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Top Stories of the Week

Friday, December 22, 2006

Key powers work on final touches to Iran draft

In last minute negotiations, six key nations scrambled yesterday to reach agreement on a draft resolution imposing sanctions on Iran before a UN Security Council vote Europeans have scheduled for tomorrow.

The resolution demands Tehran end all uranium enrichment work, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants as well as for bombs, and halt research and development that can make or deliver atomic weapons.

To this end, the measure bans imports and exports of dangerous materials and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic missile delivery systems.

But Russia still wants some changes and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated Washington might offer some also. ''There are some changes that are still to be made to that draft,'' she said of the measure drawn up by Britain, France and Germany.

''We are very supportive of the European Union draft,'' Rice said in Washington but added: ''It's no secret we would have preferred to have this earlier had we been the lone drafter, and of course there might have been other things in it.'' Rice spoke as ambassadors from the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France held negotiations on Thursday afternoon in New York to decide on the final draft.

In a concession to Russia yesterday, the Europeans deleted a mandatory travel ban and instead told nations to notify a Security Council sanctions panel should any of 12 Iranians involved in the country's nuclear and missile programmes transit through their countries. Their names are on a list attached to the resolution.
The draft also imposes an assets freeze on the 12 people as well as 11 organisations associated with nuclear programmes.

They include the country's atomic energy agency and organizations dealing with Iran's centrifuge programs, its heavy-water research reactor being built at Arak and a pilot uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.


The resolution is a reaction to Iran's failure to comply with an August 31 UN deadline to suspend uranium enrichment work and resume negotiations and has been the subject of talks among senior government officials from the six powers since then.
Iran says it is pursuing nuclear power for peaceful means while the West suspects its research is a cover for bomb-making.

The drafters are hoping for a 15-0 vote but the ambassador of Qatar, the only Arab member of the Security Council, said he was still awaiting instructions. ''We are not in favour of any outcome (imposing) sanctions,'' Nasser Abdulaziz al-Nasser told reporters. ''We have to encourage Iran in a positive manner.'' He said the resolution would not stop Iran from pursing its nuclear programme but might encourage it to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world's key atomic arms pact.

The resolution is under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes enforcement mandatory but restricts action to non-military measures.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Honda Motor to produce small car

Honda Motor Company today said it would introduce a small-size vehicle in India and construct a second automobile plant with an aim to produce and sell more than 150,000 units of automobiles in India by the end of 2010.

Mr Takeo Fukui, President & CEO, Honda Motor Company, in his year-end address in Tokyo today, announced a series of initiatives and expansion plans for Honda operations in Japan and across the world.

With reference to the Indian automobile operations, Mr Fukui also said, ''Annual automobile production capacity in India will be doubled to 100,000 units by the end of 2007'', said a Honda press release. The expansion to 100,000 units at Honda Siel Cars India's Greater Noida plant has already begun and is progressing as per schedule.

In his speech he said, Honda would further accelerate its effort to strengthen the core characteristics that make Honda unique in each business area in order to continue creating new value and providing products and services which are beyond customers' expectations.

Dwelling on Honda's estimated worldwide sales for the year 2006, he said, Honda globally expects to achieve all-time record sales in all three product areas. Motorcycles at 12.7 million units (up 3 per cent from 2005), while Automobiles at 3.55 million units (up 5 per cent from 2005) and Power Products at 6.4 million units (up 15 per cent from 2005).

Asia region's -- excluding Japan & China operations -- 2006 automobile sales forecast was 320,000 units (up 4 per cent from 2005, an all-time record for the 4th consecutive year) Asia's 2007 automobile sales plan: 360,000 units (up 13 per cent from 2006). For the motorcycle business, Honda expanded motorcycle production capacity in India, the Philippines and Pakistan in 2006, and also announced further capacity expansion in India and Vietnam in 2007, the release said.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

India wins the first Test Match

Sports News, Cricket : India won first test matchLeg-spinner Anil Kumble took three wickets as India completed an historic triumph by beating South Africa by 123 runs on the fourth day of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium.

A defiant 97 by Ashwell Prince could not prevent India from achieving their first Test win in three tours of South Africa here on Monday.

Prince and Shaun Pollock, virtually the only South Africans who shone in the match, put on 67 for the seventh wicket, their team's highest partnership of either innings, to delay India's victory celebrations.

The stand was ended by Kumble, who bowled Pollock for 40. Kumble then trapped Andre Nel leg before before bowling Prince when the left-hander went down the pitch and misjudged the flight. Kumble took three for 54.

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George Bush signed nuclear agreement

Dec 18, 2006, President George W Bush today signed into law the legislation that gives effect to the India-US Civil nuclear agreement, lifting the three-decade-old ban on the export of American nuclear fuel and technology to India.

Several Congressmen and members of the Indian-American community attended the brief signing ceremony at the White House. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was also present.

President Bush, in a brief speech, said the agreement would strengthen the partnership between India and the United States. The relationship had never been more vital, he said.

He said it would help India meet the challenge on the energy front at a time when its economy is on the fast track.

President Bush called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a trustworthy man and a friend and praised his leadership on this issue.

The legislation is formally called the Henry J Hyde United States- India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, named after the outgoing Republican chairman of the House foreign relations committee Henry Hyde. The Republican Congressman retired this month after a long spell in the House.

Supporters of the measure say it would help cement the emerging strategic alliance between the two democracies.

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Virtual space travel by Google

Web surfers may soon be able to explore the canyons of Mars and experience a virtual flight over the surface of the moon thanks to a deal announced yesterday between Web search company Google Inc and the NASA Ames Research Centre.

The Space Act Agreement is the first in a series of collaborations between the Mountain View, California-based Internet company and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

NASA and Google said they will work together on a wide range of technical problems and will make NASA's space exploration work, much of which is currently scattered across the Web, more accessible to the public.

One project would let viewers see details of Mars and Earth's moon in a format similar to satellite picture views of the world made popular by applications such as Google Earth.

Eventually, they aim to offer real-time weather visualisation and forecasting, high-resolution 3-D maps of the moon and Mars and real-time tracking of the International Space Station and the space shuttle from the screen of any computer with Internet access, they said in a statement.

Google and NASA first partnered last year to build a new campus at NASA's research centre in Silicon Valley. The deal called for Google to develop up to 1 million square feet (93,000 square metre) of real estate within the Moffett Field research park.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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Manu Sharma convicted for Jessica murder case

National News : Justice for JessicaSetting aside his acquittal by the trial court, the Delhi High court today convicted Manu Sharma for murdering model Jessica Lall more than seven and a half years ago.

Besides, co-accused Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh were held guilty of destroying evidence.
All the three were directed to be taken into custody forthwith.

A Division Bench headed by Justice R S Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin called ''positively perverse'' the judgment of the trial court acquitting Manu Sharma on February 21 this year.
They severely criticised the judge of the trial court for making an immature assessment of the material on record, which is self-contradictory, based on misreading of material.

The judges agreed with CBI counsel Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium that the trial court wrongly believed a case of the prosecution that two shots had been fired by two people from as many different pistols even as it was never the case of the prosecution.

The court disdainfully dismissed the two-gun theory, bolstered by senior counsel national newsRam Jethmalani trying to make Jessica, the victim, look like an accused provoking a tall Sikh man into firing a shot.

''Much was sought to be made of the report of the ballistic expert, Roop Singh, saying the empty cartridges recovered from the place of occurrence appear to have been fired from two weapons. His report cannot be relied upon, not evidenced under the law laid down by Code of Criminal Procedure,'' the judges said.

Second opinion of another ballistic expert, Prem Sagar Manocha, categorically stating it impossible to say whether the cartridges have been fired from two different weapons was also doubted by the judges, calling him unreliable.

''The two-weapon theory appears to be concoction of the defence and a manipulation of evidence, in particular of Shyan Munshi who for the first time in court introduced such a theory,'' the judgement said.

The Bench said the trial court had also erred in holding the three witnesses hostile. The trial court grossly erred in manner of appreciation of testimonies of the witnesses, the judges added.
The trial court arrived at a factually wrong finding, not borne out from the evidence on record to the effect that she thought that he had fired a shot at Jessica Lall and that she was not an eye witness, said the judges.


The court set aside the defence argument that Bina Ramani, owner of the Tamarind Cafe, where Jessica was killed on April 29, 1999, and a prime witness, had been under constant pressure from the police to toe their version.

The judges further showered praise on Ms Ramani, calling her, ''the only brave person present in that party to muster courage to face the shooter while others claiming to be socialites did not have the courage to raise a little finger to apprehend the culprit whom Bina was chasing and shouting that he had shot Jessica.'' The recovery of a Tata Safari from Noida further helped the court hold Manu guilty. Manu's allegation of being falsely implicated under a political design didn't convince the court wondering as to why on earth every body would conspire against him. More so, when Manu had not been able to name the politican he considered to be behind the scheme.

Another nailing evidence against Manu was the recovery of two empty cartridges from the place of crime that matched with the mutilated lead bullet recovered from the skull of Jessica. The court said Manu could not produce either a licensed pistol or 25 rounds to prove the prosecution wrong.

A hearing on the quantum of sentence has been posted for December 20.

December 20th, 2006 (Wednesday): Delhi high court sentenced manu sharma to life imprisonment in jessica lall murder case.

Delhi high court also sentenced vikas yadav and tony gill to four years rigorous imprisonment.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Lalu-Rabri are accquited of charges

National News : Lalu and RabriIn the much-awaited judgment on the Disproportionate Asset case, the CBI special court today acquitted Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi, observing that the prosecution had failed to prove its charges.
In his voluminous judgment running into over 150 pages, special judge Munilal Paswan said the prosecution had failed to prove its allegations in the DA case.

The court said the judgement was mainly based on the findings of Income Tax Apellate Tribunal (ITAT) and the tax returns of the VIP couple were accepted by the ITAT. The judgment was also based on the findings of the Supreme Court in the writ petition filed by Lallan Singh, alleging tampering of trial evidence in the DA case by Mr Prasad.

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NKorea nuclear plans hurt its people

North Korea should spend its limited resources on its people rather than developing nuclear weapons, a United Nations envoy for human rights in the communist state said today.

''The military-first policy, particularly this expenditure on arms and nuclear proliferation in the DPRK (North Korea), is regrettable because the money should be spent on human development,'' Vitit Muntarbhorn, a UN special rapporteur, told reporters in the South Korean capital.

He was speaking as international negotiations resumed in Beijing to try to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Pyongyang carried out its first atomic test in October.
Muntarbhorn urged North Korean authorities to stop punishing citizens who have been forced to return to the reclusive state.

Aid groups say tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of North Koreans have sought asylum abroad, mostly by fleeing across the northern border into China.

A food shortage brought about by July flooding could increase the flow of refugees, they added.
''It doesn't take much to instruct their officials not to punish those who are sent back to their country of origin. It would nurture political capital for them,'' Muntarbhorn said.
Washington and rights groups have accused North Korea of imprisoning, torturing and executing those who try to flee abroad and are then sent back. Muntarbhorn, a law professor in Thailand, has been in South Korea since last week interviewing North Korean refugees resettled in the South.

He pressed North Korea to allow him to visit the country, to return to bilateral talks with the South and to address the problem of missing Japanese and South Koreans believed to have been abducted by Pyongyang.

Muntarbhorn is to submit a report on human rights in North Korea to the United Nations early next year.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Navjot Singh Sidhu challenges HC order in SC

Former BJP MP from Amritsar Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rupinder Singh Sandhu, convicted a long with him in a road rage case, have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against Punjab and Haryana High Court judgement sentencing them to three years imprisonment.

The Appellants who filed the petition yesterday, have contended the incident took place in 1988 and the High Court should not have reversed the order of acquittal as there is a long gap of 18 years without there being any compelling circumstances.

The appeal is likely to come up for hearing in January as the High Court has granted him time till January 31, for approaching the Supreme Court for getting a stay against his conviction and sentence.

The High Court has suspended their sentence till that date, and if the two failed to get the stay till that time, then both will have to surrender and go to jail.
The family members of Gurnam Singh have also said publicly that they would file an appeal against the High Court judgement to get the sentence enhanced.

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AIIMS RDA on hunger strike

As soon as the Lok Sabha passed the controversial OBC reservation bill, twelve members of the AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) went on flash hunger strike in protest.
However, services in the world renowned healthcare institution will not be affected and the doctors will continue to work. The angered doctors accused the government of ''betraying'' them and failing to secure the interest of the masses.

''The Government had assured us that the interest of the masses will not be compromised.... But neither recommendations of Moilly Committee have been included nor our demands considered,'' RDA member Dr Binod Patra said.

The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Bill, 2006, provides for 27 per cent quota for OBC students in elite educational institutions maintained and aided by the Central Government.

He said the Government did not even wait for courts to pronounce their verdict on the contentious issue. ''When the matter is subjudice what was the hurry to rush the bill. We are not against any section or society but only want merit to be given priority,'' he added.

The AIIMS RDA is holding talks with other organisations and colleges for support on the strike. It will hold its General Body Meeting (GBM) tomorrow to decide the future course of action.
The AIIMS RDA, under the banner of Youth for Equality, had started and spearheaded the anti-quota agitation since May.

The doctors have appealed the public to support the anti-quota agitation.
In the Lok Sabha, Union Human Resource and Development Minister Arjun Singh said a separate Bill was under preparation to provide reservation in unaided educational institutions also.

''The Bill is consistent with Constitutional provisions and will meet the goal of equity and social justice,'' he added.

The government would take further steps to provide reservation in private institutions of higher learning only after taking all political parties into confidence.

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Oceans may rise upto 140 cms by 2100 for warming

The world's oceans may rise up to 140 cms by 2100 due to global warming, a faster than expected increase that could threaten low-lying coasts from Florida to Bangladesh, a researcher said.

''The possibility of a faster sea level rise needs to be considered when planning adaptation measures such as coastal defences,'' Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research wrote in the journal Science.

His study, based on air temperatures and past sea level changes rather than computer models, suggested seas could rise by 50-140 cms by 2100, well above the 9-88 cms projected by the scientific panel that advises the United Nations. A rise of one metre might swamp low-lying Pacific islands such as Tuvalu, flood large areas of Bangladesh or Florida and threaten cities from New York to Buenos Aires.

''The computer models underestimate the sea level rise that has already occurred,'' Rahmstorf told Reuters of a rise of about 20 cms since 1900. ''There are aspects of the physics we don't understand very well.'' Sea level changes hinge on poorly understood factors such as the pace of the melt of glaciers and of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Water also expands as it gets warmer but the rate of penetration of heat to the depths is uncertain.

''My main conclusion is not that my forecast is better but that the uncertainty is much larger because of the different results you get with reasonable methods,'' he said.

Almost all climate scientists reckon the world is warming because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human use of fossil fuels in factories, power plants and cars. Rising temperatures could bring more droughts, floods and heatwaves. Tides Rahmstorf likened his approach to predicting the height of tides along a coast, largely based on past observations.

He said seas were 120 metres below present levels during the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago and 25-35 metres higher than the present in the Pliocene epoch 3 million years ago. In the Ice Age temperatures were 4-7 Celsius cooler than today and 2-3 C warmer in the Pliocene. That suggested sea levels change 10-30 metres per rise or fall per degree Celsius over thousands of years.

The UN climate panel has projected temperatures will rise by 1.4-5.8C by 2100, mainly because of human influences. ''Sea level is a very slow component of the climate system so what we see by the year 2100 is just a small percentage of the total we are causing,'' Rahmstorf said.

There was still time for the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions but he said the slow pace of U.N. talks on extending the UN's Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 ''gives you the impression that governments are not very well aware of how urgent the whole problem has become''. Coastal cities in the North Atlantic -- from New York to London -- could be especially vulnerable because a possible slowdown of ocean currents could also raise sea levels in the North Atlantic and lower them in the southern hemisphere.

''Any time you change ocean currents you change the sea surface...if you slow down the North Atlantic current you get a rise in the North Atlantic,'' Rahmstorf said.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Updates on Princess Diana

International News : Princess Diana deathA three-year police inquiry into the death of Princess Diana will issue its long-awaited report Thursday amid hopes it would finally halt the speculation about her fatal Paris car crash in 1997. John Stevens, the former head of London's Metropolitan Police, led the investigation of the deaths of Diana, 36, and her companion, Dodi Fayed, 42. They were killed along with chauffeur Henri Paul when their Mercedes crashed in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, while the couple were being chased by media photographers.

Rumors and conspiracy theories continue to swirl around Diana's death, despite a French judge's 1999 ruling that the crash was an accident. An investigation later concluded that Paul had been drinking and was driving at high speed.

Stevens and the Metropolitan Police have refused to discuss the findings of his inquiry, although it is widely expected to conclude that Diana's death was an accident and that Paul was drunk.


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Rajya Sabha discuss labour strike

The Rajya Sabha will have a discussion on the nation-wide strike called by the Left trade unions against the industrial policy of the UPA government today.

The demand to discuss the issue was made by Left members in the House as soon as it assembled for the day.

However, Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat said they could raise the issue during the Zero Hour, to which the members agreed.

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Trade Union strike paralyses life in Bengal

The 24-hour nationwide strike began in West Bengal this morning, paralysing normal life.

Official sources said no untoward incident had so far been reported from anywhere in the state and the strike was peaceful. All shops and markets, educational institutions and commercial establishments remained closed, while factories, coal mines and tea gardens recorded negligible attendance.

No vehicle rolled out on the street and train services from Howrah and Sealdah were severely affected. No flights had taken off from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport so far since morning following cancellation by authorities.

However, near normal functioning was reported from the state's IT hub in Salt Lake Sector Five as the authorities had made prior arrangements for overnight stay of the employees.

The strike was called by the National Platform of Mass Organisations (NPMO), a combine of 56 mass organisations in protest against the "anti-people" policies of the UPA Government and pressing for a 16-point charter of demands.

CPI(M)'s frontal wing CITU, a major constituent of the NPMO, worked overtime to make the strike a success with support from the Left Front Government. CITU, however, had claimed that no force would be used to ensure the strike's success by obstructing anybody from joining duty. But UNI car was stopped on the VIP road and the driver was heckled. Police had to intervene to bring the situation under control.

Though Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ordered all arrangements to ensure that willing people could go to their work places, transport workers in the Government and private did not join duty making it impossible for anybody.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Five killed in Infosys campus

Five labourers were killed and five others injured in a mishap in the campus of Information Technology bellwether Infosys while they were working on a repair of a portion of building here this morning.

City Police Commissioner N Achuta Rao, who visited the spot, talking to newsmen, said the mishap occured when the centring structures and huge glass panes came down on the workers engaged in building work below. The deceased belonged to Raichur district, he added.

He said five labourers, who sustained injured, were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment immediately.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Police lathicharge students in Lucknow

The Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University, along with some principals of seven/eight colleges is going to meet the Governor regarding violence on campus.

The students are protesting against Lucknow University's new code of conduct.

Based on recommendations made by the Lyngdoh Committee, the code now bars leaders who are over age or have criminal records from contesting in students' polls.

And it hasn't gone down well with the student leaders. On Thursday, they once again turned violent but this time the violence spilled onto Lucknow's main shopping campus Hazratganj.

Security to criminals

The police also had to lathicharge to disperse the angry mob. This time the victims are pedestrians and traders, who were caught in the crossfire as the police tried to push the hooliganism back on to the campus.

While the violence and commotion continued in Lucknow University, Governor of Utttar Pradesh TV Rajeshwar seems to have found a voice in the Vice Chancellor, who now says that the state government is wrong in providing state security to criminal students.

But the Vice Chancellor is optimistic. Armed with the Lyngdoh recommendations, he says the university can now systematically demolish the power the student leaders wield.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Sourav Ganguly returns with 83

Sourav Ganguly made a triumphant return to the Indian cricket team when he and Irfan Pathan rescued the tourists from a pace barrage by the Rest of South Africa team.

Ganguly made 83 and fellow left-hander Pathan went on to score an unbeaten 111 as the Indians recovered from 69 for five to reach 316 for seven at the end of the first day of a four-day match on Thursday.

Ganguly, 34, who had not played for India since a series against Pakistan in February, came in at 37 for three while fast bowler Morne Morkel was causing havoc among the Indian batsmen.

Morkel, who finished the day with four for 74, took all his wickets before lunch after the Indians were sent in to bat by the Rest's captain, Jacques Rudolph.

India, battered by South Africa pace when they lost a one-day series 4-0, looked headed for humiliation in their only warm-up match ahead of the first Test starting in Johannesburg next Friday.

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Second Indian origin girl in space

International News : SpaceHouston, May 4 Nasa has picked Indian-American Sunita Williams nee Pandya as part of the 14th international space station crew, Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams has been appointed along with two others as part of the replacement crew for the six-month-long International Space Station Expedition to be carried out in September this year.

Sunita's selection caps the prospects, which began in 2003 when she was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency as a backup crew member for one of its missions to the space station orbiting about 240 miles above Earth.

She is the second astronaut of Indian origin after Kalpana Chawla, whose space odyssey had a tragic end on February 1, 2003, when space shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas during re-entry. The US-born Sunita Williams will serve as a flight engineer for the six-month mission, Nasa announced on Tuesday.

Her colleagues on the expedition will be Nasa astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who will be the commander and the station science officer, and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, who will serve as flight engineer and Soyuz commander.

Nasa's long expected announcement concerning Sunita Williams comes just ahead of the visit to India this week of Nasa administrator Michael Griffin to finalise American participation on India's unmanned Chandrayaan moon mission.

Griffin is expected to sign a MoU with ISRO for placing American scientific instruments in Chadrayaan-I on its scheduled 2008 launch. According to Nasa's biography of Sunita, she has a US Navy background. A graduate of Florida Institute of Technology, she received her commission as an Ensign in the US Navy from the US Naval Academy in May 1987. She was designated a Naval Aviator in 1989, and graduated from the Naval Test Pilot School in 1993.

She was later assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 in Norfolk, Virginia, and made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield.

She was selected for the astronaut programme by Nasa in June 1998, in part because of her extensive experience on more than 30 different aircraft. She has since been an "Astronaut Candidate" under training waiting for her space flight assignment which Nasa announced on Tuesday. Sunita, who was born in Ohio (Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, Haryana), is married to physicist-turned-US deputy marshall, Michael J Williams.

She is the daughter of Deepak Pandya, an India-born physician who migrated to US in the 1960s and now works at a veterans hospital. Her mother Ursaline, a home-maker, is an American of Slavic descent.

In a previously published interview, she described her father as a traditional Hindu and therefore a vegetarian. "My mother would cook two different meals each day one Indian and one meat and potatoes so I got to eat a little bit of both and a good variety.

I still like spicier food," she recalled, speaking of her fondness for samosas. About her father, she said, "He was orphaned and so is very accepting of others' goals and trying new things."

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

NASA calls off space shuttle launch

NASA postponed space shuttle Discovery's liftoff on Thursday night because of thick, low clouds at the Florida launch site.

The next opportunity for flight is at 9:13 p.m. on Friday (0213 GMT on Saturday), but meteorologists were forecasting a 90 percent chance of another delay due to high winds stirred by a cold front pushing through central Florida.

"We gave it the best shot and did not get clear," said NASA launch director Mike Leinbach.
Replied Discovery commander Mark Polansky, "Try not to be too disappointed and we will be ready to support the next time we get a chance."

NASA is hoping to launch its third mission in six months and get a jump on the looming deadline to finish International Space Station assembly before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. The launch will be NASA's first in darkness since before the 2003 Columbia disaster. Managers recently lifted the ban on night launches, imposed to ensure cameras had good lighting to spot any debris falling off the shuttle's fuel tank.

Debris damaged Columbia, triggering the breakup of the ship and the death of its seven astronauts as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

On the last flight, astronauts delivered new solar arrays to provide power for additional modules scheduled to be installed next year. The tricky task of wiring the arrays into the station's power grid falls to Discovery's crew. At least 14 more missions are needed to finish the $100 billion outpost. Discovery's flight is scheduled to last 12 days.

In addition to Polansky, the five-man, two-woman crew consists of Sweden's first astronaut, Christer Fuglesang, pilot William Oefelein, flight engineer Robert Curbeam and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham and Sunita Williams.

Only Polansky and Curbeam have made previous spaceflights.

from yahoo news

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shibu Soren gets life imprisonment

A Special CBI court today sentenced former Union Minister Shibu Soren to life imprisonment in the Shashinath Jha murder case.

Special CBI judge B R Kedia also asked the JMM chief to cough up Rs five lakh as compensation for Jha's family. Shashinath Jha was murdered in 1994 by Nandkishore Mehta on Shibu's instructions. The court also handed down life imprisonment to four other convicts, including Mehta, in the case. The court had held Soren guilty of Jha's murder on November 28.

The four other convicts were also asked to pay Rs 25,000 each as fine to the court. Soren is to pay Rs two lakh each as compensation to Jha's daughters, Preeti and Babita, besides Rs one lakh to his mother Priyambada Devi. Describing the sentence as unfair, Shibu's son Hemand Soren told sources that they would appeal against the sentence when they read the entire judgement.
He also added that Shibu would not resign from the Lok Sabha.

Defending Shibu, noted criminal lawyer R K Anand had pleaded before the court to take a lenient view while handing down the quantum of the sentence. His argument centered around Shibu's political career. Soren is ''good enough to earn probation'', he said.

Soren had to resign from the Union Cabinet after the CBI court held him guilty of conspiring to murder Jha. Shibu played a central role in the design blurring the distinction between a principal agent and a conspirator, CBI counsel A K Singh argued citing the judgments in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's murder and the Parliament attack cases.

The conspirators were given the same sentence as the actual perpetrators in both cases, according to the CBI.

The CBI alleged that Soren deprived Jha of customary last rites.
Jha's corpse had been thrown to dogs.

One of the convicts, Nandkishore Mehta, earned himself a JMM ticket to contest the assembly elections by killing Jha on Soren's instructions.

One of the reasons behind the murder, the CBI said, was that Soren and Jha fell out over sharing the kick-offs offered by the Congress to bail out the P V Narasimha Rao-led government during the no-trust vote in the Lok Sabha.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

News Updates from India

Kolkata : West Bengal Assembly has passed a Bill banning handpulled rickshaws.The decision, as in the past, has raised fears of unemployment for the poorest of the poor.The Bill is likely to affect the migrant labourers in Kolkata, who survived on the rickshaws - a century old transport.There are 5,937 hand pulled rickshaws in the city. The government has promised alternative livelihood for the rickshaw pullers.

Delhi : An Indian Airlines flight IC 402 overshot the tarmac at Delhi airport Sunday night, eyewitness Rakesh Vaid told NDTV. All the 320 passengers on the flight from Kolkata disembarked safely. Emergency services including fire fighting trucks and ambulances scrambled to the aircraft as the incident took place at 11 pm.

source NDTV

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Life loss in US Winter storm

Temperatures stayed below freezing as hundreds of thousands waited for their electricity to be restored after a devastating winter storm that has been blamed for at least 19 deaths across the US.

In the latest incidents, icy weather contributed to the deaths of four St. Louis residents. Two men died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning after they tried to keep warm by burning coal on their stove.

One man was found dead in his yard from possible hypothermia and an elderly man was found dead at the bottom of his home's stairs. "This is not over. As long as the power is still out, there are still people at risk," said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

Temperatures barely rose to minus-6 Celsius on Sunday. City officials encouraged people to stay at temporary shelters, rather than try to tough it out in residences without power.
The storm was blamed for at least 15 other deaths as it spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast.

Thousands of travelers were stranded by canceled flights, highways clogged by abandoned vehicles and stalled trains.

source NDTV

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Ghaziabad ashram girls rescued

The Supreme Court has ordered special protection for 47 girls, after a Swami is accused of sexually abusing some of them at their orphanage near Delhi.
The children were rescued and sent to a safe shelter in Mathura after an undercover NDTV reporter discovered the abuse.

The court on Monday also sought a report from the District Magistrate of Mathura on the current status of the children.

The court said no one should meet them without the permission of the magistrate.
Baba Balnath who ran the orphanage in Ghaziabad has been placed in judicial custody for two weeks.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Sanjay Dutt in court

Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, convicted for possessing illegal weapons, urged an Indian court on Thursday to be lenient in sentencing him, saying he had obeyed all the conditions of his bail so far. Dutt's plea came two days after he was cleared of charges of conspiracy in a series of bomb blasts in Mumbai that killed 257 people in 1993.

Lawyers say his firearms offence could still carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail. He has already served more than a year in prison during investigations.

"He pleaded before the court that he had not violated any condition, nor committed any crime during the bail period," public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told Reuters. "He said therefore he should be shown leniency." The court gave Dutt until December 19 to surrender after the actor sought time to sort out his personal and film commitments.

Dutt also requested the court to allow him to go abroad in connection with the work of a cancer trust started by his father, a former film star and federal minister who died last year.

"He told the court 'I love my nation. India is my country'," Nikam said quoting the burly actor, one of the most sought after in Bollywood after his film, "Lage Raho Munnabhai," (Carry on Munnabhai), became the biggest hit of 2006.

The court, which is expected to begin sentencing the accused in the case next month, made no comment on Dutt's plea but asked him to surrender by December 19.

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Sidhu found guilty for murder case

National NewsThe Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday convicted cricketer-turned-MP Navjot Singh Sidhu for causing the death of a Patiala resident following a scuffle in 1988.

A division bench, comprising Justices Mehtab Singh Gill and Baldev Singh, overturned his earlier acquittal by a lower court and found 43-year-old Sidhu guilty of culpable homicide, not amounting to murder, for the death of Gurnam Singh.

Gurnam Singh died on December 27, 1988 after Sidhu and his associate had allegedly beaten him at a Patiala market following a dispute. Gurman Singh had actually died of a heart attack on the spot after the incident.

The court will decide on the quantum of punishment for Sidhu on Wednesday, December 6.

Sidhu, who was in Parliament in Delhi when the verdict was pronounced and soon announced his intention to resign from Lok Sabha where he represents Amritsar.

In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, he said he was seeking permission of his party leaders to resign from the Lok Sabha maintianing that he always stood for truth and moral grounds.

Under Section 304 of IPC, the maximum sentence could be imprisonment for up to 10 years.

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Sourav Ganguly returns to team India

National News : Sourav GangulyFormer India skipper Sourav Ganguly got a chance to extend his international career when he was named in a 16-man squad for an upcoming three-Test series in South Africa.

Ganguly's career seemed to be over after a row with coach Greg Chappell last year, when he was sacked as captain before being axed from both the Test and One-day squads.

The stylish 34-year-old batsman played his last Test against Pakistan in Karachi in February this year and his last One-dayer was against New Zealand at Harare in September 2005.
A brittle batting display by India in the ongoing five-match One-day series in South Africa, which they trail 3-0 after four matches, led the selectors to plump for the experienced left-hander.

"We decided to go with Ganguly's experience because our batting has failed in One-dayers. The youngsters have not been able to adjust to the bouncy wickets in South Africa," said chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar on Thursday.

Ganguly, who has scored 5,221 runs in 88 Tests, said he was hoping to put his experience to good use in South Africa.

"I am happy to be back but it is always a challenge playing in Tests, whether it is your first or 100th. As the tour will go on, players will get used to the bouncy pitches," he said.
"We have done well on bouncy tracks in Australia in the past and it is pretty much the same group of players and I am sure they will do well. It is just a matter of adjusting."

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Quake hits Sumatra island and Typhoon in Philippines

Philippines : Typhoon Durian killed 146 people in the central Philippines after high winds and rain triggered deadly mudslides, the head of the Philippine Red Cross said today.
Mud and rocks covered two villages close to Mount Mayon, around 322 km south of Manila. At least five other villages were also hit, officials said.

Sumatra island : A moderate intensity earthquake of magnitude 6.4 on Richter scale today hit the northern part of Indonesia's Sumatra island at 0928 hrs IST, an India Meteorological Department report said.
The quake hit at 0928 hrs IST and was epicentred at a latitude of 03.7 degree north and a longitude of 99.5 degree east, according to the IMD report.

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Bangla Bandh begins

National NewsTrinamool Congress sponsored 12-hour Bangla bandh began at 0600 hours today amid heavy security cover to prevent any untoward incident.

There has been a mixed reaction to the bandh till now. While reports of some disruption and violence have filtered in from different parts of the state, the situation has been peaceful on the whole.

Deputy Commissioner (Headquarters) Pradip Chatterjee told UNI, " We have deployed 5000 police personnel in different parts of the city to prevent any untoward incidents." Besides this seven wireless vans, 25 Heavy Duty vehicles are also on the patrol, he said. "18 mobile escorts have been kept at different parts of the to escort the cars going to the IT sector. besides this 100 plus pickets have been put up at differnt parts of the city," he said.

He also made it clear that instructions have been given to arrest any individual or group trying to disrupt traffic using force. Meanwhile, reports coming in from different part state that train services have been partially affected on Sealdah, Budgebudge and Dankuni section of eastern Railway.

Trinamool Congress Bhatpara MLA Arjun Singh has been arrested for trying to disrupt traffic. In Asansol five Trinamool activists have been arrested. A Congress Zilla Committee President's car has been damaged by CPI(M) activists in Cooch Behar, sources said.

Meanwhile, a heavy deployment of police has been made at Singur and fencing of the land to be given to Tata Motors have started from Khaserberia region.

Section 144 is still clamped in the region. The bandh has been called to portest against the "illegal arrest" and police atrocities on party supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Addressing a press conference in the Trinamool Congress room in the state Assembly last evening, Ms Banerjee said the Congress and a number of other smaller Opposition parties were extending support to the bandh. "Our bandh is against police torture, barbarism and the fascist activities of the Left Front Government," she said after her party MLAs went berserk in the Assembly lobby.

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