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Friday, February 29, 2008

Worldwide alert on escaped suspect !!

A worldwide security alert has been issued two days after a suspected Islamist militant leader escaped from jail in Singapore. Global police body Interpol is circulating fingerprints and images of Mas Selamat Kastari to 186 countries. He is thought to be a leader of the Jemaah Islamiah militant group.

Police believe he planned attacks on the US embassy in Singapore and plotted to hijack and crash a plane at the city-state's international airport.

To help with the search, Interpol issued an Orange Notice - invoked after any event the France-based agency believes could pose a risk to the safety of people worldwide.

"Singapore is clearly doing all that it can on a national level to locate this fugitive," said Interpol's Jean-Michel Louboutin."Through issuing an Orange Notice, Interpol and all of its member countries can support these efforts on an international scale."

Kastari has been in detention since 2006 under Singapore's Internal Security Act.He was first imprisoned for immigration offences in Indonesia in 2003 and was extradited to Singapore three years later.

The authorities said he escaped after being granted permission to visit the toilet during family visiting hours at his detention centre.Police, Ghurkas and special forces are now reported to be involved in the search for Kastari, who walks with a limp.

Jemaah Islamiah, which has links to al-Qaeda, is blamed for the bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002 which left 200 people dead.

'£5 bet' murder !!

A man and two youths who kicked a disabled man to death over a £5 bet have been jailed for life.Brent Martin, 23, who had learning difficulties, died in hospital after he was found in a pool of blood on Sunderland's Town End Farm estate.William Hughes, 22, and Marcus Miller, 16, had admitted the murder but Stephen Bonallie, 17, had denied the charge.The judge at Newcastle Crown Court ruled they must serve minimum terms of between 15 and 22 years.

Head injuries

The three, all trained boxers from Sunderland, repeatedly punched, kicked, stamped on and head-butted their victim over a £5 bet to see who could knock him out first.

They chased him around the Town End Farm estate just three months after he was released from a psychiatric hospital where he had been staying due to his learning difficulties, the court heard.Finally he was stripped of his trousers and pants and left dying next to a parked car in Baxter Road, Town End Farm, as his attackers posed for photographs.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Martin died from a massive head injury and had suffered at least 18 separate blows to the head and neck.

'Gentle person'

Hughes, from Washington Road, must serve a minimum of 22 years, Bonallie, from Birtley Avenue, 18 years, and Miller, from Baxter Road, must serve at least 15.Judge John Milford described the attack as "sadistic conduct on an extremely vulnerable victim".

He said: "I would hope the minimum terms imposed upon young offenders are sufficiently long to spell out to young people the consequences of committing murder."If I am wrong, then perhaps the 12-year starting point for those under 18 needs to be looked at again by Parliament when the murder is, as in this case, particularly serious."

Judge Milford also said their victim has been a "gentle and caring person" who had a long history of mental health problems.

More Jackson house debts revealed !!

Singer Michael Jackson has repeatedly failed to pay the mortgage of a Los Angeles house used by his family, public documents show.

The news comes after it was revealed that he could lose his Neverland ranch because of arrears of $25m (£12.5m).Documents filed with the Los Angeles country recorder relate to a property in Encino, California, that has been used by the singer's family for years.

They show the singer has missed payments of $153,910 (£77,589).The missed payments relate to a $4m (£2m) loan from mortgage lender Indymac Bancorp, based in Pasadena, California.Documents show Jackson previously faced possible default over missed payments on the property due in April and August of last year.

According to reports, the 49-year-old is seeking a new loan that would save Neverland from being sold at auction next month.If he does not pay the $25m arrears that he owes on the sprawling California property, it will go to auction on 19 March.

Rowling 'exploited' by book plan !!

Harry Potter author JK Rowling said she would feel "exploited" if an unofficial reference book about the boy wizard was published, according to court papers.

The writer is taking legal action in New York against Steve Vander Ark and publisher RDR Books over their plans to release a Harry Potter encyclopaedia."I am very frustrated that a former fan has tried to co-opt my work for financial gain," Ms Rowling said.Lawyers for RDR Books said it was a "legitimate literary activity".


They added: "Like a reference book or a guide to literature, it's a long-recognised genre. "We are not replacing the novel or taking away the market."Ms Rowling has said she will write her own definitive Harry Potter encyclopaedia, including material that did not make it into the novels.

"I believe that RDR's book constitutes a Harry Potter rip-off of the type I have spent years trying to prevent," Ms Rowling said in a written declaration to the court."Both I, as the creator of this world, and fans of Harry Potter would be exploited by its publication.

"I feel intensely protective, firstly of the literary world I spent so long creating, and secondly, of the fans who bought my books in such large numbers."The contested book, Harry Potter Lexicon, is based on material from an internet fan site of the same name.

On its website, RDR Books said it was "determined to publish this book for the benefit of Harry Potter fans everywhere" .The publisher agreed to delay the release of the book after Ms Rowling sought an injunction against its release in October.

It had been scheduled for publication on 28 November 2007.The case against the publisher and the writer is being brought by Ms Rowling and Harry Potter copyright-holders Warner Bros.

Ms Rowling's Harry Potter novels have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide.

Dave Clark Five Singer Smith dies !!

Mike Smith, the lead singer of 1960s British pop group The Dave Clark Five, has died at the age of 64.

He died from pneumonia at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, his US agent Margo Lewis confirmed.This was a result of complications from a spinal cord injury sustained in 2003 which left him paralysed from the waist down, she added.

The Dave Clark Five had 19 UK Top 40 hits, including Bits and Pieces and the number one single Glad All Over. The group are due to be inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York on 10 March, alongside acts including Madonna, John Mellencamp and Leonard Cohen.

Ms Lewis said the singer and keyboardist was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit on Wednesday with a chest infection.He had been in hospital since September 2003, but was released last December to live with his wife in a specially-prepared home nearby.

Ms Lewis said: "I am incredibly saddened to lose him, his energy and his humour."But I am comforted by the fact that he had the chance to spend his final months and days at home with his loving wife, Charlie, whom he adored, instead of in the hospital, and that he was able to attend a recent concert in London by his good friend, Bruce Springsteen."

She said Smith had felt honoured at the band's Hall of Fame induction."I am glad that he will be remembered as a 'Hall of Famer', because he was in so many ways," she added.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame president Joel Peresman told Associated Press he was saddened by the news, but that the ceremony would go ahead as planned, with "a little extra significance".

'British invasion'

The band, which broke up in the 1970s, sold more than 100 million records and recorded 23 albums, many of them for the US market.They were part of the so-called 1960s British invasion of the US, as the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Animals stormed the American charts.

The Dave Clark Five had US hits with Because, I Like it Like That and Glad All Over, and set a record among British acts after appearing on the Ed Sullivan show 13 times.Bandmate Denis Payton, who played saxophone, harmonica and guitar, died of cancer in 2006.

The rest of the band were drummer Dave Clark, lead guitarist Lenny Davidson and Rick Huxley on bass.

Top 10 most prevalent global malware !!


Malware Type: Trojan
This is the Trend Micro generic detection for low-threat Trojans. It also installs itself as a browser helper object (BHO) by creating certain registry keys.


Malware Type: Worm
This worm arrives as an attachment to mass-mailed email messages. It spreads by attaching a copy of itself to an email message, which it sends using its own Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) engine. Having its own SMTP engine allows it to send messages without using any mailing application, such as MS Outlook.


Malware Type: Worm
This worm propagates by attaching copies of itself to email messages that it sends to target addresses, using its own SMTP engine. Through this SMTP engine, it is able to easily send the email message without using other mailing applications, such as Microsoft Outlook.


Malware Type: Worm
This is Trend Micro's detection for the damaged samples of WORM_NETSKY variants. It runs on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 and XP.


Malware Type: HTML
This HTML malware arrives as an email with an executable file attachment that is detected by Trend Micro as WORM_NETSKY.P. It exploits a known vulnerability in Internet Explorer versions 5.01 and 5.5 known as the Automatic Execution of Embedded MIME Type. This vulnerability causes Internet Explorer to automatically run executable file attachments in email messages.


Malware Type: Trojan
This Trojan arrives as a file dropped by other malware like WORM_NUWAR.CQ or as a file downloaded unknowingly by a user when visiting malicious URLs. It may also arrive as a downloaded copy by earlier variants.

It is also spammed via email using subject lines related to specific events. The image below is a sample of the said email message.


Malware Type: Worm
This is Trend Micro's detection for unknown and future variants of WORM_RONTOKBRO and WORM_BRONTOK malware programs. It serves as a proactive means of safeguarding against possible attacks of the aforementioned malware.


Malware Type: Worm
This memory-resident worm propagates by dropping copies of itself in shared network drives. It steals login information and saves the obtained data in a file, which can be retrieved by a remote user. Its keylogger component substitutes the standard Microsoft Graphical Identification and Authentication DLL (MSGINA.DLL) to carry out its information-stealing routine.


Malware Type: Worm
This file infector infects .EXE and .SCR files on an infected system and on remote network shares with read and write access. It makes use of port 30167 in order to access network shares. It stays in memory by injecting itself into EXPLORER.EXE; thus, hiding its running process.


Malware Type: Worm
This destructive, memory-resident worm attempts to log on to remote machines using a list of user names. It then drops and executes a copy of itself on the remote machines. It has backdoor capabilities, and may execute commands coming from a remote malicious user. The said routine provides the remote user virtual control over the affected machine, thus compromising system security.
Source: Trend Micro

Budget to stimulate investment, growth !!

Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Friday said the Union Budget for 2008-09 would stimulate investment and consequently growth, while pointing out that he had done the best through the budgetary exercise by providing credit facilities to the farm sector.

"Credit is only one element of the story in the farm sector. I provided more credit. Budget can only address credit side and the farm sector has not done too bad this year," he said in his post-Budget comments.

The Finance Minister had announced debt waiver and relief worth Rs 60,000 crore to small and marginal farmers in the Budget, the last full financial statement before the general elections in 2009.

"This Budget will stimulate investment and growth and that growth will create wealth. The economy is growing by eight per cent, people have become more tax compliant and they are willing to pay taxes," he said on the buoyancy in government's revenues.

Final goodbye for early web icon

A web browser that gave many people their first experience of the web is about to disappear.

Netscape Navigator, now owned by AOL, will no longer be supported after 1 March 2008, the company has said.In the mid-1990s, as the commercial web began to take off, the browser was used by more than 90% of people online.

Its market share has since slipped to just 0.6% as other browsers such as Microsoft' Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox have eroded its user base.The company recommends that users upgrade their browser to either Firefox or Flock, which are both built on the same underlying technologies as Navigator.

"I think we represent the hope that was of Netscape," Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation which coordinates development of Firefox, told BBC News."We have picked up many of the things that Netscape launched but we've taken them further in terms of openness and public participation and excitement and feeling this is my internet and I've created it and I have a say in the product."

Ms Baker was one of the first employees at Netscape in 1994.

Web window

Netscape was created by Marc Andreessen who as a student had co-authored Mosaic, the first popular web browser.His company Netscape Communications Corporation released the first version in 1994.

According to Shawn Hardin, President and CEO of Flock, Netscape played an important role in making the internet "a relevant mass market phenomenon"."Netscape had a critical role in taking all of these zeros and ones - this very academic and technical environment - and giving it a graphical user interface where an average person could come online and consume information," he told BBC News.

"During its halcyon days…it really felt like the internet and Netscape were really the same thing," he said. Other companies capitalised on Netscape's success, notably Microsoft, which began to bundle IE with its Windows operating systems.

lthough this lead to legal wrangles over anti-competitive behaviour, IE now dominates the browser landscape with an 80% market share.As a result, Netscape became unviable.

"While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer," said Tom Drapeau on the Netscape blog last year, when the demise of the browser was first announced.

Future return?

For the past week Netscape users have been shown a message alerting them to the end of support for the browser."Given AOL's current business focus, support for Netscape browsers will be discontinued as of March 1st, 2008," the message reads.

It then suggests users upgrade to either Flock or Firefox.Firefox is the main competitor to IE, particularly in Europe where it has a 28% market share, according to some statistics.

The open source browser's development is coordinated by the Mozilla foundation, set up by Netscape staff made redundant in 2003.It has had more than 500 million downloads worldwide and in countries such as Finland it is the most popular browser.

"Competition is what brings quality," said Ms Baker.Flock describes itself as "the social web browser" and allows people to see feeds from community websites, such as Flickr and Facebook, and post to blogs without having to navigate to the page.

"There are lots of ways that people are engaging in having a conversation and Flock is very focused on making that as effortless and convenient as possible," said Mr Hardin.However, not all Netscape users are happy about having to change browser.

"I'm sad. Flock still needs improvement and I am not happy with Firefox's interface. I'm [an] orphan!" read one post on the Netscape blog.Others who posted comments on the blog predicted the browser will make a return.

"Netscape is a wonderful browser, and it will be so in the future," read one.


Fiber is part of a healthy diet, discover why?

Fiber plays a very important role in a healthy diet. Fiber is found in plants, and dietary fiber –the kind of fiber we eat- comes to us inside the fruits, vegetables and grains we eat.

Human provides no calories, as it cannot be digested by humans. Why is it so important then?

Fiber adds bulk to the diet. This bulk aids digestion by making food move faster through the system; not only preventing constipation but preventing the absorption of unhealthy substances as well. Fiber also protects the intestinal wall. With this function in mind, fiber helps to prevent diabetes, heart disease and diverticulosis, which sometimes develops into colon cancer.

Fiber makes you feel full faster and keeps you satisfied for longer, a priceless function when you are trying to control your weight.


Older children, teenagers and adults should aim to have 20-35 grams fiber per day. Fresh fruit, vegetables and cereals should be introduced to younger children, but without counting grams. The amount of food young children should eat in a day doesn’t allow to reach this level of fiber in their diet.


The way to ensure adequate fiber intake is to eat a variety of foods, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals, and dried beans and peas.

If you are not having enough, add fiber to your diet gradually. Water aids the passage of fiber through the digestive system, so drink plenty of fluids. Take a few weeks to build up the amount of fiber in your diet to avoid discomfort.

When you don’t peel fruits and vegetables, you are actually getting some more fiber. Cooked food may actually increase your fiber intake by decreasing the volume of the food that you eat. Eating fiber rich food is beneficial, no matter if it is cooked or raw.


There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, slowing it. Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber has been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, which can help prevent heart disease.

Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. Insoluble fiber seems to speed the passage of foods through the stomach and intestines.


Eating too much fiber in a short period of time can cause bloating and cramps. This usually goes away once the natural bacteria in the digestive system get used to the increase in fiber in the diet. This is the reason to take some weeks to reach the recommended amount of fiber.

It has been mentioned that too much fiber may interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. As high fiber foods are usually also rich in minerals, this should not take your sleep away. However, consider this effect in the case of young children.


If you swallow a sharp object by accident –a little piece of broken glass, for instance- eat artichokes and asparagus -bread also helps. Their bulky fiber will wrap the object helping it to go through without causing injury.

Gatlin steps up Olympic Games bid !!

Justin Gatlin is asking for an appeal against his doping ban to be completed by the end of May in a bid to defend his 100m Olympic title in Beijing.Gatlin wants to compete in June's US trials ahead of this summer's Games.

The 25-year-old was suspended for four years in January after a positive test for testosterone in 2006 was deemed a second offence.He claims a 2001 positive for drugs taken for attention deficit disorder should not have counted against him.

Gatlin was initially banned for eight years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) but it was reduced to four years after an appeal in January.His appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) claims that any enhancement of the 2006 case caused by the first positive test constitute a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Justin should be allowed to compete in the June's US trials for the Beijing Olympics because the anti-doping authorities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it sanctioned Justin in 2001 for taking attention-deficit disorder medication and later used that sanction to bar him from participating in the Olympics," said Gatlin's attorney Maurice Suh.

"Punishing Justin for taking medicine that was prescribed by a doctor and does not enhance performance in any way is unfair and constitutes discrimination against a person with a diagnosed disability," added Suh.

Had the US panel, in a split decision, not considered the 2001 test in its verdict, Gatlin may have received a two-year suspension as a first-time offender.That would have made him eligible to return to competition in May, a month before the US Olympic trials.

Pietersen denies Indian offers !!

Star England batsman Kevin Pietersen has ruled out playing in the multi-million pound Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition.Pietersen said he had been approached by the IPL but that no amount of money would tempt him away from England.

"There's no way in this world I'd turn my back on England," he insisted."I know there is interest and, yes, there have been offers, etc etc, but it's not something I'm particularly interested in."The IPL, which starts on 18 April and will clash with the start of the English season, has attracted many of the world's top players.

The biggest international stars will earn huge amounts of money - Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds was signed for nearly £700,000.And Pietersen and his England team-mate Andrew Flintoff, who is injured, are of great interest to the IPL organisers because of their flamboyant style

IPL organiser Lalit Modi told BBC Sport on Thursday that "most of the England players" wanted to play in the competition.But Pietersen, who was born in South Africa and had a four-year apprenticeship in county cricket before being promoted to the Test squad, said his loyalty to England was greater than the lure of a big pay-day.

"Money's not really too important, it's not as if I need money right now. I'm really enjoying doing what I'm doing," he added."I love playing for England, I love playing for the spectators. England has given me a fantastic opportunity to a fantastic life at the moment. So I'm fully committed 100% to playing for England, to winning games for England, to scoring thousands more runs for England.

"I love playing for England and there will be nothing that will lure me away from England just yet."I'm really enjoying what I'm doing. It's a great challenge, challenging myself against the best players in the world in Test and one-day cricket."

'Chemical Ali' execution approved !!

The execution of Saddam Hussein's cousin and henchman "Chemical Ali" has been approved by Iraq's presidency.He was condemned to death on genocide charges for killing 100,000 Kurds during the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Chemical Ali - whose real name is Hassan al-Majid - was initially sentenced to death in June last year but legal wranglings held up the case.The execution was approved two days ago, to be carried out within 30 days.

He was convicted along with two other top officials - Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, a senior military chief, and the former defence minister, Sultan Hashem.

Poison gas

The presidency, which is made up of President Jalal Talabani and two vice-presidents, has not yet approved the hanging of al-Tikriti and Hashem, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

The two men will remain in limbo not knowing whether they are to live or die, says our correspondent. The trio, who are in the custody of American forces, were supposed to have been hanged by October.

But the executions were delayed after Hashem became a cause celebre among Sunni politicians. Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi has been among prominent Sunnis who insisted Hashem had simply been a career soldier carrying out orders and should be reprieved.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's administration had argued with the US embassy and demanded all three be handed over to face the gallows.Former regime leaders, including Saddam Hussein himself and his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, have been handed over by the Americans and hanged by the Iraqi government without significant popular or political repercussions.

The regime claimed the Anfal campaign was a necessary counter-insurgency operation during Iraq's bloody eight-year war with neighbouring Iran.Majid acquired his nickname Chemical Ali during the operation after poison gas was used.

Over the course of the Anfal trial, which opened in August last year, a defiant Majid showed no trace of remorse for ordering the attacks.He said at one hearing: "I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers. I am not apologising. I did not make a mistake."

Various Faces of MJ !!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Boyd Coddington, Hot Rod King, Dead !!

World-renowned tuner and hot rod king Boyd Coddington died at 6:20 am this morning. The cause of death is still unknown. Coddington, founder of Boyds Wheels and designer of prize-winning custom cars, had recently been hospitalized twice for an undisclosed medical condition. Although he was though to be in recovery, rumors of his untimely death began circulating today throughout the forums. A spokesperson for Boyd Coddington's corporation has confirmed to Jalopnik that those rumors are true. The company will be releasing a statement later today.


One of Coddington's most beloved custom cars was the Cadzilla, which was created for ZZ Top singer Billy Gibbons (sometimes referred to as CadZZilla). Truly a unique ride, the custom cost around $900,000 to build. This might explain why ZZ Top put Cadzilla in so many videos. Our favorite has to be the video "Doubleback" for the Back To The Future Part III soundtrack, which features both a DeLorean and Cadzilla. As always, the day is saved by three leggy young women in a custom hot rod. We love America.

New Clue in MND !!

Researchers say they have made the most significant breakthrough for 15 years in the quest to understand the fatal condition Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

A team says a mutated gene is behind one form of the disease - and can be used to understand it better. Campaigners say the study, published in Science, is the most important since a first gene was identified in 1993.

MND involves the progressive wasting of the muscles - while usually leaving the mind unaffected. It affects some 5,000 people in the UK. At least five people each day die of the condition.

Biological tool

The international team, led by King's College London, found that in one family affected by a rare, inherited form of the condition, there were mutations in the gene coding for the protein TDP-43.

The protein has long been known to accumulate abnormally in MND patients, but it had been thought this was an innocent by-product of the disease.Now, says Professor Chris Shaw, who led the research, it is clear that this protein is "directly toxic" to motor neurones.

While the inherited form of the disease this mutation causes is extremely rare - accounting for just 1% of MND cases - researchers can use their findings to give animals the disease and investigate how it develops.

"It is a new biological tool to understand the disease and develop treatments," says Professor Shaw. "It is another part of the jigsaw, but there are still, admittedly, a lot of pieces missing."

The first part of that jigsaw was uncovered in 1993, when researchers found the gene mutation SOD1 was responsible for one form of MND. Experts say this finding improved understanding, although it has yet to impact significantly on treatment.

But the MND Association says this latest finding should now speed that up."This new information will be a springboard to greater understanding of the processes that cause motor neurones to die," said Dr Brian Dickie, director of research."It is through such understanding that we will develop the treatment strategies to defeat this devastating disease."

Fisherman swims 10 hours to shore !!

A fisherman swam for more than 10 hours to find help for the two companions he left behind after their boat sank off the east coast of Australia.

The exhausted swimmer was found on a beach, and coastguards were then able to find one of the men. He had spent 30 hours at sea, clinging to debris.The search continues for the boat's skipper.

The three fishermen were on board a trawler that sank about 15km (9 miles) off the east coast near Byron Bay."Judging that the second fisherman survived through the night... we can only hope that the same has occurred with the third," a spokesman for the Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter service said.


The fishermen were thrown into the sea early on Wednesday after their ship hit a reef, prompting a major search and rescue operation.Hours later, fisherman Michael Williams crawled onto New Brighton Beach, north of Byron Bay.

Chris Gort, who saw Mr Williams on the beach, said the fisherman "had pretty bad cuts and bruises to his legs and his arms, he was pretty exhausted, pretty badly sunburnt".Mr Williams raised the alarm about his two companions, and a second fisherman was picked up by a rescue helicopter 30 hours after first being thrown into the ocean.

John Jarratt was found at sea north-east of Ballina, suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.Mr Jarratt said he and skipper Charlie Picton, an experienced fisherman, had clung to an insulated cooler after the ship went down, but that in the darkness the two became separated.

He said a rescue helicopter had apparently flown above the exhausted pair without spotting them.Mr Jarratt has told friends from hospital that he will "never" go back in the ocean, local media reported.

England stars 'eye Indian league' !!

The head of the Indian Premier League says some of England's leading players have approached him to take part in the multi-million pound competition.

IPL chairman Lalit Modi said he opted against signing English players because of international commitments, but did not rule out their future involvement."Most of the English players say they'd like to play," Modi told BBC Sport.

But an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman said centrally contracted players were out of bounds to the IPL.The ECB said that England's commitments to the International Cricket Council's Future Tours Programme, which ends in 2012, would mean that the 12 players signed to central contracts would be unavailable to the IPL.

The massive wages on offer in India will be difficult for England's stars to ignore with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) already earning over £800m selling TV rights and team franchises for the IPL.

Over 70 of the world's best cricketers will be in India for the start of the inaugural tournament, which begins on 18 April.Last week's player auction in Mumbai raised a staggering $42m (£21.2m) as eight city franchises fought to recruit the likes of India one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds.

Dhoni, who attracted the highest bid at the auction, will earn $1.5m (£770,095) in wages, while Symonds will pocket $1.35m (£681,861) for his role in the seven-week competition.

And Modi, vice-chairman of the BCCI as well as chairman of the IPL, said England's best players are keen to get involved."We have a huge amount of pressure from the English players to be participating in it," he said.

"It's not that we couldn't sign them (but) because it directly conflicts with the English games."Sooner or later we will look at adjusting our programmes while we try to bring our league forward."The objective would be in the future we would be working with the ECB to ensure the overlap doesn't take place."

However, Modi believes county cricket - traditionally the leading wage earner for overseas Test players - will be left trailing the IPL as the world's best players choose to play in India rather than England.

"They have decided to sign with us over and above the counties," said the 42-year-old."The counties are going to deprived of these players going forward."Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes agrees that county cricket faces a huge threat from the IPL."I think it's inevitable the way things are going that we'll lose some of our top players," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I don't think we can compete, certainly not financially. A county player might be offered £60,000 to £70,000 a year to play for his county and if he's offered a quarter of a million to play half the cricket abroad... I'd ask the question of anybody: where would you go?

"It's also going to have a big influence on overseas players. They're not going to be available to us for two or three months at the start of the English season so is it going to be worth signing them?"

The creation of the league has already caused conflict between Nottinghamshire and their overseas player David Hussey.Despite penning a new two-year contract at Trent Bridge in October last year, the Australian has also been signed by Kolkata for $625,000 (£315,579).

If he does play in India, Hussey is expected to miss Nottinghamshire's first five championship matches and all eight Friends Provident one-day games."We were expecting him to come to us in the middle of April," Notts director of cricket Mick Newell told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"We all want to work towards a compromise. David is keen to play in the IPL, the sums people are talking about are mind-blowing for cricket, so I'm sure both sides are keen to find a solution."

However, Modi insists the IPL only needs a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Cricket Australia, not via Nottinghamshire, for Hussey's authorisation to play.He said: "David Hussey has nothing to do with Nottinghamshire, as far as we are concerned he only needs an NOC from his home board."

China to log its worst polluters !!

China has begun an ambitious project to survey the country's major sources of pollution.

Factories, farms and other polluters will have to declare how much, and what kind of pollutants, they discharge.The government admits it will be difficult to get companies to supply accurate data, so it is offering them immunity from fines and prosecution.

But even with this incentive, some say the system has flaws which will make it difficult to get accurate information.Companies across the country are currently being asked to provide information for the China Pollution Source Census, which will be published next year.

In an interview with the BBC, Wang Yuqing, the man in charge of the project, said the main aim was to get a clear picture of China's pollution problem.The government will then use the information to develop new policies, he said.

Mr Wang added that the government would not use the information it collects against polluting firms."It is not about punishing or fining any particular company," he said on the sidelines of a meeting about the census in Kunming, Yunnan Province.

Date gaps

But getting a clear picture could be difficult, as companies are being asked to supply their own pollution data.Officials are concerned that some firms will cover up the amount of pollutants they discharge.

Census officials have already set up a hotline so people can phone in and expose firms supplying false information.Mr Wang said companies will be punished if they do not report accurate data.

Ma Jun, of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the government census was a good idea.But he added: "We need reliable date and, at the moment, there are obvious gaps."

The institute he works for has a list of 15,000 polluting businesses in China, compiled from information released by the government.That list is getting longer all the time.

"On the pollution situation, we have seen improvements, but we haven't got to the turning point yet," he said.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sea reptile is biggest on record !!

A fossilised "sea monster" unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced.

The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.The Jurassic-era leviathan is one of 40 sea reptiles from a fossil "treasure trove" uncovered on the island.

Nicknamed "The Monster", the immense creature would have measured 15m (50ft) from nose to tail.And during the last field expedition, scientists discovered the remains of another so-called pliosaur which is thought to belong to the same species as The Monster - and may have been just as colossal.

The expedition's director Dr Jorn Hurum, from the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, said the Svalbard specimen is 20% larger than the previous biggest marine reptile - another massive pliosaur from Australia called Kronosaurus.

"We have carried out a search of the literature, so we now know that we have the biggest [pliosaur]. It's not just arm-waving anymore," Dr Hurum told the BBC News website.

"The flipper is 3m long with very few parts missing. On Monday, we assembled all the bones in our basement and we amazed ourselves - we had never seen it together before."Pliosaurs were a short-necked form of plesiosaur, a group of extinct reptiles that lived in the world's oceans during the age of the dinosaurs.

A pliosaur's body was tear drop-shaped with two sets of powerful flippers which it used to propel itself through the water."These animals were awesomely powerful predators," said plesiosaur palaeontologist Richard Forrest.

"If you compare the skull of a large pliosaur to a crocodile, it is very clear it is much better built for biting... by comparison with a crocodile, you have something like three or four times the cross-sectional space for muscles. So you have much bigger, more powerful muscles and huge, robust jaws.

"A large pliosaur was big enough to pick up a small car in its jaws and bite it in half.""There are a few isolated bones of huge pliosaurs already known but this is the first find of a significant portion of a whole skeleton of such a giant," said Angela Milner, associate keeper of palaeontology at London's Natural History Museum

"It will undoubtedly add much to our knowledge of these top marine predators. Pliosaurs were reptiles and they were almost certainly not warm-blooded so this discovery is also a good demonstration of plate tectonics and ancient climates.

"One hundred and fifty million years ago, Svalbard was not so near the North Pole, there was no ice cap and the climate was much warmer than it is today."

The Monster was excavated in August 2007 and taken to the Natural History Museum in Oslo. Team members had to remove hundreds of tonnes of rock by hand in high winds, fog, rain, freezing temperatures and with the constant threat of attack by polar bears.

They recovered the animal's snout, some teeth, much of the neck and back, the shoulder girdle and a nearly complete flipper.Unfortunately, there was a small river running through where the head lay, so much of the skull had been washed away.A preliminary analysis of the bones suggests this beast belongs to a previously unknown species.

Unprecedented haul

The researchers plan to return to Svalbard later this year to excavate the new pliosaur.A few skull pieces, broken teeth and vertebrae from this second large specimen are already exposed and plenty more may be waiting to be excavated.

"It's a large one, and has the same bone structure as the previous one we found," said Espen Knutsen, from Oslo's Natural History Museum, who is studying the fossils.

Dr Hurum and his colleagues have now identified a total of 40 marine reptiles from Svalbard. The haul includes many long-necked plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs in addition to the two pliosaurs.

Long-necked plesiosaurs are said to fit descriptions of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster. Ichthyosaurs bore a passing resemblance to modern dolphins, but they used an upright tail fin to propel themselves through the water.

Richard Forrest commented: "Here in Svalbard you have 40 specimens just lying around, which is like nothing we know."Even in classic fossil exposures such as you have in Dorset [in England], there are cliffs eroding over many years and every so often something pops up. But we haven't had 40 plesiosaurs from Dorset in 200 years."

The fossils were found in a fine-grained sedimentary rock called black shale. When the animals died, they sank to the bottom of a cold, shallow Jurassic sea and were covered over by mud. The oxygen-free, alkaline chemistry of the mud may explain the fossils' remarkable preservation, said Dr Hurum.

The discovery of another large pliosaur was announced in 2002. Known as the "Monster of Aramberri" after the site in north-eastern Mexico where it was dug up, the creature could be just as big as the Svalbard specimen, according to the team that found it.

But palaeontologists told the BBC a much more detailed analysis of these fossils was required before a true picture of its size could be obtained.

Former Thai PM Thaksin detained !!

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been taken into custody on his arrival in Thailand after spending 17 months in exile.

He said he would beat what he called politically motivated corruption charges from the years he was in power. The 58-year-old billionaire businessman surrendered to police at the airport to be taken to the Supreme Court.

He was removed from power in a military coup in September 2006 and has lived outside the country since then.

Mr Thaksin is expected to be released on bail on two separate charges.Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Harding on the flight from Hong Kong, Mr Thaksin said he wouldn't be seeking revenge against the coup bosses who forced him out of power after five years in office.

He said he had mixed feelings about returning to home, but that he had finished with politics and wished to focus on his football interests - he owns Manchester City and was travelling with two of the British club's players.

His party, Thai Rak Thai, was outlawed following the coup and he was personally banned from politics for five years but his opponents fear he has returned to influence events from behind-the-scenes.

Many of Mr Thaksin's followers formed the People Power Party (PPP), which won elections in December last year.

Sicily Mafia 'restoring US links' !!

Sicily's Mafia is rebuilding its networks in the US, according to an Italian parliamentary report.

The report says Cosa Nostra has been sending people to the US to form alliances with families with which it had lost contact in the 1980s.

It says that while the mob maintains a foothold in the lucrative drugs trade, it is now moving into new areas.Although Cosa Nostra has its roots in Italian organised crime, it has long been a separate organisation in the US.

But this month in an operation codenamed Old Bridge, a reference to these long-standing links between Sicily and New York, the FBI revealed details of the new relationships being formed across the Atlantic.

They rounded up more than 80 gangsters in New York including the acting bosses of the Gambino crime family - known to have direct links with Sicily.

Fewer witnesses

The Italian anti-mafia commission says Old Bridge was a remarkable success but it shows the Sicilian Cosa Nostra is "re-establishing its links with the American cousins".

The comission says it has evidence Cosa Nostra is sending its top members to New York while allowing those expelled by the mob during the clan wars of the 1980s to return home to Sicily.

Their report says that many US food distribution and construction firms are now controlled by the US Cosa Nostra, whose bosses are of Sicilian origin and have direct links.

And while Cosa Nostra still maintains its control over the lucrative drugs trade and its traditional activities of extortion and racketeering, it is now diversifying into new industries like online gambling.

Angela Napoli, a member of the anti-mafia commission, says the work to defeat Cosa Nostra falls on the Italian politicians - who must do more - and on the very brave witnesses who come forward to give evidence.

The commission says not enough is being done to help them.Those under state protection say they feel abandoned.And consequently the number now prepared to come forward is falling.

Writer Sujatha passes away ..

Sujatha, the well known author of several novels and short stories, and who has also penned the dialogs for several movies, passed away earlier today. A dear loss to Indian literature, indeed.

His true name was Rangarajan, Sujatha being a pseudonym. He has written of over 100 novels, 250 short stories, ten books on science, ten stage plays, and a slim volume of poems. His very first story featured in a magazine called Sivaji in 1953. His short story called Idadhu Orathil was published in a Tamil magazine in 1962 and he soon became a regular contributor. His writings are well known and much read.

His writing expertise took to the silver screen with movies such as Gayathri, Priya and Vikram, and eventually he became a popular writer in filmdom as well. Some of his recent works in cinema include Anniyan and Sivaji. The soon to release movie Anandha Thandavam is the on screen adaptation of a novel by Sujatha. He was also working on the script for Shankar's much awaited Robot.

However, nature's course has changed his. Today we have lost one of the most revered writers down South. We extend our heart felt condolences to the bereaved.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Millau Viaduct – World's Tallest Bridge !!!

An Engineering Work of Art

To me there are few things more impressive than being on a man-made structure, such as a very tall building or a bridge, and viewing blue sky above and clouds below. Of, course for this to occur the structure has be be rather high and the clouds low.

This is why I was immediately impressed when a friend sent me pictures of the Millau Viaduct, which crosses the valley of the Tarn River valley near the city of Millau in the mountains of southern France.

Normally it is the high mountains that present a challenge to engineers building roads that connect two or more points. However, in case of the Millau Viaduct, the mountain area through which the A75 autoroute, also known as la Méridienne, passes is apparently rather high most of the way until it reaches the Tarn River valley. As can be seen from the picture at the right, one has to traverse a long, winding road down the mountain on one side of the valley and then immediately repeat the process while climbing up the mountain on the other side of the valley. In addition to the kilometers / miles and time added by the trip down into the valley and back up into the mountains, time was also lost in the past to traffic congestion in the town and on the two lane bridge across the Tarn River. It is estimated that the bridge over the valley has shortened the driving distance between the Paris and the Mediterranean coast of France by 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) and, during the summer tourist season, reduced travel time by as much as four hours.

Construction of the bridge was a joint Franco-British project with help from companies in other European countries. Financing for the 394 million Euro (U.S. $524) project was provided by the French construction firm Eiffage. As a result of corporate mergers*, the Eiffage frim includes the firm that built the Eiffel Tower in Paris which, at the time of its completion in 1887, was the tallest structure in the world. This is obviously a company with long experience in being involved with construction of structures of record setting size. British architect Norman Foster designed the bridge, which has come to be viewed both as a work of art as well as a construction marvel, while the French bridge engineer, Dr. Michel Virlogeux, provided the engineering design.

While planning began in the late twentieth century, actual construction did not begin until December 2001 and its 2005 target completion date was achieved a little early when it was formally dedicated on December 14, 2004 and opened to traffic on December 16, 2004.

The Millau Viaduct is an artistic and engineering marvel. It currently holds the record for having the highest piles (the pilers rising from the ground and supporting the bridge from below) of any bridge in the world with its highest being 244.96 meters (803.7 feet) and the highest mast (the pilers rising up from the top of the bridge and holding the suspension cables) which towers 343 meters (1,125 feet) above the roadbed of the bridge. It also has a claim to having the highest roadbed of any bridge in the world with its roadbed reaching 270 meters (885.8 feet) above the river below. However, the roadbed of the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado in the United States tops this with its roadbed which towers 1,053 feet (321 meters) above the river below. Based upon height of roadbed, the Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest in the world while based upon mast height, the Millau Viaduct is the highest in the world. Regardless of which is the highest, the Millau Viaduct is the clear winner in terms of length and beauty.

Top Five Midwest Family Vacation Destinations !!!

Whether you prefer the beauty of an urban skyline or a rugged mountain, the Midwest offers a vacation destination for every family. Take your pick from the entertainment of Branson, the sophistication of Chicago, or the wet and wild fun of the Wisconsin Dells. Take in the natural beauty at a Jellystone Campground and expand your family's horizons at Mt. Rushmore.

Branson, Missouri

Branson, Missouri is one of the top vacation destinations in the country with close to seven million visitors annually. Branson offers attractions and world-class entertainment for all ages, all in the gorgeous setting of the Ozark mountains. The flavor of Branson is wholesome. Shows are available for all ages and families will appreciate live performances in any of the city's 49 state-of-the-art theaters.

Families can enjoy a patriotic revue, listen to a cowboy poet reading, or take in one of the family-friendly variety shows. Magic and comedy share the stage with animals, acrobats, and special effects. Kids will love the dinner show at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede restaurant where they'll see horses and stunt riders perform amazing tricks.

By the first week of November most of the shows in Branson gets into the Christmas spirit. Christmas in Branson includes plenty of holiday-themed music, sets, costumes and production numbers.

Silver Dollar City has been named the number one theme park in the world by the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. This 50-acre, 1880s-themed park is set naturally into its surroundings and features more than 100 craftsmen demonstrating their skills. There are festivals going on from April through December including a Bluegrass & BBQ Festival, National Kids' Fest, and a Salute to the Great American Cowboy. The holiday music festival and light parade at Silver Dollar City was named one of the top 10 in the country by USA Today.

But wait, there's more. You can rent a boat and water ski on beautiful Table Rock lake, or spend some quality time in nature at Big Cedar Lodge. Save money for shopping because Branson boasts many outlet centers and the famous Bass Pro sporting goods super store.


A Chicago vacation offers the finest in the arts and amusements. From the top of the Sears tower to the miles of paths along the shores of Lake Michigan, the family is sure to love the windy city.

The kids' favorite among Chicago's world-class museums is sure to be the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier. Kids can experiment with inventions, reconstruct dinosaur bones, play on a make-believe schooner. The Field Museum comes in a close second with it's full size T-Rex and King Tut exhibits. At the Museum of Science and Industry the whole family can walk through a huge, working model of the human heart. Plan a trip to the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum on a Friday for special programs.

The John G. Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium is the world's largest indoor aquarium. You can even walk through a simulated Amazon and observe the sea life there. The Brookfield Zoo is has been named one of the top ten family-friendly zoos by Child magazine.

Take in the city's amazing architecture, from the 110-story Sears Tower, which is the tallest in North America. Then get down on street level around the Loop to get up close and personal with sculptures by Picasso, Miro, and Chagall among other. If you're lucky you'll also catch a street performance of a group of bucket drummers.

Do not leave the city without sampling the deep-dish pizza. Chicago style pizza is like no other. You may even get kids to eat their spinach when it's piled on one of these culinary works of art!

Jellystone Campground Parks

Anyone who grew up with Yogi and Boo Boo will get a huge kick out of introducing these lovable characters to their kids at a Jellystone campground park. These parks are located throughout the Midwest and have become the favorite destination for many families. In addition to the joys of camping, Jellystone parks offer waterslides, pools, and bike trails. There's also the chance to get involved in sports like volleyball and mini-golf. In the evening, families enjoy quality time around the campfire, or at the movies!

The Warrens, Wisconsin Jellystone Park is one of the finest Resort Camps in the United States with a 50,000 sq. ft. Indoor Water Resort, and different styles of lodging to suit many tastes and budgets. Generally, the parks offer tent camping, RV sites, and cabin rentals.

Parks are franchises, independently owned and operated throughout the Midwest, so you'll want to check out the Jellystone main website and do a little homework on which park is best for you because the amenities will vary. Midwest park locations include Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri.

Yogi Bear, Cindy Bear, and Boo Boo make daily visits to campers. If you're lucky, you may even get tapped to play Yogi or Cindy!

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells on the Wisconsin River is known as the waterpark capital of the world. There are several outdoor and indoor waterparks to choose from, as well as more than twenty waterpark resorts!

The indoor waterparks help contribute to the year round family fun at this Midwest vacation destination, but there's more to the Dells. The fall color in the Dells is spectacular and the area has plenty of campgrounds where you can experience the colorful change of season up close.

Cruise boats and the amphibious vehicles called Ducks take you on scenic tours to see the Wisconsin River rock formations. Afterwards, go to the International Crane Foundation, a wildlife preserve where you can see all 15 living species of cranes. There's no other spot on earth where you can see all these birds in one place.

Nearby Baraboo is home to the Circus World Museum, which boasts the world's largest collection of one-of-a-kind antique circus wagons. There are 50 wagons, some in the process of restoration. You can even watch as craftsmen toil away at reviving these treasures of American history.

There are arts-a-plenty in the Dells as well. Landscape photographer, H.H. Bennett is considered among the top 10 of the 19th century. He introduced the world to stop-action photography and you can see some of it at his studio on the Dells' boardwalk. Architecture aficionados can visit the Frank Lloyd Wright's Seth Peterson Cottage, the only home Wright designed that is available for rent to the public.

For pure entertainment, check out the Tommy Bartlett Show, a water ski extravaganza that is one of the longest running live outdoor entertainment shows in the country.

South Dakota: Black Hills, Badlands, and Mount Rushmore

South Dakota is home to amazing natural beauty as well as attractions to please any family. Perhaps the best-known landmark is Mount Rushmore, but there is so much more to see. Families can learn about the history of the Great Plains at various memorials and state parks. Kids and adults alike can explore caves, canyons, and hiking trails.

The Black Hills region of South Dakota is home to five national parks and memorials. The Mount Rushmore National Monument boasts 60-foot faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore. The monument is best viewed in the light from sunrise to ten o'clock in the morning. You'll want to consult the calendar of events to find out if there are any special programs going on during your visit.

Make time to learn investigate history at the Journey Museum where you'll hear the scientific explanation of fossils and geology as well as the Lakota Sioux mythology of the origins of the Plains. One of the most popular exhibits is a hologram of a Native American woman telling her story in a tepee. Talk about bringing history to life!

Visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is expected to be the world's largest mountain carving when it is complete. They even project a laser show onto the five-story stone. Next, head to Custer State Park to see over 1,500 head of buffalo. The first Monday in October they have a buffalo roundup, but you'll need to make your plans many months in advance.

Wind Cave National Park has the fourth-longest cave in America. Explore a bit of its 120 miles of mapped passages. Mammoth skeletons are the main attraction at the indoor Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. From June 1st - August 15th the Junior Paleontologist Excavation lets kids ages 4 to 13 dig for fossil replicas, but space is limited so make reservations for this activity. A drive through the 244,000-acre Badlands National Park gets you a glimpse at bison, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.