World News Today, Current News, Breaking News, Business News
World News Today, Current News, Breaking News, Business News, Moon and Mars, Shopping Tips, Beauty Tips and Fashion news
Showing posts with label World News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World News. Show all posts

7 Elephants Killed by Goods Train Accident in West Bengal

Category: , , , By News Updates
Train Accident News Updates! In a tragic accident, seven elephants were killed when a goods train hit a herd of about 15 as it was crossing railway tracks in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district.

Five elephants died on the spot, two later. The incident took place at around 11 pm on Wednesday night. The elephants were crossing from the Moraghat to the Reti Bandapani forest via an often used corridor when the train rammed into them.

"One of the elephants got stuck in the cow catcher in front of the train and it was dragged by more than 200 metres along the railway track and I've been told that many of the fishplates and couplings of the track got severely damaged. So you can imagine what was the impact," said AK Raha the Principal conservator of forests, West Bengal.

Among the dead were three female elephants, one male, one juvenile and two calves.

The Forest Department has filed an FIR against the railways alleging the train was running at about 70 km per hour. But the Railways refuse to take the blame.

"We told them two days ago there was a big elephant herd roaming about in the area but they did nothing about it. They should have realized the elephants may come this way," said Sachidanand Singh the District Railways Manager of Alipurduar Northeast Frontier Railways.

Such accidents have been spiraling in the area since 2003 when rail tracks were upgraded from meter gauge to broad gauge and more goods trains diverted on this route. Though, the Forest department wants a speed limit of 20 to 40 km per hour for trains but that hasn't happened.

"We have been told by the DRM in the past that we cannot do it on our own. The instruction for speed limit should come from the Railways board. These are policy decisions. Unless they receive the orders, they cannot do it," added A K Raha.

With no solution available for the problem, elephant herds roaming the area remain vulnerable.


Tsunami-Ravaged Japanese Fishing Vessel Spotted Near Vancouver

Category: , , By News Updater
(VANCOUVER) -- Just over a year ago, a fishing boat was going about its business near Hokkaido, Japan, when an unimaginable disaster struck -- a giant earthquake followed by a horrific tsunami.

This past weekend, that same boat, now nicknamed a "ghost ship," was spotted about 160 miles off the coast of Vancouver.

The 150-foot freighter is the largest piece of debris to have reached the West Coast of North America since the tsunami that devastated a good portion of northeastern Japan.

No one is believed to be on board the fishing boat. The Japanese government listed its owner as missing.

Canadian authorities don't consider the ship an environmental hazard although it could soon be washed ashore by a major storm.

The boat has also caught the attention of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which anticipated that much of the millions of tons of tsunami debris wouldn't arrive in the U.S. until before next year.

Jealous wife betrayed Osama: Pak officials

Category: , By News Updater
London: Late Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden was betrayed by one of his wives, who revealed the location of his hideaway in Pakistan because she was jealous of his youngest spouse, a Pakistani official has claimed.

According to Khairiah Saber, the eldest of Osama's five wives was motivated by revenge because the aging Al Qaeda leader was "bedding" Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada while she slept in a bedroom on the floor below, the Daily Mail reported.

On the other hand, Shaukat Qadir, a retired brigadier who investigated the US operation in which Osama was killed last May, also claims that Saber may have been working with Al Qaeda itself.

He believes word that "someone very important" was living in Abbottabad got out to the Taliban, Pakistan's intelligence service ISI and ultimately the CIA.

Qadir suggests that Al Qaeda was looking to cash in on the $25 million bounty on his head. But he said, he has no proof.

Pakistan claims it had not been warned about the raid, but Qadir's claims suggest elements in the intelligence service may have been aware of it.

Fire destroys bus depot in Kolkata

Category: , By News Updater
Kolkata: Kolkata continued to play with fire when the record room of the West Bengal government-run Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) was destroyed in a blaze on Sunday. A state minister later called it a case of sabotage.

"At a time when the government is trying to revive the loss-making transport corporation, comes this fire. This is a clear case of sabotage. During the previous regime, a huge amount of money had been siphoned off from the CSTC, and to prevent this scam from getting known, this blaze has occurred," said Transport Minister Madan Mitra.

The minister has also announced setting up of a three-member probe team to look into the matter.

"The record room is just beside the CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) office and the day we were to make a surprise visit here comes this fire. A three-member team has been ordered to probe the matter and submit its report within 72 hours," added Mr Mitra.

He also said that no union office will be allowed within the vicinity of a transport corporation office or depot.

The fire which broke out at the CSTC depot in Belghoria in the north of the city was doused after an hour. Four fire tenders were pressed into service. No injury has been reported. A large portion of the record room was damaged. The CITU office was also partially burnt.

Sunday's incident is the latest in Kolkata. On March 21, a blaze broke out at the emergency department of the SSKM Hospital - the largest state-run referral hospital in West Bengal.

Kolkata has also witnessed two big fire tragedies in the past two years. Ninety-four people died when a fire broke out at the AMRI Hospital in the city Dec 9, 2011. On March 23, 2010, a fire broke out at the 150-year-old Stephens Court building, in which 24 people were killed -- another 13 yet remain untraced.

Hundreds of houses damaged after strong earthquake hits Mexico

Category: , By News Updater

A 7.4 earthquake hit central and south Mexico today around noon, with its epicenter near Ometepec, Guerrero, but felt strongly in the capital and as far away as Guatemala. There are no reported deaths so far, and only limited damage has been described, although the tremor is said to have caused power-outages for some 1.5 million Mexicans.

The earthquake today was reminiscent in size of the 1985 earthquake in Mexico city, that topped in at 8.1 on the Richter scale, but not in aftermath. For one thing the infrastructure today is much better than in 1985, when 400 buildings were leveled, including hospitals, hotels, offices, apartment buildings, and schools. Due to this mass destruction and tragic loss of life (10,000 people were killed), officials began demanding and enforcing stricter building codes for Mexico City, presumably resulting in the more limited damage this time around.

But more than physical infrastructure, the 1985 earthquake highlighted the worst of the non-democratic political regime. President Miguel de la Madrid was virtually absent in the initial days, and when he did engage the media, he spent more time downplaying the damage than addressing the situation. Perhaps worse, few police, army, or governmental officials came to help dig out survivors, hand out supplies, or shepherd the nearly 200,000 homeless to shelter. In fact, the ineffectual response of the federal and capital governments to the 1985 earthquake helped spur Mexico's long transition to democracy.

Already today, the government's response has also been one of immediate communication and action. Felipe Calderón began live tweeting updates on the damage and the status of Mexico's social services within hours of the quake, and the governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, told media that he had called the mayors of the most affected towns.

While the earthquake today may have brought back memories from 1985, Mexico has reaffirmed through its response that it is a not the same country it was before. The response today across all levels of government (and regardless of party) shows how much Mexico has changed.

This article originally appeared at, an Atlantic partner site.


World seabird numbers still falling, says a new review

Category: , , By News Updater
Almost half of the world's seabirds have populations that are thought to be in decline, according to a new review.

The study, published in Bird Conservation International, found that 28% of species are considered to be in the highest categories of risk.

Conservationists are particularly concerned by the albatross family.

Threats to the birds include commercial fishing and damage to breeding colonies caused by rats and other invasive species.

Seabirds make up just a small proportion (3.5%) of the world's bird species. But researchers say they are an important indicator of the health of the oceans.

The review, carried out by BirdLife International, found that of 346 species, 47% are known or suspected to be in decline.

It says that seabirds are now more threatened than any other group of birds.

Prof John Croxall, Chair of BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme, told the BBC: "They are top predators in their marine systems. The fact that almost a third are globally threatened should really be telling us something about how we need to look after where they occur to breed on land and where they go to feed in the ocean."

BirdLife assesses the threat status of seabirds on behalf of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the internationally-recognised Red List. On that list, 5% of seabirds are in the highest category of Critically Endangered.

One of those is the Balearic shearwater, which can be found in UK waters in the summer.

The review also found that 17 out of 22 species of the albatross family are threatened with extinction.

Conservationists say commercial fishing is one of the key threats to seabirds with large numbers killed as a bycatch in nets and on lines.

Another is the impact that invasive species such as rats and feral cats have on breeding colonies, either damaging habitats or eating chicks and eggs.

Some of the most important breeding colonies are on remote islands in UK overseas territories. Last year an Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) project, part-funded by the UK Government, carried out a programme to eradicate rats on Henderson Island in the South Pacific.

Helicopters guided by GPS dropped rat poison pellets on the island, which is the only known breeding site of the endangered Henderson petrel.

Grahame Madge of the RSPB said: "Without projects like this, these seabirds would have a finite life. On Henderson Island the rats were bringing birds towards extinction."

A pilot study is being carried out to look at the feasibility of removing mice from another important breeding site, Gough Island in the South Atlantic.


Syria unrest: UN says 2,200 killed in protest crackdown

Category: By News Updater
More than 2,200 people have been killed since the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters began in mid-March, the United Nations says.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay gave the new toll at an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN previously put the number of dead at between 1,900 and 2,000.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that his government was in no danger of falling.

And he warned that any foreign military intervention would backfire on those who carry it out.

Navi Pillay opened the session by saying: "The gravity of ongoing violations and brutal attacks against the peaceful protesters in that country demand your continued attention."

She went on: "As of today, over 2,200 people have been killed since mass protests began in mid-March, with more than 350 people reportedly killed across Syria since the beginning of Ramadan.

"The military and security forces continue to employ excessive force, including heavy artillery, to quell peaceful demonstrations and regain control over the residents of various cities."

The meeting of the UN Human Rights Council was called by 24 states, including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

It followed the publication of a report by UN investigators earlier this month which concluded that Syrian security forces were carrying out widespread human rights violations, which could constitute war crimes. Read More...

Egypt: Suzanne Mubarak detained in corruption probe

Category: , By News Updater
Suzanne Mubarak will be held in a Cairo prison, Egypt's Mena news agency says.

Mrs Mubarak, 70, and her husband have been questioned over allegations of "illegal acquisition of wealth".

The former president, who held power for 30 years, stepped down in February after weeks of protests.

He has since been detained by Egypt's Illicit Gains Authority, on charges he abused his position to illegally acquire wealth. He is also accused of involvement in the killings of anti-regime protesters.

The 83-year-old is currently under arrest in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, after suffering heart problems. His detention was extended by 15 days early on Friday morning.

The military council which has been in power since Mr Mubarak stepped down has vowed to bring to justice all those accused of corruption.

The former president, his wife, their two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives have been banned from travel and had their assets frozen by general prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud.

More than 20 ministers and businessmen linked to Mr Mubarak's regime have been detained since his departure from office.

Last week, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly was sentenced to 12 years in jail on charges of money-laundering and profiteering.

Adly also faces separate charges of ordering troops to fire on demonstrators. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Japan Earthquake: Magnitude 7.3 Earthquake Hits Japan's Northeastern Coast

Category: , By Echo

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit off Japan's northeastern coast Wednesday, shaking buildings hundreds of miles away in Tokyo and triggering a small tsunami. There were no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries.

The quake struck at 11:45 a.m. local time and was centered about 90 miles (150 kilometers) off the northeastern coast – about 270 miles (440 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo – at a depth of about 5 miles (8 kilometers), Japan's meteorological agency said.

A 24-inch (60-centimeter) tsunami reached the coastal town of Ofunato, in Iwate prefecture, with other towns reporting smaller waves reaching shore about 30 minutes after the quake.

"We have confirmed that small tsunami have come up on the shores, but we have no reports of damage at this point," said Shinobu Nagano, an emergency and disaster response official in Iwate. "We are still trying to determine the impact of the quake."

Some train lines in the area were temporarily stopped after the quake, but they were restarted shortly after noon. Tohoku Electric Power said there was no damage at its nuclear power facility in the region.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.

There was a 6.3 magnitude aftershock shortly after the main quake, the meteorological agency said.

In Tokyo, office buildings swayed and creaked for about 30 seconds during the quake.

Japan lies on the "Ring of Fire" – an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim and where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur.


Iraqi: I'm proud my WMD lies led to war in Iraq

Category: , By Echo
LONDON – An Iraqi man whose testimony the United States used as a key evidence to build a case for war in Iraq says he is proud that he lied about his country developing mobile biological warfare labs.

The Guardian newspaper published an interview Wednesday with Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who has been identified as the informer called "Curveball," whose claims about weapon labs formed part of then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Security Council in 2003, shortly before the war began.

The Guardian quoted al-Janabi as saying: "I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that."

Although some intelligence agents were skeptical of Curveball's story, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee reported in 2004 that the Central Intelligence Agency "withheld important information about Curveball's reliability" from analysts dealing with the case.

The Guardian interviewed al-Janabi in Karlsruhe, Germany in a mixture of Arabic and German. The U.S. Senate panel's report said Curveball spoke in English and Arabic when he was interrogated by intelligence officers.

Asked about his feeling's about the deaths and destruction during the war and in the years following, The Guardian said al-Janabi said there was no other way.

"I tell you something when I hear anybody not just in Iraq but in any war (is) killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?" the newspaper quoted him as saying.

"Saddam did not (allow) freedom in our land," the Iraqi said. "There are no other political parties. You have to believe what Saddam says, and do what Saddam wants. And I don't accept that. I have to do something for my country. So I did this and I am satisfied, because there is no dictator in Iraq any more."


Protesters keep up momentum in Egypt

Category: , , , By Echo
Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Momentum held up on the 16th day of protests in Egypt as massive crowds once again jammed Cairo's Tahrir Square Wednesday, spilling over into a nearby compound housing government buildings.

The expanded protests forced the government to move parliament to another building, state television said.

Fueled by anger at the regime's incremental concessions and a denunciation of demands for President Hosni Mubarak's immediate exit, the rowdy demonstrations again drew thousands, many even from other cities and towns.

"The word 'departure,' which is repeated by some of the protesters, is against the ethics of the Egyptians because Egyptians respect their elders and their president," Vice President Omar Suleiman told a group of newspaper editors, according to a state-run news agency.

"It is also an insulting word not only to the president but for the people of Egypt as a whole," he said.

But the protesters chanted: "Mubarak is a thief." Mubarak, meanwhile, went about business as usual Wednesday, meeting with his foreign minister and Russia's deputy foreign minister, state-run television showed.

There were signs that the unrest had spread to other parts of Egypt.

Two people were killed and others were wounded in clashes with police in southern Egypt, state TV reported. A journalist said the hostilities stemmed from complaints about a member of the police force in Kharga.

In the northern town of Port Said, protesters attacked the governor's building over a land and housing dispute, state TV said.

The protesters returned in full force Wednesday, galvanized the day before by the tears and words of a Google executive who was seized by security forces and released Monday.
Perhaps the reluctant face of the movement, Wael Ghonim, told CNN Wednesday that "this is no longer the time to negotiate" with the Egyptian government -- not after hundreds of lives have been lost over the last two weeks.

Human Rights Watch has been able to document 302 deaths so far since protests erupted on January 25.

Ghonim, a Dubai-based marketing executive, is the administrator of a Facebook page called "We are all Khaled Said," named after an Alexandria activist who was allegedly beaten to death by police. The page is widely credited with triggering the first protest January 25.
Monday evening, Ghonim's tearful interview on an Egyptian television channel struck a chord with protesters. The next day, he addressed the crowds at Tahrir Square, inspiring Egyptians to keep up the fight.

"This country, I have said for a long time, this country is our country, and everyone has a right to this country," he said. "You have a voice in this country. This is not the time for conflicting ideas, or factions, or ideologies. This is the time for us to say one thing only, 'Egypt is above all else.'"

Another Facebook page created to authorize Ghonim to speak on behalf of the protesters has 150,000 fans.

Mubarak's regime said Tuesday that it had discussed a number of reforms with leaders of various opposition groups and appointed a panel to look into amending the constitution, But Wednesday, it again sought to portray the strongman's immediate exit as a recipe for chaos.
Suleiman said that "dialogue and mutual understanding are the first way to achieve stability" and that a coup would "mean miscalculated and rushed steps" and would lead to more "irrationality."

His words prompted a public show of frustration from the Obama administration.
A short White House statement on U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's telephone conversation with Suleiman used the word "immediate" or "immediately" four times.

Biden "urged that the transition produce immediate, irreversible progress that responds to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

The statement also hinted the White House harbors doubts as to whether the Egyptian government is seriously committed to reforms, referring to the regime's statements as "what the government is saying it is prepared to accept."

U.S. terror threat at highest since 9/11: Napolitano

Category: , , By Echo
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned Wednesday that the threat of terrorism against the United States was in some ways "at its most heightened state" since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In addition to the threats by al Qaeda, the militant group behind the attacks nearly a decade ago, Napolitano said the country faces new threats from those inspired by the group and those already inside the United States.

"The threat continues to evolve and in some ways the threat today may be at its most heightened state since the attacks nearly 10 years ago," Napolitano told the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee.

She also said in her testimony to lawmakers that U.S. officials believed there may be individuals who want to carry out attacks already in the country and that "they could carry out acts of violence with little or no warning."

Individuals associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban have tried to carry out several attacks against the United States, including by a Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up a U.S. airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear and another individual who plotted to attack the New York subway system.

"As I have said before, we cannot guarantee that there will never be another terrorist attack, and we cannot seal our country under a glass dome," Napolitano said. "However, we continue to do everything we can to reduce the risk of terrorism in our nation."

The head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter, told the committee that the al Qaeda off-shoot based in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), at the moment represented the biggest threat to the United States.

Leiter said that the parent al Qaeda group, believed to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, was probably at its weakest point since the September 11, 2001 attacks but remained a "very determined enemy."

"I actually consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with (Anwar) al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland," Leiter told the committee, noting that it has a large Internet following.

Al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric who is U.S. citizen but left the country in 2001 and joined al Qaeda in Yemen, has been tied to plots against the United States over the last two years.

The group has claimed responsibility for the 2009 Christmas Day thwarted attack aboard a U.S. airliner and a more recent attempt to blow up two U.S.-bound cargo planes with toner cartridges packed with explosives.

Al-Awlaki also communicated with a U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan who in November 2009 allegedly went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 and wounded 32. Leiter said that it appeared to be more "inspiration rather than direction."

Hundreds of Afghan fighters to lay down arms: NATO

Category: , , By News Updater
(Reuters) - As many as 900 Afghan fighters have agreed to lay down their arms, a senior NATO official said on Monday, but it is too soon to say if a drive to bring in low-level fighters can be decisive in curbing bloodshed.

Major General Philip Jones, who leads NATO support of the Afghan government's efforts to broker peace with various militant factions, said reintegration of local fighters had begun in earnest three or four months ago.

"The pace of people coming into the program has picked up ... but the initial steps are the first in a very long process of trying to build peace," Jones told reporters in Kabul.

"It's a tough and complicated and very human process at all levels, but of course it would be after 20 years of war and 10 years of insurgency."

Yet many thousands more full- or part-time fighters from the Taliban and other militant groups will need to halt their hostilities if Afghanistan is to emerge from bloodshed.

Violence reached its highest level last year in nearly a decade of fighting after the Taliban government was overthrown, as U.S. President Barack Obama sent some 30,000 extra soldiers to take on Taliban militants dug in across southern Afghanistan.

After heavy fighting last year, parts of the southern Taliban heartland are more secure and Afghan and Western officials are hoping to rout the Taliban's spring offensive.

But the Taliban, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and other groups remain well-armed and determined and bloodshed has intensified in eastern Afghanistan and spread to once-secure areas of the country's north and west.


Central to any lasting improvement will be support from Pakistanin reining in militants along the Afghan border and better governance in Afghanistan, where corrupt officials have driven many villagers into the arms of the insurgency.

President Hamid Karzai sees reconciliation with Taliban leaders as the key to ending the war but there are few signs of traction despite more than a year of support for high-level talks.

At the other end of the militant spectrum, Jones said at least 45 armed groups or possibly more were in talks with the government on lower-level or local reintegration.

Those who want to sign up must stop fighting, cut ties with other militants and embrace the Afghan constitution. They provide the government biometric information and surrender heavy weapons but are allowed to keep arms deemed essential for self-defense.

In return, they are promised some level of protection from militant retribution and may get limited assistance and aid projects for their communities.

Yet at least a dozen fighters who signed up with reintegration programs have been attacked or killed and the Taliban have made it clear that "anyone who steps into this process has a death sentence over their head", Jones said.

As foreign forces begin to withdraw gradually from July this year, an end to hostilities at the local level may be as important as decisions from Taliban leaders.

"It's not to say that peace in

our time is around the corner," Jones said. "But there is a huge sense of war weariness."

Pipeline Attacked Near Israel-Egypt Border

Category: , By Echo
Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce Knowles & Katy Perry topped the charts (in that order) in the 16th annual Sally Beauty Best Tressed Survey. The survey polled results from 1,000 American women on the best and worst celebrity hair styles of the year.

Long layered haircuts have clearly been the trend in celebrity hair styles for the last year and more. This poll is another indication that long hair styles are here to stay for a while longer. These long hair styles have varied mostly with the cutting in of bangs or no bangs. Side swept bangs, blunt bangs, wispy bangs or choppy bangs all contribute to changing the overall look of long hair styles, so find out if bangs are right for you.

This poll also included some questions on personal hair care that had some surprising results, check it out below.

EL-ARISH, Egypt - An explosion rocked a gas terminal in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, setting off a massive fire that was contained after officials shut off the flow of gas to neighboring Jordan and Egypt, officials said.

There were no reports of casualties from the blast at a gas terminal in the Sinai town of El-Arish. The explosion sent a pillar of flames leaping into the sky, but was a safe distance from the nearest homes, said regional governor Abdel Wahab Mabrouk.

The cause of the explosion was not clear. Mabrouk told Egyptian media he suspected "sabotage," but did not explain further.

The blast came as a popular uprising engulfed Egypt, where anti-government protesters have been demanding the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak for the past two weeks. The Sinai Peninsula, home to Bedouin tribesmen, has been the scene of clashes between residents and security forces. It borders both Israel and the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamic militant Hamas.

The pipeline transports gas from Egypt's Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to Israel, Syria and Jordan.

Mabrouk told Egypt's Nile News TV that the fire was brought under control by mid-morning, after valves allowing the flow of gas from the terminal into pipelines were shut off.

Egyptian authorities expect gas to remain shut off for a week, until repairs are completed, Maabrah said.

Egypt has potential natural gas reserves of 62 trillion cubic feet, the 18th largest in the world.

Neighboring Israel relies on the gas pipeline to meet its energy needs and spends billions to bring natural gas from Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said that it's not clear whether damage was caused to the pipeline leading to Israel. "But as a security precaution, Israel temporarily stopped, by its own initiative, the transfer of gas as procedure dictates," the statement said. Israel has alternative energy sources and is not likely to experience power shortages, the statement said.

The blast also halted the gas supply to Jordan, which depends on Egyptian gas to generate 80 percent of its electricity.

Jordan's National Electric Power Company is resorting to heavy fuel and diesel to keep national power plants running, said the company's director-general, Ghalib Maabrah. He said Jordan has heavy fuel and diesel reserves to generate electricity for three weeks, adding that the shift will cost Jordan $4.2 million a day.

The SITE intelligence group, which monitors Islamist websites, reported that jihadists had issued online posts urging Sinai Bedouin tribes to launch attacks against the pipeline. SITE quoted one Islamist website author who wrote: "To our brothers, the Bedouins of Sinai, the heroes of Islam, strike with an iron fist, because this is a chance to stop the supply to the Israelites."

Egypt began providing Israel with natural gas in February 2008 under a deal by which it will sell Israel 60 billion cubic feet a year for 15 years.

The deal raised controversy at home, with some in the Egyptian opposition saying the gas was being sold at below-market rates. Others resent Israel's treatment of Palestinians, and say Egypt shouldn't supply energy to Israel.

"The deal (to sell gas) was a blow to the pride of Egyptians and a betrayal," former diplomat Ibrahim Yousri told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Yousri led a high court challenge to try halt Egypt's sale of gas to Israel. Although the high court ruled in his favor in February 2010, the ruling was widely ignored by the government.

The Sinai gas pipelines have come under attack in the past. Bedouin tribesmen attempted to blow up the pipeline last July as tensions intensified between them and the Egyptian government, which they accuse of discrimination and of ignoring their plight.

Sudan shootout kills 20, army warns of more clashes

Category: By Echo
JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - At least 20 people died in a shootout between Sudanese soldiers in a southern town, the military said, warning there was a risk of more clashes as the country divided its forces before the south becomes independent.

Fighting with mortars and heavy machineguns broke out in Malakal on Thursday and again on Friday when part of a military unit refused to redeploy with its weapons to the north -- part of a separation of forces before the secession of south Sudan.

An overwhelming majority of people from the oil-producing south voted to split from the north in a referendum in January, according to preliminary results released this week.

The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended a decades-long civil war between north and south that also set southern tribe against southern tribe, in internal conflicts that have left deep scars.

Northern and southern leaders still have to finalise how they will share out military hardware and security forces -- as well as oil revenues and debts -- before the south's departure, expected on July 9. Many fear tensions could re-emerge during the negotiations.

"This morning the number of dead (in Malakal) has risen to 20, and this could change at any moment. Searches are continuing and many are wounded ... Both sides were firing mortars and heavy machineguns," said southern army spokesman Philip Aguer.

The dead included two children and a Sudanese driver for the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, officials said on Friday.

Malakal is currently patrolled by a combined military unit made up of the north's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), a force the U.N. said was in the process of splitting up before the south's independence

"SAF are supposed to go north, SPLA stay in the south," said Aguer.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the SAF unit included many southern soldiers drawn from a militia that fought alongside the north during the civil war.

Aguer said it was those southern soldiers in the SAF unit who resisted the redeployment north and began exchanging fire with other members of the same SAF unit.

"This fighting could happen anywhere where SAF has employed former militia. They are not real soldiers and don't understand the arrangement," he told Reuters.

He said the SPLA set up a buffer zone between the two sides and one SPLA soldier died after being caught in the crossfire.

UNHCR staff held a minute's silence in tribute to driver John James Okwath, 26, who died in hospital on Friday after being shot in the chest, the agency said in a statement.

Than Shwe Confounds Gamblers

Category: By Echo
Much as the presidential elections in Burma's new parliament have been stage-managed by junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe, many local political observers and businessmen did not anticipate his choice of Thein Sein for president and, as a result, lost money betting on Than Shwe or junta No.3 ex-Gen Shwe Mann for president.

“Burmese usually love to bet on European football matches or the last two numbers on Thailand’s daily stock exchange,” said a businessman in Rangoon. “But this time, a lot of people were betting on who would be the new president.
“A well-known businessman who runs a private journal lost 10 million kyat (about US $10,000) to his friend after betting on Than Shwe,” he said.

Before the weekend, a majority of government officials, journalists, businessmen and INGO staffers said they assumed Than Shwe would either assume the presidential position or hand it to one of his closest aides, such as Shwe Mann.

“We [my friends and I] predicted that the senior general would taken the presidency since—under the 2008 constitution—the Head of State is the President,” said an automobile dealer in Rangoon. “I certainly had my money on him. Others bet on U Shwe Mann.”

Expectations were running high among many gamblers that Shwe Mann would “win” because Than Shwe reportedly introduced him to Chinese counterparts in September during a state visit to Beijing.

However, it is an open secret that Than Shwe likes to keep everyone guessing. Not even his closest allies pretend to know his next move.

Shwe Mann was not only considered a safe bet by several pundits, but he was also backed by some executives of a well-known NGO in Rangoon. Many said they believed the 63-year-old general could bring about some positive developments.

Leaked information from Naypyidaw at the weekend and on Monday suggested Than Shwe was going to nominate Prime Minister Thein Sein, not himself or Shwe Mann.

This came true on Friday when Parliament announced the appointment of Thein Sein as President and another top junta official, ex-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo, as Vice President alongside Sai Mauk Kham, a Shan MP from the junta’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Shwe Mann was elected by the Lower House as its speaker on Monday.

But although political observers and gamblers were interested in who would become President, most Burmese citizens were not.

“Whoever becomes the president, everything will be the same,” said a 53-year-old schoolteacher from Rangoon. “We Burmese will be still under the military rule of Snr-Gen Than Shwe. It is unimportant who is appointed President.”

China to impose green tax on heavy polluter

Category: , , By Echo
China is to impose an environmental tax on heavy polluters under an ambitious cleanup strategy being finalised in Beijing, according to experts familiar with the programme.

The tax will be included alongside the world's most ambitious renewable energy scheme and fresh efforts to fight smog when the government unveils the biggest, greenest five-year plan in China's modern history next month.

After three decades of filthy growth, the measures are designed to pull the country from the environmental mire and make it a leader in the low-carbon economy. But sceptics question whether the policy will have any more success than previous failed efforts to overcome the nexus of corrupt officials and rule-dodging factory bosses.

The environmental tax – which will levy fees according to discharges of sulphur dioxide, sewage and other contaminants – is intended as a disincentive for polluting industries, many of which have flocked to China to take advantage of low costs and weak regulations. Officials and academics have been studying the options for several years, but government advisers have told the Guardian the policy is certain to be adopted.

"The environment tax is going to happen. This is evident in the proposals for the next five year plan," said Ma Zhong, director of the School of Environment and National Resources at Renmin University in Beijing. "It is likely to be levied nationwide, but there is also a possibility that it will initially be introduced in selected regions."

Jiangxi, a south-eastern province, has applied to host a pilot project. Domestic media predict the tax could come into force in 2013. "Our pollution situation is very serious. In order to deal with this, we need an environmental tax system. We will do it step by step," said Zhang Jianping, a senior economist at the Institute for International Economic Research in the National Development and Reform Commission.

Carbon dioxide, a key concern given China's status as the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, may be included in the system at a later stage, though the issue is being debated. "Some want to put them together, but I think a carbon tax should be different and at a higher level and from the environmental tax," said Zhang.

The revenues would go to the central government, prompting calls for them to fund the restoration of badly damaged ecosystems or to compensate victims of industrial contamination. But the main aim of the new system is act as a disincentive to polluters.

"In the early phase, the objective of this tax is to change behaviour rather than to raise money," Ma said. The main impact is likely to be felt by the energy sector as well as emission-intensive industries, such as steel, chemicals and cement.

China has pollution charges, but they are low and poorly enforced by weak environment bureaus. Tax officials are likely to be in a stronger position, though their impact depends on how high the rates are set and whether monitoring and accountability systems are improved.

The government has also announced plans to raise and widen resource and property taxes to discourage real estate speculation and excessive exploitation of energy, water and mineral supplies. A mandatory carbon trading system – on a regional or sectoral level – is also expected to be included in the next five-year plan, which will be announced in March.

The use of financial and market-based tools represents a departure for the communist government from previous five-year plans, which have tended to rely on top-down administrative orders.

Environmental groups welcomed the initiative, but said the government had to do more in terms of transparency, implementation and burden sharing.

"The launch of the environmental tax will mark China's first real effort to use financial mechanisms to curb pollution," said Wang Xiaojun of Greenpeace. "It's a good sign that the 'money talk' has begun, but there is still a long way to go to really charge polluters what they owe the environment and the people who rely on it."

Steps towards a greener China

It is too early to proclaim the emergence of the world's first green superpower, but March's five-year plan will outline several new steps in that direction:

• Energy efficiency and environmental services to be declared "priority industries" for first time.

• Three trillion yuan (£284bn) to be spent on environmental protection over the period – double the amount from 2006-2010

• A carbon intensity target – the ratio of GHG emissions relative to GDP – to be set, likely at about 16%.

• A new environmental tax on heavy polluters to levy fees on discharges of sulphur dioxide, sewage and other contaminants.

More radical steps are also under discussion including:

• A cap on energy use.

• A shift from GDP-based performance evaluation.

Black money funds political parties: Rahul Bajaj

Category: , , By Echo
"Where does the political party gets its funds from? Come on, I've been in Parliament for four years. Its not cheques, its not by small members. All money comes in through black money. Black money doesn't come from heaven," Bajaj Auto Chairman said addressing a CII conference here.

However, he maintained that the Bajaj family does not fund parties in cash and pays only through cheques to ensure accountability.

He further hinted that promoters of companies also indulge in diverting some of the company's money illegally turning it into black money in the economy.

"Corporates do take it out from the company. Most of us know some of the ways of taking that money out ... taking out black money from a company is cheating minority shareholders," he said.

Bajaj's comments come even as a debate rages nationally over black money of Indians stashed in Swiss Bank accounts, with demands being made to get the money--quantum of which is unknown but speculated to be huge--back to India.

Bajaj said principles of corporate governance cannot help if the top management of a company, including its promoters, chairmen and CEOs, is corrupt and further expressed regret that nobody likes to talk about this facet.

The ex-president of industry body CII also made public his reservations clear about the role of industry associations, naming CII and FICCI. He said they take no action against its members indulging in corruption and do not even censure the wrongdoers.

However, he also spoke against the prevailing "presumption" in Government to see every promoter as a "crook" and asked for better legislative systems to boost the economic climate.

"One bad egg should not mean that you shackle the entire corporate sector. The 95 per cent who do business well should not suffer," he said, pointing out to the Satyam case involving R Raju and the company's external auditors PricewaterHouse Coopers.

"Raju shamed us, PwC shamed the auditing fraternity. That (PwC's misdoings) was either corruption or downright incompetence," he added.

On independent directors, he said, many-a-time, they are cronies appointed by the promoters themselves. Independent directors should decide whether "to be led or to lead", he said.

Immigrants must know English: Cameron

Category: , By Echo
London: Britain is planning to introduce tougher rules to ensure that immigrants specially from the Indian sub-continent have a "reasonable standard" of English, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

"Migrant families have an obligation to teach their children English before they start school. We will bring forward tougher rules to ensure those arriving in the UK have a reasonable standard of English," Cameron told the House of Commons.
According to a report, one in six children do not speak English as their first language. Ministers believe that children brought up in London stand a better chance of succeeding if their parents have a good grasp of the language.

Cameron spoke out after a Commons exchange with Yorkshire Tory MP Kris Hopkins, who said: "Sadly in Keighley, too many children start school and don't speak English."
He then asked Cameron: "Do you agree with me that there is a responsibility and an obligation upon parents to make sure their children speak English?"
Cameron replied: "I completely agree with you. The fact is, in too many cases this isn't happening.

"The last government did make some progress on making sure people learned English when they came to our country. I think we need to go further. If you look at the figures for the number of people who are brought over as husbands and wives, particularly from the Indian sub-continent, we should be putting in place and we will be putting in place tougher rules to make sure they do learn English so when they come, if they come, they can be more integrated into our country."

A recent study by MigrationWatch found that children who speak English as their first language are in a minority in some inner-city London schools.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester all have more than 40 per cent of pupils in primary schools who do not have English as a first language.
To date, the government's policies have focused upon marriage visas. Since September, those coming to Britain to marry UK citizens have been forced to sit pre-entry tests proving a basic level of English.

Lawyers argue that the tests, which apply only to those from non-English-speaking countries, are discriminatory, and breach human rights law. But Immigration Minister Damian Green argued that the English language requirement would allow for a "more cohesive society".


US welcomes India's role in Asia Pacific region

Category: , , By Echo
The US welcomes India's greater involvement in East Asia and is committed to working with New Delhi as it increases ties with US allies in Southeast Asia and Japan, a senior US official has said.
"Ultimately, we think that India's role in the Asian-Pacific region stands to be one of the most important new developments over the course of the next decade," Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell told reporters on Wednesday.
Offering to help India and China improve their relations, he said: "We also, frankly, support an improvement in dialogue between India and China, and we would seek to take steps to facilitate that as we move forward." Back in November 2009, India had expressed deep concern over a joint statement issued after President Barack Obama's China visit acknowledging Beijing's role in South Asia. Among other things, it "welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia".

It also supported "the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan" and expressed readiness "to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region". However, after Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington last month, the joint statement made no reference to South Asia apparently in response to New Delhi's sensitivities.
Downplaying the absence of a reference to Beijing's role in South Asia in the latest US-China joint statement, Washington said it did not necessarily reflect a change in policy.Though the joint statement issued here after Obama's talks with Hu made no direct reference to South Asia it clearly stated, "The presidents further reaffirmed their commitment to the November 2009 US - China Joint Statement."