Sunday, June 19, 2011

People approve AIADMK's welfare schemes: Survey

Chennai: The welfare schemes announced by the AIADMK government led by Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu have been approved by people, said a survey by city-based Loyola College.

Speaking to the media after releasing the survey report, survey team leader Rajanayagam said the various welfare schemes announced by the AIADMK government have been accepted by people.

He said the free rice scheme for poor, the decision to nationalise cable television operations, the announcement of distribution of free wet grinders, mixers, fans and the decision to abolish revival of the legislative council have gone down well with people.

According to the survey, the DMK was defeated in the April polls due to its family dominated politics, power shortage, price rise and corruption.

The decision of the AIADMK government to move back the seat of power to Fort St. George from the new building used by the DMK was also approved by the people.

According to Rajanayagam, 3,132 people were interviewed for the survey across the state.
He said around 91 percent of the people who were interviewed welcomed the government's decision to take over the cable television business.

The free four-gram gold scheme for making 'mangalsutra' for poor girls and Rs.25,000 cash assistance was welcomed by 80.3 percent of the survey participants.

Similarly, the scheme for pension for elders and free laptops for students found favour with the majority of those surveyed.

More than 30 percent of the respondents wanted the government to take action on schools charging high fees.

More than 60 percent of the people surveyed welcomed the government's decision to implead itself in the Supreme Court case filed by Jayalalitaa to declare the transfer of Katchathivu - an island - to Sri Lanka in 1974.

A sizeable number of respondents favoured the taking back of Katchathivu by India as the solution for the problems faced by Indian fishermen.

More than 50 percent of the surveyed participants were confident that Jayalalithaa would fulfill the poll promises made by her party.

The AIADMK-led alliance trounced the DMK-led alliance in the assembly elections winning 204 seats in the 234-member house.

Osama killing: Pak to set up new panel to probe U.S. raid

File photo of the house of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Pakistan mulls to appoint a new commission to ascertain “full facts” about Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country and probe the unilateral U.S. raid that killed him. File PHotoPakistan is set to appoint a new commission to ascertain “full facts” about Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country and probe the unilateral U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief, as a panel constituted previously courted controversy even before it could begin its work.

Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio said a new commission will soon be set to start the investigation. “Consultations are under way for the new panel,” he told Dawn News channel on Saturday evening.

A previous panel appointed by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in late May faced controversy even before it could become operational, with the head of the commission and a member dropping out on the grounds that the government had not conducted consultations before naming them.

Mr. Gilani had formed a five-member commission to be headed by Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal, who said the Chief Justice was not consulted before he was named the chief of the panel.

Former Supreme Court judge Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, who was made a member of the Commission, too refused to be part of the panel.

Legal experts insisted that a judge cannot be made the head of an investigation panel unless permission is sought from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Bar Association Chairperson Asma Jehangir had raised objections regarding the Commission and said the Chief Justice should have been informed prior to Iqbal’s nomination as the head of the body.

Opposition leader and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif asked the government to form an independent and powerful commission to expose all mysteries surrounding bin Laden’s presence in the country and the failure of intelligence agencies to detect the US military helicopters that participated in the raid against the al-Qaeda leader.

The unilateral US raid that killed bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2 had sparked widespread protests across the country as the air force’s radar system did ot detect the movement of the American helicopters that participated in the 40-minute operation.

Officials said the commission’s mandate includes establishing “the full facts” regarding Osama’s presence in Pakistan and details about the U.S. incursion.

The commission will determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of authorities, if any. It will also make consequential recommendations.

Obama to tweet personally from account

U.S. President Barack Obama.U.S. President Barack Obama is taking a more active role on Twitter, 140 characters at a time.

Mr. Obama’s campaign said in a posting on its website Friday that Mr. Obama will tweet regularly from the popular social media service and his personal tweets will be signed “—BO.” The campaign said it will now manage both Mr. Obama’s Twitter account and Facebook page.

Mr. Obama tweeted personally early Friday evening, welcoming followers to “a new (at)BarackObama. From now on, (hash)Obama2012 staff will manage this account; tweets from the President will be signed “—BO.”

The campaign said on its website that the changes “will give us new opportunities to make the most of these channels, using them not only to report what the president is doing every day but to connect to the millions of supporters who will be driving this campaign.”

Mr. Obama has more than 8.69 million followers on Twitter, making him the third most-followed account among Twitter users, according to Twitter statistics website Mr. Obama trails only entertainers Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber in followers.

Mr. Obama’s avatar, or photo accompanying his Twitter account, also changed from his official White House photo to a photo of Mr. Obama smiling, his 2012 campaign logo resting along the base of the avatar.

PM under Lokpal: Hegde opposes govt. stand

Lokpal panel member Santosh Hegde (right) on Sunday criticised the government view expressed by Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal that PM should be kept out of Lokpal till he demits office. File photoKarnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde on Sunday flayed the government’s stand to keep the Prime Minister out of the purview of Lokpal till he demits office, pointing to the possibilities of evidences being destroyed and also wriggling out by citing “error of judgement” in such cases.
“That (keeping PM out of Lokpal) will not serve the purpose of having an effective investigation because there will not be any trails of the misconduct,” Mr. Hegde, a member of the Lokpal drafting committee, told PTI in an interview.

If Lokpal were to conduct investigation after Prime Minister demitted office, there are possibilities of evidences being “swept clean” before that and there could be arguments that it was “error of judgement” (on the part of PM) and it is not a case of corruption, he said.

Mr. Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge, was responding to questions on the government making clear its opposition to bringing the post of Prime Minister within the ambit of Lokpal till he demitted office.

“Prime Minister was never out of it (Lokpal). Constitution never contemplated Prime Minister to be out of it,” Mr. Hegde said, adding that the Constitution never contemplated anybody in the country, except the President, out of the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

On Saturday, Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and joint drafting committee member said, “Within the government, we feel prima facie, the Prime Minister should not be covered (under the Lokpal). But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution.”

Jayalalithaa offers worship at Ranganathaswamy temple

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa was given a traditional welcome with a poorna kumban at Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam on Sunday. Photo: R. Ashok
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Sunday offered worship at the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple here.
Ms. Jayalalithaa was welcomed with full temple honours by the priests.
The Chief Minister donated from her personal fund a battery-operated five-seater car costing Rs. 4.5 lakh to enable the sick and handicapped people go around the temple, considered to be the biggest functioning Hindu shrine in the world as it covers an area of about 156 acres.
She was presented ‘prasadams’ and the portrait of the temple deity.
Another battery-operated car with ten seat capacity and costing Rs. 5.5 lakh was donated by the state government to the temple. Ms. Jayalalithaa was in the temple for 45 minutes and ’archanas’ (poojas) were performed in her name and birth star, temple sources said.
Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister Shanmughanathan and Finance Minister O Panneerselvam were also present.
Earlier she was given a rousing welcome when she arrived at Tiruchirappalli airport, 15 kms from here.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was elected to the state assembly by a margin of over 41,000 votes from Srirangam, is on a three-day thanksgiving visit to the constituency.

Anna Salai flyovers proposal shelved

Soil testing work under way for the Metro Rail project near LIC building on Anna Salai. Photo: K. Pichumani
The two flyovers proposed on Anna Salai with funds from the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) last year have been shelved.
The CMDA had sanctioned Rs.100 crore for the piling work of the project and the Highways Department was expected to start the work on the two facilities by August 2010.
The Highways department also conducted a traffic survey at eight traffic intersections after objections were raised over locating the elevated roads on a stretch where a Metro Rail corridor was already taking shape.
However, after repeated inter-departmental consultations, the last of which was conducted six months ago, the project has received no official go-ahead and has been dropped, a senior Highways Department official said.
One of the proposed flyovers was 1.9 km long between the P.Orr & Sons showroom and the Spencer Plaza junction.
The other flyover was proposed to be 2.9 km long, from Anna Arivalayam in Teynampet to the CIT Nagar First Main Road junction near Saidapet.
Since the flyovers were supposed to come above the underground metro rail tunnels, there was a narrow time window within which the piling work should have been completed.
Chennai Metro Rail Limited has already commenced soil testing work along Anna Salai.
Installation of the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) is under way and full-fledged underground tunnelling is expected to begin within six months.
In such a scenario, “it is too late” to implement the flyover project, a senior government official said.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is Grisanti key gay marriage vote?

'Gaddafi in talks with rebels' - Hindustan Times

'Gaddafi in talks with rebels' - Hindustan Times

Expert: Al-Zawahri Lacks Bin Laden's Charisma

Brown Vows to Seek Tax Extensions After California Budget Veto

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- California Governor Jerry Brown, who failed to win Republican support of tax extensions in six months of negotiations, said he'd "move heaven and earth" in another attempt after vetoing a budget without the provision.

Brown, a Democrat who pledged to solve California's fiscal malfunctions without gimmicks, didn't say how he'd get the Republican backing needed to pass his plan. His budget veto was the first in state history.

"I'm going to do everything I can, I'll move heaven and earth, to get those votes," Brown said in a news conference yesterday in Los Angeles.

Casey Anthony trial: Defense launches case with attack on forensic evidence

Casey Anthony trial: Defense launches case with attack on forensic evidence

Weiner’s Departure Removes Distraction for U.S. House Democrats

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Anthony Weiner’s decision to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives following revelations that he had sent lewd photos of himself to women over the Internet lifts a distraction that has muddled the political message of House Democrats.
His departure will help Democrats focus on the Republican proposal to privatize Medicare, the government health-care program for older Americans, and the talks over increasing the government’s borrowing authority, according to one of the party’s House leaders.
“Our ability to communicate on motivational issues” such as the Republican plan for “the end of Medicare has been impaired by Mr. Weiner’s behavior,” Representative Steve Israel, who heads the House Democrats’ campaign effort, told reporters yesterday as word began to circulate of Weiner’s decision.

Swamy demands ordinance to bring back black money

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy interacting with the audience after delivering a lecture on
Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Thursday demanded an ordinance nationalising all the accounts of Indians in banks abroad to bring back black money.
“Whoever is prepared to prove that it is legitimate money can get it back. This is the most foolproof and surest way,” he averred.
Delivering a lecture on ‘How to bring back the black money from abroad,' organised by the Catalyst Trust at the Ethiraj College for Women here, he pointed out how income tax rates in India, which were exorbitantly high at times, had proved a disincentive for even honest tax payers. “We should have a law to provide an incentive to pay taxes.”
Lamenting that money was being taken out of India since Independence, he said the 2G spectrum allocation scam was symbolic of that.
While banking secrecy laws were in existence in 77 countries, Indians had become so paranoiac that they failed to even mention the beneficiary's names in their accounts. “But for Indians' accounts Switzerland economy would have become bankrupt.”
Dr. Swamy said he was totally opposed to declaring amnesty (for bringing back black money), terming it “pure racket.” Even cracking down on hawala operators would be effective only “partially.”
Tracing black money alone would not do; the culprits should be prosecuted and that alone could help dispel the contempt that people had for Indian laws.
Above all, Dr. Swamy called for “new outlook in life, where money is not the highest value in society.” While corruption is the main disease, sanathana dharma is the main cure, he asserted.
He released his book, ‘2G scam,' and the first copy was received by R. Desikan, chairman of the Trust. S. Krishnaswamy, managing trustee, and S.P. Ambrose, trustee, spoke.

Jayalalithaa's victory saved Tamil Nadu: Rajinikanth

Actor Rajnikanth. File Photo
Actor Rajinikanth has congratulated Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on her resounding election victory, “which has saved Tamil Nadu.”
According to an official release, Mr. Rajinikanth, who has been undergoing treatment in a Singapore hospital, spoke to Ms. Jayalalithaa over telephone on Wednesday.
Coming home in one and half months
He told her that she was the first person he was conversing with immediately after discharge from the hospital. He said he would return to India in about one and a half months.
The Chief Minister, who was immensely glad to hear his voice, told him about her happiness over his early recovery and expressed the wish that he should return to India at the earliest.
Latha Rajinikanth, wife of the actor, thanked the Chief Minister for her kind enquiries about the health of her husband when he was hospitalised.
No details
P.S. Suryanarayana reports from Singapore:
Mr. Rajinikanth has been discharged from the hospital here and he is “doing fine,” sources said on Wednesday.
No details about the actor's discharge could, however, be obtained from the hospital, given its meticulous policy of maintaining patients' privacy, and efforts to contact his family were also in vain.
Mr. Rajinikanth had arrived here on May 28 from Chennai, and was taken to the hospital from the airport. First admitted to an intensive care unit, he was later shifted to a room, with his privacy assured, in the hospital.
But no medical bulletins were issued, despite interest here, especially among Singapore Indians, in his well-being. For quite some time some fans had persisted in wanting to see Mr. Rajinikanth or at least know about his health, notwithstanding the meticulous observance of the patient's privacy.

Jayalalithaa to discuss Sri Lanka with PM

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa arrived here Monday, and is expected to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The chief minister is also likely to take up the worsening power crisis in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK sources told reporters.

The meeting with the prime minister is expected Tuesday. This is her first visit to New Delhi after assuming office May 16 following a landslide electoral victory for the AIADMK. 
"She is expected to discuss the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils and power crisis with Manmohan Singh," a senior member of the AIADMK said.

Jayalalithaa is very critical of the way the Sri Lankan military crushed the Tamil Tigers. She has pressed New Delhi to take steps which could put Sri Lankan leaders on trial for "war crimes".

It is not known if Jayalalithaa will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is reportedly in Switzerland, a Congress source said.
Gandhi invited the AIADMK chief for tea last month, triggering speculation that the Congress may be preparing to dump the DMK and embrace the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. 

The last time Gandhi and Jayalalithaa met for tea, the government of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee collapsed. 

"Although the Congress has not openly given a pro-Jayalalithaa shift, the party definitely seems to be rebuilding the relations with the AIADMK," the source added. 

Rajinikanth discharged from Singapore hospital; calls Jayalalithaa first

Chennai, Jun 15 : Tamil cinema's Superstar Rajinikanth, discharged from the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore where he underwent treatment for respiratory problems and kidney ailments, made his first call to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today.

An official press release said here the Superstar, soon after being discharged from the hospital, called Ms Jayalalithaa over telephone and congratulated her for the party's massive victory.

He congratulated Ms Jayalalithaa saying Tamil Nadu has been saved "thanks to AIADMK's massive victory" in the Assembly elections, the release said.

Rajinikanth told Ms Jayalalithaa that he would return to India after one-and-a-half months. The Chief Minister had expressed the desire that the Superstar should return home at the earliest.

Mr Rajinikanth told Ms Jayalalithaa that he was discharged from the hospital after completing treatment and was making the first call to her after returning to his place of stay. 

He wanted to talk to Ms Jayalalithaa first after being discharged, the release said.

Ms Jayalalithaa told the Superstar that she was extremely happy that he had recovered from his illness. She was also happy to hear his voice over phone, the release said.

Monday, June 13, 2011

“Stop targeting me on Sri Lanka issue”

M.KarunanidhiFormer Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi has appealed to his political adversaries to stop targeting him on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue while enthusiastically welcoming the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly calling for economic sanctions on the island nation and declaration of those who committed crimes during the war as war criminals.

In a letter in the party mouthpiece ‘Murasoli', he wondered why several people had chosen to make disparaging remarks against him while speaking on the resolution, which dealt with “atrocities” perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government on the Tamil population there. He lamented that all his initiatives aimed at bringing about an end to military operations had been described as a “farce” or a “fraudulent drama” by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Mr. Karunanidhi recounted his contribution to peace and welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils since 1956. Both DMK general secretary K.Anbazhagan and he resigned from the State Assembly in 1983 in order to draw the Centre's attention to the problem.

He also recalled his efforts to get the help of the Central government in finding a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan Tamils issue through the 1990s. Besides, in 2008, the State Assembly passed a resolution urging the Union Government to arrange for a dialogue and help bring about peace through a political solution.

Also in 2008, Mr. Karunanidhi said, he had taken up the issue of genocide of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka and wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene and put an end to the army action against them. Once again in 2009, a resolution was passed in the State Assembly wherein he had announced that he was prepared to sacrifice power if it could lead to the birth of Tamil Eelam, he said.

At the same time, the DMK leader alleged that it was Ms. Jayalalithaa, who had been ridiculing his efforts all along. She had even said that there was suspicion among the people of Tamil Nadu whether Mr. Karunanidhi was acting in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Besides, she had asserted that the Central government had no powers to stop the internecine war in Sri Lanka. “Then how is that she now moves a resolution in the Assembly appealing to the Central government?”

Mr. Karunanidhi said she had once asserted that the Sri Lankan army was not deliberately killing innocent Tamils and that “it is quite natural that innocent people also get killed during times of war.” After saying so without any compassion, she had now chosen to move a resolution as if she was genuinely interested in the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils, the DMK leader said.

Supreme Court issues notice to CBI on Kanimozhi’s bail plea

DMK Member of Parliament Kanimozhi arrives at the Patiala House courts in New Delhi for the hearing on the 2G spectrum case. File photoThe Supreme Court on Monday sought the Central Bureau of Investigation’s response on Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi’s bail plea and also wanted to know the status of Rs. 200 crore allegedly given to Kalaignar TV.

Terming corruption as the worst form of “human rights violation”, the apex court asked the CBI to estimate loss accrued to the exchequer on account of licences issued to telecom operators during the tenure of A. Raja as Telecom minister.

Status report

A bench comprising justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar also asked the investigating agency to inform it about the status of trial in the 2G case before a CBI special court.

The court granted a week’s time to the CBI to file its response on the bail plea of Ms. Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, MD of Kalaignar TV.

Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar, named as accused in the second charge sheet for allegedly taking bribe of Rs 200 crore, were arrested on May 20 after the special court dismissed their bail pleas in the case.

Both Mr. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar have 20 per cent stake each in Kalaignar TV Pvt Ltd, which allegedly received Rs 200 crore through a “circuitous” route from Shahid Balwa promoted DB Realty.
The matter has been posted for further hearing on June 20.

Jayalalithaa arrives Delhi, to meet PM tomorrow

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. J. Jayalalithaa slautes while inspecting the Gaurd of Honour on her arrival at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on June 13, 2011. Photo: S. Subramanium
Apparently giving mixed signals, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today met leaders of both allies and rival parties soon after her arrival here for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, BJP leader Ravi Shanker Prasad and CPI leader D Raja among the personalities who met the AIADMK supremo during her first visit here after last month’s elections.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s congratulatory telephone call to Ms. Jayalalithaa after her spectacular victory in the assembly polls fuelled speculation of a meeting between the two during her first visit here.
But Ms. Gandhi is said to be away from the capital and a meeting between the two is unlikely now.
While Ms. Dikshit declined to comment on the meeting, Mr. Prasad, who was accompanied by his wife, described it as a courtesy call.
“Occasionally we talked about national politics. We reflected upon the current general situation of the country”, he said.
Mr. Prasad said he told her that her party’s victory was a victory for democracy because it was earlier stated that DMK could retain power on the strength of money power.
On the meeting, he said when he had called to congratulate her, she had said she would meet him when she was in Delhi.
Mr. Prasad said his wife was an admirer of Jayalalithaa and had asked her whether she was a law graduate. The Chief Minister replied that she was not even a graduate but “sometimes I correct the notings of my lawyer”, he quoted her as saying.
Mr. D. Raja, Rajya Sabha member of AIADMK ally CPI, said that he did not discuss politics but only the problems confronting the State like financial difficulties and the power issue.
He said that the Chief Minister would be meeting the Prime Minister and present a memorandum to seek active support of the Centre for improving the economic situation in the State.
Asked about Ms. Dikshit calling on Ms. Jayalalithaa, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said both Congress and DMK have spoken about the alliance between the two parties.
“Obviously an elected Chief Minister might consider appropriate to meet the Prime Minister which is in the domain of the government”, he said.
During her meeting with Dr. Singh, Ms. Jayalalithaa is expected to discuss issues like Sri Lankan Tamils and various developmental projects in her State.
The issue of Indian fishermen being allegedly attacked by Sri Lankan Navy when they cross into its waters inadvertently is also expected to be discussed during with her meeting with Dr. Singh on Tuesday.

118.6-km ECR stretch nearing completion

A bridge being constructed across Vettar in Nagapattinam district. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
The Nagapattinam-Kattumaavadi stretch of the East Coast Road (ECR) project of the Department of Highways in the Kumbakonam region is nearing completion.
The 118.6-km project entails three bypasses and a bridge across river Vettar in Nagore. The project include a 10.2-km bypass around Nagapattinam; a 3.1 km bypass around Thiruthiraipoondi; and a 4.8-km bypass around Muthupettai.
All the three bypass roads have been completed, and work on the Vettar bridge is under progress. The bridge that forms part of the Nagapattinam bypass is 463 metre long with 15 spans of 30 metre each.
Fourteen spans have been completed, girders are being placed, and parapet walls are yet to be raised for 10 spans. Approach roads to the length of 50 metres towards Nagore and 100 metres towards Nagapattinam are to be laid.
The project is being implemented at a cost of Rs.198.77 crore, with World Bank fund. The project, with an initial concession period of 36 months, was scheduled for completion by the first quarter of 2008. However, owing to a shortage in sand and labour, it could not be completed as per the schedule. The project is slated for completion by August.
The completion of the Vettar bridge would wean pilgrim, passenger or transit traffic and commercial traffic away from Nagapattinam town.