kin of mumbai attack victims welcome

Relatives of victims of the 2008 Mumbai attack victims on Wednesday welcomed the execution of the lone surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, saying justice has been finally delivered. In Varanasi, Sunita Yadav, wife of victim Upendra Yadav, expressed her gratitude to the authorities for carrying out the execution.

Daily Bollywood News:Bipasha Basu - Bollywood will remain a hero-centric business

Women are active in show business like never before, but will they surpass the status Bollywood heroes enjoy? Never, says Bipasha Basu, who feels there is minimum opportunity for female actors in the Hindi film industry

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cops dumped, evicted from Gateway of India

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Thursday removed a police platoon, which was guarding the Taj Mahal Hotel from the Gateway of India, after the media reported that the policemen had been living at the historic moment for two months.

IANS reports the platoon, which comprised 30 State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) troopers, was compelled to live on the pavements in and around the Gateway of India in the absence of any proper lodging-boarding arrangements made for them by the authorities.

The jawans were guarding the country’s best known hotel that was one of the main targets in last year’s terror attack. The men lived, ate and slept there, read newspapers, washed and hung their clothes there - right opposite the hotel.

The hotel is, meanwhile, busy with preparations to open a few portions of its heritage building which was damaged in last year’s terror attacks.

The troopers had just one police van in which they managed to change and move around in the city.

Last week’s unseasonal rains forced the troopers to put up plastic sheets to shield themselves from the rainwater.

Ironically, the Gateway of India recently completed a restoration and beautification work of Rs 20 million and is due to be opened to tourists soon.

Republic Of Ireland's Shay Given Left Feeling Cheated By Thierry Henry

Given expresses bitterness over the nature of Ireland's unjust loss...

Republic of Ireland 'keeper Shay Given is the latest player to blast France striker Thierry Henry for his wily piece of play which ended Ireland's hopes of reaching the World Cup.

The Manchester City shot-stopper was part of his nation's last World Cup appearance in 2002 - which he fears will be his only ever, after William Gallas' contentious goal ensured that the Boys in Greens' would not be officially travelling to South Africa in 2010.

“It could be the last time, it could be. I don't know what's around the corner, I don't know if I will make another one, and that makes it even more heart-breaking.” said Given, according to the Press Association.

“I have only played in one and here we were the better team and deserved to go to the World Cup. But we are not going, so it is hard to take.

Henry's intervention has added insult to injury after FIFA's unpopular decision to seed the European play-offs – a move that did not go down well with the Irish camp.

He continued: “The seeding thing was bad enough, but then to go out of a World Cup like this is extremely hard to take.

Given, clearly disgruntled at the nature of the outcome, is adamant that former Arsenal striker Henry "clearly cheated" to get the result.

“We do feel as if we have been cheated, not to go to the World Cup finals.”

“He [Henry] cheated to win the game. I don't often say that, but that's how it was. He clearly cheated and they won the game from that.

“I have seen the replays - he stopped it and then he pulled it in again.

“I never normally have a go at referees or linesmen, but it is so blatant, it's disgusting.

“He hand-balled it twice - he stopped it and then pulled it back in. It's remarkable.

“We feel cheated by both Henry and the officials. It's disgusting.”

The distraught Given said he doubts UEFA president Michel Platini is feeling remorseful despite his nation securing qualification in unjust circumstances.

“We were the better team and we are going home with nothing. In a few weeks, UEFA and [Michel] Platini will be happy up in the stands or wherever they will be.”

“France are going to the World Cup, they are a big nation and we as a small nation have been cheated not to go to the World Cup.”

Tags : World Cup finals, UEFA, France, FIFA's

Gambhir ton helps India hold off Sri Lanka

AHMEDABAD: Opening batsman Gautam Gambhir reached his century Friday as India fought to stave off defeat by Sri Lanka in the first Test.


The hosts reached 256-3 at lunch on the fifth and final day, still trailing by 78 runs and hoping to force a draw by preventing Sri Lanka claiming the remaining seven wickets.

Gambhir (105 not out) became the sixth batsman in the match to reach three figures on a batsman-friendly wicket in the opener of a three-Test series.

Gambhir, the elegant left-hander, has watchfully played 213 deliveries and has hit 12 boundaries in his patient knock.

Sachin Tendulkar, celebrating his 20th year in Test cricket, was unbeaten on 22 at the break as India made a slow but steady progress towards a draw.

Sri Lanka scored the highest ever total in a Test innings in India when it declared its first innings at 760-7 after dismissing India for 426.

India lost nightwatchman Amit Mishra (24) after resuming at the overnight 190-2, but the tailender made Sri Lanka's bowlers labor for nearly an hour to get rid of him.

Tillakaratne Dilshan took a superb catch at leg gully as Mishra played a decent shot only to see it caught just inches of the ground.

Gambhir, 74 overnight, completed his seventh Test century when he glanced seamer Angelo Mathews to fine leg for his 12th boundary of the innings.

Ace off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has bowled 22 overs in the second innings, but the dead nature of the wicket has given nothing to either the seam or spin bowlers.

Seamers Mathews (1-16) and Chanaka Welegedara (1-46) along with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (1-64) have taken the wickets.

Tags : Test cricket, Sri Lanka, India, Scorecard

Nifty struggles below 5000; RCap, Unitech down

MUMBAI: Equities continued to move in a narrow range Friday with a negative bias due to lack of triggers from global markets. Realty, metals and
IT stocks led the decline while pharma and power stocks were marginally higher.

“US stocks extended a global drop as concern grew that the rally has outpaced the prospects for economic growth and Bank of America downgraded chipmakers. The yen and the dollar strengthened, oil and metals tumbled and yields on six-month treasury bills reached a 50-year low. The US markets closed down and Asian markets are also negative. We expect our market to open down. However some recovery for the day is not ruled out,” said Niket Shah, associate research analyst - institutional equity, Religare Capital Markets.

At 11:01 am, National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at 4972.60, down 16.40 points or 0.33 per cent. The index bounced back after taking support at 4946.05. It touched a high of 4989.25 in trade so far.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 16740.76, down 44.89 points or 0.27 per cent. The 30-share index hit an intra-day low of 16667.94 and high of 16794.51.

“Trend deciding level for the day is 5002 / 16834. If Nifty trades above this level during the first half-an-hour of trade then we may witness a further rally up to 5040 / 16956. However, if Nifty trades below 5002 / 16834 for the first half-an-hour of trade then it may correct up to 4951 – 4912 / 16664 – 16542,” said Angel Broking note.

BSE Midcap Index was up 0.21 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index gained 0.30 per cent.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE Realty Index fell 0.86 per cent, BSE Metal Index slipped 0.73 per cent and BSE IT Index was down 0.70 per cent. BSE Healthcare Index was up 0.32 per cent and BSE Power Index moved up 0.10 per cent.

Reliance Capital (-2.48%), Unitech (-2.33%), HCL Tech (-1.66%), ICICI Bank (-1.42%) and Reliance Infrastructure (-1.36%) were the top Nifty losers.

ACC (1.86%), HDFC (1.22%), Power Grid (1.15%), Hero Honda (1.01%) and Cipla (1%) were amongst the top Nifty gainers.

Market breadth was positive on the BSE with 1123 advances against 1024 declines.

Meanwhile, The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 93.87 points, or 0.90 per cent, to end at 10,332.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 14.90 points, or 1.34 per cent, to 1,094.90. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 36.32 points, or 1.66 per cent, to 2,156.82.

Asian stocks continued their slump for a fourth straight day on profit concerns. The Nikkei lost 0.97 per cent, Hang Seng dipped 0.54 per cent and Shanghai Composite slipped 0.30 per cent.

Tags : Nifty, Sensex ,

Paa goes piggy-back!

The premiere of Paa in Mumbai on December 3 will be memorable for more reasons than one. This film is AB Corp Ltd’s first home production in

five years, making it all the more crucial for the Bachchans, who are sure to pull out all the stops to make the event a grand success.

The venue of the premiere will be decorated to resemble a child’s nursery.

However, the best part of the premiere will be Abhishek entering the premiere by carrying Amitabh piggyback, replicating a sequence from the film. Incidentally, this is something Abhishek insists on doing, despite Amitabh being worried about the effect it will have on his son’s back.

Director Balki confirms the news and says, “Paa is a film that celebrates the spirit of childhood and Amitji does play a 12-year-old in the film. So we thought that the premiere venue should have a child-friendly ambience. We had initially planned to have Amitji dressed and made-up as Auro, his character in the film, standing at the main door of the premiere to receive guests. However, this plan was too impractical. The makeup artiste Christien Tinsley would have to be especially flown down for a day all the way from LA. Besides, Amitji as Auro for an entire evening would have been somewhat distracting for the guests.”

Now Amitabh will receive the guests at the premiere with six child actors from the film - Taruni, Pratik, Nimit, Dhruven, Varun and Gaurav, all of who play Auro’s best friends in Paa.

The father and son are personally inviting all their friends for the premiere. “Plus, there are all my friends from the ad world. It’s going to be quite a night,” promises Balki.

Tags : Amitabh, Abhishek, celebrates, child-friendly

Sushmita Sen wants another baby!

If her latest move any indication, former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen is planning to have another baby. She was recently spotted shopping at an international baby wear in Mumbai.

The news is doing the rounds that the single mother is planning to adopt another baby for her daughter Reene. It is said that she visited an adoption centre with her staff last week to select a baby, preferably a baby girl.

Sources said that Sushmita wants to complete her family with another baby. She has started making enquiries and begun visiting adoption centres. She has been a single mom since 2000 when she adopted Reene.

Well, here is a girl with a big heart!

Tags : Mumbai, Miss Universe, Sushmita

Shilpa not selling marriage to Hello

Shilpa Shetty has turned down a deal from UK's Hello magazine for exclusive coverage of her wedding (including her sangeet and mehendi) to Raj Kundra on November 22. The actress was offered approximately 75,000 pounds (over 50 lakh) in exchange for exclusive picture rights.

A source close to Shilpa says, "It's the first time than an Indian actress has been offered so much money for coverage of an event. This is more than what Aishwarya Bachchan was offered for her wedding. Shilpa is a big celebrity in the UK (thanks to her winning the reality show Big Brother
) and Raj Kundra too is a well-known industrialist, so they were keen to cover this wedding."

But Shilpa was very firm about refusing the magazine exclusive rights to her shaadi. She even avoided getting married in Raj's opulent 10 million-pound mansion at Surrey in UK to stay away from the paparazzi. The source adds, "One of the clauses in the contract offered by the international magazine was that no other photographers would be allowed at the event. Also they didn't want any of the guests to carry their cell phones in case someone leaked the pictures to other media. And Shilpa wasn't comfortable with both these conditions."

At the Elizabeth Hurley wedding, guests were frisked and their cell phones were taken away by the representatives of the magazine, and Shilpa didn't want her guests to face a similar situation. Also, she is not looking to make money on this wedding. It is a sacred and a beautiful occasion for her, and she doesn't want any bad energy around."

They got paid that much

Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt baby pics (2008): sold to Hello for 14 million
Nicole Richie and baby Harlow (2008): sold to People for 1.7 million
Christina Aguilera

and baby Max (2008): sold to People for 1 million

Chrisitina Aguilera wedding pictures (2007): sold to Ok! for 600k
Mariah Carey wedding pictures (2008): sold to People for 2.5 million
Jlo baby pics Max and Emme (2008): sold to People for 6 million
Anna Nicole Smith's daughter Dannielynn's pics (2007): sold to Ok! for 1.7 million
Britney Spears wedding pics (2004): sold to People for 2 million
Liz Hurley and Arun Nayyar wedding pics (2007): sold to People for 4 million
*All figures in dollars

Tags : Shilpa Shetty, UK's Hello magazine, wedding, Raj Kundra, actress

Oprah Winfrey Show to end in 2011

The popular Oprah [ Images ] Winfrey Show will end in 2011 after airing for more than two decades, says the production house.

Winfrey has been hosting the show since 1986.

Although a spokesman for Winfrey''s Harpo production company didn't say why she had made the decision, buzz is that the talk show host plans to launch her own TV channel.

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington says the show's open atmosphere and frank conversation redefined the talk show genre and made Winfrey the wealthiest black woman in the world, reports BBC News.

OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, is scheduled for launch in 2011.

Tags : OWN, Winfrey Network, launch in 2011, black woman, TV channel

Ash’s punctuality

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, while endorsing a watch brand recently, said in the press meet that her father in law Amitabh Bachchan is her inspiration when it comes to punctuality. The actress has been quoted as saying, “his commitment and dedication is an example for everyone to follow.”

The former beauty queen, who recently completed the shooting of Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, has moved on to the sets of Guzarish where she will be sharing the screen space with Hrithik Roshan. Guzarish is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhasali.

Tags : Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, Guzarish, actress

Russia agrees to ease Ukraine gas supply terms

Russia has agreed to ease the terms under which it supplies gas to Ukraine, in a deal which Moscow says should prevent disruption in coming months.

The deal was announced after talks between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Yulia Tymoshenko.

It means Ukraine will not be fined if, for using less gas than in its current contract because of the downturn.

In January, many countries in Europe were left short of gas due to a payment dispute between Moscow and Kiev.

Russia provides about a quarter of the gas consumed in the EU and 80% of that is piped through Ukraine.

'Meeting halfway'

The two prime ministers met in the Ukrainian resort town of Yalta on Thursday to discuss the issue of gas supply.

Under contracts signed with Russia earlier this year to end last winter's dispute, Ukraine faced the prospect of huge fines if it did not pay for all the gas it had contracted to buy, regardless of the amount actually used.

Gas consumption in Ukraine has dropped sharply as a result of the economic crisis.

Mr Putin said Gazprom and Naftogaz, the two countries' energy firms, would agree on new volumes.

"We deemed it possible to meet Ukraine halfway and tweak several of our earlier agreements," Mr Putin said.

In a reference to January's dispute, he added: "It would be very good to meet the New Year without any calamities."

Ms Tymoshenko played down the prospect of further disruptions to Europe's gas supply, pledging that Ukraine would meet its obligations to Russia.

"Ukraine has been paying and will continue to pay on time," she said.

In August, the EU and international lending institutions agreed a $1.7bn (£1bn at the time) loan deal for Ukraine to help secure European gas supplies, in return for reforms to Ukraine's gas sector.

Tags : Russian, Prime Minister, international lending institutions, gas sector

US takes the lead in diplomatic dance

SHANE MCLEOD: The US President Barack Obama has ended his Asian tour by offering an olive branch to North Korea, in a bid to entice the reclusive state to rejoin stalled nuclear talks. President Obama has announced he'll send an envoy to Pyongyang early next month for direct talks - a key demand of the North Korean leadership.

But there are already concerns that the latest manoeuvrings will end up being part of another round of diplomatic dancing without any of the core issues being addressed.

Barney Porter reports.

BARNEY PORTER: President Obama's announcement is the latest carrot to the communist state.

BARACK OBAMA: Our message is clear. If North Korea is prepared to take concrete and irreversible steps to fulfil its obligations and eliminate its nuclear weapons program, the United States will support economic assistance and help promote its full integration in the community of nations. That opportunity and respect will not come with threats. North Korea must live up to its obligations.

BARNEY PORTER: Stephen Bosworth's mission will be to coax the North back to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks, which groups the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

The talks began more than six years ago and the North still uses its attendance as a bargaining chip. That rankles with President Obama. In a joint media conference with the South Korean President, Lee Myung-Bak, he indicated his frustration with previous efforts to resolve the issue.

BARACK OBAMA: President Lee and I both agree on the need to break the pattern that has existed in the past in which North Korea behaves in a provocative fashion. It then is willing to return to talks, it talks for a while and then leaves the talks seeking further concessions and there is never actually any progress on the core issues.

BARNEY PORTER: Pyongyang's delegation last quit the talks in April, a month before the North staged a second nuclear weapons test. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, said in October his country was ready to return to the talks but only if bilateral discussions with the United States are satisfactory.

Dr Rod Lyon is the director of the strategy and international program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He says he believes the North has three aims.

ROD LYON: It wants nuclear weapons for the long haul. It wants its own version of the US-India nuclear deal whereby the US tolerates it as a nuclear weapon state and agrees to help it regardless of that, and it wants the long term consolidation of Kim Jong-Il's own regime so his successors get their turn in power.

Now six-party talks can't deliver those things, so what is it that the North really wants? It wants, it wants a big shift in the political environments in which more of those things become possible. And it has to do that by pursuing what it now sees as the marginal gains of what it can get from the talks.

BARNEY PORTER: So North Korea is just using the talks to stall?

ROD LYON: Well it wants some outcomes from them. It's testing the water to see what it can get out of South Korea, which has been promising some enticements for return. It wants to test what it can get from the new Democratic Party-led Japan which is also a little more left wing than the previous Japanese government and might be a little more accommodating to a North Korea that had its own ambitions in the region.

It wants to show Beijing that it is willing to succumb to that Chinese pressure to go back to the table again.

BARNEY PORTER: China has actually welcomed the announcement. Does it still wield as much influence?

ROD LYON: This is a hard one to measure because I think the gravitational pull that Beijing exerts upon Pyongyang has in fact been declining ever since the first nuclear test. That is, that year 2006, China made pretty clear that it didn't want to see North Korea do either a ballistic missile test or a nuclear test and both of those things happened.

And I suspect China is now resigned to the fact that its wishes aren't always going to be North Korean policy.

BARNEY PORTER: And Dr Lyon says the future remains uncertain.

ROD LYON: For both North Korea and for the other five members of the six-party talks this is the only game in town right. There are other options but the other options have higher costs, so if you're looking for a peaceful negotiated solution this is the only game in town.

So everyone is going to conspire to come back to the game in town for one more round of cards. What is that going to mean in terms of outcome? It means that I suspect both sides know they're buying time here. The North is buying time so it can do slow motion proliferation but the other five are buying time because they hope for regime collapse somewhere in North Korea's future.

SHANE MCLEOD: Dr Rod Lyon from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and he was speaking to Barney Porter.

Tags : Rod Lyon,Australian Strategic Policy Institute, North Korea, US, President, Barack Obama

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Clinton Emerges as Key Link to Afghan Leader

KABUL, Afghanistan — It is far from clear that President Obama can depend on President Hamid Karzai to bring order to this violent country, but it is becoming clear that he will depend on Hillary Rodham Clinton to be his go-between in dealing with the mercurial Afghan leader.
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Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Richard C. Holbrooke after the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, was inaugurated Thursday.

In a visit to Kabul, during which she held a 90-minute, one-on-one session with Mr. Karzai on Wednesday, and in an intense telephone call a few weeks ago in the aftermath of Afghanistan’s election, Secretary of State Clinton has built an unlikely rapport with the Afghan leader, according to administration officials.

It is a new and risky role for Mrs. Clinton — one that thrusts her into the thick of the administration’s most critical international problem, but that also hitches her reputation to a leader who has often proved unreliable. If Mr. Karzai lets down the White House again, Mrs. Clinton, as his principal intermediary with the administration, could find herself damaged along with him.

Mrs. Clinton, who got to know Mr. Karzai in 2005 when she took him to Fort Drum in upstate New York to thank American veterans of the Afghan war, seems to recognize the potential dangers.

“When I came into the administration, I was one of the few people who had a long-term positive relationship with President Karzai,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview on Thursday, hours after seeing him get sworn in. “I continue to believe he has a tremendous historical opportunity.”

But she quickly added, “That doesn’t mean you make excuses for behavior that you want to see changed; you constantly push back.” In the meeting this week, a senior official said, she bluntly warned Mr. Karzai to crack down on corruption or risk losing American aid.

Her rapport with Mr. Karzai puts her in a distinct minority among senior American officials, some of whom have either clashed with him or, as in the case of Mr. Obama, never developed a relationship with him.

With Mr. Obama planning to announce his decision soon on sending more troops to Afghanistan, Mrs. Clinton has emerged, for better or worse, as the senior official best placed to push Mr. Karzai to help make that policy work. Mr. Karzai appears to appreciate the relationship; he moved up the date of his inauguration to accommodate her schedule, a senior American official said.

As Mr. Karzai begins his new term, Mrs. Clinton has worked to avoid a hectoring tone in her public comments about him. American officials had done too much of that in the past, she said.

Shortly before Mr. Obama took office, Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. stalked out of a meeting with Mr. Karzai. More recently, Mr. Karzai reacted badly when the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, asked him what he would do if a runoff election became necessary after the initial round of voting in August.

The American ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, has a workable relationship with Mr. Karzai, officials said. But the two have also had their ups and downs, and anyway, some American officials say the White House needs an interlocutor at a higher level than an ambassador, or even a special envoy, like Mr. Holbrooke.

President George W. Bush used to conduct regular video conference calls with Mr. Karzai from the White House. When Mr. Obama stopped the practice, officials said, it left Mr. Karzai hurt and bewildered.

“It is critical Obama develops a channel to Karzai where hard messages can go both ways,” said Bruce O. Riedel, who helped the administration formulate its initial Afghan policy. “It is time-consuming, but we can’t hope to succeed without a political channel that works.”

Mrs. Clinton “combines the hard-headed strength, the political clout and the human understanding to do it right,” said Mr. Riedel, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Of those qualities, her political bona fides may be the most relevant. When Mr. Karzai was wavering about whether to allow a runoff vote after almost a million of his votes were disqualified, she implored him to acquiesce, arguing that he would emerge with a stronger hand. (In the end, Mr. Karzai’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, pulled out, making a second round unnecessary.)

In case Mr. Karzai did not get her point, Mrs. Clinton reminded him of her own bitter experience in the 2008 Democratic primaries, losing to Mr. Obama, who later named her the nation’s chief diplomat.

“One of the ways that I talk with President Karzai is in very political terms, because I understand that in politics, you’ve got to make some tough compromises sometimes,” she said.

American officials failed to make allowances for his circumstances in trying to govern an unruly country, she said. “We were trying to hold him to a standard that was not in sync with the historical standard.”

When Mr. Karzai first took office in 2002, she noted, there were one million students in Afghanistan, virtually all boys. Today, there are seven million, 40 percent of them girls. She said Mr. Karzai deserved some credit for that, as well as for other advances during his tenure.

Mrs. Clinton also noted that the United States was hardly a perfect candidate to demand a crackdown on corruption.

Asked about reports in The New York Times that the C.I.A. made payments to a brother of Mr. Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is suspected of involvement in the drug trade, Mrs. Clinton did not respond directly, but said, “Every country makes compromises, and it behooves you to be humble about pointing fingers.”

“It also is a reminder that we have to do more to support his campaign against corruption,” she added. “We have to facilitate, not impede, the removal and even prosecution of those who are corrupt.”

With Hamid Karzai around for the foreseeable future, the administration has little choice but to accommodate him. So Mrs. Clinton looked for praiseworthy lines in Mr. Karzai’s inaugural speech. If he delivers, she said, he can expect American support for years to come.

“I would imagine, if things go well, that we would be helping with the education and health systems and agriculture productivity long after the military presence had either diminished or disappeared,” she said.

Tags : Karzai, President, violent country, New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton

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UN urges global action on children

The report says up to 1.5 billion children experience violence every year [EPA]

The UN children's agency says one billion children around the world are still deprived of food, shelter, clean water and healthcare 20 years after the adoption of a treaty guaranteeing children's rights.

Hundreds of millions more children are constantly threatened by violence, Unicef said in a report released on Thursday assessing the situation two decades after the UN adopted the Convention of the Rights of the Child on November 20 1989.

The treaty has since been ratified by all countries except the US and Somalia, and more than 70 countries have used the treaty to incorporate children's rights into their national laws.

While saying Unicef had chalked up a "remarkable achievement" in recording a sharp decline in child deaths and getting an increasing number of children to attend primary school, Ann Veneman, the agency's executive director, urged the world to do more.

"As the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the convention stands at a pivotal moment," she told a news conference launching the report at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday.

"Its relevance remains timeless. The challenge for the next 20 years is to build on the progress achieved, working together to reach those children who are still being denied their rights to survival, development, protection and participation."

Veneman said it was unacceptable that more than 24,000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes such as pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition.

About 200 million children are chronically malnourished, more than 140 million are forced to work, and millions of girls and boys of all ages are subjected to sexual violence, the report says.


Unicef said some one billion children are still deprived of life's basic necessities [EPA]

It also estimates that up to 1.5 billion children experience violence annually.

Veneman said there was a new focus on safeguarding the young "from violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation", adding that children in Africa and Asia suffered the most.

"More than nine out of 10 children who are not attending school, who are malnourished, and who die before the age of five live in these two continents," she said.

"Exploitation of children is not simply a breach of an international treaty," she said.

"It's pain. It's suffering and confusion and damage. It's hope lost and hope betrayed."

Tags : EPA, UN children's, Healthcare, New York, National laws

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"Astronaut Stott's Journey" Home Marks a First and a Last

Astronaut Nicole Stott

Image above: Stott suits up before her launch aboard space shuttle Discovery on Aug. 28, 2009. Image credit: NASA

Astronaut Nicole Stott during spacewalk.

Image above: Stott performs a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, her home for three months. Image credit: NASA

Nicole Stott working inside shuttle payload bay.

Image above: Stott began her career with NASA in shuttle processing at Kennedy. Image credit: NASA

Nicole Stott with space shuttle Endeavour aboard the carrier aircraft in the background.

Image above: With space shuttle Endeavour aboard the shuttle carrier aircraft in the background, Stott, Endeavour's flow manager, stands on the shuttle runway. Image credit: NASA

Nicole Stott with the convoy at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

Image above: During part of her career at Kennedy, Stott (left) served as convoy commander for shuttle landings. Image credit: NASA

When the wheels of space shuttle Atlantis touch down to end the STS-129 mission, astronaut Nicole Stott will complete both a first and a last.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will welcome her home as its first former employee to live and work aboard the International Space Station. Stott's return also will mark another significant event -- the last time a station crew member will travel to or from the orbiting laboratory aboard a space shuttle. Upcoming crews will launch from and return to Earth aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Stott joined the space station's six-person crew when she launched aboard shuttle Discovery in August during the STS-128 mission. Trading places with astronaut Timothy Kopra, she became the Expedition 20 flight engineer as she began her three-month stint aboard the station.

Her launch came more than two decades after she began her NASA career at Kennedy -- a career that brought her high-level experience with both the shuttle and the station.

Before heading to space this summer, the Clearwater, Fla., native talked about her time at Kennedy.

"After growing up in Florida and seeing shuttles launch while I was at university, I got a job at Kennedy Space Center in shuttle operations," Stott said. "I mean, what cooler place could you be working? And every step of the way there, I was just thrilled with the jobs I had."

She began her 10-year career at Kennedy in 1988, working in the shuttle program as an operations engineer in an orbiter processing facility -- the hangars in which shuttles are prepared for flight. She subsequently worked as convoy commander, leading the group of specialized vehicles that meet and "safe" each shuttle upon landing. She also served as shuttle Endeavour's flow director, NASA's manager in charge of seeing that the shuttle was processed and ready for launch.

Stott described her career at Kennedy with enthusiasm.

"I’m working on a space shuttle. I’m on the runway for landing... I’m in the control center where we’re launching the shuttle. I mean, it didn’t seem like it could get any cooler than that," Stott said. "And fortunately, I had people that I considered to be mentors that I worked with there."

It was during her last two years at Kennedy that she joined the Space Station Hardware Integration Office. That position took her to Huntington Beach, Calif., where she worked as the NASA project lead for space station truss elements under construction at a Boeing facility.

From Nicole Stott's space blog:

Launch: "2 words: Woo Hoo!! These words were exclaimed by me (maybe multiple times) through the ginormous smile on my face as we left the pad. And oh by the way, you don’t just leave the pad. You get kicked off the pad! The engines light and you feel the rumble, 6 seconds later the solid rocket boosters light and you are literally kicked off the pad and you have no doubt that you are going someplace fast! "

Spacewalking: "I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to step outside and spend 6 hours working outside of the comfortable protection of our space station."

Earth: "I have never been able to look at a picture of the Earth from space and not feel a sense of awe. Well let me just say that this is another case of the picture not doing the reality justice. The Earth, our planet, is indescribably beautiful... Every time I look out one of our windows I am surprised by some new and beautiful discovery."

Read more from:
Stott's blog
Stott's Twitter feed

Having experience with both shuttle and station hardware preparation, NASA selected Stott as an astronaut in July 2000. Nine years later, she reflected on her own launch aboard a shuttle and residency on the space station.

"Up until the point of starting work at Kennedy Space Center with NASA, it never crossed my mind that being an astronaut was a possibility. And once I started working there and meeting the people that worked there, and seeing astronauts come through and seeing what they did when they were there -- working with the hardware or getting their colleagues ready to fly -- it became more real to me," Stott said. "And then having people encourage me was, I think, the big step to actually getting here."

While other employees from Kennedy have gone on to become astronauts too, Stott's time living and working aboard the station, coupled with her shuttle and station processing work, makes her experience unique.

As the STS-129 mission ends and the landing convoy she once commanded surrounds Atlantis on the runway, Stott's journey will have come full circle, from Kennedy to space, and back home again.

Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

Space Shuttle Pilot Set to Talk With Tennessee Students from Orbit

WASHINGTON -- Congressman Bart Gordon and Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville will host a live conversation between more than 120 students and NASA astronaut Barry E. Wilmore on Sunday, Nov. 22. Wilmore is the pilot of space shuttle Atlantis, which launched Nov. 16 on an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. Members of Wilmore's family also will attend the event.

The live call from orbit will take place between 11:08 a.m. and 11:28 a.m. CST. Twenty students, ranging from kindergarten to college age, will ask questions of Wilmore and fellow astronauts Nicole Stott and Leland Melvin. Stott has served as a flight engineer and member of the Expedition 21 crew living aboard the International Space Station for more than two months. She will return to Earth aboard Atlantis. Melvin is a mission specialist and crewmate of Wilmore's aboard Atlantis.

Reporters interested in attending the event should contact Monica Greppin at 931-372-3214.

Gordon is the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. Wilmore was born and raised in Gordon's district in Tennessee and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University.

The downlink is one in a series with educational organizations in the U.S. and abroad to improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is an integral component of NASAs Teaching From Space office. The office promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of human spaceflight.

Tennessee Tech University and WCTE, the local PBS affiliate, will carry a live feed of the event at:


For more information about Wilmore, visit:

For information about NASAs education programs, visit:

For information about the sts-129 space shuttle mission, visit:

Tags : NASA, space shuttle Atlantis, Space office, Science and Technology

The story of the American sections of World Cup 2010 qualifying

Date: 19th November 2009 at 9:23 am | Filed under: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Football Blogs, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, United States, Uruguay, World Cup 2010 | Author: Tom Jones | Tags: Diego Maradona, Jozy Altidore, Kaka, Lionel Messi, Luis Fabiano, Rafael Marquez, Roque Santa Cruz | image © Action Images

Maradona4 automatic places were up for grabs at the FIFA 2010 World Cup finals in the South American qualifying section, which contained football giants Brazil and Argentina. Each nation in the 10 team group played 18 matches in one of the longest qualifying campaigns anywhere. Brazil, Chile and Paraguay all qualified with relative ease, whilst Argentina had to struggle to claim the 4th spot ahead of Uruguay who finished in 5th and therefore earned a play-off match against Costa Rica.

Brazil will head into the tournament in South Africa next summer as one of the favourites, as a team of skilful players is led by one of the world’s greatest footballers, Real Madrid’s Kaka. Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano was their top scorer with 9 goals, and most of their players either play in Spain’s La Liga or Italy’s Serie A. Chile, who feature a lot of footballers that play in South America, won 10 of their matches and were helped by top scorer Humberto Suazo. Paraguay also won 10 of their matches and one of their players to look out for is Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz. Argentina only qualified after a 1-0 win in their final match in Uruguay. Despite an abundance of talent, most notably Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, they were far from impressive but will still be a major threat next summer led by legend Diego Maradona.

Uruguay were the 32nd nation to secure their place in South Africa after a nervy 2-1 aggregate playoff win against Costa Rica. Costa Rica finished 4th in CONCACAF section of the FIFA 2010 World Cup qualifying, which features teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. In the 4th and final round of qualifying, 6 nations were battling it out for 3 automatic 2010 World Cup spots. USA finished top of the group, thanks to 6 goals from their top scorer and Hull City striker Jozy Altidore. The other spots were claimed by Mexico who are captained by Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez, and Honduras who last qualified for a FIFA World Cup back in 1982.

Tags : FIFA World Cup, USA, Maradona, Brazil, Football

Thief of Saint Denis makes off with Irish dreams

Sometimes football can be a cruel game. In Paris on Wednesday night, there was evidence of that as France qualified for the World Cup ahead of Republic of Ireland despite being second best.

Damien Duff


Damien Duff is heartbroken as Ireland's dream dies

France 1-1 (2-1 agg) Ireland
Ireland fuming over handball
Henry admits handball

Not for the first time in their history, Ireland produced a memorable performance that wasn't quite enough as they slipped to a 2-1 aggregate play-off defeat. But even more hurtful was the way in which the French scored the winning goal.

A clear handball by Thierry Henry in the build-up to William Gallas' goal was ignored by Swedish referee Martin Hansson. The appeals from the Irish players were waved away and Les Bleus had done enough to secure their passage to South Africa.

"We feel as though we have been let down by the officials," left-back Kevin Kilbane said after the game. "In extra-time, we get done by a terrible decision. I spoke to Thierry Henry and he said it just hit him, but it didn't look that way to me. The officials should have seen it."

After losing the first leg last week, not many football 'experts' gave Giovanni Trapattoni's team a chance of winning in the Stade de France. But a composed, unified display from the Irish put them within minutes of dumping the former world champions out.

A superb goal from Robbie Keane on 33 minutes put the tie back on level terms. Ireland were playing well and everything was going according to plan, but disaster struck in extra-time when the 'Thief of St Denis' got away red-handed with a crime that will be talked about for years to come in footballing circles.

As the clock ticked onto the 13th minute of extra-time, a free-kick from Florent Malouda was floated into the Irish penalty area. Paul McShane, on as a substitute for the injured John O'Shea, failed to deal with the danger and then Henry controlled it with his arm before setting up Gallas to finish from close range.

It was obvious to everyone except for the match officials that Henry had handled the ball, yet the goal stood. Injustice was served and France marched on to their fourth World Cup finals in a row.

"We feel cheated. We were the better team over the two legs. Every football fan in the stadium will say we were the better team," defender Sean St Ledger said. "It's cost a lot of us our dreams. As a boy, I used to dream of playing in the World Cup, and now I'm not."

So close, yet not close enough. As the calls for the introduction of video technology dominate the stories in the Irish media, solace should be found in the analysis of a performance that is one of the best ever produced by the national team - especially away from home.

Rather than relying on a lucky goal and then hanging on in the hope that they would get through the storm, Ireland bossed this encounter. They dictated the tempo, created the majority of chances on goal and played with confidence.

From the aggressive style of Keith Andrews in midfield to the well-timed interceptions of Richard Dunne in defence, everything worked for Trapattoni's men. They finally looked like the team that they were threatening to morph into over the course of qualifying.

However, there were moments of panic to deal with - mostly coming from Nicolas Anelka - but Shay Given was never forced into making a top-class save. Ireland kept playmaker Yoann Gourcuff quiet, nullified the threat of Patrice Evra on the left and dealt with almost every ball played into their box. Whenever the French attacked, they responded with brave defending.

And there were plenty of opportunities too with Keane, O'Shea, Kevin Doyle, and Damien Duff all coming close, but only one strike hit the back of the net from their numerous efforts. Again Hugo Lloris made superb saves, although those missed chances ultimately came back to haunt Ireland as they were undone by one set-piece late in the game.

Robbie Keane


It was all going to plan when Robbie Keane scored the opener

Despite sitting on an away-goal lead, France struggled to cope with the tenacity and work-rate of their visitors. In fact, Raymond Domenech's side rarely looked like the heavyweight contenders that they were supposed to be.

Undoubtedly, there are problems with this French team that need to be addressed. The absence of both Franck Ribery and Jeremy Toulalan was quite noticeable over both legs, but so was the lack of fludity to their play, the poor communication among the players, and the mysterious whereabouts of a structured gameplan.

For Ireland, it will take some time for the bitterness of this defeat to disappear, but they can take a lot of positives from how they played in Paris as well as over the course of the qualifying campaign.

Trapattoni's arrival has truly reignited belief that they can compete against the best nations on the international stage. But sadly they won't be involved in next summer's World Cup - even if they did deserve to win their play-off.

Essien, Gyan and Muntari absent for World Cup friendly

November 18, 2009

Accra, Nov. 18, GNA - The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has said it had noted with concern the absence of some key Black Stars players for a friendly encounter against Angola.

Mr Kofi Nsiah, General Secretary of GFA stated in a press release that the GFA wrote for the release of the 20 players but three of the players- Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan failed to turn up.

"They stayed out without permission of the head coach, Milovan Rajevac," it said.

The statement concluded that the GFA viewed the act with great concern and would investigate the matter to inform its next line of action.

The Black Stars are to pitch against Angola in a friendly on November 18, 2009.


Tags : GFA, Football, Kofi Nsiah

Fans call for play-off replay

Fifa set precedent for playing qualifiers again due to errors

Football fans from around the globe have deluged Sky Sports to call for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup play-off with France to be replayed.

Robbie Keane's first-half goal in Paris had sent the match into additional time with the aggregate scores locked at 1-1, but in extra-time Thierry Henry handled in the box to set-up William Gallas to head home the winner.

But Ireland - and their fans - have been left seething with the decision to allow the goal to stand with many calling for Fifa to take action against Henry and order a replay of the game.

The Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern led the protests, urging Fifa to be called to account in the interests of fair play.

"They probably won't grant it as we are minnows in world football but let's put them on the spot," the minister said.

"It's the least we owe the thousands of devastated young fans around the country. Otherwise, if that result remains, it reinforces the view that if you cheat, you will win."

Thousands of supporters have also had their say. Gary Bulger told "Henry should be banned for the World Cup and the game should be replayed ... if Michel Platini doesn't take action he should also stand down."

A similarly outraged Michael Dunn added: "I believe France should forfeit the match or meet Ireland again in Ireland to play a winner takes all game! This is a disgrace to the world of football and not one fan can go from this game and say next summer they feel France should be there."

John Van der Steeg also felt aggrieved and said: "Why not use the TV footage to correct this. Fifa should order the match replayed and Henry must not be allowed to play in it."

James Smith also added his weight to calls for a replay and said: "How many more blatant and disgusting decisions will it take before Fifa do something about refereeing and the ability to use a quick referral system? When is someone going to get some guts and do something about it? Henry cheated and he has admitted it. Fifa - replay the game."

It appears there is a precedent for replaying play-offs following Fifa's decision to order Uzbekistan's World Cup qualifier against Bahrain to be held again following a dubious refereeing decision.

With a place in a decisive play-off for the 2006 World Cup finals up for grabs, Uzbekistan won the opening leg of their Asian zone play-off 1-0 but they were infuriated by a bizarre incident where a penalty was disallowed for an attacking player encroaching.

Rather than retaking the penalty, a free-kick was awarded to Bahrain. Uzbekistan called for the game to be given to them 3-0, but were left incensed after the match was ordered to be replayed in its entirety due to the technical error by Japanese referee Toshimitsu Yoshida.

Yoshida should have allowed the penalty to be retaken rather then disallowing the goal.

Fifa gave their verdict on the decision to replay the Uzbekistan-Bahrain tie on their official website in 2005 but curiously chose not to mention the controversy surrounding the crucial goal in the France v Republic of Ireland game.

And Irish fans have been quick to call for action by Fifa for the perceived injustice in Paris on Wednesday.

Steven Kelly said: "Real-time video evidence is an absolute must. It's been an absolute must for at least 15 years; where has Fifa been? Online petition campaign anyone? Or bombard Fifa with e-mails?"

David McCarthy added: "Henry is a disgrace but what action will Fifa take as he has brought the game into disrepute? Will they ban him? Will they replay the game? Will they take action against the officials like they did against Graham Poll? I think we know all the answers to these ...NO!"

And Paul Boland added weight to the calls for action by world football's governing body, saying: "The game should be replayed as it was an extra-time goal that should not have stood and would have gone to a penalty shoot-out. Stand up everyone and demand from Fifa they do the right thing for the game of football and have the match replayed."

Tags : Fifa, Football, World Cup, Michel Platini

Source :

'Why is Bollywood Our Status Symbol?'

It has been a common complain of movie industry down south that Bollywood gets all the attention. So led by superstars like Kamal Haasan, the southern industry is now demanding equal status for its cinema.

Says actor Kamal Haasan, "We can't have a stand off here saying whose fault it is or how sad I feel. If we feel sad we will do something about it. We are trying to be the change we want to see."

Cleary a clash of cinemas at this conclave in Chennai. The Southern industry led by Kamal Haasan is demanding equal status for its cinema the same as Bollywood.

Compared to Bollywood the South churns out double the number of films with as much technical competence. The canvas much more eager to lend itself to contemporary socio-political issues. Yet on the international stage it's Bollywood which is still considered the brand ambassador of Indian cinema. So the Southern cinema wants more representation in the international and Indian festival and awards circuit.

Says actor Kamal Haasan, "''We are here to prove that we are all one, there are no parochial borders for entertainment industry. Not even international ones.''

But on the other hand well-known film maker Yash Chopra is of the view that there is no divide in north and southern cinema. ''Why divide as north and southern cinema? We are one as Indian cinema,'' he said.

Bollywood may choose not to acknowledge the inequality but filmmakers say on the ground the North-South divide will take a long time to bridge.

Tags : Bollywood, film, entertainment industry, Kamal Haasan, political, Indian cinema

Source :

Nifty falls below 5000; Unitech, JP Associates down

MUMBAI: Equities slipped sharply as selling pressure intensified across the board. Negative opening of the European markets also hurt

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National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at intraday low of 4969.70, down 85 points or 1.65 per cent. The broader index hit high of 5053.45 earlier in the day.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 16,803.43, down 195.35 points or 1.15 per cent. The index touched an intra-day low of 16787.75 and high of 17004.98.

BSE Midcap Index was down 1.43 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index slipped 0.72 per cent.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE Realty Index was fell 3.64 per cent, BSE IT Index was down 1.63 per cent and BSE Bankex declined 1.63 per cent.

Unitech (-5.10%), Jaiprakash Associates (-4.86%), HCL Tech (-4.84%), Reliance Infrastructure (-4.13%) and DLF (-4.06%) were amongst the top Nifty losers.

Suzlon Energy (2.59%), Power Grid (0.05%) and ACC (0.02%) were the only frontline stocks in the positive terrain.

Market breadth was negative on the BSE with 1537 losers and 1114 gainers.

European markets were in the negative terrain. FTSE 100 was down 0.17 per cent, CAC 40 fell 0.32 per cent and DAX declined 0.09 per cent.'

Tags : BSE, FTSE, HCL Tech, Nifty

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Barack Obama calls on North Korea to end nuclear provocation

Obama's Asia tour ends with stop-off in Seoul, where he announces push for return to bilateral talks on de-nuclearisation

Lee said the two countries were offering a "grand bargain" of political and economic incentives in exchange for Pyongyang's irreversible de-nuclearisation.

Obama added that his special envoy, Stephen Bosworth, would travel to North Korea early next month for bilateral talks aimed at reviving the stalled six-nation discussions.

The north has been pushing for direct negotiations, but Washington says it is only holding them in the hope of resuming the multi-party talks. Pyongyang claims those discussions, which also included South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, infringed its sovereignty.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Lee, Obama told reporters: "The thing I want to emphasise is that President Lee and I both agree we want to break the pattern that existed in the past, in which North Korea behaves in a provocative fashion, and then is willing to return to talk ... and then that leads to seeking further concessions."

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test earlier this year as well as test-firing a series of missiles. Neighbours also regarded a rocket launch as a test of its long-range missile technology, although Pyongyang said it was merely launching a satellite.

Earlier this month it said it had produced more weapons-grade plutonium. Its navy also exchanged fire with the south's for the first time in seven years, with each side accusing the other of violating a disputed sea border.

Relations on the peninsula deteriorated sharply after Lee took power last year and ended his predecessor's policy of free-flowing aid to the north, angering Pyongyang. At one time, aid from the south equated to around 5% of the north's estimated $17bn (£10bn) a year economy.

This morning he stressed that his government was willing to provide substantial amounts in aid if the North renounced its nuclear ambitions.

"I hope that by accepting our proposal, the north will secure safety for itself, improve the quality of life for its people, and open the path to a new future," he said.

Thousands of cheering South Koreans lined the streets of the capital to watch Obama's motorcade drive by – giving him the warmest welcome of his four-nation tour of Asia.

Obama and Lee also agreed to push for progress on a stalled free trade deal, which analysts say could increase their bilateral trade by about $20bn. It currently stands at around $83bn.

Tags : Obama's, Asia, Lee, satellite, political

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Pakistan court blast kills many

A bomb attack outside a court in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar has killed at least 16 people and injured 26 others, medics say.

The blast on the busy Khyber Road came during rush hour and is the latest in a series in the city in recent weeks.

Previous blasts have been blamed on Taliban militants.

Attacks across Pakistan have increased dramatically as the army continues its offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.

The head of the Peshawar city administration, Sahibzada Anees, told reporters that a suicide bomber had carried out the latest attack.

"The bomber blew himself up when he was being body searched by a police guard at the gate of the court complex," he said.


Dr Sahib Gul, head of Lady Reading Hospital, told reporters that 16 bodies had been brought to the hospital.

Three of the dead are policemen while the rest are thought to be civilians.

A bomb disposal squad official said the bomber used about 10kg of explosives. Several vehicles were destroyed in the blast.

Security officials have cordoned off the area and Khyber Road has been closed for traffic.

Peshawar, near the Afghan border, has been targeted repeatedly in recent months.

Last Friday, a suicide car bomb attack on the office of Pakistan's main intelligence agency ISI on the same road killed at least 12 people and injured 40 others.

And on 28 October, at least 100 people were killed after a huge car bomb ripped through Peshawar's busy Peepal Mandi market.

The court building most recently attacked is also close to the Pearl Continental Hotel, which was targeted by a truck bomb earlier this year.

The attacks come as Pakistan is carrying out an offensive in South Waziristan, which is considered to be one of the main sanctuaries for Islamic militants outside Afghanistan.

Security has been stepped up across Pakistan, but correspondents say the government still appears to be unable to stop the attacks.

Tags : Pakistan, attacks, South Waziristan, Taliban, The blast

Source :

Israel continues settlement expansion

Israeli authorities have bulldozed a Palestinian-owned building in occupied East Jerusalem, a day after President Obama objected to it demolishing Palestinian homes in that area.

The US has also sharply rebuked Israel for approving plans to build nine-hundred new houses for Jewish settlers in the Gilo neighbourhood, an Arab area of East Jerusalem.

It is a snub to President Obama's peace efforts and he has described the move as "dangerous".

Katya Adler is in East Jerusalem.

Tags : US , President Obama, Gilo neighbourhood


Afghanistan's Karzai vows to fight corruption

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed to combat corruption and invited his chief rival to join the government after he was sworn in for a second term on Thursday, facing Western pressure to restore legitimacy as a US-led war stretches into a ninth year.

Karzai took the oath of office with a Taliban insurgency killing record numbers of Western troops and Afghans and limiting government control in growing parts of the country after his fraud-tainted re-election.

"Corruption is a dangerous problem," he said in an address delivered before an audience of visiting foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at his heavily fortified presidential palace.

"We will soon organise a conference in Kabul to organise new and effective ways to combat this problem," he said.

Karzai also invited his chief rival Abdullah Abdullah into work a government of national unity, and pledged action to fight drugs and create jobs.

"We have to learn from our mistakes and shortcomings of the last eight years," the 51-year-old Karzai said, wearing a traditional hat and colourful cape.

After eight years of war and instability, the West has been pushing Karzai to commit to concrete reforms to clean up his government and restore trust.

Clinton, in Kabul for the first time as secretary of state, said the nation faced a "critical moment".

"There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai and his government to make a compact with the people of Afghanistan," she said on the eve of Thursday's ceremony.

Washington has increasingly expressed concerns about Karzai's reliability as a US ally and effective head of state, urging his government to eradicate corruption to counter an intensifying Taliban-led insurgency.

Clinton has directly linked future levels of military and financial aid -- on which impoverished and war-torn Afghanistan depends -- to progress in eradicating official corruption.

Yet the United States and NATO -- with 100,000 soldiers fighting the Taliban and leaders deciding whether to dispatch tens of thousands of extra troops in a last-ditch effort to win the war -- have little choice but to work with Karzai.

President Barack Obama has said his decision on strengthening the US deployment is close and that he was weeks away from unveiling a war strategy review, a decision made no easier by Afghanistan's disputed August election.

Obama's administration has warned Afghans that America's military commitment there, more than eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime and swept Karzai to power, will not be "open-ended".

Leading rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Karzai to now sever his links with warlords and abusers of human rights.

Karzai should "prioritise human rights and the rule of law... to strengthen the country's stability and security," said Amnesty.

Scepticism about his willingness to comply with conditions for continued Western support will be difficult to dispel, particularly with Fahim accused of human rights abuses and drug trafficking, in his administration.

The Afghan capital was on high alert for Taliban attacks to coincide with the inauguration, with many foreign employees of embassies, the United Nations and aid groups ordered to remain indoors.

Armed police and paramilitary units patrolled most roads and intersections while army, police and intelligence threw a ring of steel around the city.

Few cars were on the mostly closed roads and pedestrians were being stopped at checkpoints set up for the day.

Kabul has been the scene of a series of massive suicide car bomb attacks that have killed around 100 people in the last three months alone.

To many Afghans, Karzai's presidency lacks legitimacy, his government lacks authority and the way in which he took the presidency lacks credibility.

"Karzai has to earn political capital because he has none left," one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Karzai was declared re-elected on November 2 by his own officials after a UN-backed commission found nearly a third of votes cast for Karzai on August 20 were fraudulent and his challenger Abdullah Abdullah abandoned a run-off.

In 2004, Karzai won Afghanistan's first presidential election with 55.4 percent of the vote.

Tags : Karzai, Afghanistan, presidential election