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US bill prohibits aid to Pak till it cooperates on terror war

News4u-News Desk- Washington: A Congressional Committee in its budgetary proposals for the year 2013 has prohibited economic and security assistance to Pakistan till it co-operates with the US in the fight against terrorism and takes action against groups like Haqqani Network, Taliban, al-Qaeda, LeT and JeM.

“The legislation prohibits economic and security assistance unless the Government of Pakistan is cooperating with the US on counterterrorism efforts and other issues,” the House Appropriations Committee said in a statement as it released the 2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.

The bill totals USD 40.1 billion in regular discretionary funding, which is USD two billion or five per cent below last year’s level. The bill running into 208 pages will be considered by a Congressional sub-committee later on Wednesday.

Among other things, the bill includes USD 8.2 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terror funding, which will adequately provide for continued US involvement in front-line countries and other war-related efforts.

In total, including war funding, the bill is USD five billion – or nine per cent– below fiscal year 2012, the House Committee said in a statement.

“It is more important than ever that taxpayer dollars be used in the most efficient, frugal, and common-sense way to balance our international responsibilities with the very real economic and financial challenges we face here at home. This bill meets our commitment to providing essential security, diplomatic, and humanitarian assistance abroad, while reducing funding for lower-priority programs and providing a keen eye towards the oversight of every tax dollar,” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said in a statement.

The legislation also withholds operating funds until a transition plan is submitted and withholds assistance until certifications that proper security is in place for civilian aid workers can be made.
According to the bill, none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act to Pakistan may be made available unless the Secretary of State certifies that Pakistan is cooperating with US on counterterrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Qaeda and other terror groups, including taking steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross border attacks into neighboring countries.

Other conditions include Pakistan taking strong action against IEDs, which is said to be responsible for most American casualties in Afghanistan.

The bill also seeks a set of benchmarks for Pakistan from the Government and if these benchmarks are not met, the US aid to Pakistan would be suspended.Agencies

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Indiscipline won’t be tolerated in party: Sonia Gandhi

News4u-News Desk-NEW DELHI, Asking partymen to draw lessons from the previous polls, Congress presidentSonia Gandhi today said that leaders must shed factional behaviour and fight as one disciplined team as the party braces to face a series of state elections in the coming months.

“We must all shed all manner of factional behaviour, and fight as one disciplined team at all levels. That will be the single-most important factor to decide whether we win or lose.

“People look to us- but we need to show them our commitment and our unity if we are to convert this sentiment into electoral victories,” Gandhi said addressing a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party here, which was also attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Commenting on the elections results in the five states including Uttar Pradesh, where the party could not perform as expected, Gandhi said, “While we can take satisfaction in the fact that we returned to power in Manipur for the third time and formed the government in Uttarakhand, the results in Punjab and Goa are very disappointing.

“In Uttar Pradesh, even though we did not perform as well as we had hoped to, we increased our vote share quite considerably and were seen as a serious player for the first time in 22 years. Of course there is much work to be done there as in other states.”

The CPP meeting has come a few days after a high-power committee of the party led A K Antony that reviewed the party’s performance in the five states, submitted its report to Gandhi.

She said with a series of state elections approaching in the coming months, the partymen “must draw upon lessons of the previous polls.”

Gandhi also asked partymen to project the works of the party led government at the Centre and “expose the hollow claims of opposition-rule state governments”, adding that “mis-governance and corruption have been widespread in some of these states as revealed by CAG and Lokayukta reports”.

Gandhi said that it is particularly for the party at the state level to highlight the failures of the opposition- ruled governments.

In the backdrop of the stand off between the states and the Centre over NCTC with UPA ally Mamata Banerjee leading the charge against the government, Gandhi said, “Trust and cooperation must be the anchor Centre-state relations”.

She noted that there has been a lot of discussion in recent months on Centre-state relations.

“I would like to reiterate here we are fully committed to strengthening federalism, which is a key tenet of our party’s and UPA’s agenda. What better evidence of this can there be than the unprecedented transfers of financial assistance from the Centre to the states these past eight years,” Gandhi said.

She said that there are Centre-state issues of major national importance-such as fighting terrorism or dealing with left-wing extremism-where the “Centre cannot shirk its responsibilty”.

“In such cases, it has been our government’s endeavour to work closely with the state governments so that our national interest is protected,” Gandhi said.

Referring to the bills on food security and land acquisition, which are yet to see the light of the day, Gandhi said, “On our part, we must do all we can to ensure that the legislative process is not unduly delayed.”

While food security is the pet project of Sonia Gandhi led-National Advisory Council, Rahul Gandhi has been leading from the front for a new land bill.

The Congress president noted, “We are awaiting the standing committee reports on a number of important legislations including those on food security and land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation.”PTI

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi

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1 million Olympic tickets to go on sale Friday

News4u-Sports Desk-  LONDON- Olympic fans who missed out on tickets for the London Games will get another opportunity this week, including a chance for high-demand seats to the opening ceremony or 100-meter final.

Olympic organizers said Tuesday they are putting nearly 1 million tickets on sale, with priority given to those people who were unsuccessful in previous rounds.

The 900,000 tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to the nearly 1 million people in Britain who applied previously but came up empty handed.

”We know thousands of sports fans were disappointed when they missed out in the initial sales period because of the massive demand for tickets,” organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe said. ”We promised we would prioritize these fans when we released the contingency tickets, which is exactly what we are doing.”

The tickets will go on sale online - at the official website www.tickets.london2012.com - starting at 11 a.m. local time on Friday.

Organizing committee chief executive Paul Deighton said about 5,000 tickets would be available for the men’s 100-meter final on the evening of Aug. 5 that is expected to feature reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder Usain Bolt. Also on sale will be the remaining 5,000 tickets for the opening ceremony and 5,000 for the closing ceremony.

First priority will be given to the 20,000 people who failed to secure tickets in the initial ballot last year and missed out again in a second sale.

Those customers will be given 31 hours exclusive access before the 1 million people who applied unsuccessfully in the initial ballot will then have their own exclusive 5-day sales period.

All customers will be limited to applying to one session and a maximum of four tickets.

Buyers can expect 20 minutes of ”queuing” on the website in the expected crush for tickets, Ticketmaster’s managing director Chris Edmonds said.

”Hundreds of thousands of people could be hitting the website,” he said. ”There is potentially going to be some slowing within the ticketing process, consistent with putting on sale an event of a major artist like Madonna or Lady Gaga.”

Any tickets that remain unsold will go back on general sale May 23.

The sale of 8.8 million total Olympic tickets began last year, with most snatched up in the early rounds.

Organizers are trying to raise about $704 million from ticket sales, a quarter of their operating budget.

Coe said 75 percent of the tickets go to the British public, with 25 percent to foreign fans, national Olympic committees, sponsors and other groups.

Organizing committee LOCOG is on target to meet its ticket revenue target and ensure that ”all our venues are packed to the rafters with passionate fans,” Coe said.

Being sold separately are 1.4 million soccer tickets. So far, 1.1 million have been sold for the soccer tournament, which kicks off two days before the opening ceremony with a women’s match between Britain and New Zealand in Cardiff, Wales, on Aug. 25. Only 11,000 tickets have been sold so far for that game.

LOCOG has faced considerable criticism in Britain for its ticket policy, with buyers and watchdog groups complaining of a lack of transparency over the sales and the computer system dogged by glitches and huge demand.

Also Monday, organizers announced that 70,000 tickets will be sold allowing access to the Olympic Park to watch the events on big screens, mainly in the first week before the track and field starts. Those tickets - which do not offer entry to the competition venues - will sell for 10 pounds ($16) and 5 pounds ($8) for those under 16 or over 60.

Also on sale will be tickets to the ”Orbit,” the 375-foot tower in the center of the Olympic Park designed by London-based artist Anish Kapoor. The full-price 15 pound ($24) tickets are only for those who have tickets for the park or competitions in the park.

Going on sale May 29 will be tickets for the start of the cycling road race at Box Hill in Surrey and the individual time trial start at Hampton Court Palace. Full priced tickets will run 15 pounds ($24). Tickets to the grassy hill at Wimbledon to watch Olympic tennis matches on the big screen will cost 10 pounds ($16).

LOCOG also relaxed a policy on bringing babies into the venues that had caused an uproar among parents groups.

Previously, parents had complained they would have to buy full price tickets for their infants. Under the new policy, babies 12 months and under will be permitted without a ticket at most events as long as they are ”securely strapped to their parent or (caretaker) by way of a baby carrier, sling, papoose or similar.”

The exception is at the soccer venues at Wembley, St. James Park and Old Trafford and the North Greenwich venue for gymnastics and the basketball finals. Organizers said those venue have existing licensing agreements that require tickets of all spectators regardless of age.AP

London Olympics 2012

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Kailash Mansarovar yatra route to be cleared by May 25

News4u-News Desk-Pithoragarh, District authorities today claimed to get the Kailash Mansarovar route cleared by May 25 for the religious voyage to begin from June 1.

The track route up to Nabhidhang inside the Indian territory will be cleared of all obstacles by May 25, district magistrate CMS Bisht told reporters here.

Bisht today held the first review meeting for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, attended by district and police officials representatives of KMVN, ITBP, BSNL, and BRO. This year, the yatra from June 1 to September 25 will be in 16 batches, he said.

The DM instructed SDM Dharchula Abhishek Tripathi to inspect the route. For communication during the religious trip, BSNL will provide five satellite mobile set each to KMVN and ITBP, he added.

“We will install a wireless control room at base camp Dharchula besides providing satellite sets to all policemen on security duty,” said AS Takwale, superintendent of police pithoragarh district.

The services of 18 doctors and same number of pharmacists will be made available to the pilgrims during the yatra this year, Chief medical officer of the district SC pant informed. PTI

Indian pilgrims to Mansarovar

 

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China warns Philippines over disputed island in South China sea

News4u-News Desk-BEIJING: China on Tuesday warned the Philippines not to “misjudge” its resolve over a disputed island in the South China Sea, saying it is “fully prepared” to respond to any move by Manila to escalate the situation.

Chinese vice-foreign minister Fu Yingsummoned the Charge D’affaires of the Philippine Embassy here on Monday to lodge a representation over the “current incident” at the Huangyan Island, referred to as Scarborough Shoal by Manila and asked it to remove all its naval ships from there.

This is the third time that China has summoned the Philippine diplomat in less than a month.

“It is hoped that the Philippine side will not misjudge the situation and not escalate tensions without considering the consequences,” Fu said.

Because of the continuous provocation by the Philippine side, China’s government vessels will continue to be on alert in the sea area around Huangyan Island, she said.

Fu said that China is not optimistic about the situation concerning Huangyan Island and it is fully prepared to respond to anything the Philippines does to escalate the situation, state-run news agency Xinhua quoted an official statement.

During the two previous meetings, Fu said, she asked the Philippine side to remain calm and refrain from taking actions that would escalate or complicate the situation.

“However, it is obvious that the Philippine side has not realised that it is making serious mistakes and, instead, is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions,” Fu said, as Manila and Beijing lined up their naval ships near the island in a stand off for over four weeks.

Fu said Philippines continued to send government vessels to the Island lagoon and has repeatedly made erroneous remarks which have misled the Philippine public and the international community and provoked public feelings, thus severely damaging bilateral relations.

“Therefore, it is hard for us to be optimistic about the situation,” she said.

China urges the Philippine side to withdraw its vessels in the sea area around island and to never again impede the operations of Chinese fishing vessels or Chinese government vessels performing their duties in accordance with Chinese law, Fu said.

“The Chinese side has also made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,” Fu said.

Fu stated that the Chinese side maintains its position of seeking diplomatic solutions to the current situation, and that China once again urges the Philippine side to seriously respond to China’s concerns and properly handle the matter.

Asserting its rights, Philippines said the uninhabited island is a part of its 322-kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone, (EEZ) and geared up to take its case to international court of justice.

In Tuesday’ s meeting, Fu stressed that the island belongs to China as it has had control over it for hundreds of years, the report said.

In order to provide a positive environment for Chinese fishermen to operate in their traditional fishing area, China’s fishery administration vessels will also provide fishing vessels with services and management in accordance with Chinese law, she said.PTI

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Indians start to see less corruption: Gallup poll

News4u-News Desk- Washington: Indians continue to see corruption as widespread in their country’s government and business, but are less likely to feel that way this year, according to a new Gallup poll.

This may reflect rising optimism about the government and citizen’s efforts to fight the country’s corruption problems, the Gallup organisation, noted for its opinion polls, said while releasing the survey Tuesday.

In early 2012, some 73 percent Indians surveyed said corruption was pervasive in their government and 67 percent said it is widespread in business, the survey noted.

Perceptions of widespread corruption within the business community are particularly high among current business owners (72 percent) and those who plan to start a business within the next 12 months (80 percent).

This likely puts a serious roadblock in the path of investment and business development, Gallup said.

Although Indians are less likely this year to see corruption as widespread in their government, their confidence in the country’s leadership remains lower than it was a few years ago, it said.

Gallup attributed Indians changing feeling about corruption to among other things, arrest of A. Raja, who stepped down as telecommunications minister in the wake of the 2G scam, the Supreme Court revoking the illegally awarded telecom licenses and social activist Anna Hazare’s crusade for anti-corruption legislation. IANSSixty percent currently say they are confident of their national government, down from 70 percent in 2009.
Residents likely became more frustrated when government ministers spent valuable legislative time addressing political scandals instead of the country’s deteriorating economic conditions, it said.

The beginning of 2012 shows signs of what could be the start of a positive turnaround in Indians’ perceptions of corruption. If the trend continues, it may signal a more favorable business climate for investment and economic growth, Gallup said.

Further, a substantial boost in the economy and living standards - particularly for the nearly one in three Indians who rate their lives poorly enough to be considered “suffering” - may help raise Indians’ confidence in their government, it said.

The survey results are based on face-to-face interviews with 5,000 ¬people aged 15 and older conducted Jan 29-March 8 in India.

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Apple may launch cheaper version of MacBook Air

News4u-News Desk-WASHINGTON: US-based tech giant Apple is reportedly planning to launch a $799 MacBook Air by the end of 2012.

According to a DigiTimes report, sources have revealed that Apple would release a cheaperMacBook Air to compete with the new ultrabook trend that gained momentum during the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Apple currently offers an 11-inch MacBook for $999, and a 13-inch model for $1,299.

According to CBS News, reports of iPad minis and iPhone nanos have been making rounds.

Rumors of a cheaper, iPad mini with 7.85-inch display have been circulating for some time.

DigiTimes had reported that ‘makers’ in Apple’s supply chain has started ‘delivering samples of a 7.85-inch iPads for verification.’

Also, a recent report by the China Times claimed that Apple is planning to release low-costiPhone nano this year.

According to the report, the move aims to make gains on the low-end smartphone market.ANI

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At Silvio Berlusconi parties, sex games with statues

News4u-News Desk-MILAN: Young women simulated oral sex with a Greek statue at a party hosted by former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi , a witness said on Monday at a trial where he is accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

Chiara Danese, a 20-yearold beauty contest winner, had tears in her eyes as she told aMilan court that Berlusconi asked the women to play sex games with a nude statue of the ancient fertility god Priapus. “He touched the girls while they simulated oral sex with the statue,” she said.

“ Then Berlusconi, whom the girls called ‘daddy’ and he called ‘my babies’ , also had them kiss him in his private parts. The girls meanwhile chanted ‘thank God for Silvio’. I and (fellow guest) Ambra were shocked.”

Berlusconi, 75, is charged with paying for sex with Moroccan-born Karima El Mahroug in 2010, when she was 17, and then abusing the powers of office by getting her freed from police custody.

Prosecutors say that dozens of showgirls and aspiring starlets received cash and other gifts for taking part in sex games at his Milan home.

Berlusconi denies the charges saying he was helping the women out of generosity and accuses magistrates of mounting a biased campaign against him.Reuters

Italys Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

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Not gold, but target achieved for Indian boxers in Kazakhstan

News4u-Sports Desk- Gold was not stroked but the mission was accomplished by the Indian male boxers during the training-cum-competition trip in Kazakhstan as the national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said the primary task of identifying weaknesses was completed ahead of the big event.

India’s seven Olympics-bound boxers, along with a few others, were trained for close to a fortnight in the Kazakh city of Almaty and returned to the country in the wee hours on Tuesday morning.

Only L Devendro Singh (49kg) managed to fetch a silver medal in Alamty, and was qualified for the Olympics, but Sandhu said the purpose of the trip was not to win medals but to get exposure and work on past mistakes and shortcomings.

“We fulfilled what we set for ourselves. I told my boys that their focus should be on performance and medals would be a bonus,” Sandhu said.

“These boys were under tremendous pressure during the qualification tournaments and they needed some recovery. This trip provided them with that. Our boxers did some controlled sparring, school fights and free bouts and we identified the shortcomings in their techniques,” he added.

Eleven countries took part in the competition and Indians got an idea of what awaits them at the Olympics.

“We got access to southpaw boxers, who are a rarity in India. We checked out boys who have qualified for the Olympics. We made recordings and all this will set us up for the Olympics,” said Sandhu.

“Now the focus is on covering the weak points and perfecting the strong points,” added the team’s Cuban coach B I Fernandes.

Seven Indian boxers — Devendro, Shiva Thapa (56kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Vijender Singh (75kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) — make up an unprecedented seven-strong Indian boxing contingent for the Olympics.

The boys said they are better boxers after the trip as they continue their build-up for London.

“I got good knowledge of my prospective opponents in London. Training with different opponents, I also realised that I have to continue working on my foot movement and right punches. My accuracy has improved and I have always been quick inside the ring,” said Devendro, who turned 20 on Tuesday.

“Competing against variety of opponents helped me sort out my shortcomings and I will ensure that I don’t repeat these mistakes during the Olympics,” added the 19-year-old Sumit.

After spending some time training in Patiala now, the boxers will head to London for another 10-day training stint.

“We will not train at the Olympic venue but just being there in London for a few days will left a lot of mental blockades. The boys will get a feel of the conditions. This trip is planned for the second week of June,” said Sandhu.

Boxing Gloves

Boxing Gloves

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Stop funding universities, raise fee, finance students: Montek

News4u-Business Desk-Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Tuesday pitched for raising fees by universities and providing easy finance for students to complete higher education.

“Stop funding the universities and just fund the students then they go to universities that are worth paying for,” Montek said addressing a function in New Delhi on Tuesday to unveil a report on corporate sector participation in higher education.

“I am in favour of raising the fees across the board and giving scholarship that will enable students to go to universities which actually do a good job,” he added.
Ahluwalia said after making allocation for primary and secondary education which are high priority areas, there will be limited resources left for higher education and thus private sector investment would be required.
“Public resource need to grow in areas of highest priority and in education sector, primary and secondary education is much more important. You cannot have world class universities unless you have world class university entrance,” he added.
On private sector investment in higher education, he said “Corporate sector should be taking interest in setting up educational institutions because the amount of public resources available for health and education is limited. If you don’t bring the private resources, you will not get the end result you want”.
Speaking on the occasion, Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal said “Private sector is not going to invest unless you give them appropriate environment and the fundamental (requirement of private sector) is land”.

Pointing towards the litigations over land given to private sector for setting up educational and health institutions, the Minister said there is enormous opposition to the idea of giving free land to private players for these purposes.

Sibal also emphasised on the need for giving soft loans for the private sector for setting up educational and health institutions in the country.”The banks must be asked to give long term loans to educational institutions for 20 to 25 years to set up institutions as nobody is going to borrow at 12 per cent or 16 per cent for 7 years,” he added.

The Minister also expressed resentment over the Planning Commission turning down its proposal to set up education Finance Corporation to provide easy finance to students.

MONTEK SINGH AHLUWALIA

MONTEK SINGH AHLUWALIA

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