Archive for February, 2010

Chile Assesses Damage From Powerful Earthquake

February 28, 2010

slide_5180_71361_large Talca, Chile :  A weeping man strokes the hand of a dead woman in a collapsed cafe. Survivors huddle around bonfires in the rubble of their homes. Smashed cars lie beneath bridges torn asunder by one of history’s strongest earthquakes.

The country’s national emergency office said more than 300 people were killed in Saturday’s 8.8-magnitude quake. Officials said 1.5 million Chileans were affected and 500,000 homes severely damaged by the mammoth temblor.

“We think the real (death) figure tops 300 and we believe this will continue to grow,” said Carmen Fernandez, head of the National Emergency Agency.

President Michelle Bachelet, who leaves office March 11, declared a “state of catastrophe” in central Chile. “It was a catastrophe of devastating consequences,” she said.

Bachelet said the government had not asked for assistance from other countries. If it does, President Barack Obama said, the United States “will be there.” Around the world, leaders echoed his sentiment.

As night fell Saturday, about a dozen men and children sat around a bonfire in the remains of their homes in Curico, a town 122 miles south of the capital, Santiago.

“We were sleeping when we felt the quake, very strongly. I got up and went out the door. When I looked back my bed was covered in rubble,” said survivor Claudio Palma.

Fabian Miners, 22, was put in charge of tallying damages in Curico and surrounding villages. He said he had counted 90 deaths in the area, mainly people over 50 or 60 who could not get out of their falling adobe-walled homes in time.

Erika Vasquez, 28, said she and 14 of her relatives were sheltering under three small tarpaulins in the park in front of their collapsed home.

“They told us to go somewhere else, but all our things are here,” said Vasquez, pointing at the rubble of what had been the family’s home for 44 years.

The quake tore apart houses, bridges and highways, and Chileans near the epicenter were thrown from their beds by the force of the mega-quake, which was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil — 1,800 miles to the east.

The full extent of damage remained unclear as dozens of aftershocks — one nearly as powerful as Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12 earthquake — shuddered across the disaster-prone Andean nation.

The quake caused newly built apartment buildings to slump and fall. Power lines collapsed. Falling bridges tossed cars and trucks like toys.

In Talca, just 65 miles from the epicenter, people sleeping in bed suddenly felt like they were flying through airplane turbulence as their belongings cascaded down around them when the quake hit at 3:34 a.m.

A deafening roar rose from the convulsing earth as buildings groaned and clattered. The sound of screams mixed with the crash of plates and windows. Then the earth stilled and stunned survivors began streaming outside.

A journalist emerging into the darkened street scattered with downed power lines saw a man, some of his own bones apparently broken, weeping and caressing the hand of a woman who had died in a cafe. Two other victims lay dead a few feet away.

Also near the epicenter was Concepcion, one of the country’s largest cities, where a 15-story building collapsed, leaving a few floors intact.

In the capital Santiago, 200 miles to the northeast, the national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and an apartment building’s two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars.

Santiago’s airport was closed and its subway shut down. Chile’s main seaport, in Valparaiso, was ordered closed while damage was assessed. Two oil refineries shut down. The state-run Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, halted work at two of its mines, but said it expected them to resume operations quickly.

The jolt set off a tsunami that swamped San Juan Bautista village on Robinson Crusoe Island off Chile, killing at least five people and leaving 11 missing, said Guillermo de la Masa, head of the government emergency bureau for the Valparaiso region.

On the mainland, several huge waves inundated part of the major port city of Talcahuano, near hard-hit Concepcion. A large boat was swept more than a block inland.

The surge of water raced across the Pacific, setting off alarm sirens in Hawaii, Polynesia and Tonga, but the tsunami waves proved small and did little damage as they reached as far as Japan.

Robert Williams, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said the Chilean quake was hundreds of times more powerful than Haiti’s magnitude-7 quake, though it was deeper and cost far fewer lives.

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and made 2 million homeless. Saturday’s quake matched a 1906 temblor off the Ecuadorean coast as the seventh-strongest ever recorded in the world.


Google by The Numbers

February 28, 2010

Google has perhaps more than any other company become “The Internet Company.” It’s grown hand in hand with the internet and its entire business model has from the start been totally focused on the internet as a delivery platform.

And let’s face it, Google is a pretty interesting company. In fact, we think it’s so interesting that we put together this infographic with a ton of facts and figures about Google. We’ve been digging through Google’s SEC filings, news articles and the trusty old Wikipedia to get plenty of interesting data to include. We hope you like it!

Google infographic

via pingdom

Assam Top ULFA Leaders Get Bails Over TADA

February 27, 2010

By Arijit Sen

STEPS TOWARD PEACE? After years in jail, ULFA leaders now are being freed.

STEPS TOWARD PEACE? After years in jail, ULFA leaders now are being freed.

Guwahati, Feb 27 : After years in jail, ULFA leaders now are being freed. ULFA leaders Mithinga Daimary, who was arrested in Bhutan in 2003, and Pradip Gogoi, who was arrested in Kolkata in April 1998, have got bail in all the TADA cases against them.

“If other leaders are released from jail, only then talks might move,” said Central Publicity Secretary of ULFA Mithinga Daimray.

The release follows ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa’s statement that talks and handcuffs don’t go together. But most of the top brass of the ULFA are still in prison.

This includes Rajkhowa, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Raju Baruah, Cultural Secretary Pranati Deka, Foreign Secretary Sasadhar Chowdhury, Finance Secretary Chitrabon Hazarika and political advisor Bhimkanta Borgohain.

These people are part of the Central Committee of the ULFA.

“If everyone is in jail together, we are looking for a political solution,” said Prabal Neog.

However, Commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, who is supposed to be in the Myanmar-China border is still sticking to his stand that sovereignty must be a pre-condition for talks. Cadres of ULFA are still underground and are adopting a wait-and-watch policy. Even as the Home Ministry and Assam government prepare the ground for talks.

Indo-Bangla Trade Bodies Vow to Deepen Ties

February 26, 2010
Dhaka declaration adopted on connectivity with northeastern states of India

An eight-point declaration adopted by two major trade bodies in Dhaka yesterday to strengthen trade ties between Bangladesh and India, especially north-eastern states was handed over to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

V Saran, president of Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and Matlub Ahmad, president of India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI), signed the Dhaka declaration on conclusion of India-Bangladesh Investment Conclave, a seminar organised at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.

Several ministers and high-ups of the northeastern states of Bangladesh’s next door neighbour were present at the ceremony.

The signatories to the declaration prioritised strengthening international trade infrastructures on both sides of the countries with special focus on states like Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

The Dhaka declaration also included connectivity through Chittagong Port — considered the main driver of Indo-Bangla trade relations. Developing more navigable waterways, removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, tourism promotion, road connectivity between commercially viable locations and exchange of business and government delegations between the two sides are among the points incorporated in the declaration.

Both the parties also agreed to some specific references to four Indian states.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith, third from right, cuts a tape to inaugurate India Trade Fair 2010 at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel yesterday. Commerce Minister Faruk Khan, far right, Chief Minister of Meghalaya DD Lapang, second from right, India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Abdul Matlub Ahmad, third from left, Industries Minister Dilip Barua, second from left, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Annisul Huq, far left, are also seen. Photo: STARStar Business Report

In the case of Assam state, the declaration stressed enhancing navigability of the National Waterway 2 of India, which extends into Bangladesh, to facilitate smother movement of goods coming to and from Bangladesh.

Referring to the border trade centres, already existed at Golakganj and Mankachar in Dhubri district and Sutarkandi at Karimganj district of Assam, it also recommended that Bangladesh develop such border trade infrastructures on their side.

The declaration also said Bangladesh should remove trade barriers for smooth movement of goods through road and river routes.

About Tripura, the declaration insisted on expeditious implementation of the agreement reached between India and Bangladesh during the premier’s recent Delhi visit for access to the Chittagong Port. It also asked for allowing movement of ODCs (over-dimensional cargoes) from Ashuganj, a river port on Bangladesh side, and opening of Sabroom-Ramgarh land custom station on the Indian side.

It also recommended direct bus service and air connectivity between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka, improved connectivity and transhipment facility and a national highway connected with Dhaka -Chittagong Road.

In the case of Mizoram state, the declaration suggested operationalisation of Thekemukh-Kawrpurichuah integrated check post, road connectivity upto Demagiri and construction of bridges connecting Mizoram with Bangladesh.

Before the finalisation of Dhaka declaration, Tripuran Industries Minister Jitendra Choudhury said at a business session that cement worth Tk1,000 crore is consumed in his state every year for the massive construction works. Bangladesh is the only major source of cement supplier for Tripura, he said.

Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya BM Lanong said, “Now trade takes place between the two countries unofficially, we should make it official through enhancing connectivity.”

L Sailo, Mizoram’s trade and commerce minister, said formal trade between Bangladesh and Mizoram from land stations will start very soon as all procedures are nearing completion.

Bangla Govt Urged to Expedite Opening up of Ctg Port For Northeast India

February 26, 2010

bangla summit Dhaka, Feb 26 : Business and political leaders of the northeastern Indian states Thursday urged the Bangladesh government to expedite the opening up of Chittagong port for the landlocked Indian region to facilitate better access to sea routes.

At the same time, they have asked Bangladesh to improve its infrastructure and connectivity along the strategic border areas as well as land routes and waterways for bolstering trade ties between the two countries.

The recommendations came at a joint declaration of India Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) and Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at the end of the daylong Bangladesh-North East India Trade & India Investment Conclave in the city.

Attended by the top ministers of the four North Eastern Indian states namely Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, the conclave made joint statements as well as specific references to the individual state related matters.

The declaration in its formal proposals put urgent emphasis on strengthening the bilateral trade between the two countries with special focus on the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

It also asked for direct connectivity through Chittagong port for the landlocked Indian region, which the leaders of the northeastern states termed as “the driver of trade relations” between the countries.

“Bangladeshi investors can benefit from the huge natural resources offered by the states in India’s northeast, which include bamboo, rubber, horticulture and floriculture,” said Minister of Industries and Commerce of Tripura Jitendra Choudhury.

“At the same time, Bangladeshi food processing companies like Pran, which has large market in India’s northeast, can consider setting up their own plants in the region”, he added.

The declaration put special emphasis on developing the waterways between the two countries through necessary modification and modernization while urging for developing necessary infrastructure along the border trade areas.

“National waterway 2 of India which extends into Bangladesh needs to be developed, dredged, navigable and at the same time night navigation must be allowed”, said RC Agarwal, President of North East Federation of International Trade (NEFIT).

“Bangladesh has also to develop border trade infrastructure on its side,” he added.

The declaration also asked for proclaiming Ashuganj port as the ‘port of call’ and to allow the movement of Over Dimensional Cargoes (ODCs) from Ashuganj while urging to open the Sabroom-Ramgarh land custom station.

“Simultaneously, direct bus service and air connectivity must be established between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka and National Highway 4 of India can be connected with Dhaka-Chittagong Road”, it says.

President of IBCCI Matlub Ahmad and Director General of ICC Rajeev Singh jointly announced the declaration.

Rail Budget Has Little For Northeast, Say Parties

February 26, 2010

mamata railway Agartala/Guwahati, Feb 26 : Reactions to Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s budget appeared to be sharply divided in India’s northeast Thursday, with several political parties saying it would not improve connectivity in the region. However, the document was welcomed by a powerful industry lobby as “very positive”.
The Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER), an apex body of industrialists in the region, said it was “very positive”.

FINER chairman R.S. Joshi told reporters in Guwahati that a proposed master plan for development of rail infrastructure in the region, the provision of a trans-Asian railway network and a railway link between India and Bangladesh would prove to be long-lasting steps.

“These measures would boost the economy of the northeast region,” he said.

The Left Front government in Tripura Thursday voiced its unhappiness over the railway budget, saying Banerjee had ignored the northeast which is made up of eight states.

“No new scheme or project was announced in the railway budget. The railway minister in her budget speech only reiterated the projects announced earlier,” Tripura Transport and Power Minister Manik Dey told reporters.

Ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI) spokesman Gautam Das said: “There is no political will and sincerity to develop railway connectivity in the landlocked and backward northeastern region.”

“When H.D. Deve Gowda was prime minister, a masterplan was announced in 1996 to link all the capital cities of the eight northeastern states by 2006. But besides Guwahati, only Tripura capital Agartala was connected by the railway network in 2008 after constant struggle,” Das told newsmen.

Banerjee in her budget speech Wednesday had said: “The link between Akhaurah (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India) would also provide a shorter rail route between West Bengal and the northeastern region via Bangladesh.”

But Das said: “The linking of the Akhaurah railway station on the Bangladesh side with the Agartala railway station on the Indian side was also a old scheme. The survey for this project was completed long back.”

“All our demands were rejected in the budget,” he said. The demands included setting up a railway division in Tripura and fixing the schedule for completion of gauge conversion in the Lumding-Agartala sector.

Reacting to the railway budget, North East MPs’ Forum general secretary Birendra Prasad Baishya said they were not happy because there was no indication in the budget to solve the connectivity problems of the region.

About the proposal to formulate a master plan, Baishya pointed out the railway minister made no mention about the funding of proposals.

“In the last budget, Banerjee announced Duronto trains connecting the northeast. The demand was for introduction of Duronto from Guwahati to Delhi and Mumbai, but there is no mention. This is a political budget aimed at the West Bengal assembly polls,” Baishya said.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Ramen Deka described the railway budget as one of the worst and said there was nothing in it for Assam and other northeastern states.

Assam’s ruling Congress said the budget was “forward looking and progressive”. Railway Minister Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress partners a Congress government at the centre.

Assam Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita said: “The budget has taken care of the remotest areas and sought to expand railways to hill areas. Even if the region did not get as expected, we cannot say it has neglected the region because other actions have been undertaken.”

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in a letter recently urged the railway minister to create a new railway zone exclusively for the northeastern region to enhance connectivity and make the mobility of men and material easier.

The Aura of Ragasiya

February 26, 2010

By Diana Ningthoujam

the park There are spas and there are destination spas but Aura at The Park is certainly a place where I head to when in Chennai for shoots.

The dedicated team headed by the affable Anuradha provides rejuvenating packages for the body, mind and spirit through a mix of spa treatments, alternative therapies, fitness activities and healthy cuisine too, with her new inclusion of the Aura Wellness Menu.

As I walk through the spa perched on the 9th floor of the hotel, I can’t help but be engulfed by the peace and quiet of the place, although just a stones throw away from the maddening traffic at the Gemini flyover. My only grouse would be the clamour of staff who line the corridor and reception while a guest is flicking the spa menu.

Although they are adorable, a spa is meant to be a retreat that offers you respite from the crowds. aura

As I walk into the well appointed Ruby room, The Park’s design philosophy strikes me. Resplendent in deep reds and sheer fabrics the room engulfs your worries and transports you into a Moulin Rouge era.

As my therapist Remi from Mizoram begins my treatment called YOU & I, she reminds me that this is all about relaxation and assures me a destressing experience. Kneading my body with subtle touches and working the right pressure points with a choco-mint concoction she helps me fall in love with my being.

The fragrance teamed with the prospect of a glass of bubbly which the package includes helped me celebrate my years as a budding actress. Oh all those days of fun and tamashe! 
The massage ended with a nice pep talk from the therapist who told me how my skin was so supple and easy to massage. What followed next was truly luxurious, a soak in the whirlpool with drops of essential oil.

As I played around with the water and thought of my day ahead – I learnt one thing – You look your best when your destressed and as an actress, what better way to indulge away from the sets, studs and some salicious janta.

Assets of Assam Ministers, Congress Legislators to be Made Public

February 26, 2010

Assam minister Guwahati, Feb 26 : Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has asked ministers and legislators of the ruling Congress party to immediately furnish details of their property and other assets so the information could be uploaded on the state government website.

“I have asked all my ministers and MLAs to provide details of their properties and other assets immediately and the details would be put up in the government website so that there is greater transparency,” the chief minister said.

This is despite the fact that the asset details of all the lawmakers are already in the public domain in the affidavits submitted while filing nominations during the 2006 assembly elections.

The chief minister has asked the ministers and legislators to furnish updated asset details.

“We welcome the chief minister’s decision and all of us would submit the details soon,” Assam government spokesperson and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Assam’s main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in recent weeks has been demanding that the assets of all ministers and legislators be made public.

“It would be nice if the AGP and other party leaders also make their assets public to give the people of Assam a chance to know everything in black and white,” Sarma said.

Gogoi, Chidambaram to Discuss ULFA Peace Talks

February 26, 2010

p-chidambaram-tarun-gogoi New Delhi, Feb 26 : Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi arrived in New Delhi to attend a high-level meeting convened by Union Home Minister P. Chidamabarm on Thursday, to discuss the proposed peace talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

The meeting comes on the heels of a TADA court here granting bail to two top ULFA leaders — vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi and central publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary.

Mr. Tarun Gogoi will have threadbare discussions with Mr. Chidambaram on preparing the ground rules for talks with ULFA and the strategies to be devised for a peaceful solution of the problem.

Senior officials of the Home and Political Department, Assam government, would also be present during the discussions, stated an official release issued here.

The designated (TADA) court issued the release order for Mr. Daimary on Wednesday, after his bail bond was served. However, the ULFA leader was not released on security grounds as it was already dark by the time the legal formalities could be completed. He is likely to be released on Thursday.

The release of Mr. Pradip Gogoi may take some time as the legal process of submitting his bail bond was yet to be completed.

Manipur Town on Road to Becoming Gateway to South Asia

February 25, 2010

By Amitabh Sinha

Moreh gate to Burma Moreh, Feb 25 : About 120 km southeast of Imphal, on the India-Myanmar border, the first steps are being taken towards giving shape to the Indian part of a grand Asian dream — to have a trans-Asian highway, a network of modern roads running through more than 30 countries that will eventually connect the whole of Asia to Europe.

The small border town of Moreh in Manipur would then become India’s gateway to southeast Asia, letting people drive freely into Myanmar and then onwards into Thailand, to as far as Singapore.

Though the existing road running to Moreh from Assam, the National Highway 39 that will become part of the Asian highway, is in extremely dilapidated state and needs a major upgradation, work has begun on creating the border infrastructure that would be necessary to support such a road network.

One of the first tasks is to build a modern entry and exit point, with airport-like facilities that will facilitate the easy movement of people and vehicles across international borders.

The Manipur government has just completed a long drawn-out process for acquiring land for the construction of an Integrated Checkpost (ICP) at Moreh, a one-stop transit point like an airport that will have immigration, customs, cargo processing, currency exchange and other similar facilities under the same roof.

“The process of land acquisition had begun three-four years ago. But we have been able to complete it only now. We have given compensation to most of the 400-odd claimants who owned the land. In about a month or so, the land would be vacated by these people and the construction of ICP will start,” said H Deleep Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Chandel district, under which Moreh falls, who oversaw the distribution of cheques to the last batch of claimants.

Moreh is one of the 13 places on the borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar where the government of India is constructing such modern ICPs.

Last week, Home Minister P Chidambaram laid the foundation stone for the ICP at Attari on Pakistan border, which will be the first one to be completed, by April next year.

Eventually, a Land Ports Authority of India, something similar to the Airports Authority of India, is to be created for the construction and management of these ICPs. A Bill for setting up the LPAI has been introduced in Parliament.

In Moreh, work on fencing the international border with Myanmar has also begun. In the first phase, 10 km of border is being fenced. Alongside the land that has been acquired for constructing the integrated checkpost, a road is being built parallel to the border connecting nearby villages. These are essential to check the infiltration of underground militant groups that are now operating from camps inside Myanmar.

“Peace is absolutely vital for infrastructure development. Many of the underground groups have set up their camps in Myanmar and are operating out of there. We are trying our best to keep them at bay,” said P Joykumar, Director General of Police of Manipur.

“The situation has improved a lot. Significantly, none of these groups are opposed to the highway, or the ICP or other infrastructure development works being carried out,” said Col Rabroop Singh, the commanding officer of 31 Assam Rifles.