Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lawn of native grasses beats traditional lawn for lushness, weed resistance

A lawn of regionally native grasses would take less resources to maintain while providing as lush a carpet as a common turfgrass used in the South, according to a study by ecologists at The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. "We created a lawn that needs less mowing and keeps weeds out better than a common American lawn option," said Dr. Mark Simmons, director of the center's Ecosystem Design Group, noting that this new approach could have a huge impact on pocketbooks and the environment.

Simmons led the study comparing common Bermudagrass to seven native grasses that will be published online this week in the journal Ecological Engineering.

Commercial and residential lawns cover about 40 million acres – more American landscape than any traditional agricultural crop. But keeping that turfgrass looking good takes more time, effort and money than it could and carries an environmental price tag.

U.S. lawn maintenance annually consumes about 800 million gallons of gasoline, $5.2 billion of fossil-fuel derived fertilizers and $700 million in pesticides. Up to two thirds of the drinking water consumed in municipalities goes to watering lawns.

"Most lawns use a single grass species, which requires inputs to maintain," Simmons said. "The goal was to develop a more ecologically stable, natural alternative for lawns that are so important to many Europeans and Americans."

Simmons knew that the species co-existing in natural grasslands can thrive without human intervention from living and studying in southern England near where Jane Austen once lived, and in the grasslands of South Africa. To test whether a mixture of grasses provides a good lawn, Simmons and colleagues Michelle Bertelsen, Dr. Steve Windhager and Holly Zafian used funding from Walmart to establish multiple plots of grasses in an open field at the center.

Co-author Bertelsen is an ecologist at the Wildflower Center. Windhager previously directed landscape restoration research at the center and is now chief executive officer of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Zafian was a center research assistant and is now a graduate student at Texas State University – San Marcos.

For the study, plots of non-native Bermudagrass were established from commercially available seeds alongside plots of Buffalograss in various combinations with other native, short grass species. In 2009, the researchers applied different mowing and other regimes to the two-year-old turf plots.

The traditional turfgrass and the native grasses responded the same to mowing once or twice a month, to two watering regimens and to the equivalent of foot traffic. However, the turf of seven native grasses produced a carpet that was 30 percent thicker in early spring than the Bermuda turf. As temperatures climbed into mid-summer and all the lawns thinned, the mixed native turfgrass still stayed 20 percent thicker than Bermuda.

"If we had mowed more frequently, the Bermudagrass might have become denser because of the way it grows," Simmons said, "but the point was to find something that took less work to maintain than Bermuda and other traditional turfgrasses."

Although Buffalograss also retained its lushness into summer, the mixed native turfgrass beat both single species (monoculture) turfgrasses in weed resistance. When dandelion seeds were added by hand, those plots grew half as many dandelions as the Buffalograss or Bermudagrass plots.

To see if the mixed native turfgrass would also outperform the others under conditions such as very light watering, he and his colleagues will conduct the next research phase later this year. The answer under some conditions will likely be a yes because the multiple species in natural grasslands are thought to allow them to respond better to different conditions over time.

How soon American lawns benefit from the findings depends partly on whether native grasses become more commercially available. The native grass combination that will likely work best will also vary with location, Simmons noted.

"This is just the first step to showing that having multiple grass species, basically creating a stable ecosystem that is a lawn, may have advantages for some turfgrass applications," Simmons said. "But we need to apply the findings to different settings to move away from solely having lawns that rely on us for life support."

Fossil sirenians give scientists new look at ancient climate

What tales they tell of their former lives, these old bones of sirenians, relatives of today's dugongs and manatees. And now, geologists have found, they tell of the waters in which they swam.

While researching the evolutionary ecology of ancient sirenians--commonly known as sea cows--scientist Mark Clementz and colleagues unexpectedly stumbled across data that could change the view of climate during the Eocene Epoch, some 50 million years ago.

Clementz, from the University of Wyoming, published the results in a paper in this week's issue of the journal Science.

He and co-author Jacob Sewall of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania used their findings to dispute a popular scientific assumption about the temperature and composition of seawater during the time marked by the emergence of the first modern mammals.

The Sirenia, named for the sirens or mermaids of Greek myth, is an order of aquatic, plant-eating mammals that live in swamps, rivers, estuaries, marine wetlands and coastal waters.

Four species of "sea cows" are alive today, in two families and genera: the dugong, with one species, and manatees with three species.

Sirenia also includes the Steller's sea cow, extinct since the 18th century, and others known only from fossil remains. The order evolved during the Eocene more than 50 million years ago.

In their paper--"Latitudinal Gradients in Greenhouse Seawater δ18O: Evidence from Eocene Sirenian Tooth Enamel"--the scientists used the isotopic composition of sirenian fossils from a broad time period and geographic area, along with climate simulation data, to add to the long-running debate over Eocene climate.

"This study demonstrates the value of the fossil record, and of examining the deep time record of paleoclimatological events, so we can better understand climate change today," says Lisa Boush, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

"This novel approach will potentially transform our way of thinking about the hydrologic response to global climate change."

"I wasn't looking at it from this direction when we started the project," says Clementz, whose research is part of an NSF CAREER award.

"But once we started accumulating enough samples, we could step back and get a better understanding of the habitat and dietary preferences of these fossil species, and also of the big picture. We saw that it could be reflecting climate and environmental change."

A new look at climate during the Eocene, when Earth underwent a dramatic change, could help scientists better understand global climate change today.

Most scientists assumed that the oxygen isotopic composition of seawater in the past was very similar to that of today, with high values at low latitudes and low values at high latitudes.

Isotopes are variants of atoms of a particular chemical element, in this case oxygen, with differing numbers of neutrons.

"But when we looked at the oxygen isotopic values of the fossils from low-latitude sites for the Eocene, they were much lower than we would predict," says Clementz.

The finding suggests that low-latitude sites during the Eocene were much wetter than today.

"This created a very different distribution in the oxygen isotopic composition of seawater for this time interval, which would, in turn, significantly impact estimates of paleoclimate and paleotemperature in the distant past," says Clementz.

"Scientists have used this assumption of the oxygen isotopic values of seawater to constrain temperature estimates for the past."

In their paper, Clementz and Sewall show that the assumption may be flawed, which could mean that previous estimates of water temperature are incorrect.

UGA compound offers new hope for treatment of painful adult shingles

Researchers at the University of Georgia and Yale University have discovered a compound with the potential to be more effective than existing agents in treating the very painful blisters known as shingles—a condition that affects up to 30 percent of Americans, mostly elderly, and for which no specific treatment exists. Most adults remember the fever, itchy blisters and possibly tiny scars they experienced as children when they had chickenpox, which is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, or VZV.Unfortunately, that memory can come back—with a vengeance—when they are older. The VZV virus from childhood chickenpox hides in the nerves, emerging most frequently in adults over the age of 60 as a blistering rash on one side of the body. The rate of complications, including nerve pain that can persist for months or years after the shingles attack is gone, also increases with age.

The novel and effective anti-shingles agent called L-BHDA may change that. Rights to the shingles treatment have been licensed to Bukwang Pharmaceutical Company for preclinical investigations by the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc. and Yale University.

"We need new options for medications with increased potency and specificity that can treat VZV, including strains that may be resistant to existing drugs," said medicinal chemist Chung (David) Chu, Distinguished Research Professor of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at UGA, one of the inventors of L-BHDA.

A collaboration between Chu and co-inventor Yung-Chi (Tommy) Cheng, the Henry Bronson Professor of Pharmacology at Yale, has resulted in an extensive portfolio of antiviral compounds that target such diseases as HIV, shingles, hepatitis and cancers.

Chu, who is head of the Drug Discovery Group in the UGA College of Pharmacy, said that although there are generic antiviral drugs to reduce the duration and pain of shingles, and a variety of pain medications and topical creams to relieve long-term pain, "They are only moderately effective.We need more effective anti-VZV agents.

"L-BHDA has the potential to be more effective than existing agents," said Chu. He noted that the new compound has been tested in the laboratory and demonstrated in mice models by a group of researchers headed by Jennifer Moffat, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, State University of New York Upstate Medical University.

A vaccine to prevent shingles, available to older adults since 2006, can cut the likelihood of a shingles attack in half. However, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, only a small percentage of older people receive the shot, principally because of cost, lack of insurance reimbursement and shortage of supply.

It is likely that immunization against chickenpox during childhood also protects against shingles, because the vaccine uses a weakened strain of the virus. However, the vaccine was only introduced in 1995, and there are not enough data to provide a definitive answer.

"Dr. Chu and Dr. Cheng have been working diligently to fill a much needed gap in the treatment options for such a prevalent disease," said Rachael Widener, UGARF technology licensing manager. "Before the chicken pox vaccine became widely used in the mid-1990s, older, unvaccinated individuals would have their immunity boosted naturally.

"Now, with less exposure to chicken pox, shingles is becoming more prevalent," said Widener. "This, combined with the aging baby boomer population, underscores the need for more directed treatment. We are hopeful that L-BHDA will allow patients to get well sooner and feel less pain, and will lessen their chances of complications."

Cambodian girl dies from bird flu: WHO

PHNOM PENH — A five-year-old Cambodian girl has become the fifth person to die from bird flu in the country this year, officials said on Thursday.

The child, from southeastern Prey Veng province, died on April 16, the health ministry and the World Health Organisation said in a joint statement. Tests confirmed she had contracted H5N1 avian influenza.

The girl is the 15th person in Cambodia known to have become infected with the H5N1 virus and the 13th to die from complications of the disease since 2003, according to the statement.

"Compared to last year, we have seen more H5N1 cases this year and children appear to be most vulnerable. I urge parents and guardians to keep children away from sick or dead poultry," said Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bun Heng.

All five of Cambodia's bird flu cases since January have been fatal. Four of the victims were children.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has killed 320 people worldwide since 2003, the statement said.

Dietary Supplements may be Risky for Health

According to a recent study, it has been revealed that the intake of dietary supplements is harmful for health and can have deteriorating results on the human body. It was revealed in the finding of Wen-Bin Chiou from National Sun Yat Sen University, that the use of dietery supplements can harm the body and also make you lethargic and prone to making wrong decisions.

When a person has had a dietary supplement, he/she would tend to eat an unhealthy diet after that. That is partially because of the feel good effect that the supplement tends to have on a person. It makes a person feel, he is doing enough for his health and it wouldn’t matter if he ate unhealthy food now.

Youngsters tend to cling on to dietary supplements in order to build their bodies and when they start going to the gym for extra energy. These drinks tend to act like boosters for their energy but they deteriorate the overall health of a person.

"After reviewing the literature of the prevalence of dietary supplement use, it seemed to show that use of dietary supplements is increasing, but it does not appear to be correlated with improved public health”, said Chiou.

No Link between Obesity and Depression

According to a recent study it has been revealed that teens that are obese are less likely to be depressed.

It was revealed in the report though, that while teenagers are more vulnerable to the effects that obesity brings along with itself. These were the results of a study conducted by the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy.

They have conducted this research to find out the relationship of adolescents with the effects of depressions that comes with being fat.

"People assume that all obese adolescents are unhappy and depressed; that the more obese a teen may be, the greater the impact on his or her mental health. Our findings suggest this assumption is false”, said Elizabeth Goodman, director of MGHfC and lead author of the study.

It means that there is no obvious relation between being fat and being depressed. It is just by chance if a person is both fat and depressed.

There are different kinds of teens who have grown up in different types of social satire and personal relationships.

There is no link between being obese and being depressed. The white teens are vulnerable to it due to other characteristics like their eating habits as well as the peer pressure that says that it is wrong to be fat.

Salman goes back in Bollywood time

Salman Khan's 'Ready' seems to have its own special answer to the item numbers that are in just about every movie these days. One of the highlights of 'Ready' is the song "Character Dheela" where Salman will be seen paying tribute to legendary actors Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dharamendra.

Insiders have been raving about "Character Dheela", which has more than one attraction to look forward to. For starters, the groovy number has a special guest appearance by Zarine Khan, who will be seen dancing with Salman.

The song will see Salman and Zarine playing different hit Hindi movie pairs of the past - the actors will be seen playing Shahzada Saleem and Anarkali (from 'Mughal-E-Azam') in one act. In another, Salman and Zarine will pay tribute to the showman Raj Kapoor and actress Nargis ('Shri 420') and they will also recreate the magic of Viru and Basanti (from 'Sholay') on screen.

The song has been choreographed by Mudassar Khan, who has previously choreographed Salman in the superhit 'Dabangg'.

Directed by Anees Bazmee, the film, which stars Asin oppsoite Salman, releases June 3.

Love turns him blind

Raghu (24), along with his friends, had gone to attend the wedding reception of his ex-girlfriend, Anusha, at Channapatna.

Anusha’s family members, who were against the relationship, repeatedly punched Raghu in the face damaging his eyes.

“We shifted him to Nimhans as he was critical,” said Kishore, Raghu’s friend.
Later he was shifted to Narayana Nethralaya. Dr K Bhujang Shetty, chairman of Narayana Nethralaya, said: “His right eye is completely damaged, but we may be able to restore vision in his left eye. However, this can be determined only after surgery.”

The surgery is expected to be conducted on Saturday.
A native of Mandya, Raghu was in a relationship with Anusha for the past four years. According to Kishore, the couple even got married in Dharmasthala in 2009.

However, Anusha’s family was against the marriage and had attacked Raghu even earlier. They even destroyed all evidence of their marriage.

Raghu shifted to Bangalore and started working as an instructor at a Girinagar gym. Anusha had called him for her wedding reception over phone.

New Walkman phone appears on Sony Ericsson's site

Sony Ericsson will launch a new 'Walkman' phone called the W8 that runs on Google's Android OS. The phone recently appeared on the Sony Ericsson website, though there has been no official statement to announce the launch.

The device will feature a 3" touch display and a 3.2 megapixel camera with micro-SD memory up-to 16GB. Although the device will run Android it is not clear which version will come loaded on the device.

This will be the first Android powered phone to sport Sony Ericsson's Walkman brand. 

Recently, Sony Ericsson launched the Xperia Play, which became the first PlayStation Certified phone. After the launch of the Xperia Play this might be an attempt to reignite the Walkman branded phones, which have taken a beating at the hands of the iPhone and other smartphones.
The device is expected to be released in India, China, Hong-Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam and will be available in azure, orange and red colors.

Exclusive: Apple iPad 2 Coming To India Next Week, Starts at Rs 27,900

Tired of being quoted Rs 60k for the iPad 2 in India? Well not for long!

We suspected! and a trusted source just confirms that the Apple iPad 2 is coming to India next week! It is expected to launch via Vijay Sales, Croma and Reliance iStores. Yesterday we heard Apple COO, Tim Cook talking about the success of the device and 13 more countries getting the iPad 2 in a weeks time, luckily India figures on the list.

Apple was criticized badly for delaying the launch of the iPad 1 in India (it launched in Jan 2011), but it seems that they are making up with the iPad 2. The pricing as we guessed yesterday would be the same as the iPad 1, starting at Rs 27900 for the 16GB WiFi version and going up to Rs 44,900 for the 64GB 3G+WiFi version. Stay tuned!

Video Surfaces Online Showcasing Different iOS Interface

A video appeared online Tuesday that shows never-before-seen features of the Apple iPhone iOS. The video was created by, a Vietnamese technology blog.

The clip, which can be seen below, demonstrates a new design for the iPhone that allows users to jump between apps currently running on the phone. When a user presses the home button twice, the screen zooms out to show a tiled view of currently running applications. A user can then switch to another app by pressing the desired tile.

It is unclear if the new interface is an early prototype, showcasing features that will make it into the next iPhone update, or if the designs were killed by Apple during the development of the iPhone 4, which was released last year.

Either way, the video is quickly making the rounds in the tech blogosphere, where most believe it showcases an authentic Apple design. Bloggers were also excited that the demonstration takes place on the highly coveted white iPhone 4. The white iPhone has been delayed for months because of discoloration problems with the phone’s exterior.

RINL mulls setting up steel plant in JV with Karnataka Govt

Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd is planning to set up a three million tonne capacity steel plant under joint venture with the Karnataka Government.

RINL, which runs the Vishakapatnam Steel Plant, a Navratna company, has been eying to utilise the existing facilities of Kudremukh Iron Ore Comany Ltd to set up the plant.

Under a Supreme Court order, which banned mining activity in the eco-sensitive western ghats region, Kudremukh plant was shut down about five years ago.

The investment in the proposed joint venture would be in the order of about Rs 15,000 crore, the company CMD, Mr Pradip Kumar Bishnoi, told reporters here today after launching its Rural Dealership Scheme in Karnataka.

KIOCL has some fine dumps of iron ore which it has not used and RINL is planning to utilise it.

Mr Bishnoi, however, clarified that his company was not looking at any mining activity in the Kudremukh area and would seek mining rights at a place to be granted by the State in the event of the project taking off.

He said that the company would be setting up a four million tonne capacity special products plant at its Vizag unit, investing about Rs 25,000 crore by 2015.

“The process of setting up of this plant has begun. Consultants have already been appointed. Report should be in place within two or three months,” he said.

He said that hitherto RINL had been producing long products and wanted to enter the area of manufacturing flat products like seamless tubes of large diameter 200 to 300 metres, used by oil field, gas distribution and boiler tube industry.

It would also be rolling out cold-rolled non-grain oriented and cold-rolled grain oriented products at the proposed plant, for which it was scouting for technical know-how.

The existing production capacity of 3 mt would be expanded to 6.3 mt by 2011-12 and in another two years to 7.3 mt.

Mr Bishnoi said the company also has plans to expand the production capacity to 20 mt by 2020-21.

To encourage rural distribution of steel, the company has appointed 125 dealers in rural areas and ten in Karnataka. The number of dealers in Karnataka would be ramped up to 200 in the near future.

Gold, silver scale new highs

Precious metals continued to rally with gold and silver scaling new peaks on speculative and investment buying, backed by the buoyancy in global markets.

The yellow metal touched Rs 22,000 for 10 gm on sustained jewellery buying for marriage season.

Silver also spurted to Rs 72,980 a kg.

Standard gold (99.5 purity) shot up by Rs 205 for 10 gm and closed at Rs 22,030. Pure gold (99.9 purity) rose by a similar margin to Rs 22,135.

Silver ready (.999 fineness) sky-rocked Rs 2,170 a kg to Rs 72,980.

Chennai: Bar silver: Rs 72,520; retail silver: Rs 77.60; standard gold: Rs 21,935; retail ornament gold (22 carat a gm): Rs 2,040.

Hyderabad: Standard gold (24 carat) for 10 gm: Rs 22,250; ornamental gold (22 carat) for 10 gm: Rs 21,710-21,810; silver (0.999) (a kg): Rs 73,000.

Kolkata: Silver ready: Rs 72,100; Gold ready: Rs 22,430.

Corporate, retail banking help boost Indian Bank's profit

Indian Bank continued its creditable performance during the year ended March 31, 2011 in all the key parameters. The directors have proposed a dividend of Rs. 7.50 per share of Rs. 10. It paid a dividend of Rs. 6.50 in the previous year.

Addressing presspersons here on Saturday, T. M. Bhasin, Chairman and Managing Director, said the bank registered a growth of 19.8 per cent in its operating profit at Rs. 3,292 crore against Rs. 2,747 crore in the previous year on a healthy growth in net interest income at Rs. 9,361 crore against Rs. 7,714 crore.

Total income improved by 16.8 per cent to Rs. 10,543 crore from Rs. 9,031 crore. Total expenditure, excluding provisions and contingencies, stood at Rs. 7,251.23 crore against Rs. 6,283.42 crore with interest expenditure accounting for Rs. 5,324.92 crore (Rs. 4,553.18 crore).

The bank has provided a sum Rs.92 crore towards transitional liability on a proportionate basis on employee benefits, Rs. 33.20 crore towards part of the additional gratuity fund requirement and a net sum of Rs. 153.06 crore towards additional pension fund liability.

After taking into account these provisions, the net profit has risen by 10.2 per cent to Rs. 1,714.07 crore from Rs.1,554.99 crore. Corporate banking and retail banking contributed significantly to the rise in net profit. Earnings per share improved to Rs. 38.79 from Rs. 35.09 and the book value to Rs. 184.44 from Rs. 156.66.

The overall business of the bank registered a growth of 20.3 per cent at Rs. 1,81,530 crore against Rs. 1,50,886 crore with deposits accounting for Rs. 1,05,804 crore (Rs. 88,228 crore) and advances Rs. 75,726 crore (Rs.62.568 crore), Mr. Bhasin said. Priority sector advances grew by 19.9 per cent to Rs. 25,.969 crore.

The net interest margin at 3.86 per cent (3.55 per cent), was the highest in the banking industry, Mr. Bhasin said.

The bank had made strenuous efforts to bring down non-performing assets and the ratio of net non-performing assets (NPA) to net advances stood at 0.53 per cent. During the year, total NPA recovery was Rs. 756.58 crore. The bank will continue its focus on recovery of NPAs and 2011-12 will be ‘the year of recovery', Mr. Bhasin said.

The capital adequacy ratio was comfortable at 13.56 per cent as per Basel II norms against 12.71 per cent in the year-ago period.

Financial inclusion

Under the financial inclusion plan 2010-12, the bank covered 1,010 villages as on March 31, 2011 and 1.53 lakh no-frill accounts were opened. Credit to MSME sector registered a growth of 15.8 per cent at Rs. 9.681 crore.

Under branch expansion, the bank opened 104 branches in India and a branch at Jaffna (Sri Lanka) taking the total to 1,860.

Pak Army Chief Says 'Terrorist Backbone Broken'

Islamabad  : Pakistani army has “broken” the backbone of terrorists and will soon prevail over them, its powerful chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said today in an apparent riposte to US concerns about his force’s capability to take on militants.

“The terrorist backbone has been broken and Inshaallah we will soon prevail,” Kayani said in his address at a passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Let me assure you that we in the Pakistan Army are fully aware of the internal and external threats to our country. In the war against terrorism, our officers and soldiers have made great sacrifices and have achieved tremendous success,” he said.

Kayani’s comments came three days after Admiral Mike Mullen, America’s top military official, warned that the ISI’s longstanding links with the Haqqani militant network are at the core of Pakistan’s strained and problematic relations with the United States.

Earlier this month, a White House report had noted that Pakistan’s fight against militancy was making little progress.

The report further said that Pakistan had “no clear path to defeating the insurgency ... despite the unprecedented and sustained deployment of over 147,000 forces”.

However, Kayani said in his address that the people of Pakistan “value their freedom and independence more than anything else and consider no sacrifice too great to preserve it.”

“It is therefore for the people of Pakistan to remain optimistic and keep the dream of a strong and prosperous Pakistan alive. We must never forget that we all owe it to our future generations. I have no doubt that all of us together can achieve it,” he said.

“People of Pakistan have the capacity and the will to do it, whatever the difficulties and challenges. Let us revive our promise once again to make Pakistan a strong country worthy of its name and aspiration of its people,” he said.

Kayani called on the cadets who passed out of the military academy to fulfil their responsibilities despite the grave dangers and difficulties they would face. PTI

Japan Plans Disaster Budget, Building 100k Homes

Tokyo:  Japan's government proposed a special $50 billion (4 trillion yen) budget to help finance reconstruction efforts Friday and plans to build 100,000 temporary homes for survivors of last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The twin disasters destroyed roads, ports, farms and homes and crippled a nuclear power plant that forced tens of thousands of more people to evacuate their houses for at least several months. The government said the damage could cost $309 billion, making it the world's most expensive natural disaster.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he was moved by his conversations with victims during a recent tour of shelters."I felt with renewed determination that we must do our best to get them back as soon as possible," he told reporters.

The extra $50 billion (4 trillion yen) the Cabinet approved is expected to be only the first installment of reconstruction funding. About $15 billion (1.2 trillion yen) will go to fixing roads and ports and more than $8.5 billion (700 billion yen) will go to build temporary homes and clearing rubble.

"This is the first step toward rebuilding Japan after the major disasters," Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said. Parliament is expected to approve the special budget next week.

More than 27,000 people are dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11. About 135,000 survivors are living in 2,500 shelters, and many others have moved into temporary housing or are staying with relatives.As part of the government's recovery plan, it will build 30,000 temporary homes by the end of May and another 70,000 after that, Kan said.

Japan already was mired in a 20-year economic slowdown, Kan said, and he hoped the disaster recovery effort would help lift Japan economically. He urged Japanese to spend money during the upcoming Golden Week holidays to help spur the economy.

"People are feeling that we all must do something, and that will turn into a big strength," he said. "And it will work to help the recovery, and we will overcome both crises."

Recovery efforts have been complicated by the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which lost its power and cooling systems in the earthquake and tsunami, triggering fires, explosions and radiation leaks in the world's second-worst nuclear accident.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which said it will take six to nine months to bring the plant under full control, has been heavily criticized for its handling of the crisis.

TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu was received harshly when he toured a shelter of 1,600 people in Koriyama."We're angry, angry, angry," one man shouted at him, according to television footage.

"How about you spend a month here?" another shouted."Take your nuclear energy back to Tokyo with you," a third said.Shimizu apologized to the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, an outspoken critic of the response by the government and company to the nuclear crisis.Sato bluntly told Shimizu the era of nuclear power plants in Fukushima had ended."No way. The resumption of nuclear power plants ... no way," he said.Meanwhile, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Kita Ibaraki, a port wrecked by the tsunami about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Tokyo.

The royal couple surveyed the damage along the waterfront, where blocks of concrete were jumbled by the huge waves. When told that a man died there, they showed their respects with a deep bow toward the sea. They also visited an evacuation center.

An extra 250 police were sent to man roadblocks with flashing "Off Limits" signs Friday to stop some of the 80,000 evacuees from sneaking back to homes inside the now-sealed 12-mile (20-kilometer) evacuation zone around the stricken plant.

Authorities planned to erect fences on side streets, said Fukushima police spokesman Yasunori Okazaki. The order that took effect Friday is meant to limit radiation exposure and theft in the mainly deserted zone.Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano appealed for residents of five areas with relatively high levels of radiation outside the sealed zone to prepare for evacuation within a month.But Norio Kanno, chief of Iitate, a village of 6,200, questioned whether everyone would be able to move in time."It is really vexing. Just one nuclear accident is destroying everything," he said.AP

Syrian Regime Seeking Iran's Help to Quell Protests: Obama

Washington : US President Barack Obama has condemned Syria’s “outrageous” use of violence against anti-government demonstrators, accusing the regime of seeking Iran’s aid to quell the rebellion.

“Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies,” Obama said in a statement.

Obama said the US continues to oppose Syrian government’s destabilising behaviour, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups.

“This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now. We regret the loss of life and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and with the Syrian people in this challenging time.  “The Syrian government’s moves yesterday to repeal Syria’s decades-old Emergency Law and allow for peaceful demonstrations were not serious given the continued violent repression against protesters today,” he said.

Obama said over the course of two months since protests in Syria began, America has repeatedly encouraged Assad and the Syrian government to implement meaningful reforms, but they “refuse to respect the rights of the Syrian people or be responsive to their aspirations.” “The Syrian people have called for the freedoms that all individuals around the world should enjoy: freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the ability to freely choose their leaders. President Assad and the Syrian authorities have repeatedly rejected their calls and chosen the path of repression,” he said.

The US President said the Syrian regime had placed their personal interests “ahead of the interests of the Syrian people”, resorting to the use of force and “outrageous human rights abuses” to compound the already-oppressive security measures in place before the demonstrations erupted.  Obama’s comments came after activists and rights groups said Syrian government forces killed at least 72 people when they opened fire on demonstrators, seeking to disperse thousands who took to the streets for “Good Friday” rotests.PTI

PM, Gen Kayani In Back Channel Talks : Sunday Times Report

London : Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has opened secret talks with Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to build on the diplomatic headway made during the PM’s meeting with his counterpart during the cricket match in Mohali last month, the Times newspaper of London reported today.

The daily reported that Singh “appointed an unofficial envoy to make contact with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani about 10 months ago”. The Pakistan Army chief is known to have de facto control over Pakistani foreign policy.

The talks, conducted via a “back channel,” says the Times, has “encouraged” Washington and London which are keen to see a resolution of the two neighbours’ rivalry in Afghanistan through a bilateral peace process.

Kayani visited Kabul this week to hold talks with members of Afghan President’s High Peace Council and build contacts with Taliban groups. He was accompanied by ISI’s head, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha.

New Delhi’s silence over the visit, the Times said, which in the past would have drawn accusations of meddling, is proof that the meeting between prime ministers Singh and Gilani at the World Cup semi-final on March 30 has brought about a thaw.

This reported contact with Kayani comes after repeated feelers from Washington, London and other Western interlocutors to establish a channel of conversation with the Pakistan Army.

Even Pasha had indicated to Indian military attaches that he would like to meet his counterpart in a third country to discuss the entire gamut of security issues after 26/11. However, India had desisted such overtures on the assessment that such an interaction could undermine civilian authority in Pakistan.

Despite a strong view within the government that there was a need to engage Kayani just like every other power is doing, the considered decision was always to hold back.But going by the report, there has been a review of this position to the extent that it would help reopen the conversation between India and Pakistan with the backing of some vital security assurances by the Pakistan Army.

The PMO declined to comment and the Ministry of External Affairs was not available for a response tonight suggesting that Indian officials did take up the advice of their Western interlocutors. This, if accurate, may help add more durability to the renewed peace effort initiated between the two PMs at Thimphu last year and recently emphasised at Mohali.

Police, GRP Bash Up Mentally Unstable Youth In Jhansi

Jhansi : In a barbaric act, the GRP and RPF personnel posted at Jhani railway station on Saturday thrashed a mentally unstable youth in an inhuman manner, reports india TV correspondent Sushil chaube.

earlier, the mentally unstable youth had a fracas with some railway staff and he broke some window panes, railway sources said. The youth was then  tied up and kept in a room, but he somehow managed to break free.

The youth then proceeded to smash up several computers at the railway enquiry counter, station manager Ram Dev  said.

It was then the Government railway police and the Railway Protection Force staff got into their act.

They tied up the youth, stuffed cloth inside his mouth so that his shouts could not be heard, and four to five policemen  bashed the lying youth on his face and body with their boots, even as blood was oozing out of his mouth.

Normally, a tranquiliser injection is given to mentally unstable people to control them, but the policemen resorted to third-degree torture.

All this was done in the presence of senior Railway officials at the Jhansi railway station

Doctors posted at the station refused to touch the injured youth. The policemen then  loaded the injured youth in an ambulance and dumped him at the Jhansi  Medical College hospital.

Dinesh Singh, commanding officer of the Government railway police said, his men had to use force to control the mentally unstable youth.

Bhatt Had Gone To Modi's Residence, Says His Driver

Ahmedabad : The driver of IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court implicating Narendra Modi in the post-Godhra riots, today said Bhatt had gone to the residence of the chief minister on February 27, 2002 when the meeting of the officials was held.

Incidentally, K Chakrabarthi, the Gujarat’s Director General of Police (DGP) at the time of post-Godhra riots, has said that Bhatt was “not present” in the meeting with the chief minister held on February 27, 2002.

“It was the car of DGP or Additional DGP, when sir (Bhatt) stepped out from our car and sat in that car. K D Pant was standing there with files. Sir, by waiving hand towards him, said something (which) I couldn’t understand so I asked Pant where we have to go, he (Pant) told me to follow the car,” Tarachand Yadav, driver of Sanjeev Bhatt said.

“Our car was empty and ahead of it there were four or five vehicles and I started following those cars. On following the car we reached the Chief Minister’s house. It was around 10:30 a.m or 10:45 a.m. Sir stayed there for around 25 to 30 minutes,” Yadav said.

Bhatt has filed an affidavit in Supreme Court in connection with the Zakia Jaffery case alleging complicity on part of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 communal clashes.

Bhatt stated in his affidavit that the chief minister in the meeting held on February 27, 2002 expressed that “Hindus be allowed to vent out their anger”.  Bhatt had been extensively questioned by the SIT headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan for three days on March 21, 22 and 23 this year, in connection with the complaint of Zakia Jaffery, wife of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jaffery.

Zakia, in her complaint, has alleged that Modi and 62 others, including his cabinet colleagues, police officials and senior bureaucrats aided and abetted the riots which left over 1,000 people dead across the state.

She had further alleged that between February and May 2002 there was a “deliberate and intentional failure” of the state government to protect the life and property of innocents.

Bhatt, a 1988 batch IPS officer was posted as DCP at the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) during the 2002 riots. He is presently posted as the principal of the State Reserve Police (SRP) training centre in Junagadh district. PTI

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