Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mullaperiyar row:Trade and business are freezed in Madurai

Trade and business came to standstill in Madurai four other districts on Thursday as commercial establishments downed their shutters throughout the day, as part of the protests against the Kerala government's move to build a new dam as an alternative to the controversial Mullaperiyar dam.
There was a complete shut down of shops and commercial establishments in the district. The strike call was given by as many as 50 outfits, including trade bodies like the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industries ( and Madurai District Tiny and Small Scale Industries Association (MADITSSIA) in five districts under Periyar - Vaigai Command area.
"The estimated business loss due to the strike could be anywhere from Rs 150 to Rs 200 crores," said S Rethinavelu, senior president of TNCCI. Cinema theatre owners too, joined the strike and cancelled two shows of film screenings.
Members of trade bodies and various outfits also undertook mass hunger strike in many parts of the city. In the mass hunger strike organised at MADITSSIA, 50 various associations like Tamil Nadu Food Grains Merchants' Association Limited, Jewellers and Bullion Merchants' Association, Uranganpatti Industrial Association, Sourashtra Chamber of Commerce, Tamil Nadu Readymade Garments Manufacturer's Association, Rubber Park Madurai Limited, Tamil Nadu Jaggery Merchants Association and others participated. Periyar Pasana Vivasayigal Sangam consisting of farmers from the areas irrigated by Periyar Water and Advocates Association extended their support for the hunger strike.
In another major hunger strike organised by the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industries, 80 trade and industrial associations like Madurai Notebook Manufacturers Association, Gold Silver and Diamond Merchants Association, Hotel Owners Association affiliated to chamber participated. Along with the Mullaperiyar row, the chamber insisted upon the Centre to commission the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) immediately.
"Two issues like water and power are haunting our state and we addressed both of them during the hunger strike," senior president of the chamber, S Rethinavelu said. There was a good response for the strike with most of the shops closed in the city, as well as the five districts directly benefitting from Mullaperiyar water, he added.
As the two important trade associations called for the strike and with every commercial establishment affiliated to them, the response was high in Madurai city, as 90 percentage of the shops downed their shutters. The fish market at Karimedu also was closed for two days - Thursday and Friday, with the vendors expressing solidarity with the merchants and farmers' associations.
According to police sources, the hunger strike was held at nine places in the city limits and demonstrations were held in six places commercial areas. Drivers and call taxi owners and auto rickshaw drivers in large numbers participated in the strike. A human chain was formed at Nethaji Road by the merchants. Political parties like the BJP and Puthia Tamilagam also staged demonstrations in the city.
The strike also drew partial response in adjacent districts like Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram and Dindigul and lot of shops and commercial establishments remained shut down during the day

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rumor of a Mini iPad from Apple to compete Fire

In November last year, Steve Jobs had quashed all rumors on Apple making iPads lesser than its 10-inch diagonal as anything below that would not allow to create great apps for the tablet. Jobs further had said that 7-inch screens had only 45% space compared to the larger iPad, which was not sufficient enough for the tablet apps.

The decree of Steve Jobs of not making any tablet below the 10-inch mark might be ignored in future by Apple.
According to Digitimes, Apple is planning to launch an iPad of 7.85-inch, within final quarter 2012, for coping with market competition from the Kindle Fire.
The report further mentions that AU Optronics and are going to provide the displays for this device.
Even the DisplaySearch analyst, Richard Shim speaks on similar lines of planning the 7.85-inch iPad late in 2012.
The statement had however been made before the arrival of Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire. In fact, a recent statement from Amazon has said that the Kindle Fire was the hottest selling tablet these days, having already registered sales of millions of units. The demand of the Kindle Fire has also been continuously increasing, as per Amazon.

Mullaperiyar dam is safe

Tamil Nadu on Friday refuted Kerala's allegation before the Empowered Committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, that the Mullaperiyar dam was not safe if the water level was maintained at 136 ft. and that it should be reduced to 120 ft.
In its response to Kerala's affidavit filed before the committee on Thursday, the State reiterated that the dam was safe and that it had been permitted by the Supreme Court to raise the water level up to 142 ft. and further raise it to 152 ft. after completing the remaining strengthening measures.
Tamil Nadu made it clear that the question of considering a new dam would arise only after the Supreme Court rendered its decision. It denied Kerala's assertion that 22 earthquakes/tremors occurred in the region between July 26 and November 26 and said according to the information obtained from the India Meteorological Department, there had been only four occurrences of earthquake in the Kottayam-Idukki region during this period.
In its response to Kerala's affidavit filed before the committee on Thursday, Tamil Nadu said the Mullaperiyar dam was safe and that it had been permitted by the Supreme Court to raise the water level up to 142 ft. File photo

“False propaganda”

Tamil Nadu said: “The false propaganda of 22 tremors in the last 4 months resulting in the dam being unsafe is being made without any basis. In fact, there have been only four tremors in the current year and in fact such tremors have been occurring over many years. But, none of them have had any impact on Mullaperiyar dam as their magnitudes were far below 4.9 and classified as ‘slight' by the IMD. However, the Mullaperiyar Dam is designed to withstand earthquakes that could possibly occur in the Zone III as per earthquake zonal map.”
On the outflow of water from the dam, Tamil Nadu said it was strange to contend that even for an outflow of 15,032 cusecs, there was panic among the people. The outflow had been much more than 15,000 cusecs on many occasions in the past and this was very negligible when compared to the design flood of 2.12. lakh cusecs (Probable Maximum Flood level) as per the Central Water Commission. Indeed, the actual flow of 15,032 cusecs was only a miniscule 7 per cent of the design flood of 2.12 lakh cusecs.
Tamil Nadu said: “The reported panic among the public and the bandhs and hartals, etc. are all creations of the Kerala government. There is no need for any panic as the dam has been strengthened sufficiently.” It sought rejection of Kerala's application.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mullaperiyar: TN rejects SC's appeal offer

The Supreme Court on Thursday said the Prime Minister was the "most suitable authority" to hammer out a solution to vexed water disputes like Mullaperiyar dam row and wanted to appeal for his intervention but refrained from doing so after Tamil Nadu objected to it.
A five-judge Constitution Bench wanted to make the appeal on the suggestion of Kerala's counsel Harish Salve but Tamil Nadu's lawyer Raju Ramachandran put up a stubborn opposition to the Prime Minister's intervention as the apex court-empowered committee was already seized of the issue.
At the fag end of the hearing held to decide on Tamil Nadu's plea for deployment of CISF at the dam site, Salve suggested the apex court make an appeal to the Prime Minister for convening a meeting of the two states' Chief Ministers to resolve the issue as tribunals, far from solving the problems, have only "increased the temperature."

"Without prejudice to the proceeding before the committee, this court can appeal to the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers to solve the problem," he said.
But the suggestion was opposed by Ramachandran saying it was "too premature" as the committee was seized of the matter.
"It would not be appropriate at this stage when the empowered committee is meeting. It is already seized of the matter," he said.

TN Assembly passes resolution on Mullaperiyar Dam, blames Kerala

Tamil Nadu has raised the pitch on the Mullaperiyar Dam row with the state Assembly on Thursday passing a resolution unanimously demanding that Kerala should take immediate steps to increase water levels in the dam to 142 feet as per Supreme Court orders.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa moved the resolution which was supported by all the MLAs including those belonging to the DMK and DMDK.
The J Jayalalithaa government accused the Centre of remaining a mute spectator to requests to deploy Central Industrial Security Force personnel at the dam site and rejected Kerala government's claim that an earthquake will damage the 116-year-old structure. The resolution demanded that CISF should be deployed immediately at the dam site.
The resolution also asked Kerala not to disrupt the dam maintenance work being carried out by Tamil Nadu and asserts that Tamil Nadu will not under any circumstance give up on its rights.
During the discussion Jayalalithaa alleged that Kerala government's propaganda on the dam was politically motivated
The resolution also expresses disappointment over Kerala's resolution passed on December 6 asking water level to be reduced to 120 feet.
Meanwhile, the Kerala government assured the Supreme Court that all measures would be taken to protect the dam and said that adequate security measures have been put in place for the dam, installations and properties of Tamil Nadu in the state.
The Central Government told the apex court that if requested from either of the state, deployment of paramilitary forces could be considered. The Kerala government also suggested to the court that it should request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call a meeting of the chief ministers of both the states and resolve the issue.
However, the Tamil Nadu Government did not agree to Kerala's proposal and the apex curt said that unless both the governments agreed it can not make such a request.

Monday, December 12, 2011

61 turns Rajini: His 10 quotes Interesting Coverage Report

Rajinikanth aka Shivaji Rao Gaikwad has not only been a phenomenon on the screen but off the screen too. His dialogues and one liners have always given the people a chance to flaunt their attitude. The era of social networking sites has changed the way people communicate but basic emotions are still the same.
On the eve of superstar's birthday, we have compiled 10 best Rajinikanth dialogues that you can post as your Facebook status.

Aaj Sunday hai. Din mein daru peene ka din hai." (Today is Sunday. This day is meant for drinking.)
2. Moondru Mugam (1982)
Ekambaram: "Ekambaramnu sonna vayithula irukura kozhandhai kooda vaaya moodum." (Say the name 'Ekambaram' and even an unborn child will shut its mouth and hush up.)
Alex Pandian: "Adhe kozhandhai kitta Alex Pandiyannu sonna, innoru kaiyale avanga amma vaayayum moodum!" (Well, if you say the name 'Alex Pandian' to that same unborn child, it will even close its mother's mouth with its other hand!)
3. Annamalai (1992)
"Naan solrathaiyum seiven, sollathathiyum seiven." (I will do what I
say, I will also do what I don't say.)
4. Basha (1995)
"Naan oru dhadavai sonna nooru dhadavai sonna madhiri." (If I say it once,
I've said it a hundred times.)
5. Muthu (1995)
"Naan eppa varuven, eppadi varuvennu yarukkum theriyadhu, aana varavendiya neratthil correct-aga varuven." (When I will arrive, or how I will arrive, nobody will know, but I will arrive when I ought to.)
6. Arunachalam(1997)
"Andavan solran. Arunachalam seiran." (God tells, Arunachalam does.)
7. Padayappa (1999)
"En vazhi ? thani vazhi." (My way is a unique way.)
8. Baba (2002)
"Khatham, gatham." (The past is past.)
9. Chandramukhi (2005)
"Laka..laka..laka." (Laka..laka..laka.)
10. Enthiran (2010)
I am a Robot. Speed one tera hertz, memory one zettabyte.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mulla Periyar Dam issue Full Coverage.

1.            On 29-10-1886 a lease indenture for 999 years was made between Maharaja of Travancore and Secretary of State for India for Periyar irrigation works by another agreement in 1970, Tamil Nadu was permitted to generate power also.

2.         The Mullaperiyar Dam was constructed during 1887-1895 across Periyar River in the then Travancore state (now Kerala) territory after said indenture. The Periyar Dam with full reservoir level of 152 ft. provides for diversion of water from the reservoir through a tunnel to Vaigai basin in Tamil Nadu for irrigation benefits in 68558 ha. 

3          In 1979, reports appeared in Kerala Press about the safety of Mulla Periyar Dam.   On 25th November, 1979 Chairman, CWC held discussions at Thirvananthapuram regarding strengthening Periyar dam with officers of Irrigation and Electricity, Deptt. of Kerala and PWD of Tamil Nadu.  In the meeting, emergency measures to be completed before next monsoon (1980), medium term measures and long-term measures for strengthening of Periyar Dam were decided.  One of the emergency measures was to keep the shutters of spillway raised fully to lower the reservoir level to 136 ft. 

4.         A second meeting under the Chairmanship of Chairman, CWC was held on 29th April 1980 at New Delhi and it was opined that after the completion of emergency and medium term measures in the form of cable anchoring, the water level in the reservoir can be restored up to 145 ft.

5.         As per the Memorandum on the Rehabilitation of Mulla Periyar Dam prepared by CWC and forwarded to Tamil Nadu on 25th March, 1986, emergency measures were implemented.  In the aforesaid Memo, CWC gave its recommendation about peak flood and size of additional vents to be added in the spillway for implementing remaining emergency measure of providing additional spilling capacity.  It also gave its recommendation about the design details of concrete backing on the downstream face of the dam.  Besides this, CWC suggested The Government of Tamil Nadu to examine the possibility of raising the top of RCC parapet by another two feet apart from few other suggestions.              It was opined in the forwarding note that after completion of the proposed strengthening measures, provision of other additional vents and implementation of other suggestions, Periyar dam would be competent to hold water upto FRL of 152 ft.

6.         The matter became subjudice with several petitions in the Kerala and Tamil Nadu High Courts. All these cases were transferred to the Supreme Court which heard the matter and desired in its order dated 28.4.2000 that Hon’ble Minister (WR) may convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers of both the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to amicably resolve the issue.  .

7.        Hon’ble Minister (WR) convened the Inter-State meeting on 19.5.2000 and as decided in the meeting, an Expert Committee under Member (D&R), CWC with representatives from both States was constituted in June 2000 to study the safety of the dam with respect to strengthening of dam carried out by The Government of Tamil Nadu on the advice of Central Water Commission and advise regarding raising of water level in the reservoir beyond 136 ft as a result of strengthening of dam.

8.     The Committee in its report of March, 2001 opined that with the strengthening measures implemented, the water level can be raised from 136 ft. to 142 ft. without endangering safety of the dam. Further raising of water level to 152 ft. will be considered after balance strengthening measures are implemented.

9.                  In the case of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 779-783/1998 Dr. Subramanian Swamy Vs Tamil Nadu, the Report of the Expert Committee was filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 31.8.2001 and also sent to the State Governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. 

10        In writ Petition ( C) No. 386 of 2001 (Mulla Periyar Environmental Protection Forum Vs Union of India and Ors) the Supreme Court in its Judgement dated 27.2.2006, permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to raise the water level of Mulla Periyar dam from 136 ft. to 142 ft. and take up  the remaining strengthening measures.

11.      Consequent to the aforesaid orders of the Supreme Court of India, the Kerala Government passed the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 which received the assent of the Governor   on 18th March 2006 which prohibited the raising of water level beyond 136 ft. in the Mulla Periyar Dam as Mullaperiyar Dam was placed under the Schedule of ‘Endangered Dams’.

12.     The Government of Tamil Nadu filed a suit No. 3 of 2006 - State of Tamil Nadu v/s State of Kerala and Union of India in the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 31.3.2006 praying for -

(i)                 Declaration of Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 passed by Kerala Legislature as unconstitutional in its application to and effect on Mulla Periyar Dam.
(ii)               Pass a decree of permanent injunction restraining Kerala from application and enforcing impunged legislation enforcing with or obstructing Tamil Nadu from increasing the water level to 142 feet and from carrying out the repair works as per judgment of Supreme Court dated 27th February 2006.

13.      A Review Petition filed by the State of Kerala on 3.4.2006 was dismissed by the Supreme Court on 27.7.2006. 

14.      In the matter referred to in para 13 above, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has passed an order on 25.9.2006 stating “the two State Governments independently or with the intervention of the Union of India may try to sort out the dispute, if possible.

15.      The Hon’ble Union Minister (WR) convened an inter-State meeting of the Chief Ministers of States of Tamil Nadu & Kerala on Mulla periyar dam issue on 29.11.2006 at New Delhi.  Hon’ble Union Minister (WR) further discussed matter with the Minister (WR/PW) from the States of Tamil Nadu & Kerala on18.12.2006.  The States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala reiterated their respective stand in the meetings and no consensus could be reached regarding a solution acceptable to both States. The matter is now subjudice.

16.              Subsequently, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu met Hon’ble Prime Minister on 18.12.2007 and Hon’ble Prime Minister suggested him to have a meeting with Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala on Mulla Periyar issue.  Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu met Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala on 19.12.2007 in presence of Hon’ble Union Minister of Water Resources.  Further a letter dated 20.12.2007  was  received from the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu  mentioning that in the above meeting, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu suggested to oversee the seepage measurement of the dam by engineers not belonging to either of the two States through CWC and Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala  agreed to consider them.

17.       Later, the Govt. of Tamil Nadu forwarded a letter dt 22/1/08 of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala addressed to Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu wherein it is mentioned that in the meeting dt 19/12/2007 he suggested a joint mechanism to monitor the seepage. The Govt. of Tamil Nadu also enclosed a letter dated 4/2/2008 from Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu addressed to Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala wherein it is mentioned that joint monitoring was not discussed in the meeting.

18.     CWC was requested to suggest a suitable mechanism for monitoring the seepage and possible structure of the Committee to monitor it. They suggested a nine- member Committee headed by a Chief Engineer, Central Water Commission having representatives from both States for Monitoring the seepage of Mulla Periyar Dam.   The composition of the Committee along with terms of reference was sent to Chief Secretary,  Government of Tamil Nadu and Kerala vide letter dated 28.4.2008 for  their concurrence / suggestions.

19.       The Government of Tamil Nadu vide its letter dated 17.6.2008 has sent its comments on the proposed Monitoring Committee stating that the present proposal of the Government of India to constitute a Committee comprising officers from CWC, Tamil Nadu Government and Kerala Government to measure the seepage in Mulla Periyar Dam is not in conformity with the discussion held in the meeting dated 19.12.2007 and proposal will lead to more and more complications and thus not acceptable to Govt. of Tamil Nadu. The Govt. of Kerala vide letter dt 24.2.2009 informed that the stand taken by the Govt. of Tamil Nadu for  neutral agency of experts excluding those form Kerala and Tamil Nadu is not acceptable to them.

20.      In the meanwhile, Govt. of Kerala has got done hydrological review studies from a professor of IIT, Delhi and has since filed the said hydrological studies report in the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 15.07.08 in connection with Suit No.3 of 2006 filed by the Government of Tamil Nadu. It has been concluded in the report that the Mulla Periyar dam is hydrologic ally unsafe for passing the estimated Probable Maximum Flood (2, 91,275 cusec / 8,248 cusec) with the existing spillway capacity. Comments of Hydrological Studies Organisation, CWC on the report were forwarded to the Govt. Advocate as per instructions of MoWR vide CWC letter dated 13.10.08. CWC has commented that the difference in the adopted values of Design Rainfall (Storm) depth, Time distribution of rainfall, Unit hydrograph & Infiltration rate have resulted in estimation of higher flood peak (PMF) and the said studies by the IIT Professor  does  not appear to be well founded.

21.      Meanwhile the Government of Kerala constituted a Committee in May 2009 which submitted its report in June, 2009. The Committee suggested mapping of the underwater area, installation of highly sensitive computer operated Seismograph and construction of a new Dam downstream of existing dam. The Committee has also opined that the dam has reached such a deteriorated condition that no amount of rectification work could salvage it to a safe and healthy condition.  Keeping in view this report, Minister (WR) advised Chairman, CWC in July, 2009 to constitute a team of officers to visit the dam and assess the present condition of the Mulla Periyar dam and look into the issues raised in the report of the above Expert Committee. The team had proposed a visit to the dam from 22-25 July, 2009 and the conveniences of the Government of Kerala and Tamil Nadu for the visit were sought. The Government of Tamil Nadu agreed to the proposed visit but the Government of Kerala requested for postponement of the proposed visit because of torrential rains. Thereafter, the visit could not materialize.

22.        Thereafter, Secretary (WR) convened a meeting on the Mulla Periyar Dam on 31.7.2009. The meeting was attended among others by Principal Secretary, PWD, Tamil Nadu and Additional Chief Secretary, WRD, Kerala. In the meeting the representative of Kerala informed that the Kerala Govt. visualizes construction of new dam as the only feasible solution and they have started survey and investigation for a new dam at an alternate site downstream of the existing dam and they may also consider the construction of a new dam at their own cost. Representative of Kerala stated in the meeting that the Govt. of Kerala also recognizes the established uses of water from the dam by Tamil Nadu as per the existing agreement between the two States and will continue the same after the construction of a new dam. In the said meeting the representative of Govt. of Tamil Nadu informed that the Govt. of Tamil Nadu would examine the proposal of the Govt. of Kerala for new Dam after the same is formally received from them. In view of this, Hon’ble Minister (WR) vide DO dated 26.08.2009  requested Hon’ble Chief Minister, Kerala to send the proposal in this regard to the Govt. of Tamil Nadu for their consideration.

23.       Later, Govt. of Tamil Nadu vide letter dated 14.9.09 mentioned that as regards the decision that has emerged in the meeting, to examine the proposal of the Kerala Government for the construction of a new dam by Tamil Nadu Government, the Government of Tamil Nadu had already communicated to the Government of India as well as to the Government of Kerala that there is no need for construction of a new dam by the Kerala Government, as the existing dam after it is strengthened, functions like a new dam. They also  mentioned that Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in his letter dated 13.07.09 to  Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala had mentioned that Kerala Govt. may not raise the issue of new dam any more.
24.       The Govt. of Kerala vide letter dated 26.9.2009 sent comments on the minutes of the meeting dated 31.7.2009 mentioning that the statement “The Govt. of Kerala also recognizes the established use of water from the dam by the Tamil Nadu as per the existing agreement between the two States and continue the same after the construction of new dam” is not acceptable.  What was mentioned in the meeting was that Kerala is willing to give water to Tamil Nadu.
25.   Further, Hon’ble Supreme Court heard the issues related to Mulla Periyar Dam on 10.11.2009 and passed the order that,
“As the case involves the resolution of said questions, the suit may be placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India for necessary directions for placing it before a constitution Bench.
The contesting parties shall maintain status quo in respect of Mulla Periyar Dam as existing today.  However, order of status quo will not be an impediment for the plaintiff (State of Tamil Nadu) to carry out maintenance and repairs for proper upkeep of the said Dam.”

26.        The case was heard by five judges on 18.2.2010 and the Court directed Central Govt. to constitute an empowered Committee in this regard which would hear the parties to the suit on all issues that will be  raised before them, and furnish a report, as far as possible, with in six months from their constitution. 

27        Following the order of Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 29.02.2010, Centre (MoWR) has constituted an Empowered Committee vide Notification dated the 30th April, 2010.   The Committee started its functioning and was to submit its report within six months period.  Further, Supreme Court vide its order dated 20th September, 2010 has extended the term of Committee by a further period of six months.  Therefore, implementing the said directions of the Supreme Court, the Central Government extends, the terms of Empowered Committee for a further period of six months w.e.f. 30th October, 2010 vide Notification dated the 28th October, 2010.

Friday, December 9, 2011

200 Indian fans hired at Rs 300 to welcome Tom Cruise

Cheering squad paid to greet the hollywood star at airport's vip exit. Some of them did not even know who the actor was, 'but 300 for an hour is easy money'.
By the time Tom Cruise landed in Mumbai on Saturday evening, a couple of 100 eager fans had managed to line the pavement across the airport's VIP exit, even though the time of his arrival had not been made public. As the Hollywood star emerged from the gate, in a blue shirt and aviator sunglasses, the air was buzzing with screeches and elated, in coherent howls. There was bannerwaving, and much cheering and chanting. Cruise, who's been travelling around the world to promote his new film, "Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol", is used to such a reception wherever he goes. This time, however, there was an Indian twist to the tale.
The crowd gathered at the airport had been paid to be there by the organizers of his trip, with the price ranging from 200 to 400, depending on how 'experienced' each member of the cheering squad was.
A few of the 'fans' were not even sure who they were welcoming, despite chart-paper placards reading, "we love Tom Cruise", "Tom - chak de India", and "Tom Cruises". Three girls from Mankhurd, among the most vocal members of the crowd, for example, did not exactly know what Tom Cruise did. "We're not certain," one of them told us, "but 300 for an hour outside the airport is not bad."
More enquiries revealed that the trip's organizers had hired an agency that specialized in arranging for crowds for celebrity events. An official from that agency, who was present at the airport, said that each person was paid an average of 300 to be a part of the crowd and cheer for Tom for 15 mins. "We asked them to reach here by 4 pm as we were told that he would arrive at 5:15," the official told this newspaper on condition of anonymity.
As far as the police were concerned, however, the paid crowd had its advantages. "Mobs that randomly gather to see celebrities can be extremely unruly and tough to control. A hired crowd is better. It behaves itself and listens to us," said a security officer outside the terminal.
When contacted, a top official from Wizcraft, the company organizing Tom Cruise's India trip, denied any knowledge of a 'paid' arrangement. "We are not aware of this. Your information is incorrect," Sabah Joseph, one of the directors of the company, said.
Cruise was at the airport for no more than 10 minutes. He waved at the crowd, posed for photographs, and was whisked away to the Taj Mahal hotel in Colaba, where a rooftop party was held with a guest list including Aamir KhanSalman Khan and Katrina Kaif.
Tom Cruise had landed earlier on Sunday in New Delhi, from where he went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, accompanied by his "MI4" co-star Anil Kapoor.

An eye-opening fossil

Armed with barbed grasping claws and a mouth full of tooth-like serrations, anomalocaridids are thought to have been the top predators in the Cambrian oceans about 500 million years ago. A cache of spectacular fossils now suggests that the ancient hunter Anomalocaris had compound eyes that gave it keener vision than many of the modern arthropods related to it.
Previous fossils have raised the possibility that it had compound eyes, but none of them has had enough surface detail to confirm this. Palaeontologist John Paterson at the University of New England in Australia, and his colleagues have now done so by studying fossils discovered in the Emu Bay Shale in South Australia. They found that thousands of tiny hardened lenses definitely made up each eye, much as they make up the eyes of modern insects and crustaceans. The fossil is described today inNature1.
“The extraordinary detail preserved in this specimen is just fantastic,” says Robert Gaines, palaeobiologist at Pomona College in Claremont, California, who was not involved in the study.
“It has been unbelievably frustrating being able to see eyes like these at fossil sites like the Burgess Shale [in the Canadian Rocky Mountains], but not have any details. It is really refreshing to have our ideas about these animals confirmed at last,” comments Simon Conway Morris, a palaeontologist at the University of Cambridge, UK.
Moreover, it seems that the eyes of ancient anomalocaridids had even more lenses than those of most modern arthropods. Paterson and his team counted about 16,000 lenses on each eye. “This is a lot,” says Paterson. “The common housefly has only 3,200 and most ants have fewer than 1,000.” Dragonflies have up to 28,000 lenses in each eye — and extraordinary eyesight — but they are “the freaks of the arthropods”, he says.

Shooting daggers

“Such lens-rich compound eyes suggest Anomalocaris was a highly visual hunter. Its prey didn’t stand a chance,” says Paterson. Conway Morris says that it is reasonable to speculate that the creatures had a high degree of visual acuity, and a well-developed brain to process that information.
It is possible that the eyes of Anomalocaris had even more than 16,000 lenses — the fossils are detailed, but they are not perfect. In fossil form, the stalked eyes are flattened, like pancakes. But Paterson speculates that the eyes of a living anomalocaridid would have been bulbous, and that if non-flattened eyes were to be found, many more lenses would be discovered on the other side.
Yet the research raises questions about more than just how well Anomalocaris could see. Because compound eyes are so commonly found in animals with exoskeletons, it has been assumed that the two traits evolved together. Yet anomalocaridids were soft-bodied, which Paterson suggests could mean that compound eyes evolved first.
“Since these compound eyes themselves are biomineralized, it is not clear to me whether the ancestors ofAnomalocaris had a mineralized exoskeleton and lost it early on or if they simply hadn’t evolved them yet. This could stir up debate,” says Gaines.

Watch the total lunar eclipse, wherever you may be

The calendar may say there's a full moon, but millions of people will be watching for the moon to go dark on Saturday, during the last total lunar eclipse until 2014. And even if you can't see the eclipse in the sky, you can still bring it up on your computer.
The best views will be available in Asia and the Pacific, but the western U.S. and Canada will get in on at least some of the action. In fact, there's a chance that Westerners could see an "impossible" eclipse, with the dark moon and the rising sun in the sky simultaneously.
Lunar eclipses occur when Earth is positioned in its orbit just right to cast a huge shadow on the moon. Unlike a total solar eclipse, which can be seen only along a narrow track of Earth's surface, a lunar eclipse can be seen by half the world. You do have to be in the right half, however.
The show begins with a faint penumbral dimming of the lunar surface at 6:33 a.m. ET Saturday, and reaches its climax at 9:06 a.m. ET with the start of totality. By then, of course, the sun will be up on the East Coast, but folks on the West Coast should be able to see the dark moon over the western horizon. This map from Sky & Telescope can tell you what to expect:
Sky & Telescope
This map shows you how much of the lunar eclipse is visible from which locations in North America. The penumbral eclipse, starting at 3:33 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, is the faintest phase. The umbral, or partial, eclipse starts at 4:45 a.m. PT. Totality begins at 6:06 a.m. PT and ends at 6:57 a.m. PT. The partial eclipse ends at 8:17 a.m. PT, and penumbral phase ends at 9:30 a.m. PT. Click on the image for a world map showing the eclipse zone.
If you're getting up early to see the show, there's no need to get up too early. But you will want to keep an eye on the moon during the 10 or 15 minutes before the onset of totality. That's when you'll see the perceptible darkening of the lunar disk as Earth's shadow creeps across.
The moon doesn't go totally dark during totality. Some sunlight is still refracted by Earth's atmosphere, giving the face of the moon a  sunset glow. The precise shade (reddish? brownish? orangish?) depends on the character of the dust and the clouds in the atmosphere. For example, total eclipses tend to be very dark after big volcanic eruptions, as explained in this guidefrom eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
Over at the NASA Science website, Tony Phillips points out that Saturday's eclipsed moon may look unusually huge to the North Americans who can see it, due to the "moon illusion." It's not that the moon gets bigger when it's near the horizon; it's just that our brain is programmed to perceive sky phenomena differently depending on whether they're overhead or lower down in the sky. This archived article from 2008 explains how it works.
The total phase of Saturday's eclipse is due to last 51 minutes. For North Americans, sunrise and moonset could come before that time, depending on where you live. On the other side of the world, some folks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East will see only part of the show after sunset. In between, most Asia-Pacific observers will be able to watch the whole thing, while South America is out of luck.
But then there's the Internet: Even if you're totally out of the eclipse zone, or facing total cloud cover, you can still experience totality on your computer screen. A remote-astronomy service called Slooh is offering a live eclipse feedfrom Hawaii, Asia and Australia starting at 8 a.m. ET (5 a.m. PT), with audio narration by astronomer Bob Berman. He'll be joined by several guests and will also take call-in questions. There's a Slooh video app for Android mobile phones, and you could even watch the feed through this window:

If you snap a picture or capture a video of the eclipse, will you please share it with us? Feel free to use our FirstPerson upload tool, or post it to Facebook, Flickr or YouTube and let me know about it via the Cosmic Log Facebook page. We'll put together a smorgasbord of eclipse pics on Saturday.
It'll be a while before we see such a sight again. Only partial or penumbral lunar eclipses are expected during 2012 and 2013. Our next date with lunar totality comes on April 15, 2014. Don't worry, the world won't end: It'll just seem like it on Tax Day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Microsoft to fix Duqu virus

Microsoft to fix Duqu virus
Microsoft Corp said it will release a security update to protect personal computers from getting attacked by Duqu, a mysterious virus that researchers suspect was built by the same group behind Stuxnet.
Stuxnet is the piece of malicious software, ormalware, that security experts say was used last year to launch a successful attack on a uranium enrichment facility in Iran, setting back that nation's effort to build a nuclear bomb.
After researchers in Hungary discovered Duqu in October, many security experts concluded that it was created by the group behind Stuxnet because of similarities in the code between the two viruses.
While Stuxnet was aimed at crippling systems that control industrial processes such as uranium enrichment, Duqu was designed to steal data from computers

Facebook IPO sparks dreams of riches, adventure

Travelling to space or embarking on an expedition to excavate lost Mayan ruins are normally the stuff of adventure novels.
But for employees of Facebook, these and other lavish dreams are moving closer to reality as the world's No 1 online social network prepares for a blockbuster initial public offering that could create at least a thousand millionaires.
The most anticipated stock market debut of 2012 is expected to value Facebook at as much as $100 billion, which would top just about any of Silicon Valley's most celebrated coming-out parties, from Netscape to Google Inc.
Facebook IPO sparks dreams of riches, adventure
While weak financial markets could postpone or downsize any IPO, even the most conservative market-watchers say Facebook seems destined to set a new benchmark in a region famous for minting fortunes, with even the rank-and-file employees reaping millions of dollars.
Facebook employees past and present are already hatching plans on how to spend their anticipated new wealth, even as securities regulations typically prevent employee stock options from being cashed in until after a six-month lock-up period.
"There's been discussions of sort of bucket list ideas that people are putting together of things they always wanted to do and now we'll be able to do it," said one former employee who had joined Facebook in 2005, shortly after it was founded.
He is looking into booking a trip to space that would cost $200,000 or more with Virgin Galactic or one of the other companies working on future space tourism. That's chump change when he expects his shares in Facebook to be worth some $50 million.
"If that IPO bell happens, then I will definitely put money down," said the person, who declined to be identified because he did not want to draw attention to his financial status, given the antiglitz ethos of many people in Silicon Valley. "It's been a childhood dream," he said of space travel.
Others are thinking less science fiction and more "Indiana Jones." A group of current and former Facebook workers has begun laying the groundwork for an expedition to Mexico that sounds more suited to characters from the Steven Spielberg film "Raiders of the Lost Ark" than to the computer geeks famously portrayed in the movie about Facebook, "The Social Network."
Initially, the group wanted to organise its own jungle expedition to excavate a relatively untouched site of Mayan ruins, according to people familiar with the matter who also did not want to court notoriety by being identified in this story. After some debate earlier this year, they are now looking at partnering with an existing archeological program.
Big packages
Founded in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends, Facebook has grown into the world's biggest social network with over 800 million members and revenue of $1.6 billion in the first half of 2011.
Information about its ownership structure or employee compensation packages is hard to come by, since the still-private company discloses very little. Facebook declined to comment for this story.
It is clear that Facebook's earliest employees, who were given ownership stakes, and early venture capital investors – such as Accel Partners, Greylock Partners and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel – will see the biggest paydays. Zuckerberg, 27, is estimated to own a little over a fifth of the company, according to "The Facebook Effect" author David Kirkpatrick.
But the wealth will trickle down to engineers, salespeople and other staffers who later joined the company, since most employees receive salary plus some kind of equity-based compensation, such as restricted stock units or stock options.
Facebook's headcount has swelled from 700 employees in late 2008 to more than 3,000 today. Given its generous use of equity-based compensation in past years, people familiar with Facebook say that even by conservative estimates there are likely to be well over a thousand people looking at million-dollar-plus paydays after the company goes public.
"There will be thousands of millionaires," said a former in-house recruiter at Facebook, who did not want to be identified because of confidentiality agreements.
Lou Kerner, the head of private trading at Liquidnet, estimates that Facebook now has roughly 2.5 billion shares outstanding, which would translate to a per-share price of $40 at a $100 billion valuation.
Engineers are the most richly rewarded among the rank and file. The former Facebook recruiter said as recently as 2009, the company gave an engineer with 15 years experience options to buy about 65,000 shares at around $6 per share.
After a 5-for-1 stock split in October 2010, the engineer would now have the right to buy around 325,000 shares. Assuming a $40 share price, that would yield a profit of more than $12 million.
According to another former Facebook employee, it was not unusual for the company to offer some executive-level hires up to 100,000 restricted shares as recently as three years ago.
The company has since cut back on equity compensation for new hires. Managers hired one year ago received 2,000 to 30,000 restricted shares depending on the job function, according to another recruiter who had also worked for Facebook.
The company has also been stingier in handing out equity to noncore employees -- so there may not be as many of the dazzling rags-to-riches stories that were commonplace at the time of the Google IPO, when in-house chefs and at least one masseuse struck gold with options.
Facebook has its share of chefs – including head chef Josef Desimone who was lured away from Google – and other support staff, but it's not clear how many of them were awarded share options.
These days, "Google and Facebook are notorious for hiring contract employees they don't have to give equity to," said the second former Facebook recruiter.
Haves and have-nots
Facebook's IPO has been long anticipated, but veterans of other startups that have gone public say the period after could be fraught with new challenges.
Some employees could grow jealous over colleagues with more stock, while others might look down on peers who are too quick to sell, questioning their loyalty to the company.
And there is always the risk that talented staff would leave with their newfound wealth to make their own mark in the technology world by becoming entrepreneurs or investing in other promising startups.
Some Facebook employees have already left the company to do that, selling their shares ahead of the IPO on private exchanges such as those run by SecondMarket or SharesPost.
One such person is engineer Karel Baloun, who joined the social network in 2005 and left just over a year later to start his own online network for commodities-futures traders, funded by a tidy package of stock options. It failed and Baloun laments that he could have made a lot more money if he had stayed at acebook.
But he is philosophical, saying that the equity windfall gave him the cushion to do new things.
"It's really wonderful being able to choose your work based on the meaning of it, not the size of your salary," said Baloun, now chief technology officer at mobile-commerce company Leap Commerce. "I have two kids, and I couldn't do it if I didn't have some savings from this IPO."
Baloun said he has sold about half his Facebook shares and is holding on to the rest until after the IPO. "I will buy a house," he said.

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