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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cash-for-vote scam: Supreme Court seeks report on probe

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Delhi Police to place before it the status report on the probe conducted by it in the “cash-for-vote” scam during the trust vote faced by the UPA government in July 2008.
Not satisfied with the Centre’s contention that an FIR has been lodged in the case and probe will be completed within two months, a bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam ordered the police to file the status report by July 15.
“Two months is a long time. Tell us about the present status of the probe,” the bench said, while posting the matter for further hearing on July 15.
Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said that the status report will be filed within the stipulated period in a sealed envelope before the court.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh seeking its directions to the government to take action against politicians involved in the scam.
The petition alleges that though the entire nation was shocked by the spectacle of three BJP MPs displaying wads of currency notes in Parliament as bribe money to vote in favour of the UPA during the 2008 trust vote, no action has so far been taken against those guilty.

CBI says Maran forced Aircel to sell shares to Malaysian firm

There is prima facie material to suggest that there is an element of coercion by the “former Telecom Minister” [Dayanidhi Maran, now the Textiles Minister] in Aircel selling its shares to a Malaysian telecom company, the Central Bureau of Investigation told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Giving details of the investigation conducted so far on the Preliminary Enquiry registered for the period 2001 to 2007, the CBI said that initial enquiry revealed that the former Telecom Minister, who held the portfolio from 2004 to 2007, deliberately sat on Aircel's licence application for months together.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, read out the highlights of the status report and said that the former Telecom Minister delayed the file in spite of unanimous recommendation from Department of Telecom (DoT) officials. He said unwanted and frivolous queries were asked from Aircel to delay the file while no such queries were raised against two other companies that had applied for licences during the same period. He said “the CBI's preliminary enquiry reveals an element of coercion in the former Minister dealing with Aircel.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Somalia food crisis reaching 'unimaginable proportions'

The levels of malnutrition among children fleeing Somalia's drought could lead to a "human tragedy of unimaginable proportions", the UN refugee head Antonio Guterres has said.
Young children are dying on their way to or within a day of arrival at camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, the UNHCR says.
It estimates that a quarter of Somalis are either displaced within the country or living outside as refugees.
The worst drought in 60 years has been compounded by the violence in Somalia.
"It's so extreme," said UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming. "Our people are saying they've never seen anything like it."

Boat sinks off Sudan 'killing 197 migrants'

About 200 people drowned in the Red Sea when a boat carrying migrants to Saudi Arabia sank off Sudan's coast after catching fire, Sudanese media say.
Only three people have been rescued, according to the Sudanese Media Centre, a state-linked news agency.
A governing party official told the BBC he believed the passengers were Somalis likely to be fleeing the drought.
The Red Sea is a well-known trafficking route for migrants wanting to reach Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Portugal's debt is downgraded to junk status by Moody's

The credit ratings agency Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Portugal's debt to junk status.
The agency said there was a growing risk the country would need a second bail-out before it was ready to borrow money from financial markets again.
Moody's was concerned that if there was a second bail-out, private lenders might have to contribute.
Portugal's government said Moody's had not taken into account the strong backing for austerity measures.
It said that the programme of economic measures announced last week was "the only way to reverse the course and restore confidence" in Portugal.
Discussions are under way about the possibility of banks that have lent money to Greece waiting longer to be repaid.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Libya: Nato defends operation during Russia talks

Nato's chief has staunchly defended its operation in Libya during a meeting of the Nato-Russia Council in the southern Russian resort town of Sochi.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the campaign was being undertaken in "strict conformity" with the UN Security Council resolution authorising it.
Russia earlier said deep differences over the operation were hindering efforts to build deeper ties.
Nato-backed Libyan rebels have rejected the latest peace plan put to them.
That initiative was drawn up by the African Union, driven in part by the efforts of South African President Jacob Zuma, who has joined the talks in Sochi to add his voice to Russian concerns about the Nato operation.

Attack kills 35 people north of Baghdad

According to police, a car bomb near the local council building in the town of Taji was followed by a roadside bomb that went off as people gathered to help the victims from the first explosion.
Iraqi officials have raised the toll from a combined car bomb and roadside bombing north of Baghdad to 35 people killed.
Two police officers say insurgents first detonated a parked car bomb near the local council building in the town of Taji around noon on Tuesday. That blast was followed by a roadside bomb that went off as people gathered to help the victims from the first explosion.
The officers say at least 47 people were wounded in the blasts.

‘Creating Salwa Judum, Koya Commandos violates Constitution’

The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained the Chhattisgarh government and the Centre from appointing tribals as Special Police Officers (SPOs) and arming them to counter Maoists, terming the step as “unconstitutional”.
The court also ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the attack on social activist Swami Agnivesh during his visit to Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh in March.
"We direct the CBI to take over the investigation into series of violence and attack unleashed on Swami Agnivesh and his companions," a bench comprising justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar said.
Asking the Chhattisgarh government and the Centre to desist from appointing the tribals as SPOs and arming them for countering the Naxals in any manner directly or indirectly, the court said the appointment of tribal youths as SPOs is "unconstitutional".

45 per cent of Fukushima children had thyroid exposure to radiation

The plant has been leaking radioactive substances since it was hit by a magnitude-9 earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11
About 45 per cent of children in Fukushima prefecture experienced thyroid exposure to radiation after the nuclear power there was damaged in March, officials said Tuesday.
But the results were not high enough to require further examination, the Nuclear Safety Commission said.
In late March, local and central governments carried out the survey on 1,080 children under the age of 15 in areas near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station after the crisis.
The plant has been leaking radioactive substances since it was hit by a magnitude-9 earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11.
Among children who tested positive for thyroid exposure, the amounts measured 0.04 microsieverts per hour or less in most cases, while the largest exposure was 0.1 microsieverts per hour, equivalent to a yearly dose of 50 millisieverts for a one-year-old baby, Kyodo News reported.

Mladic ejected from war crimes court

Judge enters not guilty plea on Mladic's behalf as Bosnian Serb general shouts down efforts to read charges against him.
Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army chief, has been removed from the UN war crimes court at The Hague after refusing to enter a plea and disrupting the judge's attempts to read out the charges against him.
Judge Alphons Orie of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is handling the case, later entered formal pleas of not guilty on behalf of Mladic to the various charges against him.

Gaddafi forces 'intercept arms from Qatar'

Government spokesman says two boats carrying weapons for rebels seized from west of Tripoli.
Libyan officials are claiming to have intercepted two boats carrying a cache of weapons from Qatar, reportedly intended for rebels fighting forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

On Monday, Moussa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, said 11 rebels were captured from the boats close to shore near the town of Janzour, just west of Tripoli.

Treasures of $12 billion in Kerala Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. No, make that $22 billion, and counting

Thiruvananthapuram may be a tongue twister of a name to most people other than natives of Kerala, the southern Indian state whose capital it is. But better get used to it.

Thiruvananthapuram, a city crowded with ancient Hindu temples, is headed into the record books. Police have discovered more than $22 billion worth gold coins and precious stones worth billions of dollars in the vaults of one of the city’s oldest temples.

Armed commandoes cordoned off the medieval temple on Monday after local authorities, responding to an order by India’s Supreme Court, said that the initial search of the vaults yielded treasures worth at least $12 billion. On Tuesday morning, that figure had risen to $22 billion. Archeologists that figure may rise further.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Supreme Court forms SIT on black money

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Union government for not “showing seriousness” in bringing back black money stashed away abroad, and constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to take steps to bring back unaccounted monies.
Passing an interim order on petitions filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and others, a Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, expressed serious concern over the magnitude of the problem and the threat black money posed to the country's economy.
The SIT will function under the chairmanship of the retired Supreme Court judge, B.P. Jeevan Reddy.
The court directed the government to issue a notification forthwith regarding the appointment of the SIT and ordered that the government machinery cooperate with it.
Centre's view rejected
Writing the order, Justice Sudershan Reddy rejected the government contention that since a high-level committee (HLC) was set up there was no need for a SIT.
The Bench said: “The volume of alleged income-taxes owed to the country, as demanded by the Union of India itself, and the volume of monies, by some accounts $8.04 billion, and some other accounts in excess of Rs. 70,000 crore, are said to have been routed through various bank accounts of Hassan Ali Khan and Tapurias. Further, from all accounts it has been acknowledged that none of the named individuals has any known and lawful sources for such huge quantities of monies.

Ahmadinejad criticizes West over the partitioning of Sudan

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit out at Western governments on Monday for “tearing apart” Sudan while rejecting the demands of separatists on their own soil, his website said.

“Enemies want to tear apart Sudan,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the southeastern port city of Chabahar ahead of south Sudan’s proclamation of independence on Saturday.

“Those who are concerned about realizing the rights of a group of Sudanese people and are seeking to declare the south as independent, how come they do not share this concern for the people of Spain’s Basque Country, Northern Ireland, France’s Corsica, or the southern states of America?” he asked.

Sunny homecoming for Chavez in Venezuela after cancer surgery in Cuba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez touched down in Venezuela early Monday morning, where he was greeted by government ministers after receiving cancer treatment in Cuba.

“We got here as the sun was rising. So we very happy to be back home,” Mr. Chavez said.
“I’m fine. I’m happy,” he said. “A perfect landing.”

He hugged his vice president, Elias Jaua, and his elder brother, Adan, after stepping down the stairs from the plane.

The 56-year-old socialist returned just one day before Venezuela marks the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Parties for strong Lokpal Bill in monsoon session

Political parties across the spectrum on Sunday unanimously resolved that the Centre bring in a strong and effective Lokpal Bill before Parliament in the next session through established procedures.
The reference to the procedure means the government declare its position by drafting a Bill that is cleared by the Union Cabinet before introducing it in the monsoon session, for Parliament to take a view.
“The all-party meeting agreed that the government should bring [in] before the next session of Parliament a strong and effective Lokpal Bill [by] following the established procedures,” was the brief resolution read by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting was called by him to discuss the Lokpal Bill.
While major parties avoided going into the arguments on the contents of the draft Bills, the thrust of the meeting was to re-emphasise the supremacy of Parliament in making laws. Barring the AIADMK, regional parties, including the DMK, favoured bringing Prime Minister within the ambit of Lokpal.
Through his opening remarks, Dr. Singh set the tone for the meeting, emphasising his government's commitment to enact a Lokpal Bill which provides for a “strong, effective and quick institutional arrangement for tackling corruption in high places” and place it before Parliament in the monsoon session.

Reversing the logic of the nuclear deal-- Anil Kakodkar

The recently reported decision of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) on additional restrictions for transfer of ENR (enrichment and reprocessing) technologies with adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) being a condition for transfer has caused huge unease in India. It negates the positive and forward-looking orientation with respect to ENR issues that was built into bilateral and multilateral agreements developed as a part of development of our international civil nuclear cooperation. The NSG waiver for India now seems to have been circumscribed. While this does not affect the commerce related to nuclear reactors and their fuel supplies and our rights to reprocess and recycle used fuel, it appears to shut doors on commerce related to enrichment and reprocessing technologies. The United States, Russia, and France have issued statements reiterating their adherence to understandings with India.

Libya rebels reject African Union plan for talks.

Libyan rebels on Sunday rejected an African Union peace plan for their country because they said it would leave Muammar Qaddafi in power, a day after they had welcomed the plan for negotiations.

African leaders agreed at a meeting in Equatorial Guinea on Friday on a peace plan that rules the Libyan leader out of talks with rebels and presented it to both sides in the hope that it could lead to negotiations.
The plan includes a commitment from Mr. Qaddafi “in favor of an inclusive process of dialogue ... and his acceptance that he will not be part of the process of negotiations.”


An Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula was bombed early on Monday for the third time since February, sending flames into the sky. There were no immediate reports of casualties, a security official said.

Egypt had resumed pumping natural gas to Israel on June 10 after supplies were halted in April following an attack on a pipeline, Israeli media reports said.
Israel gets up to 45 percent of its gas from Egypt. Supplies were stopped after the blasts on Egypt’s side of the pipeline in the wake of political turmoil following the ousting of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

India's middle class struggles with personal debt burden

ndia's recent binge on credit cards and personal loans has ended badly for some - but there are ways to fight back against debt.
India's recent binge on credit cards and personal loans has ended badly for some - but there are ways to fight back against debt.
Mr Sayed remembers his lowest point in late 2008. The father of two in Mumbai was guarding a dark secret from neighbours, friends and even his wife.
After several years of signing up to all the credit cards and personal loans he could find, he had notched up Rs 3,000,000 ($66,000) in debt.