Friday, February 24, 2012

Quran-Burning Protests Escalate

Afghans hold an effigy of President Barack Obama at a demonstration Friday near Kabul. Some two dozen people have been killed in protests.
Afghan demonstrators shout anti-US slogans
KABULAfghanistan's government and religious leaders struggled to mollify angry worshippers Friday, as a new wave of deadly protests against the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base swept across the country.

While most of Friday's demonstrations ended peacefully, several degenerated into turbulent clashes between Afghan police and marchers chanting anti-American slogans. The deadliest of these clashes took place in Herat, a normally tranquil city in western Afghanistan, where demonstrators tried to march toward the U.S. consulate compound. At least seven people were killed and 65 injured during confrontations with the Afghan security forces in the province, according to Mahiddin Noori, a spokesman for the Herat governor.

At one point during the unsuccessful attempt to reach the U.S. Consulate, three demonstrators were killed when they set fire to a police truck equipped with heavy ammunition. The truck exploded amid the group of police and protesters.

In total, at least two dozen people have been killed, including two U.S. soldiers, in four days of violence that erupted after U.S.-led coalition forces at the Bagram Airfield tried to burn a truckload of Islamic literature, including copies of the Quran, Islam's holy book. Read More...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sehwag, Tendulkar too 'slow' for ODIs? Dhoni Says

India seems to be going from bad to worse, their hopes of qualifying for the CB tri-series finals hanging in balance after back-to-back losses to Australia and Sri Lanka respectively.

What adds to their woes is the abysmal showing in all departments. While the bowlers were listless in both the above-mentioned matches, conceding 288 and 289 runs respectively, and giving away more than 90 runs in the final ten overs, the batsmen were no better.

- Like Ponting, should Sachin quit ODIs?

The senior duo of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were biggest flops in both defeats. Tendulkar's wait for his 100th international century seems unending as his batting takes a steep downward slide. He has just 90 runs to show from five innings in the tri-series, while Sehwag has 30 from three innings.

Yet, the team management keeps persisting with the two seniors. The 'perform or perish' mantra, applicable to every sport, appears forgotten.

In showing Ricky Ponting the door in ODIs, only a couple of days after he was asked to lead the side in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke, Australia showed why they continue to be one of the top teams in world cricket.

One wonders why the Indian selectors aren't adopting a similar stance.

Former India player, and now television commentator, Sanjay Manjrekar highlighted the issue in a post on Twitter. "Oz selectors know they have the support of media & fans when they drop a player on performance whatever his stature. An Indian selector does not have that luxury,' he wrote.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was direct in his criticism of the Indian top three batters and explained why the three are being rotated.

'It's not that these fielders are bad, but for this environment and these conditions and big outfields, they are slightly on the slower side. They will be exploited. It will affect our fielding in a big way, which means there will be more pressure on the batsmen to score those extra 20 runs. But if the middle-order does not perform consistently well, you may have to go with the experienced guys at the top of the order,' he said.

- Top three not playing all games because they are slow: Dhoni

So, indirectly, Dhoni made it clear that compromises are being made as the team is forced to play at least one or two of the three seniors in every game.

Manoj Tiwary hit a century in his last ODI, against the West Indies, yet he hasn't got a game in the tournament despite Rohit Sharma also being made to sit out after a run of poor scores.

Is the presence of the out-of-form seniors affecting the team's performance in the tri-series? Do you agree with Dhoni that Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir are 'slow' for ODIs? Is it time for the trio to quit ODIs?

Europe Reaches a Greek Deal

BRUSSELSEuro-zone finance ministers early Tuesday agreed to an ambitious €130 billion ($172.1 billion) rescue deal that will see Greece's private creditors take an even larger loss in order to put the debt-laden country on a sustainable footing and avert a catastrophic default.
The IMF's Christine Lagarde talks with Greek Premier Lucas Papademos before Monday's meeting in Brussels.
The agreement revolves around a debt exchange that calls for private investors to waive 53.5% of their principal under a massive debt swap that will cut Greece's outstanding debt stock by €107 billion. That goes beyond a 50% haircut agreed upon at a summit in October.
Speaking after the conclusion of more than 12 hours of negotiations, Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreement "provides a comprehensive blueprint for putting the public finances and the economy of Greece back on a sustainable footing, and hence for safeguarding financial stability in the euro zone."
The deeper private sector haircut will help bring Greece's debt as a proportion of gross domestic product to 120.5% by 2020 from over 164% currently. Read More...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Terror suspect arrested near Capitol in FBI sting

WASHINGTON — A 29-year-old Moroccan man who believed he was working with al-Qaida was arrested Friday near the U.S. Capitol as he was planning to detonate what he thought was a suicide vest that undercover operatives gave him, officials said.
Amine El Khalifi of Alexandria, Va., was taken into custody with a gun that didn't work and inert explosives, according to a counterterrorism official. He arrived near the Capitol in a van with the two undercover operatives, and walked toward the building, according to court papers. He was arrested before he left the parking garage.
A man has been arrested near the US Capitol building as part of an anti-terror investigation, US officials say
El Khalifi made a brief appearance on Friday afternoon in federal court in Alexandria, where a judge set a bail hearing for Wednesday. After his arrest, FBI agents raided a red brick rambler home in Arlington, Va. A police car blocked the entrance.
A criminal complaint charges him with knowingly and unlawfully attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property that is owned and used by the United States. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Read More...

Mamata asks PM to withdraw order on powers given to National Counter Terrorism Centre

Banerjee asks the Prime Minister to review and withdraw the order on organisation, function, power and duties of the National Counter Terrorism Centre.
At least four states, including the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance-ruled West Bengal, have opposed Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's pet project, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh objecting to the powers of the anti-terror body that would become operational next month.

"It is difficult for the state government to accept such arbitrary exercise of power by the central government which have a bearing on the rights and privilege of the states. It appears to be an infringement on the powers of state governments in matters of investigation and maintenance of order," she said in her letter.

The Trinamool chief's letter comes after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to the prime minister opposing, what he called were the sweeping powers to the body. He said several other chief ministers were also opposed to the Centre's move. More about this...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

President Obama promotes manufacturing during Milwaukee visit

President Barack Obama speaks to employees Wednesday at the Master Lock Co. in Milwaukee. / M. Spencer Green/AP
MILWAUKEE - President Barack Obama is using the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing to make an economic case for his re-election, touring factory floors and promoting a made-in-America message that seemed to fit his political campaign like, as it turned out Wednesday, lock and key.
Most presidents like to surround themselves with proud workers at factories, but Obama has gone further by making the rebounding manufacturing a key plank of his election-year agenda, arguing that the increasingly service-oriented U.S. economy needs to make things in order to prosper in the long run. He opened a three-day political trip with a stop in Wisconsin, a state he won handily in 2008 but is expected to pose more difficulty for him this year. Obama called for tax cuts for American manufacturers and higher taxes for companies that move overseas, pressing what he hopes will be a winning campaign issue. He also acknowledged that many factories have closed, their jobs have gone overseas and a lot of them "are not going to come back." Read more about this...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Election Commission to close Khurshid issue after his regret letter: Sources

New Delhi:  A day after Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid wrote a letter to the Election Commission (EC), expressing regret over his remarks on the minority quota, the poll panel has, according to sources, decided to close the matter.

Under fire and finding himself increasingly isolated over his confrontation with the poll panel over the minority quota issue, Mr Khurshid had, in the letter addressed to Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, said that he respects the institution and that he has always strived to strengthen the law.

Mr Khurshid
has been involved in a bitter war of words with the poll panel in the last few days. The confrontation escalated to new heights after the EC sent a letter to President Pratibha Patil on Saturday, complaining about the minister's "defiant" attitude on his minority quota remarks. (Read letter) The EC had suggested that the minister's remarks were a clear violation of the model code of conduct given the polls that are under way in Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Khurshid, in his letter, sought to clear the air, saying that he never intended to transgress the law or the model code of conduct during the elections. Significantly, in a major climbdown of sorts, Mr Khurshid said that the entire controversy was "unfortunate", adding that he "regrets the statement". Read More...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Virat Kohli, Ashwin take India to victory

Perth: India defeated Sri Lanka by 4 wickets in the second ODI of the tri-nation series here on Wednesday.

Chasing a target of 234, India reached the score with 20 balls to spare. Virat Kohli top-scored with 77 before being run-out by Lasith Malinga. Sachin Tendulkar was the other star-performer but he missed his half century by 2 runs.

Sri Lanka had won the toss earlier in the day and despite the early wicket of Upul Tharanga (4), managed to string together partnerships. Tillakaratne Dilshan scored 48 while Dinesh Chandimal helped himself to a fighting 64. R Ashwin however, was able to pull the plug and claimed three wickets to restrict the scoring.

This was the first ODI between the two teams since the World Cup final close to 11 months back.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Egypt names 43 targeted in democracy groups inquiry

Reporting from WashingtonEgyptian state media Monday published the names of 43 people accused in a politically explosive investigation of pro-democracy groups, saying they are suspected of receiving illegal funding with the aim of destabilizing the country's national security.

The 19 Americans on the list of those to be prosecuted on charges of violating foreign funding laws included Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and country director for the Washington-based International Republican Institute, and Charles Dunne, the Mideast program director for Freedom House, a research and advocacy organization.

Dunne said in an interview Monday that he last visited Egypt in October.

"I left the country in October, in their good graces," Dunne said. "But apparently not now."

Egyptian officials consider foreign funding of the groups as interference in their country's political system. The nongovernmental groups insist that they aim only to provide Egyptians with nuts-and-bolts technical assistance to help them take part in the democratic process. Read More...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Khmer Rouge chief jailer gets life in prison

Khmer Rouge tribunal's Supreme Court on Friday
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The Khmer Rouge tribunal's Supreme Court on Friday ordered the regime's chief jailer to serve out the rest of his life in prison because of his "shocking and heinous" crimes against the Cambodian people.

The surprise ruling increased a lower court's 19-year sentence that had been appealed by prosecutors as too lenient and that had outraged survivors who feared the man who oversaw the killings of thousands could one day walk free. Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, was commander of the top secret Tuol Sleng prison — code-named S-21.

He admitted to overseeing the torture of his prisoners before sending them for execution at the "killing fields." In July 2010, the tribunal's lower court convicted Duch (pronounced DOIK) of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder.

He was sentenced to 35 years in prison but had 11 years shaved off for time served and other technicalities. The sentence was appealed both by prosecutors who called for life imprisonment and by Duch who argued it was too harsh because he was merely following orders. Read More...