Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ahmedabad ISRO centre to map Himalayan region

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad will undertake mapping and tracing of the Himalayan region to keep track of the movement of glaciers and their health. This is to put in place governance and management of the Himalayan eco-system.

Addressing a press conference here, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said the latest initiative was aimed at putting in place India’s own research capacity, which was now lacking in substance and more dependent on outside support.

He released a report, “Governance for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem: Guidelines and Best Practices (G-SHE).” The report will be a key input in the formulation of a National Mission for sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem under India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change.

“The mission aims to scientifically study the impact of climate change on Indian Himalaya and put in place adaptation measures to meet the growing challenge. The mission will bring together the efforts of climatologists, glaciologists, other experts as well as local stakeholders.”

The G-SHE report was meant to be a working document, to provide the basis for new approaches and practices. The report has been put in the public domain, including on the Ministry website. Comments and inputs have been sought from the State governments, domestic and international institutions, civil society, local communities and other stakeholders.
Glaciologists institute

The Minister said the government decided to set up a National Institute of Himalayan Glaciologists in Dehra Dun. It would become India’s main centre of excellence for monitoring the Himalayan glaciers. “We will join hands with Bhutan, China and Nepal to study the health of the glaciers.”

Mr. Jairam also announced the setting up of 15 fully automated weather stations in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh to monitor the climate in the Himalayan region and help authorities in preparing data and research profile. The first of these would become operational in a couple of days at Almora in Uttarakhand.

Scarlett Getting Married!!

here were plenty of people surprised by Scarlett Johansson's remote Canadian wedding to Ryan Reynolds last September -- and you can count Scarlett among them....
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Quake, Tsunami Kill at Least 34 in Pacific

Towering tsunami waves spawned by a powerful earthquake swept ashore on Samoa and American Samoa early Tuesday, flattening villages, killing at least 34 people and leaving dozens of workers missing at devastated National Park Service facilities.

Cars and people were swept out to sea by the fast-churning waters as survivors fled to high ground, where they remained huddled hours later. Hampered by power and communications outages, officials struggled to assess the casualties and damage.

A Samoan reporter says tsunami victims "are everywhere" in a hospital near a hard-hit area.

Associated Press reporter Keni Lesa said three or four villages on the popular tourist coast near the southern town of Lalomanu on Samoa's main island of Upolu had been "wiped out" by waves that roared ashore early Wednesday.

Lesa said he had visited the town's main hospital where "there are bodies everywhere," including at least one child.

Hampered by power and communications outages, officials struggled to assess the casualties and damage. The quake, with a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3, struck around dawn about midway between Samoa and American Samoa.

The U.S. Geological Service, which estimated the magnitude at 8.0, said the quake struck 20 miles below the ocean floor, 120 miles from American Samoa and 125 miles from Samoa, with a 5.6-magnitude aftershock 20 minutes later.

A five-foot tsunami wave swept into Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, shortly after the earthquake, sending sea water surging inland about 100 yards before receding, leaving some cars and debris stuck in mud. Electricity outages were reported, and telephone lines were jammed. The U.S. territory is about the size of Washington, D.C. and has a population of 65,000,

Reports differed, but tsunami waves are believed to have been as big as 20 feet high in places and reached as far as half a mile inland, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

Radio host John Rayner was down the coast from Pago Pago. "It was just absolute frantic. People were saying 'go high' or go pray somewhere," he told Whitaker. "Get away from ocean as quickly as you can."

Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, was quoted as saying four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet high roared ashore soon afterward, reaching up to a mile inland. Holly Bundock, spokeswoman for the National Park Service's Pacific West Region in Oakland, Calif., spoke with him from his vantage point under a coconut tree uphill from Pago Pago Harbor; he reported that the park's visitor center and offices appeared to have been destroyed.

Bundock said Reynolds and another park service staffer had been able to locate only 20 percent of the park's 13 to 15 employees and 30 to 50 volunteers. The National Park of American Samoa is the only national park south of the equator, a scenic expanse of reefs, picturesque beaches, tropical forests and wildlife that include flying foxes and sea turtles.

Residents in both Samoa and American Samoa reported being shaken awake by the quake, which lasted two to three minutes, then fleeing uphill out of fear of a tsunami. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a general alert from American Samoa to New Zealand, warning of the prospect of a "destructive" wave.

The ramifications of the tsunami could be felt thousands of miles away, with federal officials saying strong currents and dangerous waves were forecast from California to Washington state. No major flooding was expected, however.

Mase Akapo, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in American Samoa, said at least 14 people were killed in four different villages on the main island of Tutuila, while an unspecified number of people died neighboring Samoa, with reports of people and cars swept out to sea. Thousands of people were still huddled on high ground hours after the initial quake, which was followed by at three aftershocks of at least 5.6 magnitude.

An unspecified number of fatalities and injuries reported in the Samoan village of Talamoa. New Zealander Graeme Ansell said the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale was leveled.

"It was very quick. The whole village has been wiped out," Ansell told New Zealand's National Radio from a hill near Samoa's capital, Apia. "There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need 'round here."

Schools and businesses were closed, with the Samoan capital virtually deserted.

"Our house has been taken by the tsunami and we have lost everything," Teresa Sulili Dusi told National Radio, adding that "everything dropped on the floor and we thought the house was going to go down as well. Thank God, it didn't."

Local media said they had reports of some landslides in the Solosolo region of the main Samoan island of Upolu and damage to plantations in the countryside outside Apia.

American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono was at his Honolulu office assessing the situation but was having difficulty getting information, said Filipp Ilaoa, deputy director of the office.

"There is some water damage to residences," Ilaoa said. "To what extent and how much, and how many villages are effected, that is a mystery at this time."

Rescue workers found a scene of destruction and debris with cars overturned or stuck in mud. The staff of the port ran to higher ground, and police soon came by, telling residents to get inland. Several students were seen ransacking a gas station/convenience store.

Rear Adm. Manson Brown, Coast Guard commander for the Pacific region, said the Coast Guard is in the early stages of assessing what resources to send to American Samoa. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. John Titchen said a C-130 was being dispatched Wednesday to deliver aid, asssess damage and take the governor back home. A New Zealand air force P3 Orion maritime search airplane also was being sent.

One of the runways at Pago Pago International Airport was being cleared of widespread debris for emergency use, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in Los Angeles.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was deploying teams to American Samoa to provide support and on the ground assessment.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of American Samoa and all those in the region who have been affected by these natural disasters," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

The ramifications of the tsunami could be felt thousands of miles away, with federal officials saying strong currents and dangerous waves were forecast from California to Washington state. No major flooding was expected, however.

The earthquake and tsunami were big, but not on the same large scale of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed more than 150,000 across Asia the day after Christmas in 2004, said tsunami expert Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey in Seattle.

The 2004 earthquake was at least 10 times stronger than the 8.0 to 8.3 measurements being reported for Tuesday's quake, Atwater said. It's also a different style of earthquake than the one that hit in 2004.

The tsunami hit American Samoa about 25 minutes after the quake, which is similar to the travel time in 2004, Atwater said. The big difference is there were more people in Indonesia at risk than in Samoa.

Al Qaeda Bombers Learn from Drug Smugglers

Al Qaeda has developed a new tactic that allows suicide bombers to breach even the tightest security, as CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports.

Inside a Saudi palace, the scene was the bloody aftermath of an al Qaeda attack in August aimed at killing Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, head of Saudi Arabia's counter terrorism operations.

To get his bomb into this room, Abdullah Asieri, one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted men, avoided detection by two sets of airport security including metal detectors and palace security. He spent 30 hours in the close company of the prince's own secret service agents - all without anyone suspecting a thing.

How did he do it?

Taking a trick from the narcotics trade - which has long smuggled drugs in body cavities - Asieri had a pound of high explosives, plus a detonator inserted in his rectum.

This was a meticulously planned operation with al Qaeda once again producing something new: this time, the Trojan bomber.

The blast left the prince lightly wounded - a failure as an assassination, but as an exercise in defeating security, it was perfect.

The bomber persuaded the prince he wanted to leave al Qaeda, setting a trap.

Al Qaeda has an animated movie showing the meeting between the bomber and the prince. Asieri says more senior al Qaeda figures want to surrender and convinces the prince to talk to them on a cell phone.

In the conversation recorded by al Qaeda, you hear a beep in the middle of two identical phrases that are repeated by the bomber and his handler.

Explosives experts tell CBS News that beep was likely a text message activating the bomb concealed inside Asieri.

The Trojan bomber hands the phone to Prince Mohammed. He's standing next to him, and 14 seconds later, he detonates.

"This is the nightmare scenario," said Chris Yates, an aviation security consultant.

On a plane at altitude, the effects of such a bomb could be catastrophic. And there is no current security system that could stop it.

"Absolutely nothing other than to require people to strip naked at the airport," said Yates.

And al Qaeda says it will share its new technique via the Internet very soon. There is nothing that can stop that either.

Obama To Honor India With His First State Dinner

And the first state dinner of President Barack Obama's administration goes to ... India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is coming to America for a state visit Nov. 24, just before Thanksgiving. Such visits include an elaborate arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn, one-on-one time with the president and, in the evening, a state dinner.

It's a plum presidential nod of recognition for the world's largest democracy and most stable U.S. ally in a hostile corner of the world.

But why India first?

It was just four years ago that President George W. Bush and Singh raised their glasses and toasted the U.S.-India relationship at the start of a July 2005 state dinner.

Indian officials, however, have watched warily since then as the U.S. has become more engaged with its archrival, Pakistan, focusing on greater military cooperation in dealing with Islamist extremists there and in neighboring Afghanistan. Honoring Singh with what is considered one of the grandest and most glamorous of White House affairs 10 months into Obama's presidency may allay some of those concerns, along with perceptions that Pakistan has surpassed India as America's best friend in South Asia.

It also may be Obama's way of closing the loop with all the major U.S. allies as his freshman year in office draws to a fast close.

Obama's first-year international itinerary has taken him to the major European power centers of England, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. He has toured the Middle East and is scheduled to visit China and possibly other Asian countries in November, before Singh visits.

The president has even scheduled a day trip to Copenhagen this week _ he'll spend more time in the air than on the ground _ in a bid to personally boost his adopted hometown's chances of bringing the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hand-delivered the state-visit invitation from Obama during her July trip to India.

Singh, re-elected to a second term earlier this year, and Obama met on the sidelines of a London economic summit in April, and discussed cooperating on the economic downturn, climate change and counterterrorism. Obama later called him a "very wise and decent man."

After years of mutual wariness during the Cold War, U.S.-Indian relations are at a high point, thanks partly to the Bush administration's push to allow American civilian nuclear trade with India. The Obama administration has used that accord as a foundation for improving ties and hopes of cooperation on the president's priority issues, such as climate change and countering terrorism.

"We are very committed to this relationship," Clinton said of India when questioned about deepening U.S. relations with Pakistan.

But a trip to India so far has escaped the sights of the president's travel planners.

That's where the dinner comes in. A state dinner technically is for a "head of state," and Singh is not. India's head of state is Pratibha Patil, in the largely symbolic role of president. But there is precedent for having state dinners for non-heads of state.

Obama's first one will be the talk of the town, perhaps second only to his inauguration and the parties that followed in terms of celebrity star power and got-to-be-there fever.

A ton of planning is involved, from creating the invitation itself to compiling a guest list. Meals, desserts and wines are tasted until the right pairings are found. Flowers must be chosen and arranged just so, along with the seating, place settings and entertainment.

Responsibility for the planning falls to first lady Michelle Obama and her staff, and people will be waiting to see what twists she and her social secretary, Desiree Rogers, will put on one of the White House's most staid traditions.

Early state dinner rumblings after Obama took office were about opening the events up to "real people."

Inquring minds also want to know what other changes may be in store. Will they eat in the State Dining Room or shift chairs to the larger East Room? Will dinner courses be prepared with vegetables pulled from Mrs. Obama's popular South Lawn garden?

Would they consider putting their well-dressed guests on boats headed down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon? John F. Kennedy did that for his first state dinner a just few months into his term, in May 1961, for the president of Tunisia.

Or how about dinner and black-tie inside a big tent in the Rose Garden? Bill Clinton did that for his first such dinner a year and a half into his presidency, in June 1994, for the Japanese emperor.

Bush held his first dinner eight months in. It was for Mexico, less than a week before the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

Why are so many France Telecom workers dying?

In the past 19 months, 24 workers have committed suicide. Shocking? Not when compared to previous years' totals.
Some of the employees of France Telecom – which operates the "Orange" brand in France – have seen the future. It is black and comfortless. The latest person to come to that view was a 51-year-old father of two employed in an Orange call centre who threw himself from a motorway bridge near Annecy on Monday. His death brought the number of France Telecom employees who have committed suicide in the past 19 months to 24.

Trades union leaders blame the allegedly brutal management culture of a company which has transformed itself over a decade from a ponderous state utility to a leading telecommunications enterprise.

For months, the France Telecom management has dismissed the suicides as a contagious "fad" among its workforce. Its chief executive and president, Didier Lombard, admitted yesterday that he had "made mistakes, which has increased the stress on my employees".

The suicides are disturbing because they are, on one level, a modern plague with implications well beyond France. The number of suicides, especially work-related suicides, has been increasing in almost all developed nations.

The France Telecom victims have mostly been previously well-adjusted people in their 40s and 50s whose familiar working lives have been turned upside down by the triumph of the mobile telephone and the internet. Tens of thousands of France Telecom workers were once needed to deal with physical repair or installation work on land lines. Others dealt with familiar business clients. Frequently, they worked in teams.

The decline of land lines and the transformation of France Telecom into a successful mobile phone and internet provider has abolished the need for many of these jobs. But the employees remain.

Long-standing telecoms workers retain the protected status of French public servants. France Telecom cannot easily make them redundant. Instead, the company, which was spun-off in 1996 and became majority private-owned in 2004, is accused of adopting "bullying" tactics to "encourage" unwanted workers to leave the company. Many of the employees have been pitched overnight into faceless, high-pressure call-centres, where they are expected to compete for results against the person sitting in the next booth.

However, the alleged "epidemic" of telecoms suicides should also be placed in a wider context. France – the country of savoir vivre, whose President would like national "happiness" to be measured and included in a new international yardstick of political achievement – has a higher suicide rate than almost all other large, developed nations. Its rate of work-related suicides, up to 400 a year, is one of the highest in the world.

Some sociologists suggest a nation which sees personal contentment as a right is more likely to plunge into depression if disappointed. France also has one of the world's highest consumption of anti-depressants.

The 24 suicides among the 100,000 France Telecom employees since February last year is high but less than the overall French average (17.6 suicides a year for every 100,000 people, compared to 6.8 in Britain).

The suicide rate in France Telecom is, in fact, falling. It was higher six or seven years ago but received little publicity. There were 29 suicides among France Telecom employees in 2002, 22 in 2003, 12 in 2008 and 12 so far this year.

Some employees defend their company and suggest that publicity about a "suicide epidemic" has been generated by trades unions in an attempt to de-rail the company's restructuring programme. "These people should try working in a computer start-up company," said Michel, a France Telecom employee since 1998.

"France Telecom is idyllic by comparison. To suggest that the work conditions incite people to commit suicide verges on the indecent. Hundreds of thousands of people on the dole would love to have such jobs."

Jean-Paul Rouannet, 51, would presumably have begged to disagree. On Monday he threw himself from a bridge over a motorway. He left a suicide note for his wife and two children, aged 12 and eight, which said that the "conditions at work" had forced him to take his life.

Mr Rouannet used to work in a France Telecom agency which dealt with large business clients. Six months ago he was transferred, without any choice, to a "reactive call centre" in Annecy where he dealt with customers' problems and complaints but was also expected to chat them up to persuade them to buy new France Telecom services. A friend, Danièle Rochet, said: "He could not cope with the stress of having to meet targets ... He should not have been just abandoned like that, without personal guidance."

Many – but not all – of the other 23 France Telecom employees who have taken their lives in the past 19 months had also been transferred from manual or managerial work to Orange call centres. In some cases, they had to "cold-call" potential customers; in others they were under pressure to sell additional goods or services to customers who rang in with questions or problems.

Olivier Dunand is a delegate of the moderate CFDT trades-union federation on the Comité d'Entreprise, or works council, of France Telecom. He says many employees are being pushed into unsuitable work to try to "break their health" or encourage them to leave the company. "Many people don't want to go into direct sales," he told The Independent yesterday. "It's a difficult adjustment to make, especially for older people, and you have to remember the average age at France Telecom is 48."

Each call centre had about 150 employees in an open-plan office, he said. There was a manager for every 10 or 12 people. "Everything the employee does is counted: when he or she goes to the toilet; when he eats; when he smokes a cigarette. The workers are even made to wear wi-fi ear and mouth pieces so they can deal with calls during their breaks."

Patrice Diochet, the France Telecom representative of the CFDT trades-union federation, said that despite promises made to the government after the 23rd suicide this month, nothing had been done to ease the pressure on employees at the Annecy call centre. "Results were all that counted," he said. "The workers were treated like cattle. When they failed to meet their targets, they were punished or screamed at."

Market-oriented economists argue that unhappy France Telecom employees are victims, in part, of their public servant, job-for-life status. In another company, or another country, they would have been obliged to take redundancy and, possibly, find more suitable work. As it is, France Telecom does offer subsidies and training to employees who want to leave – 22,000 people have left the company in the past four years.

Mr Lombard – who was booed and pelted with rubbish when he visited the Annecy call centre on Monday – has suspended all job transfers and promised to employ more personal counsellors for his workers. He insists the poor France Telecom suicide record – which goes back at least seven years – is "partly a question of contagion". But in trying to impose a culture of risk and uncertainty on employees trained in a public-service culture, he admits he went too far.

'This is one suicide too many'

The employee: Anne-Marie, 57

Like Jean-Paul Rouannet, who committed suicide on Monday, Anne-Marie works at the France Telecom Annecy call centre.

"They sent me here in June. I had no choice. My old job [dealing with business clients] was abolished. After six weeks' training, I was declared ready to start.

"My job is to sell more and more stuff, new services, to clients who ring up with some kind of problem. I am supposed to be obsessed with making more and more money on commission but it doesn't interest me. I just do what I can.

"Apart from the occasional break, I spend the whole day with earphones on my head. Some clients are cruel. They say, 'Are you going to be just like the others? Are you going to commit suicide too?'

"My colleague's death will change nothing. For Didier Lombard [the CEO of France Telecom], we are just pawns. We mean nothing. He says that we are just suicide fashion victims, copying one another. But things cannot go on like this. It is one suicide too many."

Network of Militants Is Robust After Mumbai Siege

Network of Militants Is Robust After Mumbai Siege

An Indian soldier took cover as the Taj Mahal hotel burned during a gun battle between Indian military and militants inside the hotel in Mumbai in November 2008.

KARACHI, Pakistan — Ten months after the devastating attacks in Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants, the group behind the assault remains largely intact and determined to strike India again, according to current and former members of the group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and intelligence officials.

Hafiz Saeed in May.
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Michael Kamber for The New York Times

A Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is said to have organized the Mumbai attacks in Millat Town, a suburb of Karachi. Hammad Amin Sadiq, described in a Pakistani dossier as a committed militant, was seen by neighbors riding around the streets on his motorbike.
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Roshan Mughal/Associated Press, 2008

Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, center, known as the chief of operations for Lashkar, is among those the Pakistani authorities have arrested.
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Sebastian D’souza/Mumbai Mirror, via Associated Press, 2008

According to an Indian document, Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman, implicated Hafiz Saeed in the Mumbai attack.
Roshan Mughal/Associated Press

Pakistani authorities have arrested seven men linked to the Mumbai attack, including Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
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Despite pledges from Pakistan to dismantle militant groups operating on its soil, and the arrest of a handful of operatives, Lashkar has persisted, even flourished, since 10 recruits killed 163 people in a rampage through Mumbai, India’s financial capital, last November.

Indian and Pakistani dossiers on the Mumbai investigations, copies of which were obtained by The New York Times, offer a detailed picture of the operations of a Lashkar network that spans Pakistan. It included four houses and two training camps here in this sprawling southern port city that were used to prepare the attacks.

Among the organizers, the Pakistani document says, was Hammad Amin Sadiq, a homeopathic pharmacist, who arranged bank accounts and secured supplies. He and six others begin their formal trial on Saturday in Pakistan, though Indian authorities say the prosecution stops well short of top Lashkar leaders.

Indeed, Lashkar’s broader network endures, and can be mobilized quickly for elaborate attacks with relatively few resources, according to a dozen current and former Lashkar militants and intelligence officials from the United States, Europe, India and Pakistan.

In interviews with The Times, they presented a troubling portrait of Lashkar’s capabilities, its popularity in Pakistan and the support it has received from former officials of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, helped create Lashkar two decades ago to challenge Indian control in Kashmir, the disputed territory that lies at the heart of the conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistani officials say that after Sept. 11, 2001, they broke their contacts with the group. No credible evidence has emerged of Pakistani government involvement in the Mumbai attacks, according to an American law enforcement official.

But a senior American intelligence official said the ISI was believed to maintain ties with Lashkar. Four Lashkar members, interviewed individually, said only a thin distance separated Lashkar and the ISI, bridged by former ISI and military officials.

One highly placed Lashkar militant said the Mumbai attackers were part of groups trained by former Pakistani military and intelligence officials at Lashkar camps. Others had direct knowledge that retired army and ISI officials trained Lashkar recruits as late as last year.

“Some people of the ISI knew about the plan and closed their eyes,” said one senior Lashkar operative in Karachi who said he had met some of the gunmen before they left for the Mumbai assault, though he did not know what their mission would be.

The intelligence officials interviewed insisted on anonymity while discussing classified information. The current and former Lashkar militants did not want their names used for fear of antagonizing others in the group or Pakistani authorities.

But by all accounts Lashkar’s network, though dormant, remains alive, and the possibility that it could strike India again makes Lashkar a wild card in one of the most volatile regions of the world.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they were created by the bloody partition of British India in 1947. Whether they begin again the long journey toward peace or find themselves eyeball to eyeball, nuclear arms at the ready, depends in no small measure on the actions of this shadowy group.

A new attack could reverberate widely through the region and revive nagging questions about Pakistan’s commitment to stamp out the militant groups that use its territory.

It could also dangerously complicate the Obama administration’s efforts in Afghanistan. Success there depends in part on avoiding open conflict between India and Pakistan, so that Pakistan’s military can focus on battling the Taliban insurgents who base themselves in Pakistan.

Even so, American diplomatic efforts to improve India-Pakistan relations have been stillborn. So delicate is the Kashmir issue that Indian officials bridle at any hint of American mediation.

Meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the two sides failed to restart talks last weekend, with India demanding greater steps by Pakistan to prosecute those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

The dossiers show that at the level of the police, the two countries can cooperate, and have exchanged DNA evidence, photographs and items found with the attackers to piece together a detailed portrait of the Mumbai plot.

But the files are laced with barbs and recriminations, reflecting the increasingly acid tenor of their relations. Despite pledges to work together to fight terrorism, the Pakistani and Indian intelligence services are not on speaking terms, according to officials in both countries and the United States.

The gaps heighten the risks of a new attack substantially, American officials fear.

“The only cooperation we have with the Pakistanis is that they send us their terrorists, who kill our people, and we kill their terrorists,” a senior Indian intelligence official said in an interview.

Asked how much his agency communicated with its Indian counterpart, a senior Pakistani intelligence official made an O with his thumb and forefinger.

“Zero,” he replied.

Brazen Planning

The Pakistani investigation concludes “beyond any reasonable doubt” that it was Lashkar militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks, preying on their victims in a train station, two five-star hotels, a cafe and a Jewish center over three days starting last Nov. 26.

According to testimony by the only surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, 22, Lashkar recruits were vetted and trained around the country, including at well-established camps in Muzaffarabad, in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, as well as in Mansehra, in North-West Frontier Province.

A core group, the 10 chosen for the Mumbai assault, was eventually moved to Karachi and its suburbs, where the real drilling began and where Pakistani investigators later retraced the plotters’ steps.

Beginning as early as May 2008, the group trained and planned brazenly while living in various neighborhoods in and around Karachi. They made scores of calls using cellphones, some with stolen numbers, starting in August. They set up voice lines over the Internet.

At one water sports shop, they bought inflatable boats, air pumps, life jackets and engines. One of their training camps, with five thatched rooms and a three-room house, was located near a creek, where they conducted water drills in the open.

The police later recovered an abundance of evidence: militant literature, pocket diaries, spent and live ammunition, empty gun magazines, life vests and receipts for supplies, including distributed weapons and explosives, the Pakistani dossier says.

At the other camp, which they named Azizabad, the group and their trainers set up a classroom.

Using handwritten manuals, the recruits were trained how to use cellphones to keep in contact with their handlers during the attack. They pored over detailed maps of the Indian coastline, plotting the course they would take to Mumbai. They learned how to use global positioning devices.

Working from Millat Town, a dusty, middle-class Karachi suburb on the eastern edge of the city, Mr. Sadiq organized the cadre. Neighbors described him as quiet and pious, riding around the streets with his two young sons perched on his motorbike. The Pakistani dossier says he was a committed Lashkar militant.

In an interview, his uncle, Lala Yasin, said the same thing, adding proudly that Mr. Sadiq was willing to do anything to liberate Kashmir from India’s grip.

“Lashkar-e-Taiba does not kill people without reason,” Mr. Yasin said at his home in Karachi, a few blocks from where his nephew planned the Mumbai attacks.

“It is the champion of jihad,” he explained. “Muslims are like a body and if one part of your body is aching, the entire body may be jeopardized.”

A Limited Crackdown

Pakistani authorities have arrested seven men linked to the Mumbai attack, including Mr. Sadiq and Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a man well known as the chief of operations for Lashkar. They are searching for at least 13 other suspects.

But their investigation has come up short of the founder of Lashkar, Hafiz Saeed, the man Indian and Western officials accuse of masterminding the attacks.

In June, a Pakistani court freed Mr. Saeed from detention, declaring that it did not have enough evidence to hold him. He now has an international warrant out for his arrest, issued by Interpol.

Under continuing pressure, Pakistani authorities this month confined his movements once again. But they say they have no new evidence against him.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said that there was simply not enough evidence to charge Mr. Saeed with a crime, and that all the evidence pointed to Mr. Lakhvi as the mastermind.

“Lakhvi was the head, and that is why he has been taken into custody,” Mr. Malik said in an interview. “He has been charged and now they are all under trial.”

Indian officials say they have sent Pakistan a six-page summary of evidence of Mr. Saeed’s complicity in the Mumbai attacks, a copy of which was given to The Times. The document, based on India’s own intelligence and testimony from Mr. Kasab, quotes Mr. Saeed giving detailed instructions to the group that carried out the attack.

“One Hindustani boat has to be hijacked for going to Bombay from Karachi,” the document says, using Mumbai’s former name. Mr. Saeed also told the group that it should aim to begin the assault around 7:30 p.m.

“At this hour there is considerable crowd at the places of our target,” the document quotes him as saying.

Pakistani officials and legal experts say the evidence is not as clear-cut as India says. The case against Mr. Saeed rests almost entirely on the testimony of Mr. Kasab, the surviving attacker, and serious questions remain about the way the Indian police obtained his statements, they say.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the organization Mr. Saeed now leads, bills itself as a charity and denies any links with Lashkar. Abdur Rahman Makki, Mr. Saeed’s deputy and brother-in-law, called any accusations against Mr. Saeed baseless.

“I do not think that there is anything left to talk about after the High Court’s decision that Hafez Saeed has no link to the Mumbai incident,” he said in an interview.

Yet he was not shy about admitting that Mr. Saeed, a fiery preacher, regularly exhorted young people to fight in Kashmir. “Hafiz Saeed always speaks and discusses about the jihad that is mentioned in the Holy Koran,” Mr. Makki said. “Not only Pakistanis, any Muslim has the duty to support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

All parts of India where Muslims are a majority must be freed, he said.

Meanwhile, despite promises to crack down on terrorists, Pakistan’s government has taken few concrete steps.

The former director of Pakistan’s elite national investigative force was appointed to lead the country’s new counterterrorism body in January. But it took seven months to get any money to get the agency moving, and only now is it beginning to hire staff members and flesh out its mission, law enforcement officials said.

Cracking down on Lashkar and other groups linked to the Kashmir struggle, and who do not explicitly seek to overthrow Pakistan’s government, was not urgent, they said.

“I have many other things that are higher priority now,” said one senior police official in Punjab, the province where DNA tests pinpointed the families of the Mumbai attackers, according to the dossier. “Why would a case in Mumbai be so important when Pakistan is the front line of the war on terror?”

Links to Intelligence Agencies

For Pakistani authorities, the political problems posed by arresting Mr. Saeed, or undertaking a broader crackdown on Lashkar, may outstrip the legal ones.

The organization and its cause — to “free” Kashmir — remain close to the hearts of the Pakistani public as well as the military and intelligence establishment.

Since the Mumbai attacks, “our funds increased and more people wanted to join us,” a senior Lashkar operative in Karachi said in an interview. A midlevel ISI officer told The Times this year that Lashkar’s membership extended to 150,000 people.

Despite official denials, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, maintains links to Lashkar, though the current level of support remains murky, according to the senior American intelligence official interviewed by The Times, as well as Pakistani analysts, retired military officials and former Lashkar members.

“Hafiz Saeed is the army’s man,” said Najam Sethi, an analyst and newspaper editor in Lahore, Pakistan. He and other analysts said the ISI was in no hurry to discard a group it helped create for a covert war against India.

“They have not abandoned it altogether,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore. “It is not a total reversal; it is a realization that this is not advisable at this time.”

Senior ISI officials disputed the view. While acknowledging that the ISI had worked closely with Lashkar-e-Taiba in the past, they said things were different now.

“Prior to 9/11, we had a very strong contact with L.E.T., even on the leadership level,” one senior Pakistani intelligence official said in an interview. “But after 9/11, we broke our contacts with not only L.E.T. but also the Taliban.”

“Today we think that it would have been better if we had not cut our ties with them the way we did,” the official added, “so that we could control them more.”

A senior Lashkar militant said the group was divided — with the operational wing, led by Mr. Lakhvi, chafing for more attacks on India, and the spiritual wing, led by Mr. Saeed, advocating a more cautious approach.

The senior Pakistani intelligence official said that some within Lashkar might aspire to a more ambitious agenda, and suggested that parts of the group might have acted on their own.

“Lashkar went rogue,” the Pakistani intelligence official said. “Perhaps L.E.T. or dissident factions wanted to emerge as a global player,” like Al Qaeda.

New Attacks Expected

Even as new details emerge about the Mumbai attacks, senior American military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials express grim certainty that Lashkar is plotting new attacks.

The United States warned Indian officials this year about a Mumbai-style attack by Lashkar against multiple sites in India, according to a senior Defense Department official and a senior American counterterrorism official.

The counterterrorism official said the information, gleaned from electronic intercepts and other sources, was not specific and apparently did not result in any arrests. But it was significant enough for American officials to alert their Indian counterparts.

“There were indications of possible terrorist activity in the run-up to the Indian elections,” in May, “and that information was shared promptly with Indian officials,” said the counterterrorism official.

Pakistani officials, however, say they have been kept in the dark. “We heard that the Americans have warned the Indians that something in Mumbai might happen, but no one informed us,” a senior Pakistani intelligence official said.

If there is one thing on which intelligence agencies on both sides of the border agree, it is that the consequences of a new attack by Lashkar could be devastating.

“We do fear that if something like Mumbai happens in India again, there might be a military reaction from the Indian side and it could trigger into a war,” said a senior intelligence official in Pakistan.

“Right now we cannot guarantee that it will not happen again, because we do not have any control over it.”

Guinea Massacre Toll Hits 157

•France suspends military cooperation

France has suspended military ties with Guinea after more than 157 people were killed in a "savage and bloody" crackdown on opposition protesters, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said yesterday.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's government is also reviewing bilateral aid with the former French colony and has called for an European Union meeting to be held in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss "additional measures."
"France reiterates its condemnation of this savage and bloody repression," said Kouchner in a statement.
"France has decided to immediately suspend its military cooperation with Guinea. It is also examining the full scope of its bilateral aid" to the west African country he added.
The Guinean Human Rights Organisation said at least 157 people were killed and more than 1,250 wounded when Guinean troops opened fire on protesters in the capital Conakry on Monday.
The United Nations, African Union and European Union all expressed alarm over the killings among tens of thousands of people who attended the rally against junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara.
Camara confirmed the outbreak of violence in a radio interview on Monday but declined to give a figure for casualties.
A similar statement made available to THISDAY yesterday said France calls on the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) to show responsibility and to heed the legitimate aspiration of the Guinean people to democratically designate its leaders.
On this note the country obwerved that compliance with the commitment freely entered into by Captain Camara, before the international community, not to stand in the 2010 presidential election, is likely to secure a return to calm.

On Dashami, Jammu housewife kills jihadi with axe

Deepika’s the perfect girlfriend

Deepika goes all out to plan a surprise party for boyfriend Ranbir and gifts him a sleek and expensive
Deepika Padukone proved to be the perfect girlfriend when she threw a surprise party for Ranbir. He is also the proud owner of a brand new laptop. We don’t know if money can buy love, but it sure can make a boyfriend happy! Deepika organised the party to bring in his birthday on Sunday when he came back from Bhopal. Deepika invited few, but very close friends to the surprise dinner.

Our source said, “Deepika took Ranbir to a suburban restaurant on Sunday night on the pretext of having dinner.

She had already called some of Ranbir’s very close friends, which included Rohit Dhawan and Ayan Mukherjee, the director of Wake Up Sid. Ranbir, who is normally not a party animal, was pleased to see them and a couple of his old school friends. They had dinner and brought in his birthday. Ranbir was extremely thrilled.”

Deepika’s present of a sleek and high-end laptop was thoughtful as she is aware of Ranbir being net-savvy. Ranbir loved the gift and was seen checking the features immediately. The source added, “On his birthday on Monday, Ranbir also saw the first trial of his film, Wake Up Sid with Deepika and his parents.”

Water find sparks a mad rush for lunar property

Want to buy land on the Moon? You think Bangalore's getting too congested? There's even an Indian who would like to sell 2,000 acres
at $4 an acre. He got it cheap, though on an average, lunar land costs $20 an acre. The discovery of water molecules on the Moon seems to have spurred a new interest in this property.

Bizarre? That's the kind of extra-terrestrial chat on the internet about buying land on the Moon, something US-headquartered Lunar Embassy claims it first initiated.

Whether that claim is true or not, the company has been selling and registering property on the Moon for the past 29 years. Its website tells you everything you need to know about the process, including why this venture is not a fraud.

It also claims it's the only company to possess a legal basis and copyright for the sale of lunar and other extra-terrestrial property in the solar system. The organisation claims it has over 3,470,072 members.

So, how did Lunar Embassy get the right to own, sell and register land on the Moon? A declaration of ownership was filed with the United Nations as well as the US and Russian governments 29 years ago by Dennis M Hope of the Lunar Embassy to ensure a legal basis for ownership of properties sold on the moon. No country has contested that claim or declaration.

Though the international Moon Treaty, finalised in 1979 and in force since 1984, forbids private ownership of extra-terrestrial real estate, as of January 1, 2008 only 13 states ratified the agreement and more importantly not a single country has legally contested Lunar Embassy's claims to ownership of Moon land. Thus, anyone who made the first claim before the UN becomes the first owner. Lunar Embassy says it made the first claim and so it is the rightful owner of lunar property.

There's another fact that Lunar Embassy is banking on. Although the Outer Space Treaty, which came into force in 1967 forbids countries from claiming celestial bodies, there apparently is no provision forbidding private individuals from doing so. In 1996, the company set up its website, the MoonShop, "the first Internet website ever to be selling properties on any extraterrestrial body".

Lunar land

Property -- Rate (in $)

Prime View Lunar Properties (1 acre), Deed with name printed -- 22.49

Prime View Lunar Properties (1 acre), Normal Deed -- 19.99

Register Your Name and Property in Lunar Embassy Registry Archive -- 15

Ethereal Net - Dial-Up Access Full Year Price -- 107

Extraterrestrial Domain Names -- 22

Lunar Explorer Virtual Moon Simulation and 1 Acre Lunar Land -- 49.95

Lunar Explorer Virtual Moon Simulation -- 29.95

Why crazy guys tend to be more creative

A new study seems to have established a link between psychosis and

Keri, a psychiatrist at Semmelweis University in Hungary,focused his research on neuregulin 1, a gene that normally plays a role in a variety of brain processes, including development and strengthening communication between neurons.

Writing about the study in the journal Psychological Science, he has revealed that a variant of this gene is associated with a greater risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

For the study, Keri and his colleagues recruited volunteers who considered themselves to be very creative and accomplished.

The participants underwent a battery of tests, including assessments for intelligence and creativity.

To measure the volunteers’ creativity, the researchers asked them to respond to a series of unusual questions, and scored them based on the originality and flexibility of their answers.

The subjects also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime creative achievements before the researchers took blood samples.

According to the researchers, their findings showed a clear link between neuregulin 1 and creativity, for volunteers with the specific variant of this gene were more likely to have higher scores on the creativity assessment, and also greater lifetime creative achievements, than volunteers with a different form of the gene.

Keri claims that his study has for the first time shown that a genetic variant associated with psychosis may have some beneficial functions.

He says: “Molecular factors that are loosely associated with severe mental disorders but are present in many healthy people may have an advantage enabling us to think more creatively.”

His findings also suggest that certain genetic variations, even though associated with adverse health problems, may survive evolutionary selection and remain in a population’s gene pool if they also have beneficial effects.

Monday, September 28, 2009

VICTOR L. SIMPSON The Associated Press BRNO,Czech Republic - Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday told tens of thousands of faithful that societies exclude God at their peril, pressing ahead with a pilgrimage to nudge the ex-communist Czech Republic back to its religious roots. "History has demonstrated the absurdities to which mandescends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," Benedict said. Church organizers estimated that 120,000 people packed a field beside an airport in...
Pope Benedict XVI gestures while celebrating a mass at the Turany airport in Brno, Czech Republic, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009.

Sunil Gavaskar: Happy birthday, Lata!

Sunil Gavaskar says, “All of us know that Lata didi is a cricket fan. In the same way cricketers adore Lata Mangeshkar.
Lata Mangeskar
Lata Mangeskar More Pics

That is why when a major cricket tournament is happening here in South Africa I would like to wish her happy birthday. I have had many opportunities to meet her. I admire her so much that once I told her, ‘Lata didi, we as a batsman go through a bad patch. We get out on zero too. But in your case you are so perfect that you always score a century and double century in each and every song. You never face a bad patch like us. That is why we respect you so much’. And she was embarrassed to hear that.”

Sunil relates another anecdote. “In 1982, at the end of our Pakistan tour, our team manager Maharaja Fateh Singh Gaekwad decided to organise a thanksgiving party in Lahore. Maharaj and yours truly were there at the gate to welcome guests and dignitaries. When Lataji walked in, Maharaj introduced me to Lataji by saying, “Aayiye ... aayiye inko to aap jante hoge, ye hamare kaptan saab hai ... ’ To that Lataji replied in jest, ‘Nahi jee hum to sirf Imran Khan aur Zaheer Abbas ko jante hai ... ’ Then I was formally introduced to Lataji as the Indian team captain.

Then Maharaj turned to me and said, ‘I hope there is no need to introduce Malika-e-Tarannum Noorjahan to you’, that’s when I immediately retorted, ‘Nahi jee ... hum to sirf Lata Mangeshkar ko jante hai’,” recalls Sunil with a chuckle.

Commenting about his favourite songs, Sunil says, “Although all of Lataji’s songs are great, two of her songs are close to my heart. O sajana barkha bahar aayi ... from Parakh and Raina beeti jaye ... shyam na aaye ... from Amar Prem.”

Afghan government says 12 civilians killed by Taliban attack, roadside bomb

KABUL - Insurgents killed 12 Afghan civilians in the east and north — half in an ambush on a group of truck drivers and half when a van hit a roadside bomb, the government said Monday.

Afghanistan's civilian death toll has risen alongside that of U.S. and international forces this summer. A U.N. report issued Saturday said August was the deadliest month of the year for civilians as the Taliban stepped up a campaign of violence to discourage voting in the Aug. 20 election.

A total of 1,500 civilians died in Afghanistan from January through August, up from 1,145 for the same period of 2008, the U.N. report said.

On Sunday, Taliban militants ambushed a group of truck drivers in eastern Kunar province, killing six of the drivers and burning their vehicles, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. A seventh truck driver was kidnapped.

Also Sunday, a private van hit a roadside bomb in northern Faryab province, the ministry said in a separate statement. Six of those inside were killed and another seven injured, the statement said.

The planted bombs have become a major cause of deaths and injuries for both international troops and Afghan civilians. Some are remotely detonated, but many are simply placed on roads and triggered by a vehicle riding over the explosive.

The U.N. report said about three-quarters of the civilian deaths recorded this year were the work of militants. Coalition forces were responsible for the remaining deaths, most the result of airstrikes.

Somali militants execute 'spies'

Hizbul-Islam fighters flogging two men in Mogadishu
Islamist groups often punish people in public - these men are being flogged

Islamist militants in Somalia have executed two people they accused of spying for foreign organisations.

Hundreds watched as a firing squad arranged by the al-Shabab group shot the pair in the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab officials said the men had been found guilty of working for the US CIA and African Union peacekeepers.

Analysts say the killings may have been in retaliation for a US raid earlier this month, in which an al-Qaeda suspect is said to have been killed.

The US regards al-Shabab as a proxy for al-Qaeda in Somalia, and says the group threatens to destabilise the region.

One witness to the execution told AP news agency that 10 al-Shabab fighters shot the pair in Mogadishu's main livestock market in front of hundreds of people.

Al-Shabab's Sharia courts, usually held in the open, have in the past sentenced people to execution, amputations and public floggings.

Humanitarian crisis

Two weeks ago, US forces launched an attack from helicopters in southern Somalia, reportedly killing Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan who was wanted by the US for attacks in Kenya.

It was the first such US incursion into Somalia for years.

map showing areas under Islamist control

Days after the raid, suicide bombers attacked an AU base in Mogadishu and killed at least 16 people.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in revenge for the US raid.

Islamist rebels control much of central and southern Somalia, including parts of the capital city.

Al-Shabab is attempting to impose an extreme brand of Islamic law on the areas it controls.

Its fighters are battling troops loyal to the government - which controls little territory and is backed by the US, UN and peacekeepers from the AU.

Other radical Islamists, who are allied to al-Shabab in some areas and fight them in other places, also vie for control of large parts of the country.

The country has been wracked by conflict since 1991, when it last had an effective national government.

Some three million people - half the population - need food aid, while hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country.