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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Colombia asks Spain to Deport fugitive lawmaker

Colombia asked Spain to deport a fugitive congressman who is wanted for possible links with illegal paramilitaries in a widening scandal involving allies of President Alvaro Uribe.

Eight pro-Uribe lawmakers have been jailed and other army officers, governors and congressmen are under investigation for their suspected ties to paramilitaries, who are accused of atrocities during their dirty war against a rebel insurgency.

Bogota has asked Spanish authorities to send back Rep Jorge Luis Caballero who was among a group of lawmakers ordered detained by the Supreme Court on February 15 as part of its probe into the scandal.

''The foreign ministry has information he is in Spain and Colombia has presented a request to the government that he be deported back to our country,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Camilo Reyes told reporters yesterday.

The scandal intensified just weeks before US President George W Bush was scheduled to visit Uribe, Washington's closest ally in Latin America and a linchpin for US counter-narcotics initiatives in the region.

The Bush administration wants Congress to approve another 3.9 billion dollars in anti-drug aid to Colombia, but some of the Democrats who now control the Congress are concerned about how deeply paramilitary influence burrows into the Uribe administration.

Colombia's Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo resigned last week after her brother, a senator, was jailed and prosecutors considered investigating her father. Uribe's former security chief was also arrested on charges he aided paramilitaries.

The lawmakers are facing charges they aided, financed or organized illegal armed groups often in exchange for benefiting from paramilitary intimidation and influence at the ballot box.

The paramilitaries were set up in the 1980s by rich landowners to protect themselves from rebels, but more than 30,000 militia fighters have given up their arms in a peace deal with Uribe in exchange for short prison terms.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

More evidence of water on Planet Mars

Life in Mars New images of a craggy, fissure-filled canyon on Mars provide evidence of long-term underground water flows that may have provided a suitable environment for microbial life, scientists said.

''If there are any sort of fossils, these would be good places to look,'' the University of Arizona's Chris Okubo said in a telephone interview yesterday.

While previous NASA probes have found evidence of past and even present-day water on Mars, scientists previously had few clues if the water existed long enough for life to evolve.

The new findings show light-colored features cutting across dark bands in an area known as Candor Chasma. Okubo and his colleagues believe they are looking at places where rock has been chemically altered by water flowing across the fractures.

''Fluids apparently resided within rock long enough to allow geochemical processes to occur,'' Okubo said. ''That's typically very slow.'' In addition, the rock was once underground, providing a safe haven for any microbes from radiation and atmospheric hazards.

''These areas are very good for being an oasis for any sort of biologic activity,'' Okubo said.
Similar terrain exists on Earth, such as in the Colorado plateau.

''It was sort of surprising to see these images from Mars because it's almost exactly like what we see in the field,'' Okubo said.

Scientists say the fractures, which are several hundred yards (meters) long and about four yards (meters) wide, likely existed before any pools of water seeped underground.

''The fractures then acted as nice conduits for the fluids to flow underground, like pipes,'' Okubo said. ''What we're seeing now is an exposure of bedrock that was buried at several kilometers (miles) depth at the time the fluids were present.'' Images of Candor Chasma, one of several large canyons that are part of Mars' sprawling Valles Marineris, were taken during tests last fall of NASA's new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The pictures show fractures stretching hundreds of yards (meters) across bedrock.

Similar features have been found by the Mars rover Opportunity, which currently is perched at the rim of a large crater known as Victoria Crater. Scientists are considering dispatching the rover into the crater for a closer look. The rover already has found evidence of a one-time salty shallow ocean at its landing site.

The discovery was described Friday's issue of the journal Science and at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in San Francisco.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

India ready for Cricket World Cup 2007

India's cricket selectors picked Virender Sehwag for the World Cup despite the aggressive batsman being woefully out of touch in the run-up to the showpiece event. Sehwag was selected despite scoring just 273 in his last 15 one-dayers, including an unimpressive 19 off 23 balls in the five-run defeat against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

He is the only Indian to compile a triple-century in Test cricket, was favoured for his career record of 4,775 runs from 165 one-dayers with seven centuries. He is also off-spin bowler with 71 one-day wickets, giving Dravid an option of an additional spinner.

Rahul Dravid will captain India with senior pro Sachin Tendulkar, set for his fifth World Cup, appointed the deputy ahead of former skipper Sourav Ganguly.

The selectors also included the injured duo of seamer Irfan Pathan and batsman Yuvraj Singh in the 15-man squad, confident they will recover in time before the World Cup opens in the Caribbean on March 13.

Coach Greg Chappell and Dravid joined the five-man selection committee, headed by former Test captain Dilip Vengsarkar, in choosing a squad that has a good blend of experience and youth.

Six players -- Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthick, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Munaf Patel -- will be playing in their first World Cup.

But the remaining nine -- Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan -- were part of the 2003 squad in South Africa that made the final.

Yuvraj (back injury) and Pathan (sore shoulder) were picked after team physiotherapist John Gloster said he was confident both will be fit before the team departed for the Caribbean on February 28.

India are drawn with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and first-timers Bermuda in group B of the preliminary league. The top two will advance to the second round.

India's World Cup squad:

Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthick, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Samuels in match-fixing scandal

Sports NewsIndian police stunned the cricket world late Wednesday when they accused West Indian all-rounder Marlon Samuels of dealing with an illegal bookmaker during a recent One-day series in India.

Indian cricket board vice-president Shashank Manohar said the report from the police in central Nagpur, where the alleged incident took place, had been passed on to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

"The ICC and its anti-corruption unit will deal with what is obviously a very serious accusation," Manohar told reporters. "It concerns a foreign player. The Indian board can't take any action."
There was no immediate reaction from the Dubai-based offices of the ICC, but Samuels, 26, denied any wrongdoing.

"I don't do such things man," Thursday's Times of India quoted Samuels as saying. "I have not done anything wrong. The West Indies Cricketers' Association will take up the matter if necessary."

Amitesh Kumar, deputy police commissioner of Nagpur, said Samuels released important team information to the bookmaker during the first One-day international, citing tapped telephone conversations between the pair.

Kumar told reporters on Wednesday that Samuels had five conversations with the bookmaker, identified in the calls as Mukesh Kochar, although there was no evidence money had changed hands.

India won the match against the West Indies on January 21 by 14 runs.
"We have recorded information that Samuels leaked important team information to Kochar from his hotel room in five telephone calls on January 20 and 21," Kumar said.

"We do not have evidence if any financial commitment was made. All I will say is the link between the player and the bookie is a violation of the ICC Code of Conduct for players."

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Blair says won't quit before funding probe ends

British Prime Minister Tony Blair today said it would be wrong for him to leave office before a police investigation into political party funding ends. ''I don't think that's the right way to do it and I think it would be particularly wrong to do it before the inquiry has even run its course and come to any conclusions. So you'll have to put up with me for a bit longer,'' he told BBC Radio.Blair has been questioned twice as a witness in his Downing Street office by police probing allegations that titles were granted by political parties in exchange for funding in an investigation overshadowing the premier's last months in the office.

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Tata Steel bids for Corus acquisition

Ratan TataJan 31 2007 : Tata Steel is set to become the world's fifth-biggest steelmaker after winning a bid battle for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group by agreeing to pay 6.2 billion pounds ($12 billion).
Britain's Takeover Panel said in an e-mailed statement that after an auction Tata Steel had agreed to offer Corus investors 608 pence per share in cash, topping a final bid of 603 pence from Brazilian Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (CSN).

Both offers were right at the top end of what analysts had thought possible and will now be put to Corus investors, who have no reason not to accept the higher price.
Corus was not immediately available for comment.
The auction process, following a takeover tussle that began in earnest when Tata Steel offered 455 pence per share on Oct.

20, started at the close of trading in London on Tuesday when Corus shares ended 0.5 percent higher at 563 pence. CSN and Tata Steel were keen to buy Corus to become significant players in the consolidating steel industry, where Dutch-based Mittal Steel last year bought Luxembourg's Arcelor to create the world's biggest steelmaker, Arcelor Mittal.
The 608 pence Tata Steel is set to pay values Corus at around seven times its forecast earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 2006, well above the multiple Mittal Steel paid for Arcelor which was 4.6 times historic EBITDA.

Ahead of the auction, called last week by the Takeover Panel to bring the bid battle to an end, CSN had the upper hand after it had made a bid worth 4.9 billion pounds ($9.6 billion) or 515 pence per share, accepted by Corus on Dec. 11, hours after it had accepted a 500 pence offer from Tata Steel.

The battle pushed Corus's share price to seven-year highs and pitted 70-year-old Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, from one of India's best-known business families, against Benjamin Steinbruch who at 52 is one of Brazil's most famous executives as chief executive and main owner of CSN.

Ratan Tata has transformed the once-staid Tata group since taking over as chairman in 1991. He has cut the number of companies in the group from over 300, and acquired new businesses with growth potential.

Tata Steel has spent more than $400 million in recent years to buy Singapore's NatSteel and Thailand's Millennium Steel, and other group companies have also made acquisitions outside India.

On Oct 17 2006 Tata Steel announced that it had made a ten billion dollars acquisition offer to Corus Group Plc, the largest steel maker of the UK.

In a statement, the company said it had made an ''indicative non -binding offer to acquire 100 per cent equity'' in Corus Group Plc and discussions in this regard were on with the Borad and Management of the UK company.

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India won ODI series

Jan 31, 2007 : Sachin Tendulkar hit his 41st one-day century as India beat West Indies by 160 runs to clinch the series 3-1. West Indies, who won the toss, were bowled out for 181 in the 42nd over, Marlon Samuels top-scoring with 55. The tourists on 65-3 in the 15th over, but a 65-run stand between Samuels and Denesh Ramdin (40) saved some face for them. Earlier man of the match and man of the series Tendulkar scored his 41st ton with a single in the last ball of the Indian innings as 107 runs flowed in the last 10 overs. Dhoni was not out on 40 in 20 balls, with 1 four and 3 sixes. Ganguly (68) and Uthappa (28) gave India a quickfire start, with a 47 run partnership in 6.3 overs. Dravid (78) was instrumental in two century partnerships, one with Ganguly and another with Sachin.

Get the score card

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Huge mudflow inevitable from volcano lake

Volcano A crater lake on a New Zealand volcano used as a backdrop in the ''Lord of the Rings'' films is on the verge of collapsing and could send a torrent of muddy water down the mountain in coming weeks, media reported today.

Melting snow on Mount Ruapehu has filled the lake to within 1.5 metres of its lip, according to the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

The 2,797-metre volcano is the highest mountain in the North Island and home to two commercial ski fields.

Scientists say a lahar, or mudflow composed of volcanic material and water, is inevitable as warm summer weather causes the snow to melt and fill the lake.

''It is still expected the earliest the dam might start collapsing to create a lahar down the Whangaehu River is February/March,'' the Herald quoted a Department of Conservation official as saying.

On December 24, 1953, a lahar rushing down the Whangaehu River destroyed a railway bridge, causing a packed passenger train to plunge into the river, killing 151 people on board.

Since then, a barrier of boulders and gravel has been built to divert any lahar flowing into the river. No major towns would be in its path.

Mount Ruapehu, which last erupted in 1995 and 1996, creating the present crater dam, is in Tongariro National Park, where Peter Jackson filmed some scenes for his ''Lord of the Rings''.

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