Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two rare vulture species sighted in Rajasthan

Baran: In a good news for environmentalists, two rare species of vulture were reportedly sighted in Rajasthan's Baran district.

"Two rare vulture species -- white rumped and long billed -- were sighted in large numbers on the banks of Villasi river in Kishangang and Kraye river in Shabad respectively," SDM Muktanand Agrawal said here today.

According to environmentalist Vittal Sanadhaya, vulture population has diminished rapidly across the country in the last decade.

The species is on the verge of extinction and in Rajasthan it is found in small number in some areas in Kota and Bundi districts, he said.

"The recently found colonies of vultures in Baran is a good news and there is a need to develop a new vulture hub in the region for their conservation," Sanadhaya said.

About five species of vultures were found in Hadautti region previously but most of them have disappeared from the forests in the last decade, he said.

Intel launches chip for tablet computers

SAN FRANCISCO — Intel Corp. has launched a new chip for tablet computers, as the world's most powerful semiconductor company aims to become a contender in the market for mobile chips.

Intel's chips are in 80 per cent of laptops and desktop PCs, but it's had less success getting its chips into smaller devices such as cellphones and tablets. Known for pushing the processing speeds of its chips to the limit, energy efficiency has now become critical for Intel as gadgets and their batteries get smaller, testing the limits of engineering in a different way. And with more consumers starting to opt to buy tablets instead of upgrading their PCs, Intel is looking to diversify its revenue sources.

Intel's chips have been maligned as too power-hungry for the smallest of mobile devices, a criticism Intel is hoping its new chips address. Intel is trying to elbow in to a mobile market dominated by lower-power processors from companies such as Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. Apple Inc. designs its own chip for the iPad.

Intel also faces a challenge in that mobile chips are generally built around a different chip design, from a company called ARM Holdings Inc., than the so-called x86 design that Intel uses. Intel said Monday that more than 35 tablet and "hybrid" computers are being built on its newest chip, which is part of the Atom family of chips.

As for smartphones, Intel says a processor for that market is scheduled for release later this year. Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has not announced specifications for those chips.

Intel has a history of dabbling in, and retreating from, the wireless business, so the company's success in this market is not a foregone conclusion.

It sold its mobile-chip business in 2006, then last year bought the wireless-chip division of Germany's Infineon Technologies AG for $1.4 billion. With that deal, Intel bought its way back in to a booming market, but only got a bit player. The Infineon division, while notching some high-profile wins such as Apple's iPhone, only owned about 5 percent of the total market for processors and other communications chips for mobile phones, according to Gartner Inc.

Analysts are split about Intel's prospects. Some say Intel is too late to the game to score any major market share. Others caution that Intel, with $11.7 billion in net income last year on $43.6 billion in revenue, has plenty of money to pour into making its mobile division a winner.

Sony Xperia Play Review

Sony Ericsson's long-awaited PlayStation Phone finally becomes a reality - we go hands-on to see if it can live up to the hype, and if it's a viable challenger to the iPhone's overwhelming dominance.

PlayStation Phone. Those words just roll off the tongue, don't they? The idea of fusing one of the world's most iconic gaming brands with mobile connectivity is practically a no-brainer, which makes it all the more puzzling that Sony Ericsson has waited this long to fulfil the tantalising promise. Sure, we've had devices that have alluded to the notion -- the PS3-linked Aino, for example -- but the Xperia Play is the real deal, even if it doesn't actually bear the PlayStation name anywhere on its glossy black casing.

Xperia Play as a phone

Despite the gaming focus and the vast amount of cash being spent on promoting the Xperia Play's unique controls, Sony Ericsson is keen to stress that it's a telecommunications device first and foremost, with the entertainment element being a large, juicy bonus.

The problem with this approach is that when compared to other Android-based handsets hitting store shelves right now, the Xperia Play is merely good rather than great. It's running Android 2.3 (AKA Gingerbread) so it's up to date at least, but it lacks several key features that are becoming commonplace in other Google Phones. There's no dual-core processor, HDMI-out or 720p video recording, and the 4-inch LED backlit screen is markedly inferior to the gorgeous Super AMOLED effort sported by the Nexus S and Samsung Galaxy S II.

The Xperia Play is also quite a dumpy little beast, with a girth of 16mm at its thickest point. It sags in the pocket thanks to its 175 gram weightb -- making it nearly 40 grams more dense than the already-weighty iPhone 4.

Xperia Play as a gaming device

The first thing you're likely to think of when you slide open the Xperia Play's gaming controls is 'PSPgo'. Sony's download-dependant hardware experiment from 2009 may have been beset by a multitude of faults, but its interface wasn't one of them. The same ultra-responsive D-pad and button configuration is replicated here, with the added bonus of twin touch-senstive pads which pay homage to the dual shock setup seen on Sony's home consoles.

Only the L and R shoulder triggers spoil the good impression, being too flimsy to offer truly instinctive control. Their position on the side of the phone also makes me slightly uneasy -- one accidental drop is likely to be all that's required to separate them from their housings.

Still, you need only hold the Xperia Play in your hands for a few seconds to realise that Sony Ericsson has totally nailed the control interface. This is certainly no Nokia N-Gage -- with the exception of the shoulder triggers, everything about the phone's gaming controls is fantastic. It's genuinely amazing to have such a precise and responsive degree of command on what is essentially a mobile phone, and you'll wonder how you ever managed to play Snake on a cramped alphanumeric keypad all those years ago.

The games

Of course, interface is just one part of the equation -- without solid software to play, such refined controls are about as much use as a chocolate teapot. Here, the picture is slightly less clear, but that's not to say that the Xperia Play hasn't gotten off to a positive start.

On paper at least, the launch has been a success. Sixty titles are available that support the Xperia Play's control system, and in terms of raw numbers that makes this one of the most well-stocked hardware launches in gaming history. However, further examination reveals that the stats are slightly misleading. The overwhelming majority of those games are already available on Android's app store, and have merely been optimised for use on Sony Ericsson's new device.

Indiatimes Partners with Google to Stream Indian Premier League on YouTube

Good news for Cricket fans. Indiatimes has announced its partnership with Google’s YouTube. All 74 matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) games will be streamed on Indiatimes’s YouTube channel and microsite.

“Users all over the world will be able to enjoy the entire season both on Indiatimes.com as well as the Indiatimes’ channel on YouTube ( youtube.com/indiatimes ) with a 5 minutes delay in India, match-length delay in US and live webcast for Rest of The World. Match highlights and other catch-up clips will be made available after the matches,” the statement explained.

The partnership with Google is made possible as Indiatimes is the rights’ partner for IPL’s internet, mobile and audio content. The partnership also means that Google will be a non-exclusive partner for two years as both brands seek to monetize the IPL content.

Ads would likely be the revenue model but nothing on the business side was explained. The most important news, however, is that cricket fans around the world can get to watch the games online. It’s a good content distribution strategy as IPL seeks to gain more traction across the world. Making it available for “free” would boost viewership. Of course, viewers would have to “pay” by viewing ads.

The recent Cricket World Cup in India took the world by storm, especially when India won the final at home soil. The world (not just India or the Cricket nations) celebrated India’s victory on Facebook and Twitter. Nike also broadcasted a victory-cry commercial to celebrate the unique relationship between Cricket and the people of India.

Sensex on a downslide, opens 161 points down

Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex continued its decline for the sixth day on Wednesday, opening 161 points down on sustained selling in line with weak global trends and sober domestic market sentiment on the back of low industrial output.

The 30-share barometer, which had lost 440 points in the last five sessions, slumped by another 160.91 points, or 0.83 per cent to 19,101.63 level during the first few minutes of trade today, with realty, consumer durables and metal stocks remaining under pressure.

In a similar fashion, the wide-based National Stock Exchange Nifty index slid by 50.15 points, or 0.86 per cent to 5,735.55 points.

Brokers said a weakening Asian trend followed by lower closing in the US market influenced the trading sentiments.

Further, a dip in the industrial production for the month of February to 3.7 per cent from 3.9 per cent in January also dampened the market expectations.

Meanwhile, of other major Asian indices, the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped by 0.13 per cent, while the Japan’s Nikkei was 0.22 per cent up in the early trade this morning.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.95 per cent lower in the previous session on Tuesday.

Japan starts removing highly radioactive water at plant

The operator of a troubled nuclear power plant in north-eastern Japan started to transfer highly radioactive water to a nearby storage vessel, news reports said on Wednesday.

A series of strong temblors on Monday and Tuesday caused a delay in the pumping operation, but Tokyo Electric Power Co, which runs the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, started at 7:30 pm (10:30 GMT) Tuesday to pump out of a reactor building, where the radiation-contaminated water has hindered workers’ efforts to contain the crisis.

Some 700 tons are to be moved into a condenser where, in normal operations, steam created from the reactor is cooled down. The pumping is expected to take 40 hours, Kyodo News reported.

The operations require considerable time as workers need to transfer some 60,000 tons of contaminated water, collected in the basements of the turbine buildings of reactors 1, 2 and 3, as well as the trenches linked to them.

The Japanese government decided Tuesday to raise the severity of the ongoing nuclear crisis from level 5 to level 7, the worst on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES).

While both the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the Fukushima nuclear accident are now both rated at the highest level of the 7-step INES scale, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the Japanese accident is far less severe than the Soviet nuclear disaster.

Japan’s Jiji Press reported that Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the plant was not yet stable.

“We don’t see significant changes on a day-to-day basis with the reactors” of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Jaczko told a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It is not yet, however, what we believe to be stable.” Referring to the fact that external power sources to water pumps at reactors were lost about 50 minutes after a strong quake on Monday, Jaczko said, “What we want to see is to move into a situation in which that kind of situation would be dealt with in a more predictable manner and with less possibility for the loss of the cooling system.” Jaczko warned that if the ability to cool the reactor cores is lost, Japan will have to face the possibility of “a further degradation in the fuel, which could lead to possibly a greater release (of radioactive substances) than what’s going on.”

Indian PM Manmohan Singh heads to China for talks

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is travelling to China, as the two countries look to boost economic ties.

In December, the two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade to $100bn (£66bn) by 2015, up from $60bn in 2010.

Mr Singh will also attend a summit in China that will include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

China is India's largest trading partner. However, the two countries still share a very unbalanced trade relationship.

"India's import dependence on China has gone up significantly on critical items," said Samiran Chakraborty, regional head of research for India at Standard Chartered Bank.

"Whereas if you look at exports, India's primary export to China is only iron ore."

Mr Chakraborty says this issue could come up during the visit.

"One of the demands is to open up the Chinese markets to India. Otherwise the trade balance is very much in favour of China and working against India," he adds.
'Complementary relationship'

When China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited India in December, the two sides agreed to take measures to promote Indian exports in China, in an effort to reduce India's trade deficit.

About 400 business leaders came with Mr Wen to India and business deals worth $16bn were signed.

The two countries also agreed to expand co-operation in infrastructure, environment, information technology, telecommunications, and investment and finance.

Mr Chakraborty says it is in each sides interest to continue to deepen ties.

"If these two have to stay side by side sharing borders and trying to grow at high growth rates, it has to be a complementary relationship rather then a tense relationship," Mr Chakraborty said.

"Otherwise it will impact the investment climate in both countries".

Amitabh apologises to Rajnikanth

Amitabh Bachchan didn't think that his twitter joke on Tamil superstar Rajnikanth would anger so many of his fans.

'Someone sent me this on mobile: "When Graham Bell discovered the telephone, he found two missed calls from Rajnikant!!" Brilliant,' Bachchan had tweeted earlier.

He immediately corrected: 'Ok! Graham Bell 'invented' the telephone ... not 'discovered' as written earlier .. in Rajni joke .. !!! Apologies!!'

He clarified to a fan that he wasn't making fun of the superstar. 'Not making fun of him ...praising his status and his greatness ..he is noble successful humble person , and revered like a God,' he added.

Rockstar sends Ranbir into depression

In a bid to get rave reviews, Ranbir Kapoor seems to have taken his latest character a tad bit too seriously, literally speaking. Buzz is that the otherwise easygoing actor suffered severe depression and turned morose in an effort to get the acting right. Ranbir's upcoming film has been directed by Imtiaz Ali and also stars the sizzling model Nargis Fakhri.

The actor admitted to a daily, "Yes, Imtiaz`s film took a lot out of me and shook me up," reports Spicezee Bureau.

According to sources, "The emotional scenes that he shot for, took its toll. He went into a shell and didn't meet anyone during this time. It took a lot of coaxing from friends and family to finally draw him out," reports the tabloid.

Whether it was actually the character or the ups and down in his love life, which put him down in the dumps, only he can tell.

Dum Maro Dum's cop a layered character: Abhishek

Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan, who steps into the shoes of a police officer in his upcoming movie 'Dum Maro Dum', says that the layered character of ACP Kamath was a challenge for him.

Though the actor has played cops on screen before, the character was unique in it's attitude, said Abhishek. "Playing a police officer is nothing new for me but in 'Dum Maro Dum', I am playing a different type of police officer, ACP Kamath. A unique and layered character and the attitude of the character appealed to me," Abhishek who was in town to promote the film, told reporters.

"ACP Kamath is a person with so many emotions, turmoil, rage, aggressiveness, but always has a smile on face. What I liked most is the outlook of the officer towards his life. He has a unique attitude and style so it was exciting doing this particular role," said the actor about the film directed by Rohan Sippy.

When weapons lose their potency

Man's quest to remain healthy is sometimes derailed by diseases of the metabolism triggered either by internal mechanism or by environmental factors. Sometimes there are diseases caused by infective organisms like bacteria which subvert health and cause critical and sometimes irreversible illnesses. When research led to discovery of disease causing organisms it was naturally followed by research to tackle them leading to the birth of the antibiotics, beginning with Pencillin. With its advent, it looked like panacea for all infectious diseases of the time. That is because bacteria have found ways to see that the medicine does not cause them any damage and that is how antibiotic resistance was born.

Now this is an issue in medical world and the World Health Organization has called for focus on this subject as to its causes and ways to reduce resistance. This is an area where for the incipient infections to start with and later as a complementary medicine; homoeopathy would be of sublime use.

Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics in many ways. The bacteria that have been countered with the antibiotics and have survived alter their genome and pass it on. It helps the bacteria to either destroy the antibiotic or otherwise its ability to inhibit bacterial growth. The laws of natural selection suggest that the bacteria would become resistant to antibiotics over a period of time but it is the improper and repeated use of antibiotics that is more likely to cause this problem earlier than expected.

More often than not patients do not comply with the usage of antibiotics and do not take the whole course or skip doses in between. They can be guilty of starting to use the medicines late or even worse taking extra doses of the medicine against suggestion in the early phase in an anxiety to be rid of the problem at the earliest. They may also stop the medicines early after experiencing relief.

Last but not least is the issue of the availability of medicines in our country which only makes the patient go back to the pharmacy with the previous prescription and use the same medicines which may not be pertinent to this episode and end up with the antibiotics being useless. Every physician would have heard their patients say that they have just taken some “eye drops” and not antibiotics from a nearby medical store for a minor redness of the eye which would not have warranted an antibiotic. All this has only meant that the antibiotics which are potent life-savers are not being given the opportunity to help us at the time of need.

We are currently in need of strategies to help maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics and thus ensure that their life-saving capacity remains available to future generations. It is under such circumstances that a safe, alternative therapy like homoeopathic medicine can come into play. When the initial symptoms of infection are noticed these medicines can be indicated as they are effective in keeping the infections at bay. In post-operative conditions, traumas, injuries etc. these remedies can work along with the conventional medicines and help the patient to recover earlier. Homoeopathic medicine could be a blessing in disguise as it will lead significant decrease in the need for antibiotics and when the need arises they are up to the task in exterminating the bacteria and protecting the body.

PM urged to ban sale of tobacco products

Kolkata, : Seventeen regional cancer centres in India have urged the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to ban the sale of tobacco products like gutka and pan masala in the country.

“India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases being reported every year and chewing of tobacco and gutka contribute to 90 per cent of oral cancer in the country,” Mr Jaydip Biswas, Director, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI), said here.

He said the 17 regional cancer centres, including CNCI, had decided to join hands to fight the menace and urged the Prime Minister in this regard.

In a communication to the Prime Minister, the regional cancer centre directors said that easy availability of the mixture of toxic substances, which contain areca nut (supari), slaked lime and certain food additives, in small affordable pouches in every nook and corner of the country, has become a serious health hazard.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2010, nearly one-third of Indian population is addicted to smokeless tobacco.

“A large number of children and youth in India are addicted to smokeless tobacco, which contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. There are 3,095 chemical components in tobacco, among them 28 are proven carcinogen,” Mr Biswas said.

The major and most abundant group of carcinogens is the tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosoamino acid.

According to the GATS, 34.6 per cent adults consume some form of tobacco in India, 25.9 per cent adults use smokeless tobacco and 14.1 per cent of youth in India between 13-15 years of age currently use any form of tobacco products.

The survey said that about two in three adults notice advertisements on promotions of tobacco products. Three in five current tobacco users (61.1 per cent) notice the health warning on tobacco product packages and one in three current tobacco users (31.5 per cent) thought of quitting because of the warning label.

The CNCI director said the magnitude of tobacco-related cancer, on an average, was on an upward trend in eastern and north-eastern India.

“This is largely due to high prevalence of tobacco consumption,” he said, adding that there was not much control on production and sale of gutka which is sold everywhere.

The director said that to combat such a dreadful situation, a strong campaign was required to be launched to regulate production, sale and use of gutka and pan masala in greater public interest.

Health Ministry Says Delhi Water Safe, Calls For Emergency Meeting

The Union Health Ministry has called an emergency meeting over the claims by international health journal 'The Lancet' about the presence of deadly superbug bacteria NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) in the water being supplied to the residents of the national capital.

Officials from the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and the city's top microbiologists are attending today's meeting, which is being held under the aegis of the Director General of Health and Services (DGHS).

Meanwhile, the Delhi Government has appealed to the people of the city not to panic over reports that the drug resistant bacteria was found in the public water supply of the national capital.

"Delhi Jal Board has very categorically said that this is not the case. I am in touch with the CEO and he said that it is not so. So please don't spread panic when there is no (need to) panic," said Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, while responding to questions over the report.

The Delhi Jal Board has also categorically denied the report and said the water being supplied by the agency was 'safe' for drinking.

Delhi Health Minister A K Walia commenting over the report said: "I have reviewed the issue of NDM1, superbug bacteria in the capital's environment and its implications for human health. There is no cause of any worry."

"The chlorination of water makes it safe for drinking purposes. The water being supplied through DJB and other similar sources meets the prescribed standards of testing and safety. The chlorination process and its monitoring is further being strengthened," he added.

British scientists had recently claimed that the NDM-1 gene makes bacteria highly resistant to all-known antibiotics, including Carbapenems.

British doctors have accused the Indian Government of suppressing the truth about presence of drug-resistant bacteria, NDM-1, and alleged that India is threatening its own doctors against taking part in superbug studies.

Hosni Mubarak Hospitalised: Report

Cairo : Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president, has been hospitalised at the Red Sea port of Sharm el-Shaikh, where he has been staying since he quit following a massive popular uprising in February, a media report said today.

“He has been under house arrest in Sharm el-Shaikh ever since he was ousted from power. We are still not sure of what condition he is in, but the former president has been complaining that he’s been unwell for some time now,” Al Jazera said.

82-year-old Mubarak has kept a low profile since he quit on February 11 following an 18-day popular uprising against his rule.

The report said the former dictator has been hospitalised. There has been no official statement from the army or health authorities regarding Mubarak’s admission, but sources within the army have confirmed that the former president is indeed being looked at by doctors, the channel said.

Mubarak, who has been banned from leaving the country, along with his sons and their wives, earlier his week was summoned by the state prosecutor for questioning over alleged corruption and killings of protesters. Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal have also been summoned for questioning.

The summons for appearance for the former Egyptian ironman came just 24-hour after Mubarak came out of his self imposed seclusion to decry what he termed as an “unjust campaign against him and declared that he did not own any assets abroad.”

“All measures would be taken to ensure the safety of Mubarak and his sons during their appearance,” the Interior Minister, Mansur Essawy said.

But no date was announced, Al Jazeera reported, saying that the minister had warned that if Mubarak refused to show up he could face arrest.

Mubarak had said he would cooperate fully with the prosecutor-general’s investigations into allegations of corruption committed by his himself and family members.

“He was supposed to travel to Cairo to be questioned about his wealth, about his assets, by the prosecutor-general here, but he said that he was unable to travel,” the Arab channel said.

“Now whether or not its a coincidence that he falls ill just days after the prosecutor-general decided to summon him as well as his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, for questioning about their wealth and their assets ... in fact, at this hour, ministry of justice officials are questioning his sons,” it reported.

Mubarak, who has a history of illnesses, had routinely travel to Germany for check-ups while in power. He had suffered from a number of health problems and had undergone gallbladder surgery ahead of the uprising against him. PTI

Urgently Bring 26/11 Perpetrators To Justice: US To Pak

Washington : The US has reminded Pakistan of its “special” responsibility to bring perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to justice and asked it to do so “urgently”.

“There’s an international responsibility to cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice and that Pakistan has a special responsibility to do so transparently and urgently,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at his daily news conference.

He was responding to queries on a statement of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, Pakistani-Canadian accused in the terror attack case, in court that he provided “material support” to the terrorists at the behest of the Pakistan government and its spy agency ISI and not the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

State Department spokesperson, however, refused to make any comment on this statement by Rana, arguing this is sub-judice.

“I’m not going to talk about what this individual has said in pre-trial documents or in pre-trial hearings, because it is a legal process that’s moving forward,” he said.

“This individual is in a trial right, or the trial hasn’t begun, it’s a pretrial period, so I’m not going to talk about his comments. That would be irresponsible and I’m not going to do it,” Toner said.

According to court document, Rana in his defence had said his “alleged illegal acts of providing material support to terrorists—were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not the Lashkar terrorist organisation.” His trial is set to begin on May 16.

However, Toner, in response to another question said the US is working with Pakistan on counter-terrorism measure.

“If you’re talking about broader counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan, certainly that’s ongoing and we are very candid in sharing our views and sharing information with Pakistan about terrorist threats, and we believe that that cooperation continues to be good.” PTI

Rana, Headley Implicate Pak, ISI During ISI Chief's Visit To US

Washington : David Headley aka Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the two Pakistani expat foot soldiers who allegedly planned and conducted the Mumbai recce before the 26/11 terrorist carnage have implicated the Pakistani government and its intelligence agency ISI in the ghastly attack, reports Times of India.

In court documents that have surfaced ahead of his upcoming trial in Chicago, Rana says his acts of providing material support to terrorists in the Mumbai attacks as alleged by US prosecutors ''were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not the Lashkar terrorist organization.'' The documents also cite Rana invoking his friend David Headley's Grand Jury testimony in which the latter too implicates ISI.

The startling disclosures, which forms part of Rana's defense, came even as ISI chief Shuja Pasha is visiting Washington DC with a laundry list of demands as the US tries to repair ties which have been severely damaged by the Raymond Davis episode. The US effort comes despite growing disquiet about ISI's role in fomenting terrorism. Still, the Obama administration is scrambling to control fallout from the court proceedings in an effort to save its ally from being publicly exposed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The latest legal developments are not helping; in fact, they come at an embarrassing time for both sides.

The disclosure that Rana and Headley are implicating the Pakistani government and its intelligence agency in the Mumbai attack came about indirectly when an Illinois district court rejected Rana's attempt at what is known as a ''Public Authority Defense,'' in which the defendant essentially argues that he did something at the behest of a government or its official authority.

Proposing such a defense, Rana told the Illinois court that ''he acted pursuant to his actual or believed exercise of public authority on behalf of the government of Pakistan and the ISI.'' This defense, Rana argued audaciously, would give him immunity from criminal proceedings in United States courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because ''the ISI has authority to act in India to protect Pakistan's national interests'' and he was acting at the behest of the ISI.

While noting Rana's argument ''that he is entitled to a public authority defense because he acted under the authority — whether actual or apparent — of the Pakistani government and the ISI,'' the court rejected the defense saying, ''Defendant cannot rely on the authority of a foreign government agency or official to authorize his violations of United States federal law.''

While the court rejected Rana's attempted defense on technical grounds, his implicating of the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies strengthens the widely held view in India and elsewhere that Islamabad's reluctance to act against the perpetrators of attack points to official patronage of terrorism.

''Mr. Rana's trial threatens to lend an aura of credence to the suspicions of ISI complicity,'' Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, which first reported the legal development, observed in an article (Rana is a Canadian citizen).

In its memorandum opinion and order, the court noted that Rana was citing David Headley's grand jury testimony in his attempt at Public Authority defense. According to the court document, Headley's testimony before the grand jury included disclosure of his meetings with Sajid and others in Lashkar. ''I also told him (the defendant Rana) about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI," Headley says in his testimony.

However, in its order, the court rejected Rana's plea to subpoena the FBI and the State Department for ''any and all . . . cables originating from or transmitted to India, Pakistan or the United States,'' regarding the Mumbai attack and ''any connections between the ISI and Lashkar e Tayyiba.'' It said the defendant ''impermissibly uses the subpoenas as discovery tools, and his requests are more akin to fishing expeditions than requests for specific documents.''

Hasan Ali 'Stalling' Probe, ED Tells Court

Mumbai : Hasan Ali Khan, the Pune stud farm owner under arrest on money laundering charge, is “stalling” the investigations by not disclosing details of transactions in his foreign accounts, the Enforcement Directorate has told a court.

In its remand application submitted to the court, the ED has said though Khan had admitted to have opened a large number of foreign accounts, he did not explain why these were opened and what transactions took place.

The sessions court is likely to take up the application for extension of Khan’s judicial custody tomorrow.

The document claimed Khan had also admitted to have dealt with antique jewellery belonging to the family of the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad and earned Rs 40 to Rs 50 lakh.  However, he has not divulged the details of the source of these antiques which needed to be probed further, it said.

The ED said co-accused Kashinath Tapuriah had said Khan had informed him that he had lockers in UBS, Zurich, containing a lot of antique jewellery, some of which were very rare. Philip Anandraj, an aide of Khan, had also said Khan had told him that he had a locker at the UBS and asked him (Anandraj) if he could obtain another one in the same bank so that he could transfer the contents in the new locker.

The ED also said it has summoned Amelndu Kumar Pandey, a Congress politician from Bihar, who allegedly helped Khan obtain passport from Patna passport office by fabricating documents. Summons to Pandey has already been sent and he is likely to appear on April 14.

“It is necessary to confront Khan with Pandey to unearth the transactions undertaken by Khan in Singapore and the reasons for obtaining a second passport from Patna.”

ED sources said summons had been sent to Pandey, who had travelled with Khan and Tapuriah to Singapore, earlier also but he did not appear before the agency.

Contending that Khan had an account with UBS, Singapore, which was later transfered to Zurich, the ED said he had informed Tapuriah that Dr Peter Weilly, the UBS incharge, was creating obstacles in operating it and that it would be better to have another one opened with SBC, Singapore, ‘which was also a big bank’.

“Tapuriah has stated that he knew Mr Vishwanathan, incharge of SBC Singapore, and through him an account in the name of Khan was opened”, the ED said.

Further, according to the ED, Khan had told Vishwanathan that he had given instructions to Weilly to transfer 75 million US dollars to Khan’s account in SBC, Singapore.

Meanwhile, the sessions court extended Khan’s judicial custody for a day and directed the ED to produce him before it tomorrow.

Khan was taken into custody by the ED on March 17 after the Supreme Court cancelled the bail granted by a trial court.

The ED has questioned Khan, facing close to Rs 70,000 crore tax demand notice from the Income-Tax Department, with regard to his past trips to various countries and his business dealings within the country. PTI

Ramnavami Celebrated With Fervour

New Delhi : Faithful thronged temples since daybreak as special prayers and dips in sacred rivers marked Ram Navmi, the birthday of Lord Rama, which was celebrated across the country today with religious fervour and gaiety.

Amid blowing of conch shells and rendering of devotional songs, devotees offered prayers at illuminated temples as huge posse of policemen stood guard outside the shrines.

In holy city Haridwar in Uttarakhand, tens of thousands of people took dips in surging waters of river Ganges and paid obeisance at temples amid tight security.

The national capital saw devotees, carrying offerings to deities, flocking to decorated temples since dawn to offer prayers.

In Ayodhya, pilgrims took dips in holy Saryu river and thronged temples where special prayers were held at mid-day when Lord Rama was supposed to have born.

Door-frame metal detectors were set up at some places as authorities beefed up security in the city.

“There was no extremist threat. But we have made all possible arrangements to ensure the safety of devotees,” a police officer said.

Setting a shining example of communal harmony, Muslims came forward to help Hindu devotees who descended on the town from different parts of the country.

“We arranged drinking water and first aid at various places for devotees,” said Raees Ahmad, a Muslim youth.

In Jammu, the city of temples, a large number of people offered prayers at the famous Raghunath temple.

In neighbouring Srinagar, religious fervour and traditional gaiety marked Ram Navmi’s celebrations.

Prayers were held in temples across the Valley with devotees seeking blessings of Lord Rama and praying for return of peace in the troubled region.

The President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister and a host of leaders greeted the people on the occasion of Ram Navmi.

In their messages, they hoped the festival would strengthen people’s faith in the goodness of mankind and inspire all to lead a virtuous life. PTI

DGCA Cracks Whip On Four Airlines

New Delhi, Apr 12: The DGCA cracked the whip on four airlines for violating its directive not to operate flights to Goa during certain hours when ground navigational aids at the airport are not operational forcing pilots to make blind landings.

The action by the aviation regulator came even as the Indian Commercial Pilot's Association(ICPA) gave a directive asking all its members not to undertake flights to Goa till April 30 in the wake of violation of flight safety rules by soem air carriers and blind landings at Dambolim airport. ICPA is a body of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had issued a NOTAM (notice to airmen) about a week ago advising all airlines not to operate flights during certain hours in a day when the ground-based radar system PAPI (precision approach path indicator) was switched off due to repairs.

"Despite our warnings to respect the curfew hours, some airlines have violated this directive. They will have to pay for it. We will take action", DGCA chief E K Bharat Bhushan told PTI today.

Official sources later said the DGCA is in the process of sending notices to Kingfisher, GoAir, JetLite and Jet Airways for having operated flights during these periods -- from 0900 hours to 1300 hours and 1500 hours till 1900 hours.

Bhushan said the NOTAM had warned all airlines not to operate flights of jet aircraft during this period due to shutting down of the crucial navigational aids.

He said he had a meeting with the chiefs of operations of all airlines "and told them that these curfew hours should be respected entirely. I had also warned them that in case of any violation, we will come down heavily on the operators as well as the flying crew".

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), one of the two Air India pilots' unions, has also asked its members not to operate flights to Goa during those periods when they would have to carry out "blind landings" or landings without navigational aids.

The unavailability of PAPI, which indicates the landing path, makes the pilot undertake landings visually. The radar system also indicates features like the distance and height before touchdown.

Asked about the ICPA directive to its members, Bhushan said, "I think if any association of pilots have said they are going to go by the curfew, it suits us. This is what we expect them to do".

In the directive, the ICPA has asked the pilots not to undertake flights to Goa till the Precision Approach Path Instrument (PAPI) -- runway lights and the Glide Path (GP) on both runways were not available.

"As per NOTAM issued regarding PAPI and GP not available at both runways for aircraft landing between 9am and 1pm and 3pm and 7pm from April 4 to April 30 at GOA airport. The CEC of ICPA has decided to issue the following directive, keeping air safety in concern.

"All Pilots are hereby directed 'not to undertake flights' repeat 'not to undertake flights' to VAGO (GOA) till the landing aids such as PAPI and GP are fully available and functional," ICPA General Secretary Rishabh Kapur said in a statement.

The PAPI and the GP on both runways of Goa's Dambolim airport, the only airport in the state which operates as a civil enclave in a military airbase named INS Hansa, are not available between 9 am and 1 pm and 3 pm and 7 pm to airlines due to annual maintenance work being carried out by Indian Navy.

A Notice of Airmen (NOTAM) was issued by Navy regarding closure of that these facilities would not be available from April 4 to April 30 but despite this some airlines made blind landing without navigational aid at the airport risking lives to passengers.

The PAPI is a visual aid that provides guidance information to help a pilot acquire and maintain the correct approach (in the vertical plane) to an aerodrome or an airport.

Do Aliens Exist? If So, Will They Kill Us?

We're an inquisitive lot, we humans. But could our inquisitiveness ultimately kill us?

In a new Discovery Channel documentary "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," the world's most recognized physicist speculates about different forms of alien life and explores efforts under way to search and communicate with intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations. However, he cautions that perhaps we shouldn't be advertising our location; perhaps we should just sit back and listen instead.

WATCH VIDEO: Will the real ET be little green men or little green bacteria? SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak theorizes what our first alien encounter might be like.

Earth Brand™ Life

So, Hawking takes us on a thrilling ride through some potential shapes aliens may take, but using life on Earth as the blueprint.

At one point in the documentary, Hawking describes how feet would be useful for any life form that has evolved on a solid surface. He also points out that eyes are handy too.

Eyes and feet have been optimized to function on our planet, so perhaps some variation will be found attached to a life form thriving on a distant world.

When speculating about alien life, it's open season; anything goes. But we only have experience of Earth Brand™ Life, so that's an obvious place to start. We know (to the best of our ability) that the laws of physics are universal, it seems logical to assume life is too (apart from some variations in detail).

If there's life, there's the potential that in some world orbiting some star in some galaxy, an intelligent space-faring race may be as inquisitive as we are, pondering their place in the cosmos and looking for other civilizations like their own.

WATCH VIDEO: Stephen Hawking opens up to Discovery News correspondent Irene Klotz in this exclusive interview.

Listening Out for the Neighbors

In an effort to find intelligent civilizations, we have to assume that they're a bit like us, so the first thing we look for are radio waves. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been doing this for 50 years, carefully listening for any ET call home. If humans communicate via radio waves, there's a good chance that another intelligent civilization has done the same.

Alas, apart from one isolated case, SETI has turned up zero evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. This means we are either wrong to be listening out for ET's radio transmissions, we haven't given it enough time or (and this is the downer) there's no other intelligent life out there.

I strongly suspect that given the sheer scale of the universe, and the mind-boggling quantities of exoplanets orbiting countless stars in countless galaxies, there's intelligent life other than us. Granted, there's no evidence of ET, but as Hawking points out in his documentary, his mathematical brain cannot discount the possibility of alien intelligence when there are endless possibilities inside the hundreds of billions of galaxies we know are out there.

NEWS: Are aliens already among us? One scientist thinks cosmic microbes may have already colonized our planet.

Attracting Too Much Attention?

So we continue to listen out for the signal from aliens through ever more ingenious methods. But we are transmitting too.

There have been numerous attempts at "Active SETI" or Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), where we transmit our presence to the cosmos. The most basic of these methods was to attach our information to the Voyager and Pioneer probes in the 1970s.

This space-age "message in a bottle" has a very limited probability of ending up in the hands of an alien species. However, more recent modes of communication have included beaming our own radio waves into space attempting to make contact.

It's also worth remembering that our planet started to get "radio noisy" when we started transmitting radio and television signals about 100 years ago. Some of these transmissions will have "leaked" into space.

Therefore, if anyone is looking for us within 100 light-years from Earth, they might have already heard us. However, 100 light-years is very small in cosmic distances. For a galaxy measuring 100,000 light-years across, our signal has only reached 0.1 percent of the Milky Way.

Okay, so what if we start blasting out signals advertising our presence? To assume alien civilizations will be friendly and welcome us with open arms seems grossly naïve. As Hawking points out, if there's one thing we've learned from our own evolution, although we might have the best of intentions, we've rarely "come in peace."

The Human Menace

Mankind is all about resources; imagine if a more advanced civilization sees Earth as a bountiful supply of sustenance and sees our civilization as nothing more than ants crawling over a big juicy apple. Wouldn't they just wash us off?

And so this is where Hawking leaves us, pondering our fascination with broadcasting our presence into space. Wouldn't it just be better for us to stay as quiet as we can, listening rather than shouting from the rooftops?

Personally, I think Hawking has a point. Although it might take hundreds, thousands or even millions of years for our signal to reach an intelligent “ear,” if that ear isn't a friendly one, we've basically decided our future-Earth's fate.

If there are any human decedents beginning to spread beyond our planet, it would be a real downer for an aggressive alien invasion to suddenly appear in response to our ancient transmissions. I'm sure we'd look back at our idiotic past-selves with anger when we realize we are living in the backyard of a vastly superior alien race intent on eradicating the human infestation that's spreading down their garden path.

On the other hand, we might contact a race of "huggy" aliens who genuinely want to be our friends. But on the off chance that we might get eaten, I'm with Stephen Hawking. Let's be careful about how we advertise ourselves, shall we?

Penguin, Krill Populations in Freefall

Numbers of Chinstrap and Adélie penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula region have dropped by more than 50 percent in the last 30 years, driven mainly by dramatic declines in supplies of tiny, shrimp-like krill, their main prey, says a new study.

Krill, meanwhile, have declined by 40 to 80 percent, due primarily to rapidly warming temperatures in the area -- the South Shetland Islands near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby sites.

This is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet with winter mean temperatures some 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer now than in pre-industrial times.

Researchers previously thought that chinstrap penguins would flourish as temperatures warmed because they winter in the open water near ice edges, unlike Adélie penguins, which winter on pack ice. In earlier years, chinstraps did better in warmer winters, while Adélie penguins grew their numbers in cold winters with lots of ice.

But since around 1980, both types of penguins have declined dramatically and now researchers believe that they can point to plummeting populations of krill.

In a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report long-term monitoring of krill and penguins in the South Shetland Islands and data from other sites throughout the Scotia Sea and the West Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost finger of the Antarctic continent.

"The way we really learned about this story is we saw the huge changes in the penguin populations and went looking for reasons as to why," said study lead author Wayne Trivelpiece, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla, Calif.

The team looked at the data they had amassed over the years and noticed that while penguins used to eat a wide distribution of krill sizes, in recent decades, the krill were a similar size in a given year, as though one cohort of krill were growing up and being eaten, but older and younger krill were absent.

"We went back and looked at environmental data and saw that years with big krill populations were summers that had followed winters with lots of ice," Trivelpiece said. "The ice was suddenly disappearing. I wasn't forming as extensively."

The krill rely on phytoplankton growing in mats on the underside of sea ice for food at critical stages, he said.

"The young krill that are spawned in the Antarctic summer can't survive the winter without food," he said. "Once they get one year or older they can fast through the winter. We would get these long stretches of two, three or four warm, ice-free winters and there would be no survival of krill from the year before."

"We put together the pieces of the puzzle and said what's driving the penguin declines is a change in climate," he concluded.

The krill loss seems to be hitting the youngest penguins the hardest. Previously about half of penguins returned in their second or third year to breed. Now only about 10 percent survive.

Although neither penguin species is classified as endangered, researchers are concerned about the chinstrap penguins' future.

"Their entire world population is pretty much contained exactly in the region that is warming dramatically," Trivelpiece said. Adélie penguins, meanwhile, live throughout the Antarctic.

The penguins did not always eat krill. Until about 200 years ago, they ate a diet largely of fish. But as whaling and seal hunting wiped out other top predators of the Antarctic that feasted on krill, the penguins moved in on the easy-to-catch plankton -- and their populations swelled.

The recovery of whales and seals puts additional pressure on the krill populations, and so far there is no indication that the penguins have returned to eating significant numbers of fish, mainly because the fish stocks do not seem to have recovered from heavy depletion in the middle of the 20th century, Trivelpiece said.

The krill losses have more than erased the gains penguins made when they switched to krill, he said.

"The data are now indicating that the warming trends have added a monkey wrench to the whole system and things are now changing more rapidly than they have historically and through geologic time," said Steven Emslie of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

"The penguins of the peninsula have been the most telling as far as the effect of warming and what may happen in the rest of the Antarctic if warming continues," he said.

"Everything comes back to the decline in sea ice," added Hugh Ducklow of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

Although researchers previously predicted Adélie penguins would suffer without the pack ice they needed for winter, the new paper suggests what's more important is krill.

"But of course, the decline of krill basically comes back to the decline of sea ice as well."

China launches navigation satellite

China has launched its eighth satellite orbiter as part of its navigation and positioning network, state media reported.

A Long March-3A carrier rocket carrying the "Beidou," or Compass, navigation satellite took off before dawn from the Xichang satellite launch centre in southwest Sichuan province, the China Daily's website reported.

The satellite launch will establish a basic navigation and positioning network system, a launch centre official said, AFP reports.

China will launch more satellites within two years to complete an Asia-Pacific regional network to provide services for mapping, fishery, transportation, meteorology and telecommunication industries, the official said.

The network is expected to provide global services by 2020, the report said.

Droid X2 and Droid Incredible 2 Appear in Photos

A recent Verizon Wireless leak revealed a bunch of new smartphones, including the Motorola Droid X2 and HTC Droid Incredible 2. Android Central recently posted hands-on photos of both smartphones (here and here).

While the Samsung Droid Charge will soon join the HTC Thunderbolt in Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE lineup, the Droid Incredible 2 and Droid X2 will likely both be CDMA/EV-DO smartphones.

The Droid Incredible 2 will be a "with Google" smartphone, meaning that we should expect the full package of Google Mobile services. Specs include an 8-megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording and dual LED flash, 4-inch WVGA SLCD capacitive screen, 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 768MB RAM. The prototype in the photos runs Android 2.2.1. A recent leak suggested that this smartphone will be released on April 28.

The Motorola Droid X2 is said to be a Droid X with upgraded hardware. The prototype in the photos runs Android 2.2.2. According to a recent leak, the Droid X2 should be capable of connecting to Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network, but that has yet to be confirmed. Obviously, with the Motorola Droid Bionic über-phone to be released with 4G LTE connectivity in June, Motorola fans shouldn't have much to worry about though.

'Android will emerge as the core platform for gaming'

Sony Ericsson aims to make Xperia Play the 'ultimate smartphone gaming experience'.

Android will emerge as the core platform for gaming, according to Matt Beavis, head of PR & sponsorship at Sony Ericsson.

The company's goal is "for Xperia Play to deliver the ultimate smartphone gaming experience for consumer audiences".

"As the world’s first PlayStation certified smartphone, our goal is for Xperia Play to deliver the ultimate smartphone gaming experience for consumer audiences, including casual and enthusiastic gamers," Beavis told Nowgamer.

"We believe that Android will emerge as the core platform for gaming and is optimised for multi-media content," he added.

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