|Animated Collage Of NewsWeek 71&72|
|Collage of NewsWeek 71&72|
Science News This Week:
1) Ancient hominid bone serves up DNA stunner:
Evolutionary questions emerge about links between European, Asian forerunners to humans. Scientists have recovered the oldest known DNA from a member of the human evolutionary family. This find raises surprising questions about relationships among far-flung populations of ancient hominids.
A nearly complete sample of mitochondrial DNA was extracted from a 400,000-year-old leg bone previously found in a cave in northern Spain. The DNA shows an unexpected hereditary link to the Denisovans, Neandertals’ genetic cousins that lived in East Asia at least 44,000 years ago, say paleogeneticist Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues.
Their report, which quadruples the age of the oldest hominid DNA, appears in the Dec. 5 Nature.The fossil bone was unearthed in three parts, one in 1994 and the other two in 1999. The same site — Sima de los Huesos, or pit of bones — has yielded the remains of at least 28 individuals. Many researchers classify these fossils as Homo heidelbergensis, a species thought to have been an ancestor of Neandertals and perhaps Homo sapiens as well.Ancient mitochondrial DNA recovered by Meyer’s team raises questions about how genetic ties were forged between H. heidelbergensis in Western Europe and presumably later-evolving Denisovans. Mitochondrial DNA passes down solely from mother to child. Hominids’ ancient relationships are difficult to pin down partly because so few bones are available. The Denisovans, for instance, are represented today only by a finger bone and two teeth excavated in a Siberian cave.
“The Denisovan connection is fascinating, but I’m cautious about how to interpret it,” remarks paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Because so many years and miles separate the Sima and Denisovan populations, it’s hard to sort out the population movements and interactions that resulted in shared mitochondrial DNA segments, Hawks says.Meyer suspects that the Sima hominids belonged to a population that was closely related to both Neandertals and Denisovans. If the Sima hominids’ ancestors mated with members of another hominid species — possibly Homo erectus or an as-yet-undiscovered population —mitochondrial DNA variants could have entered the Sima DNA and later reached the Denisovans via interbreeding with the same species, Meyer speculates.Another possibility is that Denisovan ancestors occupied a vast expanse of Asia and Europe before the Sima population evolved, says paleogeneticist Carles Lalueza-Fox of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona. Hominid fossils found in two caves near Sima de los Huesos, dating to between 1.3 million and 800,000 years ago, may represent descendants of that intercontinental population, Lalueza-Fox suggests. Sima hominids thus could have received genetic contributions from those groups that partly matched DNA separately inherited by the Denisovans far to the east.If so, Neandertals probably originated as a small, isolated European population around 250,000 years ago, Lalueza-Fox proposes.
Paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London regards the ancient Sima individuals as early Neandertals. Mitochondrial DNA commonalities between the Denisovans and the Sima fossil may have been inherited from well-traveled H. heidelbergensis groups, Stringer says. These genetic sequences could eventually have been lost in Neandertals and modern humans, he hypothesizes, if women who carried the sequences had no surviving children, no daughters or daughters who had no further daughters.“We really need nuclear DNA to solve the evolutionary puzzle at Sima de los Huesos,” Meyer says. Nuclear DNA, a legacy of both parents, is much tougher to retrieve from ancient bones than mitochondrial DNA.
2) Evolution of venom, binge eating seen in snake DNA:
Python and cobra genes evolved quickly to enable hunting strategies. Snake genes are in high evolutionary gear.
Complete genomes of the Burmese python and king cobra reveal that many snake genes have changed more rapidly than those of other vertebrates, researchers report December 2 in two studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.When two groups of scientists decided to sequence a snake genome, both figured they might as well pick one of the most extreme species. One group chose the king cobra, the largest venomous snake in the world and one of the most deadly ones. The other went for the Burmese python, a species that lacks venom but has remarkable eating habits: It strangles its prey to death and can survive on just three to five meals a year.
Now, both groups have published their analysis of the genomes, and their findings reveal the molecular basis behind these snakes’ remarkable traits. The Burmese python’s genome allows it to rev up its metabolism to 40 times its usual rate after it eats, during which organs like the kidney, liver, and gut can double in size in less than 3 days. In the cobra’s genome, entire gene families were repurposed to help produce a sophisticated, highly toxic mix of proteins and peptides that kept changing as prey evolved mechanisms to elude it. Both papers, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that snakes have evolved very rapidly.
These are only the first two snake genomes ever sequenced; snake scientists have studied snakes around the world, but were late to join the revolution in molecular biology, says Nicholas Casewell, a snake scientist at Bangor University in the United Kingdom and a co-author on the king cobra paper.The team that sequenced the python genome, led by Todd Castoe of the University of Texas, Arlington, zoomed in on the changes that happen in the Burmese python—which lives in Southeast Asia and recently invaded the Florida Everglades—after it eats. The researchers checked the activity of genes in the heart, kidney, small intestine, and liver before a meal and again 1 and 4 days after eating. “The magnitude of the gene expression response really floored us,” Castoe says. Half the python’s genes changed their activity significantly within 48 hours, the team reports in its paper.With the study in hand, “people are going to have a ton of new targets for looking at the genomics” of how snakes adapt physiologically, predicts Harvard University evolutionary biologist Scott Edwards.The team also compared the 7442 genes found as single copies in both the cobra and the python with the same genes in all other land vertebrates sequenced so far. The bottom line: Snake genomes have changed a lot—and they have changed very fast to meet the demands of their unusual lifestyles.
The scientists who sequenced the king cobra—which occurs in India, China, and Southeast Asia—focused on its venom, a very toxic mix of 73 peptides and proteins. They measured gene activity in the venom gland and in the so-called accessory gland, a poorly understood structure through which the venom passes before it leaves the cobra’s mouth.In the paper, the researchers report that the two glands have very different gene activity patterns. The accessory gland doesn’t produce toxins but makes many different lectins, a group of proteins that bind carbohydrates. In some other snake venoms, toxic lectins are part of the mix, but in the cobra, lectins are never released into the venom. The accessory gland's role may be to activate the venom somehow, but “we really don’t know” what lectins do exactly, Casewell says.The venom gland itself relies on 20 gene families for its toxins. The scientists found that the genes for each toxin family were also used in other parts of the body in the snake's evolutionary past and even today. “These dangerous proteins are co-opted from elsewhere in the body and [are] turned into weapons and diversified,” says Frank Burbrink, an evolutionary biologist at the City University of New York. Often, a gene was copied more than once, allowing each copy to mutate in different ways, yielding an ever more sophisticated mix.That gives the snake an advantage in an evolutionary arms race. The cobra’s prey evolve constantly as well, developing ways to resist being immobilized or killed by the toxins. For snakes, this genetic competition can be deadly, because ineffective venom can enable potential prey to turn on the snake and kill it.
3) New Fossil Species Found in Mozambique Reveals New Data On Ancient Mammal Relatives:
In the remote province of Niassa, Mozambique, a new species and genus of fossil vertebrate was found. The species is a distant relative of living mammals and is approximately 256 million years old. This new species belongs to a group of animals called synapsids. Synapsida includes a number of extinct lineages that dominated the communities on land in the Late Permian (260-252 million years ago), as well as living mammals and their direct ancestors.
A team of paleontologists from nine institutions, including Kenneth Angielczyk, associate curator of paleomammology at Chicago's Field Museum, described the anatomy of Niassodon in the scientific journal PLoS ONE. The fossil was named Niassodon mfumukasi, which means in the local language (Chiyao): the queen of Lake Niassa. The name is a tribute to the Yao matriarchal society, to the women of Mozambique and to the beauty of Lake Niassa.The research was conducted under the auspices of Projecto PalNiassa, an international, multidisciplinary scientific collaboration that includes more than two dozen scientists from three different continents. The goal of the project is to find, study, and preserve the paleontological heritage of Mozambique.
Niassodon mfumukasi is the first new genus (and species) of a fossil vertebrate from Mozambique, and its holotype (name-bearing specimen) is a rare example of a basal synapsid that preserves the skull and much of the skeleton together.By using micro-computed tomography it was possible to reconstruct digitally not only the bones of Niassodon but also to build a virtual model of its brain. This reveals new information on the brain anatomy of early synapsids, which is important for understanding the evolution of many features of the mammalian brain. The reconstruction of the brain and inner ear anatomy developed for Niassodon is the most detailed presented to date for an early synapsid. Using the digital data acquired in the tomographies, it was possible to isolate all individual bones preserved which allowed the researchers to create a new topological color code, codified mathematically, for the cranial bones. This code will allow the researchers to standardize the colors used in similar digital model built for other animals. The fossil can be visited in the Lourinhã Museum (Portugal), but soon will return to Mozambique, where it will become part of the collections of the National Museum of Geology in Maputo.
The specimen was collected during fieldwork in 2009 with the support of National Museum of Geology (Maputo) and was prepared at the Lourinhã Museum (Portugal), Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Oeiras, Portugal) and Southern Methodist University (Dallas); the 3D tomography was performed in DESY-HZG (Hamburg, Germany). This project was sponsored by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, the National Geographic Society, and TAP Portugal.
4) How the ghost shark lost its stomach:
Lack of digestive organ in fish and other animals linked to genes. Animals from lungfish and ghost sharks to platypuses have lost their acid-making stomachs over evolutionary time, and researchers have now traced the genetic changes behind these stomach upsets.
True stomachs with digestive glands that concentrate acid and release protein-cutting enzymes called pepsins evolved with vertebrates. The gastric glands arose some 450 million years ago but have dwindled away at least 15 separate times across the animal tree of life, explains Filipe Castro of the University of Porto in Portugal.
More than a quarter of known bony fish species digest food without a true acid stomach. Picking out what drove the evolutionary change is tricky, says Jonathan Wilson, also at Porto. For instance, pufferfishes now repurpose their organ to store food and bloat with water for menacing spines-out displays.
After scrutinizing genes of 14 vertebrates with and without stomachs, Castro and his colleagues determined that none of the stomach losers has high-functioning genes for maintaining a highly acidic zone in their digestive tracts.
The animals also lack or have low-functioning genes for secreting the peptic enzymes that slice and dice proteins under acidic conditions, the researchers report December 4 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
5) Fastest supercomputers:
The new list of the world’s fastest computers, now in its 20th year, has China’s Tianhe-2 on top with a processing speed of 33.9 petaflops or quadrillions of calculations per second.Many top supercomputers are at national laboratories and are used mainly for science, such as number two Titan at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In recent years, speeds have risen dramatically and operating systems have switched to Linux, prized by researchers for its flexibility.
6) NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn's north pole. This is the first hexagon movie of its kind, using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature exactly, consistently like this anywhere else in the solar system.
"The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades -- and who knows -- maybe centuries."Weather patterns on Earth are interrupted when they encounter friction from landforms or ice caps. Scientists suspect the stability of the hexagon has something to do with the lack of solid landforms on Saturn, which is essentially a giant ball of gas.
Better views of the hexagon are available now because the sun began to illuminate its interior in late 2012. Cassini captured images of the hexagon over a 10-hour time span with high-resolution cameras, giving scientists a good look at the motion of cloud structures within.They saw the storm around the pole, as well as small vortices rotating in the opposite direction of the hexagon. Some of the vortices are swept along with the jet stream as if on a racetrack. The largest of these vortices spans about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers), or about twice the size of the largest hurricane recorded on Earth.Scientists analyzed these images in false color, a rendering method that makes it easier to distinguish differences among the types of particles suspended in the atmosphere -- relatively small particles that make up haze -- inside and outside the hexagon.
"Inside the hexagon, there are fewer large haze particles and a concentration of small haze particles, while outside the hexagon, the opposite is true," said Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini imaging team associate at Hampton University in Virginia. "The hexagonal jet stream is acting like a barrier, which results in something like Earth's Antarctic ozone hole."The Antarctic ozone hole forms within a region enclosed by a jet stream with similarities to the hexagon. Wintertime conditions enable ozone-destroying chemical processes to occur, and the jet stream prevents a resupply of ozone from the outside. At Saturn, large aerosols cannot cross into the hexagonal jet stream from outside, and large aerosol particles are created when sunlight shines on the atmosphere. Only recently, with the start of Saturn's northern spring in August 2009, did sunlight begin bathing the planet's northern hemisphere."As we approach Saturn's summer solstice in 2017, lighting conditions over its north pole will improve, and we are excited to track the changes that occur both inside and outside the hexagon boundary," said Scott Edgington, Cassini deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.A black-and-white version of the imaging camera movie and movies obtained by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer are also tools Cassini scientists can use to look at wind speeds and the mini-storms inside the jet stream.Cassini launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn on July 1, 2004. Its mission is scheduled to end in September 2017. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
7) How to Change Cell Types by Flipping a Single Switch:
With few exceptions, cells don't change type once they have become specialized -- a heart cell, for example, won't suddenly become a brain cell. However, new findings by researchers at UC Santa Barbara have identified a method for changing one cell type into another in a process called forced transdifferentiation. Their work appears today in the journal Development.With C. elegans as the animal model, lead author Misty Riddle, a Ph.D. student in the Rothman Lab, used transcription factor ELT-7 to change the roundworm's pharynx cells into intestine cells in a single-step process. Every cell has the genetic potential to become any kind of cell. However, the cell's history and the signals it receives changes the transcription factors it contains and thus determines what kind of cell it will become. A transcription factor is a protein that causes genes to turn on.
"This discovery is quite surprising because it was previously thought that only early embryonic cells could be coaxed into changing their identity this readily," Riddle said. "The committed cells that we switched are completely remodeled and reprogrammed in every way that we tested."Switching one cell type into another to replace lost or damaged tissue is a major focus of regenerative medicine. The stumbling block is that cells are very resistant to changing their identity once they've committed to a specific kind."Our discovery means it may become possible to create a tissue or organ of one type directly out of one of another type," says Joel Rothman, professor in UCSB's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, who heads the lab.
Riddle and her colleagues challenged all C. elegans cells to make the switch to intestine, but only the pharynx cells were able to do so. "We asked skin cells, muscles, neurons to change but found that only the cells in the pharynx were able to transform," Riddle explained. "So this brings up some big questions. Why aren't other cells changing their identities? What is special about the cells in the pharynx that allow them to change their identity into intestine?"Since C. elegans is such an incredible model system we can really tackle these questions," she continued. "By knocking down certain genes and manipulating the animal, we can begin to better understand the conditions under which skin cells and muscles cells might change their identities. That will help us figure out what is special about the cells in the pharynx."
Previous studies in the Rothman lab revealed the cascade of transcription factors required for the proper development of the C. elegans intestine. Used in the later stage of intestine development, ELT-7 continues to be expressed for the life of the animal and has important functions not only in gut development but also in gut function.
This study is revolutionary in that researchers have clearly demonstrated that cells are not limited to their original identities. "Think of them as different rooms in a house," Riddle said."Like cells, different rooms in your house have different structures and functions. Changing the function of a room is likely to be easier if the structures are similar, say, turning a bedroom into a living room or vice versa. But changing the bathroom into a living room presents a bigger challenge," Riddle explained. "Just as some rooms in a house are more easily converted to others, some cell types may be more easily coaxed into changing their identity to another specific type. This doesn't seem to depend on the relatedness of the cells in terms of when they were born or how closely related they are in their lineage."Maybe the heart cell can become a brain cell after all.As demonstrated by another important finding in the UCSB study, the cells remodeled themselves in a continuous process; there were stages in the remodeling process during which the identity of the cell was mixed. "Going back to the home remodeling example," Riddle said, "the couch and television were added to the bedroom before the bed and dresser were removed.""The key importance of our finding is that we have observed cells undergoing a process of morphing in which one specialized cell type is converted into another of an entirely different type," Rothman said. "This means that it may be possible to turn any cell into any other cell in a direct conversion. In terms of our understanding of biological constraints over cell identity, we've shown a barrier that we believed absolutely prevents cells from switching their identity does not exist. It may one day be possible to switch an entire organ from one kind to another."
8) Fossils Clarify the Origins of Wasps and Their Kin: Alderfly Ancestors, Snakefly Cousins:
Wasps, bees, ants and relatives comprise the megadiverse insect order Hymenoptera, the third most speciose animal group on Earth, far surpassing the number of known vertebrate species. All the four most diverse orders of animals (beetles, butterflies, wasps, and true flies) belong to the group of insects with complete metamorphosis, i.e. having a dormant pupa, jointly known as Holometabola. Other holometabolans are lacewings, alderflies, dobsonflies, snakeflies, scorpionflies, fleas, and caddisflies. Hymenopterans are currently regarded as a very old lineage, which had been the first to separate from the holometabolan stem, the view supported by molecular evidence.
Eighty years ago the Russian entomologist Andrey Martynov -- well known for naming the two major divisions of winged insects Palaeoptera and Neoptera, stressing the importance of the wing folding pattern for insect evolution -- suggested that wasps had arisen from snakefly-like ancestors.
New fossils, which are 260-270 million years old, support his view, firmly attaching the wasp lineage to the lacewing (neuropteroid) branch of the holometabolan family tree and dating its origin no earlier than Late Permian. These fossils are the oldest known Megaloptera: alderfly-like Parasialidae, and a newly discovered closely related family Nanosialidae.
Dr Dmitry Shcherbakov, a fossil insect specialist at the Arthropoda Lab, founded by Martynov at the Borissiak Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow argues that parasialids gave rise to both wasps and nanonosialids, and the latter became the ancestors of snakeflies. Living alderflies, dobsonflies, and snakeflies represent remnants of the past diversity of archaic neuropteroids, which presumably had diverse lifestyles. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.
Parasialids were small to medium-sized; nanosialids were minute creatures 3-5 mm long and probably fed on jumping plant lice, common in the same fossil fauna. The earliest wasps, known from the mid-Triassic (about 240 million years ago), were rather small, too. "It appears that, early in their history," the author says, "the lineages of Megaloptera, Raphidioptera and Hymenoptera experienced miniaturization, which profoundly and irreversibly affected their body structure."
9) New Solar Cell Material Acts as a Laser As Well:
BOSTON—The hottest new material in solar cell research has another trick up its sleeve. At the Materials Research Society meeting here, two groups reported yesterday that these new electricity-generating materials can produce laser light. Because the materials—called perovskites—are cheap and easy to produce, they could help engineers create a wide variety of cheap lasers that shine a variety of colors for use in speeding data flows in the telecommunications industry.
Lasers have long been at the heart of modern telecommunications because their intense light beams can be chopped up to represent digital currency’s 1s and 0s and can travel through optical cables at light speed. But making new lasers can be a bear. Researchers must find materials that, when fed electrons, will generate light at a single wavelength. That usually requires growing materials with near-perfect crystalline quality, as defects usually gobble up the electrical charges, the photons of light, or both. Growing such high-quality materials normally requires using high temperatures, expensive equipment, and other costly steps. Making the best solar cell materials requires similarly expensive setups. Perovskites have burst onto the solar scene over the last couple of years because it turns out they form near-perfect complex crystalline structures by simply depositing them from ready-made solutions at low temperatures. But were they good enough to make lasers, an even more demanding application?
At the meeting, two groups reported that, in fact, they are. The first, led by Edward Sargent, an electrical engineer at the University of Toronto in Canada, started by simply blasting a perovskite film with a beam of ultraviolet light. The scientists found that light reemerged from the film at a tight range of frequencies in the infrared portion of the spectrum. That was a hint that perovskites could make a good laser material. But it wasn’t a laser yet. To make a laser, researchers must create a structure that bounces light back and forth. In the right material, that shuttling light stimulates a cascade of additional photons to emerge all at a single frequency. So Sargent and his colleagues crafted their perovskites into spheres that prompt light to bounce around inside and found that it emerged as infrared laser light. Meanwhile, Henry Snaith, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, reported that when his team sandwiched a perovskite film in between laser mirrors known as Bragg reflectors, it, too, produced infrared laser light when first hit with laser light of a shorter wavelength.
Perovskites still have a long way to go before they’ll make commercially viable lasers, Sargent says. For starters, researchers must show that the materials can lase when plugged into an electrical outlet, rather than when hit with another beam of laser light. Neither Sargent’s group nor Snaith’s has done that yet. If they can, Sargent says, “it would be very important” because perovskites could be grown on cheap silicon wafers, thus potentially creating a new class of cheap lasers for the telecommunications industry.Even without that step, the new work underscores just how impressive perovskites are for something so simple and cheap to grow, says David Ginley, a materials scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. “It’s really remarkable how good the material is.”
Movie Release This Week:
Russell Baze has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell’s brother Rodney returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so - with nothing left to lose - Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother.
Gemma (Penelope Cruz) returns to Sarajevo with her son, Pietro, after escaping the war-torn city sixteen years earlier. Diego (Emile Hirsch), Pietro’s father, remained behind and later died in the Bosnian conflict. As Gemma tries to repair her difficult relationship with Pietro, she also confronts her past.
Gemma first met and fell in love with Diego in Sarajevo. They desperately wanted children but she could not conceive. Amidst the siege of 1992, they found a possible surrogate and Gemma pushed her into Diego’s arms, only to be overwhelmed by guilt and jealousy.
Now, a revelation awaits Gemma – one that will force her to face the full extent of her loss, the true horror of war and the redemptive power of love.
As their last day on Mars draws to a close, the astronaut crew is on the verge of a major breakthrough – collected rock specimens reveal microscopic evidence of life. Meanwhile, communication is underway with AURORA, the approaching spacecraft that will relieve the crew of their operations. In their last hours on the planet, two astronauts go back to SITE 9, a cavernous valley on the surface of Mars, to collect further evidence of their discovery. But a routine excavation turns deadly when one of them falls to his death and his body taken host and re-animated by the very life form they sought to discover.
Rejected by his superstitious herd, a half-striped zebra embarks on a daring quest to earn his stripes but finds the courage and self-acceptance to save all the animals of the Great Karoo.
Aiden (Josh Lawson) craves a better life. A life away from his gruesome job as a crime scene photographer, working alongside his detective friend Pete (Ron Perlman). A meaningful life where he can escape the hard streets of Detroit, fall in love with the perfect woman and save the world from evil. As Aiden's dark fantasies begin to invade his reality, he meets Virginia (Emma Lung), a younger woman with her own dilemmas and desires. Estranged from her deadbeat boyfriend Ravi (Edward Furlong,) Virginia explores an uncertain relationship with Aiden, who becomes increasingly emboldened to live out his vigilante fantasies. But as Virginia is faced with the disturbing truth of Aiden's inner life, Aiden soon learns that he will pay a terrible price for his twisted imagination.
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
Political News This Week:
1) Army opposes Pak demand for troop withdrawal from Siachen:
The Army has rubbished Pakistan's demand for withdrawal of troops from the Siachen Glacier saying it would not move out from the strategically important icy heights.
The force has put across its stand on the issue after Advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz asked India to withdraw troops from there claiming that they posed a "serious threat" to Pakistan's environment.
The Army would not like to move out from the Glacier as it is of strategic importance to us and in the last several years, we have taken several steps towards maintaining the environmental equilibrium there, Army officials said.
Last year, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had made it clear that the Indian military has shed a lot of blood for occupying the Glacier and it would not like to move out of there.
He had stated that the "area is very important and India must continue to hold that area and we have held that view always... We have lost our lives and lot of blood has been shed to get into these areas and occupy the heights and positions".Pakistan has been pushing for demilitarisation of Siachen but India has maintained that this cannot take place without proper authentication by both sides of the present troop positions on the Glacier.
The Army has not changed its views on the importance of the strategic heights which have been under Indian physical control since 1984 after the Army launched to Operation Meghdoot to occupy them.In the recent times, the Army has worked towards using new and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy to meet its energy requirements in the glacier areas and DRDO has also taken up work in this direction.
2) Delhi polls: Many voters use 'None Of The Above' option:
A section of voters in Delhi chose to exercise the newly-introduced 'None Of The Above Option' on Wednesday, saying they have "little expectations" from any of the political parties engaged in the electoral battle.
"This election has given us he unique opportunity of pressing the NOTA button," said Arvind Tyagi, who listed a host of problems faced by his colony in Vikaspuri in West Delhi.
The apex court had given the path-breaking verdict this September, holding voters have a right to reject all candidates contesting polls in a constituency by pressing NOTA.
Following the court order, the Election Commission had introduced the option in assembly polls for Mizoram, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and now Delhi.
Scores of voters across the city said they exercised the NOTA option to "alter" the nature of the political contest.
"Last year, my family members and I did not cast our votes. We had given a letter to the authorities rejecting all the candidates. This time we exercised the NOTA option," said Baliram Sharma, a resident of Laxmi Nagar.
A number of youngsters at BJP's chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan's constituency in Krishna Nagar also said they did not vote for any party and instead pressed the NOTA button.
But a large number of people in south Delhi said they were not aware of NOTA."No, we are not aware of any such options available to us (voters). I knew only that we had to choose from one of the candidates," said Lalita Sharma, a housewife from Chhatarpur constituency at a Model Polling Station.
3) Delhi witnesses RECORD turnout; 66% cast votes:
A record 66 per cent Delhiites voted on Wednesday in the fiercely fought assembly polls, considered the litmus test for Congress ahead of the next year's Lok Sabha elections, as arch rival Bharatiya Janata Party and debutant Aam Aadmi Party made it a tight triangular contest.
The high-pitched battle that saw the BJP aggressively campaigning to stop Congress from getting a fourth consecutive term and greenhorn AAP, trying to corner both traditional political parties on corruption issue, culminated with nearly 80 lakh out of the 1.19 crore voters deciding the fate of 810 candidates.
While the Congress was seeking another term under Sheila Dikshit, the BJP and the AAP were led by their chief ministerial candidates Harsh Vardhan and bureaucrat-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal respectively for the 70-member assembly.
"The turnout has been around 66 per cent. The election was incident free," Delhi's Chief Electoral officer Vijay Dev said addressing a press conference in the evening.
Nearly 70,000 people were standing in queue around 6 pm, he said.
Today's turnout was a record in all elections in Delhi including assembly and Lok Sabha polls in last two decades. In 2008 assembly polls, the overall voting percentage was 57.58 while in 2003, it was 53.42 per cent.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Dikshit, Kejriwal and Vardhan were among the early voters.
4) Mars mission travels beyond Earth's sphere of influence:
India's maiden mission to Mars has traversed beyond the sphere of influence of Earth extending about 9,25,000 km in its 10-month long voyage to the red planet.
The spacecraft crossed the SOI of Earth at around 1:14 hrs (IST) on Wednesday, Indian Space Research Organisation said.
The Mars orbiter spacecraft had slung out of its earth-bound orbit in the early hours of December 1 during the critical 22-minute Trans Mars Injection, a manoeuvre billed as the "mother of all slingshots."
The spacecraft which was in a hyperbolic orbit had escaped from the SOI, after the first step on Sunday in the Mars mission's 680 million-km-long odyssey to its destination to put on course the country's first ever inter-planetary space rendezvous.
ISRO has planned four mid-course corrections -- around December 11, in April, August and on September 14 -- in case of any deviation along its path to the Martian orbit before its expected arrival in the orbit of the Red planet in September 2014.
The spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network in Bangalore with support from Indian Deep Space Network antennae at Byalalu.
The Mars mission's success would catapult India into a small club, which included the US, Europe and Russia, whose probes have orbited or landed on Mars.
ISRO's workhorse ISRO's PSLV C 25 had successfully injected the 1,350-kg 'Mangalyaan' Orbiter into the orbit around the earth in a textbook launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on November 5.
5 ) Government pitches for Communal Violence Bill in Winter session:
Pitching for the safe passage of Communal Violence Bill in the current session of Parliament, Minorities Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan on Thursday said it is not a divisive bill and efforts are on to arrive at a consensus on the issue.
"Consultations are going on to bring the bill in the session. Home ministry is discussing it with other states seeking opinions," Khan said outside Parliament.
Government is moving ahead with the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill that aims to protect minorities against targeted attacks.
Asked about the opinions of other parties on the draft bill, Khan said "There is no need for disagreement over the draft bill. Our efforts are to have a consensus on it."
On Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's opposition to the bill, he said "Perhaps he does not want any such law. Worst communal violence has taken place in Gujarat and he had failed to control it. It is the duty of the Centre to bring the law."
Modi has dubbed the communal violence bill as a "recipe for disaster."
Making a scathing attack on Modi for opposing the Bill, Janata Dal-United leader KC Tyagi said "there are obvious reasons for Modi to oppose the bill. The government of Gujarat is solely responsible for massacre in Godhra. It is natural for Modi to oppose it."
Tyagi further said, "There should be a debate on it but we are not in favour of giving any concession to those who are responsible for riots. Our party wants the bill should come this session and there should be steps to prevent riots."
SP leader Ramgopal Yadav, however, refused to comment on the anti-riot bill saying, "there is no possibility of such bill to come this time. No controversial bill will come this time."Pressing further to clarify his stand on the bill, Yadav said, "It is a hypothetical question so I would not comment."Describing the Babri mosque demolition as "shameful" he said, his party would raise the issue on Friday in the House and not allow it to function.Winter Session of Parliament began on Thursday but was adjourned for the day after condoling the death of sitting members-Mohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha and Murarilal Singh in the Lok Sabha.
6) Congress trashes exit polls, BJP says Cong "demoralised":
The exit polls that predicted a strong showing for BJP in four states in Wednesday's crucial Assembly polls were on Friday rubbished by Congress as one which has "no meaning" while the saffron party said it appears to be "completely demoralised".
Various exit polls on TV channels have predicted that the BJP is poised to win three states -- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh -- and will lead in Delhi.
AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh refused to accept either the merit of the exit polls or the contention that the results of the assembly polls prove BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's rise in the next Lok Sabha polls."There is no meaning in such exit poll results and they deserve to be consigned to dustbin," he told reporters.
Digvijay's son Jaiwardhan said exit polls are unreliable and are error-prone.
BJP said Congress is demoralised at the prospect of losing the Assembly polls and may fail to respond to this crisis as it continues to be dependent on one dynasty for its survival.In his Facebook post, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said that though the exit polls have their limitations and a margin of error cannot be ruled out, the outcome indicates a trend.
"Congress appears to be completely demoralised...If this is the demoralisation that the exit polls give to the Congress, I wonder what would happen when the actual results come in," Jaitley said. Counting of votes will be taken up on Sunday. "Unless the Congress responds to this reality, it will never find the correct answers. The relevance of charisma of a dynasty is never a long term answer in politics. When the political parties become a crowd around a family, the strength of the party becomes synonymous with the capacity of that family," Jaitley said.
Noting that Congress has become a dynastic party, he said if the dynasty cannot deliver, the party fails."Observing this party closely, I have no doubt that they will not ask the right questions. Unless they ask the right questions, they will not get the right answers. I will not be surprised, considering the traditional thinking of the Congress, if their solution to the problem is 'if one member of the family fails, let us try another'," Jaitley said.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said she neither believes in exit polls nor agrees with projections made about her losing power."I don't believe in exit polls and I don't believe in your projections (made by TV channels," she said, adding, "I am relaxed".
7) Cabinet approves Telangana with 10 districts:
The Union Cabinet on Thursday night gave the go-ahead for the creation of a 10-district Telangana and outlined the blueprint for carving out the country's 29th state from the current Andhra Pradesh.Dropping a controversial move to add two districts of Rayalaseema to Telangana, which was opposed by various stakeholders, the cabinet, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved a draft reorganisation bill based on recommendations of Group of Ministers.
The decision of the cabinet came after the Congress Core Group met in the morning and cleared the CWC resolution of Telangana with 10 districts.
The bill will be sent to the President on Friday with a request to make a reference to Andhra Pradesh assembly to obtain its views, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters after nearly a three-hour long cabinet meeting.Shinde said government wants to bring the bill in the winter session of parliament but it depends on when the President returns the bill after signing it.The highlights of the bill are: Telangana will comprise 10 districts and the rest of Andhra Pradesh comprises 13 districts.Hyderabad will remain the common capital for both the states for a period not exceeding 10 years.
The Governor of Telangana will have a special responsibility for security of life, liberty and property of all those who reside in the common capital area. The Governor may be assisted by two advisors to be appointed by the Government of India.The government of India will extend financial and other support to the creation of a new capital for the successor state of Andhra Pradesh to be identified by an expert committee.Institutional mechanism with full involvement and participation of government of India will be put in place to manage water resources and projects on Krishna and Godavari rivers in an amicable and equitable manner.Polavaram will be declared as a national project and will be executed by the union government following all environmental and R&R norms.Detailed provisions have been made in the bill on matters relating to coal, power, oil and gas, division of assets and liabilities and allocation of government employees.
The government of India will assist the two states in augumenting their police forces for maintaining public order.Article 371 D will continue for the both states to ensure equitable opportunities for education and public employment.Existing admission quotas in higher technical and medical institutions will continue for a period not exceeding five years.
8) No stopping Mamata magic, TMC wins 4 of 5 civic bodies:
There is no waning of the Mamata Banerjee-magic in West Bengal as her party Trinamool Congress maintained its winning streak bagging four of the five municipalities that went to polls last week.
It snatched Jhargram and Howrah from the CPIM, swept Krishnannagar and retained Medinipur. It also managed to make dent in Congress leader and Union minister Adhir Chowdhury's bastion Baharampur where it won a couple of seats for the first time.
The CPM was dislodged from Jhargram in the once-Maoist infested West Midnapore district after 31 years by the TMC, which won 16 of the 17 seats, which went to polls, while the Left Front managed one seat.
More humiliation followed for the Left Front as Howrah Mayor Mamta Jaiswal and deputy mayor Kaberi Moitra lost. Of the 49 seats out of 50, for which results were declared in Howrah, TMC bagged 41 seats, Congress four seats and Left Front and BJP secured two each.
In Krishnanagar, considered, a Congress stronghold, Trinamool pocketed 22 of the 24 seats —- the remaining two going to Independents who have announced that they will soon join the TMC.Medinipur, which was so far run by an alliance of TMC and Congress, also landed in ruling party's kitty as it won 13 of the 25 wards. Congress and Left got six and five seats, respectively.
The only place municipality Congress managed to retain its seat was Behrampore. However, for the first time since 1998, the Congress conceded two of the 28 seats to Tmc, while retaining all the others. TMC leaders termed it a huge success. "The vote per cent of TMC has also gone up from 2.8 per cent in 2008 to 29 per cent this time," said TMC all India general secretary, Mukul Roy.Adhir aide-turned rival Humayun Kabir sounded optimistic too. "Adhir Chowdhury had used muscle power and money power so far to retain the seats here. Victory in two seats has paved our way into the Behrampore Municipality where in years to come, we will form the board as well," he said.
Adhir Chowdhury, however, said the ruling government had done everything possible to create the inroad. "They have won in two wards but more than the organisational strength, it was the unfair tactics. The ruling party had advantage of announcing projects, which would lure people. Again, they kept me out of election campaigning by framing me in different cases. Those definitely had an effect," he said.
State Congress leaders said the TMC victory was a joint victory of the TMC and the state Election Commission (SEC). "We had apprehended trouble and informed SEC Mira Pande on several occasions but she took no steps to stop the violence, which the TMC resorted to win the election," said senior Congress leader Nirbed Roy.
Besides the Municipal elections, poll results of byelections in 29 wards of different municipalities were also announced today. Among these, TMC won in 23 wards.
9) Nelson Mandela dead at 95: Anti-apartheid hero and former South African president dies in Johannesburg:
Nelson Mandela led the fight to end apartheid, government-sanctioned racial segregation in South Africa, ultimately succeeding with the odds stacked against him. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
The lion of South Africa sleeps forever tonight.Nelson Mandela, who led the fight against apartheid and then pushed for reconciliation as his country’s first black president, died after a prolonged illness Thursday. He was 95.
“He passed on peacefully in the comfort of his family,” South African President Jacob Zuma said in an address to the world just before midnight Thursday in the African nation. “We’ve lost our greatest son.” As word of the death of the man South Africans called Madiba spread across the heartbroken country, hundreds of weeping mourners converged on Mandela’s home in Johannesburg, chanting, “Viva Mandela, viva!”
Fittingly, blacks and whites mourned Mandela together.“If it wasn’t for Mandela, I wouldn’t be chilling with my black friends,” said 19-year-old Dominic Sadie, who is white and was part of the giant crowd of people holding candles and paying their respects. “I love him.” Mandela died at 8:50 p.m. local time, but Zuma didn’t make his sad announcement until a little before midnight.Weeping South Africans raced out into streets in their pajamas, including one black mom who rushed over to Mandela’s house with her two daughters.“I am glad that he is in a better place, but I hope South Africans will be able to deal with his death,” she said through her tears. Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last president during the era of state-sanctioned racial segregation.
“I liked him and I immediately felt that this is truly a man of greatness,” de Klerk recalled. “I think Nelson Mandela’s legacy is don’t be bitter about the past, take the hands also of your former enemies.”In Washington, President Obama said Mandela “no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages.”Mandela died at 8:50 p.m. local time, but Zuma didn’t make his sad announcement until a little before midnight.Weeping South Africans raced out into streets in their pajamas, including one black mom who rushed over to Mandela’s house with her two daughters.“I am glad that he is in a better place, but I hope South Africans will be able to deal with his death,” she said through her tears.
Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last president during the era of state-sanctioned racial segregation.“I liked him and I immediately felt that this is truly a man of greatness,” de Klerk recalled. “I think Nelson Mandela’s legacy is don’t be bitter about the past, take the hands also of your former enemies.”In Washington, President Obama said Mandela “no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages.”
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Mandela’s life,” Obama said at the White House. “So long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him.”
Obama ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until sunset Monday and prepared to fly out to South Africa for a state funeral. Former President Bill Clinton, another politician who drew inspiration from the mighty South African, was in his New York City office when he got the word.
“Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings,” Clinton said.
Sport News This Week:
1) Big step for Indian football as country to host 2017 U-17 World Cup:
In a small, yet significant, step towards India's dream of being counted among football's elite, the country was chosen as the host of the 2017 under-17 World Cup on Thursday. The decision was taken by FIFA's executive committee, which met in the north-eastern Brazilian city of Bahia. This is the first time India have been awarded a FIFA tournament and, by the virtue of being the hosts, the country will also make it's first appearance at a major global football competition. The dates of the tournament are yet to be finalised. India has hosted Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Youth Championships (Under-20) in 2006 and the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 but never any FIFA tournament.
India fended off competitive bids from 2010 World Cup host South Africa, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Republic of Ireland too had expressed interest in hosting the biennial competition but did not make an official bid. The 24-team tournament will be held in six of the eight prospective venues, which will be decided by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in consultation with FIFA. The shortlisted venues are: New Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi and Guwahati.
The announcement was seen as a mere formality, after FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary Jerome Valcke publicly backed AIFF's bid earlier this year. India also enjoyed the backing of its continental body, the AFC.
AIFF president Praful Patel said the hard work begins now. "Hosting a tournament of such stature will help galvanise the face of Indian Football among the masses. Football is popular in certain pockets. With the U-17 WC, I strongly believe the popularity will swell."
2) Welcome to South Africa: Pace, bounce and swing give India a rude awakening:
It was the first real bouncer of the day. And it was quick and nasty. Unlike the few that had cruised over the South African batsmen's heads, hardly threatening them. This was at breakneck speed and climbing towards Shikhar Dhawan's throat, fast and menacingly. The Delhi left-hander did to his credit attempt a pull-shot. A meek one it might have been. The result: top-edged and looping into wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock's gloves.
You could almost have imagined the entire Indian dressing-room go 'Nooo' in unison. Not just because their hopeful pursuit of 359 had been rendered an early shock with the loss of their attacking opener. But more so because the dismissal had set off a chorus of 'I told you so' around the cricketing world, probably even back home in India. And as India were all out for 217, losing the first ODI by 141 runs, the old story about India's woes on lively tracks abroad was unfolding once again.
Pace, bounce, seam, Steyn and Morkel after all have been the buzzwords ever since the Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co left for these shores three days back. And with just one well-directed short-pitched delivery, Morkel had set the tone in many ways for the tour.
Dale Steyn was not bowling bouncers at the other end, however. The South African pace ace instead was rendering Rohit Sharma a reality check. By the end of Steyn's second over, Rohit had left six balls alone while the other six had seamed past his outside-edge. The bat and ball were having a clear tiff. The right-hander, who had arrived here in the pinkest form imaginable, was in the middle of a strenuous inquisition, one for which he seemed to have no response.
Different ball game
Despite not being filled to the brim, the Bullring was living up to its reputation. The cauldron was now starting to feel a lot more daunting, especially for Rohit. All of a sudden, ODI cricket seemed a lot more different. You couldn't just plonk your front foot and smash the delivery, whatever its length, anywhere you pleased. The ball was playing tricks it wasn't supposed to, or ones that the Indian batsmanhadn't witnessed in a long while.
3) Junior World Cup: India face tough start:
Waiting for the Junior Hockey World Cup trophy unveiling ceremony to begin at the team hotel on Thursday, captain Manpreet Singh, who was happily chatting away with his teammates in one corner of the plush hall, spotted a familiar face in the crowd. He whispered something to Mandeep Singh, and the duo excused themselves from the conversation, made their way towards the tall bloke with flowing blond locks and embraced him.
It was Floris Evers, former Dutch international and now manager of the Netherlands under-21. At that moment, however, he was Manpreet and Mandeep's Ranchi Rhinos teammate. Rhinos coach Gregg Clark, who now trains the India colts, looked on approvingly. Pleasantries exchanged, they joked around for a while before going back to their respective places.
The next time Evers and Manpreet see each other, on Friday evening, the meeting will curt and more formal - a nod, perhaps, or a shake of hands. Having shared success 10 months ago in the HIL, they will now be plotting each others fall as the two title favorite teams square off in their cracker of a World Cup opener.
On paper, it may be argued, India have an advantage by the slimmest of margins over their Pool C rivals.
India are an experienced bunch. All of them have played at the senior level - they have 334 international caps between them. The corresponding number of the Netherlands is 0. But that could be because the Netherlands senior team is very tough to break into and that, with senior World Cup scheduled to played at home (The Hague) in 2014, they haven't been looking to experiment as much as the Indian team have been.
The next parameter is the head-to-head record. The Indian colts played three matches against their Dutch counterparts during their European trip this summer and the results were — a win, a loss and a draw. The Indian camp may cite that playing in home conditions is always a bonus, but then on a December evening in Delhi, a European team is unlike to feel "away" either. Therefore, it's the 12th man, the crowd, that may make some difference. "We are playing at home, the crowd will be behind us, so I think we have a better chance than the rest," said India U-21 coach Clark.
Both teams will know a win here will almost ensure a quarterfinal berth, even though their fellow Pool C team will be out to prove they are no pushovers. Korea take on Canada in the first match of the World Cup at 12 pm.
Meanwhile, while India vs Netherlands is the main course, the appetizer is no less mouthwatering, with Australia facing Argentina in a Pool B clash (2pm ) and defending champions Germany facing European champions Belgium in an near-simultaneous Pool A encounter (2:30pm) on the adjacent pitch.
4) In NZ's biggest scandal, 3 former Kiwi stars under fixing probe: Report:
New Zealand Cricket had been aware for months of the International Cricket Council investigation into former New Zealand players' involvement in alleged match-fixing, NZC chief executive David White said on Thursday.
The ICC was forced to issue a statement confirming it had been investigating a small group of players after a local newspaper reported that up to three players were involved in a probe by the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.
NZC had also issued a statement before White gave a short media conference at University Oval in Dunedin before the third day's play of the first test between New Zealand and West Indies began."New Zealand Cricket is aware that the International Cricket Council is investigating a small number of New Zealand cricketers," White told reporters.
"We have been aware of this investigation for a number of months and are shocked and surprised by the allegations."I do know who they are but I can't name them because it is with the ICC," he added when asked if he knew who was the subject of the investigation.White said it was his understanding that three players were under scrutiny. He would not comment on whether the players were aware that they were under investigation.No current players are the subject of the probe and the matches under investigation were overseas and not domestic matches in New Zealand, he said.
He would not say in what years the players had appeared for New Zealand.The ICC had kept NZC up to date with regular meetings, he added.
The ICC had earlier confirmed its investigation following the report in the New Zealand Herald."The ICC confirms that it has indeed been working closely over the past few months with its colleagues in the domestic anti-corruption units of member boards to investigate these and related matters," the statement said.
5) Foreign players await Indian Badminton League payment:
More than three months after the completion of the Indian Badminton League, a few top players of the Pune Piston are yet to receive part of the payment promised to them. According to the IBL contract, players were to be paid in four equal installments, with the final 25 percent to be released within 15 days of the completion of the event.
A foreign player, who requested anonymity, said: "I have been sending constant reminders to the franchise owners about the pending 25 percent of my contract money. I am given a new date every time but the money has not arrived so far. There are other foreign players from my IBL team also awaiting payment."
Juliane Schenk, Tan Wee Kiong, Joachim Fischer-Nielsen and Tien Minh Nyugen were the four imports for Pune Pistons, the team that reached the semi-finals of the inaugural IBL edition. While Schenk was picked up for $90,000 at the auction, the Pistons forked out $44,000 and $35,000 for Nyugen and Fischer-Nielsen respectively. Tan Wee Kiong was signed for $15,000. The auction for all players, whether Indian or from abroad, was conducted in US Dollars, with the contract stating that the IBL had capped the exchange rate at Rs 54.54 to a dollar as per the contract.Savan Daru, Pune Piston's co-owner, denied there was any outstanding payment.
"All our players have been paid in full. We were a day late in releasing the first block of 25 percent, however we released 50 percent of their contract values a couple of days after the semi-finals. As far as I know, all my players have been paid and that too at the current exchange rate of the dollar," he said.
However, in an email forwarded by the player to The Indian Express, Daru on November 11, wrote that the player would receive the money by November 25, more than two months after the completion of the league. In another email sent earlier, the player was told that the payment deadline was September 25. The player, though, is still to receive the money owed.
6) Kambli made poor choices... but Vinod still has some goodwill left:
I notice Vinod Kambli was rushed to hospital last week. It was a different Kambli from the person I knew. I found myself wishing for his health but increasingly when it became clear that he would be fine I found myself wishing for some stability in his life. I don't know if he seeks it but it has dodged him for a long time now. If there is a God, He drove a hard bargain with him; gave him the kind of talent others crave for but took away a lot of the skills you need to make the most of the talent.
Kambli didn't become the cricketer he could have been, and that's all right, very few do anyway, but increasingly in a mad search for attention, he became a caricature. He isn't alone there either. Kambli these days is an example of what fleeting fame can do. It takes away the high but leaves you lusting for it. And this search has seen him put his finger on a self-destruct button and, sad to say, keep it permanently pressed. He makes the news for the wrong reasons and there is a large part of me that wants him to turn his back on the present and re-enter a world where he has a lot of goodwill; where people remember him with a warm smile; not just for the runs he once made but for the disarming guy you had no option but to like.
The Vinod I so grew to like had an amazing story to tell. Of carrying a kit bag bigger than him, of lugging it into the compartment where the fisherwomen sat because he couldn't get space otherwise and, telling this himself with a laugh, of smelling of fish for the rest of the day! It should have been the story to beat all stories; of how an extraordinarily gifted young man fought the odds, struggled his way through, endured many many hardships to play for Bombay and then, so dramatically, for India.
Book Release This Week:
1) Ajaya- Roll of the Dice, Epic of the Kaurava clan (Book I) : by Anand Neelakanta:
THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.
At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean.
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land.
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more.
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.
Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls
I was born in a quaint little village called Thripoonithura, on the outskirts of Cochin, Kerala. Located east of mainland Ernakulam, across Vembanad Lake, this village had the distinction of being the seat of the Cochin royal family. However, it was more famous for its hundred odd temples; the various classical artists it produced and its music school. I remember many an evening listening to the faint rhythm of Chendas from the temples and the notes of the flute escaping over the rugged walls of the school of music. Gulf money and the rapidly expanding city of Cochin have, however, wiped away all remaining vestiges of that old world charm. The village has evolved into the usual, unremarkable, suburban hell hole, clones of which dot India. Growing up in a village with more temples than was necessary, it was no wonder that the Ramayana fascinated me. Ironically, I was drawn to the anti-hero of the epic – Ravana, and to his people, the Asuras. I wondered about their magical world. But my fascination remained dormant for many years, emerging only briefly to taunt and irritate my pious aunts during family gatherings. Life went on… I became an engineer; joined the Indian Oil Corporation; moved to Bangalore; married Aparna and welcomed my daughter Ananya, and my son, Abhinav. But the Asura emperor would not leave me alone. For six years he haunted my dreams, walked with me, and urged me to write his version of the story. He was not the only one who wanted his version of the story to be told. One by one, irrelevant and minor characters of the Ramayana kept coming up with their own versions. Bhadra, who was one of the many common Asuras who were inspired, led and betrayed by Ravana, also had a remarkable story to tell, different from that of his king. And both their stories are different from the Ramayana that has been told in a thousand different ways across Asia over the last three millennia. This is then Asurayana, the story of the Asuras, the story of the vanquished
2) The Almond Tree : by Michelle Cohen Corasanti:
The Almond Tree is an epic novel, a drama of the proportions of The Kite Runner, but set in Palestine. A beauty..I predict it will become one of the biggest best sellers of the decade. Huffington Post.
Michelle Cohen Corasanti delivers a universal story of human courage and perseverance in her debut novel, The Almond Tree. Beginning in a small rural village, a young boy named Ichmad comes of age from the 1950’s to 2010 in a journey of enlightenment and understanding of the climate that surrounds him.
The Almond Tree is an inspirational story of unfathomable pain and an incredible perseverance. The Almond Tree humanizes a culture and brings characters from a distant land to life, with a family united by love but divided by their personal beliefs. From Ichmad’s staunchly traditional and at times overbearing mother, to his father who believes in the power of education, the crux of the family’s story lies in the growing dispute between two brothers who choose very different paths in order to create a new future.
The Almond Tree brings humanity and clarity to the Arab-Israeli conflict and reveals themes of redemption and family sacrifice. Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s personal experience of living in Israel for seven years while attending high school and obtaining her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from the Hebrew University lends her the perspective, insight and ability to shed new light on a controversial history. The Almond Tree showcases the resilience of the human spirit and brings forth a message of the necessity of education and a plan for peace in the conflict.
Michelle Cohen Corasanti: grew up in a Jewish home in which German cars were boycotted and Israeli bonds were plentiful. Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box her family kept in the kitchen and the money they would give to plant trees in Israel, all she learned growing up was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom.
Until third grade, Michelle attended public school and then she transferred to the Hillel Yeshiva. The greatest lesson Michelle feels she learned at this Yeshiva was articulated by Rabbi Hillel (30BC-10AD), one of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era in his famous quote, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another. This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary.” There were two students in her sixth grade graduating class.
Michelle returned to public school for seventh grade, stopped wearing skirts with pants underneath and re-befriended her former best-friend whom she had lost touch with during her yeshiva years. Her friend’s father had since died, her mother turned into a raging alcoholic and her older brothers spent most of their time in their bedrooms listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in a state Michelle still was too young to recognize. Michelle’s friend lived without rules as she had no supervision. Just what every teenage girl wants and what every parent doesn’t.
Being the oldest and the only daughter in the family, Michelle’s parents’ strictness suffocated her. She decided she wanted to study abroad in Paris in order to get distance from her parental-choke-hold. Her Zionist parents rejected that idea and sent Michelle to Israel to study Judaism and Hebrew with the Rabbi’s perfectly well-behaved and obedient daughter Miriam. Michelle was sixteen-years-old and the year was 1982.
Despite having come from Utica, New York, the transition to the Ben Shemen Boarding School was effortless for Michelle. She soon had an Israeli boyfriend. When he told her he was a Kahanist, she had no idea what he was talking about. “I believe in transfer,” he told her. “There are 21 Arab countries, the Pal