|Animated Newsweek (39)|
|Collage of News Headline Pictures|
Science News This Week:
1) Warmest Summers in Last Two Decades in Northern Latitudes Were Unprecedented in Six Centuries:
|Warmest Summers in Last Two Decades in Northern Latitudes Were Unprecedented in Six Centuries:|
Harvard researchers are adding nuance to our understanding of how modern and historical temperatures compare. Through their statistical model of Arctic temperatures and how they relate to instrumental and proxy records, Martin Tingley, a research associate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Peter Huybers, professor of earth and planetary sciences, have shown that the warmest summers in the last two decades were unprecedented in six centuries.
The work is described in paper published in the April 11 issue of Nature.
"We call upon multiple proxies -- including those derived from trees, ice cores, and lake sediments -- to reconstruct temperature back through time using a Bayesian statistical approach," Tingley said. "What we are trying to do is put statistical inference of past changes in temperature on a more solid and complete footing.
"Saying this year is warmer than all other years included in the reconstruction is a very different thing than saying this year is warmer than a particular year in the past," he added. "You have to think about the uncertainty in the temperature estimate for each year, and then be able to say that recent years are warmer than all past years simultaneously."To assess such probabilities, Tingley and Huybers use a statistical model that gives a large ensemble of equally likely temperature histories for the last 600 years, as opposed to the single best estimate provided by most other reconstructions of the planet's temperature.
"By sorting through these many plausible realizations of what Earth's temperature may have looked like," Huybers said, "it becomes possible to find the probability associated with a great variety of relevant quantities, such as whether the 2010 Russian heat wave was more anomalous than all other events or whether the trend in average temperature over the last 100 years is uniquely large."
Perhaps the most basic quantity is average Arctic temperature, and Tingley said that the summers of 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2011 were each warmer than all years prior to 2005 in at least 95 percent of the ensemble members. Furthermore, the rate of temperature increase observed over the last century is, with 99 percent probability, greater in magnitude than centennial trends in the last 600 years. At a regional level, the summer of 2010 featured the warmest year in western Russia, with 99 percent probability, and also featured the warmest year in western Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, with 90 percent probability.
Also notable: Although summer temperatures are clearly on the rise, the researchers found no indication that temperature variability has changed. Events such as the 2010 Russian heat wave and the 2003 western European heat wave are consistent with the increase in mean temperature, after accounting for the fact that they are selected as some of the hottest years and locations."Insomuch as the past is prologue for the future," Tingley said, "these results suggest that the hottest summers will track along with increases in mean temperature." He explained, "If instead the distribution of temperatures were becoming wider, as well as shifting toward higher values, then the probability of extreme events would go up even more rapidly."But Tingley also acknowledged the limitations of the results and the need for further work. "The proxies, unlike thermometers, generally only give information about seasonal average temperatures, and we have not explored changes in variability at the daily and weekly timescales associated with weather patterns," he said. "It will be interesting to further explore instrumental records and higher resolution proxies for trends at these shorter timescales."
2) Enzymes from Horse Feces Could Hold Secrets to Streamlining Biofuel Production:
|Enzymes from Horse Feces Could Hold Secrets to Streamlining Biofuel Production:|
Stepping into unexplored territory in efforts to use corn stalks, grass and other non-food plants to make biofuels, scientists have described the discovery of a potential treasure-trove of candidate enzymes in fungi thriving in the feces and intestinal tracts of horses.
hey reported on these enzymes -- the key to economical production of biofuels from non-food plant material -- at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) currently going on in New Orleans.
Michelle A. O'Malley, Ph.D., explained that cellulose is the raw material for making biofuels from non-food plant materials. Cellulose, however, is sealed away inside a tough network of lignin within the cell walls of plants. To produce biofuels from these materials, lignin must be removed through an expensive pretreatment process. Then, a collection of enzymes breaks cellulose down into sugars. Finally, in a process much like production of beer or wine, those sugars become food for microbes to ferment into alcohol for fuel, ingredients for plastics and other materials.
"Nature has made it very difficult and expensive to access the cellulose in plants. Additionally, we need to find the best enzyme mixture to convert that cellulose into sugar," O'Malley said. "We have discovered a fungus from the digestive tract of a horse that addresses both issues -- it thrives on lignin-rich plants and converts these materials into sugars for the animal. It is a potential treasure trove of enzymes for solving this problem and reducing the cost of biofuels."
The digestive tracts of large herbivores like cows and horses, which can digest lignin-rich grasses, have been a well-trodden path for scientists seeking such enzymes. But in the past, their focus has been mainly on enzymes in bacteria, rather than fungi, which include yeasts and molds. The goal: Take the genes that produce such enzymes from gut fungi and genetically engineer them into yeasts. Yeasts already are used in time-tested processes on an industrial scale to produce huge quantities of antibiotics, foods and other products. That proven production technology would mean clear sailing for commercial production of biofuels.
O'Malley explained that several genes from gut fungi are unique compared to bacteria, since the fungi grow invasively into plant material. Also, they secrete powerful enzyme complexes that work together to break down cellulose. Until now, however, fungi have largely been ignored in the search for new biofuel enzymes -- and for good reason.
"There was relatively little scientific knowledge about fungi in the digestive tracts of these large animals," O'Malley explained. "They are there, but in very low numbers, making it difficult to study. The low concentrations also fostered a misconception that fungi must be unimportant in digestion of cellulose. And it is extremely difficult to isolate and grow these fungi to study their enzymes."
O'Malley's research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, collaborated with researchers at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. They worked with a gut fungus isolated from horse feces and identified all the genetic material that the fungus uses to manufacture enzymes and other proteins. This collection of protein-encoding material -- the fungus's so-called "transcriptome" -- led to the identification of literally hundreds of enzymes capable of breaking through that tough lignin in plant cell walls and the cellulose within. The team now is shifting through that bounty to identify the most active enzyme and working on methods for transferring the genetic machinery for its production into the yeast currently used in industrial processes.
3) Fossilized Teeth Provide New Insight Into Human Ancestor: Species Identified in 2010 Is One of Closest Relatives to Humans:
Fossilized Teeth Provide New Insight Into Human Ancestor: Species Identified in 2010 Is One of Closest Relatives to Humans:
A dental study of fossilized remains found in South Africa in 2008 provides new support that this species is one of the closest relatives to early humans.
The teeth of this species -- called Australopithecus sediba -- indicate that it is also a close relative to the previously identified Australopithecus africanus. Both of these species are clearly more closely related to humans than other australopiths from east Africa, according to the new research.
The study, published in the journal Science, revealed that both africanus and sediba shared about the same number of dental traits with the first undeniably human species."Our study provides further evidence that sediba is indeed a very close relative of early humans, but we can't definitively determine its position relative to africanus, said Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, co-author of the study and professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.The research was led by Joel D. Irish, professor of natural sciences at Liverpool John Moores University.The sediba fossils were found in South Africa in 2008 and first described in a series of articles published in Science in 2010. That study was led by Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, who is also a co-author of this new study.
In this study, Irish, Guatelli-Steinberg and their colleagues extended that work by examining the teeth from sediba and comparing them to eight other African hominin species, which include modern humans from Africa, and extinct species of Homo, Australopithecus, and Paranthropus. In all, the researchers examined more than 340 fossils and 4,571 recent specimens. They also examined teeth from 44 gorillas for comparison.
The focus was on 22 separate traits of tooth crowns and roots that can give clues as to the relationship between the different species studied.For example, they measured how much one of the incisors was shovel-shaped. Depending on the species in this study, the incisor may have no depression in the back of the tooth, a faint shovel shape, or a trace of that shape.Researchers use standardized measurements from the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System to compare the teeth on these 22 traits.The researchers found that on 15 of these traits, sediba and africanus scored the same. Sediba shared 13 traits with Homo erectus, an early human species, which was comparable to how africanus scored.Sediba and africanus shared five dental traits that weren't found in earlier australopiths, further showing their close relationship. Both also share five traits with early humans -- Homo habilis/rudolfenis and Homo erectus -- which weren't shared with earlier ancestors, demonstrating the close relationship between these two australopiths and the first humans.Teeth are an excellent way to study relationships between different species, Guatelli-Steinberg said. They are well preserved in the fossil record, and researchers can compare large samples, at least for many ancient species.
In addition, most of the dental traits the researchers used in this analysis don't have a selective advantage that could help one species survive over another. That means if researchers see a similar trait in two species, they can be more confident that they shared a common ancestor and that the trait didn't evolve independently.In many ways, these new dental data support the earlier research on sediba, which included analysis of the inside of the skull, hand, spine, pelvis, foot and ankle, Guatelli-Steinberg said."All of the research so far shows that sediba had a mosaic of primitive traits and newer traits that suggest it was a bridge between earlier australopiths and the first humans," she said.Guatelli-Steinberg said their dental analysis showed that both africanus and sediba are more closely related to humans than the famous "Lucy" skeleton fossil found in East Africa in 1974. This fossil represented a species, Australopithecus afarensis, that was at one time was thought to be the closest relative of humans.Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago. Sediba lived 1.977 million years ago, while africanus lived between 3.03 and 2.04 million years ago."Our research on teeth can't definitively settle if either sediba or africanus is more closely related to humans than the other species," Guatelli-Steinberg said. "But our findings do suggest that both are closely related to each other and are more closely related to humans than afarensis.
"We need to find more sediba remains to help fill in the missing pieces of this evolutionary puzzle."
4) Tiny Wireless Device Shines Light On Mouse Brain, Generating Reward :
|Tiny Wireless Device Shines Light On Mouse Brain, Generating Reward|
Using a miniature electronic device implanted in the brain, scientists have tapped into the internal reward system of mice, prodding neurons to release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure.
The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed tiny devices, containing light emitting diodes (LEDs) the size of individual neurons. The devices activate brain cells with light. The scientists report their findings April 12 in the journal Science."This strategy should allow us to identify and map brain circuits involved in complex behaviors related to sleep, depression, addiction and anxiety," says co-principal investigator Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology at Washington University. "Understanding which populations of neurons are involved in these complex behaviors may allow us to target specific brain cells that malfunction in depression, pain, addiction and other disorders."
For the study, Washington University neuroscientists teamed with engineers at the University of Illinois to design microscale (LED) devices thinner than a human hair. This was the first application of the devices in optogenetics, an area of neuroscience that uses light to stimulate targeted pathways in the brain. The scientists implanted them into the brains of mice that had been genetically engineered so that some of their brain cells could be activated and controlled with light.
Although a number of important pathways in the brain can be studied with optogenetics, many neuroscientists have struggled with the engineering challenge of delivering light to precise locations deep in the brain. Most methods have tethered animals to lasers with fiber optic cables, limiting their movement and altering natural behaviors.
But with the new devices, the mice freely moved about and were able to explore a maze or scamper on a wheel. The electronic LEDs are housed in a tiny fiber implanted deep in the brain. That's important to the device's ability to activate the proper neurons, according to John A. Rogers, PhD, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois."You want to be able to deliver the light down into the depth of the brain," Rogers says. "We think we've come up with some powerful strategies that involve ultra-miniaturized devices that can deliver light signals deep into the brain and into other organs in the future."
Using light from the cellular-scale LEDs to stimulate dopamine-producing cells in the brain, the investigators taught the mice to poke their noses through a specific hole in a maze. Each time a mouse would poke its nose through the hole, that would trigger the system to wirelessly activate the LEDs in the implanted device, which then would emit light, causing neurons to release dopamine, a chemical related to the brain's natural reward system.
"We used the LED devices to activate networks of brain cells that are influenced by the things you would find rewarding in life, like sex or chocolate," says co-first author Jordan G. McCall, a neuroscience graduate student in Washington University's Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. "When the brain cells were activated to release dopamine, the mice quickly learned to poke their noses through the hole even though they didn't receive any food as a reward. They also developed an associated preference for the area near the hole, and they tended to hang around that part of the maze."The researchers believe the LED implants may be useful in other types of neuroscience studies or may even be applied to different organs. Related devices already are being used to stimulate peripheral nerves for pain management. Other devices with LEDs of multiple colors may be able to activate and control several neural circuits at once. In addition to the tiny LEDs, the devices also carry miniaturized sensors for detecting temperature and electrical activity within the brain.
Bruchas and his colleagues already have begun other studies of mice, using the LED devices to manipulate neural circuits that are involved in social behaviors. This could help scientists better understand what goes on in the brain in disorders such as depression and anxiety."We believe these devices will allow us to study complex stress and social interaction behaviors," Bruchas explains. "This technology enables us to map neural circuits with respect to things like stress and pain much more effectively."The wireless, microLED implant devices represent the combined efforts of Bruchas and Rogers. Last year, along with Robert W. Gereau IV, PhD, professor of anesthesiology, they were awarded an NIH Director's Transformative Research Project award to develop and conduct studies using novel device development and optogenetics, which involves activating or inhibiting brain cells with light.
5) News in Brief: Malaria drug made by baker's yeast:
|News in Brief: Malaria drug made by baker's yeast:|
Using genetically engineered baker’s yeast, researchers have come up with a shortcut to making artemisinin, a frontline drug against malaria. Christopher Paddon of Amyris Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., and his colleagues describe their process April 10 in Nature.
Last year the team reported that they could ferment the bioengineered yeast to make amorphadiene, a precursor of artemisinic acid. In the new study, they improve the yield of the precursor and then spell out a process for converting artemisinic acid to artemisinin itself. The researchers say the overall strategy could streamline artemisinin manufacturing.
Artemisinin, which the sweet wormwood plant produces in its leaves, is an ancient malaria remedy. In recent years, artemisinin-based drugs have become mainstays against the parasite when combined with another drug (SN: 6/16/2007, p. 381). Current artemisinin production requires growing the plants for months, removing and drying the leaves and extracting the artemisinin. But a combination of problems that include fluctuations in raw material prices and too few manufacturers has led to supply uncertainties and price volatility, according to a 2012 report in Malaria Journal.
The authors of the new study say their findings “pave the way for an industrial process capable of supplementing the world supply of artemisinin from a second source independent of the uncertainties associated with botanical production.”
Movie Release This Week:
1) Scary Movie V
|Scary Movie V|
The latest installment of the Scary Movie franchise includes send ups of Paranormal Activity, Mama, Sinister, The Evil Dead, Inception, Black Swan and pop culture featuring Ashley Tisdale, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Snoop Dogg, Katt Williams, Molly Shannon, Terry Crews, Simon Rex, Jerry O'Connell, Sarah Hyland, Katrina Bowden, Tyler Posey, Shad Moss aka Bow Wow, Kate Walsh, Heather Locklear, Mac Miller and Mike Tyson.
2) Disconnect :
A hard-working lawyer, attached to his cell phone, can't find the time to communicate with his family. An estranged couple uses the internet as a means to escape from their lifeless marriage. A widowed ex-cop struggles to raise a mischievous son who cyber-bullies a classmate. An ambitious journalist sees a career-making story in a teen that performs on an adult-only site. They are strangers, neighbors and colleagues and their stories collide in this compelling drama about ordinary people desperate for a human connection.
DISCONNECT explores the consequences of modern technology and how it affects and defines our daily relationships. Shot with eavesdropped naturalism, it marks the first fiction feature from Henry-Alex Rubin, director of the Oscar-nominated “Murderball.” Disconnect is produced by Mickey Liddell and Jennifer Monroe of LD Entertainment and William Horberg of Wonderful Films from an original screenplay by Andrew Stern. The ensemble cast includes Jason Bateman (The Change-Up,Up in the Air), Hope Davis (Real Steel, Mildred Pierce), Frank Grillo (Gangster Squad, The Grey), Paula Patton (Precious, Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol), Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Andrea Riseborough (Brighton Rock, W. E.), Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, Melancholia) and Max Thieriot (Jumper), as well as Jonah Bobo (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Colin Ford (We Bought A Zoo) and Haley Ramm (X-Men).
3) Antiviral :
Syd March makes people sick, infecting them with viruses harvested to order from celebrities, but gets more than he bargained for when his most famous source dies from a virus Syd has just infected himself with.
4) It's a Disaster:
|It's a Disaster|
In this doomsday comedy, four couples who meet for Sunday brunch find themselves stranded in a house together as the world may be about to end. When Tracy Scott (Julia Stiles) decides to introduce her new beau Glenn (David Cross) to her three friends Hedy (America Ferrera), Emma, and Lexi and their significant others, her biggest fear is whether or not her friends will approve of her new relationship, little does she realize that's the least of her worries. Before long the couples find themselves in the midst of an apocalyptic disaster, catching them all off guard. One thing is clear; these four couples aren't going to let the potential end of the world get in the way of the relationship issues they all need to work out.
5) Into the White:
|Into the White|
At the beginning of World War II a hostile chance encounter in the skies above the harsh Norwegian wilderness leaves two aircraft – one British, one German – shot down in a remote and isolated region. By strange coincidence the crews seek shelter in the same cabin. They must battle to survive the brutal winter in order to get back to the war – and to fighting one another. Although war has made them enemies, as the days go by animosity proves hard to maintain. Mutual need leads to unlikely friendships, and the rules of war must be put aside.
Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Pran:
|Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Pran|
he long wait for the Sikand family is finally over. Pran has been awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2012), the nation's top cine honour. Considered one of the most versatile actors in Hindi films, Pran joined the industry to become a hero but ended up playing one of the best villains it ever had in the last 65 years.
Born on February 12, 1920, in Old Delhi, his first film Yamla Jat released in 1945. In Khandan, the second of his nearly 400 films, he played the hero with Noor Jehan. He acted in 22 films in pre-Partition India, including Khazanchi, Kaise Kahoon and Khamosh Nigahen, all directed by Moti Gidwani. He left Lahore for Bombay on August 11, 1947. His daughter Pinky Bhalla said, "He came here to celebrate my brother Arvind's birthday on August 11. Days later, Partition was declared and he could not go back."
Eight months later, he got the Bombay Talkies film Ziddi, which had Dev Anand and Kamini Kaushal in it.
After Ziddi, he signed Grihasti, Prabhat Films' Apradhi and Putli. Pran did a mix of villainous and positive roles in the late 40s and early 50s, but he got noticed for his role as a villain in films like Ziddi and Badi Behan. He cemented his villain label in the 50s and 60s. Most of these roles were played opposite heroes like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor.
He worked with Dilip Kumar in Azaad, Madhumati, Devdas, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Ram Aur Shyam and Aadmi, with Dev Anand in Ziddi (1948), Munimji (1955), Amar Deep (1958), Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961) and with Raj Kapoor in Aah, Chori Chori, Jagte Raho, Chhalia, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and Dil Hi Toh Hai.
Although some critics feel Pran was not really a gamechanger, and owed his popularity to his get-ups and dialogues, others insist he was incredibly versatile: you would never see him act in the same manner in any two movies. Not only his looks and mannerism, but even his performances went up a notch with every film. His villainous image had such an impact on audiences that people stopped naming their children Pran. In 2004, before the release of Pran's book, a search for people named Pran threw up the fact that the oldest so-named person was born after 1960.
In the late 1960s, with the character of Malang Chacha in Manoj Kumar's Upkar (1967), he turned to positive roles. One of the biggest songs of the 60s, Kasme Waade Pyaar Wafaa was picturised on him. Says Manoj Kumar, "When I offered him the role, the first thing he asked me was, 'Aap April fool toh nahi bana rahe ho mujhe?" Kumar said that Pran often took advice from him. He said, "I would sketch something, and he would use it for his role in his films."
The thespian worked with Manoj Kumar in Shaheed, Purab Aur Paschim, Be-Imaan, Sanyasi, Dus Numbri and Patthar Ke Sanam. In the mid 1960s, he also acted in several Bengali films.
Pran's career peaked in the 70s and 80s and he was paid more than heroes, except for super star Rajesh Khanna. Dilip Kumar's biographer Udaya Tara Nayar said, "He was the busiest character and was even paid more than his co-stars. In the 70s and 80s, he worked with Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Navin Nishchol, Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor."
Pran is said to have recommended Bachchan's name for Zanjeer. They worked together in 14 films. Bachchan wrote in a foreword of his biography 'And Pran', "I was relatively new to the film industry. I did feel apprehensive but Pran Saab was very helpful and he set me at ease. In fact, he was the biggest selling point of the film. I marvelled at the manner in which he took tremendous care of his looks. Right from a hennaed wig and beard, to his costume and make-up, he ensured that every element was flawless."
Bachchan also mentioned that even if his shot was over, he would stay on the sets, watching proceedings with a keen eye. Certainly one of the high points of the film was the Yaari Hai Imaan Mera set-piece, which he performed with incomparable agility and vigour. Some of their films together include Majboor, Zanjeer, Kasauti, Don, Ganga Ki Saugandh, Amar Akbar Anthony, Nastik, Dostana, Naseeb, Kasauti, Kaalia and Sharaabi.
Political News This Week:
1) Rajiv Gandhi middleman for Swedish jets in 1970s: Wikileaks :
|Rajiv Gandhi middleman for Swedish jets in 1970s: Wikileaks|
Was Rajiv Gandhi a middleman in the 1970s for a Swedish company that was looking to sell fighter jets to the Indian Air Force?
A sensational claim to that extent has been made in a new round of WikiLeaks expose of US diplomatic cables relating to “the Henry Kissinger era”, published in India in collaboration with The Hindu.
One of the stunning cables (read here), sent by the US embassy in New Delhi in October 1975 (when India was under Emergency), records in telegraphic language that: “Swedish Emboff has informed us that main Indian negotiator with Swedes on Viggen at New Delhi end has been Mrs Gandhi’s oler (sic) son, Rajiv Gandhi. Latter’s only association with aircraft industry (to our knowledge) has been as pilot for Indian Airlines and this is first time we have heard his name as entrepreneur.”
The allegation against Rajiv Gandhi as an arms dalal relates to the mid 1970s. Getty Images.
This is arguably the most sensational of the claims relating to India in the first tranche of the Kissinger Cables, which The Hindu has begun serialising from Monday.
There is no independent confirmation or denial of the claim that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s son, who was then a pilot with Indian Airlines, did in fact negotiate on behalf of the Swedish company Saab-Scania, which was looking to sell 50 Viggen fighter aircraft to India. The very cable that mentions Rajiv Gandhi as an “entrepreneur” also states explicitly that US officials have “no additional information to either refute or confirm the above information.”
In any case, Saab-Scania lost out on the deal, having been forced to withdraw from the “fighter sweepstakes” by the US; the deal was eventually secured the British SEPECAT Jaguar.
Nevertheless, the allegation that Rajiv Gandhi, the man who would later become Prime Minister and become embroiled in another scandal relating to another Swedish arms manufacturer in the Bofors howtizer gun deal, may have served as a middlemen of sorts in a fighter jets deal has the potential to send political feathers flying in India.
Nor is this the only suggestion that Rajiv Gandhi was engaged in negotiating on behalf of Saab-Scania. The Hindu report (here) cites another cable from the US embassy in New Delhi from February 1976 (read here), which quotes Swedish embassy officials as waxing eloquent on Rajiv Gandhi’s merits in pushing the deal.
The cable notes: “The Swedes here have also made it quite clear they understand the importance of family influences in the final decision in the fighter sweepstakes. Our colleague describes Ranjiv Gandhi (sic.) in flattering terms, and contends his technical expertise is of a high level. This may or may not be. Offhand we would have thought a transport pilot not the best expert to rely upon in evaluating a fighter plan, but then we are speaking of a transport pilot who has another and perhaps more relevant qualification.”
The Kissinger Cables relating to India also have other sensational claims, including that at the height of the Emergency, Socialist labour leader George Fernandes, who was then organising a campaign of violent sabotage activities, sought funds from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the French government. (Read The Hindu report here and the US Embassay cable here.)
But the bombshell relating to Rajiv Gandhi is arguably the most sensational.
2) Margaret Thatcher (Iron Lady) dies of stroke aged 87:
|Margaret Thatcher (Iron Lady) dies of stroke aged 87|
Baroness Thatcher, Britain's greatest post-war prime minister, has died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her family has announced.
3) Mamata Banerjee faces ire of Left protesters :
|Mamata Banerjee faces ire of Left protesters|
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday faced protests over death of an SFI member from Left activists who also heckled her Finance Minister Amit Mitra outside the Planning Commission office in New Delhi.
A group of protesters from Left organisations, which waited for the Trinamool Congress Chief outside the Commission's office, raised slogans against her when she arrived with Mitra at 3:45 PM to meet plan panel Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Banerjee, who was advised by police not to get down from her car and drive inside, however, chose to walk through the slogan-shouting and placard-wielding crowd into the building.The protesters heckled Mitra whose kurta was torn in the melee. Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim also faced the ire of the activists who were protesting the death of Sudipto Gupta, a leader of CPI(M)'s student wing SFI.
As SFI and CPI(M) members chanted " Mamata Banerjee hai hai (Mamata down down), TMC hai hai, Hatyari Mamata sharm karo (have shame, killer Mamata)", an agitated Chief Minister walked into the building shouting that "this is uncivilised behaviour".
Mamata Banerjee faces ire of Left protesters, Minister heckled:
"You know why they are protesting. I have 10 lakh people with me. I can bring them to Delhi. They don't want development of West Bengal," she said.
|Mamata Banerjee faces ire of Left protesters|
Irked by the scene that unfolded outside, she complained to Ahluwalia, "You have created a new precedent. My minister was assaulted. This is scandalous. There were 20 hooligans. Can you stop development of a state like this."SFI leader Ritabrata Banerjee said, "Our protest is to show Mamata Banerjee that Sudipto Gupta's death was not a petty matter. People are deeply concerned about what is happening in West Bengal."
SFI has alleged that 22-year-old Gupta died after he was beaten up by the police which has maintained that he was killed in an accident. Banerjee had termed the incident as "unfortunate" but later called it a "petty" matter, drawing criticism from the Left.
4) Major fire in Delhi's Narela slum:
|Major fire in Delhi's Narela slum|
A major fire broke out in west Delhi's Narela area around 1.35 p.m. Friday, fire service officials said. There was no immediate report of injury to anyone or loss of life.
Twenty fire tenders were rushed to combat the fire that erupted in the J.J. Colony of west Delhi's Narela. The flames are still to be fully doused.
"No one has been injured, and we have still to ascertain what caused the fire," a fire service official said.
5) Punjab's ruling elite 'introspects' in Goa!:
|Punjab's ruling elite 'introspects' in Goa!|
Beaches, casinos, an evening cruise in five-star luxury and even a chartered flight. That was Punjab ruling elite's way of "introspection" in Goa while the cash-strapped SAD-BJP government struggled to pay salaries to its employees.Over 150 ministers, legislators, MPs and other senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine descended on Goa between April 7-10 for a 'Chintan Shivir' (introspection camp) at the Fort Aguada and the Taj Holiday Village just outside Goa capital Panaji.Though media reports did not suggest anything substantial being achieved during the camp, the trip ran up a bill running into several lakhs of rupees.
"All this luxury was happening at a time when Punjab's own finances are in a very bad shape. Salaries to the government employees were delayed this month. The government is doing things on borrowed money. This is going to create a financial mess," a senior government officer told IANS here.The idea for the Goa sojourn was of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Akali Dal president and the main power-centre in Punjab. He made a nearly five-hour long power-point presentation to the Akali-BJP leaders during the introspection camp.It is quite another matter that a number of Akali Dal leaders, commonly referred to as 'jathedars' (group leaders) have no idea about power-point presentations!Badal junior's presentation was an exercise in self-praise with no concrete solutions offered for the future of the debt-ridden state.
"Some of our colleagues had not even seen a beach in their lives. Some others had not been to Goa earlier. It was a great holiday and we all bonded well with each other with so much time at hand and no worries about people lining up for their work," a two-time Akali Dal legislator said.Badal junior, a businessman himself with interests in hotels and real estate, runs the Akali Dal, which is normally associated with ageing leaders with flowing grey beards, like a corporate entity.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 85, who was not initially to enthusiastic about the Goa trip, not only gave in to his son and political heir's idea but even ended up saying that more such trips should be organised annually.The opposition Congress was quick chide the Akali Dal-BJP leaders for their expensive sojourn.
"The Chintan sammelan at Goa was discussing irrelevant issues and failed to give any solution to the current problems of state," newly appointed Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa said.Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar was more candid."Instead of relishing the five star facilities in Goa, the SAD-BJP government should do a 'chintan' that despite a 400 percent rise in in legislators salaries, what was the compulsion to enhance the rates of health services besides imposing fees on poor children," he asked."The Badal government should publicly display the facts and expenditure which led to the increase in the state's debt to Rs.38,109 crore and that of the public sector to Rs.69,270 crore in the last six years despite the fact that the state's income has enhanced manifold," Jakhar added.
For the ruling party leaders though, the beaches, casinos, dinners, evening cruise and the chartered flight left no room to give a thought to problems being faced by Punjab.
Sports News This Week:
1) Cricket legend Wasim calls off Bollywood marriage rumours:
|Cricket legend Wasim calls off Bollywood marriage rumours|
Pakistan cricket icon Wasim Akram demanded privacy and respect from fans and media alike Friday, calling for an end "once and for all" to rumours he is marrying Bollywood heroine Sushmita Sen.The famed paceman has been linked constantly in the media to the 1994 Miss Universe since they were judges in 2008 Indian dance show "Aik Khilari, Aik Haseena" (A player, a beauty).Wasim, a widower since his wife Huma died in October 2009, said he is fed up.
"I am tired of denying such rumours and now I want this to end once and for all," Wasim told AFP after Indian media claimed Thursday that the couple were about to tie the knot in Mumbai.Pakistani television channels also splashed the story, hotly anticipating another high-profile cross-border union after the 2010 nuptials of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza.Wasim said he and Sen are good friends only."She is one of the most graceful and decent ladies I have come across," said Wasim of the 37-year-old Bollywood star. "It was huge fun working as judge with Sushmita as she is a thorough professional and presents herself gracefully."
The dance show also featured Indian cricket stars Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Nikhil Chopra and Vinod Kambli and was also telecast on a leading Pakistani channel.Wasim described the show as a good experience."The show was well received and was admired across the borders and that was it. If I get another chance to work with her I will do but I want the media of both the countries to respect us," said Wasim.
Wasim said he is devoted to bringing up his two sons, Taimur and Akbar."I want to bring them up and make them good and successful human beings, so my life is devoted to my sons," said Wasim.Sen has two adopted daughters and has yet to marry.Wasim said their personal lives should be respected.
"I have my own personal life and she has her own, so the media and fans should not disrespect that," said Wasim, who has taken a year's leave as a bowling coach in the Indian Premier League to spend time with sons."I have always felt at home in India and the kind of respect I get in India is very pleasing so I will continue to work as and when I get time, but as my sons also needed time I have taken leave from the IPL this year," said Wasim.
2) Hyderabad beat Delhi: Statistical highlights from the IPL match:
|Hyderabad beat Delhi: Statistical highlights from the IPL match|
Delhi Daredevils vs Sunrisers Hyderabad
# Delhi Daredevils have lost six games in a row for the first time - between May 22, 2012 and April 12, 2013.
# Delhi Daredevils (114/8) have recorded the third lowest total in this year's IPL - the lowest being 99 for nine by Pune Warriors against Kings XI Punjab at Pune on April 7, 2013.
# Delhi Daredevils have lost all four games this year - the only team to earn this dubious distinction.
# Sunrisers Hyderabad became the second team after Bangalore to register three wins in four games this year.
3) Other News of IPL :
|Present Team Tally At IPL|
Virat Kohli from Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gautam Gambhir from Kolkata Knight Riders both received an official warning and reprimand for breaching the Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL) Code of Conduct during the match at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru this evening.
|Batting Statistics at IPL|
|Bowling Statistics at IPL|
Both Mr. Kohli and Mr. Gambhir admitted to the Level 1 offence (Article 2.1.4) of using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during the match.
|Both Mr. Kohli and Mr. Gambhir admitted to the Level 1 offence (Article 2.1.4) of using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during the match|
For Level 1 breaches of the IPL Code of Conduct, the Match Referee’s decision is final and binding.
4) Bayern Munich to face Barca in semis, Real vs Dortmund:
|Bayern Munich to face Barca in semis, Real vs Dortmund|
- Barcelona, chasing their third title in five years, will face treble-chasing Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals while Borussia Dortmund were drawn against Real Madrid for the second time in this season's competition.
The draw ensured bitter local rivalries would not be renewed for the time being, although it opened up the possibilities of an all German final or a Real-Barca clash at Wembley.A Bayern-Real meeting would also have been potentially explosive as there is a long history of stormy encounters between them.
The German pair, whose duel for domestic supremacy has sparked some acrimonious comments off the pitch, were glad to have avoided each other.
"We are happy with this draw, not because we think it's an easy one, but because the Champions League is an international competition and we wanted an international game rather than a national tie against Bayern," said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.Bayern winger Arjen Robben said before the draw: "We'd like to be kept apart from Dortmund, but you don't have a choice in these things."The German sides will be at home in the first legs in two weeks' time with the return games one week later.Bayern and Barcelona have surprisingly met just six times in European competition with only one win for the Catalans.
Barcelona's 4-0 thrashing at the Nou Camp in the Champions League quarter-final in 2008/09 is still fresh in the mind of Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge."Barcelona are the benchmark for me in Europe," he said. "They have won the Champions League more than any other team in the recent years.
"They are the best team in Europe at the moment, with fantastic attacking potential. We played them in 2009 and received a real thumping.
"I remember that game well and I don't really like to think about it, because it was quite painful to watch. However, it's a wonderful opportunity to show that we have improved a lot since then. "However, Bayern are Europe's in-form team, having already won the Bundesliga with six matches to spare and they demolished Serie A champions Juventus 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.Dortmund had the upper hand in their group stage meetings with Real Madrid, drawing 2-2 at the Bernabeu and winning 2-1 at home."We have already played them twice this season and we were unable to beat them," said former Real Madrid Emilio Butragueno, now a club director."But we hope this time it will be different and we can get through to the final."