Thursday, 24 March 2011

Over 25 killed in Myanmar earthquake

MyanmarAt least 25 people were killed and dozens of buildings destroyed when a strong earthquake struck Myanmar near the Thai border, officials from both countries said Friday.Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake on Thursday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8.A Myanmar official warned that there could be “many more casualties” in the town of Tarlay, close to the epicentre, as he confirmed 10 men, a boy and 13 women had been killed when the quake struck.
“Five monasteries and 35 buildings collapsed in the town. Those people were killed when the buildings collapsed,” said the official, who declined to be named.
Twenty people were injured in Tarlay in the district of Tachileik, and the official said the main road into the area was closed after being damaged in the quake.
Just across the border from Tachileik, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall of her house collapsed.
Terrified residents across the region fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated during the tremors.
The quake struck 90 kilometres north of Chiang Rai and 235 kilometres north-northeast of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second city and a popular tourist destination. Tall buildings shuddered in Bangkok during the tremor.
Its epicentre was close to the borders with Thailand and Laos and was just 10 kilometres deep.
Thailand’s meteorological department on Friday said it had registered six large aftershocks following the initial quake.
Chiang Rai governor Somchai Hatayatanti told AFP late Thursday that efforts were made to evacuate people from tall buildings and he had ordered all patients from Mae Sai District Hospital to be taken to Chiang Rai.
The shaking was felt throughout China’s southwest province of Yunnan, according to state-run China National Radio, but no casualties or structural collapses had been reported as of Friday morning.
However, the earthquake reportedly caused cracks in some homes and schools in and around the rugged Xishuangbanna region which borders Myanmar, and fear of aftershocks forced many people in the area to spend the night outdoors.
Some residents of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi fled their homes in panic when the quake shook the city.
Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh, 36, who lives on the 10th floor of a highrise, said her husband noticed their pet fish shaking in their tank.
“We all rushed to the street. All the other people in the apartments also rushed out,” she said.
Hanoi felt the tremor at about magnitude 5.0, according to Dinh Quoc Van, deputy head of the earthquake monitoring department.
The quake comes two weeks after Japan was hit by a monster earthquake, which unleashed a devastating tsunami that left around 27,000 people dead or missing and triggered a crisis at its Fukushima nuclear plant.
No tsunami warning was issued after the Myanmar quake as US seismologists said it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.
The USGS initially recorded the quake as magnitude 7.0, but later revised it down to 6.8.

Jitters in India over Pakistan`s World Cup prospects

  • Friday, 25 March 2011 13:00
  • Written by Muslim News Magazine
India_PakAn India-Pakistan semi-final in Mohali now looks set to be the highpoint of the current cricket World Cup but the possibility of Pakistan going on to play the finals in Mumbai is giving nightmares to the Indian security apparatus, the Indian Express said on Thursday.
“Pakistan’s successful run in the ongoing Cricket World Cup has given fresh jitters to India that now anticipates a deluge of visa applications, over and above the 5,000 already processed,” the newspaper said.
It said Pakistan’s High Commissioner Shahid Malik, who met Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai on Monday, apparently told him that with the possibility of Pakistan reaching the semi-finals and final of the World Cup fairly high, India must be ready to stamp close to 5,000 more visas of Pakistani fans.

With an India and Pakistan match now confirmed in Mohali for March 30, problems for the security arrangement will be determined by the outcome.

If Pakistan manage to beat India in Mohali and proceed to Mumbai for the finals, it would be their first game in the city since 1989 when they played Australia in the MRF series.

Shiv Sena factor

“But what bothers the Home Ministry and security agencies is Mumbai as venue, where memories of 26/11 terror attacks are still fresh and the terror threat from the Lashkar-e-Taiba looms large,” the Indian Express said.

The danger of the fanatical Shiv Sena creating ugly scenes and bringing the city to a halt, also could not be taken lightly, it quoted sources as saying.

“While the Home Ministry is not worried about the semi-finals in Mohali which is close to Attari-Wagah border, and arrangements can be made for fans to come through the border point at Wagah via special buses, Mumbai has posed a real challenge,” according to the Express.

“The Home Ministry in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs has decided that the 45-day application period required would be waived off, but has dismissed the suggestion from Islamabad that fans be allowed to reach Mumbai by Samjhauta Express train via Attari border.”

A government source told the Express that there were “other easier ways of reaching Mumbai, say by flight or by the sea”.

As enough flights cannot be arranged and possibility of getting a special trainload from Attari has been ruled out, a short ship voyage from Karachi to Mumbai is being seen as a possibility, the report said.

Tech-savvy Indians cry out for Apple’s attention

Apple_TechNamrata, a Delhi University student, turned an iPad tablet computer round in her hands at an electronics store in the city. It is Apple’s latest must-have item – yet it is already out of date. “No, I’ll wait for the iPad 2,” she said, putting it back on the shelf, aware that the improved version has already gone on sale in the United States. “Perhaps my aunt in Australia will be able to send me one soon,” she said. India looks like a massive emerging market for Apple’s iPads, iPods and iPhones, with an increasingly wealthy, young population hungry for information, entertainment and the latest craze in consumer culture.
But the original iPad finally arrived in India a full nine months after it was available in the United States – and the iPad 2 has no scheduled release date in the country of 1.18 billion people.

The iPad 2 hit the shops in the US on March 11 having been unveiled by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, and it will be released in dozens of other countries – including Britain and Australia – on March 25.

Popular tech blogger Soumyadip Choudhury targeted Jobs, accusing him of using India as a dumping ground for out-of-date Apple technology.

“Is India, for Apple, only a market where you can hold your clearance sale, just before you are ready with the product’s next generation?” he wrote on his blog, addressing Jobs directly.

“You officially began selling your blockbuster tablet device (the original iPad) in India exactly 30 days before announcing the new one (iPad 2),”Choudhury said.

The iPad 2 is selling in the United States at about the same prices as the iPad 1, ranging from $499.

“You have not only miffed Indian consumers with your delayed-till-it-is-obsolete releases but also with your unreasonable pricing,” Choudhury wrote.

The iPad 2 is thinner, lighter and faster – but, with no release scheduled in India, the country’s vast ranks of Apple fans have been left to buy the old model, priced between about $540 and $920, or else import the new one.

“This surely has inhibited non-Apple consumers from buying Apple products,”online technology magazine founder Ashish Sinha told AFP.

“There is a huge demand for Apple products in India – especially the information technology sector, which is high on consuming gadgets.” An Apple spokesman who asked not to be named said that the company did not disclose sales figures for India or discuss future release dates for products.

He also declined to comment on criticism of Apple’s strategy in India.

Blogger Archana Shukla said that Apple was reluctant to “reach out to local customers” in India.

“The silence is intriguing, especially at a time when most top-league multinationals are ramping up their operations and going all out to woo Indian consumers,” she said.

The US-based information technology research firm Gartner suggests that Apple has been making a judgement call, balancing the unpredictability of the present Indian market and its future potential.

“Apple always targets the niche market and never focuses on the mass market,” Gartner’s principal research analyst Vishal Tripathi told AFP.

“It seems Apple is not getting the right signal from the market or is strategically missing the growth opportunities India offers,” the analyst from the Connecticut-based firm said.

“Apple knows that hardcore Apple lovers will get the devices from abroad but what they are missing out on is new potential buyers.” Other companies are hoping to take advantage of Apple’s apparent reluctance, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Motorola’s Xoom, both priced around $650, vying to grab India’s tablet computer market.

“It is a nascent market but we see the tablet segment growing to one million this year as there are some exciting clients here,” Samsung spokeswoman Ruchika Batra told

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Japan warns radioactive levels high around plant after blast

japanJapan’s prime minister said on Tuesday that radioactive levels had become high around an earthquake-stricken nuclear power plant after an explosion there, and there was a risk of radiation leaking into the atmosphere. Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km of the facility north of Tokyo to remain indoors and the French embassy in the capital warned in an advisory that a low level of radioactive wind could reach Tokyo within 10 hours.
Tuesday’s explosion was the third at the plant since it was damaged in last Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami. 
Authorities have been trying to prevent meltdowns in all three of the Fukishima Daiichi complex’s nuclear reactors by flooding the chambers with sea water to cool them down.  

As concern about the crippling economic impact of the double disaster mounted, Japanese stocks plunged 7.0 per cent to their lowest level in nearly two years, compounding a drop of 7.6 per cent the day before. 

The full extent of the destruction wreaked by last Friday’s massive quake and tsunami that followed it was still becoming clear, as rescuers combed through the region north of Tokyo where officials say at least 10,000 people were killed. 

“It’s a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish,” said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi. 

Kan has said Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two and, with the financial costs estimated at up to $180 billion, analysts said it could tip the world’s third-biggest economy back into recession. 

The US Geological Survey upgraded the quake to magnitude 9.0, from 8.9, making it the world’s fourth most powerful since 1900. 

Car makers, shipbuilders and technology companies worldwide scrambled for supplies after the disaster shut factories in Japan and disrupted the global manufacturing chain. 

“Not Chernobyl” 

The fear at the Fukushima complex, 240 km north of Tokyo, is of a major radiation leak after the quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. The complex had already seen explosions at its No. 1 and No.3 reactors.  

Jiji news agency said Tuesday’s explosion had damaged the roof and steam was rising from the complex. It also reported some workers had been told to leave the plant, a development one expert had warned beforehand could signal a worsening stage for the crisis. 

The worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 has drawn criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and revived debate in many countries about the safety of atomic power. 

Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants and Germany said it was scrapping a plan to extend the life of its nuclear power stations. The White House said US President Barack Obama remained committed to nuclear energy. 

Whilst the Fukuskima plant’s No.1 and No.3 reactors both suffered partial fuel rod meltdowns, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) had earlier said the No. 2 reactor was now the biggest concern. 

A sudden drop in cooling water levels when a pump ran out of fuel had fully exposed the fuel rods for a time, an official said. This could lead to the rods melting down and a possible radioactive leak. 

TEPCO had resumed pumping sea water into the reactor early on Tuesday. 

“This is nothing like a Chernobyl,” Murray Jennex, a nuclear expert at San Diego State University, said earlier. “At Chernobyl you had no containment structure — when it blew, it blew everything straight out into the atmosphere.” 

An explosion at the Soviet Chernobyl plant sent radioactive fallout across northern Europe. 

US warships and planes helping with relief efforts moved away from the coast temporarily because of low-level radiation.

The US Seventh Fleet described the move as precautionary. 

South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines said they would test Japanese food imports for radiation. 

France’s ASN nuclear safety authority said the accident could be classified as a level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, putting it on a par with the 1979 US Three Mile Island meltdown, higher than the Japanese authorities’ rating. 

Japan’s nuclear safety agency has rated the incidents in the No.1 and No.3 reactors as a 4, but has not yet rated the No. 2 reactor. 

Towns Flattened  

About 850,000 households in the north were still without electricity in near-freezing weather, Tohuku Electric Power Co. said, and the government said at least 1.5 million households lack running water. Tens of thousands of people were missing. 

“The situation here is just beyond belief, almost everything has been flattened,” said the Red Cross’s Fuller in Otsuchi, a town all-but obliterated. “The government is saying that 9,500 people, more than half of the population, could have died and I do fear the worst.” 

Kyodo news agency reported that 2,000 bodies had been found on Monday in two coastal towns alone.

After US, more countries will get iPad from March 25

iPad2The new iPad went on sale on Friday as Apple fans lined up outside stores around the United States to be the first to snap up the sleek touchscreen tablet computer. Apple began selling the iPad 2, which was unveiled by chief executive Steve Jobs last week, online overnight and in its 236 US stores starting at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT). The iPad 2 will be available on March 25 inAustralia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The queues did not appear to be as long as those for the iPhone 4 released in June but thousands of people lined up outside Apple stores in San Francisco, New York, Washington and other cities to get their hands on the device, which is one-third thinner, 15 per cent lighter and faster than the previous model.

Hundreds of people formed a line around the block outside Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store in New York, including some who camped out overnight swathed in rain gear and equipped with chairs and big umbrellas.

First in line was Hazem Sayed, an applications developer who bought his coveted spot from Amanda Foote, an entrepreneurial 20-year-old from Florida who staked her claim on Wednesday then auctioned the place on Craigslist.

“It went from $150 to $600 in about 10 minutes,” she said. Finally Sayed came in with the winning bid: $900.

Sayed said he’d be immediately taking his new iPad 2 to a business meeting in Dubai. “I’m going to buy two iPads. If I could I’d buy four,” he said.

Many others in the crowd were foreigners seeking to take advantage of an opportunity they won’t have in their own country for a while. The iPad 2 will go on sale in around two dozen other countries in late March.

Mingda Zhong, 18, a student from Nanjing, said that even the original iPad is rare at home. “You cannot buy the iPad 1 very easily,” he said. “Most Chinese do not have it.”Some 300 people formed a line outside the Apple store in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, many of them killing time by playing with their iPads.

In San Francisco, a queue of about 150 people wrapped around the block housing the Apple store in Union Square.

Many were holding places in line to buy iPads for others.

Joshua Leavitt, the first in line, said he was with an online service called TaskRabbit, where people perform services for others for a fee. He said he was buying an iPad for someone who is flying home to Singapore later Friday.

“He’s probably going to have the first iPad 2 in Singapore,” Leavitt said.

James Almeida, 24, a product design student at San Jose State University, was next, waiting to buy an iPad for myself.

“Josh was next to me in line so I asked about TaskRabbit,” Almeida said.

“So now I’m getting one for a guy in Malaysia.”Besides the size and weight, the other major improvement to the touchscreen tablet computer is the addition of front- and rear-facing cameras that allow users to take still pictures and video and hold video conversations.

Apple sold 15 million iPads last year, bringing in $10 billion in new revenue and creating an entirely new category of consumer electronics devices.

Dozens of other companies have been scrambling since then to bring their own tablets to market, most of them relying on Google’s Android software, and Apple is hoping the iPad 2 will keep it a step ahead of its rivals.

But with the exception of the Galaxy Tab from South Korea’s Samsung, rival tablet-makers have enjoyed little success.

Technology research firm Gartner is forecasting sales of 55 million tablet computers worldwide this year and another research firm, Forrester, said Apple has little to worry about for now.

“Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we’re forecasting that Apple will have at least 80 per cent share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011,” Forrester said.

More than 65,000 applications have been created for the iPad, while there are currently only about 100 crafted for tablets running Android.

The iPad 2 is selling at the same prices as the original iPad, ranging from $499 for the 16-gigabyte version to $829 for the top-of-the-line 64-GB model.

Breakthrough likely in ISI-CIA talks

CIAThe Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are close to a reset in their knotty relations, with behind-the-scene negotiations reportedly making progress. A breakthrough is likely in days ahead. An end to the feud will not only help resolve the dispute over immunity for jailed CIA operative Raymond Davis but also help both countries overcome the hard patch in their ties.
“There are some positive developments in ongoing negotiations,” a security official told Dawn on Monday without specifying how much ground the two sides had covered.

He, however, said both sides were ‘grudgingly accommodating each other’ to save the overall bilateral relationship.

Though there are hardly any evident markers to judge progress in dialogue on affairs of spy agencies, US Embassy’s reaction to the Lahore High Court (LHC) avoiding a ruling on immunity for Davis was quite telling.

US Embassy Spokesman Alberto Rodriguez, in a very brief comment, said: “US position is well known and we are working with Pakistani authorities to resolve the issue.”

His reaction definitely contrasted that of Ambassador Cameron Munter after the previous hearing in the case by the LHC (Feb 17), when he said: “The United States is disappointed that the government of Pakistan did not certify that Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity”.

The immunity dispute quite expectedly remained unresolved in the LHC because Davis is no more central to this controversy, which has been overtaken by other matters pertaining to the problematic Pakistan-US security cooperation whose bedrock is the collaboration between ISI and CIA.

The Davis episode was just the latest manifestation of the disquiet in the relations between the agencies that had been going on for some time and had found varying expressions, be it the frequent CIA allegations of Pakistanis patronising jihadi groups and being insincere in fight against extremists or filing of a law suit in a New York court by relatives of Mumbai carnage against ISI chief or blowing the cover of CIA’s Islamabad station head Jonathan Banks, leading to his recall.

Notwithstanding what face this friction in ties got from time to time, US officials confirm that there had been divergences over strategic interests and timing of anti-militancy operations—a reference to Pakistan military’s reluctance to go after the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network.

As the situation reached the tipping point and both the agencies engaged in an ugly public spat, ISI sought a redefinition of its terms of engagement with CIA.

ISI’s litany of complaints against CIA included the American agency developing its own network of undeclared spies and disregarding ISI as an institution and sacrifices of its personnel.

The progress in negotiations achieved so far, a source said, was made possible because of cool heads on both sides, who realised that keeping the ISI-CIA relationship intact was in the interest of both the agencies.

Analysts believe the outcome of the dialogue was crucial for settling the row over immunity for Davis.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Australia beat valiant Kenya, reach quarters

  • Monday, 14 March 2011 07:41
  • Written by Muslim News Magazine
collinsHolders Australia claimed their place in the last eight of the World Cup on Sunday but they were made to work surprisingly hard by Kenya who restored pride with a defiant performance despite losing by 60 runs.Michael Clarke (93) and the returning Mike Hussey (54) bailed their team out of trouble to help set up a daunting 324-6 but Kenya defied the much-vaunted Australian fast bowling unit to score a respectable 264-6 in Group A.

Earlier, opener Brad Haddin had made 65 but Australia found themselves under unexpected pressure at one stage at 143-4.

After four straight losses, Kenya had clearly decided not to go down without a fight and Tanmay Mishra (72) along with Collins Obuya (98 not out) resisted with a stubborn stand of 115 for the fourth wicket.

The pace trio of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson regularly generated speeds in excess of 140 kmph but the Kenyan batsmen gave as good as they got and notched up their highest score in the tournament so far.

Three of the six Kenyan wickets to fall were by run-outs as the Australian fast bowlers and spinners almost ran out of ideas to dismiss a batting side which was skittled out in their previous four matches.

It had seemed as if the match was headed for a fast finish as Kenya slumped to 46-3 in the 10th over. But as the pitch lost its pace, Mishra took on the role of the aggressor and clobbered eight boundaries and one huge six.

Obuya, however, was more restrained at the start of his innings but accelerated towards the end and singled out Shane Watson for some especially harsh treatment.

Thomas Odoyo joined the African party with a 38-ball 35 at the end but the Kenyans always were well behind the asking run-rate and their valiant attempt fell short.

Earlier, Clarke (93 off 80 balls) paced his innings to perfection to avoid a middle-order collapse after Australia lost three quick wickets in the space of 15 balls at the end of the 27th over.

Clarke and Hussey (54 in 43 balls), who celebrated his return to the World Cup squad with a typically industrious innings, came together with Australia in a spot of bother and with a 300 plus score looking a long way off.

They immediately put the Kenyan fielders under pressure with singles and twos and the odd boundary to wrest the initiative back with a 114-run partnership for the fifth wicket at better than a run a ball.

Shane Watson (21) and captain Ricky Ponting (36) also got some runs under their belt.