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Jackson fans' tribute at Apollo

Monday, November 24, 2008

Karuna to call meeting on Lankan ceasefire

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi is scheduled to convene an emergency meeting on the Lankan ceasefire issue on Tuesday.

Karunanidhi called the meeting of leaders of legislature to chalk out the next course of action as there is no sign of Sri Lanka declaring a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the main Opposition AIADMK and its ally, the MDMK have said they will boycott the meeting.

Obama planning second stimulus package of upto $700 bn

To shore up the tottering US economy, President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats are planning a new massive fiscal stimulus package that could run into as much as $700 billion over the next two years, rivalling the bailout sum Congress committed last month.

Hints of a hefty new spending programme began emerging last week.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, an Obama advisor and Harvard economist Lawrence H Summers, whom the President-elect has chosen to lead his White House economic team, raised the possibility of $700 billion in new spending.

Obama advisor and former Clinton administration Labour Secretary Robert Reich and Democrat Senator Charles E Schumer also favoured spending in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The amount, if approved, will be one of the biggest public spending programmes aimed at boosting the economy since former President Franklin D Roosevelt's 'New Deal', it said.

Transition officials did not confirm to the paper that they are considering spending of that magnitude, but they made clear that economic conditions are dire and suggested that
Obama might be forced to delay his pledge to repeal President George W Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.

While Obama has set a goal of creating or preserving 2.5 million jobs by 2011, his economic team have yet to decide how that would be accomplished or how much it would cost.

Austan Goolsbee, a spokesman for Obama on economic issues who is in line to serve on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, yesterday acknowledged that Obama's jobs plan will cost substantially more than the $175 billion stimulus programme he proposed during the campaign.

Republicans were quick to flay the idea of such a vast initiative, saying Congress should instead cut taxes to spur economic growth.

"Democrats can't seem to stop trying to outbid each other -- with the taxpayers' money," House Minority Leader John A Boehner said in a statement. "We're in tough economic times.

Folks are hurting. But the American people know that more Washington spending isn't the answer."

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Obama's team is putting together a new economic stimulus plan containing more than $500 billion in federal spending and tax cuts over the next two years, a package far more aggressive than anything envisioned during the campaign.

Democratic leaders in Congress are preparing to rush passage shortly after New Year's to have a stimulus-plan bill ready for Obama to sign once he is inaugurated January 20, it
quoted Obama aides and advisors as saying.

Meanwhile, Bush's outgoing Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, is now considering a more activist stance in his final weeks in office than he had signalled as recently as
last week, the paper said.

He is considering tapping the second half of the government's $700 billion financial-industry rescue fund, and rolling out new programmes in response to worsening market
conditions, the Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter.

Captain's inputs important, not decisive: Ex-cricketers

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's threat to resign to back a player of his choice did not find much support among former cricketers, who on Monday insisted that while a captain does have the right to give his inputs, the final call should rest with the selectors.

The former cricketers said while a captain's views should be given priority the ultimate responsibility and authority lies with the selectors, who have been entrusted with the job.

"The inputs of captain and coach in selection matters are very important. It's also important for the selection committee chairman to have a quiet word, informally, on the day before the selection panel meeting with the captain and coach. I used to do it most of the times, but not always," former chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar said.

"If the captain's demands are reasonable then it's okay to go with him as he formalises the team strategies. Every captain will put forth his views in selection meetings and Dhoni is no exception. But the final decision rests with the selectors," he added.

Former captain Bishan Singh Bedi said that the captain's views should be considered as much as possible.

"The captain is a co-opted member of the panel. His views should be considered as much as possible. But the selectors also have their plans and they should mutually sort out the issues if there are any," Bedi said.

Former captain and selection panel chairman Chandu Borde said the captains are given their due say during the meetings.

"During our times we used to include captain and manager (now coach) in selection committee meetings for discussions. Generally 85-90 per cent players select themselves on merit and performance. Only one or two players need to be picked.

"We used to discuss among ourselves and come to an understanding. There were times when the captains used to insist on certain players and we used to try and convince him about our choice," Borde explained.

"There were times when we used to put forth certain players' names and he would try and convince us about his choice and we will agree. He knows what is best as if the team does well then he gets the credit.

"In the end of the discussions there would be a consensus on all players keeping in mind the larger interest of the team. It always used to be a unanimous decision. I don't think a captain needs to have a vote. Already there are five votes and there can be ten also without solving the problem," he added.

Abbas Ali Baig also echoed Borde's views and said selectors should pay heed to the captain's opinion if they think it is sensible.

"I think the selectors should choose the team and tell the captain what they have in mind. If the captain is not happy with a couple of players, he can convince the selectors. The captain is responsible for what happens on the field and he is crucified when the team does not do well and he should a considerable say in selections matters," he said.

"But at the same time the selectors have also watched the players and they have some idea on what the team should be like," he said.

Former India opener Anshuman Gaekwad said even a voting right to the captain would not make much of difference as just one vote against an entire panel would not count for much.

"Even if captain or coach has a vote, it's not going to help because what can two votes do against five?

"Captain having a say is not a solution to this problem, but there should be a better understanding between the members attending the selection committee meeting," the former coach and selectors said.

"We should not forget that this is a selection committee meeting and not elections, even if there are votes to decide. Decision has to be mutual and with agreement," he added.

But Gaekwad insisted that a captain's views should be respected.

"But then it is up to the captain to convince the selectors. It must have reasoning and logic. I have gone all this being a selector and a chief coach. In all likelihood players develop a rapport when they are together so things may look a bit different from a third eye and a common man's angle," he said.

Another ex-selection panel chief Bapu Nadkarni also felt that the captain has to be convincing enough in his argument for a player's selection.

"He has got every right to speak his mind in the meetings. Captain's views have to be given priority by the selectors. But it also depends on how convincing he is to get the player of his choice. But I don't agree that he should have more say that he has at present (with a vote)," he opined.

C D Gopinath felt Dhoni should have been hauled up when he threatened to quit.

"I would not accept that. He cannot say that if you do not pick a player of my choice I will step down from captaincy. It is absolutely wrong. It amounts to indiscipline. It is virtually challenging the five guys sitting there and he cannot threaten. He can make his case but he cannot say that without him, I will not lead a side."

Legendary off-spinner E A S Prasanna said, "A captain should have bigger say in selecting players. Dhoni is right in his opting for a particular player if the concerned is in right form and will be of great balance to the team. At the same time, no captain had said so far that he was not given the team that he wanted and therefore he lost a match or a series."

"Captain is only a co-opted member but in order give bigger say and more responsibility to the captain he should be given voting right in selection meetings," he added.

Another spinner Maninder Singh was more sympathetic towards Dhoni, saying that a captain invariably gets the flak when the team fails and therefore he should be given the team he wants.

"He should have a lot of say in the matter but the selectors also have a job to do and it is their job to pick the team. I think that whoever plays international cricket must be good but sometimes their form deserts them and it is then that selectors should take the decision.

"Like the captain, the selectors are also accountable because they also get flak when the team fails to perform," Maninder said.

T A Sekar said, "In my opinion it is a double edged sword. It depends on the captain. Selectors also identify talent. But captains should have a vote in the meeting."

Hayden to play in CL T20 for Chennai Super Kings

Matthew Hayden has been cleared by Cricket Australia to play for Chennai Super Kings in next month's Champions League Twenty20 starting December 3, according to coach Tim Nielsen.

Hayden, who will be playing his 100th Test in the second match against New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval from Friday, will have rush to India for the Twenty20 event before embarking on a three-Test series against South Africa.

Hayden will have Michael Hussey as his company in Chennai Super Kings team while another member of the Australian Test squad -- Peter Siddle -- will represent Victoria Bushrangers in the Twenty20 tournament which is wedged between the series against New Zealand and South Africa.

"Cricket Australia has endorsed their participation, that's the way the modern game goes. We've just got to deal with it like we do when we've got players who are a bit sore or a bit tired on the road," Nielsen said.

To ensure that Australian and South African players represent their domestic T20 teams in the Champions League, Cricket Australia, which has a 25 per cent stake in the tournament, has delayed the Perth Test until December 17.

South Africa will be represented by Titans and Dolphins in the Champions League Twenty20.

"We have to understand the changing nature of the game, that this is what is going to happen to ensure the game keeps generating money and getting people involved and kids wanting to watch it," Nielsen was quoted as saying in 'The Age'.

"From my point of view, the Australian team and international cricket will always be the number one commitment, but it's not as simple any more as just saying that means we have our lead-up and everything else is put on the backburner," he added.

Country faces 'difficult situation': FM

NEW DELHI: Faced with the global financial crisis and a slowing economy, India's monetary policy is biased towards stimulating growth, and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to lower rates as inflation cools, the finance minister said.

"Taking note of the downturn in the inflation rate, RBI has lowered the policy rate as well as the reserve requirements. RBI's policy is now biased towards stimulating growth," Chidambaram said, referring to the Reserve Bank of India.

"If the rate of inflation continues to decline, the policy rates may also moderate and the bias in favour of growth may deepen," he told a meeting with economic editors on Monday.

"I hope the worst is over," Chidambaram said on inflation, inaugurating the annual Economic Editors Conference here. The rate of wholesale price rise has declined to 8.90% for second week of November after touching 12.91% in early August.

Among the strategies to revive the business confidence, the government is contemplating increasing expenditure on infrastructure projects.

"Increasing expenditure on infrastructure is being contemplated" to address concerns over global slowdown," he said agreeing the country faces a "difficult situation".

Projecting a growth of 7-8% for current fiscal, Chidambaram said, "In our view, we may expect a moderation in growth rate in the current year."

Chidambaram said expansion would moderate this fiscal year after the world's credit woes arrived on India's shores and high interest rates to tame inflation trimmed demand.

But in a report prepared for the meeting, he said: "The circumstances continue to be largely favourable for sustained, rapid and more inclusive growth of the economy."

The finance ministry report prepared for Monday's conference said the economy was likely to slow in FY09 but growth of 7-8% would still be among the best given the financial crisis and a slowdown in major export markets.

Chidambaram said the government may have to "revisit and revive" pending reforms and he hoped credit flows would improve by the end of November or December.

He added the government may need one more year to meet its revenue deficit target but fiscal consolidation remains a priority for the government.

Under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, the government was expected to eliminate the revenue deficit and limit the fiscal deficit to 3 percent of GDP by the end of FY09.

But the government had set a lower deficit target of 2.5% of gross domestic product. However, heavy spending on schemes such as a debt write-off for millions of poor farmers and higher wages for government employees has threatened that.

The government is grappling with the impact of the global financial crisis on the broader economy and have taken several steps in recent weeks, including sharp interest rate and banks' reserve requirement cuts, to protect the economy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week that despite an adverse international environment India could sustain growth of about 8% in FY09.

Govt plans Rs 50,000 cr infra spend

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NEW DELHI: The government is planning to raise funds locally and domestically to kick start a spending plan aimed at the infrastructure sector to protect demand and push growth momentum. It plans to identify around 10 big projects in the road, port, power and airport sectors to spend close to Rs 50,000 crore or $10 billion.

Ever since the global crisis spilled over and froze credit markets locally in September and October, demand has slumped. The government now plans to spend this money even if it means increased deficit.

The government is looking at a mix of options to raise the money. It doesn't run a surplus so it will have to borrow for sure.

It plans to borrow domestically some part of the $10 billion as raising the entire chunk would mean pushing up interest rates and leaving little for private firms tapping the local markets. It has also asked the World Bank to double its funding to $6 billion annually. Finally, it could ask infrastructure funds like IIFCL and IDFC to tapl global markets and raise funds backed by sovereign guarantees.

But for the moment, the government hasn't zeroed in on any single option or any particular combination.

The government is looking at highways program, some mega power and port projects for the spending. All of it would be in the current financial year and will help capital goods firms like Larsen & Toubro and BHEL.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) currently has 53 projects worth Rs 60,000 crore.

Half the funds have been deployed and work is progressing on these projects, which is essentially aimed at four-laning nearly 4,300 km of national highway across the country.

Most of these projects are in the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode, where there have been some problems for project promoters as far as raising funds are concerned.

There are 5-6 mega power projects where the government is closely monitoring progress. The government has also sought funding to ensure that the port and airport projects move as per the original plan.

The idea is to step up equipment procurement on at least 10 projects.

It’s time to rest key players

Apparently, logic and the complex D/L method do not go hand in hand.

Try figuring this out: India score 166 in 22 overs. England score 178 also in 22 overs, yet are declared losers by 19 runs! Of course, Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis have been around for a while now, but surely, the ICC should devise a simpler method that lends itself to logic, whereby the team that scores more runs should be the winner.

Anyway, I am in the minority and so congratulations are in order for Team India and Dhoni for wrapping the ODI series, leaving England and Pietersen wondering what they should do to beat a side that is so obviously on a roll. It is another matter that the Indians have always been tigers on home soil, but their comprehensive superiority over England cannot be doubted.

The Indian team showed the kind of commitment and confidence that saw them beat Australia 2-0 earlier in the month. For sure, we are witnessing the birth of a new Indian side that has the potential to go all the way to the top in all forms of the game.

Exclusive - Gavaskar: Oz went home like dogs that bark and do not bite | In Images: India seal series

It is difficult to visualise England bouncing back contrary to Pietersen’s brave words after the Bangalore game. There appears to be plenty of confusion in the England ranks with the captain himself looking rather out of his depth. They might yet win a game, but their cause is already lost. More to the point, Pietersen has not showed the kind of leadership qualities to keep a team together. At the moment, the England team is falling apart at its seam and yes, the slip is showing!

In contrast, I thought Dhoni kept his composure under pressure when England kick-started a serious chase after a hesitant start. The skipper displayed the same equanimity that he did in dealing with the sordid “Leakgate” where a National selector so obviously lacking in culture, ethics and decorum, whispered to his media friend about Dhoni’s threat to resign during last week’s selection meeting.

Kirsten reveals recipe for success in India

The wretched episode saw the Indian media having a field day while providing us a relief from the usual quota of “meltdown” news items and such depressing stories that have become a staple diet in the recent weeks. There are some who feel that the selectors who leaked inside information should be identified and banned for life from holding any position in the game, but I, for one, hold the BCCI equally responsible in view of its stubborn refusal to explain team selections.

Under the circumstances, just about everything concerning the BCCI is a matter of speculation and it is pointless blaming the media alone for feeding on the juicy crumbs that are thrown to them from time to time. For me, Greg Chappell’s leaked email a couple of seasons ago was a bigger crime and the former coach even resorted to sending out text messages to select journalists.

Yet, the BCCI continues to adopt a policy of non-disclosure ignoring the fact that the public at large has every right to information. After all, it is the paying public that either buys tickets or indirectly pays through cable that is the biggest stakeholder. Further, it is the public patronage that influences Corporate investments in cricket.

As for Dhoni, he would have got the first taste of cricket politics in India that at times descend to gutter-level. Before him, Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar were all victims of politics and intrigue that are so much part of Indian cricket. You would find many such schisms even in those long gone days of Nayudu.

Dhoni stops short of denying resignation reports | Stats: Irfan Pathan v RP Singh

Hopefully, the episode will be buried and not exhumed for further post-mortem as Dhoni has done more than his bit to knit an effective unit that is brimming with talent and bench-strength. So much so that even Tendulkar’s absence is hardly felt and the team seems to be performing at the same level regardless of who is in or out. Of course, though, the Indians have to show the same high performance on foreign soil and in different conditions before one can hail Dhoni as the best captain the country has had.

If there is a point that needs to be highlighted then it is the maturing of Zaheer Khan as a bowler. In the series against Australia and the four ODI games so far, he has been the pick of the bowlers with his consistency, whether line and length or providing early strikes. Some minor alteration in his action by cutting down on the final leap at the wicket, has done wonders to his bowling and like the young terrier Ishant Sharma, Zaheer needs to be carefully nurtured to prolong his career.

British media attacks umpires for Kanpur 'farce' | Full Coverage: England in India 2008

His 1993 'ball of the ce

Now that India have taken an unbeatable lead in the series, perhaps it is time to rest key players and provide opportunities to those on the bench and fringe players. I am pretty certain that Dhoni would insist on this although a 7-0 margin looks better than 4-3 or 5-2 or whatever.

Change in attitude has helped India: Srikkanth

Chennai: Chairman of selection committee Krishnamachari Srikkanth said Indian cricket is going through a transitional phase and that their ultimate objective is to win the World Cup in 2011 besides attaining the No 1 ranking in all formats of the game.

"The Indian team is going through a period of transition and by the grace of God, we are doing very well. The series win against Australia (Tests) and England (ODI) under MS Dhoni's captaincy has showcased our aggressive and positive attitude. Even when the chips were down against Australia and England, our team did well to fight back and win matches," he pointed out on the sidelines of the launch of the Chennai Super Kings fan club of which he is the brand ambassador.

Exclusive - Gavaskar: Oz went home like dogs that bark and do not bite | In Images: India seal series

When asked whether Indian cricket team is witnessing the start of a new era and promises to be the best-ever, Srikkanth said: "It is unfair to compare teams of different periods. The point is that this team under Dhoni has been shaping well.

"The key attributes are solid opening batting pair in (Virender) Sehwag and (Gautam) Gambhir, followed by a strong middle-order with Yuvraj, Sachin, Dhoni and Laxman in tremendous form. But as important is the fact that our new-ball bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have been giving us early breakthroughs with the spinners following up.

Kirsten reveals recipe for success in India

"What I like about this team is that it has the right balance and bench strength with a lot of talented youngsters waiting to get in. I would say that everyone is chipping in and our success is mainly due to the team effort."

Looking to the future, Srikkanth said the team has short- and long-term plans. "Of course, winning the 2011 World Cup is the ultimate objective, but in the meantime, we would like to reach the No 1 ranking in all formats of the game."

He was all praise for Dhoni's captaincy, describing the skipper as "the Super King of Indian cricket" and said his composure even under pressure was a critical factor.

Stats: Sachin’s 273-day break | Indian clean sweeps

"Against Australia and England, there were times when the team was under pressure. But Dhoni kept his calm and held the team together. He did not panic in a crisis and backed his players all the time. In the process, the team has learnt to adapt itself to changing situations besides displaying tremendous fighting spirit," he said.

Srikkanth, however, declined to take questions on team selection.

'Dhoni is super king of Indian cricket'

Chennai (IANS): The Indian Premier League franchisee Chennai Super Kings launched their "Kings Club" here as part of their brand-building exercise to attract committed loyalty from the team's supporters.

Speaking on the occasion, T.S. Raghupathy, executive president of India Cements, the owners of the Super Kings, said the Kings Club plans to offer incentives to its members by way of subsidised tickets for IPL home matches, merchandise endorsed by the players and other schemes such as personalised interaction, including exclusive photo sessions, with the players.

"The inaugural IPL earlier this year was a tremendous success and the fact that our team (Super Kings) reached the final added to the popularity of the team. By launching the Kings Club, we would like to offer the fans an opportunity to be a part of an exclusive community," he said.

The Super Kings plan to fully leverage the growing status of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who captains the team as also the Indian squad for Tests and Twenty20. In his message to mark the occasion, Dhoni said: "I am happy about the launch of our official membership programme. I am sure you will find the club a great window to share the passion that we all have for the team."

Renowned percussionist Sivamani declared open the Kings Club and marked his presence with a rendition of the Super Kings' theme song. The Super Kings' brand ambassador Krishnamachari Srikkanth said Dhoni's stature was a huge factor in favour of the Chennai team.

Srikkanth said: "Dhoni is the Super King of Indian cricket and also the captain of the Super Kings." The presence of other foreign stars such as Matthew Hayden and Muttiah Muralitharan has given the team a high profile, he added.

"When we first launched the IPL, nobody knew what to expect, but I must say that the following for Super Kings has been fantastic. We want to leverage everything and the Kings Club is a starting point for our efforts to attract worldwide following," Srikkanth said.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I've worked very hard on my body: Priyanka

New Delhi (IANS): After flaunting her curves and earning rave reviews for her performance in "Fashion", Priyanka Chopra is all set to show off her svelte figure in swimsuits and beachwear in forthcoming film "Dostana".

She says she had to work really hard to get the right shape for the romantic comedy.

"For 'Fashion', I had to put on six kilos and later had to shed chip by chip as the character progressed in the film. My body structure in 'Dostana' is more toned than in 'Fashion' as it is a completely beach film. I've worked very hard on my body," Priyanka told IANS in an interview.

After a hectic schedule with six films in a row this year, Priyanka said shooting for "Dostana" with Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham was like a vacation and a rejuvenating experience for her.

Entirely shot in Miami, Florida, "Dostana" comes as a breather for the actress whose flagging career was given a new lease of life with "Fashion" after a series of duds - "Love Story 2050", "God Tussi Great Ho", "Chamku" and "Drona".

"'Dostana' was like a vacation. It was so much fun. We were in Miami for two months and I was so fresh and rested when I came back. It was like a really relaxed outdoor and (I had a) great time because everybody got along well with each other," Priyanka said.

Produced by Karan Johar's Dharma Productions and directed by Tarun Mansukhani, the romantic comedy will release Nov 14.

Priyanka plays a fashion journalist who shares her apartment with Abhishek and John. The two dupe her to rent her apartment on the pretext of being a gay couple.

"John, Abhishek and I are best friends in the film who do everything together. It's a romantic comedy and a fun film about what happens in their lives," the actress said.

Asked if she had any apprehensions working with a debutant director, specially after a string of flops this year, Priyanka said: "Tarun is a fabulous friend of mine and an incredible director. When I first met him, I was a little scared.

"I am a kind of person who asks a lot of questions. I test directors. I like asking and Tarun knew the answer to every question I asked. He blew my mind with his confidence and the commitment he had towards the film. By the end of the film, he's become a really close friend of mine and I admire him as a filmmaker."

The former Miss World also says: "I definitely want to try singing. I might start with, maybe, a song in one of my films but I'm not sure when. But I definitely want to do it."

The actress said she admired the blogging rage among celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Ram Gopal Varma, but added that she couldn't take to it due to lack of time.

"It's such a great way to get closer to your fans. But I don't know how they find time to blog because I hardly sleep for more than four hours. I really want to do it at some point because Karan (Johar) was also telling me it's great... may be in a while when my schedule eases a little bit.

"I've had six releases this year, so it's been insane for me."

Priyanka is currently shooting for Vishal Bharadwaj's "Kaminay" and Ashutosh Gowariker's "What's Your Raashee", which she calls a "very complicated and difficult romantic comedy".

She also has sequels to Farhan Akhtar's "Don - The Chase Begins Again" and Goldie Behl's "Drona", apart from an item number opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Priyadarshan's "Billo Barber".

ICC, BCCI clash over Gambhir

MUMBAI: The one-Test ban on Indian opener Gautam Gambhir is fast turning into another showdown between the International Cricket
Council and the
Board of Control for Cricket in India.

On Tuesday, the ICC-appointed Appeals Commissioner, Justice Albie Sachs, upheld the ban on the batsman, triggering an instant reaction from BCCI which protested against the undue haste and unfair manner in which the decision was taken.

Justice Sachs' ruling — which means Gambhir may have to sit out the Nagpur Test beginning on Thursday — was arrived at without giving the batsman a hearing.

Gambhir had earlier pleaded guilty to the level 2 charge of not conducting himself "in the spirit of the game" during the Delhi Test match and ICC rules permit the appeals commissioner to decide the matter without conducting hearings.

But the swiftness with which the decision was taken has miffed BCCI. After shooting off a letter to ICC protesting the decision, the Indian board said in a statement, "The order has been passed without affording the player an opportunity of personal hearing, legal representation and without acceding to his request for certain documents or recordings to be given to him and also denying him any extension of time."

The ball is now in ICC's court. If it doesn't reply to BCCI's letter of objection within 48 hours, the Indian board, under the ICC rules, can go ahead and name Gambhir for the Nagpur Test.

If the ICC takes cognisance of the letter then it would mean another bout of legal proceedings making Gambhir's presence in the Nagpur Test a certainty.

That the BCCI is headed by a legal eagle, Shashank Manohar,was evident in the manner it went about naming Gambhir's replacement - the prolific Tamil Nadu opener M Vijay - for the fourth Test. "We have decided to keep him so that tomorrow the ICC should not tell us we didn't do our part of the job. But we have refused to accept the decision on Gambhir. By Wednesday, we should have a clear picture," BCCI secretary N Srinivasan told TOI.

Gambhir's run-in with Australian all-rounder Shane Watson on the opening day of the Kotla Test last Wednesday had resulted in a one-Test suspended sentence.

The sentence was announced by the match referee Chris Broad on Friday, the third day of the Test. BCCI swung into action immediately and went in for an appeal the same day.

It gave an allowance of seven days for ICC to take further action. BCCI, which though it had managed to ensure Gambhir's presence in the crucial match of the Test series against Australia, were stumped when ICC hastened the proceedings. With 463 runs in three Tests, the Delhi opener is the highest scorer in the series so far.

India surge ahead as Dhoni hits fifty

NEW DELHI: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni reached his 12th Test fifty in the first over after lunch on the second day of the fourth Test
against Australia at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha in Nagpur on Friday.

Scorecard | Videos

Dhoni reached the landmark when he cut a Mitchell Johnson delivery to the third man fence.

Before lunch, former captain Sourav Ganguly hit his 35th Test fifty and along with Singh Dhoni took India over the 400-run mark.

At lunch India were 404/5, with Ganguly and Dhoni having put up a century stand for the sixth wicket.

Looking to capitalize on the century by Sachin Tendulkar (109) and half-centuries by Virender Sehwag (66) and VVS Laxman (64), Ganguly and Dhoni, resuming the Indian innings on 311/5, started well and ran three runs six times.

Playing his last Test, Ganguly displayed ample grit and determination to notch up his fifty and is looking set to become only the second Indian after Mohammad Azharuddin to hit a century in his debut as well as in his last Test.

While Ganguly exhibited grace and elegance in his drives through the off-side, Dhoni showed his raw power in a sweep to square leg from outside off and a couple of shots to deep cover by the bottom-hand.

Ganguly hit his first six of this innings by charging down the pitch and hitting a Jason Krejza delivery straight over the top.

On Day one, India went past the 300-run mark thanks to a 146-run partnership between Tendulkar and Laxman. The stand came after India got off to a good start but then lost three quick wickets after Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first.

Tendulkar's master stroke

NAGPUR: A stunning 40th Test century by Sachin Tendulkar enabled India to take early control of the final Test against Australia on Thursday.

Tendulkar, the highest run scorer in Test cricket, compiled 109 and put on 146 for the fourth wicket with VVS Laxman (64), playing in his 100th Test, to help India close day one at 311 for five.

At the close, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (4) was at the crease with former captain Saurav Ganguly (27), who is playing in his final Test.

Left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson dismissed Tendulkar lbw with the second new ball after debutant off-spinner Jason Krejza took his third wicket when he pegged back the hosts by dismissing Laxman caught behind by Brad Haddin.

BJP sounds election bugle at Jaipur

JAIPUR: It was the party worker at the booth level that was the focus of the BJP leadership at the Vijay Sankalp Mahakumbh. It was a show of stren
gth in an election year, so much so that BJP leader L K Advani said, “I don’t know any other party that can bring together so many booth level workers.”

It was also a massive attempt to reach out and energise its booth levels workers. Moving away from the practice of focusing on leaders and individuals, the BJP sought to push the idea of a team.

Attended by estimated 2 lakh booth-level party workers from across Rajasthan, it was also an opportunity for the leadership to explain to the rank and file the rationale behind dropping many MLAs.

Though the party’s central election committee is expected to finalise the list of candidates for Rajasthan only later this week, it is clear that as much as 30% to 40% of sitting MLAs will be dropped. The party leadership stress on the centrality of the worker and that the party was more important than individual leaders was BJP’s way of containing possible discontent and rebellion once the list of candidates was finalised.

“There is only one candidate, that is the lotus,” the BJP president Rajnath Singh said. While the Rajasthan elections were the focus of the party workers’ rally, the central leadership of the party — L K Advani, Jaswant Singh and Rajnath Singh — focused on national issues as well.

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje urged that the partnership that had put Rajasthan ‘on the road to progress’ needed to be sustained, and for that it was required that the BJP retained power. “The Congress says it wants to build a new Rajasthan. Well it had power for 40 years, what did it do? Our state was a Bimaru state thanks to the Congress. And now we are on the road to progress.”

But the chief minister was quick to point out that the claims of progress were not her own. “I am not saying this, the prime minister said that Rajasthan was a model state for education, the health minister praised our medical schemes, the power and coal minister our efforts in electricity,” Ms Raje said.

Team work was the theme of the Rajasthan chief minister as she urged this team of nearly 5 lakh grassroot workers to ensure that the state does not make the “mistake of falling into Congress hands.”

Separatists plan march in Srinagar; police on alert

Srinagar (IANS): Curfew-like restrictions remained in force for the second day Friday in Jammu and Kashmir summer capital Srinagar after the separatist joint coordination committee re-scheduled its proposed march to the Jamia Mosque in the old city to Friday.

The separatists had earlier called for the march to the grand mosque in the old city's Nowhatta area Thursday, a move scuttled by the authorities through strict enforcement of section 144 of the criminal procedure code, under which assembly of four or more people is banned.

"The people should assemble at the Jamia Mosque on Friday where the joint coordination committee would announce its future resistance programme," Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, who also heads the committee, had told reporters here Thursday evening.

"Section 144 of criminal procedure code is in force throughout the city and no violations of the law would be allowed," a senior police officer said here.

Traffic, shops, educational institutions, banks and other business establishments remained closed in the city even as attendance in government offices was marginal because of non-availability of transport and curfew like restrictions.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who continued to remain under house arrest in his uptown Nigeen residence, told reporters that the separatists' poll boycott programme had been finalised. Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls Nov 17 to Dec 24 to elect a new state assembly.

"There will be a Lal Chowk Chalo march on Dec 24 when polling is scheduled in Srinagar city. From Lal Chowk the people will proceed to the office of the United Nations Observers Group (UNMOG) in Srinagar and present a memorandum there," the Mirwaiz said.

"People will also march to the other district headquarters in the valley on the dates the authorities hold polls there."

Tendulkar rested for England one-dayers

Ace Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been rested for the first three one-day internationals against England, the selectors announced here on Wednesday.

"Considering the hectic schedule ahead and the amount of cricket he has played this season, Tendulkar requested that he be rested for the first three one-dayers," Indian cricket board secretary N. Srinivasan said in a statement.

"The selectors have accepted his request."

England will play seven one-day internationals on the tour, with the opening game to be held in Rajkot on November 14.

The squad for the remaining four one-dayers will be announced later.

Tendulkar, 35, is the world's leading scorer with 16,361 runs in 417 one-day internationals with 42 centuries. He was forced to miss the last one-day series in Sri Lanka in August due to an elbow injury.

Opening batsman Murali Vijay was the only newcomer in the 15-man squad, to be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Hard-hitting opener Virender Sehwag returned to the squad after missing the Sri Lanka series due to an ankle injury.

Subramaniam Badrinath, Praveen Kumar, Parthiv Patel and Irfan Pathan, who toured Sri Lanka, were dropped.

Indian squad for three one-dayers: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Rudra Pratap Singh, Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay.

Obama moves on to prepare for White House life

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President-elected Barack Obama has taken no rest after a 22-month campaign and is moving onto prepare for his upcoming presidency.

On Thursday, two days after Obama was elected the 44th president of the U.S., the Democratic senator from Illinois was busy planning meetings with economic advisors and conversing with foreign leaders by telephone.

Obama has talked with nine world leaders since his victory over Republican Senator John McCain in the presidential election.

The leaders included Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Japanese Prime Minister Aso Taro, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

On Friday, Obama was set to meet with his economic team and discuss solutions to the current financial crisis, which opinion polls have showed is the top concern of American voters this year.

Obama, who takes office Jan. 20, was also scheduled to hold his first news conference as president-elect on Friday.

Another priority on Obama's pre-White House agenda is the formation of his cabinet.

Rahm Emanuel, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, has accepted Obama's invitation to become his chief of staff.

"I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a president and administration to accomplish an agenda," Obama said in a statement. "And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel."

Obama has yet to decide who will head the Treasury Department as the U.S. struggles with fallout from the global financial crisis and economic meltdown.

Potential candidates for the post include, according U.S. media speculation, Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.

The latter two were to meet with Obama on Friday as members of a transition economic advisory board.

The first family-to-be on Monday will visit the White House at the invitation of President George W. Bush.

The current and incoming presidents were scheduled to discuss the economic meltdown during the visit while their wives were to tour the presidential residence.

"I thank him (Bush) for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship that will be required to meet the many challenges we face as a nation," Obama said in a statement.

The Obamas are expected to fly to Hawaii in December to honor Obama's late grandmother who died on Sunday in Honolulu, taking a break before they begin their adventure in Washington D.C.

Pak govt releases three Taliban in exchange of 10 soldiers

HANGU: The Pakistan government is learnt to have released at least three dreaded Taliban prisoners, including Baitullah Mehsud's deputy Maulvi
Rafiuddin, in exchange of 10 soldiers. The swap reportedly took place at Thal tehsil of Hangu district on Wednesday.

Sources said the exchange was made possible by the efforts of the Hangu Aman Jirga (peace council) in facilitating talks between the local administration and the Taliban.

Hangu district, which has a history of violence between minority Shia and majority Sunni sects, is close to Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Taliban are active.

The Taliban released seven soldiers, including Hawaldar Tanveer, Ghulam Mustafa, Imran, Rizwan, Imran Ali, Mohammad Nisar and Arshad, and three Kurram Militia personnel, Shahid, Subhan and Dawar. The three Taliban released on Wednesday were among the seven arrested by the Hangu police in Daoba area on July 9, reported the Daily Times.

The Taliban had besieged the Daoba police station in retaliation and taken 15 security personnel hostage, added the paper.

The release of the three Taliban had been a key demand since their arrest in July.

Earlier, in September, Rafiuddin and the other two Taliban were released on bail by an anti-terrorism court in Kohat, but were re-arrested under the Frontier Crimes Regulation for failing to give security for good behaviour. The release was negotiated after tribal elders said Rafiuddin's release would help restore peace in the troubled region.

Why Obama's win matters to the world

BARACK Obama's identity empowers him to relate to the rest of the world with a potential authority unknown in history, Editor-at-Large Paul Kelly writes.
BARACK Obama depicts his win as the latest realisation of the American dream. He is manifestly an agent of change yet continuity. This is the key to his victory. For many white Americans he is giving their country back to them. For many black Americans he gives them a new stake in their country.

If this is truly the meaning of Obama's victory - the idea of the US being renewed - then it matters not just for America but for the world.

Obama, in a fashion reminiscent of John Kennedy, but more than any other US president-elect, is a candidate of the world. And he is reaching out to the world aware that this election had a global participation.

In his victory address, Obama spoke to the peoples “watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared”.

Its atmospherics are dramatically different from President George W. Bush's post-9/11 battle cry in anger that “every nation in every region now has a decisions to make” - either you are with us or against us.

Obama, unlike Bush, presents as candidate for an inter-dependent world. Bush's tragedy is that his first term folly destroyed his ability to persuade others to follow him.

As the first African-American president, raised partly in Indonesia, Obama's identity empowers him to relate to the rest of the world with a potential authority unknown in history.

A Realer Virtual World


For the large majority of Internet users, virtual worlds like Second Life remain a confusing landscape of empty buildings, failed marketing and furry strangers. But Joe Paradiso believes that virtual worlds could be more than an over-hyped gimmick. They just need a dose of reality.

Paradiso, a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, is working to create what he calls X-Reality or Cross Reality, a system designed to bring virtual and real worlds into a practical sort of alignment. With funding from Second Life parent company, Linden Lab, Paradiso aims to use sensors, displays and software to bring real-world data into virtual worlds and to integrate access to virtual worlds with real-world situations.

Later in November, Paradiso's team of seven Ph.D. students plans to switch on 45 PDA-sized devices mounted on the walls of the Media Lab's building. Each is equipped with an iPhone-like touch screen, a version of Second Life's software, wireless connections, cameras and a variety of audio, motion and infrared sensors.

According to Paradiso's plan, anyone in the building wearing a small electronic badge can walk up to one of the small screens and peer into a landscape in Second Life and communicate with users. Second Life users will likewise use the screens to look into the real world through floating windows in the virtual world, watching passersby or even remotely sitting in on meetings.

"These devices are designed to be like wormholes that let you tunnel through to a second reality," says Paradiso. "Second Life is detached. We're tying it into the real world."

The result, says Paradiso, will be a physical building that users can access from anywhere in the world. And unlike other "virtual meeting" setups where users' digital avatars awkwardly sit around a virtual conference table in Second Life or another constructed world, an X-Reality meeting would take place largely in the real world, with some virtual world users participating via Paradiso's "wormholes."

"We're just extending human perception through these nodes," says Paradiso. "We're funneling bits back and forth to the virtual world."

The potential is for X-Reality go beyond mere meetings. Josh Lifton, a former student of Paradiso's, used his Ph.D. thesis last year to show just how much Second Life can mirror reality. In a project he called "Shadow Lab," Lifton created 35 "smart" power strips and plugged them in throughout the Media Lab. Each was equipped with sensors capturing audio, movement, light, humidity and temperature data, along with the power usage of other appliances drawing electricity from the strip.

Lifton then represented real-time data from those power strip sensors in a Second Life recreation of the Media Lab, with floating tentacles of blue lines representing each node. When a student or professor walked by a sensor in the real world, the tentacle that represented it in the virtual world would wave. Temperature caused the stalks to change color, and they poured out varying degrees of virtual smoke to show how much power was being drawn from the outlet. Users could stroll--or fly--around the map to get a quick sense of goings-on in the real-world Media Lab.

Lifton argues that the "Shadow Lab" setup could be expanded to a more complex scenario like a building's emergency response system. In a fire, for instance, responders could map out the building's temperature and even find inhabitants in the virtual world before risking their lives in the real one. Paradiso offers the more prosaic example of a factory floor outfitted with ubiquitous sensors that lets any executive monitor its manufacturing in the virtual world.

Those ideas for bridging virtual and real worlds may not be as fanciful as they sound. Last February, IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) created just this sort of virtual world representation to map the data center of Implenia, a Swiss construction and real estate company.

The virtual reconstruction of Implenia's data center pulled information about the layout of servers and storage, the devices' temperatures, power consumption and data processing over the Internet to IBM's servers, where they were built into a 3-D virtual world model. Implenia's engineers could use that virtual world mock-up to remotely track the data center's power consumption and efficiency in ways that would have otherwise been tough without visiting the location.

"You can remotely enter the data center and actually hear the hum of a power system, to know if that fan is running a little too much. From an auditory clue, you can fix something in the real world," says Colin Paris, an IBM distinguished engineer. "That combination of the real and virtual is something we know will be a very big play, and MIT is really looking at the boundaries."

Putting sensitive real-world data into the virtual world presents a few privacy problems, Paradiso admits. Experiments like the one he'll perform later this month or Lifton's Shadow Lab could let outsiders track the movement of a building's inhabitants and follow their behavior. Like any computer system, Paradiso says X-Reality implementations would require different levels of access based on verifying users' identities. "Ultimately, you have to trust the agent that's doing the tracking," he says.

Lifton, meanwhile, has moved on to less privacy-threatening applications of his X-Reality expertise. As a researcher for the virtual world contractor Electric Sheep, he's working with a major toy company to build a product that would exist in both real and virtual environments. Lifton won't offer details of the toy but compares it loosely to a robot that "remembers" its experiences in Second Life. Win a game in the virtual world, for instance, and the toy gains a new functionality in the real world.

Small-scale entertainment applications like these, says Lifton, may be more realistic in the near term than Paradiso's dreams of large-scale X-Reality. "Entertainment is definitely where this will happen first," he says.

But Paradiso has bigger plans. In fact, he believes virtual worlds as a whole may need an injection of real-world connection before they slip into obscurity. "Everyone's fascinated with virtual worlds, but they're starting to get a bit tired," he says. "How you tie the virtual world into the real--not necessarily one or the other, but a whole continuum, a layered immersion--that's an intriguing story."

81-letter name is world's longest

LONDON: A British student has changed his name and claims it is the world’s longest — Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman
Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined — at 81 letters.

George Garratt changed his name through an online site, Legal Deed Poll Service. The site issued a legal name-change certificate.

His name beats the Guinness Book of Records’ longest name registered on a birth certificate by 24 letters. The current record holder is named Rhoshandiatellyneshiaunneveshenk Koyaanisquatsiuth Williams, with 57 letters.

Stumblerz website says a German immigrant to US has the longest given name: Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quiney Randolph Sherman Uncas William Xerxes Yancy Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorft.