Dec 26, 2010

Video of Indian Space Rocket Explosion on December 25, 2010

View of Indian Space Rocket Explosion on Saturday, December 25, 2010 just after taking-off

Oil price hits at 94.74 USD marking two years highest

Oil hovered around its highest levels in more than two years on Friday, supported by cold weather across the globe, appetite for risk assets and signals from OPEC it would not arrest the rally.

European benchmark ICE Brent crude for February closed 48 cents down at $93.46 on Friday after hitting $94.74 a barrel, its highest level since October 2008.

Global benchmark U.S. crude futures, which hit a 26-month high of $91.63 on Thursday, did not trade on Friday with the NYMEX floor closed for the Christmas holiday.

Brent, trading at a premium to U.S. crude, has surged partly due to a severe cold snap in continental Europe and Britain.

Heavy snow stranded thousands of Christmas travellers in Europe on Friday, threatening to prolong chaos at airlines and rail networks and further boost fuel demand.

Analysts said oil could continue its rally on strong global demand and falling inventories in 2011, which promises to be a strong year for risk assets as confidence about the global economic recovery picks up.

The 19-commodity Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB closed on Thursday at its highest level since October 2008.

"With the continuous commodity Index posting new all time highs and the S&P rising on supportive breadth, it is difficult not to maintain our bullish commodity and equity outlook heading into the first quarter of 2011," Barclays Capital said in a note.

"The latest surge has brought $100 per barrel within range for Brent crude in particular."

OPEC SEES NO NEED FOR MORE OIL

OPEC's most influential oil minister, Saudi Arabia's Ali al-Naimi, said on Friday he was still happy with an oil price of $70-$80 per barrel and there was no need for an extra OPEC meeting before the next scheduled one in June.

Arab OPEC ministers are meeting in the Egyptian capital this weekend where they are expected to discuss oil production and prices, but no formal decision on output will take place.

United Arab Emirates' oil minister said he wanted OPEC to comply better with output cuts the group agreed in late 2008, and added the current price did not reflect fundamentals. That chimed with OPEC's stance that oil demand remains fragile and speculators are to blame for the rally.

Speaking in Cairo, only Iraq's new oil minister said the cartel could meet before June if market conditions changed but then added that if a decision was taken to meet it would not be "about price. It's about market conditions."

"OPEC has limited its number of meetings to limit market disturbance," Abdul Kareem Luaibi told Reuters.

Disputed Ivory Coast President Gbagbo will not step down

The disputed head of the Ivory Coast will not step down, one of his key ministers said Saturday, despite the threat by West African leaders to use military force to force him out.

A day earlier, a statement from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States said its 15 members would not hesitate to use "legitimate force" if necessary to defuse an escalating crisis in the Ivory Coast.

But Alcide Djedje, the foreign affairs minister for incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, on Saturday dismissed the threat as part of a Western plot spearheaded by France. He said that his regime views the prospect of outside military action unlikely, claiming that the West African group's members would be reluctant to send soldiers into the Ivory Coast.

The organization's move was the latest to isolate Gbagbo, amid sweeping international sentiment that he is not the Ivory Coast's rightfully elected leader and that his forces have perpetrated human rights abuses against his opponents.

The United Nations, African Union, European Union and numerous individual nations have called for Gbagbo to step down, with many also calling out his regime for its actions against political foes in the past week that have reportedly killed scores of people.

Still, the call from the Economic Community was especially significant, given that the Ivory Coast is a member and its mention of possible military action.

"In the event that Mr. Gbagbo fails to heed this immutable demand of ECOWAS, the Community would be left with no alternative but to take other measures, including the use of legitimate force, to achieve the goals of the Ivorian people," the group said in a statement following an emergency meeting Friday in Abuja, Nigeria.

Under the leadership of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the regional bloc will coordinate, "without delay," a meeting of defense ministers from member countries "to plan future actions, including the provision of security along the Cote d'Ivoire-Liberia border," the statement said.

This back-and-forth comes as the security situation in the Ivory Coast continues to deteriorate.

The United Nations refugee agency said Saturday that about 14,000 Ivory Coast residents escaping that country have fled to eastern Liberia, some walking hours if not days before boarding barges on rivers bordering the West African nation.

A few deaths have been reported among the refugees, including a child who drowned while crossing the Cestos River into Butuo. In some locales without ambulances, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees vehicles are being used to take people out to get medical care.

"Some are arriving with severely swollen feet,... some families said they had walked three to four days through the bush with little food," the U.N. agency said in a statement.

A spokesman for Alassane Ouattara, widely recognized as the Ivory Coast's legitimate leader following a November 28 run-off election, accused Gbagbo of defying democratic ideals and instead embarking on new era of violence.

Spokesman Patrick Achi said Friday that Ouattara hopes the West African leaders will be able to help end the turmoil.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Friday that at the request of France, it had dispatched one of its ships to the Ivory Coast to help evacuate European citizens in case the situation worsens.

And U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said earlier this week that the United States and other countries were discussing with African nations the possibility of augmenting the existing U.N. force in the Ivory Coast.

However, he said it was unclear what a U.S. contribution could look like -- forces of logistical support or something more indirect were among the options.

The African Union has suspended the Ivory Coast from the organization "until such a time the democratically elected president effectively assumes state power." The World Bank has halted lending and disbursing funds to Ivory Coast and has closed its office in the country.

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the decision of the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Ouattara as the winner of the disputed Ivory Coast election.

"This important decision reflects the united position of the international community with respect to the legitimacy of the new government led by President Ouattara," a spokesman for the secretary-general said in a written statement.

Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, has said that between December 16 and Tuesday, human rights officers had "substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances."

She added that the actual numbers may be much higher because "it has been impossible to investigate all the allegations of serious human rights violations, including reports of mass graves, due to restrictions on movement by U.N. personnel."

While acknowledging "the situation is very, very difficult to live" in, Charles Ble Goude -- the nation's youth minister under Gbagbo -- said Thursday the government is "dealing with that."

He said "the U.N. report is not correct," especially in its fingering fellow Gbagbo backers as being to blame for the recent violence. Instead, he accused Ouattara's supporters of using weapons at what had been billed as peaceful rallies to attack soldiers.

After last month's election, the country's Independent Electoral Commission named Ouattara the winner. But its Constitutional Council invalidated those results and declared that Gbagbo won.

Goude said that he and others in Gbagbo's circle couldn't accept the electoral commission picking Ouattara, noting that it announced its decision in a hotel that was also being used as Ouattara's headquarters.

While stressing a desire for talks on the issue, he said there is no intention for Gbagbo to forfeit a seat that he believes is rightfully his. "Why do you want someone who won an election to step down?" Goude asked. "The president has been elected."
 
Courtesy: cnn.com

Dec 25, 2010

Snow hits christmas journey, many spend night at airports

Stranded air passengers have spent the night at airports in Paris and Brussels after freezing weather severely disrupted Christmas travel.

Some 200 people slept overnight at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which cancelled 400 flights because of snow and ice.

Flights and trains were also disrupted in Belgium, where significant snow fell overnight, and in Germany.

Conditions were expected to ease throughout Christmas Day.

Airport managers described the extremes of snow and ice at the airport as "exceptional".

Problems were made worse on Friday as a strike by workers at France's main anti-freeze factory disrupted crucial supplies.

Those left at Charles de Gaulle airport overnight were given camp beds and blankets as they saw in Christmas inside the terminal building.

Junior transport minister Thierry Mariani visited exhausted travellers at the airport just before midnight, seeking to explain the situation to would-be passengers.

"Since Roissy [Charles de Gaulle airport] came into being, we've never seen anything like this," Pierre Graff, head of the airport operating group, told France's RTL radio.


However, some passengers had heard enough explanations.

"My flight to Milan has been cancelled twice, the first when there was no snow," Zoe Stephanou, 45, told the AFP news agency.

"I'm so tired that I no longer have the strength to be angry."

Earlier on Friday, airport authorities ordered part of Terminal 2E to be cleared of passengers because of fears that the roof might collapse under the weight of 60cm (2ft) of snow.

In 2004, the same roof collapsed shortly after the terminal opened, killing four people.

The strike by de-icing workers disrupted supplies to Paris' airports, but officials said the situation had eased after a plane brought supplies from the US and a tanker shipped extra anti-freeze from Germany.

Elsewhere, significant snowfalls in Belgium, Germany and Italy continued to cause problems across the transport network.

Between 10cm and 20cm (4in-8in) of snow fell in Belgium overnight, AFP reported, hitting bus travel and keeping one runway closed at the city's airport.

Camp beds were also distributed in an attempt to keep delayed passengers comfortable.

Hundreds of road accidents have been reported across Germany, and in northern Italy heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of Venice.

Unusually high water levels were reported in the Venice lagoon. In the town of Vicenza, west of Venice, people were moved from their homes because of high river levels

The Danish authorities on the Baltic island of Bornholm say they have given up trying to clear roads blocked by snowdrifts. Three people have been reported missing and police have reiterated pleas to people to stay indoors because of the treacherous conditions.

View: Indian space rocket explodes

An Indian space rocket carrying a communications satellite has exploded on take-off.

Live TV footage showed the rocket disappearing in a plume of smoke moments after its launch in Sriharikota near the city of Chennai (Madras).


India's space organisation said it was investigating the cause of the failure.

India is seeking to increase its share of the growing commercial satellite launch market, and says it wants to send a manned mission in space in 2016.

India's Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was carrying the GSAT- 5P communication satellite when it exploded in the first stage of the flight on Saturday, December 25, 2010.

"The performance of the (rocket) was normal up to about 50 seconds. Soon after that the vehicle developed large altitude error leading to breaking up of the vehicle," the head of the Indian Space Research Organisation, K Radhakrishnan, told reporters.

"But what caused this interruption has to be studied in detail."

India has successfully launched lighter satellites in recent years, but has faced problems sending up heavier payloads.

Tarmac Building Products cuts 550 jobs, closes one division

West Midlands-based firm Tarmac Building Products Ltd is to cut 550 jobs and close one of its divisions due to "tough market conditions".

The firm, which is based in Wolverhampton, said it planned to close its precast solutions and flooring arm.

It said 217 jobs would be lost in Tallington, Lincolnshire and 106 in Henlade, Somerset.

The remainder are to go in Derby, Lound in Nottinghamshire and Dolyhir in Powys, Wales.

A company spokesman said it was consulting with staff and unions over the plans to cut 500 full-time staff and 50 agency employees.

The company blamed tough trading conditions and uncertain market demand.

"This affects five sites across the UK and, unfortunately, means that around 550 people are at risk of redundancy," the spokesman said.

"We are very conscious of the impact this will have on our employees, their families and the local communities around our sites if the closure goes ahead.

"It is not a decision we have taken lightly and we will begin a 90-day consultation period with employees affected by this. We will also liaise with our customers to discuss how this could impact them."

The company's website describes it as the UK's largest supplier of heavy building products.

It says it has been involved in a wide variety of construction projects including Wembley Stadium, Emirates Stadium and St Pancras Station.

Ivory Coast's crises hit mine production

Shares in Randgold Resources have fallen 4% after the mining company warned political tension in the Ivory Coast would hit its gold production.

Randgold said its Tongon mine was operating, but on a "curtailed basis".

At least 173 people have been killed in the Ivory Coast following last month's disputed election.

Randgold now expects to produce about 35,000 ounces of gold this year.
 
A second mill had been delayed because delivery of components had been held up in the Abidjan port and by shipping delays caused by the political crisis.

The company also said its fourth-quarter performance would be affected by a "below-target" contribution from its Loulo complex in Mali.

"We knew that 2010 was going to be a challenging year and the fourth quarter is turning out to be even tougher than anticipated," chief executive Mark Bristow said.

Randgold shares fell 235p to 5,320p in morning trading.

Quit or face force, Ecowas threatens Gbagbo

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has told incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to stand down or expect to face "legitimate force".

Ecowas said after its summit in Abuja, Nigeria, that it would send an envoy to the country to meet Mr Gbagbo.

It would also convene a meeting of defence ministers to plan military action if he refused to back down, it said.

Before the talks, Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia ruled out a power-sharing arrangement between the rivals like those set up in Kenya and Zimbabwe following disputed elections.

The BBC's Thomas Fessy in the main city Abidjan says the pressure from Ecowas has not come as a surprise, and means that Mr Gbagbo is now definitely boxed in on all sides.

The Ecowas chairman, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has already written personally to Mr Gbagbo to ask him to step down, and offered him refuge.

There have been suggestions that member nations send in troops to strengthen the presence of the UN peacekeeping force, which has about 10,000 troops on the ground.

Ecowas sent peacekeeping forces to Liberia and Sierra Leone during their civil wars in the 1990s.

The statement came at the end of emergency talks on the crisis sparked by a disputed election last month.

The 15-member bloc and other international bodies have recognised his rival Alassane Ouattara as winner.

The Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council says Mr Gbagbo was elected, citing vote-rigging in some areas.

The election was meant to unite the country after a civil war in 2002 split the world's largest cocoa producer in two.

On Thursday, state television, one of the key elements keeping Mr Gbagbo in power, was taken off the air in areas outside Abidjan.

But amid the mounting international pressure, the incumbent president remained defiant, declaring illegal a decision by the West African central bank to give control of his country's account to Mr Ouattara.

Mr Gbagbo's spokesman Ahoua Don Mello read a communique on TV saying it was "illegal and manifestly outside the competence of the West African Monetary Union", and there would be "serious consequences".

Earlier Mr Ouattara urged the country's armed forces to play a "republican role" and protect civilians against attack from "the militias and foreign mercenaries that are spilling Ivorian blood".

He accused Mr Gbagbo of opening a new chapter of violence.

"Violence is returning to our towns and our city neighbourhoods. Serious human rights violations are reported from all corners," he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

He thanked the international community for the support it had given him so far.

He said perpetrators of recent violence would be prosecuted and invited investigators from the International Criminal Court to visit the country.

The UN says more than 170 people have been killed in the past week in attacks linked to the Ivorian armed forces, who remain publicly loyal to Mr Gbagbo.

Courtesy: BBC

Dec 24, 2010

Bangladeshi killed by BSF near BDR camp

Indian border guards Border Security Forces (BSF) have shot dead a Bangladeshi youth at Hatibandha Upazila under Lalmonirhat District of Bangladesh today (December 25, 2010).

Witnesses said Saifur Rahman, 22, a cattle trader and resident of Dakkhin Gotamari village at the Upazila fell victim to BSF firing while returning home from India around 6.30am on Friday.

Earlier, a Bangladeshi national named Abdur Rashid, 35, son of Abu Chan Miadead was killed on Balapara frontier in Dimla upazila of Nilphamari District of the country in the early hours on December 17, 2010.

Mentioned that, Mr. Saifur Rahman is the 4th victim of Indian BSF after the killing of Chapainawabganj, Jessore and Nilphamari within the last 15 days. 

Lalmonirhat 31 Rifles Battalion deputy commander Maj Shafique Uddin said Safiur died on the spot as the Indian border guards fired shots on him near Daikhawa camp of Bangladesh border guards.

He said: "The body was taken away by the BSF personnel. BDR have sent a letter asking for return of the body."

HR group says BSF kills one Bangladeshi in every four days

Taking part in an open discussion, Odhikar general secretary Atikur Rahman Khan said BSF is killing one Bangladeshi in every four days.

Human rights group Odhikar and Human Rights Watch at a press conference at BRAC Centre on December 13, 2010 revealed a report on killing, abuse and torture by the Border Security Force (BSF) of India along the border.
About 1,000 Bangladeshis were killed by Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) over the last decade, according to a report released by rights groups in the capital city Dhaka in Bangladesh on December 13, 2010.

Apart from the killings, the report says, the Indian border guards usually threaten, abuse and beat Bangladeshi people living in frontiers villages, but they hardly get any cooperation from Bangladesh police. "It's a gross violation of human rights."

The report was prepared based on statements of victims, witnesses, journalists, human rights workers, law enforcement officials and members of BSF and BDR.

The report says that the governments of both Bangladesh and India need to hold joint, fair investigations into the situation. "India must also discard the attitude of avoiding responsibility."

"Both governments must take steps to stop these mindless killings," Mr. Atik said.

A father who lost his teenage son to BSF gunfire and a man who was shot and injured shared their agonies at the press conference.

Dec 18, 2010

Asian Giants China and India want win-win results

A joint communique signed between India and China, the Asian Giants in economy, population and power,    on December 16, 2010 said that they had agreed to expand co-operation in infrastructure, environment, information technology, telecommunications, and investment and finance.

It said that both Wen Jiabao and Manmohan Singh wanted "to draw on each other's strengths and pursue mutual benefit and win-win results".

Mr Wen hold talks with Indian PM Manmohan Singh on Thursday, December 16, 2010.

The two men discussed a number of sensitive issues, including a long-running border dispute.

Both sides said they need more time to sort out the border question.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that the Chinese premier's visit amounted to a strong endorsement of the economic relationship between the two Asian giants, even though contentious issues remain.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrives in Delhi on 15 December 2010. Mr Wen's delegation in India was much larger than those headed by leaders of the US and UK.

These include China's military build-up on the border and India's support for the Dalai Lama.

The two countries signed some 50 deals in power, telecommunications, steel, wind energy, food and marine products worth $16 billion at the end of a business conference attended by Mr Wen in the capital, Delhi, on Wednesday (December 15, 2010) evening.

This overtakes the $10 billion of agreements signed between Indian and American businesspeople during the recent visit of US President Barack Obama.

"There is enough space in the world for the development of both China and India and there are enough areas for us to co-operate," Mr Wen told the business conference.

Mr Singh - speaking after his 11th meeting with Mr Wen in the last five years - said that a strong partnership between the two countries "will contribute to long-term peace, stability, prosperity and development in Asia and the world".

The communique said that the two sides had decided to establish a "mechanism of regular exchange of visits between heads of state and government".

"They welcomed the opening of the telephone hotline between the prime minister of India and the Chinese premier and agreed on regular consultations between the two leaders on issues of importance to both countries," it said.

"They also agreed to establish the mechanism of annual exchange of visits between the two foreign ministers."

China's premier also met India's External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Mr Wen travels to India's nuclear-armed neighbour and rival, Pakistan, for a two-day official visit on December 17, 2010 day after visiting India.

India and China set USD 100 billion trade target by 2015

The Asian giants India and China have agreed a new $100 billion bilateral trade target by 2015, up from $60 billion in 2010.

The two sides agreed to take measures to promote greater Indian exports to China, to reduce India's trade deficit between the two countries.

Companies have already signed business deals worth $16 billion on the opening day of Chinese PM Wen Jiabao's three-day official visit to India.

The latest of a number of world leaders to visit India, Mr Wen is accompanied by some 400 Chinese business leaders.
China is India's largest trading partner.

Bangladeshi national killed by Indian BSF on Friday

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) shot a Bangladeshi national dead on Balapara frontier in Dimla upazila of Nilphamari District of the country in the early hours on Friday (December 17, 2010), just one day after the country-wide colorful celebration of its Victory day, sources confirmed.

The victim was identified as Abdur Rashid, 35, son of Abu Chan Mia of Thakurganj village in the upazila. He was a cow trader, family sources of the deceased said.

Mentioned that, Mr. Rashid is the 3rd victim of Indian BSF after the killing of Chapainawabganj and Jessore in the last seven days.

According to Balapara Banladesh Rifles (BDR) sources, members of the BSF opened fire on the Bangladeshi nationals as they were waiting for cows near border pillar No 8.

However, other traders managed to escape from India border but Rashid got killed on the spot.

Killing of Bangladeshi nationals is rampant at the India-Bangladesh borders which is like routine work of Indian BSF. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an US based international human rights group revealed earlier in their report that BSF killed more than 900 Bangladesi at the India-Bangladesh border in the last decade.  There was not a single case where punishment was awarded to the responsible BSF members, the report observed.

The HRW report also criticized the Bangladesh government for its weakness to save the life of its nationals and urged the government to take immediate measure to save its national in the Indian border of the country.   

Dec 16, 2010

Assange now under Bail, may be freed tomorrow

The founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has been granted conditional bail by a judge.

The 39-year-old was granted bail in London earlier this week but remained in jail after prosecutors objected.

The Australian is fighting extradition to Sweden over sex charges involving two women. He denies the allegations.

Mr Justice Ouseley granted conditional bail at the Royal Courts of Justice and supporters put up £240,000 in sureties. His release is expected on Thursday.

However, the BBC understands he may not be freed until Friday because those who provided the finances must complete paperwork at a police station.

Mr Assange's solicitor, Mark Stephens, said afterwards the bail appeal was part of a "continuing vendetta by the Swedes".


He said: "We have won costs today but they should be paid by Sweden not the hard-pressed Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)."

There has been dispute over who was motivated to appeal against Mr Assange's release, with Director of Public Prosecutions saying the CPS was merely acting as "agents" on behalf of the Swedish government. Nils Rekke, from the Swedish Prosecutor's Office, claimed it was "a purely British decision".


Mr Assange's mother, Christine, said she was "very, very happy" with the decision and thanked his supporters.

"I can't wait to see my son and to hold him close. I had faith that the British justice system would do the right thing and the judge would uphold the magistrates' decision, and that faith has been reaffirmed," she said.

Gemma Lindfield, representing the prosecution, had told the judge there was "a real risk" Mr Assange would abscond and pointed to his nomadic lifestyle.

She said he had "the means and ability" to go into hiding among Wikileaks' many supporters in this country and abroad.

But Mr Justice Ouseley pointed out Mr Assange had offered to meet the police in London when he heard the Swedish matter was still live and he said: "That is not the conduct of a person who is seeking to evade justice."

However, he did impose strict bail conditions including wearing an electronic tag, reporting to police every day and observing a curfew. Mr Assange also must stay at the Norfolk mansion of Wikileaks supporter Vaughan Smith.

Earlier, the judge made a ruling banning the use of Twitter to give a blow-by-blow account of Thursday's proceedings.

Mr Assange has received the backing of a number of high-profile supporters including human rights campaigners Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger, and film director Ken Loach.


Wikileaks has published hundreds of sensitive American diplomatic cables, details of which have appeared in the Guardian in the UK and several other newspapers around the world.

He has been criticised in the US where former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has said he should be hunted down like the al-Qaeda leadership.

Mr Assange argues the allegations against him are politically motivated and designed to take attention away from the material appearing on Wikileaks.

One of his supporters, writer Tariq Ali, said: "I'm relieved. He should never have been denied bail in the first place."

He said Mr Assange had suffered from some "vindictive and punitive" decisions and he claimed: "The Swedes are acting on behalf of a bigger power."

Mr Assange is accused of having unprotected sex with a woman, identified only as Miss A, when she insisted he use a condom.

He is also accused of having unprotected sex with another woman, Miss W, while she was asleep.

Castro was nearly died in 2006, Wikileaks says

Cuban leader Fidel Castro came close to death in 2006, according to the latest secret US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks.

Mr Castro almost died after suffering a perforated intestine during an internal flight, unnamed sources told US diplomats in Havana.

The illness led Mr Castro to hand power to his brother Raul, although he has since returned to public life.

The 84-year-old's health is considered a state secret in Cuba.

The Wikileaks cables, published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, reveal the intense efforts made by US diplomats in Havana to find out the nature of Fidel Castro's illness and his chances of recovery.

The names of the sources of information reported in the cables have been redacted by Wikileaks, but some apparently knew people who were close to the Cuban leader, or had access to his medical records.

The details of what they say cannot be independently verified.

One cable, sent in March 2007 by the then-head of the US interests section in Havana, Michael Parmly, quotes a report by an unnamed doctor on the moment Mr Castro fell seriously ill in July 2006.

"The illness began on the plane from Holguin to Havana," reports the cable.

As it was a short flight there was no doctor on board and they had to land urgently once they knew of Mr Castro's bleeding. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis of the colon.

The source said Mr Castro had a perforation of the large intestine and needed surgery.

But it says he "capriciously" refused to have a colostomy, with the result that his condition deteriorated over time and he required further surgery.

"This illness is not curable and will not, in her opinion, allow him to return to leading Cuba," the report concludes.

"He won't die immediately, but he will progressively lose his faculties and become ever more debilitated until he dies."


Further leaked cables quote other sources as saying Mr Castro was terminally ill, and examine statements by his medical team and reports of specialist drugs being brought into Cuba.


But the reports of his imminent death have proved to be exaggerated.

Mr Castro has since made an apparent recovery and earlier this year returned to making speeches and appearing in public, though he has not taken back the reins of power from his brother Raul.

The former Cuban leader recently praised Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, saying the leaks of thousands of diplomatic cables had brought the US "morally, to its knees".

"Julian Assange, a man who a few months ago hardly anyone in the world had heard of, is showing that the most powerful empire in history can be defied," he wrote in an article published by Cuban state media.

The US government and its intelligence agencies have been staunch enemies of Mr Castro and the communist government in Cuba for more than half a century.

So far, all their predictions of the imminent demise of communist party rule on the island have proved false.

Bangladesh celebrates 40th V-Day

Millions of people from all walks of life observed the 40th Victory Day of Bangladesh today. They came up to the streets of the country in a colorful decoration to celebrate the auspicious national occasion.

They turned up the streets with a great enthusiasm and aspiration of building a nation free from corruption, nepotism, deprivation and economic disparity for which they fought nine months against Pakistan in 1971.

On Thursday, the nation started their day saluting the valiant sons and daughters of the soil who made their supreme sacrifices for the cause of independence in 1971 with a dream of building a democratic state. They are gathering at various monuments to pay tributes to the national heroes.

Today is a public holiday and the national flag has been hoisted atop all government, semi-government and other important establishments.

People carrying banners of different political, social, cultural and professional organisations in the capital city along the whole country and singing patriotic songs.




The valiant people of the then east Pakistan under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and responding to the proclamation of Bir Uttam General Ziaur Rahman decided to see the then East Pakistan as an Independent Bangladesh.

The brave people with their very simple weapons fought against Pakistan to win against autocracy and for democracy only.
Till now, the unquestionable democracy where peoples mandate would be cent per cent visible without any conspiracy is a mere dream to the countrymen, Shahid Khan told this to this reporter while speaking this morning.        

President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia have given separate statements marking the day.

The start of the day was marked by 31 cannon fires at the Old Airport premises in Tejgaon at the Heart of the Capital City in the very morning.

The president in his statement said, "One of the main objectives of our Liberation War was to achieve political sovereignty, economic self-sufficiency as well as to build a nation based on equality and equity."
"We could not yet attain that objective after four decades of independence. The anti-liberation force as well as the vested quarters created obstacle in the way of democracy and development by killing Father of the Nation."

"Our democratic advancement has been jeopardized afterwards in absence of a people's government. As a result, we lag far behind in anticipated development"

He went on to say that democracy has been re-established and expressed hope that the country will be able to fulfill the main objectives of the war.

The Prime Minister of the country said in her statement, "Thirty nine years have passed since independence but the desired dreams and aspirations of independence are yet to be achieved."

"The defeated forces of the 1971 snatched away the people's right through killing, coup and politics of conspiracy after the assassination of the Father of the Nation along with his 18 family members on August 15and the four national leaders inside the Dhaka Central jail on the November 3 in 1975."

"Through the killings, the defeated forces wanted to undo the greatest achievements of the War of Liberation-the constitution, democracy, humanity, culture and development."

"The nation which has earned its independence through bloodbath reestablished democracy and rights of the people through a long struggle and unfathomable sacrifice," she added.

The opposition leader said in her statement, "Even though our motherland was freed from enemies in 1971, their sharp eyes are still on us".

"An imperialist force is working to turn us into a subjugated race. We will have to unite nationally to fight it."

On this day in 1971, Pakistani occupation forces representative Martial Law Administrator Zone B and Commander Eastern Command (Pakistan) Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi along with 91,549 troops surrendered to the General Officer Commanding in Chief India and Bangladesh Forces in the Eastern Theater  Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora at 4.31 pm in the afternoon at Sahrawardi Udyan in Dhaka of Bangladesh.

Azerbaijan accuses BP of stealing $10bn of oil , Wikileaks latest whistle


Cables leaked on December 15, 2010 claim that the president of Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing $10bn of oil from his country and using "mild blackmail" to secure the rights to develop vast gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.

The cables reveal that some of BP's partners in the gas field were upset that the company was so secretive about the incident that it even allegedly withheld information from them. They also say that BP was lucky that it was able to evacuate its 212 workers safely after the incident, which resulted in two fields being shut and output being cut by at least 500,000 barrels a day with production disrupted for months.

Embassy cables reveal energy firm 'fortunate' to have evacuated workers safely after blast similar to Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Striking resemblances between BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and a little-reported giant gas leak in Azerbaijan experienced by the UK firm 18 months beforehand have emerged from leaked US embassy cables, The Guardian reports.

WikiLeaks also released cables claiming that:

• Senior figures in Thailand are concerned about the suitability of the crown prince to become king, citing rumours that he has lovers in several European capitals in addition to his wife and son in Thailand.

• American energy firm Chevron was in discussions with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield, despite US sanctions against Iran.

The leaks came as the whistleblower site's founder Julian Assange prepared for another night in jail ahead of tomorrow's high court challenge to the decision to grant him £200,000 bail. Swedish authorities, who want to question Assange on allegations of sexual assault, believe he should remain in custody as he is a flight risk.

On the Azerbaijan gas leak, a cable reports for the first time that BP suffered a blowout in September 2008, as it did in the Gulf with devastating consequences in April, as well as the gas leak that the firm acknowledged at the time.

"Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was 'a lot of mud' on the platform, which BP would analyze to help find the cause of the blowout and gas leak," the cable said.

Written a few weeks after the incident, the cable said Bill Schrader, BP's then head of Azerbaijan, admitted it was possible the company "would never know" the cause although it "is continuing to methodically investigate possible theories".

According to another cable, in January 2009 BP thought that a "bad cement job" was to blame for the gas leak in Azerbaijan. More recently, BP's former chief executive Tony Hayward also partly blamed a "bad cement job" by contractor Halliburton for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The blowout in the Gulf led to the deaths of 11 workers and the biggest accidental offshore oil spill in history.

BP was also criticised for not initially sharing all its information with the US authorities about the scale of the Gulf spill. The gas field in the Caspian Sea was in production when the leak and blow out occured, unlike the well in the Gulf which was being drilled to explore for oil.

BP declined to answer questions put by the Guardian about the cause of the Azerbaijan gas leak and who carried out the cement job, pointing to a general statement it had made about the cables.

The cable reveals that the company had a narrow escape. "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. Schrader said although the story hadn't caught the press's attention, it had the full focus of the [government of Azerbaijan], which was losing '$40-50m each day'."

The leak happened at the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshi (ACG) field, Azerbaijan's largest producing oil field in the Caspian where vast undeveloped gas reserves also lie. BP is the operator and largest shareholder in the consortium, which includes US companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Hess (formerly Amerada Hess), as well as Norwegian firm Statoil and Azerbaijani state owned oil company Socar.

BP comes in for criticism for allegedly limiting the information it made available about the incident. Another cable records shortly after the incident: "ACG operator BP has been exceptionally circumspect in disseminating information about the ACG gas leak, both to the public and to its ACG partners. However, after talking with BP and other sources, the embassy has pieced together the following picture."

It goes on to say the incident took place when bubbles appeared in the waters around the Central Azeri platform, signalling a nearby gas leak. "Shortly thereafter, a related gas-reinjection well for Central Azeri had a blowout, expelling water, mud and gas." BP's annual report last year referred to a "comprehensive review of the subsurface gas release" having taken place and remedial work being carried out.

The cable continues: "At least some of BP's ACG partners are similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners. Although it is too early to ascertain the cause, if in fact this production shutdown was due to BP technical error, and if it continues for months (as seems possible), BP's reputation in Azerbaijan will take a serious hit."

BP is in charge of Azerbaijan's key energy projects, and has a significant influence across the region. In late 2006 discussions were taking place about when Turkey would be able to link up its own network to a new pipeline operated by BP transporting gas across the Caucasus from BP's giant new Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan. The new pipeline was seen as crucial as reducing the region's dependence on unreliable gas supplies from Russia, particularly amidst rising gas prices.

According to one cable, BP's outgoing Azerbaijan president, David Woodward, said in November 2006 that BP thought it unlikely that Turkey would be able to complete its work before spring 2007. "However, he added that 'it was not inconceivable' that Botas [Turkey's state pipeline company] could 'rush finish' the job so that it would be ready to receive gas shortly, although the pipeline would not meet international standards," the cable said. In the end, BP said Turkey began receiving gas from Shah Deniz in July 2007.

The cables also reveal BP concerns on the lack of security at the time around its oil and gas installations, particularly in the Caspian Sea, which it believed made them vulnerable to terrorist attack. One cable from July 2007 records: "BP Azerbaijan president Bill Schrader has told US officials in private conversations, 'all it would take is one guy with a mortar or six guys in a boat' to wreak havoc in Azerbaijan's critical energy infrastructure."

BP officials also complained about a shortage of Navy and Coast Guard boats – mostly Soviet era and built in the 1960s and 1970s – to patrol the waters around the platforms. It was also not clear which government agency or branch of the military was in charge, meaning a "response to a crisis offshore could be problematic" , one cable in August 2008 recorded.

The oil firm said BP "enjoys the continued support and goodwill of the government and the people of Azerbaijan".

The oil firm said in a statement that: "BP continues to have a successful and mutually beneficial partnership with the government of Azerbaijan. This cooperation has produced and contunues to produce benefits to all parties involved and most importantly to the nation of Azerbaijan.

"The Government of Azerbaijan has entrusted us with the development of its major oil and gas development projects on the basis of Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that are enacted as laws in Azerbaijan. The operatorship of PSAs of this scale and size require cooperation and alignment between contractors and the Government.

"BP in Azerbaijan enjoys the continued support and goodwill of the Government and the people of Azerbaijan to meet its obligations. As part of maintaining this successful partnership we meet and discuss business related matters with relevant parties including our partners, SOCAR, and the Government. These discussions are confidential and as such we will maintain that confidentiality and not comment on specifics."

Dec 11, 2010

Cancun summit reaches an agreement on climate change

UN talks in Cancun have reached a deal to curb climate change, including a fund to help developing countries.

Nations endorsed compromise texts drawn up by the Mexican hosts, despite objections from Bolivia.

The draft documents say deeper cuts in carbon emissions are needed, but do not establish a mechanism for achieving the pledges countries have made.

Some countries' resistance to the Kyoto Protocol had been a stumbling block during the final week of negotiations.

However, diplomats were able to find a compromise.

Delegates cheered speeches from governments that had caused the most friction during negotiations - Japan, China, even the US - as one by one they endorsed the draft.

BBC environment correspondent Richard Black said the meeting did not achieve the comprehensive, all-encompassing deal that many activists and governments want.

But he said it was being "touted as a platform on which that comprehensive agreement can be built".

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon said the summit had allowed leaders to "glimpse new horizons" where countries had the "shared task to keep the planet healthy and keep it safe from [humans]".



The UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Now the world must deliver on its promises. There is more hard work to be done ahead of the climate change conference in South Africa next year."

The Green Climate Fund is intended to raise and disburse $100bn (£64bn) a year by 2020 to protect poor nations against climate impacts and assist them with low-carbon development.

A new Adaptation Committee will support countries as they establish climate protection plans.

And parameters for funding developing countries to reduce deforestation are outlined.

But the deal is a lot less than the comprehensive agreement that many countries wanted at last year's Copenhagen summit and continue to seek. It leaves open the question of whether any of its measures, including emission cuts, will be legally binding.

"What we have now is a text that, while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward," said chief US negotiator Todd Stern.

His Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, sounded a similar note and added: "The negotiations in the future will continue to be difficult."

Bolivia found faults both with elements of the deal and with the way the texts were constructed through private conversations between small groups of countries.



Delegation chief Pablo Solon said that what concerned him most was that commitments would not be made under the Kyoto Protocol.

"We're talking about a [combined] reduction in emissions of 13-16%, and what this means is an increase of more than 4C," he said.

"Responsibly, we cannot go along with this - this would mean we went along with a situation that my president has termed 'ecocide and genocide'," Mr Solon said.

But Claire Parker, senior climate policy adviser for the global conservation group IUCN, said: "We have moved away from the post-Copenhagen paralysis.

"Developing countries can now see new money on the table which they can draw on to adapt to the impacts they're already facing and reduce emissions."

Tara Rao, senior policy adviser with environmental group WWF commented: "There's enough in it that we can work towards next year's meeting in South Africa to get a legally binding agreement there."

The final day of the two-week summit had dawned with low expectations of a deal.

But ministers conducted intensive behind-the-scenes diplomacy to formulate texts that all parties could live with.

Russia and Japan have secured wording that leaves them a possible route to escape extension of the Kyoto Protocol's legally binding emission cuts, while strongly implying that the protocol has an effective future - a key demand of developing countries.

The Green Climate Fund will initially use the World Bank as a trustee - as the US, EU and Japan had demanded - while giving oversight to a new body balanced between developed and developing countries.

Developing countries will have their emission-curbing measures subjected to international verification only when they are funded by Western money - a formulation that seemed to satisfy both China, which had concerns on such verification procedures, and the US, which had demanded them.

Courtesy: BBC

View 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony

2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony held in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2010 in absence of Liu Xiaobo.



View 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony

Nobel Peace Prize 2010 awarded in absence of Xiaobo

China could face economic and social crises if it fails to embrace full civil rights, with consequences for the whole world, the Nobel Committee said yesterday in prepared remarks for a ceremony awarding the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The awarding of the prize to Liu, serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, has infuriated Beijing as the rising Asian power becomes more assertive on the world stage. It has attempted to use diplomatic pressure to discourage countries from attending the ceremony in Oslo.

Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said Liu wanted to dedicate his Nobel to "the lost souls" of 1989 when troops crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Witnesses and rights groups said hundreds were killed.

"We can to a certain degree say that China, with its 1.3 billion people, is carrying mankind's fate on its shoulders," Jagland said in the prepared speech.

"If the country proves capable of developing a social market economy with full civil rights, this will have a huge favourable impact on the world. If not, there is a danger of social and economic crisis arising... with consequences for all."

An empty chair at the ceremony symbolised Liu's imprisonment. It was the first occasion that no representative of a detained laureate had been allowed to the ceremony since 1935, when pacifist Carl von Ossietzky was jailed by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

Jagland called on China to release Liu and said Beijing's reaction had showed the award was "necessary and appropriate".

In Liu's absence, Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann was due to read out the laureate's speech from his court trial a year ago.

"I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies," Liu told a Chinese court on Dec. 23, 2009.

"I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme."

Nobel Peace Prize 2010 ceremony in Oslo, Norway

Nobel laureate is absent as he is imprisoned by the Chinese Court.




This happens after 75 years in the world in the history of Nobel Prize that the Nobel Prize winner is barred to receive the prize by the government of the country.

Nobel Peace Prize 2010 awarding ceremony

The Nobel Peace Prize 2010 awarding ceremony. No single person of China could show an encouragement to receive the award on behalf of Mr. Liu Xiaobo of China at the awarding ceremony held at Oslo in Norway on December 10, 2010.

 


It may be mentioned here that Mr Xiaobo is now under imprisonment in China Jail. Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, democracy spokesman in China, is serving an 11-year prison sentence in China on subversion charges brought after he co-authored a bold call for sweeping changes to Beijing's one-party communist political system.

Dec 10, 2010

First Cyber World War begins to save Wikileaks

Thousands of hackers have stepped up their first ever Cyber World War to draw support for WikiLeaks and to stop repression on Julian Paul Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks on Thursday(December 9, 2010).

The Swedish government's website was forced offline after a group calling itself "Anonymous" vowed to intensify its "war of data" against Mastercard, Visa and other groups which have blocked funding to WikiLeaks.

Organisers of the group said thousands of volunteers had joined the defence of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, who is in jail in London on an extradition request from Sweden over sex crimes allegations.

"This is a war of data, we are trying to keep the Internet open and free for everyone, just the way the Internet has been and always was," said a spokesman for Anonymous, a man with a British accent calling himself "Coldblood".

Anonymous is a loose-knit group of hacktivists politically motivated hackers. It is also helping to create hundreds of mirror sites for WikiLeaks, after its US domain name provider withdrew its services.

Anonymous said that it has hit several targets, including the website of the prosecutors who are acting in a legal case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, the UN's human rights chief expressed concern about pressure on private companies to stop providing financial or Internet services for WikiLeaks.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin voiced support for WikiLeaks' boss Julian Assange, describing his detention in Britain as "undemocratic".

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed "solidarity" with Assange, blasting the Australian activist's arrest as a blow against "freedom of expression."

In an online chat with AFP, organisers said they had started with only around 50 users taking part in the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that bombard websites to take them offline, but now had around 4,000.

"We recruit through the Internet, that means, everywhere: imageboards, forums, Facebook, Twitter... you name it, we're using it," they said.

Twitter and Facebook later removed accounts for the Anonymous group's "Operation Payback" campaign on the grounds that it was targeting individuals.

As well as Mastercard, Visa and PayPal, hackers have also shut the website of the Swiss Post Office bank for severing ties to WikiLeaks and the website of the Swedish prosecutor's office for pursuing Assange.

They also threatened to knock Amazon.com offline but their initial cyber attack appeared to have failed.

The latest apparent victim was the Swedish government, according to a report in the country's top-selling daily newspaper.

Aftonbladet said the official government website, http://www.regeringen.se/, was offline for a few hours overnight on Thursday(December 9, 2010), publishing a screen shot which showed the server could not be reached.

The paper also reported that WikiLeaks supporters had created a website bearing Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask's name which then redirected users to WikiLeaks own site.

Members of Anonymous also took aim on Wednesday at the websites of US conservative standard bearer Sarah Palin and US Senator Joe Lieberman, who called for US companies to withdraw technical support for WikiLeaks.

Palin has described Assange as "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands" and called for him to be hunted down like al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Paul Mutton at the security firm Netcraft, who is monitoring the attacks, said Visa is considered a more difficult target and the attack on it required a much larger number of hacktivists, 2,000 compared with 400 for Mastercard.

Earlier the BBC was contacted by a payment firm linked to Mastercard that said its customers had "a complete loss of service".

In particular, it said that an authentication service for online payments known as Mastercard's SecureCode had been disrupted.

Other readers have also said that they have had problems with online payments. The scale of the problems is still unclear.

Mastercard acknowledged there had been "a service disruption" involving its SecureCode system, but it added: "Our core processing capabilities have not been compromised and cardholder account data has not been placed at risk.”

Other firms that have been hit in the recent spate of attacks include the Swiss bank, PostFinance, which closed the account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Before the Mastercard attack, Coldblood, told the BBC "Websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets," he said.

"As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the Internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means."

"We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people vs the government," he said.

Coldblood admitted that such attacks "may hurt people trying to get to these sites" but said it was "the only effective way to tell these companies that us, the people, are displeased".

Empty chair to represent L. Xiaobo at Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

Time is knocking. Stage is set for awarding Nobel Peace Prize 2010. But the central of attraction, the Chief Guest will not be present. He is in jail. He is hearing the sounds and shows of the ceremony. However, the ambassadors, royalty and VIPs to take their seats in Oslo's modernest City Hall on Friday for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, there will be one chair left empty for this year's winner Mr. Liu Xiaobo.

Chinese authorities have placed Liu's supporters, including his wife Liu Xia, under house arrest to prevent anyone from picking up his prize.

Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, democracy spokesman in China, is serving an 11-year prison sentence in China on subversion charges brought after he co-authored a bold call for sweeping changes to Beijing's one-party communist political system.

On Thursday, Chinese police surrounded Liu's house in Beijing. Officers guarded the entrance to the residential compound and checked the identities of all who entered. About a dozen journalists stood outside while officers patrolled inside the compound in central Beijing.

China was infuriated when the prestigious USD 1.4 million prize was awarded to the 54-year-old literary critic, describing it as an attack on its political and legal system.

Beijing has also pressured foreign diplomats to stay away from Friday's ceremony. China and 18 other countries have declined to attend, including Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba.

At least 45 of 65 embassies in Oslo have accepted invitations.

Nobel committee secretary Geir Lundestad said Liu will be represented ‘by an empty chair ... the strongest possible argument’ for awarding it to him.

It will be the first time the peace prize will not be handed out since 1936, when Adolf Hitler prevented German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from accepting the award.

The prize can be collected only by the laureate or close family members.

Cold War dissidents Andrei Sakharov of the Soviet Union and Lech Walesa of Poland were able to have their wives collect the prizes for them.

Myanmar democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi's award was accepted by her 18-year-old son in 1991.