Sunday, April 17, 2011

2 doctors react to MS study

A new study has cast doubt on the theory that blocked or narrowed veins are a main cause of MS, study author Dr. Robert Zivadinov of the University of Buffalo said.

The findings published Wednesday in the journal Neurology were consistent with thinking that the condition — also known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI — is more common in patients with multiple sclerosis but not to the degree first reported by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni.

"These findings indicate that CCSVI does not have a primary role in causing MS," said Zivadinov, who has worked with Zamboni.

Zamboni proposed that multiple sclerosis may be linked with vascular problems, and that using angioplasty, or ballooning, to open blocked neck veins can help treat MS symptoms by changing blood flow patterns.

We present abridged interviews with two doctors, knowledgeable about multiple sclerosis, who give us their reaction to this latest study on the causes of MS.

Dr. Jock Murray is a Halifax neurologist and MS expert. He feels the study again says that people should be hesitant about going off to other countries and paying large amounts of money for something that has not been clarified to be beneficial as yet.

Canadian Dr. Joseph Hewett has been doing neck vein angioplasty for about 15 years. He now performs balloon angioplasty on people with MS in southern California. He says the latest study has flaws and that he will continue doing the surgery until there's a "gold standard" study.

Provinces seek clarity on health funding

Provincial politicians are looking for more detail on health-care funding after the three major national party leaders pledged to maintain the annual six-per-cent increase after the current health accord with the provinces expires.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton have all said they would continue the annual increase after the 10-year health-care funding accord expires in 2014.

Health care is a provincial responsibility, but federal transfers provide vital funding to provincial health systems.

The next government will likely be responsible for the next round of negotiations, and several provincial politicians are calling on the leaders to provide more information about health-funding plans.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also weighed in on health-funding, saying he would like to see another 10-year health deal.

He also said that he'd like negotiations to start early so the new deal is finalized by the end of 2012.

"We want a commitment to medicare," McGuinty told CBC Radio's The House host Kathleen Petty in an interview airing Saturday. "This is not a case, as Canadians, where we need to retreat into a dark hole and cower against a medicare system, which is teetering on the edge of collapse because I just don't see it that way," he said. "I'm convinced we can curb that cost curve, we can work together to flatten it out a little bit."

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said there are questions about how long the new agreement will be for and how funds will be allocated. He also expressed concern that health-care funding could come at the expense of other programs.

“Let’s say they raise transfers by a billion dollars, and then they cut a billion somewhere else,” Duncan said. “Then that leaves us no further ahead.”

Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz expressed similar concerns Friday, calling on the leaders of the national parties to pledge that growth in health-care funding wouldn't be "undermined by cutbacks in other federal transfers."

Lloyd Snelgrove, Alberta's minister of finance, called for an "adult conversation" about the difficult choices that will emerge in the next round of negotiations.

”If we’re going to have a sustainable health-care system that Canadians want, they’re going to have to be difficult choices,” Snelgrove said.

A recent report co-authored by David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, warns that spending on health care is expected to rise rapidly over the next two decades.

The report suggests that health spending could account for 19 per cent of GDP in 2031, up from 12 per cent in 2009.

Comprehensive plan needed

Dr. Jeff Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said the public must pressure federal leaders to provide more than just a number.

“It’s our job now to push for the details,” Turnbull said. “What’s their comprehensive plan for health care for the future? What will it look like?”

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald said money is just part of the discussion.

“We need to talk about what it is we require in our health-care system, what our priorities are and how we’re going to achieve those things,” MacDonald said. "It’s about what kind of a health-care system do you want to provide to Canadians.”

MacDonald said that means whoever wins the next election will have to provide an overall vision for health care in Canada — one that ensures equitable funding for provinces while taking into account the different populations and health issues in various provinces and territories.

Vancouver injection clinic saving lives: journal

Researchers with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS studied the number of overdose deaths around the injection facility before and after its creation. Insite has operated since 2003 with exemptions from federal drug laws, first allowed by the former Liberal government.

The study, to be published Monday, found overdose fatalities have dropped 35 per cent, a number The Lancet calls "impressive."

"Overdose death is such a tragic and horrific outcome, the fact that it's able to reduce overdose deaths, from a public health perspective, we're just thrilled," said Dr. Evan Wood, co-author of the study.

Overdose deaths fell elsewhere in Vancouver at the same time but by much less than in the area surrounding Insite, according to researchers from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Heroin and cocaine addicts at Insite — the only sanctioned facility in North America for injection of illegal drugs — get medical supervision as they inject themselves with their own drugs, using clean needles. They are also offered addiction treatment programs.

The federal Conservatives want Insite shut down and tried to pull the plug in 2008, but the fight to keep the facility open went to B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled closing it would be unconstitutional.

Next month, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the federal government's appeal of the decision.

The Lancet commentary accompanying the new study notes the issue is "politically fraught," adding supervised injection facilities "should be expanded to other affected sites in Canada, based on the life-saving impacts identified in Vancouver."

Scientists hopeful of disease breakthroughs with world's first computerised brain map

Scientists were today hopeful of a breakthrough in a range of conditions after they unveiled the world's first computerised brain map.

Researchers spent a staggering four years piecing together minute details from brain tissue including millions of genes.

The brains were chopped up into sections to extract the RNA and find the 25,000 genes present in the human genome.

Each detail was loaded into a computer to provide exact directions from oner point of the brain to another.

It is hoped that medics can use the map to understand how the brain works and aid new discoveries in disease and treatments.

The researchers said the map could help them find new clues to conditions rooted in the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism and mental-health disorders.

Incredibly, the brain experts discovered that any two people are 94 per cent alike in terms other genes.

'Until now, a definitive map of the human brain at this level of detail simply hasn't existed,' Allan Jones from the Allen Institute for Brain Science told the Wall Street Journal.

'For the first time, we have generated a comprehensive map of the brain that includes the underlying biochemistry.'

Researches have for years struggled to link symptoms of the diseases they study to the biochemistry of genes that might be responsible for them.

They have therefore been unable to get  full picture of the brain in order to tackle debilitating diseases.

They picked two adult male brains and set about working on the information in the $50m project.

Scientists catalogued 1,000 'landmarks' in each of two brains then linked those tissues to thousands of genes they work in conjunction with to neural development and function.

By using the map it is possible to see how strongly or weakly different genes act on different parts of the brain.

'The Allen atlas tells you where a gene is turned on in the brain and that's why it is important,' said neurologist Jeffrey L. Noebels, who studies epilepsy at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Dr. Noebels said that knowing where genes are active was central to knowing how brain diseases work.

The project has al;ready been used by some 4,000 brain scientists who are using the map to probe brains.

Researchers now want to look into another eight brains by the end of the year in order to better understand the differences between people. They will also research the brain of women to see what differences are present.

As Android for tablets falters, opportunity for Intel

Intel has been criticized here and in other venues for being late to the tablet party. But Android's slow start in tablets may mean latecomers aren't necessarily losers.

A stroke of serendipity has arrived in the form of a tepid consumer reception so far for tablets beyond Apple's iPad. Sales of the Motorola Xoom are, to date, anemic, while the sell-through to consumers of Samsung's Android tablet has also been underwhelming.

And Digitimes reported today that tablet suppliers Asus and HTC are delaying Android tablet rollouts.

Meanwhile, RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook--which is more like an appendage to a BlackBerry phone than a standalone tablet--is not targeted at the high-volume consumer space.

So, with tablets based on chips from companies like Nvidia (Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab) and Texas Instruments (PlayBook) not likely flying off the shelf, are Intel's chances any better now?

"The door to this market is open. The longer it takes for these other products to get rolling, the more opportunity there is for Intel," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch.

And others see an opening for the world's largest chipmaker. "Though Apple has set the bar, it's not going to be alone in this space. Right now it looks like Android will have the majority of tablet sales (outside of Apple), and Intel has a dedicated team of people to make Android work the best it can on its Atom chips. They have a lot of resources they can apply," said Jack Gold of consulting firm J.Gold Associates, who wrote about this yesterday.

And Intel, despite its unimpressive start, has another advantage. Atom is not just another cookie-cutter design from U.K.-based ARM. Intel can bring to bear all of its manufacturing, security, and media processing know-how, according to Gold, who believes it will continue to whittle away successfully at the inherent power-efficiency advantage of ARM chips. "My take is that Intel can capture 20 to 25 percent of that remaining market outside of Apple."

Shim has a few words of caution, however. "It all depends, of course, how well Honeycomb (Android 3.0) runs on Atom," said Shim. "That's a big if." And Shim also warns Intel not to put too many eggs in the MeeGo basket, which is a hard sell to developers in a field crowded with Hewlett-Packard's WebOS and RIM's QNX, in addition to Android.

HTC sensation to hit Indian market in Q2

The recently launched HTC Sensation smartphone might hit the Indian stores sooner than expected with the handset maker confirming the availability of the device in Q2 this year, probably by May or June.

The HTC Sensation, as reported by The Mobile Indian, was unveiled on the 12th April in London. The Sensation is HTC's first ever phone to feature a 1.2 Ghz processor supplied by Qualcomm and a whole new interface with the latest HTC sense 3.0 UI.

HTC, through its official Twitter account, has made it clear that the latest HTC Sense 3.0 UI will only be supported by newer devices and won't be available for older devices.

So in order to get the best support from the Sense 3.0, you need the next generation of processor that only the newer devices such as the Sensation and the HTC Flyer feature.

HTC Sensation might be launched in UK and the US first following with other countries.

Pricing of the Sensation still remains a mystery but with the kind of hardware the new smartphone features one can easily expect it to be more than Rs 30,000.

All set for PSLV-C16 launch on April 20

The stage has been set for the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C16) from the first launch pad at Sriharikota on April 20 at 10.12 a.m. The PSLV-C16 will put in orbit three satellites — India's Resourcesat-2, an Indo-Russian satellite called Youthsat and a micro-satellite named X-Sat from the Nangyang Technological University of Singapore.

The Launch Authorisation Board (LAB), which met at Sriharikota on Saturday, cleared the rocket's lift-off.

“Everything is going on well. Things are smooth. This is one of the standard launches by the PSLV,” said S. Ramakrishnan, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The LAB reviewed the readiness of the launch vehicle, the spacecraft systems and the ground stations, and authorised the 54-hour countdown to begin at 3.40 a.m. on Monday.

ISRO spokesman S. Satish said that during the countdown, the second and the fourth stages of the rocket would be filled with liquid propellants. Mandatory checks of the vehicle and the three spacecraft, including the charging of the batteries and pressurisation of the propellant tanks, would be done. Readiness of the launch infrastructure such as radar systems that track the vehicle and communication networks would be reviewed, Mr. Satish said.

Resourcesat-2, built by ISRO, is the primary satellite in this mission. It is an advanced remote-sensing satellite, weighing 1,206 kg. An important feature of Resourcesat-2 is that it carries three cameras — with high, medium and coarse resolutions — on a single platform. The images taken by the cameras will be useful for estimating the health of crops, locating ground water, keeping a surveillance on deforestation, and monitoring the level of water in reservoirs and lakes and the snow-melt in the Himalayas and the consequent receipt of water in the rivers.

The 92-kg Youthsat has been built by India and Russia, with one payload from Russia and two from ISRO. The satellite will be used for stellar and atmospheric studies, including watching the activities in the sun and their effect on the earth's upper atmosphere. The 106-kg X-Sat will be used for imaging applications.

More to follow

The ISRO would have a busy schedule ahead with PSLV launches in the coming months, Mr. Satish said. A PSLV would put in orbit GSAT-12 in June from Sriharikota. This would be followed by the launch of Megha-Tropiques satellite, another GSAT and Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1), all during this year, from Sriharikota. Another GSAT would be put in orbit in June 2011 from Kourou island, French Guiana, by an Ariane rocket from Arianespace.

RIM's email-less PlayBook gets tough reviews

"RIM has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do email. It must be skating season in hell," New York Times' David Pogue wrote in a review published on Thursday.

Research In Motion built its reputation on a BlackBerry email service that it says is so secure that it can't bow to government requests to tap messages, winning high-profile customers in business, defense and politics before branching out to a wider consumer market.

The PlayBook, which hits North American retailers on Tuesday, so far offers that secure service only in tandem with a BlackBerry. RIM says secure email and other key services will come later, not at launch.

"I got the strong impression RIM is scrambling to get the product to market," Walt Mossberg, the widely followed business and consumer technology critic, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article headlined "PlayBook: a tablet with a case of codependency."

The pessimism of the reviews seemed to hit RIM's often volatile shares, which fell 1.7 percent to $53.92 on the Nasdaq on Thursday, the lowest closing price since Oct 25.

RIM's 7-inch WiFi-only device is priced identically to Apple's 10-inch market leader and faces tough me-too competition from a slew of devices running Google's Android software.

It is a first step in a major product overhaul intended to reinvigorate RIM's fortunes. But the lukewarm initial reception, coupled with an outburst from co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis, threaten to overshadow the coming-out party.

Most reviewers have been impressed by the PlayBook's well-documented capability to handle Flash websites and its ability to show one high-definition image -- a movie, for instance -- on a connected TV, while doing something else on its own screen. Those are two things the iPad cannot do.

But reviewers paid more attention to what the PlayBook can't do.

The PlayBook needs a smartphone to access a cellular network and a BlackBerry to tap into RIM's popular BlackBerry Messenger chat platform or get secure emails.

The PlayBook's secure Bluetooth link with the BlackBerry mirrors a user's existing BlackBerry applications, negating corporate worries about leaking confidential information.

It was a question on BlackBerry security, and Indian government demands for access to the information that the BlackBerry protects, that co-founder Lazaridis took umbrage with during a BBC interview this week.

"That's not fair, this is a national security issue," he said before ordering the camera off.

RIM says the PlayBook and its brand-new QNX-based platform will launch with around 3,000 apps, the third-party tools that have helped make Apple's iPhone and iPad so successful.

That number will grow in coming months as RIM adds support for Android apps and those available on its smartphones.

The iPad has a library of more than 65,000 apps.

It's too little for Mossberg, even though RIM plans to add a video-chat app soon and key email and personal organizer features, plus cellular connection, later in the year.

"Until then, I can't recommend the PlayBook over a fully standalone tablet, except possibly for folks whose BlackBerrys never leave their sides," he wrote.

In other critical comments, tech websites Boy Genius Report and Engadget zoomed in on what may at first glance appear trifling: a small and hard to operate power button.

"It's impossible to find by feel and, once located, difficult to activate," Engadget said.

Reviewers also fretted that, days ahead of a launch that will define RIM's standing in the tablet market, the company was still pushing out software updates to fix bugs.

"The PlayBook of today is considerably better than the PlayBook of yesterday, which also was a big step forward from the one we were reviewing two days before that," Engadget said.

Akon Takes Off Shirt, A La Salman Khan

International pop star Akon threw open his black shirt and his black vest just the way our own star Salman Khan does in movies and on stage.

What followed thereafter, was a sight to behold! Hundreds of boys ended up removing their t-shirts and shirts and swayed it in the air, as the Senegalese-American singer sang "Take it off" at his grand concert here Saturday night.

"If you are a true Akon party animal, take off your shirts!" Akon shouted out to all his fans.

Seconds later, a whole lot of men in the 2000 plus crowd bared their chest, and waved their shirts and t-shirts in the air in sync with Akon. There were yellow, red, black, white, blue shirts in the air all over the HUDA Grounds here.

The girls were only going crazy as Akon stripped down to a fit, toned bare chest.

As if the excitement wasn't already enough, Akon threw his shirt, and several people jumped to catch it. His vest followed and everyone seemed to want to grab it.

Akon set his Indian fans in a party mood as he belted out popular hits like "Don't matter", "Ghetto", "Smack that", "I Wanna love you", "Dangerous" and "Beautiful", among others.

The pop star turned 38 Friday, and was in full mood to party hard. He went crowd surfing in a transparent balloon, and later all by himself, letting his fans get a full feel of the Akon magic.

After all this acton, he was quite tired and demanded water too. But Akon was considerate enough to offer water to his fans as well - but in a different way.

He threw open at least 20 bottles of water and splashed it all over the crowd that stood right in front of the stage, and later even shared the cake he cut for his 38th birthday at the venue.

Thanks to the concert, Akon has left behind memories of being a people's person - and said he would love to return to India next year.

And in a way he lifted the spirit of music lovers who were disappointed after the cancellation of Bryan Adams concert here a few months ago.

"Delhi, you're all party animals!" he admitted before leaving.

He was invited to India for the concert organised by Netsurf Entertainment, B.M. Group and IVNO Events and Productions in association with Thrive Entertainment and S. Raj Entertainment. He will perform in Bangalore Sunday.

My Film is Not Anti-Goa

Ask filmmaker Rohan Sippy, what took him so long to direct his third film Dum Maaro Dum, after Bluffmaster in December 2005 and he is quick to respond. “I need better time management.” Jokes apart, Sippy tells us that after the release of Bluffmaster, he got busy with his production house. “We produced Taxi No 9211, The President is Coming and Chandni Chowk to China. We also started work on a heist film, which was very ambitious in budget and scale. It seemed fine during the boom period, but then we realised that we had bitten off more than we could chew,” says Sippy, who put it on hold, and started work on the thriller Dum Maaro Dum (DMD).

The promos of DMD evoked positive responses initially with huge number of hits on YouTube. Soon after, however, reports about the Goa government being upset over showing the state in bad light overshadowed the excitement. “I read reports in newspapers, but we haven’t got any official statement yet,” says Sippy. With the film due for release on April 22, Sippy is keen on keeping his slate clean. “The overall messaging of the film is not anti-Goa. It starts off showing Goa as a paradise on earth and then goes on to show the other side as well. Eventually it is a cops and bad guys film — a fictional story. It could have been based in any other city, but we chose Goa because of its international appeal,” says the filmmaker.

The DMD controversies, however, did not end here. The remixed version of the song Dum Maaro Dum, written by Jaideep Sahni and performed by Deepika Padukone had several people, inside and outside the industry, miffed. “The desire was not to offend anyone. And I have great respect for Dev Saab and everyone associated with the original song. Dev Saab may be having a problem with the way Saregama is handling the rights of the song. I am just a third party here,” says Sippy. His only intention was to tailor it according to his film’s needs, just like he had done with Sabse Bada Rupaiya for Bluffmaster. “Personally, I think most of the offence has got to do with how we perceive women. We do not have a problem with women as sex objects, but the minute she gets in your face it is much harder to digest,” he states, adding, ‘The biggest validation for me is that the song is topping the charts today, which means most people out there are loving it.”

However, it is the Friday verdict that Sippy is most worried about. DMD defies traditional Bollywood-style filmmaking. It is a thriller, with no defined protagonist. The heroine is not conventional, and the heroes are with shades of grey. With one debutant Rana Daggubatti (a Telugu star) and another two-film old actor Prateik, Sippy believes that it is Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu’s presence that will entice the trade pundits.

From Kuchh Na Kaho (2003) to Bluffmaster and now DMD, the only constant fixture in his films has been his best friend Abhishek Bachchan. But with three of Bachchan’s previous films biting the dust at the box-office, isn’t he worried? “I obviously feel bad for him as a friend. It’s nice to have an actor who has success behind him, but it is unfair to put so much on their shoulders,” says Sippy who, if the script and dates permit, will have Bachchan also in his next.

The director’s strength and confidence lies in his lineage — his grandfather is GP Sippy and father, Ramesh Sippy. “I got the opportunity to direct films only because I am from this family,” he humbly states. He considers himself fortunate to be working in close association with his father. One thing he consciously tries to do is try out different genres with each of his film. “My dad has a wonderful repertoire of films. From Seeta Aur Geeta, Sholay to Shaan, Shakti and Saagar — he has redefined himself with each film. When I made my first film Kuchh Na Kaho, I had loosely based it on my dad’s first film Andaz,” he states. Later, the desire to exploring various subjects, prodded him to make Bluffmaster, a successful con film, and now with DMD he hopes to do justice to thrillers.

UK mulls royal succession rule change

Britain’s government has begun the process of reviewing the ancient, discriminatory rules of royal succession, so that if Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first child is a girl she would eventually become queen.

The current rule that puts boys ahead of their sisters “would strike most people as a little old-fashioned,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Saturday.

It is just two weeks until Prince William and Ms. Middleton get married at London’s Westminster Abbey, and Mr. Clegg said many people may agree that the rules should be changed so that if the couple’s first child were a girl, she would eventually inherit the throne -- even if she had a younger brother.

“I think most people in this day and age would think it’s worth considering whether we change the rules so that baby girl could become the future monarch,” he told reporters. “I think that would be in keeping with the changes that are happening with society as a whole.”

The Cabinet Office said the government accepts that some aspects of the succession rule “could be discriminatory.” It said the government has started discussions with British Commonwealth nations that would be directly affected by any change because they recognise the British monarch as their head of state, but declined to release details of those talks.

William is second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s first—born child. Charles’ sister Anne is lower in the line of succession than her younger brothers Andrew and Edward. Charles, in turn, had only sons, William and Harry.

Elizabeth II succeeded her father, King George VI, because he had no sons. If she had had a brother, however much younger he was, he would have jumped above her in the line of succession.

Mr. Clegg stressed that although he is “sympathetic” to an overhaul of the rule, the issue is complex and any change will take a long time. Amending the succession law would require agreement and similar legal overhauls in the 15 Commonwealth countries where the British monarch is the head of state.

The thorny issue of the succession has been an on and off topic in Britain, but it has never been resolved. In 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government considered a bill that would end the custom of putting males ahead of females in the succession line, as well as lift a ban on British monarchs marrying Roman Catholics. The government did not have time to pursue it before Mr. Brown’s term ended.

The rule has excluded women from succeeding to the throne in the past. Queen Victoria’s first child was a daughter -- also called Victoria -- but it was her younger brother who succeeded to the throne, as King Edward VII.

Buckingham Palace has always refrained from commenting on the political issue, saying it’s a matter for the government.

Experts say they hope the matter will be resolved before Ms. Middleton begins producing children to avoid a confusing line of succession like that in Sweden, where a rule change led to a title being passed from a prince to his elder sister.

Crown Prince Carl Phillip, 31, was set to become king despite being a second—born child. But parliament reformed the succession rules shortly after his birth and applied it retroactively, meaning Princess Victoria, 33, took first place.

Some other European countries with monarchies, including Denmark and Norway, have also removed the rule of male preference.

But in Spain, precedence is still given to sons over daughters. Crown Prince Felipe will inherit the thrown from his father King Juan Carlos, and should Felipe and Princess Letizia have a son, their firstborn daughter Princess Leonor would be overtaken in the royal line of succession.

The current government there has raised the issue, as part of a move to achieve greater equality in Spanish society, but so far no action has been taken. That is likely because Felipe has older sisters, and his succession would be interrupted should the law be changed now.

BHEL likely to finalise NBFC plan by July

Hyderabad : Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd will be taking to its board a revised proposal to float a non-banking financial company (NBFC) to fund power projects.

The power equipment maker is incorporating some of the suggestions made by Crisil on the original proposal.

BHEL, which had been mulling the NBFC option to get better returns on its cash surplus, had appointed Crisil to advice on the proposal; the financial services firm recently submitted its report to the company.

“We will be going to the board again with the (revised) proposal. We expect to finalise the proposal in the next three months,” the BHEL Chairman and Managing Director, Mr B Prasad Rao, told Business Line here.

BHEL, which is expanding its capacity from 13,000 MW last fiscal towards a target of 20,000 MW in the next two years, is sitting on a cash surplus of about Rs 9,000 crore.

“The NBFC option will give us a platform to make better use of our cash surplus, especially as the Twelfth Plan Period envisages significant capacity addition in the power sector,” Mr Rao said.

BHEL, which has an order book of Rs 1,75,000 crore, may rope in a partner to float the investment arm.

It is estimated that the funding shortage in the power sector in the Eleventh Plan Period would be a whopping Rs 4,50,000 crore. This is given the current funds availability to meet the Government's target of adding 78,577 MW capacity during this period.

The funding appetite of the power sector will only grow during the Twelfth Plan, with the Central Electricity Authority setting its sights on a capacity addition target of about 1,20,000 MW, almost twice the Eleventh Plan target.
Two-fold benefit

For BHEL, the NBFC option will bring in a two-fold benefit.

Apart from getting better yields from its cash surplus, the company will also help create additional markets for its equipment through funding of new power projects.

This is also expected to help the company at a time when it seems close to getting elevated to the Maharatna status. The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises is in the process of putting before the Cabinet new norms for Maharatna qualification.

As this status will give the company significant flexibility to go in for overseas acquisition, BHEL's proposed investment arm could give a boost to its overseas ambitions.

Kanoria says to use money for new businesses, no dividends

Aditya Birla Chemicals acquired a unit of Kanoria Chemicals & Industries for Rs 8,300 crore to boost its chloro-chemicals division. In an exclusive interview with CNBC-TV18’s Udayan Mukherjee and Mitali Mukherjee, RV Kanoria chairman and managing director of Kanoria Chemicals says that the company is looking to deploy the money from the deal for growth in new businesses. “The company is set to look at organic and inorganic opportunities,” he says.

Sharing further details on the fund utilization from the deal, he says, “The company will be left with Rs 350 crore post taxes and retiring of debt. The cash on balance sheet is to be at Rs 375 crore while cash on per share is seen at Rs 70.” He also expects the existing business to pick up FY13 onwards and the margins to improve going forward. The company is unlikely to pay dividends.

Below is a verbatim transcript of RV Kanoria's interview with CNBC-TV18's Udayan Mukherjee and Mitali Mukherjee. Also watch the accompanying video.

Q: You have sold the chloro-chemicals division and not a stake in the company, the listed entity there will be no open offer. What do you intend to do with this Rs 830 crore in terms of returning some money to your minority shareholders from the proceeds?

A: Out of the Rs 830 crore there is a tax from the slump sale. We will be retiring all the debt related to this division. We will be left with Rs 350 crore to Rs 375 crore. As far as the shareholders are concerned, there is going to be tremendous capital appreciation in our shares because of monetization of the value which was actually locked into this division.

Fundamentally, we are looking at deploying this money for growth and for diversifying into new businesses. The biggest challenge is going to be look at both inorganic as well as organic growth within the company.

Q: Why would there be an appreciation of the stock because of the monetization of this deal? It doesn’t have anything to do with the listed stock and for the entity that remains, it actually seems to be a lower margin business, the revenue profile of course is lower because it doesn’t contribute that much at this point.

A: The cash on the balance sheet will be around Rs 350 crore to Rs 375 crore. If you look at approximately Rs 5 crore outstanding shares, Rs 70 a share would just be value of the cash on the balance sheet notwithstanding the other businesses.

Q: Would like to know about the prospect for the remaining business because that seems to be a far lower margin business? What kind of scale up do you see both in revenues and margin potential?

A: We started our new plant in Vishakapatnam for Formaldehyde and soon will be commissioning the second plant for Hexamine that is targeted largely towards the export market. I would think, maybe not 2011-12, since it will take some time for the demand to pick up before we are able to fully utilize our capacities. 2012-13 should be an excellent year for the existing businesses in the company.

We are making pentaerythritol, which is used in the paint industry. The paint industry is growing rapidly in the country and the demand for pentaerythritol is also growing. Formaldehyde is used in the construction industry and is growing rapidly. The existing businesses would be generating much better margins in the years to come.

Rupee to slip tracking Asian peers; shares

The rupee is expected to weaken on Wednesday in line with other Asian peers, and weighed down by a drop in local equity futures in the offshore market.

* The yen held firm in early Asia trade, having gained broadly as profit taking on short positions took off on the back of renewed risk aversion, while investors also favoured the Swiss franc as a safe-haven currency.

* At 0350 GMT, the index of the dollar against six major currencies was up 0.1 percent at 74.924 points.

* The MSCI index of Asian stocks ex-Japan was down 0.2 percent, while the Nifty futures traded in Singapore were down more than 1 percent, suggesting a weak open to the local market.

* The partially convertible rupee ended at 44.385/395 per dollar on Monday, 0.72 percent weaker than Friday's close of 44.07/08 when it had hit 43.98, a level not seen since Oct. 15. The market was shut on Tuesday for a holiday.

* Traders said the rupee could start at around 44.50 and move in a 44.40-44.65 band.

40 Killed As Monster Storm Lashes Out In US

Oklahoma :  A furious storm system that kicked up tornadoes, flash floods and hail as big as softballs has claimed at least 40 lives on a rampage that began in Oklahoma days ago, then smashed across several southern states as it reached a new and deadly pitch in North Carolina and Virginia

Emergency crews searched for victims in hard-hit swathes of North Carolina, where 62 tornadoes were reported from the worst spring storm in two decades to hit the state.

Eleven people were confirmed dead in Bertie County, a local official said.The state's death toll reached at least 18 people on Sunday.

In Sanford, about 40 miles (65 kilometres) southwest of capital city Raleigh, a busy shopping district was pummelled by the storms, with some businesses losing rooftops in what observers described as a ferocious tornado.The Lowe's Home Improvement Centre in Sanford looked flattened, with jagged beams and siding sticking up from the pancaked entrance.

Remarkably, no one was seriously injured at the store, thanks to a quick-thinking manager who herded more than 100 people into a back area with no windows to shatter.
Donald Pardue watched the storm as it tore through Sanford.

"It was just a massive thick cloud with debris, all kinds of debris spiralling around it. There was pieces of all kind of metal, boards, just a complete spiral," he said.

Pardue said he had not yet had the chance to return to his home to find if it is still standing.In Raleigh, three family members died in a mobile home park, said a Wake County spokeswoman.At that trailer park, residents lined up outside Sunday and asked police guarding the area when they might get back in.

Governor Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency and said the 62 tornadoes reported were the most since March 1984, when a storm system spawned 22 twisters in the Carolinas that killed 57 people - 42 in North Carolina - and injured hundreds.Meanwhile, at least five deaths were reported in Virginia.

Authorities warned the toll was likely to rise further Sunday as searchers probed shattered homes and businesses.The storm claimed its first lives Thursday night in Oklahoma, then roared through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.Authorities have said seven died in Arkansas; seven in Alabama; two in Oklahoma; and one in Mississippi.

At one point, more than 250,000 people went without power in North Carolina before emergency utility crews began repairing downed lines.But scattered outages were expected to linger at least until Monday.

Among areas hit by power outages was Raleigh, a bustling city of more than 400,000 people where some of the bigger downtown thoroughfares were blocked by fallen trees early Sunday.  AP

Musharraf Ready To Sort Out Differences With Sharif

Islamabad  : Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has said he is ready to sort out his differences with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, whose government he had deposed in a military coup in 1999, if such a move leads to a “good future” for the country.

Musharraf, who has been living outside Pakistan since early 2009, made the remarks during an interview with Dawn News channel in Dubai.

“I would not mind if it happens for the good future of the country,” he said.

The former president said he had not phoned Sharif to enquire about his health after the former premier underwent emergency heart surgery in London recently because “his heart and mind did not allow him to do so in view of some statements by PML-N leaders”.

Musharraf quit as President in 2008 to avoid being impeached by the Pakistan People’s Party-led government. He has been living in self-exile in London for the past two years.

Pakistani prosecutors recently declared Musharraf an “absconder” for not cooperating in the probe into the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and a court has issued an arrest warrant for him.

Asked about the warrant issued for him by the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, Musharraf declined to comment on “these technical, legal questions”.

He said he would return to Pakistan and did not fear going to jail but “I am waiting for the proper time”.

Responding to a question about Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Musharraf said he liked him.

“He (Singh) is a nice man for Pakistan,” he said.

Asked to name his favourite Pakistani leader, Musharraf quipped: “I, myself.” After a pause, he named former President Ayub Khan.

In reply to a question about a petition filed by former President Rafiq Tarar for removing all references to Musharraf from the list of past presidents, he said Tarar was an “irrelevant person”.

He said that when he was in power, he had good relations with Tarar and had asked him to continue serving as President.

Musharraf said he had helped Tarar and visited his home when he was President.

“Tarar, who was actually a man of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his father, had played a key role in purchasing the loyalties of judges when Justice Sajad Ali Shah was the Chief Justice of Pakistan,” Musharraf contended.

The former President said he had no regrets about leading a military coup on October 12, 1999 and imposing emergency on November 3, 2007.

“It was my good luck that the coup happened,” he said.

When reminded that the Constitution had been abrogated on both occasions, Musharraf said the country was more important than the Constitution, which, according to him, was a piece of paper.

Musharraf said he had appointed Mushahid Hussain Syed as secretary general of the PML-Q after consulting former premier Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

He said the PML-Q had virtually fallen apart and most of its leaders would not contest the next elections from its platform.

Many of them had contacted him and some were considering contesting elections as independent candidates, Musharraf said.

He admitted that setting up a new party without the help of government and intelligence agencies was a difficult job.

He said he had written letters to former nazims (mayor) of all districts, inviting them to join his new All Pakistan Mulsim League and had received a good response.

When asked if his handpicked army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was in touch with him, Musharraf replied in the negative.

In reply to a question on whether Kayani had contacted im when he was named in the Bhutto assassination case, Musharraf said: “These contacts are often made.”

He did not give details. He also avoided commenting on the three-year extension granted to Kayani last year.  PTI

India, Kazakhstan Sign Nuclear, Oil Pacts

Astana : Embarking on an ambitious roadmap to consolidate their strategic partnership, India and Kazakhstan today signed seven pacts, including a framework agreement in civil nuclear field and a stake-sharing accord in oil sector, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying there was “vast potential” for cooperation in all areas.

At wide-ranging talks between Singh and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the two sides also decided to work for pushing the bilateral trade, which was currently as low as USD 300 million, through engagement of governments and business communities and diversifying to non-oil sectors like pharma, agriculture and IT.

The two leaders discussed a host of issues during their talks, which were first restricted and then delegation level, covering bilateral matters and international issues like developments in Libya and other North African countries and Afghanistan.

Summing up the talks, Singh said in a statement to the press that there was “solid and substantive outcome” that will help build on the strategic partnership forged during the visit of Nazarbaev to India in January 2009.

The two sides signed an inter-governmental agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, that envisages a legal framework for supply of fuel, construction and operation of atomic power plants, exploration and joint mining of uranium, exchange of scientific and research information, reactor safety mechanisms and use of radiation technologies for healthcare.

After the talks, the Kazakh President announced that his country would supply India with 2100 tonnes of uranium and was ready to do more.
India and Kazakhstan already have civil nuclear cooperation since January 2009 when Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm signed an MoU during the visit of Nazarbaev to Delhi. Under the contract, KazAtomProm supplies uranium which is used by Indian reactors.

Ever since the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) ended India’s 34-year-old isolation in 2008 by giving a one-time waiver to have cooperation in civil nuclear field, it has signed such civil nuclear agreements with a number of countries including the US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina and Mongolia.

Another highlight of the talks was a package of three agreements signed by India and Kazakhstan in the hydrocarbon sector. Under these, ONGC Videsh Limited would acquire 25 per cent stake in Satpayev oil block in Caspian Sea. The two sides also signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, with the Prime Minister saying that they had agreed to intensify dialogue in counter-terrorism and drug trafficking.

A Joint Action Plan for Furthering Strategic Partnership was also unveiled which outlines the projects to be undertaken by the both sides during 2011 and 2014 in a range of sectors, including civil nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, cyber-security, IT, high-tech and pharmaceuticals.

As part of enhancing ties in the field of IT, Singh said he had offered to set up a joint IT Centre of Excellence in the Eurasian University in Astana.

He said he had also conveyed India’s interest to benefit from the Customs Union among Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. In his opening remarks at the delegation-level talks, Singh said India attaches very high importance to its relations with Kazakhstan and “there is a vast potential for cooperation” between the two countries.

On his first official visit here, Singh told the Kazakh President that he had “come to the great country” to “build on the success” of his landmark state visit to New Delhi in 2009. He hailed Nazarbaev as a “very distinguished world leader” and congratulated him again for his re-election, saying it was “a tribute to confidence reposed in your leadership by the people of Kazakhstan.”

Nazarbaev said the current bilateral trade did not reflect the real potential and Kazakhstan was interested in expanding ties in all areas and particularly identified energy, high-tech and pharma as sectors holding promise. PTI

Akon Unleashes His Magic In Bangalore

Bangalore  :  Senegalese-American singer and songwriter Akon today regaled thousands of his fans by belting out some of his popular numbers at a late night concert here.

The international Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum artist whose worldwide sales top seven million units, had his fans mesmerised as he performed the 'Lonely.'

Regarded as one of the most versatile and successful singers of the 21st century, Akon, who is estimated to earn over USD 30 million a year from his songs, had the audience cheering and clapping as he belted out numbers like 'Beautiful', 'Right Now', 'Dangerous', 'I'm So Paid', 'Angel? and many more.

The audience swayed to the tunes of the singer, who performed at the Palace grounds in Bangalore during his India tour. Akon had celebrated his birthday yesterday with a performance at Gurgaon.  PTI

Three Coaches Of Rajdhani Express Catch Fire, No Casualty

Indore : Three coaches of the 12951 Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express  including the pantry car caught fire in the early hours of Monday morning near Ratlam  while on way to Delhi.

 No one was injured and the passengers are being brought to Delhi, said a Railway Board spokesperson.

The Rajdhani Express was stopped near Aalot town in Ratlam area, after fire was detected at around 2:10 am .

The coaches which caught fire were  isolated and fire was later extinguished, said Amardeep Singh, railway commercial manager, Kota division.

The Railways have set up helplines to give information about the passengers:

Helpline number - Delhi - 011 23341074
Mumbai : 022 10721
Kota - 0744 - 2467172
Kota - 0744 - 2467173

Fire engulfed B6, B7 and the pantry car of the train, sources said.

Fire engines from Indore, Nagda, Kota and Ratlam were rushed to the spot to extinguish the fire.

PTI adds: Though none was injured in the incident Railways has declared ex-gratia of Rs 5,000 for the passengers of coaches B6 and B7, which were affected by the blaze, the spokesperson said. Rail traffic has been disrupted in the Nagda-Kota line due the fire.

Indian Railways PRO Anil Saxena said all steps are being taken to resume traffic in the line at the earliest and food and water is being supplied to the passengers. There were about 900 passengers including Railway staff in the train.

A three-member Railways team consisting of senior railway officials have been dispatched to the spot. The officials in the team are -- Arunendra Kumar, R N Lal and Ashish Malhotra,Saxena said.

Railways has also set up helplines at Kota, Ratlam and Mumbai to disseminate information about the incident. 

First Phase Of Polling Begins in West Bengal

Kolkata  :  Polling began this morning in 54 constituencies for the first of the six-phase Assembly elections in West Bengal in which an electorate of 97.42 lakh will decide the fate of 364 candidates.

Tight security arrangement has been made for a free, fair and peaceful polling in the constituencies spread across six north Bengal districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North Dinjapur, South Dinajpur and Malda.

Some of the important political figures whose fortunes will be decided today include 10 ministers of the Left Front government, including urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya (CPI-M), PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, jail and social welfare minister Biswanath Chowdhury (both belonging to RSP), Congress leader Debaprasad Roy and Trinamool Congress Darjeeling district president Gautam Deb.

The six-phase election is scheduled to be held between April 18 and May 10.  PTI

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