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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Education in WB: Somnath Questions PM's Statement

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today questioned Prime minister Manmohan Singh's statement about 'deterioration' of the standard of education in Bengal, and said the literacy rate was higher than that of the national average.

The expelled CPI(M) leader, who hit the campaign trail for his erstwhile party this evening at Ballygunge, said "I have good relations with the Prime minister. I respect him. But I am hurt and surprised at his comment on education in the state."

He said the recent census report mentioned that national average of literacy rate was 74 per cent, while that of West Bengal was 77.08 per cent.

"In women's education, the national average is 65.5 per cent, but in West Bengal it is 71.16 per cent," he said.

Chatterjee said if the standard of education was poor in the state, "I wonder how these figures were achieved?"

Chatterjee also said that law and order was definitely good in West Bengal otherwise why should people from other states come there. "There is no anarchy."

He said that high rate of population in West Bengal was an indicator that peace prevailed in the state.

The Prime minister at his Dum Dum joint election rally with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said that the literacy rate in smaller states like Manipur and Nagaland was higher than West Bengal.
curtsy-Outlookindia

“Multi-faith” complex mooted in Ayodhya

Speakers at a seminar here on “Living in Harmony: towards resolution of the Ayodhya issue” voiced diverse views with some suggesting building a “multi-faith” complex at the disputed site, while others drawing attention to the need to address the “politics” behind the Babri Masjid demolition and the failure of the justice system to hold those responsible accountable.
Lord Meghnad Desai said no community or religion could claim “exclusive” ownership of the disputed land. “The time has come not to dwell in the past and on who possess the land or where the original birthplace of Lord Ram is. The time has come to look towards the future … .”
Proposing that a multi-faith complex be built at the site, Lord Desai said: “In this complex the variety of faiths that India has can be displayed and it will be a monument of multi-faith … Let the site be a tribute to India's multi-faith democracy.”
“Complicated issue”
Bar Association of India president Anil Divan highlighted the country's rich traditions and the secular past. He traced the timeline from pre-1886 till date and the events that occurred till the demolition in 1992. Pointing out that the decision now rested with the Supreme Court and could go either way, he said: “The issue is very complicated and any conclusion can be justified by reasons. What the Supreme Court decides lies buried in the future … .”
Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ram said while the Allahabad High Court's decision was perceived to have had a calming effect, there was a need to reason it through. He pointed out that there was a very strong view that the judgment did not give much respect to the law or reason.
“The calming effect has been appreciated, but what bothers us is the content of the judgment and the method through which they arrived at the solution to the long-standing and long-festering problem. The judgment has many flaws from an intellectual standpoint: for example the judiciary clearly disregards that political nature of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and that is shocking,” said Mr. Ram.
The judgment should have explored the political narrative and it was criticised for failing to take note of that. Pointing out that the case would be debated and decided at length even in the Supreme Court, as and when it reached the court, Mr. Ram said the time should be used wisely to set the house in order.
“Analyse verdict”
Noted lawyer and political analyst A.G. Noorani also called the issues “political” rather than “legal” and said “we must refrain from ‘intellectual escapism'.” The objective of the Ayodhya movement was to recast the polity as envisaged by the RSS and the BJP. He regretted that till date not one judgment had done justice and the recent judgment should be analysed by a group of lawyers and historians.
“Before the Supreme Court decides the matter, let the results [of the analysis] be put before the people. In my opinion it is not a Muslim issue, it is a national issue,” he said.
Nayiduniya Editor Alok Mehta sought more accounts of the time and the events that led up to the event. He said that on the lines of the WikiLeaks, India too should strive to unearth important information about the politics and the politicians. “Narasimha Rao had told me that he is writing something that will contain a lot of information, none of those records is available. Records need to be unearthed.”
The former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tarlochan Singh, said the fact that there was no disturbance after the judgment was passed was an indication that people were ready for an amicable solution and it was imperative now to seek out suggestions and move forward.
The former Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, traced the events that led to the opening of the locks in 1986 when the gates were opened by a court order. He recalled his stint with the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and how the court's order was seen as a move to placate the Hindus and under pressure from the State government of the time.
The seminar was organised by India Harmony Foundation. 
curtsy-The Hindu

Two U.S. service members killed in Iraq

Baghdad (CNN) -- Two U.S. service members were killed Friday during operations in southern Iraq, the U.S. military said Saturday.
The military is withholding the names of the two until next of kin have been notified. There were no details on how and precisely where the incident occurred.
The number of service members to die in Iraq this year now stands at 20.
Although the U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially ended last year, around 47,000 troops are expected to remain in the country until the end of the year to train, assist and advise their Iraqi counterparts.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that Iraqi officials have not asked the Obama administration to push back the withdrawal deadline.
Any discussion about a change in the timetable would be considered, he indicated, but would need to begin soon.

Brains of Buddhist monks scanned in meditation study

The study peers into brains of monks


In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing Tibetan Buddhist monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of meditation.  



But could this unusual research not only unravel the secrets of leading a harmonious life but also shed light on some of the world's more mysterious diseases?
Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and adjunct professor at New York University, says he has been peering into the brains of monks while they meditate in an attempt to understand how their brains reorganise themselves during the exercise.
Since 2008, the researcher has been placing the minds and bodies of prominent Buddhist figures into a five-tonne (5,000kg) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.
The scanner tracks blood flow within the monks' heads as they meditate inside its clunky walls, which echoes a musical rhythm when the machine is operating.
Dr Josipovic, who also moonlights as a Buddhist monk, says he is hoping to find how some meditators achieve a state of "nonduality" or "oneness" with the world, a unifying consciousness between a person and their environment.
Zoran Josipovic looking at brain scans on a computer The study specifically looks at the default network in the brain, which controls self-reflective thoughts
"One thing that meditation does for those who practise it a lot is that it cultivates attentional skills," Dr Josipovic says, adding that those harnessed skills can help lead to a more tranquil and happier way of being.
"Meditation research, particularly in the last 10 years or so, has shown to be very promising because it points to an ability of the brain to change and optimise in a way we didn't know previously was possible."
When one relaxes into a state of oneness, the neural networks in experienced practitioners change as they lower the psychological wall between themselves and their environments, Dr Josipovic says.
And this reorganisation in the brain may lead to what some meditators claim to be a deep harmony between themselves and their surroundings.
Shifting attention Dr Josipovic's research is part of a larger effort better to understand what scientists have dubbed the default network in the brain.
He says the brain appears to be organised into two networks: the extrinsic network and the intrinsic, or default, network.
Zoran Josipovic prepares a Buddhist monk for a brain scan in an fMRI machine Dr Josipovic has scanned the brains of more than 20 experienced meditators during the study
The extrinsic portion of the brain becomes active when individuals are focused on external tasks, like playing sports or pouring a cup of coffee.
The default network churns when people reflect on matters that involve themselves and their emotions.
But the networks are rarely fully active at the same time. And like a seesaw, when one rises, the other one dips down.
This neural set-up allows individuals to concentrate more easily on one task at any given time, without being consumed by distractions like daydreaming.
"What we're trying to do is basically track the changes in the networks in the brain as the person shifts between these modes of attention," Dr Josipovic says.
Dr Josipovic has found that some Buddhist monks and other experienced meditators have the ability to keep both neural networks active at the same time during meditation - that is to say, they have found a way to lift both sides of the seesaw simultaneously.
And Dr Josipovic believes this ability to churn both the internal and external networks in the brain concurrently may lead the monks to experience a harmonious feeling of oneness with their environment.
Self-reflection Scientists previously believed the self-reflective, default network in the brain was simply one that was active when a person had no task on which to focus their attention.
But researchers have found in the past decade that this section of the brain swells with activity when the subject thinks about the self.
The default network came to light in 2001 when Dr Marcus Raichle, a neurologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in the US state of Missouri, began scanning the brains of individuals who were not given tasks to perform.
The patients quickly became bored, and Dr Raichle noticed a second network, that had previously gone unnoticed, danced with activity. But the researcher was unclear why this activity was occurring.
Other scientists were quick to suggest that Dr Raichle's subjects could have actually been thinking about themselves.

Start Quote

It's a major and understudied network in the brain that seems to be very involved in a lot of neurological disorders, including autism and Alzheimer's”
End Quote Cindy Lustig University of Michigan, associate professor of neuroscience
Soon other neuroscientists, who conducted studies using movies to stimulate the brain, found that when there was a lull of activity in a film, the default network began to flash - signalling that research subjects may have begun to think about themselves out of boredom.
But Dr Raichle says the default network is important for more than just thinking about what one had for dinner last night.
"Researchers have wrestled with this idea of how we know we are who we are. The default mode network says something about how that might have come to be," he says.
And Dr Raichle adds that those studying the default network may also help in uncovering the secrets surrounding some psychological disorders, like depression, autism and even Alzheimer's disease.
"If you look at Alzheimer's Disease, and you look at whether it attacks a particular part of the brain, what's amazing is that it actually attacks the default mode network," says Dr Raichle, adding that intrinsic network research, like Dr Josipovic's, could assist in explaining why that is.
Cindy Lustig, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, agrees.
"It's a major and understudied network in the brain that seems to be very involved in a lot of neurological disorders, including autism and Alzheimer's, and understanding how that network interacts with the task-oriented [extrinsic] network is important," she says. "It is sort of the other piece of the puzzle that's been ignored for too long."
Dr Josipovic has scanned the brains of more than 20 experienced meditators, both monks and nuns who primarily study the Tibetan Buddhist style of meditation, to better understand this mysterious network.
He says his research, which will soon be published, will for the moment continue to concentrate on explaining the neurological implications of oneness and tranquillity - though improving understanding of autism or Alzheimer's along the way would certainly be quite a bonus.


CURTSY-BBC







Charges of use of black money by Trinamool through illegal bank transactions

After making complaints against Trinamool Congress’s “coupon scam” the CPI(M) has gone with fresh charges to the Election Commission of the use of black money by the Trinamool in West Bengal elections allegedly through illegal bank transactions worth Rs 1.23 crores. The complaint, signed by the CPI(M) State secretary and chairman of the Left Front Biman Basu, has drawn Deputy Election Commissioner V Zutshi’s attention to how Debapriya De Sarkar, Trinamool activist deposited cash worth Rs 1.23 crores in a nationalized bank in Kolkata for favouring bank drafts to a particular company. De Sarkar is reported to be close associate of Trinamool national general secretary Mukul Roy, also Union Minister.
According to EC guidelines accepted at an all-party meeting getting drafts against cash worth more than Rs 1 lakh required Permanent Account Number (PAN) and other formalities. In this case all the formalities were ignored and against Rs.1.23 crores three separate drafts were issued.
The CPI(M) polit bureau member Sitaram Yechuri has already made complaints to the CEC about the methods allegedly being adopted to use of black money by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.
curtsy-Ganashakti 

American radical

The trials of Jewish-American political scientist Norman Finkelstein.

"Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. And it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians."

Norman Finkelstein
American Radical is the probing, definitive documentary about Jewish-American political scientist Norman Finkelstein.

A devoted son of holocaust survivors, an ardent critic of Israel and US Middle East policy, Finkelstein has been steadfast at the centre of many intractable controversies, including his denial of tenure at DePaul University.

"You don't know who Norman Finkelstein is. He's poison, he's a disgusting self-hating Jew."

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor, The New Republic
Called a lunatic and self-hating Jew by some and an inspirational street-fighting revolutionary by others, Finkelstein is a deeply polarising figure. 
"Norman is a very careful scholar. And he feels very passionately about the Holocaust. His parents are both survivors of extermination camps and he was deeply involved in their lives and the tragedies and so on. [He] knows everything about the Holocaust. And when he sees somebody using it, exploiting it, demeaning the memory of the victims for personal gain, he doesn't like it. I can understand that."

Noam Chomsky, friend and professor of linguistics, MIT
From Beirut to Kyoto, the filmmakers follow Finkelstein around the world as he attempts to negotiate a voice among both supporters and critics.
"If he were not a Jew - that is, I don't think he is a Jew. As someone once put it 'he's only Jewish on his parents side". If he were not a Jewish person or a person of Jewish heritage with a name like Finkelstein, nobody would have any doubt that he was an anti-Semite."

Alan Dershowitz, author 'The Case for Israel'

curtsy Al Jazeera

French president Sarkozy to visit Libya, as rebels gain strength

Against the backdrop of American drone attacks on Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France announced plans to travel to Benghazi to meet the country’s opposition, reported Agence-France Presse.

Mr. Sarkozy agreed to meet with the Transitional National Council sometime next week, a top presidential aide said in Paris.

On Friday, US Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, visited Benghazi, the center of the uprising, as a show of support for insurgents trying to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi. He urged his government to recognize the rebel council as the country’s government and provide financial assistance and more military aid to the insurgents.
Despite sanctions placed against Libya by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, Mr. Qaddafi’s forces are said to be receiving funds from oil sales, according to various reports.

Mr. Sarkozy is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy next week to discuss ways to free up Libyan finances so that the country’s opposition can have access to funds, the aide said.

It is estimated that around $120 billion of Mr. Qaddafi’s government assets have been frozen worldwide. Libya has a population of fewer than 6.5 million and its GDP per capita for 2010 was $14,884.

Analysts have been speculating on the outcome of the crisis in Libya. Some believed that the situation was headed for a split in territories controlled by pro and anti-Qaddafi forces but Saturday’s drone attacks by US forces seems to have tilted the balance of power toward the rebels.

According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon said the drone strike targeted Mr. Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli but there were no reported casualties.

On Saturday, opposition forces claimed victory after officials in Misrata decided to pull back their forces, AP reported.

According to a rebel activist in Misrata, the local tribes’ support to Mr. Qaddafi is now in question. He told AP “this whole move is just to buy time,” he said and added that he expected further attacks by forces still loyal to Colonel Qaddafi.

(Dina Al Shibeeb of Al Arabiya

The West is to blame for regional unrest, Ahmadinejad says

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the West for unrest bubbling throughout the Middle East and North Africa in a speech Monday on Iran's National Army Day.
"They are trying to foment discord in the region. They are trying to cause destruction and provoke wars between nations and governments in order to sell their weapons," Ahmadinejad said in a speech translated into English by state-run Press TV. "They are seeking destruction and a reinforcement of their evil dominance in the region."
The Iranian president's accusations come as NATO planes are enforcing a U.N.-approved no-fly zone over Libya and also are launching airstrikes on Libyan government troops as opposition forces battle them.
Ahmadinejad also warned of what he said are Western efforts to trigger sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni Muslims, while calling for cooperation between nations in the region.
Unrest has spread across parts of the Middle East and North Africa since January when popular uprisings began in Tunisia and Egypt, which eventually unseated the governments there. The political unease has spread in varying degrees to more than a dozen other nations.
curtsy-CNN

Eight rebels killed in attack on Libyan oil pumping station

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Loyalists to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi killed eight rebel fighters in a rare attack earlier this week in an opposition-held region near the Egyptian border, a medical official and an opposition spokesman told CNN Saturday.
The regime loyalists, riding in a convoy of nine vehicles, attacked an oil pumping station in the Libyan desert on Thursday, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Tobruk, said Dr. Rida Benfayed, a physician who claimed he treated a rebel fighter injured in the attack.
Tobruk is a rebel stronghold one hour east of the Egyptian border, and site of a key oil exporting facility where the rebels shipped out their first consignment of oil earlier this month.
Benfayed said the gunmen opened fire on a team of nine rebel military guards manning the pumping station. The regime loyalists set a tire on fire to burn the remains of a senior rebel guard, the doctor said.
Explain it to me: Mideast/African unrest
Yemen's president agrees to step down
The only guard who survived was shot twice in the leg but managed to escape and drive himself to Tobruk where he's in stable condition at a hospital.
Opposition spokesman Ahmed Bani confirmed the attack, which showed the regime's capability to strike deep into rebel territory with ambush-style attacks.
"He (Gadhafi) doesn't want us to sell the oil," Bani said. "This is a lesson for us. We will take measures to increase security along the pipelines."
Bani said the pumping station sustained damage in the attack, though the extent wasn't immediately clear.
curtsy-CNN

Zimbabwean's political parties agree on election road map

All parties agree on new poll 

Zimbabwean's main political parties have agreed on an election road map - which President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF have been trying to resist - but are still deadlocked over some critical issues which now require the intervention of South African President Jacob Zuma.










However, threats to the negotiations still linger as the parties haggle over some critical issues, among them recruitment of staff for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the role of state security forces and elections, the structure and regulation of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), political violence and poll monitors.
A document, titled Road Map to Zimbabwe's Elections, exclusively seen by the Sunday Times, reveals that negotiators from Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC-N have largely agreed to a framework for free and fair elections, the timing of which is still a hotly contested issue.
On Thursday, the negotiators, Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche of Zanu-PF, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T and Moses Mzila Ndlovu and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of MDC-N, agreed on the road map and signed a document to be forwarded to Zuma after the Easter holidays. On April 8, the negotiators completed the review of the Global Political Agreement and the Government of National Unity before sending a report to Zuma.
Zuma's facilitation team of Charles Nqakula, Mac Maharaj and Lindiwe Zulu is expected to meet the Zimbabwean negotiators in Cape Town on May 6 and 7 to evaluate progress and resolve outstanding issues.
The Zimbabweans agreed on the issue of sanctions, constitution-making process, media reforms, electoral reforms, restoration of the rule of law, freedom of association and of assembly and the actual election process. They also agreed that these issues must be addressed and implemented to create conditions for genuine and credible elections.
However, the negotiators were deadlocked on the staffing of the ZEC, the role of the army, police and intelligence in electoral politics and elections, deployment of security forces countrywide ahead of elections, political violence and how the CIO should be controlled and regulated.
They also disagreed on further amendments to the draconian Public Order and Security Act - widely used to ban rallies and meetings of Mugabe's rivals and critics - and on the role of Southern African Development Community (SADC) monitors in the elections.
On Friday Chinamasa said Zanu-PF was not aware of state-sponsored political violence and deployment of the security forces to campaign for Mugabe and the party. He claimed that only retired soldiers were working for Zanu-PF.
In 2002, a senior army commander, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, was deployed to campaign for Mugabe amid claims he had resigned. Nyikayaramba is still in the army. A top Air Force of Zimbabwe commander, Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena, recently "retired" to spearhead the Zanu-PF election campaign.
Muchena is working with former CIO director-internal Sydney Nyanhongo and other security agents. It has also been established that battalions of serving troops are illegally campaigning for Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
The negotiators met five times this month after the SADC's watershed summit on politics, defence and security in Livingstone, Zambia, on March 31.
The summit's hard-hitting resolutions shocked Mugabe and Zanu-PF officials. Mugabe and his die-hard supporters reacted angrily to the summit communiqué and lashed out at Zuma, resulting in a diplomatic row in the region.
Although Mugabe and his loyalists have apologised for the attack on regional leaders, particularly Zuma, and embarked on a region-wide damage-limitation exercise to avoid diplomatic isolation and a political squeeze, the issue may yet explode at the forthcoming SADC extraordinary summit on May 20 in Windhoek, Namibia.
Mugabe is likely to face a hostile reception and to come up against the increasingly impatient SADC leaders, now determined to confront him over his failure to fully implement the GPA and the smooth running of the GNU.
quote SA president's facilitation team has scheduled a meeting with Zimbabweans in Cape Town quote

curtsy-Timeslive



 

85.32 per cent turnout in West Bengal II phase polls

The second phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections — in Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts — passed off peacefully on Saturday, except for minor disturbances. The voter turnout exceeded 85 per cent.
The fate of 293 candidates contesting from 50 constituencies is at stake in this phase, held in a region that includes areas where violent turf wars have raged involving the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamool Congress.
The first phase of the elections in six northern districts of the State was held on April 18.
In this phase, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested in all 50 seats, the CPI(M) contested in 31, the Trinamool Congress in 29 and the Congress in 21 seats.
With 49 Independents contesting these elections — several dissident Congress leaders are contesting against official nominees of the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance — it remains to be seen whether they are able to cause a split in the anti-Left vote and offer the Left Front an advantage.
Adhir Choudhury and Shankar Singh, district committee presidents of the Congress in Murshidabad and Nadia, have openly extended support to candidates who are contesting as Independents against Trinamool Congress nominees.
While Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development Anisur Rahman was pitched against Soumik Hossain, son of Congress MP Abdul Mannan Hossain, in Domkal in Murshidabad, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's son, Abhijit Mukherjee made his election debut from Nalhati in Birbhum, a constituency that has voted the Left in since 1967.
Rukbanur Rahman, brother of Rizwanur Rahman, the computer graphics teacher whose death in unnatural circumstances in 2007 created a stir, also contested from Chapra in Nadia.
“The polling in the second phase was conducted smoothly and peacefully with no major law and order incident,” Sunil Gupta, the State's Chief Electoral Officer, told journalists here.
Of the 11,532 polling stations across the three districts, a poll boycott was observed by the residents of 12 polling booths, he said.
“We had some information about the intention to boycott the polls in some areas and sent in officials to try and convince people to come out and vote. We are pleased that in two areas in Birbhum district, though a poll boycott was announced people eventually came out and voted,” Mr. Gupta said.
He added that in most places the boycott was called over local development issues. 
curtsy-PTI and The Hindu

Saleh to step down?

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen has reportedly agreed to step down in 30 days as part of an agreement brokered by Gulf nations, a presidential aide was quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal.

The aide, Tariq Shami, was quoted as saying, "Though President Saleh has constitutional rights to stay in power, he is willing to leave office willingly."
According to the report, Mr. Saleh will relinquish power after 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself and close relatives and aides.

The opposition has yet to react to this offer.
If the offer is accepted, this would end the president’s 32-year-rule which has been marred by nearly three months of violent protests nationwide.

Although Mr. Saleh remained defiant in speeches on Friday, vowing to complete his term until 2013, backdoor diplomacy by Gulf states--worried at the possible gains made by Al-Qaeda network in Yemen--was able to convince Mr. Saleh that he would be accorded a dignified exit, reported the paper’s website.

Analysts will now eagerly await the opposition’s reaction to this deal as various groups are divided on the controversial clause of the president and his aides receiving any form of immunity from prosecution. While some have agreed to President Saleh handing over power to the vice-president in 30 days and his son and nephew, who hold key positions in the military and national security, handing over their posts within 60 days, it is the youth movement that remains adamant in their stance.

"We the youth of revolution reject any proposal that does not hold Saleh accountable for the killing of more than 140 revolutionary protesters during the street demonstrations this year,” said a statement released by the students' organizing committee.

Members of opposition groups understand they need students’ support.

“This is a major issue to them and the opposition will not accept any proposal until it reaches grounds of understanding with the youth protesters," Mohammed Qahtan spokesperson for the opposition Joint Meeting Parties, the umbrella group of opposition political parties told the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, Yemenis boarded up their shops and businesses across the country in protest against the president’s rule.

According to a Reuters witness, up to 90 percent of shops, markets and schools were closed in the southern port city of Aden. There were few pedestrians in the streets and hardly any traffic.

Many businesses were also closed for the day in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city and an epicenter of opposition to the 69-year-old-president, and Hodeida on the Red Sea.
Yemenis flooded the streets of Sana’a and Taiz on Friday in rival demonstrations for and against Mr. Saleh, who offered guarded approval to a Gulf Arab plan for a three-month transition of power.

The proposal of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) calls for Mr. Saleh to hand power to his vice president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, one month after signing an agreement.

He would appoint an opposition leader to lead an interim cabinet charged with preparing presidential elections two months later, a Yemeni official said on Friday.

The plan, presented on Thursday, also gives immunity from prosecution to Mr. Saleh, his family and aides—anathema to his foes, who would also have to end protests under the proposal.

“We stress that we will hold on to the constitutional legitimacy, in loyalty to our people, as we categorically reject the attempted coups on freedom, democracy, and political pluralism,” Mr. Saleh told regime supporters in Sana’a.

In a cool reaction to a Gulf plan for him to step down within 30 days, Mr. Saleh said he welcomed the initiative but only “within the framework of the constitution,” signaling he could try to serve out his term until 2013.

As on past Fridays, a huge rival rally by anti-regime protesters kept up the pressure for Mr. Saleh’s immediate departure on what they branded a “Last Chance Friday.”

A correspondent of Agence-France Presse said the gathering covered a four-kilometer stretch, in what appeared to be the largest anti-Saleh rally since protests erupted in late January.

Yemeni army and police were deployed in force to prevent clashes between the two camps.

Parliamentary opposition groups are still studying the GCC plan, but the spokesman of the Common Forum coalition said that “forming a national unity government while the president is still in office is not accepted.”

“The president’s departure is essential to any solution,” he told AFP.

Many protesters on the streets on Friday dismissed the proposal out of hand.

“Neighboring countries: no negotiations, no dialogue,” read posters carried by demonstrators.

Mr. Saleh has since January faced anti-regime protests calling for his ouster in which more than 130 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and rival demonstrators.

Meanwhile al-Qaeda militants and tribesmen gunned down 13 soldiers in separate attacks in the eastern Marib province.

Another soldier was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the restive southern province of Abyan.

Mr. Saleh’s long-time Gulf and Western allies, concerned that the chaos in Yemen will open more opportunities for ambitious al-Qaeda militants, are trying to broker an orderly transition to the president’s 32-year rule.

(Muna Khan of Al Arabiya

The Flow of Black Money in West Bengal Elections

Kolkata: April 23, 2011, As West Bengal is passing through one of its toughest battles in the political arena, with all sorts of forces from extreme Left- Centre- Extreme Right aligning to defeat the Left, the issue of huge influx of black money (read corporate entry) has become a prominent one in the state. Thanks to the people of this state who have responded positively to this issue. This is remarkable given the fact that efforts are on by some neo-liberal sections to legitimise bribe-giving, as highlighted in an article written by P Sainath in The Hindu recently. The people of Bengal rightly recognise that this foremost issue is also connected to their livelihoods.
Unlike in any previous election in the state, the present assembly polls are witnessing rampant use of money power. As sections of print and electronic media have pointed out this rampant flow of black money is taking place with the Corporate houses backing the TMC. The revelations made regarding the burning of fraud receipts by Trinamool Congress have thoroughly exposed the massive inflow of such money. In constituencies that went to polls in the first and second phases there are reports of allurements offered by Trinamool that ranged from umbrellas, cash , CD players to Colour television sets. This is apart from the massive flow and distribution of free liquor in targeted colonies along with hard cash. The widespread use of helicopter services by Trinamool leaders is also an expression of this. No surprise that even US imperialism has set its eyes on the election to ensure that the agenda of neo liberalism is carried on unhindered in the Indian nation state with the removal of Left Front government from one of the foremost outposts of the struggle against the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
After all where does this money comes from?
Gautam Deb, one of the ministers in the West Bengal, has recently made a scathing attack on the Trinamool and some of the sources from where this black money is pouring in. There is another source which has relatively not been underlined and in fact underestimated its strength. I am talking about the person who was caught with Rs 57 lakh in cash while travelling from Delhi to Assam in a chartered aircraft. Somehow he was let off by the concerned authorities though a complaint has been made with the Election Commission as well. He also happens to be the owner of Alchemist company and his name is Kanwar Deep Singh i.e. K D Singh. What is his relation with Bengal election? Apart from having business interests in the region, he is the one who hails from Punjab became and independent Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand. How? It does not require any description – he bought votes. And now is a member of Trinamool Congress. This KD Singh not only is one amongst the largest sources of funding and providing black money in the elections, he also has a dubious history and methodology of creating this money bypassing the law of the land and cheating the people.
I have a case to the point that connects his to my state of Himachal Pradesh as well. The state of Himachal Pradesh has a peculiar qualification in the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act. Accordingly, non-agriculturist, even if one is from Himachal what to talk about non-Himachalis, cannot purchase land in the state. But K D Singh wanting to expand his business interests entered into an agreement with the management of a prestigious school named Himalayan International School’ (HIS), Charabra just 7 kilometers from Shimla that he will buy the school and the 30 bighas landed property along with it for a sum of Rs 12 crore. However it is not admissible under the provisions of law. Then a dummy agriculturist in the garb of a buyer was created and a sale deed was registered  for Rs 6 crore only the rest amount given in Black. This money was paid from the account of Alchemist/KD Singh. Immediately thereafter, the school management was changed with a congruency of Alchemist management taking over. The first task it performed was to shut the school down and ask the parents to withdraw their children and the staff and the teachers were asked to resign as the school was now to be re-designed into a hospitality department i.e a multi star hotel.
However with the intervention of the parents and the people of Himachal Pradesh, the High Court was knocked and it is with such an intervention that stayed the evil intentions of the TMC Member of Parliament. The civil writ petition in High Court has asked for snatching the aforesaid property from KD Singh and vesting it with the state of HP as the deal has taken place in contravention to the provisions of the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act.
The move has thoroughly exposed the sinister designs of the TMC MP and it is this exactly what best the TMC can offer to the people of West Bengal with such high profile’ tainted people in its coterie of bandwagon.
Tikender Singh Panwar for INN

Libya: another neocon war

Liberal supporters of this 'humanitarian intervention' have merely become useful idiots of the same old nefarious purposes
The US department of justice (DOJ) has submitted a written defence of the US role in this new war in Libya to the US Congress. The DOJ claims the war serves the US national interest in regional stability and in maintaining the credibility of the United Nations. Who knew?
The regional stability line would be a stretch for the UK but is downright nuts for the US. Who, outside of US strategic command types working on weapons in space, thinks Libya and America are in the same region? (In fact, the US is in Northcom and Libya in Africom, in the lingo of the Pentagon's structure of global domination. Europe is in Eucom.) And what has done more good this year for the region that Libya is actually in than instability (think Tunisia, Egypt)?
The bit about the credibility of the United Nations is really cute coming from a government that invaded Iraq in 2003 – despite UN opposition and for the express purpose (among others) of proving the UN irrelevant. This also comes from the same government that just this month refused to allow the UN special rapporteur to visit a US prisoner named Bradley Manning to verify that he is not being tortured. How does that maintain UN credibility? And how exactly does authorising the CIA to violate the UN arms embargo in Libya maintain UN credibility? How does violating the UN ban on "a foreign occupation force of any form" in Libya maintain UN credibility?
So, one of the main justifications offered to the first branch of the US government is that the war in Libya is justified by a UNresolution, the credibility of which must be maintained even while violating it. But the DOJ memo also stresses that such a justification is not needed. A US president, according to this memo, albeit in violation of the US Constitution, simply has the power to launch wars. Any explanations offered to Congress are, just like the wars, acts of pure benevolence.
The DOJ memo also argues that this war doesn't really measure up to the name "war", given how quick, easy and cheap it's going to be. In fact, President Obama has already announced the handover of the war to Nato. I think we're supposed to imagine Nato as separate from the US, just as Congress does when it conducts no investigations of any atrocities in Afghanistan that the US attributes to Nato. Do the other Nato nations know that this is the purpose Nato serves in US politics?
But how quick and easy will this war really be? One expert predicts it will last 20 years, with the US eventually pulling out and allowing the European Union to inherit the illness of empire it had earlier shared with us. Certainly, the promise of a quick and easy war in Iraq in 2003 was based on the same baseless idea as this one, namely that killing a president will hand a country over to outside control (excuse me, I mean, flourishing democracy). The blossoming democracy in Iraq has just banned public demonstrations. The fact is that Gaddafi has a great deal of support, and making him a martyr would not change that.
Popular "progressive" US radio host Ed Schultz argues, with vicious hatred in every word he spits out on the subject, that bombing Libya is justified by the need for vengeance against that Satan on earth, that beast arisen suddenly from the grave of Adolf Hitler, that monster beyond all description: Muammar Gaddafi. But you can't really fight a war against one person. The last time we did that to Gaddafi, we killed his little daughter, while he survived.
Even if you had the legal or moral right to assassinate foreign leaders, and even if you independently and rationally worked up your passion to kill a particular dictator by sheer coincidence in the same moment in which your government wanted to bomb him, you couldn't do it without killing innocent people and shredding the fabric of international law (with or without UN complicity). Hatred of a single individual is great propaganda – until people begin to question what killing him will involve and what will come next.
Popular US commentator Juan Cole supports the very same war that Ed Schultz does, but supports it as a gentle act of humanitarian generosity. The Libya war has become less popular more quickly in the US than any previous US war, but it has its supporters. And to them, it doesn't matter that half their fellow war supporters have a different or even opposing motive. For years, Americans cheered the slaughter of the hated Iraqi people while other Americans praised the Iraq war as a great act of philanthropy for the benefit of the Iraqi people (whether they wanted it or not).
But let's examine Cole's claims about Libya, because they are quite popular and central to the idea of a "good war". One claim is that the Nato countries are motivated by humanitarian concern. Another is that this war might have humanitarian results. These have to be separated because the former is laughably absurd and the latter worthy of being examined. Of course, many people in Nato countries are motivated by humanitarian concern; that's why wars are sold as acts of philanthropy. Generosity sells. But the US government, which has become a wing of the Pentagon, does not typically intervene in other nations in order to benefit humanity. In fact, it's not capable of intervening anywhere, because it is already intervened everywhere.
The United States was in the business of supplying weapons to Gaddafi up until the moment it got into the business of supplying weapons to his opponents. In 2009, Britain, France and other European states sold Libya over $470m-worth of weapons. Our wars tend to be fought against our own weapons, and yet we go on arming everyone. The United States can no more intervene in Yemen or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia than in Libya. We are arming those dictatorships. In fact, to win the support of Saudi Arabia for its "intervention" in Libya, the US gave its approval for Saudi Arabia to send troops into Bahrain to attack civilians, a policy that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly defended.
The "humanitarian intervention" in Libya, meanwhile, whatever civilians it may have begun by protecting, immediately killed other civilians with its bombs and immediately shifted from its defensive justification to attacking retreating troops and participating in a civil war. The United States has very likely used depleted uranium weapons in Libya, leading American journalist Dave Lindorff to remark:
"It would be a tragic irony if rebels in Libya, after calling for assistance from the US and other Nato countries, succeeded in overthrowing the country's long-time tyrant Gaddafi, only to have their country contaminated by uranium dust – the fate already suffered by the peoples of Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo."
Irony is one word for it. Another is hypocrisy. Clearly, the military power of the west is not driven by humanitarian concerns. But that still leaves the question of whether, in this particular case, such power could accidentally have humanitarian results. The claim that a massive massacre of civilians was about to occur, on careful review, turns out to have been massively inflated. This doesn't mean that Gaddafi is a nice guy, that his military wasn't already killing civilians, or that it isn't still killing civilians. Another irony, in fact, is that Gaddafi is reportedly using horrible weapons, including landmines and cluster bombs, that much of the world has renounced – but that the United States has refused to.
But warfare tends to breed more warfare; and cycles of violence usually, not just occasionally, spiral out of control. That the United States is engaging in or supporting the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere, while ignoring the killing of civilians in various other countries, is not a reason to tolerate it in Libya. But escalating a war and doing nothing are, contrary to Pentagon propaganda, not the only two choices. The United States and Europe could have stopped arming and supporting Gaddafi and – in what would have been a powerful message to Libya – stopped arming and supporting dictators around the region. We could have provided purely humanitarian aid. We could have pulled out the CIA and the special forces and sent in nonviolent activist trainers of the sort that accomplished so much this year in the nations to Libya's east and west. Risking the deaths of innocents while employing nonviolent tools is commonly viewed as horrific, but isn't responding with violence that will likely cause more deaths in the end even more so?
Washington imported a leader for the people's rebellion in Libya who has spent the past 20 years living with no known source of income a couple of miles from the CIA's headquarters in Virginia. Another man lives even closer to CIA headquarters: former US Vice President Dick Cheney. He expressed great concern in a speech in 1999 that foreign governments were controlling oil. "Oil remains fundamentally a government business," he said. "While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."
Former supreme allied commander Europe of Nato, from 1997 to 2000, Wesley Clark claims that in 2001, a general in the Pentagon showed him a piece of paper and said:
"I just got this memo today or yesterday from the office of the secretary of defence upstairs. It's a, it's a five-year plan. We're going to take down seven countries in five years. We're going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan, we're going to come back and get Iran in five years."
That agenda fit perfectly with the plans of Washington insiders, such as those who famously spelled out their intentions in the reports of the thinktank called the Project for the New American Century. The fierce Iraqi and Afghan resistance didn't fit at all. Neither did the nonviolent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. But taking over Libya still makes perfect sense in the neoconservative worldview. And it makes sense in explaining war games used by Britain and France to simulate the invasion of a similar country.
The Libyan government controls more of its oil than any other nation on earth, and it is the type of oil that Europe finds easiest to refine. Libya also controls its own finances, leading American author Ellen Brown to point out an interesting fact about those seven countries named by Clark:
"What do these seven countries have in common? In the context of banking, one that sticks out is that none of them is listed among the 56 member banks of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). That evidently puts them outside the long regulatory arm of the central bankers' central bank in Switzerland. The most renegade of the lot could be Libya and Iraq, the two that have actually been attacked. Kenneth Schortgen Jr, writing on Examiner.com, noted that '[s]ix months before the US moved into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein, the oil nation had made the move to accept euros instead of dollars for oil, and this became a threat to the global dominance of the dollar as the reserve currency, and its dominion as the petrodollar.' According to a Russian article titled 'Bombing of Libya – Punishment for Gaddafi for His Attempt to Refuse US Dollar', Gaddafi made a similarly bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar. Gaddafi suggested establishing a united African continent, with its 200 million people using this single currency. During the past year, the idea was approved by many Arab countries and most African countries. The only opponents were the Republic of South Africa and the head of the League of Arab States. The initiative was viewed negatively by the US and the European Union, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling Libya a threat to the financial security of mankind; but Gaddafi was not swayed and continued his push for the creation of a united Africa. […] If the Gaddafi government goes down, it will be interesting to watch whether the new central bank [created by the rebels in March] joins the BIS, whether the nationalised oil industry gets sold off to investors, and whether education and healthcare continue to be free."
It will also be interesting to see whether Africom, the Pentagon's Africa Command, now based in Europe, establishes its headquarters on the continent for which it is named. We don't know what other motivations are at work: concerns over immigration to Europe? Desires to test weapons? War profiteering? Political calculations? Irrational lust for power? Overcompensation for having failed to turn against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak until after he'd been unseated? But what about this one: actual fear of another Rwanda? That last one seems, frankly, the least likely. But what is certain is that such humanitarian concern alone did not launch this war, and that the continued use of war in this way will not benefit humanity.
The United Nations, far from being made credible, is being made the servant of wealthy nations making war on poor ones. And within the United States, where the United Nations is alternatively held up as a justification or mocked as irrelevant, the power to make war and to make law has been decisively placed in the hands of a series of single individuals who will carry the title "president" – precisely the outcome American revolutionaries broke with Britain in order to avoid.
David Swanson
guardian.co.uk

Syria MPs resign and 10 mourners die in continued crackdown on protesters

Nasser al-Hariri and Khalil al-Rifae walk out of parliament as unease grows over government's violent tactics
At least 10 mourners were killed in Syria as pro-democracy protesters buried their dead after the bloodiest day yet of an uprising against the county's authoritarian government. Two politicians also resigned from parliament in a sign of growing unease at the government's use of lethal force.
Nasser al-Hariri, a member of Syria's parliament from Deraa, told al-Jazeera Arabic TV: "I can't protect my people when they get shot at so I resign from parliament." Minutes later a second politician, Khalil al-Rifae, also from Deraa, resigned live on the channel.
The resignations – the first during this crisis – were a significant sign of unease at escalating violence. Security forces again opened fire at funerals for Friday's victims, where large crowds of mourners were chanting anti-government slogans.
A witness in Izraa told the Observer that five people from nearby Dael and Nawa were shot dead at the entrance to the town . "They were attempting to come to the funerals of 10 people killed on Friday," he said. He insisted the security forces and army were responsible. News agencies reported that at least two mourners had been shot dead by snipers in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, and three in the district of Barzeh.
Human rights organisations and activists said at least 76 people and possibly more than 100 were killed during the largest and bloodiest protests yet on Friday, as the unrest continued into its eighth week. Many were shot in the head and chest, and mosques were used as hospitals. Al-Jazeera reported accounts of Syrian security officers entering hospitals and clinics to take the dead and injured to military hospitals in an apparent attempt to cover up casualty figures.
Local human rights organisations claimed some Syrian Christians were among the dead. Christians, who make up around 10% of Syria's population of 22 million, are largely supportive of the regime due to fears of a backlash by the Sunni Muslim majority. The claims could not be independently verified. Easter celebrations, in which parades of children and families usually flood the streets of Damascus's old city, have been cancelled. It is unclear whether this was a decision by Christian leaders or if the government had put pressure on them in a bid to prevent large gatherings.
With the death toll since 18 March now above 280, international condemnation of Syria has begun to grow. Barack Obama issued a strongly worded statement calling the violence "outrageous" and said that it should "end now". As in other protests that have swept the Arab world, social media have been one of the powerful tools of protest, subverting official channels. Amateur video footage of bloody scenes continued to emerge from the protests.
In one video, posted on YouTube, a man tells how security forces killed his son and left him to die.
As the situation escalates, Syrian observers said the government had made it clear that it intended to cling to power with the use of violence, despite attempts at reform. "They want to push demonstrators to the limits," said Ayman Abdel Nour, a Syrian dissident based in Dubai. He still believed that President Bashar al-Assad had time to show that he was serious about reform.
But after Assad recently lifted the country's state of emergency, abolished the security court and appointed new governors in Latakia, Homs and Deraa, other commentators said he was running out of options.
Protesters have responded with a new round of chants. "We want the toppling of the regime," said a resident of Ezraa, a small southern town that saw one of the highest death tolls on Friday. "The blood of our martyrs makes this our responsibility now."
Activists acknowledged some concerns that protesters, who have been overwhelmingly peaceful so far, will be tempted to take up arms in self-defence. Syrians say weapons licences are hard to come by for non-Baath party members, but many people in the tribal southern region own guns.
The regime still retains the loyalty of the military and leading businessmen as well as many among the country's minority communities. In the streets of central Damascus, many say they would rather stick with stability than take a risk on what would come if Assad's regime was to fall.
Syria's government, which has continued to blame the deaths on armed gangs, expressed "regret" at Obama's sharp condemnation of Friday's violence. "It isn't based on a comprehensive and objective view of that is happening," it said in a statement posted on the official Sana website.
It added that Syria viewed Obama's comments as "irresponsible".
The statement came as al-Jazeera correspondent Cal Perry was ordered to leave the country, adding to an almost total blackout on independent and foreign media.
Katherine Marsh is the pseudonym of a journalist living in Damascus
guardian.co.uk

Zakaria: The Middle East in 10 years

Fareed Zakaria on the future of the Middle East

A number of you have been asking me on , Twitter and iReport about my predictions for the Middle East ten years down the line.
I think we’re seeing the beginning of fundamental change in the Middle East. This is the region's 1989.  The big caveat, however, is that the Middle East is not Eastern Europe. So change will not happen on the scale or with the speed and scope that it happened in Europe.
There are going to be much slower transitions.  The line forward is going to be much more meandering. Not all countries will be affected.
The key places to focus on are the non-oil-producing countries like Egypt, Tunisia and, to a certain extent, Jordan and Morocco. Those are the places where there is significant pressure for economic and political reform. There you can't buy off the population easily, which is the typical strategy of the rich oil states.

The Middle East governments have used two methods of control - mass repression and mass bribery. The oil-rich countries use mass bribery. Countries like Syria use mass repression.
I tend to think that the bribery will work better than repression. At the end of the day, Syria is going to have difficulty even though it will probably engage in a pretty brutal crackdown.
Years from now my prediction to you is that all those non-oil-producing states will look significantly different from the way they look now.
I think with the oil-producing states, change will be more evolutionary.  Eventually there will be kinder, gentler monarchies that spread the wealth around more.
The really crucial country is going to be Saudi Arabia. I think Saudi Arabia will make it through this period without massive change. It will be evolutionary change and not revolutionary change.
If I’m wrong about that then all bets are off because Saudi Arabia is the 800-pound gorilla.
In terms of Egypt: I think it will look like Indonesia today.
Ten years ago most people thought Indonesia wouldn't even exist as a country after (President) Suharto fell. People thought that Indonesia was not even a real country - the Dutch had just colonized these 400 different islands.  It was poor. It had the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and jihadi groups.
But the democratic political system stabilized the country. It provided vents and escape valves for some of these tensions.
There were hiccups along the way. Indonesia is still a pretty complicated place with a lot of corruption, dysfunction and some problems of Islamic extremism. But, by and large, it has been a stable democratic country with economic reform.
I think that’s not a bad model for Egypt and I think if Egypt could get there - which is quite possible - it would be amazing progress for the country. It would be more progress in 10 years than they’ve made in 40 years.
Those are my thoughts. I'd love for you to continue the conversation below, and to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. As always, you can send me video questions through iReport.
curtsy-CNN

Tripura ranks second for model accounting in Panchayat Raj

Tripura has secured second position in the country after Orissa for introducing model accounting system in Panchayat Raj system and village committees in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTADC), official sources said today.
Tripura Panchayat Minister Manik Dey said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would award a certificate and a cheque of Rs 30 lakh at a function in Vigyan Bhavan of New Delhi on the occasion of the Panchayat Raj Day tomorrow.
Joint Resident Commissioner of Tripura R K Vaish in Delhi would receive the award.
He said the accounting system in Panchayat Raj and Village Committees were brought under CAG for auditing and a special software known as Panchayat Raj Institution Accounting or commonly known as PRIA soft was introduced following the advice of the central government.
Entire Panchayat Raj System is being computerised in the State, he added.
Mr. Dey said, Tripura government had introduced secret ballots in 1978 for panchayat elections and introduced three tier-panchayat system in 1993 to ensure decentralisation of power and democratic system.
The TTAADC was formed in Tripura in 1987 under sixth schedule to safeguard the economic, political and cultural interest of the tribals in the State, which forms one third of the State population. The TTAADC constitutes two third of the State territory. 
curtsy-PTI and The Hindu

Lindsay Lohan ordered jailed for 120 days

Lindsay Lohan has been sentenced to 120 days in jail for violating probation on a 2007 drink-driving conviction.
In addition to the jail stint - her fourth - the 24-year-old Mean Girls starlet will be required to carry out 480 hours of community service.
Lohan's lawyer vowed to appeal against the sentence, and she was freed on $75,000 (£45,413) bail on Friday.
The violation stems from an accusation Lohan stole a $2,500 necklace from a California jewellery store in January.
On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner reduced the initial felony grand theft charge to a misdemeanour.
The judge sentenced her to jail after ruling prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence of the jewellery theft to show Lohan had violated terms of her probation.
Judge Sautner said Lohan had only returned the necklace after learning police had obtained a search warrant to find it.
Lohan will perform community service at a women's centre and at the Los Angeles morgue, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In September, Lohan was briefly jailed after failing a drugs test ordered after her 2007 conviction for drink-driving. In October, a judge ordered her to spend two-and-a-half months in rehab.
Soon after she was released from rehab in January, she was accused of walking out of a jewellery store in Venice, California, with the necklace. The actress has said the store lent her the jewellery.
curtsy-BBC

Libya crisis: Misrata tribes 'may fight rebels'


Click to play

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen was shown bomb damage at a compound in Tripoli that Gaddafi supporters say was used for water storage

Tribes loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have said that if the army cannot drive rebels from the besieged port city of Misrata, they will, a senior official says.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said the army had tried to keep civilian casualties low but the tribes would not show the same restraint.
Colonel Gaddafi's forces have been pounding Misrata for weeks.
Meanwhile, Nato forces carried out more air strikes on the capital, Tripoli.
The Libyan government says three people were killed by the strikes.
Journalists were shown a concrete bunker near Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound that received two hits early on Saturday.
Ultimatum Aid organisations say Misrata - the main rebel-held area in western Libya - faces a humanitarian crisis after weeks of fighting. Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people there have died.
The BBC's Jeremy Bowen reports from Tripoli that the regime says the reason Col Gaddafi has remained relatively secure in the west of Libya is that the principal tribes - which wield a lot of power and influence in the country - are on his side.
However, the government has previously used the prospect of tribal civil war as a warning against rebel leaders and Nato intervention, and it may well be that the minister was making more of a threat than expressing the reality of what is going to occur, our correspondent says.
The regime is feeling increasingly isolated and is hoping for some kind of a diplomatic solution, he adds.
The comments came in a meeting between tribal leaders and the military in the area of Misrata still controlled by the government, Mr Kaim said.
He said the tribes were angry that people's lives had been disrupted by weeks of fighting that had cut the main coastal road and stopped trade in the city.
Tribal leaders say the seaport is for all Libyans and not just the rebels, Mr Kaim said.
'Surgical' tactics In normal times Misrata is a major commercial centre and its port is second only to Tripoli.
"Now there is an ultimatum before the Libyan army. If they can't resolve the problem in Misrata then the people from the region... will move in," he told reporters.
He said the tribes would first try to persuade the rebels to lay down their arms, but if that failed they would move in. The army would stay where it was, he added.
"The tactic of the army is to have a surgical solution but with the (Nato) air strikes it doesn't work," Mr Kaim said.
The comments came amid reports of setbacks for pro-Gaddafi forces.
A wounded government soldier captured by rebels told Reuters news agency that Col Gaddafi's forces had been told to withdraw from Misrata on Friday, and rebels captured an eight-story insurance building from which dozens of government snipers had been operating.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim says tribes have given the Libyan army an ultimatum
Meanwhile, a fourth evacuation ship chartered by the International Organisation for Migration is planning to rescue more stranded migrant workers and wounded civilians from the besieged city.
Earlier, the most senior US soldier, Adm Mike Mullen, said the war in Libya was "moving towards stalemate", even though US and Nato air strikes have destroyed 30-40% of Libya's ground forces.
The US has authorised the use of armed, unmanned Predator drones over Libya to give "precision capabilities".
A popular revolt against Col Gaddafi - inspired by similar uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia - began in February and a UN mandate later sanctioned air strikes against Libyan state forces to protect civilians.
Nato took control of the operation on 31 March.
curtsy-BBC

VS to lead ‘satyagraha' tomorrow

Kerala government and various non-governmental organisations in the State will organise protests across the State on Monday demanding ban on Endosulfan as the conference of parties of the Stockholm Convention meets in Geneva to consider a global ban.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan will lead a mass ‘satyagraha' from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Martyrs' Column here demanding that India should adopt a stand in favour of the ban at the convention, and that the Centre should provide assistance to the State to compensate victims of Endosulfan. His Cabinet colleagues will lead sit-ins at district headquarters.
The Chief Minister took strong objection to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not conceding the demand of an all-party delegation from Kerala for a national ban on Endosulfan and support for the cause at the convention. “The Prime Minister should not use his office to promote the pesticide lobby like the Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar,” he said adding that Mr. Singh should look into the issues presented by the delegation on Friday seriously.
Urging Mr. Singh to rethink his stand, the Chief Minister called upon the Prime Minister to discuss the matter in the Cabinet. Union Ministers from Kerala should also rethink their stand and support the ban. It was regrettable that the Centre was not assisting the State to provide the compensation recommended by the National Human Rights Commission to the victims.
He warned that the Prime Minister would face situation similar to the 2G spectrum scam and people's protest against corruption under the leadership of Anna Hazare if he went by the views of people like Mr. Pawar. Mr. Pawar was one who had supported the sugar lobby ignoring the cause of farmers.
Now, he was claiming that he was trying to protect the interests of farmers elsewhere in India. No government should ignore the travails of the people on the ground that they were from two States only.
Describing Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh as ‘‘anti-people and anti-environment,'' Mr. Achuthanandan asked whether Mr. Ramesh did not know that Endosulfan was dangerous. People of 96 villages in his home State of Karnataka had been hit by the pesticide.
Minister for Law M. Vijayakumar said that Endosulfan caused the biggest humanitarian problem in Kerala causing the death of hundreds and rendering thousands ill in the plantation areas. Members of Parliament, the Assembly and the local self-governments and political, social, cultural and trade union leaders would join the protest on Monday. The Opposition leaders had also been invited to join the protest. Mass gatherings in districts would take pledges against Endosulfan.
As a prelude to the programmes, an exhibition of paintings would be organised at the Martyrs' Column on Sunday.
The Green Community announced that it would organise ‘satyagraha' from April 25 to 29 in front of the Secretariat to coincide with the meeting of the conference of parties of Stockholm Convention. Several other non-governmental organisations announced that they would join the ‘satyagraha' on Monday.
curtsy-The Hindu

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thousands protest in Oman


More than 3,000 protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in Oman’s southern port of Salalah, making it one of the largest demonstrations since sporadic unrest began in the sultanate two months ago, reported Reuters.

Instead of conducting prayers in a mosque, the cleric Amer Hargan led them in a car park across the street from the governor’s office, where about 3,000 worshippers had gathered. They marched through the streets after listening to the Friday sermon.
“The Omani people are not afraid of protesting for as long as it takes for reform [to take effect]. First and foremost is to get government officials, who have been embezzling funds for years to stand trial,” Mr. Hargan told the crowd.

With no police in sight, the demonstration comes after more than three weeks when police quelled protesters in northern Oman.

They chanted slogans demanding a “reform of the regime” and for “holding the regime accountable” in an apparent reference to sacked ministers accused of corruption, Agence-France Presse reported.

Demonstrators have been staging a peaceful sit-in at the square in Salalah for the past several weeks in a number of tents that have been erected where some stay overnight.

The country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a US ally who has ruled Oman for 40 years, promised a $2.6 billion spending package last Sunday after nearly two months of demonstrations inspired by popular uprisings that have spread across the Arab world.

Omani demonstrators have focused their demands on better wages, jobs and an end to graft. Many are angered by the state’s perceived reluctance to prosecute ministers sacked for corruption in response to demonstrations in February.

They are also impatient to see more employment opportunities, after the Sultan vowed last month to create 50,000 jobs.

“We are still waiting for the jobs we’ve been promised,” protester Seif al-Basaid told Reuters. “How long do we have to wait?”

Gulf Arab oil producers, keen to prevent popular uprisings from taking hold in their region, launched a $10 billion aid package each for Bahrain and Oman last month.

Oman, with a population of 3.02 million, is largely dependent on its oil resources, which are dwindling. Its GDP per capita is $25,800.

Last Wednesday, Sultan Qaboos pardoned 234 protestors arrested during demonstrations over the course of the last few weeks, Oman’s National Agency reported.

The 234 protestors “accused of vandalism and damages to private property during the demonstrations,” were pardoned, according to a statement from the state prosecutor.
However, the official agency did not report when they would be released or if they could face any charges.

Earlier in April, Oman’s prosecutor said that protestors had been detained but did not elaborate on the number. Activists said hundreds had been arrested during raids in their homes.

Protests began in Oman in February but have not been on the scale seen in other Arab nations. Dozens of protestors camped out in tents near the Shura Council in the capital Muscat. Their demands have focused on better wages, more jobs and an end to corruption.

Seven people have been killed in Sohar, according to doctors, since the protests began. The government, however, claims only two have died.

In March, the Sultan promised to give some legislative powers to the partially-elected Oman Council, an advisory body but those efforts have yet to take place.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya

Syria urged to end protest crackdown

US President, United Nations and European parliament demand an immediate halt of "brutal tactics" against protesters.

Barack Obama, the US president, has said Syria's bloody crackdown on protesters "must come to an end now" and accused Damascus of seeking Iranian help to repress its people.
"This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now," said Obama on Friday, dismissing as "not serious" President Bashar al Assad's lifting of a decades-old emergency law in Syria this week and accused him of seeking help from Iran.
"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," he said.
"We strongly oppose the Syrian government's treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilising behaviour more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups," said Obama.
Despite the criticism, Obama did not refer to any potential US consequences should Assad refuse to heed his demands.
UN demands 'independent' investigation
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, meanwhile, has condemned the Syrian government's killing of demonstrators, calling for an "independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings", his spokesman said on Friday.
"The secretary-general condemns the ongoing violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria, which again has killed and injured many today, and calls for it to stop immediately," Farhan Haq, Ban's spokesman, said from the UN headquarters in New York.
Ban said that President Assad's government must "respect international human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of the press".
The UN secretary-general stressed that "only an inclusive dialogue and the effective implementation of reforms can address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and ensure social peace and order".
European condemnation
Jerzy Buzek, the European Parliament chief on Friday also condemned the shooting deaths of protesters in Syria and called for the release of all prisoners of conscience.
"Today's violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrations all over Syria is unacceptable. The bloodshed has to stop now: this is the government's first and foremost responsibility," he said in a statement.
"Any form of violence against peaceful demonstrators must stop: no more killing, no more torture, no more arbitrary arrests. An independent investigation into the deaths of protesters has to be carried out."
France also urged Syrian authorities to halt their use of violence on anti-government protestors.
"We call on them once more to engage in an inclusive political dialogue without delay and to put into place reforms that respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," said deputy spokeswoman Christine Fages, deputy spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.
She also called for the release of those arrested and for respecting basic rights, including media freedom and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.
Peak of violence
The toughly-worded statements came after Syrian security forces shot to death almost 90 protesters in the bloodiest day in a month of escalating demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian President.
Friday's death toll was one of the bloodiest in protests for democratic change - the first since emergency rule was imposed by the ruling Baath Party when it seized power in 1963.
Amnesty International called for an immediate end to the attacks on protesters and for an investigation into the deadly events.
"The Syrian authorities have again responded to peaceful calls for change with bullets and batons," said Malcolm Smart, the London-based organization's director for the Middle East.
"They must immediately halt their attacks on peaceful protesters and instead allow Syrians to gather freely, as international law demands."
Source:
Agencies