Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shiloh Pepin Has Died

This is just the saddest. Shiloh Pepin, who was born with a rare condition often called "mermaid syndrome," swam off to the big ocean in the sky yesterday afternoon. Shiloh was only 10 years-old.
The Associated Press says Shiloh checked into the Maine Medical Center last week and was hospitalized in critical condition.
Shiloh was born with both of her legs fused together. Shiloh had no colon or genital organs, and only one partially working kidney. Usually, children born with sirenomelia get their legs surgically separated, but Shiloh never did because blood vessels in her circulatory system would have been cut.
Shiloh appeared on Oprah just last month where she talked openly about her condition. Shiloh even threw Oprah a few "O, please" faces whenever she was asked some dumb questions. Those of you that have seen the documentaries about her on the Discovery know that she really loved life and didn't take any shit.
May Shiloh rest in peace.

Maruti rides on festive sales, posts Rs 570 cr profit

Boosted by good festive season sales and robust exports, the country's largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India, today reported a nearly two-fold jump in its net profit at Rs 570 crore for the second quarter of FY'10.The company had a net profit of Rs 296.12 crore in the same period a year ago.It is investing Rs 150 crore to hike production capacity at its Gurgaon facility by up to 90,000 units through de-bottlenecking and modernisation."During the quarter, we had good festival season sales and response to our new models were good. Moreover, we also saw robust exports," Maruti Suzuki India Managing Director and CEO S Nakanishi told reporters here.MSI's net sales grew by 46.67 per cent during the quarter ended September 30, 2009, at Rs 7,049.58 crore, against Rs 4,806.26 crore in the same period last year. PTI

US drone strike kills 24 in Bajaur

A US drone attack on a militant hideout in Damadola in Bajaur killed 24 people, three foreigners among them, on Saturday.
Officials said 12 people were wounded in the attack on an underground hideout in Chohetra, 14km north of regional headquarters Khar. ‘I heard two loud explosions when a meeting of the Taliban was in progress,’ a local resident Hazrat Gul said.
According to an official of the political administration, two relatives of the militant ‘commander’ in Bajaur, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, were among the dead.
Sources said Maulvi Faqir had left the meeting only a few minutes before the attack.
Assistant Political Agent Mohammad Jamil said the pilotless plane fired at least two missiles at the hideout.

Pakistan’s nuclear assets in safe hands: FO Spokesman

Lahore, Pakistan:- The Foreign Office Spokesman, on Indian concerns over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, has said that such remarks are evidently self-serving and integral to India’s efforts to seek unilateral advantage at the cost of regional strategic stability by its feverish militarization and working on dangerous military doctrines.
“Pakistan has refrained from commenting on India’s own record on nuclear safety and security and its overt and covert endeavours to build its WMD programmes,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Instead of finger-pointing, India should accept our proposal for promoting regional strategic restraint regime and work with Pakistan to promote strategic stability in South Asia, the statement added.
The Spokesman said suggestions in this regard were made to the Indian Foreign Secretary at the recent meeting of the two foreign secretaries in New York. “It is also time that India stop its opportunistic propaganda against Pakistan,” the Spokesman said.

US drone attack kills 25 militants in Pakistan

At least 25 militants, including six foreigners, were killed and several others injured today when a US drone targeted a compound in Pakistan's Bajaur region where top Taliban commanders were holding a meeting.The compound attacked by the drone belonged to a close relative of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Mohammad.Officials of Bajaur Agency's political administration said a meeting of the local Taliban 'shura' or council was being held in the house in Damadola area. twenty-five militants died in the strike. The dead included Faqir's son-in-law and nephew and two top militant commanders.Faqir Mohammad left the compound about 10 minutes before the strike occurred at about noon, TV news channels reported.The strike destroyed several underground bunkers built by the militants and damaged nearby houses. -PTI

Pak military helicopter crashes in Bajaur, 3 killed

A Pakistani military helicopter crashed today in the restive Bajaur tribal region, killing three persons and injuring several others.The Mi-17 transport helicopter went down in Nawagai area of the semi-autonomous Bajaur Agency, officials were quoted as saying by TV news channels.The officials said three persons on board the helicopter were killed.Local residents said they had seen smoke rising from the site of the crash. The cause of the crash could not immediately be ascertained.The helicopter crashed hours after a US drone attack in Damadola area of Bajaur Agency killed 25 militants, including six foreign fighters, and injured several others.The pilotless plane targeted a compound where members of the local Taliban 'shura' or council were holding a meeting. The compound belonged to a close relative of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, whose son-in-law and nephew were killed in the strike. -PTI

Bomb scare at Lucknow station

A telephone call that a bomb had been planted at a railway platform in Charbagh Station here today sparked panic and sent police into a tizzy.The call turned out be a hoax as a thorough search by police of the entire station yielded nothing, SHO Charbagh (Government Railway Police) Shyama Kant Tripathi said.A person telephoned the police control room in the evening saying a bomb had been planted at platform number four, he said.The bomb disposal staff, which was immediately summoned, and police scanned the entire area but no bomb was found, the SHO said."It was a hoax call," he said. - PTI

After Raje, BJP removes West Bengal unit chief

The West Bengal BJP chief had to step down today for poor performance of the party in the Lok Sabha polls, a day after Vasundhara Raje bowed to pressure from the central leadership and quit as Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan assembly.West Bengal BJP President Satyabrat Mukherjee resigned from his post to abide with the party decision to remove all unit heads in states where the party had performed badly in the Lok Sabha polls, party sources said. His resignation was accepted by Rajnath Singh.Mukherjee has been replaced by Rahul Sinha, who was nominated as the West Bengal state unit president of the party by Singh today.However, the party leadership maintains that new state unit presidents are being appointed as country-wide organisational elections are on to elect office-bearers from block level upwards. - pti

Russian airliner lands safely after damage report

A Russian airliner with 279 people aboard landed safely today in the Russian capital following reports of possible damage to its landing gear, an airport spokesman said.Oleg Pesko, chief of the Vnukovo Airport press centre, said the the Vladivostok Avia Airbus A-330 made a non-emergency landing at Vnukovo Airport shortly before 1630 IST with no injuries.Airport workers in the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok earlier reported finding pieces of aircraft tire on the runway after the Airbus took off.Pesko said that Vladivostok Avia would investigate whether it was the Airbus' tires that had been damaged."It's still unknown whether the problem was with this Airbus or not," he said. "The airline will find out after a special examination."He said that the airport's emergency services were on alert during the landing.

Russian airliner lands safely after damage report

A Russian airliner with 279 people aboard landed safely today in the Russian capital following reports of possible damage to its landing gear, an airport spokesman said.Oleg Pesko, chief of the Vnukovo Airport press centre, said the the Vladivostok Avia Airbus A-330 made a non-emergency landing at Vnukovo Airport shortly before 1630 IST with no injuries.Airport workers in the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok earlier reported finding pieces of aircraft tire on the runway after the Airbus took off.Pesko said that Vladivostok Avia would investigate whether it was the Airbus' tires that had been damaged."It's still unknown whether the problem was with this Airbus or not," he said. "The airline will find out after a special examination."He said that the airport's emergency services were on alert during the landing. PTI

Money, muscle fare well in assembly elections

Money and muscle power seem to have fared better in the recently held elections as voters have sent a staggering 50 per cent of crorepatis and over 36 per cent of candidates with criminal background to the three state assemblies.An analysis by National Election Watch (NEW) shows the number of legislators, who have assets of over a crore, voted to power in Maharashtra is 184 or 63.89 per cent of the 288-seat house. In 2004, there were 108 crorepati MLAs.Voters elected 35 crorepatis or 58.33 per cent to the 60-seat house in Haryana this time. There were 47 millionaires in the 2005 assembly in Haryana and 17 such MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh in 2004. -PTI

Devotees take holy dip in Ganga on Chhath puja

Lakhs of devotees today took a holy dip in the river Ganga here on the occasion of Chhath puja.Devotees offered prayers to the Sun God at Dashaswamedh, Rajendra Prasad, Sheetala, Kedar and Assi ghats.In view of the heavy rush of people, heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces has been made at all the ghats and temples, a senior police official said.Ahead of the festival, a massive cleaning drive was launched in the city and a number of sacred kunds and water bodies cleaned.Besides ghats and water bodies, waste was also collected from various colonies in the city, B K Singh, senior health officer, Varanasi Nagar Nigam said. PTI

Gold up by Rs 55; Silver ready surges by Rs 200

Gold prices today rose by Rs 55 to Rs 16,230 per 10 gram in the bullion market here on heavy buying by stockists and investors in line with firming global cues.Meanwhile, silver ready spurted by Rs 200 at Rs 27,550 per kg and weekly-based delivery by Rs 140 to Rs 27,440 per kg.Marketmen said the yellow metal rose to near record level in the domestic market as investors were seen shifting funds from melting equities to rising bullion, considering it a safe haven to park their money.The demand for the precious metal also picked up on heavy buying by retail customers for the ongoing marriage season.Besides, they said, the precious metal, which moves in tandem with the global market, rose as gold recorded handsome gains overseas. -PTI

India-Benin ink key pact to boost bilateral ties

India and the West African nation Benin have inked a key pact to boost bilateral ties and set up a joint commission to deepen multi-sectoral co-operation to consolidate their trade relations.Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who ended his three-day visit here, yesterday signed a bilateral agreement -- covering political, economic, scientific, technical and cultural co-operation -- with his counterpart Jean Marie Ehouzou.The two ministers also signed the minutes of the first meeting of the joint commission set up to boost multi-sectoral bilateral co-operation to expand and consolidate their trade ties.Tharoor also flagged-off a Benin railways train with Indian locomotive. He also met with Beninois President Boni Yayi, who expressed his gratitude to India for making efforts to boost bilateral cooperations. -pti

India Infoline Q2 net up 44.27 pc to Rs 58 cr

Domestic brokerage firm India Infoline today said its consolidated net profit rose by 44.27 per cent to Rs 58 crore for the second quarter ended September 30, over the same period last year.Total income rose to Rs 313.6 crore in the latest quarter, against Rs 276.6 crore in the same period last fiscal, India Infoline said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.On a standalone basis, the company has reported a net profit of Rs 35.43 crore in the latest quarter ended September 30, up 9.93 per cent from Rs 32.2 crore in the same period corresponding fiscal.

Friday, October 16, 2009


The following 14 films are up for the Marcus Aurelius best film prize at this year's Rome Film Festival. - ALZA LA TESTA by Alessandro Angelini, with Sergio Castellitto, Gabriele Campanelli, Anita Kravos and Giorgio Colangeli; - L'UOMO CHE VERRA' by Giorgio Diritti with Claudio Casadio, Alba Rohrwacher, Maya Sansa; - VIOLA DI MARE with Valeria Solarino and Isabella Ragonese. - UP IN THE AIR by Jason Reitman with George Clooney and Vera Farmiga; - TRIAGE by Danis Tanovíc with Colin Farrell and Paz Vega; - THE LAST STATION by Michael Hoffman with Helen Mirren; - AFTER by Alberto Rodriguez with Guillermo Toledo and Tristan Ulloa; - BROTHERHOOD by Nicolo Donato with Thure Lindhardt and David Denick; - CHAQUE JOUR EST UNA FETE by Dima El Horr with Hiam Abbass, Manal Khader and Raia Haidar. - DAWSON ISLA 10 by Miguel Littin with Pablo Krog, Benjamin Vicuna and Cristian De La Fuente; - PLAN B by Marc Berger; - QINGNIAN by Geng Jun ; - LES REGRETS by Cedric Kahn with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi; - VISION by Margarethe Von Trotta. photo: Farrell with Tanovic reading Scott Anderson's book Triage

DSB bank given until Monday to sell itself

Struggling independent bank has been given until 9am on Monday to sell itself or face bankruptcy.
The bank had previously been given a deadline of midday by Amsterdam district court after administrators brought in earlier in the week applied to have it declared bankrupt.
The bank's owner Dirk Scheringa urged the court to give DSB an extension, saying a potential US financial services company was intereted in a takeover.
Leaving the court, Scheringa told reporters: 'We are still alive, but it will be tough. We have to work really hard for 48 hours. The takeover candidate is extremely serious.'
Earlier it emerged the five big Dutch banks all declined to be involved in a rescue package.
DSB is on the point of collapse because thousands of clients withdrew some €600m in savings following a campaign by customers who claim they have been oversold mortgages and insurance.
Around 100 DSB workers gathered outside the court to support Scheringa, a former policeman who went on to create a financial empire. DSB was granted a banking licence four years ago.
More on thisFees of up to 80% common in credit insuranceInsurance agents warned about DSBMPs demand answers from finance ministerDSB in hands of administratorsDSB boss took millions from 'his' bank

Work stoppages hit trains from Hat Yai to north, northeast

Seven fuel trains travelling from Nakhon Sawan province also suspended service, as did another three free shortrange commuter trains travelling from Nakhon Ratchasima to other northeastern provinces.
The labour union of the local operation in Hat Yai district, which announced the suspension, said all trains travelling to Hat Yai station would be inspected, and then be "stopped" from continuing their runs if they failed to pass standard maintenance checks.
Union leader Wirun Sakaekhum said his union's act was not a strike, but merely a temporary suspension of service. "We are following a fresh regulation of the State Railways of Thailand, which was issued in the wake of a derailment on October 5. No locomotives in fully operational readiness are allowed to be used," he said.
Wirun said out of 11 locomotives operated by the Hat Yai station, four were in "incomplete condition" while a safety system attached to the seven others needed repairs. The Vigilance system is a warning device that sends alerts to drivers who might be sleeping on the job, he explained.
"The Hat Yai labour union cannot tell now how much repair work will take place, and cannot say how long the suspension of service will continue, but all the work will be completed as soon as possible," he added.
He said the Hat Yai union was pledged new equipment and budget for new locomotives and various repair work in an agreement in December 2002, but was never given anything.
Members of the union and rail workers later gathered at the Hat Yai station in the afternoon and burned an effigy of SRT governor Yutthana Thabjaroen.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, train 419, which gives free rides following government policy, stopped service, forcing passengers to travel by buses or to wait for hours for the next train after they found out that the other two free trains were also delayed. Their suspension from service was then announced. Station manager Somsak Tianpholkrang said the local train union told him that the locomotives for the free trains were not "fully ready" for use.
A source with the Transport Ministry, which supervises SRT, said the suspension of train services was aimed at unseating SRT governor Yutthana. Yesterday's work stoppage was the third strike in the past two years.-->

Norway Seeks More Cooperation, Less Tension With Russia

Russia's re-investment in its northern defenses poses no problems for Norway, which will continue to improve military and political channels of cooperation with Moscow, said Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway's foreign minister. "There is no tension between the Norwegian and the Russian militaries, and 15 years of Norwegian-Russian cooperation has removed any tension," Støre told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK. The Norwegian government estimates that Russia has spent between $12 billion and $15 billion modernizing and strengthening its Murmansk-centered northern defenses since 2004. "Norway will, of course, continue to closely monitor Russia's military efforts, but we cannot see that this in any way changes the good relations between Norway and Russia," Støre said. Gen. Sverre Diesen, who stepped down as commander of Norway's defense forces at the end of September, warned that the government needs to invest more in providing an adequate level of funding to ensure the credibility of its High North Defense Plan (HNDP). Gen. Harald Sunde took over as head of Norway's defense forces on Oct. 1.
"Our High North defense can be stronger with more funding. We need a battalion of enlisted soldiers in the region to guarantee that the advanced equipment that we have can be used," said Diesen, who suggested that future government defense reforms should include a shift from a conscription-based to a more professional military.
The level of Norwegian-Russian cross-border security cooperation has strengthened significantly since 2007. Col. Ivar Magne Sakserud, the head of Norway's Border Defense Department, visited Russia's Rybachiy peninsula on Oct. 1, becoming the first Norwegian military officer to be granted permission to enter this "closed area," which includes strategic military facilities, including Murmansk and Arkhangel.
"This vote of confidence proves that the relationship and cooperative climate between Norway and Russia is very good," Sakserud said.
The expanding contacts, both formal and informal, between key military branches of both militaries was evident in September, when the Norwegian Navy frigate KNM Otto Sverdrup visited Murmansk, the Northern Fleet's main base, to participate in the Barents Rescue 2009 exercises, which also involved military and civilian agencies from Sweden and Finland.
Meetings between Coast Guard, Border Guard and Land Forces from the two countries are currently running at two to three a year, with the most recent high-level meeting taking place Oct. 12 between Vice Adm. Nikolay Maksimov, the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet, and Lt. Gen. Bernt Brovold, the commander of the Norwegian Defense Force's new National Joint Headquarters in Bodø, which opened in Norway's Arctic region in August.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Karzai questions vote fraud panel

President Hamid Karzai has expressed concern about the investigation into election fraud in Afghanistan.
In an interview on US TV, Mr Karzai said the resignation of an Afghan member of the UN-backed panel "cast serious doubt" on its work.
Mr Karzai said that fraud was likely to have taken place in the August vote, but called it "good and fair".
He leads the preliminary count but the panel's findings - due imminently - could force the vote to a second round.
The election has been mired in controversy since it was held in August, with accusations that fraud was committed on a huge scale.
But supporters of Mr Karzai's nearest rival in the poll - Abdullah Abdullah - alleged that Mr Karzai was behind the sudden resignation of the Afghan panel member.
The interview came a day after Mustafa Barakzai quit the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), which is investigating irregularities.
The panel is due to rule in the next week on the outcome of its findings.
"I am not going to say the Electoral Complaints Commission is illegitimate," Mr Karzai told ABC network's Good Morning America.
But he added: "That resignation has cast serious doubt on the functioning of the commission.
"I hope it should do everything now to remove those suspicions and to remove any other stigmas and to prove it is impartial and fair and not dictated to by foreign elements and government," he said. Mr Barakzai, a Supreme Court judge, had alleged that foreigners were "interfering" in the panel's work and Afghans had little input in its key decisions. He was one of two Afghans on the five-member UN commission.
A deputy campaign manager for Abdullah Abdullah said the resignation was politically motivated.
"Barakzai's resignation has a direct connection to Karzai. It was Karzai's idea," Saleh Mohammad Registani told the Associated Press news agency.
"Karzai is trying to bring the work of the ECC into question."
'Worthy of praise'
Mr Karzai conceded that some irregularities must have taken place but insisted that the elections were a success. "There were irregularities, there must have also have been fraud committed," he said.
"But the election was good and fair and worthy of praise not of scorn which the election received from the international media, which makes me unhappy, which makes me angry," he said.
He warned: "We must not turn an election, a victory for Afghan people, into a nightmare for the Afghan people."
Mr Karzai also said that he was "fully behind" new Nato commander Gen Stanley McChrystal and his emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians.
A recount of a sample of suspect ballots is almost complete, the UN said on Sunday. About 10% of votes cast in August are being audited.
But on Monday the ECC once again altered its formula for counting the contested votes.
Mr Karzai leads preliminary results with about 55% of the vote, considerably ahead of former foreign minister Dr Abdullah, who has 28%.
There would be a second round run-off if neither secures 50% of ballots cast.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Dr Abdullah softened his stance on the outcome of the elections adding that he would be amenable to a place in a unity government.
In Tuesday's interview, Mr Karzai said that for the past seven years, he had been known as "a man who brings inclusiveness".
"The unity of [the] Afghan people is paramount here and we will continue to strive for that," he said.

UK PM 'to send 500 more to Helmand'

Gordon Brown is expected to announce that Britain is to send an extra 500 military personnel to Afghanistan.
The UK has about 9,000 soldiers in the country, the second-largest contingent after the US, but there have been calls for increases in Nato troop levels.
To date, there have been 221 deaths among UK forces there and the PM has faced some calls to bring troops home.
Mr Brown will address MPs at 1230 BST, after the first prime minister's questions of the parliamentary session.
'Right strategy'
He will begin his statement with a sombre tribute to British forces, reading out the names of the 37 servicemen who have died in Afghanistan since the last prime minister's questions in mid-July.
It is believed that Mr Brown will agree to the deployment of 500 more British troops but with some caveats.
The BBC's defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said: "The prime minister will want assurances from military chiefs that the extra troops will be properly equipped.
"He'll also expect Britain's NATO partners to follow suit by offering more forces themselves."
British forces have been in Afghanistan since October 2001. More than two-thirds are stationed in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold.
Last week Mr Brown's spokesman said: "We have always said that more troops would have to be subject to a number of criteria - the feasibility of sending the right equipment, the right strategy internationally, and particularly this issue of 'Afghanisation' which the president and prime minister talked again about yesterday, and obviously proper burden-sharing."
In his speech to the Conservative Party conference, leader David Cameron pledged to send more troops to Afghanistan to speed up the training of Afghan soldiers.
The Liberal Democrats have claimed the Afghan mission is "failing" and called for a new strategy and "a political surge" rather than more troops.
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Senate panel passes health bill

A Senate committee has approved a bill to reform US healthcare, a key step in President Barack Obama's attempt to overhaul the system.
Senators voted by 14 votes to nine to pass the bill, with one Republican joining Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee in voting in favour.
Senator Olympia Snowe became the first Republican to back the proposals.
The reforms, intended to cut costs and make insurance more affordable, are Mr Obama's top domestic priority.
The president welcomed the committee's decision, calling it a "critical milestone".
"We are closer than ever before to passing healthcare reform but we are not there yet," he said. "Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back... It is time to dig in further and get this done."
'Miles to go'

Obama welcomed the progress made so far on the billAnnouncing her decision to break with her party on Tuesday, Senator Snowe said: "When history calls, history calls."
However, the moderate Republican said it did not necessarily mean she would support later versions of a bill.
"There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey," she said. "My vote today is my vote today. It doesn't forecast what it will be tomorrow."
The panel's bill, which was drafted after weeks of at times bitterly bipartisan debate, sets out a 10-year $829bn (£525bn) plan to cut health costs and provide affordable health insurance to most Americans.
US HEALTHCARE No universal coveragePrivate health insurance available through employer, government or private schemesUS spends some 16.2% of GDP on healthcare, nearly twice average of other OECD countriesUS Census Bureau estimates some 46m people do not have health insurance - includes 9.2 million non-citizens and 18 million people who earn over $50,000 a yearMedicaid: federal-state programme for low income groupsMedicare: for people 65 years old and above and some younger disabled people
Q&A: Healthcare reform Healthcare around world Senator Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the panel, criticised the legislation and predicted that the bill would move "leftward" as it progressed through Congress.
"This bill is already moving on a slippery slope to more government control of healthcare," he said.
The finance committee's bill must now be combined with a bill drafted by the Senate Health Committee before going to the full Senate for a vote.
It is not guaranteed to pass, as it needs all the Democrats, two independents and one Republican to vote in favour.
'Public option'
Mr Obama argues that all Americans are entitled to insurance coverage, that rising costs must be tackled and that private insurers must not be able to deny coverage or end it when someone becomes seriously ill.
ANALYSIS Paul Adams, BBC News, WashingtonOn the long, tortuous road towards reform of America's healthcare system, this was a decisive moment. Several members of the Senate Finance Committee called the vote historic. The Washington Post this morning reported that not since Theodore Roosevelt proposed universal healthcare in 1912 has any such bill come this far. After months of debate, the committee's chairman, Max Baucus, looked delighted and relieved. In the end, those in favour of the bill won comfortably. This was due in part to a Democratic majority, but also to the support of Senator Olympia Snowe, who became the first Republican to back any of the bills proposed this year.
But this is not the end of the process. There are many more legislative hurdles to overcome before it becomes law. In the meantime, debate will continue to rage. A long congressional slog still lies ahead, correspondents say, but Mr Obama's push for healthcare reform has gone further than attempts in the 1990s by President Bill Clinton, which never got beyond all the committees.
All the different versions of the bill produced by House of Representatives and Senate committees are broadly similar in the scope of their reforms:
toughen regulations on health insurers mandate all Americans to get insurance offer subsidies to the less well-off and set up health insurance exchanges for people without employer-sponsored coverage, to help them choose between different options. Lawmakers are divided, however, over whether there should be a new government-run insurance scheme - the so-called "public option".
The finance committee's bill is the only one not to include a public option, an element advocated by Mr Obama and some Democrats as the means of creating competition between insurers.
Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the finance committee's bill would result in reducing the federal deficit by $81bn and mean some 94% of eligible Americans would have insurance coverage.
However, Republicans say the final draft which will be voted on is likely to be very different and more expensive than this version. They say the proposed reforms are too costly and represent too much government intrusion into healthcare.
At the weekend, the private insurance industry issued a study that said the plans could mean policies end up costing people hundreds, if not thousands, more dollars.

Walk to remember

Its been over two years since Onward Jackson died after a courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In that time, his children, Johnnie and Marianna, have done their best to honor him by making T-shirts in remembrance of him and donning them for each annual Memory Walk.This year was no exception.The Jackson siblings were joined by several friends and hundreds of others affected by the disease in making the 1.6-mile Memory Walk on Saturday morning.The walk, held by the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, started at the Redmen’s Lodge on East Third Street at 10 a.m.
Before the walk, in its fourth year, co-founder Emily Albera gave a brief, heartwarming speech thanking everyone involved. Albera, whose mother battled Alzheimer’s for 18 years before dying in 2005, said, “It’s no longer about my mother. It’s about all of you people that have been affected.”Albera’s mother’s lengthy struggle with the debilitating disease inspired Albera and her mother’s daytime caretaker, Isabel Wilder, to start the charity walk.Wilder, a caretaker with Maxim Healthcare, said Albera’s mother, Emily, made significant strides in recovering her memory and basic skills.“I couldn’t believe how she turned everything around,” Wilder said.When Wilder took over the daytime care of the elder Albera, she said, the Alzheimer’s-stricken woman “didn’t know anything.”After the elder Albera died, Wilder decided to begin an annual Memory Walk, and she got the younger Albera involved.“I tried hard to get it going and let people know about this disease,” Wilder said.Wilder’s mother-in-law also died from the disease, and her father-in-law is battling it.Speaking from personal experience, she said, “Some (with Alzheimer’s) need help. A lot of them have family members that are not informed.”And therein lies the purpose of the walk, Wilder said.An annual Memory Walk allows people to share their stories and take advice from the experts in the field.Before the walk Saturday morning, Dr. Muhammad Usman Saeed, a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at East Carolina University, gave an informational, 10-minute speech about the disease and what is being done to combat and prevent it. Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan followed up Saeed’s speech with some details about a wrist-tracker recommended for individuals stricken with Alzheimer’s or dementia.“Please tell your loved ones they don’t have to suffer in silence,” he said.

Storm dumps record amount of rain on Bay Area

The long dry spell of summer and fall ended with a vengeance today as record-breaking rain and lashing winds tromped into Northern California, sending cars smashing into each other, flooding roads and downing power lines all over the region.
As the afternoon commute began, a big rig turned over on the eastbound Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, forcing the closure of all lanes headed to the East Bay. Earlier in the day, a fatal head-on collision involving three cars shut Highway 1 at Devil's Slide near Pacifica for nearly three hours.
In all, there were more than 200 serious accidents on Bay Area roads even before the evening drive time began, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Angus Gavin's didn't count in those statistics - but try telling that to him. He had just pulled into a parking spot at Hyde and Green streets in San Francisco in his Chevrolet pickup at about 2:30 p.m. when he looked up and saw a three-story-high eucalyptus tree coming down.
"I thought I was imagining it," the 30-year-old contractor said. "I was debating if I should stay in or get out, and I just sat there. So I got lucky."
Lucky meant his car got a cracked windshield and some dents as the tree slammed onto the hood. Not so lucky was the empty Toyota sedan parked in front of Gavin: Its roof was caved in.
The accident brought the cable car Powell-Hyde line to a halt, stacking the cars up until the roadway was cleared at 4 p.m.
On the freeways, drives took nearly twice as long as normal.
"Any time we have a big storm that comes in like this, we'll have these kinds of incidents. That's just the way it is," said CHP Officer Shawn Chase, who spent the day dashing from crash to crash. "The oil left from the summer comes up in the roadway, people don't slow down, and all you need is one person sliding into another and you get a chain reaction."
People who slogged along the roads to get to San Francisco International Airport found their flights delayed by as much as three hours because of the weather.
The National Weather Service posted a rare storm warning, predicting possible hurricane-force gusts of up to 75 mph for San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun bays and for the western part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Rainfall totals, fed by the remnants of a Japanese typhoon, were impressive. The 2.43 inches that San Francisco received by 4 p.m. obliterated the previous mark for any day in October - 2.29 inches, set in 1969. It's also more than 10 percent of what the city normally receives during an entire year.
"This rain is just sort of a blanket over everybody, and a fire hose in some places," said forecaster Diana Henderson of the National Weather Service. "And we've got quite a bit more rain to come today."
The high-water mark by late afternoon was set in Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which had received 9.14 inches. Elsewhere, 5.63 inches had fallen in San Rafael, 3.14 in Concord, 3.79 at the Oakland Museum and 2.04 in San Jose.
Downed power lines knocked out electricity to more than 89,000 customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said utility spokesman Joe Molica. Service had been restored to nearly three quarters of them by 1 p.m., he said.
Backed-up drains and gutters caused flooding on streets throughout the area. The CHP briefly shut down portions of Interstate 280 in San Francisco and Daly City and southbound Highway 101 near Lily Street in the city.
"The minor flooding is everywhere, and that's not that unusual given the first storm of the year," Chase said.
Many cities were making free sandbags available to residents. In San Francisco, about 400 had been handed out by lunchtime.
Maria Zuno, 56, was loading bags into her minivan at the city corporation yard on Cesar Chavez Street so she could rush home to South San Francisco and block off the entrance from her garage to the house. Rainwater started flooding the garage in the middle of the night, she said, and by the time she woke up more than an inch was covering the floor.
"I was surprised that the water came in so early," she said. "The storm was bigger than we thought it would be."
Golden Gate Park was spanked smartly by winds straight off the ocean, sending branches flying and trees bending over crazily. Marx Meadow flooded so completely it looked like a lake.
In the Santa Cruz area, emergency officials kept a wary eye on hillsides burned nearly nude by the summer's wildfires, and dozens of residents in the community of Davenport were asked to evacuate until the rains subside. Without vegetation to hold the soil, mudslides were considered possible.
About the only folks happy to see the bad weather were ski resort operators in the Sierra, where as much as a foot of snow was expected to fall by the end of the day. Wind gusts up to 100 mph were punishing the most remote peaks of the mountain range, but no damage was reported by afternoon.
The weather service said the rain was expected to continue into tonight, then taper off to showers Wednesday. Once the storm clears out, the long-range outlook is for dry weather through the weekend. related website

Monday, October 12, 2009

Liquid Water Recently Seen on Mars?

Strange globs seen on the landing strut of the Phoenix Mars lander could be the first proof that modern Mars hosts liquid water, a new paper reports.
Images from the robotic craft show what appear to be liquid droplets growing, merging, and dripping on the lander's leg over the course of a Martian month.

What's This? SHARE Digg StumbleUpon Reddit RELATED Mars Water Discovered, "Tasted" by Lander -- A First Snow Falling on Mars "Seen" by NASA Lander "My Mars" by Ray Bradbury Phoenix landed near Mars's north pole last May, and several "self portraits" taken to assess the craft's health show material spattered on the legs.
This substance is probably saline mud that splashed up as the craft landed, study leader and Phoenix co-investigator Nilton Renno of the University of Michigan told National Geographic News.
Salt in the mud then absorbed water vapor from the atmosphere, forming the watery drops, Renno said.
The water can stay liquid even in the frigid Martian arctic because it contains a high amount of perchlorates, a salt "with properties like the antifreeze used to melt snow here in Michigan," said Renno, who will present the work next month at the 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.
Finding liquid water under these conditions carries possible implications for Mars's habitability, the scientists say.
Dripping And Shrinkage
Renno admits that the images showing droplets are not high enough resolution to examine small details.
He also notes that instruments on board Phoenix meant to look for liquid water near the surface didn't find anything.
But he and his team are convinced that what they are seeing matches the behavior of liquid water.
"As it cooled down toward the end of the mission and we're seeing the formation of frost everywhere, the drops almost disappear," he said.

Water Found on the Moon

nce man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called "unambiguous evidence" of water across the surface of the moon.The new findings, detailed in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Science, come in the wake of further evidence of lunar polar water ice by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and just weeks before the planned lunar impact of NASA's LCROSS satellite, which will hit one of the permanently shadowed craters at the moon's south pole in hope of churning up evidence of water ice deposits in the debris field.The moon remains drier than any desert on Earth, but the water is said to exist on the moon in very small quantities. One ton of the top layer of the lunar surface would hold about 32 ounces of water, researchers said."If the water molecules are as mobile as we think they are — even a fraction of them — they provide a mechanism for getting water to those permanently shadowed craters," said planetary geologist Carle Pieters of Brown University in Rhode Island, who led one of the three studies in Science on the lunar find, in a statement. "This opens a whole new avenue [of lunar research], but we have to understand the physics of it to utilize it."Finding water on the moon would be a boon to possible future lunar bases, acting as a potential source of drinking water and fuel.Apollo turns up dryWhen Apollo astronauts returned from the moon 40 years ago, they brought back several samples of lunar rocks.The moon rocks were analyzed for signs of water bound to minerals present in the rocks; while trace amounts of water were detected, these were assumed to be contamination from Earth, because the containers the rocks came back in had leaked."The isotopes of oxygen that exist on the moon are the same as those that exist on Earth, so it was difficult if not impossible to tell the difference between water from the moon and water from Earth," said Larry Taylor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who is a member of one of the NASA-built instrument teams for India's Chandrayaan-1 satellite and has studied the moon since the Apollo missions.While scientists continued to suspect that water ice deposits could be found in the coldest spots of south pole craters that never saw sunlight, the consensus became that the rest of the moon was bone dry.But new observations of the lunar surface made with Chandrayaan-1, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, and NASA's Deep Impact probe, are calling that consensus into question, with multiple detections of the spectral signal of either water or the hydroxyl group (an oxygen and hydrogen chemically bonded).Three spacecraftChandrayaan-1, India's first-ever moon probe, was aimed at mapping the lunar surface and determining its mineral composition (the orbiter's mission ended 14 months prematurely in August after an abrupt malfunction). While the probe was still active, its NASA-built Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) detected wavelengths of light reflected off the surface that indicated the chemical bond between hydrogen and oxygen — the telltale sign of either water or hydroxyl.Because M3 can only penetrate the top few millimeters of lunar regolith, the newly observed water seems to be at or near the lunar surface. M3's observations also showed that the water signal got stronger toward the polar regions. Pieters is the lead investigator for the M3 instrument on Chandrayaan-1.Cassini, which passed by the moon in 1999 on its way to Saturn, provides confirmation of this signal with its own slightly stronger detection of the water/hydroxyl signal. The water would have to be absorbed or trapped in the glass and minerals at the lunar surface, wrote Roger Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey in the study detailing Cassini's findings.The Cassini data shows a global distribution of the water signal, though it also appears stronger near the poles (and low in the lunar maria).Finally, the Deep Impact spacecraft, as part of its extended EPOXI mission and at the request of the M3 team, made infrared detections of water and hydroxyl as part of a calibration exercise during several close approaches of the Earth-Moon system en route to its planned flyby of comet 103P/Hartley 2 in November 2010.Deep Impact detected the signal at all latitudes above 10 degrees N, though once again, the poles showed the strongest signals. With its multiple passes, Deep Impact was able to observe the same regions at different times of the lunar day. At noon, when the sun's rays were strongest, the water feature was lowest, while in the morning, the feature was stronger."The Deep Impact observations of the Moon not only unequivocally confirm the presence of [water/hydroxyl] on the lunar surface, but also reveal that the entire lunar surface is hydrated during at least some portion of the lunar day," the authors wrote in their study.The findings of all three spacecraft "provide unambiguous evidence for the presence of hydroxyl or water," said Paul Lacey of the University of Hawaii in an opinion essay accompanying the three studies. Lacey was not involved in any of the missions.The new data "prompt a critical reexamination of the notion that the moon is dry. It is not," Lacey wrote.Where the water comes fromCombined, the findings show that not only is the moon hydrated, the process that makes it so is a dynamic one that is driven by the daily changes in solar radiation hitting any given spot on the surface.The sun might also have something to do with how the water got there.There are potentially two types of water on the moon: that brought from outside sources, such as water-bearing comets striking the surface, or that that originates on the moon.This second, endogenic, source is thought to possibly come from the interaction of the solar wind with moon rocks and soils.The rocks and regolith that make up the lunar surface are about 45 percent oxygen (combined with other elements as mostly silicate minerals). The solar wind — the constant stream of charged particles emitted by the sun — are mostly protons, or positively charged hydrogen atoms.If the charged hydrogens, which are traveling at one-third the speed of light, hit the lunar surface with enough force, they break apart oxygen bonds in soil materials, Taylor, the M3 team member suspects. Where free oxygen and hydrogen exist, there is a high chance that trace amounts of water will form.The various study researchers also suggest that the daily dehydration and rehydration of the trace water across the surface could lead to the migration of hydroxyl and hydrogen towards the poles where it can accumulate in the cold traps of the permanently shadowed regions.By Andrea Thompson

NASA found 99% pure water ice on Mars

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed sub-surface water ice that may be 99 percent pure, halfway between the North Pole and the equator on the Red Planet.“We knew there was ice below the surface at high latitudes of Mars, but we find that it extends far closer to the equator than you would think, based on Mars’ climate today,” said Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona, a member of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, which runs the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.“The other surprising discovery is that ice exposed at the bottom of these meteorite impact craters is so pure,” Byrne said.“The thinking before was that ice accumulates below the surface between soil grains, so there would be a 50-50 mix of dirt and ice. We were able to figure out, given how long it took that ice to fade from view, that the mixture is about one percent dirt and 99 percent ice,” he added.Scientists used several instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, in quick succession in detecting and confirming highly pure, bright ice exposed in new craters, ranging from 1.5 feet to 8 feet deep, at five different Martian sites.In August 2008, the orbiter’s Context camera team examined their images for any dark spots or other changes that weren’t visible in earlier images of the same area. Meteorites usually leave dark marks when they crash into dust-covered Mars terrain.The HiRISE team, which bases its operations at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, followed up in September 2008 by taking high-resolution images of the dark spots.“We saw something very unusual when we followed up on the first of these impact craters, and that was this bright blue material poking up from the bottom of the crater. It looked a lot like water ice. And sure enough, when we started monitoring this material, it faded away like you’d expect water ice to fade, because water ice is unstable on Mars’ surface and turns directly into water vapour in the atmosphere,” Byrne said.A few days later that September, the orbiter’s “CRISM” team used their Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and got the spectral signature of water ice exposed in one of the impact craters, further clinching the discovery.How far water ice extends toward the equator depends largely on how much water has been available in the Martian atmosphere in the recent past.“The ice is a relic of a more humid climate not very long ago, perhaps just several thousand years ago,” Byrne said.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moob Blast - For water

spacecraft named LCROSS fired a 2-ton rocket casing into the heart of darkness on the moon early Friday morning, blasting out two fresh craters inside a larger one in search of hidden reservoirs of water.

The impact did not send the high plume of moon rocks and dust into the sunlit lunar sky as scientists had expected, but instruments aboard the spacecraft did record a sudden bright flash of light and the spectral lines of sodium and other as yet unidentified chemicals.
It also appeared that as LCROSS soared over the first new crater, it flew right through a high plume of vapor from the impact, mission scientists said.
"The spacecraft flew beautifully," said Anthony Colaprete, the LCROSS mission's chief scientist. "We saw the crater, we saw the flash and we looked deeper and deeper into the crater's shadow, but if there's water there, we'll have to see what the data tells us."
Like every NASA venture into space, the ultimate success of this one will be known after all the instrument data is analyzed. And there's plenty of it, for the Hubble Space Telescope and five other orbiting spacecraft from Japan, India and the U.S. were all training their instruments and optics on the event. Telescopes at 20 major astronomical observatories from New Mexico to Hawaii were also part of the mission's observing campaign.
Precision navigation
The flight itself was a remarkable feat of precision space navigation by engineers and scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, where the mission was designed, built and controlled. And it gave the scientists their first-ever chance to explore material that has lain hidden beneath the moon's surface for billions of years.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday LCROSS - the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite - aimed its Centaur rocket casing at the target deep inside a lunar crater 60 miles wide named Cabeus. So precise was the mission control team's aim that the Centaur hit just about 1,500 feet from the exact center of its 12-mile-wide assigned spot, and it dug an impact crater that may be 60 feet wide and 13 feet deep.
And when the brilliant plume failed to rise from the permanently shadowed crater, Michael Bicay, science director at the Ames center, speculated that the Centaur might have hit solid bedrock rather than the mix of smaller rocks and sand the scientists had expected.
Colaprete, however, suggested later that the debris from the crash might have spread out widely inside the shadow instead of rising above it - depending on its composition.
The predicted impact time was 4:3o a.m. Friday, and it came only one minute later, after LCROSS controllers, led by project manager Daniel Andrews, sent the Centaur rocket speeding to the target from 25,000 miles away at 5,580 mph. It was quite a piece of tricky space navigation.
After the Centaur's impact, LCROSS, its "shepherding satellite," was less than 375 miles above the moon's surface. And four minutes later the LCROSS satellite itself plunged on schedule into the same wide crater to make a smaller impact crater of its own.
Cabeus, the broad target crater, lies just above the moon's South Pole, where for 10 years scientists have been seeing evidence that rich deposits of hydrogen lie there - either as hydrogen alone, or as molecules of hydrogen and oxygen known as hydroxyls -or better yet, as deeply frozen water ice that has remained solid for billions of years in craters that have never seen any light at all.
Where's the water?
And that's precisely what this mission has been all about: to find out whether immense quantities of water do in fact lie beneath the moon's dry and lifeless surface. The moon has been bombarded ceaselessly by meteors and comets ever since it formed, and since comets typically contain large amounts of water, mission scientists reason that water indeed should be detected when they finally analyze the mountains of data from all the instruments in orbit and on the ground.
"There's water down in that crater, and we're going to dig some of it up," Colaprete had said at a newsconference Thursday. And on Friday, without speculating, he still insisted the odds are good that the cryptic data will ultimately show there is water on the moon.
LCROSS was launched from Cape Canaveral in June as a kind of hitchhiker aboard another spacecraft called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the LRO has been orbiting the moon ever since on an independent mission to map the moon's entire surface. It was flying right over the impact sites Friday and will continue gathering data from them on every orbit.
Ames officials had opened the guarded space center to the public on Thursday, and hundreds of space enthusiasts gathered in the frigid open for the night, entertained by free moon movies, informed explanations, and images of the LCROSS experiment projected on a giant screen.
When the debris plume was barely visible instead of spectacularly bright, the crowd - with some in sleeping bags and tents - was disappointed and many grumbled.
"It was fun to hang out with my friend Dylan, but it's kind of like I got up at 3 in the morning for nothing," said Bobby Howie, 9, of San Mateo.
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The Nobel Prize Awarders

The Nobel Prize Awarders
Who selects the Nobel Laureates? In his last will and testament, Alfred Nobel specifically designated the institutions responsible for the prizes he wished to be established: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry, Karolinska Institute for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and a Committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1968, the Sveriges Riksbank established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was given the task to select the Economics Prize Laureates starting in 1969.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
Oslo, October 9, 2009

Obama says Nobel Peace Prize is "call to action

WASHINGTON/OSLO (Reuters) - Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision that honored the first-year U.S. president more for promise than achievement and drew both praise and skepticism around the world.
The bestowal of one of the world's top accolades on Obama, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success after nearly nine months in office, was greeted with gasps from the audience at the announcement ceremony in Oslo.
Describing himself as surprised and deeply humbled, Obama said he would accept the award as a "call to action" to confront the global challenges of the 21st century.
"I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," he said in the White House Rose Garden.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," citing his fledgling push for nuclear disarmament and his outreach to the Muslim world.
Obama, a Democrat who took office as the first black U.S. president in January, has been widely credited with improving America's global image after the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, who alienated both friends and foes with go-it-alone policies like the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
But critics called the Nobel committee's decision premature, given that Obama has achieved few tangible gains as he grapples with challenges ranging from the war in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
Obama, told of the prize in a pre-dawn call from his press secretary, now also has the burden of living up to its expectations.
The president, who will travel to Oslo to receive the award on December 10, plans to donate the prize money of 10 million Swedish crowns -- roughly $1.4 million -- to charity, the White House said.
Obama, 48, has struggled with a litany of foreign policy problems bequeathed to him by Bush, while taking a more multilateral approach than his predecessor.
Obama acknowledged that while winning a prize dedicated to peace, he was commander-in-chief of a country in two wars. "We have to confront the world as we know it," he said.
He won the award on the same day he was convening his war counsel to weigh whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to turn the tide against a resurgent Taliban.
His troubles at home include a battered economy and a fierce debate over healthcare reform that have chipped away at his once-lofty approval ratings and a Republican opposition that has moved well past the honeymoon phase.
"One thing is certain -- President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action." Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement.
But Obama is still widely seen around the world as an inspirational figure.
"Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Nobel committee said in its citation.
Some analysts saw it as a final slap in the face for Bush from the European establishment, which had resented what they saw as his arrogant "cowboy diplomacy" in world affairs.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters the prize could stimulate diplomacy.
"We think that this gives us a sense of momentum when the United States has accolades tossed its way rather than shoes," he said.
Crowley's remark was an apparent reference to a December 2008 incident in which an Iraqi reporter hurled his shoes at Bush and called him a "dog" at news conference, both grave insults in the Arab World.
While the award won praise from statesmen such as Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Jimmy Carter, all Nobel laureates, it was also attacked in some quarters as hasty and undeserved.
Afghanistan's Taliban mocked the award.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, speaking to Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location, said it was absurd to give a peace award to a man who had sent 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, and Obama "should have won the 'Nobel Prize for escalating violence and killing civilians.'"
Despite declining U.S. public support for the war, Obama is considering a request for at least 40,000 more troops from his top commander, who says otherwise the mission could fail.
Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland rejected suggestions from journalists that Obama was getting the prize too early. "We hope this can contribute a little bit to enhance what he is trying to do," he told a news conference.
Obama is the fourth U.S. president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after Carter won in 2002, Woodrow Wilson picked it up in 1919 and Theodore Roosevelt was chosen for the 1906 prize.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called the award premature, but at the same time contrasted Obama with the Bush administration.
"The decision in this connection was hasty and the granting of this prize was premature," Mottaki told the semi-official Mehr news agency. "If this prize serves as an element of encouragement for the practical negation of the previous U.S. administration's war-mongering and unilateral policies with an orientation on a just peace we would not oppose it."
Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative religious party in Pakistan, called the award an embarrassing "joke."
But chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, expressed hope Obama would help achieve Middle East peace.
Lauding Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "His commitment to work through the United Nations gives the world's people fresh hope and fresh prospects."
While many Americans voiced pride, some were puzzled.
"It would be wonderful if I could think why he won," said Claire Sprague, 82, a retired English professor as she walked her dog in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. "They wanted to give him an honor I guess, but I can't think what for."
Obama's former Republican presidential rival John McCain said Americans should be pleased for their president, but also insisted he now has "even more to live up to."
The committee said it attached "special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons," saying he had "created a new international climate."
On other pressing issues, Obama is still searching for breakthroughs on Iran's disputed nuclear program, on stalled Middle East peacemaking and the fight against climate change.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he looked forward to working with Obama on peace efforts, a day after Israel's foreign minister said there was no chance of a peace deal for many years.
(Additional reporting by Oslo newsroom, Washington bureau, Kamran Haider in Pakistan, Mohammed Assadi, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Mark Denge in Nairobi, Jason Webb in Spain; Editing by Frances Kerry) related sites

Barack Obama Novel Winner

The last thing Barack Obama needed at this moment in his presidency and our politics is a prize for a promise.
Inspirational words have brought him a long way - including to the night in Grant Park less than a year ago when he asked that we "join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." (See pictures of Obama in Grant Park.)
By now there are surely more callouses on his lips than his hands. He, like every new President, has reckoned with both the power and the danger of words, dangers that are especially great for one who wields them as skillfully as he. A promise beautifully made raises hopes especially high: we will revive the economy while we rein in our spending; we will make health care simpler, safer, cheaper, fairer. We will rid the earth of its most lethal weapons. We will turn green and clean. We will all just get along. (See pictures of eight months of Obama's diplomacy.)

So when reality bites, it chomps down hard. The Nobel Committee cited "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Some of those efforts are faulted by his critics - those who favor a missile shield for Poland or a troop surge in Afghanistan or a harder line on Iran. But even his fans know that none of the dreams have yet come true, and a prize for even dreaming them can feed the illusion that they have. (See the top 10 Obama-backlash moments.)
Maybe the prize will give him more power, new muscle to haul unruly nations in line. But peacemaking is more about ingenuity than inspiration, about reading other nations' selfish interests and cynically, strategically exploiting them for the common good. Will it help if fewer countries come to the table hating us? To a point. But it's a starting point, not an end in itself.
At this moment, many Americans are longing for a President who is more bully, less pulpit. The President who leased his immense inaugural good will to the hungry appropriators writing the stimulus bill, who has not stopped negotiating health-care reform except to say what is nonnegotiable, whose solicitude for the wheelers and dealers who drove the financial system into a ditch leaves the rest of us wondering who has our back, has always shown great promise, said the right things, affirmed every time he opens his mouth that he understands the fears we face and the hopes we hold. But he presides over a capital whose day-to-day functioning has become part travesty, part tragedy; wasteful, blind, vain, petty, where even the best-intentioned reformers measure their progress with teaspoons. There comes a time when a President needs to take a real risk - and putting his prestige on the line to win the Olympics for his hometown does not remotely count.
Compare this to Greg Mortenson, nominated for the prize by some members of Congress, whom the bookies gave 20-to-1 odds of winning. Son of a missionary, a former Army medic and mountaineer, he has made it his mission to build schools for girls in places where opium dealers and tribal warlords kill people for trying. His Central Asia Institute has built more than 130 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan - a mission which has, along the way, inspired millions of people to view the protection and education of girls as a key to peace and prosperity and progress. (See an interactive guide to Obama's first 100 days as President.)
Sometimes the words come first. Sometimes it's better to let actions speak for themselves.
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Obama: Nobel Peace Prize ‘a call to action’

President Barack Obama said Friday he was surprised and humbled to win the Nobel Peace Prize and would accept it as a "call to action" to work with other nations to solve the problems of the 21st century.
Nobel officials said their stunning pick was meant to build momentum behind Obama's initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.
The president will donate the entire $1.4 million prize to charity, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, but hasn't decided yet which organizations will share the windfall.
Obama said he planned to travel to Oslo to accept the prize.
"I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize," he said. "I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century."
Many observers were shocked by the unexpected choice so early in the Obama presidency, which began less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline and has yet to yield concrete achievements in peacemaking.
Some around the world objected to the choice of Obama, who still oversees wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has launched deadly counter-terror strikes in Pakistan and Somalia.
Obama said he was working to end the war in Iraq and "to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies" in Afghanistan.
Vote of confidenceMembers of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said their choice could be seen as an early vote of confidence in Obama intended to build global support for his policies. They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.
Aagot Valle, a lawmaker for the Socialist Left party who joined the committee this year, said she hoped the selection would be viewed as "support and a commitment for Obama."
"And I hope it will be an inspiration for all those that work with nuclear disarmament and disarmament," she told The Associated Press in a rare interview. Members of the Nobel peace committee usually speak only through its chairman.
The peace prize was created partly to encourage ongoing peace efforts but Obama's efforts are at far earlier stages than past winners'. The Nobel committee acknowledged that they may not bear fruit at all.
"Some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early? Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now," Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said. "It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us."
Star power?In Europe and much of the world Obama is lionized for bringing the United States closer to mainstream global thinking on issues like climate change and multilateralism. A 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found double-digit boosts to the percentage of people viewing the U.S. favorably in countries around the world. That indicator had plunged across the world under President George W. Bush.
At home, the picture is more complicated. Obama is often criticized as he attempts to carry out his agenda — drawing fire over a host of issues from government spending to health care to the conduct of the war in Afghanistan.
U.S. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele contended that Obama won the prize as a result of his "star power" rather than meaningful accomplishments.
"The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?'" Steele said.
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Vote: Is Obama deserving of the prize?
Drawing criticism from some on the left, Obama has been slow to bring troops home from Iraq and the real end of the U.S. military presence there won't come until at least 2012.
In Afghanistan, he is seriously considering ramping up the number of U.S. troops on the ground and asking for help from others, too.
"I don't think Obama deserves this. I don't know who's making all these decisions. The prize should go to someone who has done something for peace and humanity," said Ahmad Shabir, 18-year-old student in Kabul. "Since he is the president, I don't see any change in U.S. strategy in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Too early?Obama has said that battling climate change is a priority. But the U.S. seems likely to head into crucial international negotiations set for Copenhagen in December with Obama-backed legislation still stalled in Congress.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who won the prize in 1983, questioned whether Obama deserved it now.
"So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act," Walesa said. related sites

Obama’s Nobel Prize ‘Premature’: US Press

US President Barack Obama’s surprise win of the Nobel Peace Prize has been met with skepticism from American media, with some condemning the award as deeply ‘politicized’.
"It's an odd Nobel Peace Prize that almost makes you embarrassed for the honoree," the Washington Post said in an editorial on Saturday, October 10.
Obama was granted the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 on Friday for his “extraordinary” efforts in international diplomacy and hastening nuclear disarmament.
"A more suitable time for the prize would have been after those efforts had borne some fruit," the Post commented.
"It is no criticism of Mr Obama to note that, barely nine months into his presidency, his goals are still goals."
The mass-circulation daily noted that the prize came at a time when a hot debate is raging in the US over the Afghan war.
“The Obama administration announced a probable delay in its plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Israel's foreign minister told the world that the Middle East peace Mr. Obama has been promoting is not coming soon.
“The Nobel Committee's claim that Mr. Obama has "created a new climate in international politics" is about as realistic as last week's "Saturday Night Live" parody skewering the president for failing to deliver, already, on a series of campaign promises.”
The Los Angeles Times questioned whether Obama deserves the prize.
"Excessive praise can be unwelcome and embarrassing," the daily said.
"We endorsed him for the job, and we greatly prefer him to his predecessor. But it's difficult to see why he deserves the peace prize so soon after taking office.
“The Nobel committee didn't just embarrass Obama, it diminished the credibility of the prize itself."
The Wall Street Journal received the Obama’s Nobel Prize with “bemusement”.
“The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Obama yesterday was greeted with astonishment as much as any other emotion, even among many of his admirers.
“Our own reaction is bemusement at the Norwegian decision to offer what amounts to the world's first futures prize in diplomacy, with the Nobel Committee anticipating the heroic concessions that it believes Mr. Obama will make to secure treaties that will produce a new era of global serenity.”
The newspaper said Obama himself was amazed with the prize, which came less than ten months in office and having been inaugurated only 12 days before Nobel nominations were due in February.
Describing himself as surprised and deeply humbled, Obama said he would accept the award as a "call to action" to confront the global challenges of the 21st century.
"I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," he said.
Obama, the first black president in US history, has been widely credited with improving America’s global image after the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush.
But critics called Obama’s Nobel Prize premature as he has achieved few tangible gains, citing the Afghan war, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
The New York Times said the Nobel Prize was an implicit condemnation of Bush's presidency.
"Americans elected Mr. Obama because they wanted him to restore American values and leadership -- and because they believed he could," The Times said.
"The Nobel Prize, and the broad endorsement that followed, shows how many people around the world want the same thing."
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Obama's Nobel Prize Win Puts Him in the Company of MLK

President Barack Obama was as shocked as everyone else that he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. "After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, 'Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday!' And then Sasha added, 'Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.' So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective," Obama quipped at the top of a statement he made in the White House's Rose Garden this morning.Then he grew serious about the honor that caused many to question whether he deserves it so early into his presidency:"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace. But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents....And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century." SOURCE: White House Press Office

RIL directors’ claim a breach of trust: ADAG

Anil Ambani Group has alleged that RIL directors' claims of not having approved the Ambani family MoU and actions of their Chairman Mukesh Ambani, who signed the pact, were in breach of criminal trust and fiduciary duties.
Fighting a legal battle on supply of gas, Anil Ambani group firm RNRL even questioned the locus standi of directors of Reliance Industries to file individual affidavit saying they were not parties to the case and had not taken permission of the court to file the same.
"If the MoU was not known, it is not understood as to how the corporate governance committee (to which the directors were members) worked out the basis and details of demerger, which were entirely based on the MoU," Anil Ambani Group firm RNRL said in rejoinder to the affidavits filed on Saturday.
Six directors on the board of RIL had on October 6 filed separate affidavits in the Supreme Court saying the board had not "accepted and approved the contents of the memorandum of understanding (between Mukesh and Anil Ambani) dated June 18, 2005" that provides for division of natural gas from KG-D6 between firms run by the two brothers.
If the statements made by the directors in affidavits to the Supreme Court were true then "the actions of Mukesh Ambani on one hand and the directors and members of the Corporate Governance Committee on the other would clearly amount to breach of fiduciary duties and criminal breach of trust," RNRL said in its rejoinder.
On RIL's contention that RNRL would make an astonishing profit of Rs 350,000 crore by selling the gas to affiliate power firms at market rates, the Anil Ambani Group firm said electricity tariff was either regulated or subject to competitive bidding.
"The cost of inputs for generation of power as well as price for sale of power is fully regulated and, therefore, it would not be possible for RNRL to sell gas at a price which would result in a profit of Rs 350,000 crore," RNRL said.
It, however, did not directly respond to RIL allegation that RNRL, under the family MoU, intends to source gas from RIL at USD 2.34 per mmBtu and sell it at market rates which can be higher than even the government approved price of USD 4.2 per mmBtu.
"The scheme of demerger contemplates that RNRL will undertake the business of supply of gas. It is highly dishonest on the part of the respondent (RIL) to raise this argument and in law it should not be of any concern to the respondent as to what profit the resulting company would make from the demerged business," RNRL said.
RNRL said RIL is bound by its commitment to sell gas to RNRL at USD 2.34 per mmBtu.


US President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel peace Prize for his extraordinary efforts in strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation among people. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the Norwegian Nobel committee said. “His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.” Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the President. The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
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“Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.”Obama would formally receive the award on him on December 10. There were a record 205 nominations for this year's prize. The laureate wins a gold medal, a diploma and 10m Swedish kronor ($1.4m). It is for the third time that s sitting US President has peace prize. Apart from Obama the others are Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Former president Jimmy Carter has won the award in 2002, while former vice president Al Gore shared the 2007 prize with the UN panel on climate change.

J&K an integral part, India tells Pak

Pakistan has raised the Kashmir issue at a UN committee saying the "decolonisation agenda" of the world body would be incomplete without resolution of the problem, drawing a strong reaction from India which asserted that the state is its integral part. Speaking at a special committee of the General Assembly that addresses the issue of decolonisation, Amjad Hussain B Sial, Pakistan's deputy permanent representative to the UN, asked the international community to support the Kashmiri people's "right to self-determination".
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"The decolonisation agenda of the United Nations would be incomplete without resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue," he said. "Negation of the right to self-determination breeds discontent, ignites conflicts and threatens peace and security. Unfortunately, South Asia and Middle East have witnessed it directly," Sial said. Countering the claims made by Sial, senior Indian diplomat Anupam Ray, exercising his 'right to reply', said that Kashmir is an integral part of India. "Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and participates in the democratic process of India," Ray said. The Indian side maintained that Kashmir remained a bilateral issue. "It has always been a bilateral issue and should not be addressed in multilateral fora," Ray noted. Ray expressed regret that Pakistan had reverted to "language of the past" and was "not addressing the crying need of the hour, which is dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism and tacking the perpetrators of terrorism". Sial, in his speech yesterday, claimed that Kashmir was not an integral part of India. "The Security Council and the UN, in several resolutions, have recognised it as disputed territory," he said, adding that the final solution should be made in accordance with the "will" of the people expressed through "free and fair plebiscite" conducted by the United Nations. Insisting that Jammu and Kashmir remained an "international issue", Sial said Pakistan "reserves the right to refer this issue at the UN as necessary". The senior Pakistan diplomat also reaffirmed Islamabad's pledge to work through peaceful means to resolve its differences with New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, which is imperative for durable peace, stability and progress in the region. The Special Committee on Decolonisation was created in 1962 by the UN General Assembly to support and monitor a resolution passed in 1960 that declared that all people have a right to self-determination.

Naxalism is greatest internal security threat: PM

Mumbai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday described naxalism as the greatest security threat to India. Speaking on the last day of campaigning in Maharashtra Assembly Elections, Dr Singh insisted on the need to analyse causes that breeds naxalism. Naxal problem arises due to lack of pace in development, the PM said, adding that there is certainly a need to look at the causes of alienation, particularly those of tribals. No group of individuals can take law in their hands, the PM asserted, adding that the government is not in favour of using Armed Forces against Naxalites. However, he said that there was no credible information regarding Naxalites having any terror links.
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There is no proposal for declaring Naxalites as terrorists, the PM declared, adding they are banned and covered under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He further expressed government’s readiness to talk with Naxalites and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir if they abjure violence. ‘Effective measures' against Maoists The Indian government is determined to take "effective measures" against Maoist guerrillas, Dr Singh announced. Asked about the beheading of a police officer by the rebels in Jharkhand, Manmohan Singh said the "evil designs" of the Maoists were well known. "The government is aware of their evil designs. We will take effective measures to counter them." He added that there was no credible information that the Maoists were linked to external forces. "There are always rumours afloat. But there is no credible intelligence pointing in that direction." ‘Pak involved in 26/11/ attacks’ Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanded that Pakistan should try and punish those who masterminded the Mumbai terror attack last year.
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PM postpones visit to Kashmir for opening railway lineTalking to reporters, the PM said that diplomatic pressure from India and the international community had forced Pakistan to admit for the first time that its nationals were involved in the terror assault that killed some 170 people. "They should investigate all those who are involved (in that attack) including Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. There should be a fair trial which will result in proper punishment being given to them. We have not lost hope." The Prime Minister said: "For the first time Pakistan admitted that it (attack) had its origins in Pakistan, the conspiracy leading to the tragedy in Mumbai was hatched in Pakistan, that citizens of Pakistan were involved. Pakistan had never before agreed to this... So there is some progress

Thursday, October 8, 2009

'Very wet' cold snap coming as school holidays end

Another cold snap is forecast to hit the country this weekend with farmers and drivers being warned to take care.
The MetService has issued several severe weather warnings ahead of the snow storm, with heavy snow forecast to fall as low as 200 metres in Canterbury and Marlborough and 600m in the Central North Island tomorrow.
The timing was terrible with families returning home at the end of school holidays, head weather analyst Philip Duncan said.
Strong southerly winds on Saturday could create blizzards on the Desert Road and motorists should have alternate routes in mind in case of road closures, he said.
"We're advising motorists to be aware of the conditions before setting out as snow may close state highways in both islands during Friday and Saturday".
Conditions in the North Island were not forecast to be as bad as last Sunday when a snow storm closed State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupo, stranding hundreds of travellers.
However, conditions would be "very wet" and at higher altitudes "very snowy", Mr Duncan said.
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Like last week the weather was caused by a cold southerly moving up the South Island, while a large low pressure system crosses the North, he said.
The MetService has issued road snowfall warnings for Arthurs Pass, Porters Pass, Lewis Pass in the South Island and the Desert Road and Rimutaka Hill Road in the North.
The last cold snap wiped out hundreds of newborn lambs and farmers are being advised to consider moving stock to lower levels or sheltered areas this weekend.
Police are urging motorists to drive to the conditions and be prepared.
The end of the school holidays would see many travelling long distances home, Canterbury traffic manager Inspector Al Stewart said.
" Check the weather and road conditions before you leave so you can change your plans and route if necessary."
People should also check their vehicles had good tyres and a full tank.
"There are many roads and passes in our district which are quite remote and susceptible to snow and ice.
"There are often quite long distances between refuelling stations and places to get advice."
Mr Stewart urged divers to slow down when necessary, keep windows clear, not overtake in risky situations an d pull over to let faster vehicles past.
Drivers should get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to combat fatigue, he said.
"Eat sensibly and ensure you remain hydrated, but avoid large meals as they can make you drowsy."

Egypt to call Palestinians to sign pact in October

The exiled leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said Egypt would present it and its rival Fatah faction with a reconciliation pact to be ratified next month.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal told reporters after "very positive" talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Monday that Egypt would table a plan to be presented to Hamas and its rival Fatah group of President Mahmoud Abbas.
"(Egyptian intelligence chief Omar) Suleiman told us that the Egyptians will be working on the final draft for the reconciliation plan which will have at its heart the Egyptian proposal and they will call on all Palestinian factions for a national meeting in October to ratify the pact," Meshaal said.
Abbas has also visited Cairo recently and discussed the reconciliation proposal with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt has been mediating for over a year to heal the split between Fatah and Hamas, ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections slated for next year.
Egypt last week suggested delaying Palestinian elections to allow more time to work out a power-sharing deal between the two rival groups. Elections are legally due on January 25, 2010 but no firm date has ever been published for the next ballot.
A senior Fatah official has said his movement would accept a delay, though others said that would be conditional on a deal with Hamas by the end of October.
Fatah administers the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Hamas rules Gaza -- the two territories where Palestinians want to establish their future state following a peace deal with Israel.
A dispute over the mutual detention of hundreds of each groups supporters has also blocked progress in the talks.
"We heard a clear Egyptian commitment to provide a specific mechanism to release the detainees," Meshaal said, without elaborating.