heavy rains early on Monday morning while they were asleep. The victims were identified as N. Jagan, 34, and his wife N. Jayasudha, 30.

In East Godavari, over 332 families were stranded as water from Seethapalli, Maderu and Vattigadda streams entered Tamarapalli, Nunepalli and Marripalem villages. The water level at the Musurumilli reservoir was at 113.40 metre in the evening, forcing irrigation authorities to release nearly 7,000 cusecs through the spillway. The water level at the Surampalem reservoir touched 104.6 metres against the FRL of 105 metres. Here too irrigation authorities had to release water. In West Godavari, Tammileru, Yerrakaluva and Kovvada canals are almost overflowing. As Tammileru is in spate, it affected the Ponangi village and YSR Colony.

“Nearly 2,000 families live on either side of the Tammileru river bunds. People in these areas have to be shifted as there is an expected inflow of around 40,000 cusecs to the river. We have sought helicopters to rescue the people,” said Mrs Vani Prasad, collector of West Godavari.

Mining mafia looting AP, alleges Naidu

The Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, on Monday said that the mining mafia was looting the state’s natural resources and using the ill-gotten wealth in politics.

Mr Naidu also said that Mr Rahul Gandhi should do a “Vedanta” in AP and ensure that the mining agreements in Bayyaram, Obulapuram and Visakhapatnam were cancelled.

The TD leader’s second foray into the Telangana region to expose irregularities in the Bayyaram mines was aimed at keeping the party flock together as his cadres are making a beeline for the TRS after the party’s dual stand on statehood. After Babli, Mr Naidu has now taken up the Bayyaram issue and plans to take up the issue of the allotment of bauxite mining lease to Jindal Industries in Visakhapatnam district and other such issues, party sources said.

“Mr Gandhi went to Orissa to take up the Girijans’ cause and ensured cancellation of the mining lease to Vedanta. But it’s unfortunate no such action was taken against the Jindals in Vizag, Obulapuram Mining Corporation in Anantapur and Rakshana Steels in Bayyaram,” he said.

He said Mr Gandhi should take similar steps in the State since the natural resources are being looted by few individuals with political patronage. Referring to the Central government’s action on Byyaram, he said the government is yet to cancel the lease completely.

“We will fight till the lease is cancelled. We will also take up similar agitations in other questionable mining leases. Byyaram is a case study where the Girijan lifeline is destroyed by some individuals and organisations with tacit support of the government. In some cases, innocent Girijans are being used to acquire the lease,’’ he said before leaving for Byyaram.

He also alleged that late chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy had given the Byyaram mining lease on a platter to his son-in-law, Mr Anil Kumar which was a gross misuse of power. “The lease did not benefit local Girijans, government and the district,” he added.

He stated that the Telugu Desam would take up a series of agitations against illegal mining in the state in a phase manner, especially in Girijan areas and would enlighten Girijans about their rights.

Pak cricket fix probe may cover 82 games

The ICC’s Dubai-based anti-corruption and security unit, which is investigating the spot-fixing allegations revealed on Sunday, could extend the scope to include more than 80 international Tests and one-day matches involving Pakistan.

The anti-corruption cell will study all 82 Tests and one-day matches played by Pakistan in the period Mazhar Majeed reportedly told the News of the World that he had rigged matches.

It has also been claimed that the first Test match between England and Pakistan at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in July was subject to largescale spot-fixing by Pakistani cricketers.

The Sun said Monday that Scotland Yard had been tipped off a month ago that a middle-man had corrupted at least one key Pakistani player for a largescale betting sting involving Asian syndicates.

The International Cricket Council and Pakistan Cricket Board officials met at Lord’s on Monday morning, but no details about their discussions were released.

Pakistan is due to play a one-day warm-up match against Somerset on Thursday. The team will play two Twenty20 matches against England and a five-match ODI series.

Majeed was released on police bail. Majeed, 35, will have to appear before the police later.

Police and tax officials also searched Majeed’s house in Croydon and will investigate accounts of his now-defunct firm Bluesky and Croydon Athletic football club to check his claims that he laundered money.

State dumps Dharma, sidelines Acharya

The state government on Monday shunted out Mr A.V.Dharma Reddy, the controversial special officer in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, and took off a key portfolio from the industries principal secretary, Mr B.P. Acharya, as part of a damage control exercise.

At the same time, the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, kept everyone guessing on who the state’s next director-general of police would be by postponing the decision to Tuesday. It was widely expected that he would anoint Mr K. Aravinda Rao as the new DGP.

Mr Dharma Reddy, an officer with with Indian Defence Estate Service, was shifted to the insignificant post of secretary, AP Information Commission. He had created controversy recently over his alleged involvement in the illegal sale of arjita seva tickets.

Mr Dharma Reddy was a blue-eyed boy of the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, who initially brought him in as joint executive officer of TTD. The JEO has the power to issue the most sought-after tickets to various sevas and handle VVIP visits besides controlling the overall administration of Tirumala.

With rules coming in the way of continuing Mr Dharma Reddy as JEO, the YSR government moved him out of TTD in 2008 but brought him back again as TTD special officer.

With his name being dragged into the arjita seva scam, Mr Rosaiah, took a decision to shunt him out on Saturday itself.

The government also acted on the Emaar scam and relieved Mr Acharya of the responsibility of the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation since he had approved the deal with Emaar MGF while serving as APIIC managing director.

The Chief Minister directed the chief secretary, Mr S.V. Prasad, to strip Mr Acharya of APIIC and give it to infrastructure and investment department, now headed by Mr Ajay Mishra.

Meanwhile, Mr Rosaiah postponed the naming of the successor to the DGP, Mr R.R. Girish Kumar, who retires on Tuesday. The Chief Minister informed the officials that he would reveal the name and sign the file related to the appointment only on Tuesday before leaving for New Delhi.

Sources said Mr Aravinda Rao was the top contender for the post unless the Chief Minister decides to give it to another senior cop, Mr Umesh Kumar.

After the news channels went to town saying that Mr Aravinda Rao will be the new DGP, sections close to the Chief Minister stepped up their lobbying for Mr Umesh Kumar, sources said.

"He (Mr Rosaiah) was under tremendous pressure from different sections to appoint Mr Aravinda Rao as the new DGP," said a source. "He was also suggested to consider Mr P. Gautam Kumar to avoid pressures from both sides."

The process of selecting the new DGP started with the three-member committee headed by the chief secretary recommending a panel of six names — two belonging to 1975 batch and four to 1977 — leaving the final decision to the Chief Minister.

The names included Mr K.R. Nandan, Mr P. Gautham Kumar, Mr A. Sivasankar, Mr Umesh Kumar, Mr K. Aravinda Rao and Mr V. Dinesh Reddy.

In another development, the mines department ordered an inquiry against assistant director of mines and geology, Mr Sai Ram Singh, who is facing charges of issuing permits for dispatch of ore mined from six iron ore mines the licences of which the government had suspended last year.

Mr Singh was suspended for not following procedure and issuing permit to companies including Obulapuram Mining Corporation of the Karnataka minister, Mr Gali Janardhan Reddy, without informing the government.

Congress plans Odarpu, offers Rs 1 lakh

In an attempt to checkmate the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Congress on Monday announced its own "Odarpu Yatra" and declared an aid of Rs 1 lakh to the families of those who committed suicide or died in the wake of the death of the former Chief Minister, Dr Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

The announcement was made by Mr Veerappa Moily, the AICC leader in charge of Andhra Pradesh, even as Mr Jagan is all set to start the next round of his Odarpu yatra (condolence tour) from September 3 in Prakasam district in defiance of the party high command writ.

"The Congress president has directed the AICC to pay a sum of Rs 1 lakh each to the bereaved families," said Mr Moily, who showered praises on the late YSR. "The disbursement of money will be undertaken by the concerned Congress MPs and DCC presidents."

Though belated, the AICC move is seen as an attempt to stymie the rebellion by Mr Jagan. The Congress high command is expected to issue another statement on Tuesday or the day after, asking party workers to participate in the official yatra, and not Mr Jagan’s tour.

"Our statement is not to please Mr Jagan," said an AICC functionary. "It is meant to keep party cadres away from him."

The AICC is hoping that its announcement would lead to a situation in which Mr Jagan would be isolated in the party.

However, sources in Mr Jagan’s camp said the Kadapa MP was in no mood to reconsider his plans. "It is not about money," said a leader close to Mr Jagan. "It is the emotional bonding he has with those families of the victims. In fact Mr Jagan himself had sought the party’s involvement to provide aid and help to those families."

Mr Jagan is learnt to be planning to release an open letter before starting his tour, responding to the AICC move.

The Kadapa MP has already completed two spells of the yatra in several parts of the state despite the party chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, advising against it. He will address a rally in the temple town of Tirupati on September 2, the first death anniversary of his father.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Obul Reddy’s kin claim RGV did not verify facts

The family members of Obul Reddy complained that filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma didn’t bother to contact them or take their version before making the movie Raktha Charitra.

“We got to know through the media that the movie has scenes that are not acceptable to my clients. We contacted him several times but there was no response and hence we sent the legal notice,” said Mr N.R.K. Mohan, advocate of Obul Reddy’s family.

The legal notice was sent to Mr Varma by Mrs Uma Rani and Mrs Usha Rani, sisters of Obul Reddy.

The filmmaker also received death threats over phone on Sunday from unidentified people who claimed to be supporters of Obul Reddy’s family.

Informing that he will lodge a police complaint in Mumbai soon, RGV, in true filmi style, said, “There is no way one gets to know what I am going to portray in the movie. They are threatening to kill me without even watching the movie. For those who are threatening to kill me, I want to give a counter warning. Forget supporters of Obul Reddy’s family, even if Mr Reddy comes back as a ghost to haunt me, I will not be scared.”

The movie stars Vivek Oberoi as Paritala Ravi, Suriya as Madhelacheruvu Suri and Shatrughan Sinha as NTR in the lead roles and is slated to hit the screens in September.

Ministers to fete CM to keep Cabinet post

In a clever move, ministers in the Rosaiah Cabinet have decided to felicitate the Chief Minister on September 3 at a public function to mark his completion of one year in office.

Ministers whose continuation in the Cabinet is doubtful when the much talked about Cabinet reshuffle takes place, probably in September, as part of a total revamp of the party and government, are behind the move in order to stay in the good books of Mr Rosaiah.

Initially, the Chief Minister rejected the idea of any felicitation, saying it doesn’t look nice to celebrate such an event immediately after the first death anniversary of his predecessor, Dr Rajasekhar Reddy. The health minister, Mr Danam Nagender, then suggested that the celebration be converted to ‘Re-dedication Day’ - a day when the government re-dedicates itself to the people of the state. Mr Rosaiah found this acceptable.

It may be recalled that the annual re-dedication day of the Congress government could not be held on May 14 this year due to the flood situation in the state.

The felicitation event will also serve to refute allegations by YSR and Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy loyalists that the programmes launched by YSR are being ignored. Besides heaping praises on Mr Rosaiah, ministers will also take a pledge to implement the pro-poor agenda of YSR.

Babus told to follow biz rules

After serving for more than two decades in the administrative service, the senior babus are to be taught on business rules and preparation of the crucial memoranda for the cabinet meetings.

With complaints from the ministers on errors in cabinet memoranda and violation of business rules in obtaining the cabinet approvals on rise, the government has recently circulated a note asking the senior bureaucrats to toe the line.

The General Administration Department asked the special chief secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries of various departments in the secretariat to “bestow personal attention while preparing the memoranda for cabinet” and “duly follow business rules and secretariat instructions.”

Official sources told this newspaper that Chief Secretary Mr S.V. Prasad raised the issue during a recent meeting with all the Special CS, principal secretaries and secretaries and directed the GAD to issue the instructions based on the minutes of the meeting. “In a particular case, the principal secretary did not circulate memoranda to cabinet regarding recruitment drive in respective department and remained incommunicado for two days before the meeting,” sources said.

The Chief Secretary gave clear instructions that the departmental heads should invariably make the memorandum available to the GAD at least 48 hours before the cabinet meeting.

He also pointed out that in some cases the memorandum also contained observations of deputy secretaries and joint secretaries also which he said is not envisaged in business rules.

Sources said the special chief secretary (finance), Mr G. Sudhir, complained to the Chief Secretary that files were being sent to his department after obtaining the approval of the cabinet. As per business rules, the proposals involving financial implications should first be vetted by the finance department before sent for cabinet approval. The Chief Secretary agreed with Mr Sudhir that circulating file directly to the cabinet was violation of business rules.

Encounter between Naxals, security forces ends in Bihar, six killed

A fierce encounter that was raging between security forces and Naxals for around 14 hours in Poonadih village of Bihar''s Lakhisarai district has ended on Monday.

The combing operations, however, are still on.

According to reports, at least six security personnel were killed and seven others were injured in the encounter.

The encounter began on Sunday evening when over 150 armed Maoists attacked search teams of the Bihar police that were combing the area after intelligence reports of Maoists'' presence in the forest.

Several Maoists are also reported to have been injured in the encounter.

Suspect bailed in Pakistan 'betting scam' scandal

The man at the centre of an alleged betting scam involving the Pakistan cricket team was out on bail on Monday as police, governments and authorities probed the scandal rocking the sport.

Mazhar Majeed, 35, was released from custody having been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers, following a newspaper's claim that he took money in return for exact details on no-balls in the Lord's Test match between England and Pakistan.

The allegations have caused uproar in Pakistan and shaken a sport that prides itself on being considered synonymous with fair play.

British police bailed Majeed without charge late on Sunday.

"A 35-year-old man has been bailed until a date in the future," a Scotland Yard spokesman told AFP.

He said the police would not be discussing the date or his bail conditions.

Scotland Yard detectives have also grilled Pakistan captain Salman Butt and two of their star strike bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif in their investigation.

Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani, said the claims "have bowed our heads in shame", as he launched an investigation.

The News of the World newspaper said it paid Majeed £150,000 ($230,000, 185,000 euros) in return for advance details about the timing of three no-balls in the fourth and final Test, which England won on Sunday to take the series 3-1.

The report said Aamer and Asif delivered blatant no-balls at the exact points in the match indicated by the alleged middleman.

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said detectives had on Saturday visited the team's hotel, where Butt and the bowlers had been interviewed about the allegations.

All three gave statements to the police, who took away their mobile phones.

Scotland Yard said they could not discuss persons interviewed as part of an inquiry.

The News of the World published a photograph, video and audio of its encounters with Majeed. He was pictured counting wads of banknotes given to him by a reporter posing as a front man for a betting syndicate.

The Lord's Test was played to a finish Sunday, but unusually, the post-match presentation ceremony did not take place on the outfield but was moved inside the pavilion.

During the ceremony, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke refused to shake Aamer's hand when presenting the player with the Pakistan Man of the Series award and a cheque for £4,000.

Despite the allegations, Saeed denied that Pakistani cricket was "institutionally corrupt".

"I would not like to say that," he said. "Yes, one has heard and one has read (allegations), but I would not like to go that far."

A defiant Butt insisted he would not resign the Test team captaincy over the claims.

"Anybody can stand out and say anything about you, that doesn't make them true," he said.

In Pakistan, Mr Gilani said a probe was under way.

"The latest fixing allegations have bowed our heads in shame," the prime minister told reporters in his home town of Multan.

"I have ordered a thorough inquiry into these allegations so that action could be taken against those who are proven guilty."

President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, has expressed his disappointment at the claims and is being informed of developments.

The country's federal sports minister, Mr Ijaz Jakhrani, promised that any players found guilty would be severely punished.

If wrongdoing was proven, "all the players involved must forget to play for Pakistan in future," he said.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said they had requested access to the ongoing investigation.

The no-balls at the centre of the claims were bowled on Thursday and Friday.

Pakistan's players now face an awkward time as they must remain in England for a series of one-day matches.

"As far as I am concerned the one-day series is on," Saeed said.

Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan said cricket in Pakistan must not be allowed to be dragged down by corrupt players.

"Why should Pakistan cricket suffer if some players have indulged in a crime?" he told Britain's ITV television.

"The people who are found guilty should be removed from the team and replaced and should be punished as an example."

Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan captain and later PCB chief executive, wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper Monday: "It is a disaster for cricket... those players must now be dealt with severely.

"For them to do it at Lord's, the Mecca of cricket, brings extreme shame and sadness."

The latest allegations are a further blow to cricket in Pakistan, already at a low ebb with home matches ruled out due to terrorism fears.

The team has been dogged by "fixing" allegations since the 1990s and also embroiled in ball-tampering.

India holds crunch BlackBerry meeting ahead of deadline

Top Indian telecom and security officials were set to meet on Monday to discuss a security standoff with the maker of BlackBerry handsets which could see the phone service banned this week.

Mr G.K. Pillai, the top bureaucrat in the home ministry, was due to hold a meeting with colleagues from the telecom ministry and security experts to make a call on India's next step.

The government warned earlier this month it would start blocking emails and instant messages sent on BlackBerry smartphones unless the company came up with a way for security agencies to decode the encrypted traffic by August 31.

India, which struggles with a host of home-grown insurgencies and threats from terror groups based in neighbouring Pakistan, is worried that if left unmonitored BlackBerry phones could be used by militants.

There were indications late last week that the deadline might be pushed back beyond Tuesday's cut-off date as BlackBerry's Canadian makers, Research in Motion (RIM), scrambled to satisfy the authorities.

"Everything is possible. If they say we have a solution and ask for time, then we will see," one unnamed official told reporters late last week.

Analysts have noted other security-conscious nations such as China and Russia appear to be satisfied over their intelligence agencies' level of access to BlackBerry communications.

For RIM, whose shares closed at a 52-week low on Friday of $45.99 in New York, striking a deal with India is crucial and would help ensure the company is not shut out of the world's fastest-growing cellular market.

India, which has 1.1 million BlackBerry users, would be the first country to curb its services. But RIM is also facing a threatened ban by the United Arab Emirates and is negotiating with Saudi Arabia on security issues.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bayyaram lease cancelled

The Union ministry of mines has revoked exploration rights for the Bayyaram Iron Ore Mines which was earlier given to the AP Mineral Development Corporation. The development will now make the APMDC’s agreement with Rakshana Steels null and void.

Official sources said the Union ministry of mines has decided to revoke an earlier order reserving the mines for APMDC, which has exclusive rights to explore and mine ore in the area.

“The state government had asked the Centre to keep in abeyance the order reserving the mine for APMDC but the latter went a step ahead and cancelled the order itself,” a senior mines official said. The Union ministry sent a communication in this regard to the state.

The deal with Rakshana Steels had turned highly controversial as Opposition parties had alleged that the YSR government had favoured the company as the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s brother-in-law, Mr Anil Kumar, had a stake in it.

Direct tax code has more money for you

The government plans to leave a little more money in the hands of the taxpayer, but not too much. On Thursday, the Union Cabinet cleared the new Direct Tax Code (DTC) Bill, which seeks to exempt income of up to Rs 2 lakh per year from income-tax against the current limit of Rs 1.6 lakh annually. For senior citizens, the limit will now be Rs 2.5 lakh.

There has been one other change in the tax slabs — the peak rate of 30 per cent will now kick in from a level of Rs 10 lakh a year against the earlier Rs 8 lakh a year. The Bill will be placed before Parliament on Monday after being cleared by a parliamentary standing committee.

Once passed, the DTC will replace the current Income-Tax Act. If it is passed, the new code should come into effect from April 2011. “The whole objective is that a plethora of exemptions will be limited. (Income) tax slabs will be three. Rate of taxes will be taken in the schedule so that they need not be changed every year,” said the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, after the Cabinet meeting. Corporate tax has been kept at 30 per cent, but there will be no surcharges or cess on it.

Threat of flood looms as rains wreak havoc

Two persons reportedly lost their lives in floods as heavy rains continued to lash the state for the third day, filling up reservoirs and irrigation tanks, submerging agricultural fields and inundating low-lying areas.

Mahbula, an agricultural labourer of Dachepalli of Guntur, was washed away by swirling waters of Vattulavagu. Her brother, Shaik Saida, went missing. They were returning home from fields when Mahbula fell into the stream and her brother tried to rescue her.

In Vizag, rains brought down the 60-ft statue of YSR. The base supporting a huge statue of Lord Ganesha also caved in. Standing at 81 ft, the idol of Ganesha is said to be the tallest in the world.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Overuse of devices may lead to brain fatigue

When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting down time that could allow them to better learn and remember information.

It is 1 p.m. on a Thursday and Dianne Bates (40) juggles three screens. She listens to a few songs on her iPod, then taps out a quick e-mail on her iPhone and turns her attention to the high-definition television.

Just another day at the gym.

As Ms Bates multitasks, she is also churning her legs in fast loops on an elliptical machine in a downtown fitness centre. She is in good company. In gyms and elsewhere, people use phones and other electronic devices to get work done — and as a reliable antidote to boredom.

Cell phones, which in the past few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections, let people relieve the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation.

The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting down time that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

Ms Bates, for example, might be clearer-headed if she went for a run outside, away from her devices, research suggests.

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.

“Almost certainly, down time lets the brain go over experiences it's had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specialises in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process”.

At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.

Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.

“People think they're refreshing themselves, but they're fatiguing themselves,” said Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist.

Regardless, there is now a whole industry of mobile software developers competing to help people scratch the entertainment itch. Flurry, a company that tracks the use of apps, has found that mobile games are typically played for 6.3 minutes, but that many are played for much shorter intervals. One popular game that involves stacking blocks gets played for 2.2 minutes on average.

Today's game makers are trying to fill small bits of free time, said Sebastien de Halleux, a co-founder of PlayFish, a game company owned by the industry giant Electronic Arts. “Instead of having long relaxing breaks, like taking two hours for lunch, we have a lot of these micro-moments,” he said. Game makers like Electronic Arts, he added, “have reinvented the game experience to fit into micro-moments.”

Crossing the street from a grocery store to his car, David Alvarado pushed his two-year-old daughter in a cart filled with shopping bags, his phone pressed to his ear.

He was talking to a colleague about work scheduling, noting that he wanted to steal a moment to make the call between paying for the groceries and driving.

“I wanted to take advantage of the little gap,” said Mr. Alvarado (30), a facilities manager at a community centre.

For many such people, the little digital asides come on top of heavy use of computers during the day. Take Ms Bates, the exercising multitasker at the expansive Bakar Fitness and Recreation Centre. She wakes up and peeks at her iPhone before she gets out of bed. At her job in advertising, she spends all day in front of her laptop.

But, far from wanting a break from screens when she exercises, she says she couldn't possibly spend 55 minutes on the elliptical machine without “lots of things to do”. This includes relentless channel surfing. “I switch constantly,” she said. “I can't stand commercials. I have to flip around unless I'm watching Project Runway or something I'm really into.”

Some researchers say that whatever downside there is to not resting the brain, it pales in comparison to the benefits technology can bring in motivating people to sweat. “Exercise needs to be part of our lives in the sedentary world we're immersed in. Anything that helps us move is beneficial,” said John J. Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

But all things being equal, Mr. Ratey said, he would prefer to see people do their workouts away from their devices: “There is more bang for your buck doing it outside, for your mood and working memory.” — New York Times News Service

Species of Writhing Skink rediscovered

Team came across species while studying human impact on herpatofauna in Andhra Pradesh

Zoologists from Osmania University have rediscovered a species belonging to the lizard family, which was last seen way back in 1839 in the then Bengal province. The species, thought to be extinct till now, has been identified as Lygosoma Vosmaerii and is also known as Vosmer's Writhing Skink. It was found by the research team at Jaggayyapet, Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh.

Since 2007, the research team has been documenting the impact of human interference on the amphibian and reptilian fauna in several ‘disturbed' habitats of Andhra Pradesh. During one such study tour, in the areas adjacent to limestone quarries near Jaggayapet, the team came across the species of skink. The findings of the research team have been published in the online ‘Journal of Threatened Taxa' [www.threatenedtaxa.org] in December, 2009. The research team maintained that 15 species of skink occur in the Oriental region, of which 11 species are from India and to date four species of writhing skink have been recorded in Andhra Pradesh. This is the fifth species which has been added to the herpatofauna (reptiles and amphibians) of Andhra Pradesh.

“Because of their rarity, it's important to protect the habitat. There is a need to take up future surveys in the Eastern Ghats and forests along the Godavari river basin. Such surveys could provide us with more details on the distribution of Vosmer's Writhing Skink,” says C. Srinivasulu, Taxonomist and Bio-diversity expert, Zoology Department, Osmania University, who led the research team.

The research team has managed to preserve and deposit the adult specimen of the skink in the Natural History Museum of Osmania University, Hyderabad. “Our findings prove that the species is not extinct. The skink has very small limbs with five fingers and four toes with a red tail. It survives on termites, ants and small insects like grasshoppers etc. The specimen was found under a boulder,” Dr. Srinivasulu said.

Other members in the research team were M. Seetharamaraju, R. Sreekar, Bhargavi Srinivasulu, Harpreet Kaur and P. Venkateshwarlu.

WikiLeaks posts CIA documents on home grown terrorists

The CIA feels that nations across the globe would start co-operating with it less in the wake of the Headley case and growing instances of home grown terrorists and start believing that the U.S. is an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret document posted by WikiLeaks.

The CIA concluded that foreign governments would be less likely to cooperate with the U.S. on detention, intelligence-sharing, and other issues, the whistleblower site said.

“Primarily we have been concerned about Al-Qaeda infiltrating operatives into the United States to conduct terrorist attacks, but AQ may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas,” said the document.

The CIA termed it as a thought provoking document. “These sorts of analytic products — clearly identified as coming from the Agency’s ‘Red Cell’ — are designed simply termed it to provoke thought and present different points of view,” CIA spokesperson, Marie Harf, told PTI.

The leaked document notes that Pakistani-American David Headley conducted surveillance in support of the LeT for the Mumbai attacks that killed 167 people.

“LeT induced him to change his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley to facilitate his movement between the US, Pakistan and India,” the CIA document said.

Headley had confessed to plotting the Mumbai attacks and LeT’s role in it.

“If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries,” the document said.

“As a recent victim of high-profile terrorism originating from abroad, the US Government has had significant leverage to press foreign regimes to acquiesce to requests for extraditing terrorist suspects from their soil.

However, if the U.S. were seen as an “exporter of terrorism,” foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty,” the CIA said.

The CIA documents running into a few pages said contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin.

“This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens. Late last year five young Muslim American men travelled from northern Virginia to Pakistan allegedly to join the Pakistani Taliban and to engage in jihad.”

The document said: “Their relatives contacted the FBI after they disappeared without telling anyone, and then Pakistani authorities arrested them as they allegedly attempted to gain access to al-Qaeda training facilities.”

It said if foreign regimes believe the U.S. position on rendition is too one-sided, favouring the U.S., but not them, they could obstruct U.S. efforts to detain terrorism suspects.

For example, in 2005 Italy issued criminal arrest warrants for U.S. agents involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric and his rendition to Egypt.

“The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge U.S. bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts,” it said.

“If foreign leaders see the U.S. refusing to provide intelligence on American terrorism suspects or to allow witnesses to testify in their courts, they might respond by denying the same to the U.S.

In 2005 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted by a German court because the U.S. refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in U.S. custody, to testify.

“More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the U.S. or abroad, or result in the release of suspects,” said the CIA document posted by WikiLeaks.

Saffron terror rising: PC

The Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, pointed out towards a “new phenomenon” which he called as “saffron terrorism”.

“There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past,” he said while speaking at the annual DGPs conference organised by the Intelligence Bureau on Wednesday. The Prime Minister will address the conference on Thursday.

Mr Chidambaram’s comments come in the backdrop of the investigations by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the CBI into bomb blast cases such as the 2007 Ajmer Dargah bomb blast and Hyderabad Macca Masjid blast of 2007, Malegaon blasts, 2008 bombing in Modasa in Gujarat, and the 2009 Goa blast throwing up evidence of involvement of radical Hindu outfits.

Mr Chidambaram said through 2009 and in the first eight months of 2010, the security situation was severely challenged by forces inimical, both within and outside the country. The home minister said that except for the Pune blast, the last 21 months have been remarkably free of any terrorist attack.

CJ suspends copycat judges, wants report

The Andhra Pradesh High Court Chief Justice, Mr Nisar Ahmad Kakru, on Wednesday suspended five subordinate judges for allegedly indulging in copying during the LLM exams held at Kakatiya University in Warangal district on Tuesday.

Mr Ajitsimha Rao, senior civil judge, Mr Vijayender Reddy, second additional district judge of Ranga Reddy district, Mr M. Kistappa, senior civil judge of Anantapur, Mr Srinivasa Chary, senior civil judge of Baptla and Mr Hanumantha Rao, additional junior civil judge of Warangal were caught red-handed while copying in the first year exams.

The Chief Justice reviewed the situation after obtaining the preliminary report from the university authorities and issued orders suspending them from the service. He also asked the university to send a detailed report on the exam malpractice by the judges.

Meanwhile, the Warangal District Bar Association (WDBA) has demanded registration of cases under the AP Public Examination (Prevention of Malpractices & Unfair Means) Act, 1997, against the errant judges. “It was unbecoming of the judges to indulge in mass copying,” said Mr Ch Sambasiva Raju, vice-president, WDBA. The WDBA office bearers also demanded suspension of Mr Razak Uzama, II Sub-Judge, Warangal and his wife Ms Prema Rajeshwara, secretary, district legal services authority, Warangal, both of who appeared in the LLM exam. Reportedly, it was Mr Razak who encouraged the mass copying. However, he and his wife were spared. Meanwhile, Dr Talapalli Manohar, additional controller of examination, SDLCE, clarified that the flying squad had actually debarred only three judges — Mr M. Kistappa, Mr Vijayender Reddy and Mr Ajitsimha Rao. Sources said the other two judges, Mr Hanumantha Rao and Mr Srinivasa Chary were caught based on visual evidence.

Centre drops ‘intent’, House passes N-Bill

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the landmark Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill 2010, which aims to facilitate India’s global nuclear commerce.

The Bill was necessary for the entry of big companies such as France’s nuclear giant Areva and America’s General Electric and Westinghouse, which were unwilling to do business with India without clarity over accident compensation, thereby allowing for the opening up of the country’s $150 billion nuclear market after the government agreed to tougher provisions.

Moving the bill in the Lok Sabha, the minister of state for science and technology, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, said the government had taken on board 18 amendments, which included tripling of the liability cap on an operator in case of an accident to Rs 1,500 crore — up from Rs 500 crore.

The government removed the contentious word “intent” and amended a controversial clause stating that the operator would have the right to recourse in case of a nuclear accident if it was the consequence of an “act of the supplier or his employees done with the intent to cause nuclear damage”. It was after the government removed the word “intent” that the BJP agreed to back the Bill.

Intervening in the debate, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, emphatically refuted charges levelled against his government for succumbing to so-called American pressure. “The accusations are far from the truth,” he said. “This Bill has nothing to do with America. Rather, it completes the process of ending nuclear apartheid against India.” A confident Prime Minister, for whom this Bill’s passage is both a political and diplomatic victory, reminded members of how when he had introduced economic reforms in 1991 he had also been accused of selling out the country’s economic interests to the US. “Any accusation that we have compromised with India’s interest would be a travesty of the truth,” he said.

Dr Singh also reminded the House that the process of civil nuclear cooperation had begun in 1999. “A lot of work had already been done. That time we were not in power,” he said.

Claiming that he could not predict what lies in the future, Dr Singh said: “Technology is not the issue right now, rather it was the regime that hindered India going for clean energy.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cocaine racket gets CCS burial

All four cocaine cases have been transferred to the Central Crime Station thus paving the way for a quiet burial. With the CCS already sitting on several major cases, the move to transfer the recent cocaine cases is being seen as a hush-up attempt.

Despite the call logs revealing the connection between Nigerian and Ugandan drug peddlers with Tollywood stars, sons of MPs and VIPs — cops are allegedly under pressure not to go ahead with the investigation.

The CCS is already dealing with the first case of the two Ugandan nationals, Patrick Emario and Ayebare Donald and since their arrest on July 21 there has been no progress in the case. The CCS has also been sitting on the Maytas Hill County case which was booked in June 2009. It has also not made any headway into the passport scam in the human trafficking case involving MPs.

An official of the state police headquarters said, “The Task Force police led by Mr Kamalasan Reddy and the West Zone police lead by Mr Stephen Ravindra have earned praise for doing a good job on the drug cases. Don’t know why the case has been given to the CCS at this juncture when the West Zone police were working seriously on unearthing the racket.” “The police are busy with the Ganesh festival security arrangements. So it will be difficult for them to handle the cocaine case,” A.K. Khan said

Bail makes asatyam Raju find his feet

The Satyam scam prime accused, Mr B. Ramalinga Raju, who has been “ailing” for a year, coolly climbed the stairs to reach the hall of 21st Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court on Tuesday.

He had been “bedridden” in the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences for several months taking treatment for Hepatitis and recurrent chest pains though the CBI doubted that this was just a ruse to stay out of jail and avoid trial.

This is the first time that Mr Raju made a public appearance, six days after he was granted bail in the court. Clad in white dress, Mr Raju drove in to the court premises in his black BMW car.

Though he appeared a bit weak and was unshaven, he had no problem reaching the court room leaving CBI sleuths wondering how he gained strength instantly after bail.

Mr Raju had been putting off his appearance before the court for framing of charges all these days saying he was ill. Interestingly, Nims had given report a few days before Mr Raju was granted bail that he was recovering slowly and responding to the treatment.

The ex-Satyam CEO was accompanied by doctors during his visit to the court. The Nims chief gastroentergolist, Dr Ajith Kumar, who was treating Raju said his health condition was the same as it was earlier.

“Actually we haven’t permitted him to move out,” said the doctor. “We haven’t discharged him though he left hospital against medical advice.”

According to the doctor, Raju gave it in writing that he would take all possible care and said he had to attend the court to obey the law. “He came back after attending the court,” said Dr Kumar. “We gave the option to him whether to get treated here or somewhere else. He chose to stay in Nims. Actually if he wants he can visit his house.”

Agnis moved to China border

In the wake of a recent Pentagon report that China is moving advanced CSS-5 ballistic missiles to areas close to the Sino-Indian border, New Delhi is clearly taking no chances.

The government is now ready to induct the nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile — with a range of 3,000-3,500 km and capable of hitting targets in China — into the Indian armed forces. It is also in the process of acquiring 42 more Russian-origin Sukhoi-30 MKI frontline fighters to “populate” airbases at Tezpur and Chabua in Assam to bolster the eastern sector.

The government is also reportedly moving the strategic Agni-II missile inducted earlier to areas near the Chinese border. These have a range of around 2,000 km.

Extra land is reportedly being procured in West Bengal and elsewhere to deploy these missiles. India is also developing the Agni-V missile (with a range of 5,000 km) that could hit targets deep within China.

When contacted, Army sources on Tuesday denied that missile units had been moved to the Eastern Command due to the Chinese threat perception.

The government is also taking other steps, including raising two more Army mountain divisions (30,000 troops) that will probably be deployed on the China border.

The Cabinet Committee on Security is considering the proposal for further troops augmentation near the Sino-Indian border.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jagan begins Kadapa leg of Odarpu yatra

The Kadapa MP Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy began his two-day Odarpu Yatra in Kadapa on Monday. Refusing to pass caustic comments, Mr Jagan said, “Anything I say could be misconstrued due to the current situation in the state.”

Mr Jagan thanked the people in Pulivendula while consoling the families whose kin had died of shock following the death of his father.

The Jammalamadugu MLA, Mr Adinarayana Reddy, the Kodur MLA, Mr Srinivasulu, the Badwel MLA, Ms Kamalamma, the Rayachoti MLA, Mr Srikanth Reddy, the Anantapur MLA, Mr Gurunatha Reddy, and the DCC president, Mr Suresh Babu, were among those who participated in the yatra.

Meanwhile, the PCC president, Mr D. Srinivas, met the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, at New Delhi on Monday. Mr Srinivas said he had not met Mrs Ganshi after the Telangana bypolls and had met her to narrate the reasons for the defeat.

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Actors found in city brothel

Police “rescued” film actors Saira Banu and L. Jyothi, who were apparently involved in a sex racket, in a sting operation on Sunday night. A film producer and other film personnel were arrested among others.

The duo — termed as “sex workers” in the remand report diary —were produced in court and made witnesses in the case and later released. Both denied that they were involved in the racket.

The police also found cell phone numbers of several film stars and politicians from the call logs of the witnesses and accused.

Saira Banu has acted in films like Bommarillu, a superhit, Aarojay, 100 crores, Tic, Tic, Tic and Inkosari. Jyothi has acted in Pellam Urelithe, Andaru Dongale, Evari Gola Varide. Saira was also a TV anchor for some time.

Task Force police raided Spring Heaven Apartments at Umanagar area of Kundanbagh on Sunday night and arrested six people including a film producer, Juvvala Raju. and an Uzbekistan woman identified as Sabrina Baeriddinova Shodmo-nava, 25. Raju, 35, has produced two Kannada films including L Board that was later remade into Telugu.

The other persons arrested were R. Veeranna, 39, a costume designer from Yellareddyguda, K. Ravi Chandu, 29, artist coordinator from Kukatpally, Neelamani, 48, a maid servant, and Narasimha Murthy, the driver.

US teacher quits job after abusing staff and pupils on Facebook

A teacher in the US has resigned after accidentally publishing abusive comments against staff and pupils on her Facebook page.

June Talvitie-Siple assumed that her friends would only see her comments.

Instead, the whole town of Cohasset in Massachusetts read her comments and Talvatie-Siple has now resigned.

"I'm so not looking forward to another year at Cohasset schools. Now I remember why I stopped teaching! Kids... they are all germ bags," Sky News quoted her as writing on her Facebook page.

But Talvatie-Siple is justifying herself.

"I don't regret the comments I made because I thought I made them in confidence," she said.

"I'm human. I know a lot about technology but I still made a mistake. Not everybody is arrogant and the kids are great, they're not germ bags. It is a joke."

Alfred Slanetz, assistant superintendent of the school said: "It is really unfortunate what happened.

"I think the lesson at the end of the day is that whatever you put on these social networking sites like Facebook you should consider it could become public."

Parents, pupils and fellow members of staff at Cohasset High School have condemned Talvitie-Siple's comments.

Talvitie-Siple added: "It wasn't like I was intending to go out there and lambast anyone, it was just moment of frustration and I thought I had my privacy settings correct on Facebook."

MPs get another hike of `10K

In a bid to placate the agitating MPs over hike in their salary, the government on Monday cleared a proposal to increase by another `10,000 in their monthly allowances, which they will be getting over and above the amount announced last week.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, sources said, adding that the proposed additional allowance of `10,000 would paid to the legislators in two equal parts under the heads — constituency expenses and office expenses.

It is learnt from the sources that the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, moved the proposal for a hike in constituency and office allowances by `5,000 each, which was immediately approved by the Cabinet.

“These allowances are going to be exempt from income tax,” sources added.

The decision to further hike MPs’ emoluments came following resentment among the legislators over the increase proposed by the government last week.

UPA blinks first on nuke intent

With the BJP and Left parties refusing to support the amended Nuclear Liability Bill, the government was forced to relent on Monday and is now willing to make “reasonable modifications” to the bill to secure its passage in the Lok Sabha.

Elaborating on possible changes, minister of state for science and technology, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, said Monday that he was looking at all three drafts — the original bill, the recommendations made by the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, and the 18 amendments made to this draft.

“But we have an open mind... Please come up with concrete suggestions, we are ready to accept... It is not a closed door,” said Mr Chavan, who is also minister of state at the PMO.

“Ideally, we would like to see changes in the amendments and not go back to the original draft since the changes comprised the distilled wisdom of the first two drafts,” the minister said, acknowledging that the government was now willing to go the entire length and drop the word “intent” which had been introduced in Clause 17(b) — under which the operator of a nuclear plant can seek damages only if an accident has occurred due to the “intent” of the supplier or its employees.

Plane crashes in Nepal with 15 on board: home ministry

A Nepalese passenger plane heading for the Everest region with 15 people on board crashed in bad weather near capital Kathmandu early on Tuesday, the home ministry said.

The small Agni Air plane was on its way to Lukla, a popular trekking spot in the Everest region of eastern Nepal, when it crashed about 15 miles (24 kilometres) south of Kathmandu, ministry spokesman Jayamukunda Khanal told AFP.

"The security forces have dispatched rescue teams, but the area is very remote and they have not yet reached the crash site," he said.

Heavy rain was also expected to hamper the rescue effort, with army helicopters unable to fly to the site due to poor visibility.

Local television quoted villagers as saying the plane had crashed in Makwanpur, a district southwest of Kathmandu, and had broken up on impact. The cause was not immediately clear.

Thousands of travellers fly into Lukla, 140 kilometres (90 miles) northeast of Kathmandu, every year to access the stunning Himalayan range that forms Nepal's northern border with Chinese-controlled Tibet.

The 550-metre-long (1,800 feet) sloping airstrip at Lukla perched on a hillside 2,757 metres above sea level is considered one of the most difficult landings in the world.

The last major accident was in 2008 when a Twin Otter plane carrying 18 people crashed at Lukla killing everyone on board.

Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for impoverished Nepal and the number of visitors has increased since a civil war between Maoist guerrillas and the state ended in 2006.

Earlier this year, the government announced an ambitious plan to attract a million tourists to the country in 2011 -- around twice the number that visited in 2009.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arrogant Dhoni plays football with Press

Indian captain M.S. Dhoni kept the media waiting for nearly an hour while sharpening his football skills. And that led to members of the print media skipping the post match press conference on Sunday evening.

On an altogether bad day for Indian batting, further ruined by poor umpiring, skipper Dhoni’s cavalier attitude towards the mandatory media conference made Sunday the worst day in recent times for Team India.

Dhoni has been known to come to press conferences with his lines seemingly well rehearsed and ready to flow, with answers sometimes unrelated to the questions. But the glib skipper himself may have been short of words to explain away another poor batting performance on a Dambulla pitch.

His other sporting pursuit, which is to try out his football skills, did not however go down well with pressmen from his country. Media management may never have been one of BCCI’s strong points. Things hit an all time low when the Indian skipper did not keep up the tradition of the losing captain addressing the media immediately after the prize distribution ceremony.

Curiously, team manager Ranji Biswal was also busy doubling up as the goalkeeper and so was unable to persuade Dhoni to take media queries on apathetic performance. Repeated phone calls from reporters fell on deaf ears. “Five minutes” was the standard reply from Biswal. When the print media finally decided to boycott the conference, the matter was communicated to Biswal who said: “No problem you can go”.

Earlier in the day, spineless batting marked India’s embarrassing eight-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in the tri-series. The win helped Sri Lanka book a place in the final.

Chiru to return with 150th film

Two years after taking the plunge into politics, Praja Rajyam president Chiranjeevi is all set to act in films again. This was disclosed by his actor-son Ram Charan Teja during Chiranjeevi’s 55th birthday celebrations on Sunday.

“He will certainly act in a film this year. It will be ready by his next birthday,” said Teja. The film would be Chiranjeevi’s 150th and his fans have high expectations from it. Teja made the announcement after cutting a cake at the Chiranjeevi Blood Bank here.

In a film career spanning over three decades, Chiranjeevi has acted in 149 films and his popularity is often compared with matinee idol N.T. Rama Rao who founded the Telugu Desam.

Though Chiranjeevi had persistently turned down requests from his fans till now, he recently confessed that the artiste in him had a desire to act again after watching the promo of Robot directed by Sankar with Tamil superstar Rajnikanth and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in lead roles.

During the audio release of the film, Chiranjeevi had hinted that he might consider acting again and his speech had been received with overwhelming appl-ause. Rajnikanth, who was present at the promo had also urged Chiranjeevi to do a film to which the latter had responded positively.

Scriptwriters Paruchuri Brothers have apparently readied a story based on the life of freedom fighter Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy and are pressurising Chiranjeevi to take up the assignment as his 150th film.

Jagan yatra today, party says severe action later

The Congress high command has hinted at severe action against the defiant Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. When a group of MLAs and MPs met Mr Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, a few days ago, Mr Patel seems to have conveyed to them that the high command is contemplating disciplinary action against Mr Jagan for defying the directions of the party leadership on the manner of conducting his Odarpu yatra.

Mr Jagan has been touring several districts to console the families of those who allegedly died of grief on hearing of the death of his father and former chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, on September 2 last year.

Sources said, however, that no action is likely to be taken against Mr Jagan before September 2, the first death anniversary of Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy. “The high command’s thinking is that Jagan should not get overwhelming and sweeping sympathy before the death anniversary of his father as it will be embarrassing both for the Congress party and the state government, which will also observe YSR’s death anniversary,” the source informed.

Also, with the Congress presidentship elections presently midway, it will be only in the third week of September that Mrs Gandhi will take up party matters including issuing a show cause notice to Mr Jagan. That could be after Mr Jagan completes his scheduled yatra in Prakasam district that begins on Monday, said sources.

“The high command has sent out a message to all party MLAs and other leaders that the yatra does not have party approval, and it will observe the number of MLAs taking part in the yatra,” said a source, though no action will be initiated against the party MLAs at present to avoid any disturbance for the state government.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sonia: Guilty in Games scam will be punished

The Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, on Wednesday made it clear that the government will not “spare no one” found to be involved in malpractices or corruption related to the Commonwealth Games.

Addressing a general body meeting of the Congress in Parliament, Mrs Gandhi said: “I trust that as soon as the Games are over, the government will look into allegations of malpractices and spare no one.”

She said: “The Games are now just a few weeks away. This is the time for all of us to come together and ensure their success... The success of the Games is that of our country — not of any party or any individual.”

Meanwhile, the government took strong note of the spate of corruption allegations levelled at the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and decided to clip OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi’s wings by appointing 11 senior officials to oversee preparations for the Games.

Of the 10 officers, four are of the rank of additional secretary and the rest are joint secretaries. They are Subhodh Kumar (AS, telecom), S.R. Rao (AS, IT), R.C. Misra (AS, UD), Amarjeet Singh (executive director, health ministry), J.S. Deepak (JS, commerce), Rohit Nandan (JS, civil aviation), Shashi Shekar (OSD, Power Trading Corp.), Tara Dutt (JS, Cabinet Secretariat), Gopala Krishna (Sports Authority of India secretary) and Rajeev Kapur (JS, personnel and training).

Sports secretary Injeti Srinivas will look after accreditation and Rajeev Kapur will look after the Games Village.

Sonia approved Odarpu, Jagan skewed message

The Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, has deliberately misled the state Congress about what exactly the party president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, conveyed to him regarding his Odarpu yatra. This is the impression that Mr Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Mrs Gandhi, gave to MLAs and Union ministers from the state.

When Congress MLAs from Prakasam district and the Union ministers, Ms Daggubati Purandareswari and Ms Panabaka Lakshmi, met Mr Patel in Delhi two days ago, he reportedly told them that Mr Jagan had misrepresented the outcome of a meeting that he and his family had with Mrs Gandhi in June.

Ms Purandareswari, in a press statement released on Thursday in Delhi, gave details of what Ms Gandhi had said during the June meeting. She said Ms Gandhi had favoured the yatra and reportedly suggested that the Congress should be involved in it.

Ms Gandhi had told Mr Jagan that in each district headquarters, a statue of YSR should be installed, and the families of the victims should be consoled at the headquarters. She had suggested that the monetary help that is being extended to them by YSR’s family be shared by the Congress.

Instead, Mr Jagan dashed off an open letter stating “somehow Mrs Gandhi is not in favour of the manner in which Odarpu yatra is being undertaken. She conveyed me that family members of the victims should be brought to the state headquarters and helped, and I told her that is not possible.” Late on Thursday, Mr Jagan called on Mr Pranab Mukherjee, after putting in an appearance at a dinner hosted by Mr Veerappa Moily.

Pakistan accepts Indian aid offer: Qureshi

After dithering for a week, Pakistan on Friday accepted India's offer of $5 million aid for flood relief in the country and appreciated its "very positive" gesture. Pakistan foreign minister, Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is in New York to attend a special meeting of the United Nations on flood situation in his country, stated this a day after the US said politics should have no role in disaster response and expected Islamabad to accept the Indian aid offer. While pushing for more international aid for relief and rehabilitation efforts, Pakistan has been dilly-dallying on accepting the aid offered by India last on Friday. Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, spoke to his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani, on Thursday and offered more assistance in handling flood relief. "I can share with you that the Government of Pakistan has agreed to accept the Indian offer (of $5 million aid)," Qureshi said in New York. "We are not playing politics. Let me acknowledge the fact that the minister for external affairs, (S.M.) Krishna, called me in Islamabad and he expressed sympathy, he condoled with me on the loss of life, and offered assistance to Pakistan," he said. Mr Qureshi thanked Dr Manmohan Singh, his government and Mr Krishna for this "very positive" gesture of extending aid and said it was highly appreciated by Pakistan. The Pakistan foreign minister also said he was looking forward to talks with Mr Krishna to improve the environment, build confidence and to bridge the trust deficit between the two countries. Three weeks of unusually heavy monsoon rains triggered flash floods in Khyber-Paktunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh provinces of Pakistan, affecting 20 million people. Over 1,700 people have died and the UN says more than 650,000 people are without basic shelter while six million desperately need emergency aid. Tens of thousands of villages are still under water. When asked about reports that Islamic extremist groups might take advantage of this opportunity to win over hearts and minds, Qureshi said this will not happen. "I think what we saw today and the UN will not permit them to take advantage of the situation. "I think the international community is now forthcoming and the international community is responding and they are responding quickly, and we will not allow them (extremist groups) to exploit that situation," Mr Qureshi said. Meanwhile, the US has said it will not tolerate corruption in distribution of aid and flood relief work in the flood-hit country. "We will not tolerate corruption. The assistance that we are providing is for the people of Pakistan. We want to see this assistance get directly to the people of Pakistan," State Department spokesman, Mr P.J. Crowley said amidst concerns being expressed in the US media about the high level corruption in aid distribution in Pakistan.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pak troops fire at Indian forward posts, violate ceasefire

Violating the ceasefire again, Pakistani troops targeted forward Indian posts along the Line of Control with rockets, mortars and resorted to heavy firing in Poonch district in the wee hours on Thursday. Pakistan troops attacked the Indian forward posts in Krishnagati sub-sector of the district around 0100 hours, Brigadier General Staff, 16 Corps, Brig S. Dua told PTI. Dozens of mortars and rockets were fired, which exploded away from the posts without causing any damage, he said, terming it as an "unprovoked act". Indian troops guarding the border, took positions and fired back resulting in heavy exchanges for over two hours, he said, adding there were no casualties on both the sides. "It is ceasefire violation and it was aimed at infiltrating militants into this side of the LoC,", he said adding, "we have lodged a strong protest with our Pakistani counterparts and called for a flag meeting over the incident". Some posts targeted by Pakistan troops included Kripan, Kranti, Chajja One, and Gorda in Balnoie forward belt of Krishnagati sub-sector in Poonch. This is second time this year that Pakistani troops have fired mortars bombs and rockets. On May 23, they had fired rockets and mortars in Poonch's KG sector. Pakistani troops had earlier violated the ceasefire along the LoC and targeted six Indian posts with mortar, rockets and small arms fire in Poonch sector on the intervening night of July 15 and 16. There was also a ceasefire violation along the International Border in R.S. Pura sub-sector's Kharkhola and Bodla Border Out Posts on July 15. Pakistani troops had also fired at forward positions along the Line of Control in Krishna Ghati area of Poonch sector on July 5. On July 9, Pakistani Rangers had violated the ceasefire by resorting to small arms firing along the International Border on Khawara Border Out Post in Mawa belt of Samba district. Pakistani troops had also violated the ceasefire on July 7 when they opened fire at the Chak Pagwari BOP in Pargwal in Jammu. On July 6, Pakistani troops had fired at Pindi, Mala Bela and Chak Phagwari border outpost around 2230 in which a BSF jawan was killed and a villager injured. Pakistani troops had also fired at the Chak Pagwari BOP on July 5 and killed BSF trooper Sultan Ali. Earlier, Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire when they fired at a forward outpost along the International Border in Jammu on June 21. In the month of May, there were four ceasefire violations and border firing exchanges in Jammu and Kashmir. On May one, there was a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops in Krishnagati belt of Poonch sector when they fired on four Indian posts. It was followed by ceasefire violation along the International Border in Ballard post in Samba sector, where Pak Rangers fired on the Indian BOP. It was followed by the ceasefire violation along IB in Abdullaian BOP in Jammu sector when Pak rangers fired on the Indian BOP and blew up border fencing on May 12. On May 18, 2 jawans were killed and 3 injured in cross-border firing of Pakistan as they violate ceasefire.

Those guilty of corruption in Games not to be spared: Sonia

With allegations of corruption plaguing the Commonwealth Games, the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said those found guilty will be punished after the event. Terming the Commonwealth Games as a matter of national pride, she said the Games were not related to any political party or individual. "It was a matter of national pride and efforts should be made to hold them successfully." At the same time, she said that those found guilty of corruption in works related to the Games should be punished after the event.

Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) here, Ms Gandhi referred to the Group of Ministers set up by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to look into the preparations for the Games.

Ms Gandhi also expressed concern over the situation in the Kashmir Valley and said efforts should be made to reach out to the people of the region. She backed the Prime Minister's initiative in this regard.

On the issue of Naxalism, Ms Gandhi underscored the need for taking tribal development seriously.

She also stressed on the need to check illegal mining.

Ms Gandhi condoled the loss of lives and devastation caused by the flash floods in Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

On the upcoming elections in Bihar, Gandhi asked partymen to work towards strengthening the organisation in the state.

Accept Indian aid, no role for politics in disaster: US to Pak

Asserting that there is no role for politics in disaster response, the Obama Administration has said it expects Pakistan to accept the $5 million aid offer from India for its flood relief work. "In terms of responding to a disaster, politics should play no role. You have a country (India) that's willing to help (Pakistan), and... we expect that Pakistan will accept," the state department spokesman, Mr P.J. Crowley, said. Last week, the minister of external affairs, Mr S.M. Krishna, had called on his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi and offered $5 million in aid for flood relief work. Pakistan, so far, had not accepted the offer while at the same time its leaders have been sending SOS to the international community for more and more aid so as to meet the immediate needs of its millions of flood-affected people. Nearly one-fifth of Pakistan is now reported to be badly hit by the devastating flood; the worst for the country in 80 years. Mr Crowley, given the changed circumstance, said the US has began to think about what it would do with that long-term security assistance provided under Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill and that could require the US shifting it from what it thought was a priority three weeks ago to what is a priority today. "I think what we'll have to wait and see is what are the mid- to long-term economic needs of Pakistan that we could use that funding to address. I guess we would also consider more immediate needs as they arise," he said. Mr Frank Ruggiero, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan also asked Pakistan to accept India's aid. "I think the priority is to use offers of assistance to help the Pakistani people, so we would encourage Government of Pakistan to accept that (Indian) offer," he said. Ruggiero said that the US would continue to call on the international community to provide the people of Pakistan with the support it needs at this dire time, as the scale of this flood was so dramatic. Meanwhile, Pakistan's foreign minister has arrived in New York to attend the special meeting of UN General Assembly on the flood relief work, where he is expected to ask the member states to help Pakistan with more international aid. The US Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, would also address the UNGA's special session on Pakistan. She is expected to announce more US aid for Pakistan. The US so far has provided $90 million worth of aid.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arjita tickets booked till 2100

The vigilance and enforcement department that probed the `50 crore Arjita Seva ticket scam in Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam has found that over a dozen industrialists from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka had blocked seva tickets till 2100.

The scam involved booking tickets for the much-sought after sevas for the deity in advance and then selling them in ‘black’ to devotees.

The V&E team headed by the director general, Mr V. Dinesh Reddy, named 55 persons as being involved in scam and has recommended action against them under various IPC sections relating to cheating, criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust.

Further, sleuths also held the TTD executive officer, Mr I.Y. Ramakrishna Rao and his predecessor, Dr K.V. Ramanachary, guilty of negligence and dereliction of duties.

The Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, is likely to take action on the report in a couple of days after consulting senior officials and it is expected that at least 10 officials, including bank employees, will face dismissal. Sources said the vigilance report had accused three TTD board members, Mr Kale Yadaiah, Mr Alluri Subramanyam, Mr M Anjaiah, of being involved in the scam.

Others named in the report as guilty are five deputy executive officers, Mr Chandramohan Naidu, Mr Siddaiah, Mr Vasudevan (Peshkar), Mr Kodanda Ramaiah (Peshkar), and Mr Prabhakar Reddy.

Further, the report charged two bank employees, Mr Kasturi Rangan and Mr Srinivas Reddy, of hacking computers to get seva tickets, and named two TV journalists, personal assistants of TTD Board members and security guards as being guilty in the scam.

The sleuths also listed three hotels, Sindhura Park, Bliss, Fortune Kences, brokers, and travel agents in Chennai, Bangaluru, Comibatore, Madurai and Tirupati as having a role in the scam.

The guilty had booked tickets for 59 sevas including the coveted Vastralankara Seva (Rs 12,500), Suprabatham (Rs 120), Tomala Seva (Rs 220), Archana (Rs 220), Kalyanotsavam (Rs 1,000) among others and sold them for higher rates.

Spanish Mosque gets cracks after rock blasts

The minarets and arches of a historic 104-year-old Spanish Mosque suffered damage from a blast conducted at a nearby construction site in blatant violation of rules.

Begumpet police arrested three persons for using banned gelatine sticks and also for carrying out blasts without permission.

The Spanish mosque, also known as also known as Jama Masjid Aiwan E Begumpet and run by the Paigah family, is a listed heritage structure of HMDA. It won the heritage structure award and is recognised by Unesco and Spain as a replica of Moorish architecture,

The mosque was constructed by Sir Vikhar-ul-Umra Iqbal Ud Dowla, a Paigah Nawab, in 1906. He also built the Falaknuma palace.

“The workers were digging a cellar nearby and at around 4.30 pm on August 14, when we were praying, we heard huge sound and the entire mosque shook,” said Mr Faiz Khan, the treasurer of the Spanish Mosque Muthawali Com-mittee. People then ran out of the mosque in panic. “We saw three people using gelatin sticks for blasting a rock to build a tunnel,” said. “Then we saw that the blast also caused cracks in the minarets and arches.”

The Begumpet inspector, Mr A. Yadagiri, said that an FIR had been registered and three persons had been arrested on the same day.

The arrested were identified as the contractor, Mr Srinivas, Mr Dasaradh and Mr Narasimha, who set off the blast.

India may move WTO over new US visa Bill

India may drag US to the World Trade Organisation for its new “protectionist” move in hiking professional visa fees, a step that will make Indian IT companies less competitive in the American market.

The fee hike is expected to cost Indian companies, mainly IT outsourcing firms, about $200 million annually. India “cannot keep quite” on an issue that hurts its commercial interests, the commerce secretary, Mr Rahul Khullar, said on Tuesday, making it clear that moving the WTO on the matter is being considered seriously.

“Yes this (visa fee hike) is WTO incompatible... I will take up the matter under advisement,” Mr Khullar told reporters when asked if India was considering to drag the US to WTO on the issue.

Under the Emergency Border Security Suppl-emental Appropriations Act, 2010 — popularly called the Border Security Bill — the United States has hiked fee for certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas by at least US $ 2,000 for the next five years.

Protesting the American move, the commerce and industry minister, Mr Anand Sharma, wrote to the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk last week saying that the visa fee hike would cost Indian firms US $200 million a year, making them less competitive.

Mr Khullar said the hike in H-1B and L-1 visa fees is a protectionist move that would also hurt the US interest.

Meanwhile, the US said it is examining if the new law on visa fees was not WTO compliant.

“Yes, we are reviewing a suggestion that this bill (border security bill) is not WTO-compliant. I am not aware that we’ve reached any final judgement, but we're not sure that necessarily any WTO issues are triggered,” the state department spokesman, Mr P.J. Crowley said. —

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Raju is economic terrorist, says CBI

Justice Raja Elango of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday reserved orders on the bail plea of Mr B. Ramalinga Raju, the prime accused in the multi-crore Satyam fraud case after hearing arguments from both sides.

The additional solicitor general, Mr H.P. Raval, said that the accused was involved in “economic terrorism” and claimed that his crime had caused a loss of `24,000 crore to the investors.

He contended that a long period of incarceration, delay in trial and Raju’s ailment could not be the grounds for granting him bail. Mr Raval argued that if Raju was granted bail, he could destroy evidence, especially with regard to the money diverted and sent abroad.

The additional solicitor general said the trial could be completed in six months. He further said that Mr Raju could not claim parity with other accused granted bail by the High Court and the Supreme Court.

Justice Raja Elango said that as a citizen he was unable to understand why there was no hue and cry from investors if the inflating profits of the company had caused them huge losses.

Narrating to the factual matrix of the scam, the additional solicitor-general said, Mr Raju not only duped the investors, he also cheated the banks by borrowing `1,221 crore from banks and various financial institutions.

The judge also sought to know from Mr Raval whether Raju and his associates had diverted the investors’ money only or whether other funds were also diverted.

Mr Raval replied in the affirmative and that’s why the CBI has decided to give a logical end to the case by unearthing the destination of the “Satyam” money.

“In this case there is a higher degree of seriousness of charges against the prime accused and he is the mastermind behind the entire scam. Prosecution is going to challenge the bail granted to other accused before the Supreme Court,” he said.

Submitting a list of visitors who called on Mr Raju undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C at the government-run Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (Nims) here for nine months, the prosecution disputed the claim that he was seriously ill and hence was unable to appear before the trial court.

Mr M. Natrajan, senior counsel from Chennai, arguing on behalf of Mr Raju said the trial might take six years and not six months as claimed by the prosecution. He said sending letters of Rogatory to six countries (where the Satyam money was allegedly diverted) seeking judicial assistance alone would take two years.

He told the court that Hepatitis C was affecting Mr Raju’s breathing, liver and heart. “He may suffer internal bleeding and a heart attack,” he added.

Ctrl+Alt+Del earns state a windfall

The state’s information technology department is suddenly reaping a windfall, collecting a massive Rs 4 lakh every day for its e-tender services. And this in a so-called “lean season” for tenders.

In contrast, the department was till recently being paid Rs 30,000 by a private operator, C1 India, who was handling the process since it was conceived in 2002. In the e-tender process, government departments host their tenders online by paying a marginal fee to the IT wing. Bidders pay the department to bid for the tender.

Between 50 and 100 tenders are put up every week, The tendering departments and the bidders each pay 0.03 per cent as transaction fee. For all high value tenders of above Rs 50 crore there was a ceiling of transaction fee with upper limit of Rs 25,000 per bidder.

Ms Ratnaprabha, head of the IT department, shifted the e-tendering services platform from the private operator to the government-owned AP Technology Services soon after taking charge. Since then the money has been flowing in.

“The government is now getting more than Rs 4 lakh a day as transaction fees for providing e-tender services,” Ms Ratnaprabha said.

The IT department is checking the number of tenders that was hosted on the e-procurement platform and the revenue received over the last seven years.

The department is also trying to find out the cause of the sudden surge in income and why the revenue was so less when the private operator handled the payment gateway. Officials said the company might have deflated the figures.

“This is lean season as far as tenders are concerned. If the revenues are so high now, what could it be in peak season,” wondered an official. The department is now preparing to issue a notice to the company to furnish detailed year-wise accounts since 2002.

CBI seeks private doctor, not Nims, to check Raju

The CBI told the AP High Court that it did not trust the Nims’ report on the condition of Satyam Computer chief Ramalinga Raju, who has been in hospital since last September citing Hepatitis C.

The additional solicitor-general, Mr H.P. Rawal, told the court, “We do not trust the reports of Nims doctors. We need a special panel to check Raju’s health condition.” Mr Rawal was stating the CBI stand on Raju’s bail plea. “Raju’s aim is to stay in the hospital, be in touch with the outside world, so that he can use his money and muscle power to influence witnesses,” he said. “If he is released, there is every possibility of (his) swindling the money he sent outside the country,” he said.

Justice Raja Elango observed that the ailment was not a ground to grant Raju bail. He asked asked counsel if Raju had fallen sick before he was taken into custody, or after. The judge pointed out that he did not believe in custodial ailments of high-profile accused.

SC: Why reward encounter cops?

The Supreme Court on Monday took serious objection to the AP government not following the National Human Rights Commission guidelines to end the practice of giving auxiliary promotions to police personnel who gun down Maoists and other extremists in encounters.

In 2007, the apex court had okayed auxiliary promotions on a petition filed by AP Police Officers Association but the NHRC took a strong stance, terming them out-of-turn promotions.

On Monday, a bench comprising of Justice B. Sudershen Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar sided with the NHRC stance and wondered why there were auxiliary promotions only in AP and not in states such as Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra where the situation was much more serious.

The SC observations over a petition filed by advocate, Mr R. Chandrasekhar Reddy, has triggered a debate on the controversial issue.

The bench gave the state government two weeks to file a counter and government counsel assured the court that auxiliary promotions would be stopped till then.

Mr Reddy had filed a case in April 2006 stating the auxiliary promotions were responsible for the fake encounters. He later filed an interlocutory application in February 2010, which came up for hearing on Monday.

The advocate added that police were shooting down even sympathisers of Maoists and people giving food to the extremists, lured by the prospect of promotions.

“In Dubbaka in Medak a farmer who went to the water his crop in the night was shot down,” he said. “In Warangal a music band going on a bicycle was attacked. In Manthani six girls who went to fetch water from a well were killed, all in the name of encounters.”

A senior police officer, however, said that such promotions were conducted in a systematic manner and were scrutinised at four levels right from the district superintendent of police, Intelligence department, to the director-general of police and the home department. This had been approved by the apex court earlier.

“Officers deserve such promotions as they put their lives at risk in such operations,” he said. “Every year at least eight to ten cops of all levels from constable to DSP get auxiliary promotions.”

Meanwhile, the revolutionary writer, Mr Vara Vara Rao, said auxiliary promotions prompted the police to resort to encounter killings. “Earlier the High Court had also said that encounter killings should be treated as culpable homicide,” he said.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CM sees bright future for AP

The Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, on Sunday assured people of promising days ahead with the state recovering from the year-long natural and financial adversities, and experiencing a good monsoon indicating a bountiful harvest.

In his maiden Independence Day speech at Parade Grounds, the Chief Minister emphasised the need for peace and brotherhood and more importantly, cooperation, from people across all sections to carry out the gigantic task of implementing developmental and welfare schemes.

“The Chief Minister alone cannot work for a society that will ensure individual freedom and peaceful living. Every citizen should know (his) responsibilities and contribute to the state’s development,” he pointed out.

The CM also unveiled a four-pronged strategy to carry out various welfare schemes initiated by his predecessor, the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

It includes improving basic structure of the programmes wherever required, plugging leaks, ensuring benefits to the genuinely needy and changing priorities based on the availability of funds.

Mr Rosaiah on Sunday made it clear that he had no intention to leave his own mark on administration just for the sake of it.

With all humility, Mr Rosaiah said he would have a great sense of achievement if he could continue the schemes launched by his predecessor YSR.

Recalling the events of the past year, Mr Rosaiah said the state was caught in a whirlpool of crises starting with the death of YSR, then the unprecedented flooding of the Krishna River, the global economic recession, drought, and the drastic fall in state revenues due to regional agitations.

He maintained that constant monitoring of the administration had yielded results with a 30 per cent growth in state revenues. “Revenue realisation in the first three months is Rs 10,738 crore and the timely monsoon is giving us hope,” he said, adding that the well-being of farmers is essential for the overall betterment of society in an agrarian economy.

Mr Rosaiah said he was happy to see state government employees performing their duties with enthusiasm now that the state has given priority to their welfare and extended several monetary benefits in the Pay Revision Commission.

The CM also listed various initiatives of the Congress government.

Sreeram voted Indian Idol 5

Sreeram Chandra Mynampati of Hyderabad won the Indian Idol 5 music reality show, beating Bhoomi Trivedi and Rakesh Maini on Sunday night.

Sreeram of Bowenpally in Secunderabad is the first Hyderabadi and the first South Indian to achieve the feat. Karunya, another Hyderabadi, was runner up in Indian Idol 2.

The announcement of his victory by Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan kicked off celebrations in Bowenpally with local leaders, neighbours, his friends thronging his house amid bursting of fire crackers.

Sreeram thanked all those who voted for him. “I am looking forward to come to Hyderabad. It has been a good experience,” said Sreeram who attributed his victory to his consistence performance through all initial rounds and the support of the people who voted for him.

The judges Saleem Marchant, Sunidhi Chouhan and Anu Malik said the people chose the most deserving singer.

Sreeram has sung in Telugu films like Astachamma, Kothi Mooka and Boni. During the course of the show, he was signed up for a Telugu movie being produced by Walt Disney Inc.

Inspired to take up music by uncle Venkatachalam, Sreeram did his B.Tech from a private engineering college. His father, Mr M.S.N. Prasad, is an advocate in the AP High Court.

Now, Indian translation a click away

Thanks to Sampark, a machine translation system developed by the city-based International Institute of Information Technology, translating Indian languages is now just a mouse click away.

To be made available to the public in September, the machine translation system is devised to translate Indian languages online.

When fully operational, the system can translate English scripts to as many as 18 Indian languages and vice-versa.

Initially, however, the new software will support only six languages. Later, 12 more will be added to the system in the second phase.

According to Professor Rajiv Sangal, director IIIT-Hyderabad, Sampark, developed by a consortium of 11 institutions led by IIIT, offers translation of Indian languages unlike Google which focuses mainly on English.

End violence, PM tells Kashmiris and Maoists

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Sunday expressed optimism about resolving the Kashmir and Maoist problems without compromising basic principles or softening his position.

His appeal to Kashmiri youths and separatists as well as Maoists to come forward for talks does not, however, dilute the government’s stance in any way; in fact, it reaffirms the Centre’s long-held policy that any such talks be on the basis of Kashmir being “an integral part of India”, and in the case of Naxalites, that they first abjure violence.

Addressing the nation on India’s 64th Independence Day from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort here, and in the backdrop of the recent unrest in Kashmir, Dr Singh said India’s democracy had the “generosity and flexibility” to add-ress concerns of any of the groups.

In his 35-minute speech, the Prime Minister also said India was willing to resolve all its differences with Pakistan through discussions, but added that such a dialogue cannot go very far if terrorism emanating from that country does not end immediately.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, we are ready to talk to every person or group which abjures violence. Kashmir is an integral part of India, and within this framework we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and also enhance their welfare.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

CAG sees through Kalmadi’s Games

An interim report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pointed out financial irregularities in the carrying out of deals by the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games, led by Mr Suresh Kalmadi. The report points towards a potential loss of more than Rs 31 crore, besides lack of financial discipline in handling financial matters.

The report was prepared following inspections by CAG teams between November 2009 and January 2010. CAG officials maintained that these were internal reports and would be released only after considering the Organising Committee’s replies.

The report is likely to be published only in 2011. The report said the OC incurred avoidable expenditure of Rs 6.16 crore while hiring a consultant for the Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) in London last year. There were three bidders.

While the previous two had presented bids worth less than Rs 2 crore, the third bidder, Maxxam International, had presented a bid worth over Rs 8 crore. The contract was awarded to Maxxam International.

India's BlackBerry offensive widens to Google, Skype: Report

India's showdown with BlackBerry could reportedly widen to encompass Google and Skype after the government threatened to cut off core features of the popular smartphone on security grounds.

Research In Motion, the BlackBerry's Canadian maker, gave no immediate indication that it would accede to the latest pressure from an emerging economy to open up its services to security agencies.

"If a technical solution is not provided by August 31, 2010, the government will review the position and take steps to block" BlackBerry email and messenger services, India's home ministry said on Thursday.

New Delhi, battling insurgencies ranging from Kashmir in the northwest to the far-flung northeast, fears that heavily encrypted BlackBerry communications could be used by militants.

Islamic extremists used mobile and satellite phones to coordinate the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

The Indian announcement came after Saudi Arabia on Tuesday postponed imposing a BlackBerry ban as the ultra-conservative Muslim country reported progress in solving its own security concerns.

The United Arab Emirates, however, has said it will ban BlackBerry messenger, email and web browsing services from October 11 for security reasons. That has prompted expressions of concern from the US government.

In response to the Indian threat, RIM said it tried to be as cooperative as possible with governments "in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements".

But it also wanted to preserve "the lawful needs of citizens and corporations", according to a RIM statement.

Analysts have noted that other security-conscious countries such as China and Russia appear to be satisfied over their intelligence agencies' level of access to BlackBerry communications.

But the company insisted: "RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries."

The Indian warning came after a high-level meeting on Thursday between the home ministry and intelligence agencies, and the end-August deadline was relayed to Indian telecoms firms that offer BlackBerry services.

India's security concerns are not confined to RIM with other communications providers such as Google and the Internet telephony firm Skype also in its sights, according to Friday's Financial Times.

Quoting minutes from a July 12 meeting between Indian officials and telecoms and Internet providers, the FT said the government wanted a broad solution to enable possible interception and monitoring of all Internet-based traffic.

"There was consensus that there (is) more than one type of service for which solutions are to be explored," the minutes by the telecommunications ministry's security wing said, according to the FT.

"Some of them are BlackBerry, Skype, Google etc," the minutes said. "It was decided first to undertake the issue of BlackBerry and then the other services."

Internet giant Google is already locked in tension with Beijing over state censorship and cyberattacks that the US company says originated in China, the world's largest online market with 420 million users.

India is another coveted prize for communications providers. It is the world's fastest-expanding cellular market and already has a million BlackBerry customers.

If the ban is imposed, BlackBerry corporate or "enterprise" customers in India would only be able to use their handsets for phone calls and web browsing.

But Kunal Bajaj, head of Analysys Mason, expressed doubt the government would execute its threat.

"Even if BlackBerry wanted to provide access, what the government is asking is technically not feasible," he told AFP.
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