Maoist violence on the decline in Jharkhand, say state police

Ranchi, Aug.9 (ANI): With security personnel carrying out an anti-Maoist drive for a month, a decline in the number of Maoist attacks in Jharkhand has been observed in comparison to the same period at this time last year.

“Maoist infested State of Jharkhand has seen a fall in number of attacks as compared to the last year. There has been a decline in Maoist violence in Jharkhand state,” a top police official said.

According to police statistics, there have been 228 Maoist attacks till end of July 2009, as compared to the 245 incidents recorded in 2008 in the same period.

Police say that as many as 20 most-wanted Maoists have been killed in 61 encounters besides 261 Maoists being arrested till July this year.

“The success against the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) is a result of credible intelligence,” said S. N. Pradhan, Inspector General of Police in Jharkhand.

“We have got some big success owing to the intelligence information. The inputs provided to us were accurate about people and places. Action based on the intelligence helped us to get success against Maoists,” added Pradhan.

Police along with armed constabulary and paramilitary forces have launched operations to flush out the Maoists flush out from their bastions. They claim to have foiled many attacks of the ‘Red Army.’

“To be on the safer side, we deploy more security personnel in places which are more prone to Maoist attacks such as government offices, railways or main highways. At the same time, we deploy them in remote Maoist areas. This has helped us to understand the strategy Maoists follow in attacking and the kind of places they target. However, we are very careful as Maoists change their strategy frequently and we have to adapt accordingly,” said Pradhan.

Jharkhand is one of the worst affected of nine States facing more than three-decade-old Maoist revolt.

The Maoists have increasingly escalated to their rural eastern strongholds and are active in nearly a third of the country’s 630 districts, up from a presence in less than a tenth of them in 2001, government and independent data shows.

In June, Maoist rebels declared a “liberated zone” in West Bengal state, close to the city of Kolkata, sparking unease among investors in the communist-ruled state.

A large number of paramilitary forces are supporting the State police in the anti-Maoists driver in West Bengal’s Lalgarh area. (ANI)

Ferguson backing Rooney to lead in post-Ronaldo era

London, Aug 8(ANI): Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is backing striker Wayne Rooney to lead the Red Devils from the front in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo world, starting against Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

Ferguson would bring Rooney from his selfless left-sided duties to fill the gap left by Ronaldo, who transferred to Real Madrid in an 80 million pound deal.

“Wayne is a totally different type of player to Ronaldo. I don’t think the responsibility of getting more goals will affect Wayne at all. He’s got the mental strength. He’s proved that time and time again” The Telegraph quoted Ferguson, as saying.

“He will be used as a central striker this season. He goes on these bursts of goals, but if he can do that more consistently over the season he will get to 25 and above,” he added.

The 67 year-old further said that Rooney was an exceptional player and it would be difficult for any player to fill his shoes at the Old Trafford, but believes that if a player has determination, nothing would be impossible.

“Any player, whether Wayne Rooney, Macheda, Welbeck, Nani, all the forwards, all have to say ‘well, this guy was exceptional,” said Ferguson, adding that only the most dedicated can follow in such productive footsteps by having the desire to improve themselves in every training session. (ANI)

Betullah Mehsud still alive, claims close aide

London, Aug. 8 (ANI): A lieutenant of Pakistan’s enemy no. 1 Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday rejected reports of the Pak-Taliban chief’s death in a US drone strike.

BBC quoted Commander Hakimullah Mehsud – who some analysts suggest may be positioning himself to succeed Baitullah Mehsud – as saying that the reports of Mehsud’s death were the work of US and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies. We know what our enemies want to achieve – it’s the joint policy of the ISI and FBI – they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target,” Mehsud said.

He said the Pakistani leader had decided to adopt the tactics of Osama bin Laden and stay silent. He said he would issue a message in the next few days.

The US has said that it is increasingly confident that its forces had managed to kill Mehsud, while Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Friday he was “pretty certain” Baitullah Mehsud had been killed.

Neither side has provided evidence to back up their claims so far.

The missile fired by the US drone hit the home of the Taliban chief’s father-in-law, Malik Ikramuddin, in the Zangarha area on Wednesday.

On Friday, another of Baitullah Mehsud’s aides had told the press by telephone that his leader had been killed along with his second wife in the attack.

The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, on Friday said that the Pakistani people would be safer if he was dead.

“There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead,” he told reporters.

Believed to command as many as 20,000 pro-Taliban militants, Mehsud came to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad.

He has been blamed by both Pakistan and the US for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country, as well as suicide attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan. (ANI)

Giant Martian egg cups could be used to trace the Red Planet’s climate

London, July 14 (ANI): A new study has suggested that craters embedded on pedestals that tower above the Martian landscape like giant egg cups could be used to trace the planet’s climate.

‘Pedestal’ craters were gouged out by impacts, like other craters, but stand out because they sit atop plateaus that loom an average of 50 metres above the Martian surface.

It’s not clear exactly how the pedestals formed.

According to a report in New Scientist, a comprehensive catalogue of the objects is lending weight to the idea that the pedestals may conceal ice-rich soil from previous eras, when the planet’s spin axis tilted at a different angle than it does today.

Seth Kadish of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues identified 2696 pedestal craters in the planet’s mid- and low-latitudes from images taken primarily by the thermal imager aboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

The craters seem to be concentrated at the mid-latitudes, with very few found at the planet’s equator.

About 3 per cent of them have depressions around their bases that resemble areas in Antarctica where permafrost ice vaporizes, creating pits in the soil left behind.

The team said that strengthens the hypothesis that the pedestals were created from soil that was enriched in ice during a period when the Martian poles pointed more towards the sun and its mid-latitudes were colder.

Because Mars does not have a massive satellite that stabilises it, like Earth’s moon, the tilt of its axis is thought to change regularly on scales of tens of thousands of years.

When the planet is tilted most drastically on its side, the planet’s poles receive a lot of sunshine. Any water locked in ice there is thought to vaporize and move towards the equator, where it falls as snow.

Tens of metres of snow are thought to be deposited on the planet’s mid-latitudes during these episodes.

Pedestal craters may preserve regions with this ancient snow.

The researchers suspect the impact of the meteorite that created each pedestal crater could somehow ‘armour’ the ground in the area, producing a top layer that protected ice from sublimating into gas during warmer periods.

The unprotected ice surrounding the armoured area, however, would eventually disappear when the planet’s tilt changed and the area warmed.

That would leave behind the modern-day, ice-laden pedestals that can be more than 100 metres thick.

“These pedestals represent almost like a cookie-cutter section of past icy, dust-rich layers,” Kadish said. (ANI)

Beckham slams Donovan for questioning his professionalism

Los Angeles, July 13 (ANI): England football star David Beckham has slammed Los Angeles Galaxy captain Landon Donovan for questioning his professionalism and criticising him in public.

Earlier, Donovan had criticised Beckham for leaving his Major League Soccer team and going on a glamorous six-month loan to Italian giants AC Milan.

“In 17 years I have played at some of the biggest clubs in the world and with some of the biggest players in the world, not to mention some of the strongest managers. And not once in those 17 years has there been a question about my professionalism. Me and Landon will talk but it will be a private conversation,” The Sun quoted Beckham, as saying.

“I’m sure if you asked any Galaxy player or any player in this league if they had the chance to finish the season with AC Milan they would do. I have been fortunate to have that experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope to go back,” he added.

Donovan had alleged in his book called ‘The Beckham Experiment’ that despite the fact that Beckham was being paid double than any other player in the league, his level of dedication had dropped since his arrival in July 2007.

Beckham, who returns to training on Monday ahead of Thursday’s clash with New York Red Bulls has stressed his continued commitment to the team.

“I have never said I was leaving. My future is here for the long-term. Before I left I sat down with all the players and told them I was not giving up on Galaxy. Some obviously didn’t believe me. But I’m an honest person and if I didn’t want to be here I’d say,” Beckham said.

“Even if I do go back to Milan, or any another club on loan at the end of the season, I will be back. My family is happy here, we love living here and it’s been hard to be away from them while I was in Italy,” he added. (ANI)

Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ voted best song of all time

Melbourne, July 13 (ANI): Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ has been voted as the best song of all time in a new poll.

The song sung by late Kurt Cobain has topped Triple J’s ‘Hottest 100 of All Time’ list.

Two more songs from Nirvana’s 1992 groundbreaking album Nevermind, ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Lithium’, made it to the top 100, at 40th and 74th positions, respectively.

‘Killing in the Name’ by metal band Rage Against the Machine (RATM) came second, followed by ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley at the third.

‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division and ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead wrapped up the top five.

“After all these years that scream hasn’t diminished one bit,” quoted Triple J’s Richard Kingsmill of Kurt Cobain’s searing voice after broadcasting the winner.

Nirvana was out ahead for much of the vote, Kingsmill added.

The top ten ‘Hottest 100 of All Time’ are:

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana

2. Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine

3. Hallelujah, by Jeff Buckley

4. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division

5. Paranoid Android by Radiohead

6. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

7. Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley

8. Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers

9. Everlong by Foo Fighters

10. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin (ANI)

Tamil death toll at Lankan refugee camp ‘is 1,400 a week’

Mumbai, July 10 (ANI): About 1,400 Tamil refugees are dying every week at the giant Manik Farm internment camp in Sri Lanka, senior international aid sources have told The Times.

The death toll will add to concerns that the Sri Lankan Government has failed to halt a humanitarian catastrophe after announcing victory over the Tamil Tiger terrorist organisation in May.

Mangala Samaraweera, the former Foreign Minister and now an opposition MP, was quoted by the paper, as saying: “There are allegations that the Government is attempting to change the ethnic balance of the area. Influential people close to the Government have argued for such a solution.”

News of the death rate came as the International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that it had been asked to scale down its operations by the Sri Lankan authorities, which insist that they have the situation under control.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, was quoted, as saying: “The challenges now are different. Manning entry and exit points and handling dead bodies, transport of patients, in the post-conflict era are no longer needed.”

Last night, the Red Cross was closing two offices. One of these is in Trincomalee, which had helped to provide medical care to about 30,000 injured civilians evacuated by sea from the conflict zone in the north east.

The other is in Batticaloa, where the Red Cross had been providing “protection services”.

The Manik Farm camp was set up to house the largest number of the 300,000 mainly Tamil civilians forced to flee the northeast as army forces mounted a brutal offensive against the Tigers, who had been fighting for an ethnic Tamil homeland for 26 years.

Aid workers and the British Government have warned that conditions at the site are inadequate. (ANI)

Ronaldo still hungry for more titles

Madrid, July 9 (ANI): Real Madrid’s world-record pounds signing Cristiano Ronaldo has said that he is still hungry for more trophies despite his astonishing stint with the Red Devils, and promised fans at Los Galacticos that he will bring in more trophies for the club.

“I’m still hungry for more titles and for me it’s as if I haven’t won anything. This is a different stage in my life and my career and I have the same ambition as when I started. I’m starting from zero and I want to win more titles at Madrid than I did at Manchester,” The Independent quoted Ronaldo, as saying.

During his six-year stint with Manchester United, Ronaldo has won many trophies and individual awards.

He was part of the teams that won three league titles, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Club World Cup among others.

Among individual awards he was named FIFA world player of the year, the Ballon d’Or, FIFPro’s player of the year, and even won the European Golden Shoe as the continent’s top scorer.

“After Manchester there are few places better to be a great footballer. That’s why I’ve taken the decision to come here, where they are used to fighting to win everything. It’s what I’ve always liked, to play and win titles,” Ronaldo said.

“I like that our fans are ambitious and I’m sure that we can win the titles that will get Madrid back to the top in both Spanish and European football. We must keep our feet on the ground though and not think that we can win everything in one go,” he added. (ANI)

Sprint king Bolt gives Ronaldo tips on how to stay on his feet

London, July 8 (ANI): Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo has been given tips on how to stay on his feet by sprint king Usain Bolt.

The fastest man in the world struck up a friendship with Ronaldo after meeting the former Manchester United star at the club’s training ground in May.

According to The Sun, Bolt, a Red Devils fan, has been giving running advice to the world’s most expensive footballer.

Bolt said: “I explained that when he catches top speed he starts tipping over because he has a lot of back lift. So I said he has to run with his knees in front of him, then when he hits top speed he won’t topple over as he’ll continue at the same pace.”

Bolt admits he was disappointed to see Ronaldo quit Old Trafford for La Liga.

But he insists Michael Owen can spearhead the club’s pursuit of a record-breaking 19th league title next season. (ANI)

Rare sheep perfect blood donors for diagnosing infectious disease in developing world

Washington, July 4 (ANI): Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine say that the hair sheep, a less-hirsute version of the familiar woolly barnyard resident, may be key to better diagnostic tests in developing world.

The researchers have found that not only are these ruminants low-maintenance and parasite-resistant, they’re also perfect blood donors for the microbiology tests necessary to diagnose infectious disease in the developing world.

Writing about their work in PLoS ONE, they point out that identifying microbes from a patient’s urine or sputum requires growing those microbes in culture dishes filled with gelatinous agar and a small amount of blood.

They say that the blood provides nutrients to the growing bugs, and also provides clues as to the microbes’ identities: Microbiologists can rule out or identify certain strains of bacteria based on how the organisms interact with the blood cells in culture.

Generally, microbiologists in the developed world use sheep or horse blood. However, in many places, horses are prohibitively expensive, and regular sheep, with their constant need for shearing and tendency to get infections, are difficult to keep alive.

Importing animal blood can’t be feasible because shipping is costly and often unreliable.

Dr. Ellen Yeh, a resident in pathology at Stanford, says that many labs in the developing world use human blood, often donated by lab technicians themselves, but diagnostic tests aren’t standardized for human blood.

“You don’t get the same test results when you use human blood versus sheep blood,” she said.

She further says that the use of human donors increases technicians’ risk of infection with blood-borne diseases.

Dr. Ellen Jo Baron, a professor of Pathology at the medical school who said she wanted to do better, added: “Up until the time I saw a hair sheep – which I first saw in Botswana – I had no idea there was even such a thing.”

She wasted no time in learning about the animals, finding that they resist parasites, don’t need to be sheared, and do well in the tropical climes prevalent in much of the developing world.

Her team collected blood from hair sheep, created test cultures using the blood, and ran a series of common diagnostic tests, in order to determine whether the blood was equivalent to horse or sheep blood.

“It worked for every single thing,” Baron said.

The researchers also found that they could collect the blood in donation bags, much like those human donors might see at the Red Cross.

Baron and her colleagues have found that hair sheep blood collected in donation bags performed the same as defibrinated blood.

The researchers now say that the only hurdle is getting the sheep to the labs that need them.

Two veterinary labs in Botswana already provide hair sheep blood to local labs based on Baron’s initial results, and the researcher is now lobbying the charity Heifer International to add hair sheep to its catalogue so that microbiologists can donate and send the animals to the developing world.

After all, she said, the sheep can provide milk and meat – and that’s on top of their role as donors of blood that, in her words, “works perfectly for every microbiology test that a laboratory would need to do.” (ANI)

Tourist sites in province free for foreigners, not for Chinese

Beijing, July 2 (ANI): All non-Chinese people will get free access to 12 major tourist sites in Anyang city, Henan province, under a new policy.

According to the China Daily, Chinese citizens will not be given the same privilege that is designed to attract more foreign tourists, who are smaller in number than domestic travelers to the city.

Overseas tourists will only have to show their passports to enter historical spots like Yinxu – the ruins of the last capital of China’s Shang Dynasty (1766 BC – 1050 BC) – one of the oldest and largest archaeological sites in China and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Chinese, however, will have to cough up 50 yuan (7.3 dollars) for a ticket.

“We are trying to spread the Chinese culture. We think Anyang should have tourists from all over the world,” said Zhang Jianguo, director of Anyang tourism bureau.

Many netizens expressed their anger at the policy, which was described as “fawning over foreigners” on popular portal

Also among the 12 tourist destinations is the Red Flag Channel, a man-made river constructed in the 1960s, and Yuefei Temple, built in honor of Yue Fei, a famous Chinese patriot and military general born in Anyang.

Zhang said some 12 million tourists visited Anyang last year, of which just 35,000 were foreigners.

Free tickets worth 10 million yuan have been given out to people across the country since last December, he added. (ANI)

Becks should brace himself for hostile MLS return

London, July 1 (ANI): David Beckham should brace himself for a hostile reaction when he returns to action in Major League Soccer this month, the top man in the American game has warned.

Sunil Gulati, the president of the US Soccer Federation, told The Independent that some negative response was “inevitable” after Beckham missed the start of the season to play at AC Milan.

Beckham is due to make his return for the Los Angeles Galaxy at the New York Red Bulls on July 16, but his ‘timeshare’ deal with Milan has upset some fans.

Gulati told Bloomberg: “I’m sure there will be some negative reaction from some fans. That’s inevitable, but in the end he’s a good player, a soccer icon and I think he’ll help his team and the league. But are there going to be some people that are upset? Sure.”

Under the ‘timeshare’ agreement, Beckham will return to the Galaxy from July to October and then be able to rejoin AC Milan for the rest of next season. (ANI)

‘India National Rally Championship – 2009′ held in Coimbatore

Coimbatore, June 29 (ANI): Coimbatore played host to the first round of a national motor rally on Sunday.

India’s ace formula one driver Narain Karthikeyan giving away the prizes at the motor rally named ‘India National Rally Championship – 2009′.

The first round saw 65 participants from all over the country.

Amittrajit Ghosh of Red Rooster Racing Team won the first round.

“Winning is nice obviously when its your first rally win. I have not won an overall rally so far so it’s obviously special winning your first rally,” said Ghosh.

The rally is conducted in six stages at Coimbatore, Bangalore and Chikmanglur, Kolkata and Nasik with the final round at Shimla in December. (ANI)

Man U fans no fans of new look rugby league-style kit

London, June 26 (ANI): Manchester United fans want their new rugby league-style kit seriously touched up before it goes on sale next month.

United fan Nick Cooper said: “It looks more like a rugby league strip. It also looks a bit American. I’ve not been a fan of the United kits for years.”

The shirt’s design is a tribute to the shirt worn in 1909-10 when Old Trafford opened, The Sun reports.

“It won’t do anything for Wayne Rooney! It’s something you’d expect to see on a rugby league player,” Red Devils fan Jim Ferry said.

Rooney said: “I think the kits are really nice. It’s always exciting to see the new kit and I’m excited about playing in it.”

Ji-Sung Park said: “I like to think of it as V for victory and hopefully we can win every game we play in the new kits!” (ANI)

Ancient Mars lake may have held as much water as Lake Champlain in US

Washington, June 20 (ANI): Scientists have found evidence of the remnants of an ancient lake nestled in a valley near the Martian equator, which may have held as much water as Lake Champlain.

According to a report in Disocvery News, the evidence was found by Gaetano di Achille and a team of researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, US, in the form of an ancient shoreline ringing Shalbatana Vallis, a gash in Mars’ surface just east of the massive volcanic province, Tharsis Rise.

Though dry and frigid now, the traces it left behind hint at a water body younger than any other on the planet, and its sediments are a prime target for finding fossilized alien life.

When Mars coalesced billions of years ago it was much warmer, and probably wet. Features that appear to be eroded river deltas more than 3.7 billion years old dot parts of the planet’s surface.

Researchers have speculated they are evidence of lakes – and primitive life may have once existed on the surface.

Now, Gaetano’s team of researchers estimated from powerful images obtained using the powerful High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), that the ancient lake was 450 meters (1,476 feet) deep and nearly identical in volume to Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Even more intriguingly, it dried up around 3.4 billion years ago – 300 million years after the Red Planet’s “warm and wet” phase is thought to have ended.

Its deltas appear rich in fine-grained sediments, a sign that they have been relatively untouched by erosion.

“Deltas are high priority targets for exploration because they imply copious and long-lived water,” team member Brian Hynek of the University of Colorado in Boulder told Discovery News. “And the sedimentation process is very effective at burying and preserving organic material,” he said.

The lake is a tempting place to look for fossilized alien life forms.

“Life wouldn’t have arisen in this lake, but lakes on Earth provide many habitats for countless organisms,” said Patrick McGovern of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

“This lake could have helped sustain and proliferate life on Mars, if it ever arose,” he added. (ANI)

Army of Man U fans ready to paint Rome red

London, May 26 (ANI): Thirty thousand Manchester United fans are expected to travel to Rome for Wednesday’s Champion League final, painting the Eternal City red.

Only 20,000 United fans have tickets for the game, but another 10,000 were expected to make the journey, despite pleas not to travel without a ticket.

The Red Army of United fans want to see Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering European and English Champions do battle with the continent’s most dangerous side, FC Barcelona.

The authorities in Rome were bracing themselves for a similar number of Spanish fans, with fears that the high number of ticketless supporters could lead to trouble before kick-off at the Stadio Olimpico, The Independent reports.

In a bid to avoid incidents, city officials have banned the sale of alcohol around the stadium and in airports and stations, from tonight until Thursday morning.

Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno said: “I have asked (interior) minister Roberto Maroni to have maximum attention from the security officers to avoid any incidents. I want to thank them in advance for the work they will carry out.

“To prevent any incidents we have spoken to Rome football fans and asked them to show maximum solidarity,” he added.

Manchester Airport brought in extra staff as it geared up for the busiest two days of the year, with 11 scheduled flights to depart today and 30 on Wednesday.

Fans have been warned by the police that they had no chance of getting into the Stadio Olimpico without a genuine match ticket, which this year resembles a credit card, with personal details of each ticket holder embedded in a micro-chip in each stub.

Supporters will also have to produce photographic identity to confirm they are the legitimate holder, matching the details on the ticket.

Recent European games involving United and Barcelona have passed off trouble-free. But Italian football clubs, especially in Rome, have a number of notorious hooligan gangs, known as Ultras, who it is feared might target travelling fans. (ANI)

India dispatches medical aid, doctors to Sri Lanka

New Delhi, May 22 (ANI): India on Friday dispatched a team of 27 doctors and paramedics to the war ravaged Sri Lanka for the benefit of the devastated Tamil civilian population.

An Indian Air Force IL-76 aircraft took off from New Delhi for Colombo this morning with the medical team, including a surgeon and paediatrician.

The team is also carrying about 30 tonnes of medicines worth over Rs. three crore to replenish stores at the Field Hospital run by the Indian Armed Forces in a camp for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

India has deployed a self-contained Emergency Medical Unit with Hospital in Sri Lanka since March 2009. The 110-bed facility comprises of 62 members including eight doctors and paramedics. It has been operating out of Pulmoddai town on the north-eastern coast of Sri Lanka.

The Hospital provides urgent medical care to civilians evacuated out of the conflict zone by the Red Cross (ICRC) in ships. The hospital has so far treated more than 3,000 war wounded and trauma patients.

In view of the greater requirement in and around Vavuniya, India’s Emergency Medical Unit with Hospital is being shifted to Menik Farm Area Zone 1 near Vavuniya which has a significant IDP population in need of medical care.

India’s relief assistance so far has included food, clothing, medicines and other essential supplies.

Since November 2008, India has provided 1.7 lakh family relief packs for lDPs and civilians affected by the conflict. The packs include dry rations, personal hygiene items, clothes, utensils and water purification tablets. (ANI)