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Australian ex-girlfriend’s diaries show Obama in love

News4u-News Desk- WASHINGTON: Secret diaries of an Australian woman who was one of young Barack Obama’s girlfriends, show the warmth and trust of the future president in love, but also hint at his reserve and “coolness.”

Accounts of the 1980s romance between Genevieve Cook and a twenty-something Obama in New York were excerpted in “Vanity Fair” magazine from a forthcoming book called “Barack Obama: The Story” by author David Maraniss.

Cook, daughter of an Australian diplomat, remembered how “on Sundays Obama would lounge around, drinking coffee and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, bare-chested, wearing a blue and white sarong,” Maraniss wrote.

The book also includes accounts from Cook’s diaries, which show how the romance grew and then cooled when the couple moved in together, according to excerpts published in Vanity Fair magazine.

“The sexual warmth is definitely there — but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all,” Cook wrote.

The account by Maraniss shows the young Obama trying to make sense of the different cultural and racial strands of his life, as the son of a white American woman and a Kenyan father who spent boyhood years in Indonesia.

He comes across as cerebral, searching, perhaps pretentious, brooding but earnest, and as an outsider — traits, in one degree or another which another marked his lightning rise to the top of US politics two decades later.

“His warmth can be deceptive,” Cook wrote. “He speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness.”

In 1984 she commented in the diary: “Barack still intrigues me, but so much going on beneath the surface, out of reach. Guarded, controlled.”

In 1985, after the relationship ended, Cook looked back on their time together and mentioned in her journal that she thought Obama withheld “the kind of emotional involvement I was seeking.

“I’m left wondering if Barack’s reserve, etc. is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he’s sorted his life through with age and experience.”

Cook, who met Obama at a Christmas Party in New York’s East village in 1983, had not previously revealed the diaries.

The account of their time together, while Obama was in his formative years working in New York, shows the couple poring through books together — or cooking.

Obama loved to make tuna sandwiches with dill peppers, just like his grandfather made him, Maraniss wrote.AFP

Young Obama

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Iraqi TV dares to talk about sex

News4u-News Desk- BAGHDAD: The concept of the television program was subversive by Iraqi standards: a comedy daring enough to joke about sex and relationships.

The studio audience of “There is someone.”

“The idea we had for this show was just a bunch of us guys sitting around drinking and telling jokes,” said Gazwan Shawi, a producer, who wore black wraparound sunglasses and a gold chain, and greeted a guest with an elaborate handshake in the style used by rappers.

Here and elsewhere, the banter of young drunken men tends to circle back to one topic: sex.

“Between us friends,” Shawi said, speaking of the program’s hosts and crew members, “we always talk about these things. Why can’t we let the audience see this reality?”

They have, and for that they have attracted a huge following for the program, “There Is Someone” - named for a standard Iraqi segue into a joke, something akin to “knock, knock.” The show, broadcast on Sunday nights, has become a national sensation and the talk of the proverbial water cooler on Monday mornings. Bootleg DVDs of previous episodes are brisk sellers in the city’s markets.

But the jokes have not gone over so well with government censors and religious groups. The show recently resumed taping after a hiatus that followed complaints by the government’s media commission. After a religious group protested outside the studio, the network that broadcasts the show agreed to remove from it a female D.J. whose dancing had offended the devout.

The show lays bare the deep schisms in Iraqi society over the limits of Western-style notions of free speech. In Iraq, Islamic law is enshrined in the Constitution alongside guarantees of personal freedoms.

The show has struck a chord among a public hungry for homegrown entertainment that challenges certain orthodoxies and tired of politically tinged programming produced by channels affiliated with parties and officials. “There Is Someone” is broadcast by Al Sumaria, which is owned by a Lebanese businessman and is considered one of the few media outlets not linked to a political party.

The format is simple: five or six men sitting in yellow chairs in the center of a studio drinking from big yellow coffee mugs and joking with one another. A studio audience looks on. Often the jokes are goofy and G-rated; a recent one had a donkey sneaking a crocodile into a party by claiming to be wearing a Lacoste polo shirt. The jokes do not necessarily translate well into English, and this one was uproariously funny to many viewers.

Just as often, the jokesters touch on topics that have been strictly taboo on local television, like sexual satisfaction, adultery, drunkenness and women’s menstrual cycles. (Another joke, which also does not translate well, has a man sending his wife to the market so he can engage in phone sex with his mistress.)

“The show is challenging some social ideas and traditions, and that’s why it may get so much attention,” said Waleed Monem, a host whose clownlike grin and energy serve as the program’s center of gravity.

These guys are not Iraqi stand-ins for Eddie Murphy or Andrew Dice Clay. To talk about sex on television here, and to elicit laughs for doing so, requires a feat of linguistic gymnastics and the deployment of double entendres and subtle code words. “We were scared in the beginning,” said Yasir Sami, another of the show’s hosts.

From the outset, Sami said, the show’s creators wanted to see how far they could push the limits of what is acceptable on television here. They knew to steer clear of politics and religion - explosive topics about which saying the wrong thing could get someone killed.

So they settled on sex. “But we’re trying to say things in an indirect way,” Mr. Sami said.

Even so, the government has sought to shut down the program. The state’s media watchdog, the Communications and Media Commission, recently condemned the show in a letter because it “contains jokes that are in most cases aggressive, indecent and impudent.”
In response, Al Sumaria grudgingly agreed to take a week off from taping and to be more careful in the choice of jokes. “The media committee is full of ignorant people,” said Mohammad Ubaidi, Al Sumaria’s program director. “They have a Baathist mentality.”

The station had little choice, because the government has wide latitude to crack down on the media. But it remains to be seen whether the tone of the show will noticeably change. Judging by the latest program, the show will continue to push boundaries, as the style of the jokes has not seemed to change.

On Sunday morning, a couple of hours before taping for the show began, a group of young men gathered outside the studio hoping to be chosen for the audience. When Mr. Monem, the host, arrived, he was searched for weapons just as everyone else was.

Ahad Yasin, 29, said he came to watch because “it’s amazing to have such a show.”

“It lets us forget about all the sad things,” he added.

Mr. Yasin, wearing a red skintight T-shirt labeled “Dior” and equally tight black jeans, said he had become tired of watching other Iraqi channels. They are full of news about “I.E.D.’s and political speeches,” he said, using the abbreviation for improvised explosive devices.

“It’s a hit show, and this of course will offend the politicians, who would rather us just watch their speeches on TV,” Mr. Yasin said.

Another man, who lives in Amara, in the south near the Iranian border, left his home at 4 a.m. and drove for five hours to stand in line outside the studio. “As a young man, I can really relate,” he said. “We always make jokes like this. It’s normal.”

The show has given the hosts, already well known in Iraq for their previous media appearances, a new level of fame. When mixed with controversy, prominence here can be dangerous.

“Yes, yes, yes, I am afraid,” Mr. Monem said. “I don’t take taxis unless I know the driver. I don’t go to popular restaurants. I’ve heard rumors, but haven’t received any direct threats.”

Mr. Monem and some of the show’s other creators worked in the media under Saddam Hussein’s government. They revel in their new creative freedom but say there are still too many limits on what they can produce.

“If you compare it to before 2003, yes, there is some freedom,” he said.

“If you compare it to the rest of the world, no.” NYT

Iraqi TV dares to talk about sex

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Fighter jets over London as it prepares for Olympic Games

News4u-News Desk- LONDON: Fighter jets flew into a base in northwest London on Wednesday, the first time they will be stationed in the capital since World War Two, at the start of a week of military exercises to test out security ahead of the Olympic Games in July.

Codenamed “Olympic Guardian” and involving airmen, soldiers and sailors, the exercises are aimed at reassuring Britons and foreign visitors that everything possible is being done to keep them safe during the games.

Military chiefs insist the manoeuvres, between May 2 and 10, are necessary contingency measures for what will be Britain’s biggest peacetime security operation.

But some have described the security, which includes a plan to place surface-to-air missiles on a residential block next to the Olympic Park in east London, as “Olympic madness”.

“Yet again there has been a complete overreaction which in fact will put ordinary people at greater risk than any extremely unlikely external attack,” one letter in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper said.

Anti-war protesters have accused the Ministry of Defence of creating a climate of fear.

Typhoon jets, stationed at the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Northolt airbase in northwest London, will fly over London, and pilots will test procedures for intercepting any aircraft which breach the restricted airspace imposed around the Games.

Britain’s biggest helicopter carrier HMS Ocean will patrol the River Thames, while the warship HMS Bulwark, will be off Weymouth on the south coast, where the sailing events will be held. The Typhoon fighters will be joined by RAF Puma aircraft, Lynx helicopters carrying snipers, and surveillance aircraft.

After backing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and with British troops in Afghanistan, Britain remains a target for acts of terrorism. London transport bombings in 2005 killed 52 people.

But the tight security measures run the risk of reducing the popularity of the Games among Londoners already complaining about the 9.3 billion pounds ($15 billion) cost and the disruption to ordinary people’s lives, particularly commuters.

Many fear the transport network will not be able to cope with extra passengers during the Games which start on July 27.

“You can scramble all the fighter jets you like but people will still be jammed solid out on the tracks,” RMT union General-Secretary Bob Crow said.

Londoners resent the fact that specially designated traffic lanes will be set aside for VIPs while the rest of the city crawls along its log-jammed narrow lanes.

The cost of the military exercises which began on Wednesday has been budgeted within the overall one billion pound ($1.6 billion) security budget, the Ministry of Defence said, without giving a further breakdown.

About 13,500 soldiers will help the police during the Games, more than the 9,500 UK troops serving in Afghanistan. Reuters

Fighter jets over London as it prepares for Olympic Games

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India frees sugar exports, global prices fall

News4u - Business Desk :  India has removed any limit on sugar export volumes for now, a government source said on Wednesday, adding pressure to global prices, but the world’s second-biggest producer could reinstate restrictions later if domestic supplies are threatened.

Ministers met to try to sort out conflicting views on sugar and other agricultural exports from one of the world’s biggest food producers.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had called for more sugar exports beyond the 3 million tonnes already approved for the year to 30th September, while the food ministry had dithered on an allocation mechanism.

“Sugar exports have been freed, and there will not be any quantitative restriction, but we will stop it (exports) once it reaches a particular level,” the government source told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The decision followed a series of policy flip-flops and delays to implementing overseas sales, which kept global markets on edge.

India took a similar line on wheat and rice exports late last year, removing restrictions on sales but tacitly eyeing a limit in case global demand threatened domestic supplies.

Raw sugar futures sank 1.77 percent to 20.58 cents a lb by 1628 GMT, close to a one-year low, pressured by the potential extra exports and by the start of the harvest in Brazil, the world’s largest producer.

The government remains anxious over supplies after having to import sugar following a severe drought in 2009, sending international prices spiralling upwards.

In the current year, production is expected to be 26 million tonnes and domestic demand around 22 million tonnes, the second year of a surplus.

The meeting of finance, food, agriculture and trade ministers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also agreed to set up a committee to agree on a long-term policy on grain exports.

The issue has pitted Pawar, a champion of farmers, against the food ministry, which is concerned about domestic inflation.

Pawar has also clashed with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma over cotton exports, but on Monday these too were freed.



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Congress to evolve consensus within the UPA on Presidential candidate

News4u-News Desk- With the election of the next President of the country scheduled in July, ruling and opposition allies at the centre are gearing up for consultations among the allies and other parties.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi tomorrow in New Delhi.

Congress sources said Gandhi will be discussing the issue of Presidential poll nominee with Mamata as part of Congress’ efforts to reach out to its UPA allies to evolve a consensus on the candidature for the top post.

However, Trinamool sources said Mamata will pay a just “courtsey” call on Gandhi as the two had not met for a long time and the Congress chief had been unwell recently.

Congress has already discussed the Presidential poll candidate with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi.

Pawar had met Gandhi at her residence last week while senior Congress leader A K Antony had a meeting with Karunanidhi in Chennai yesterday on the Presidential candidate.

Sonia- Mamta

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Scheme for pregnant women to be extended after pilot project

News4u-News Desk- The central scheme to provide cash incentive to pregnant and lactating women will be extended all over the country after assessing results of the pilot project in 52 districts, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday. 

“After the scheme has been assessed and finalised, it will be extended to all districts in the country,” Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath said during Question Hour.

Under the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), implemented since 2010 on a pilot basis, the Centre provides each pregnant and lactating woman a cash incentive of Rs 4,000 in three installments.

Tirath said so far 1.88 lakh beneficiaries have been covered under the scheme and out of Rs 411.78 crore released during 2010-11 and 2011-12, the state governments have reported fund utilisation of Rs 71.53 crore.

Asked if the government would take action against states that have not fully utilised funds allocated for the scheme, she said, “The rule is that funds will not be released to those states for the second time.”

Maharashtra and Punjab have not utilised the funds allocated to them.

To another query, Tirath said that states have been instructed to allow beneficiaries to open zero balance accounts in the nearest bank or post office for cash transfer.

The scheme aims at improving health and nutrition status of pregnant and lactating women and infants by promoting appropriate practices, care and service utilisation during pregnancy, safe delivery and lactation.

Scheme for pregnant women

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Aarushi case trial may be committed to sessions on 9th May

News4u-News Desk- A special CBI judge on Thursday fixed 9th May to decide on sending the sensational 2008 twin murder case of teenager Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj to the sessions court for trial.

Hearing the bail plea of 14-year-old slain teenager’s mother and dentist Nupur Talwar, Special Judicial Magistrate Preeti Singh said that the case may be committed to an appropriate court as she did not have powers to try a murder case.

During the proceedings, Talwar’s lawyer cited deficiencies in case documents provided to the defence by the CBI and sought the court’s direction to the agency on his submissions.

After hearing both sides, the special judge directed the CBI to reply to the defence plea on May nine during which she may also decide on committing the case to the district court for the trial.

Nupur, who broke down in the court after hearing the postponement of the date of hearing, was consoled by her husband Rajesh Talwar. She was later taken to Dasna Jail.

Additional District and Sessions Judge S Lal had yesterday denied bail to Nupur in the twin murder case.

Disposing of her petition, the judge had said he could not exercise the discretion of giving bail to her as “there is a prima facie evidence to suggest the involvement of the accused.”

Aarushi was murdered on the intervening night of May 16-17, 2008 at her Noida residence and the body of Hemraj was found on the terrace of the house the next day.

Nupur had faced arrest after the special CBI court in Ghaziabad had issued non-bailable warrant against her on 11thApril following which the CBI had carried out searches at her Delhi premises.

Nupur Talwar

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Punjab reaches 4th place with 4-wicket win over RCB

News4u-News Desk- Inspiring bowling by Praveen Kumar and Azhar Mahmood helped Kings XI Punjab pip Royal Challengers Bangalore by four wickets in a thrilling Indian Premier League match and keep themselves in the play-offs contention in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Praveen bowled a sensational spell after inviting hosts to bat as he gave away just eight runs in his four overs and seasoned Mahmood took three wickets at the expense of just 20 runs to restrict hosts to 158 for five.

Bangalore owed their total to Chris Gayle’s blazing 71 off 42 balls since they were struggling at 59 for one in 10 overs at one stage.

Chasing 159, Punjab had some very anxious moments before crossing the line as they lost Azhar Mahmood (2), skipper David Hussey (45) and Abhishek Nayar (2) through freak run outs in a space of eight balls towards the end to almost give away the win to rivals on the platter.

However, Piyush Chawla struck a six in the penultimate ball of the match to ensure that his side jump to fourth place in the table from a dejecting eighth spot.

Nitin Saini (50 off 36 balls), Mandep Singh (43 off 30) and skipper Hussey batted with sheer determination before the unnecessary run outs.

Saini shared a match-winning partnership of 73 runs for the third wicket with Hussey (45 off 29) to lay foundation for the win.

However, Punjab made it tough for themselves as Mahmood lost wicket in the fourth ball of the 17th over and Hussey and Nayar were out in the 19th over bowled by Zaheer Khan, leaving Punjab to score five off six balls.

Vinay Kumar did not concede a run in the first two balls but Paras Dogra managed a couple off the third to make it three runs off three balls.

It became two off two when Dogra took a single in the next ball and then Piyush Chawla ended supense with a big six.

Now Punjab (-0.280) and Mumbai Indians (-0.187) both have 10 points but the latter are placed third due to better Net Run Rate.



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Polling underway for two Rajya Sabha seats in Jharkhand

News4u-News Desk- In Jharkhand, crucial Rajya Sabha elections for two seats from the state are underway on Thursday. 

The Congress has fielded Pradeep Kumar Balmachu and is wooing pre-poll ally Jharkhand Vikas Morha (Prajatantric) to reverse its decision to abstain from voting.

The congress has 13 MLAs while the JVM’s has eleven in the 82 member Jharkhand assembly.

The house has one nominated member and another seat is vacant.

The election was earlier countermanded following allegations of use of money power and horse trading.

Jharkhand Map

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India, S Africa agrees to expand cooperation in IT, power, tourism

News4u- News Desk-  India and South Africa, whose ties have acquired a “robust and dynamic” character, today agreed to expand cooperation in a number of fields like power, IT, health, tourism and infrastructure development.

This was stated by President Pratibha Patil after talks with her South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, who hailed her state visit as “significant”.

Patil, who arrived Pretoria yesterday on a week-long visit, was given a ceremonial welcome at the historic Union building housing the office of the South African President.

“It is even more satisfying that our bilateral relationship today has acquired a robust and dynamic character, to assume the dimension of a strategic partnership… Today’s discussions with President Zuma were wide-ranging and covered bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest,” she said.

She said India is interested in working closely with the government of South Africa to develop the Gandhi heritage sites in this country.

Extending an invitation to Indian businessmen to invest in South Africa, Zuma said his country has launched an ambitious programme of over USD 100 billion for infrastructure development by 2014.

South Africa would like to enhance cooperation with New Delhi in a number of areas especially infrastructure development, training, trade relations and tourism, he said.

To boost its infrastructure programme, South Africa wishes to enhance skills in the areas of engineering, information and communication technology, computer science, finance, economics and accounting, Zuma said.”With trade between South Africa and India increasing steadily, we should all work to reach even higher figures,” he said.

President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil

President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil
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