Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Indian relief team at work in tsunami-hit areas of Miyagi in Japan

A 46-member Indian relief and rehabilitation team has been working in the tsunami-affected areas of Japan since March 28, carrying out relief work in some of the worst-hit areas of Miyagi prefecture.
The team from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was sent by the Government after Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
This is the first time that a team from the NDRF has been deployed in an emergency situation abroad.
A press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said the team has set up base in the town of Rifu-Cho, about 365 kms north east of Tokyo and is presently working in the town Onagawa.
They have contributed to the relief effort by recovering bodies and valuables and clearing debris, the release said.
The work of the team has been appreciated by the Japanese people and the Government of Japan, the release added.

Over 100 fall ill in Delhi after consuming food made of contaminated flour

New Delhi, April 5, 2011
The Delhi police have detained some people and were conducting raids in connection with over 100 people falling ill after consuming food items made of contaminated buckwheat flour the in North-Eastdistrict of the capital.
More than 100 people living in Gokalpuri, Jagatpuri, Gandhinagar, Nandnagri, Kalyanpuri, Chilla and Trilokpuri were admitted in various hospitals since this morning after they consumed contaminated food items.
"The victims have reportedly consumed the items cooked of buckwheat flour, purchased from open sack," Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.
A mill in Rajasthan was found to be the manufacturer of the flour consumed by the victims.
Some people were arrested in this connection and the police were conducting raids. The DistrictAdministration and emergency services have been alerted and teams of Food and Adulteration Department were pressed into service to tackle the problem, Mr Bhagat said.
Police have advised the people to check the expiry date of the packet containing the flour and the name of flour mills before using it..

Rebels flee Gaddafi rockets in pictures

Rebels load a weapon on the road to the frontline in Brega. Libyan rebels fled east under heavy rocket fire from leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces in the oil town of Brega in a sixth day of fighting that has failed to give either side the upper hand. Rebels pushed forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi out of much of Brega and to the outskirts of the sprawling oil town in a slow advance west, but were still facing bombardment with each step. Photo: Reuters
April 5 2011 at 20:29       

Rebels carry and fire weapons during a fight with troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi outside Brega in eastern Libya. Rebels pushed forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi out of much of Brega and to the outskirts of the sprawling oil town in a slow advance west, but were still facing bombardment with each step. Photo: Reuters
April 5 2011 at 20:30       

Rebels take cover from explosions during a fight with troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi outside Brega in eastern Libya. Rebels pushed forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi out of much of Brega and to the outskirts of the sprawling oil town in a slow advance west, but were still facing bombardment with each step. Photo: Reuters 
April 5 2011 at 20:30       

Libyan rebels retreat as an artillery shell fired by pro-Gaddafi forces land meters ahead outside Brega, Libya. Libyan government forces unleashed a withering bombardment of the rebels outside a key oil town pushing them back, even as the regime said Muammar Gaddafi might consider some reforms but would not stepping down. Photo: AP 
April 5 2011 at 20:30   

Courtesy:Photo:Reuter: through iolnews

Plane bombs vehicle in Port Sudan

April 6 2011 at 12:59am 

Khartoum - An unidentified plane bombed a car near the airport in Sudan's main port city of Port Sudan on Tuesday, killing two people, a state government official told Reuters.

The aircraft flew in from the Red Sea but it was not clear to whom it belonged, Ahmed Tahir, the speaker of parliament in the Red Sea state where the port city is located, told Reuters.

“We heard three loud explosions,” a source at Port Sudan airport told Reuters. “We went outside to see what was happening and eye witnesses told us they saw two helicopters which looked liked Apaches flying past.”

Separately, a witness at the scene of the incident told Reuters he could see two burnt bodies - one inside a car and the other lying on the ground outside the vehicle.

The Sudanese Media Centre, a news agency linked to Sudan's state security apparatus, said cars were struck in a bombing by an unknown plane but gave no further details.
Security forces at the scene were preventing people from getting close to the site, a witness told Reuters from the site of the attack about 20km outside Port Sudan city.

In January 2009, a convoy of arms smugglers was hit by unidentified aircraft in Sudan's eastern Red Sea state according to Sudanese authorities, a strike that some reports said may have been carried out by Israel to stop weapons bound for Gaza.

A total of 119 people were killed in that strike near Sudan's border with Egypt, according to state media. - Reuters

Relief workers must adjust quickly

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

News photo
New wardrobe: Volunteers gather outside a house in Arahama, a suburb of Sendai, on March 30. They later distributed donated clothing to survivors of the March 11 disaster. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

Individuals, groups face challenge identifying constantly changing needs of survivors

Staff writer
Numerous relief organizations, volunteer groups and concerned individuals have offered support by distributing goods and lending a helping hand in the earthquake- and tsunami-hammered Tohoku region.
While rebuilding from the widespread devastation will continue to require great amounts of aid, time and manpower, those who have been in the hardest-hit areas emphasize the importance of getting to know the local communities to grasp the constantly changing needs of the survivors and to maximize relief efforts.
Miyako Hamasaka of the nongovernmental disaster relief organization JEN said that as evacuees leave their temporary shelters and gradually begin working to restore their damaged homes, equipment to remove the massive piles of mud and rubble left by tsunami will be in dire need.
"As days and weeks go by, victims' needs also change, and adapting to them is essential in providing adequate support," said Hamasaka, who currently travels between Sendai and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
JEN has set up a base camp in hard-hit Ishinomaki, where more than 2,400 people were killed and some 2,770 remain missing. Much of the local infrastructure remains paralyzed, and the group is currently recruiting volunteers to help clear out the rubble that still overwhelms the coastal area.
"JEN also plans on hiring local residents to set up an office in Ishinomaki in a step to promote the financial independence of victims who have lost their jobs," Hamasaka said, adding that promoting survivor self-reliance is a significant part of their efforts.
Hamasaka said Self-Defense Forces supply depots are stockpiled with various goods collected from around the country, but in many cases the supplies don't match the constantly changing needs of the survivors, an issue JEN and other organizations still struggle with.
Adel Suliman of the nongovernmental, nonprofit organization Peace Boat is also currently in Ishinomaki as part of a second group of volunteers dispatched to provide relief.
Suliman, of Libyan nationality, said their main activities include cleaning up homes damaged by mud and rubble, setting up soup kitchens, managing the inflow of goods and distributing them to various temporary shelters and households in need.
Around 90 helpers have been dispatched for the weeklong shift, living in tents on the campus of Ishinomaki's Senshu University, but Suliman said they are always short of manpower.
"There's just so much to do. In the Ishinomaki area, for example, the level of damage varies considerably depending on the area, with some communities getting scarcely any supplies, while others are relatively better off," he said.
Daily meetings and exchanges of information with other aid groups and city representatives take place on the Senshu University campus, he said, adding that the best source of information comes from making daily rounds of the communities and talking with people in the disaster areas.
Christian organizations were also quick to respond to the unprecedented disaster, with many groups working together to organize support.
Peter Thomson, an American missionary and a longtime resident of Hyogo Prefecture who cooperates with Christian relief organization Crash Japan, was part of one of the first response teams to head north to provide aid and support to survivors.
Crash Japan has set up six base camps, in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, to house volunteers and dispatch them to areas in need of help.
Pastors of the many churches in the area call to inform them of what each community needs, and Crash Japan volunteers go on "shopping lifts," scooping up goods from the group's warehouse set up in Sendai and delivering them to the designated areas by van and truck.
"We try to ask them to be specific. They would say 'we need baby goods,' and we'll say 'OK, what age group and how many do you need?' " Thomson said.
In Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, the group's volunteers got in touch with community leaders to seek information on those who opt not to live in the relatively well-stocked temporary shelters and instead try to remain in their homes, where delivery of food can be rare.
"If a team can find a local community leader, then the leader knows who is in the community. We had great success by connecting to local leaders and asking them 'where do you want us to go?' And they will take us to them."
In addition to connecting with the locals, Thomson said it is important for those interested in volunteering to recognize their own capacity and limits.
"The need is so astounding and overwhelming, so realize that the one act of kindness, like carrying bottles of water for those too old to take them home themselves, those acts of kindness with a smile is huge encouragement," he said.


Congress President Sonia Gandhiwas accorded a warm reception when she arrived here from New Delhi to address election meetings at Puducherry and in the city, today.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan, TNCC President K V Thangkabalu, former Union Minister E V K S Elangovan and state minister Arcot Veerasamy were among those who received her at the airport.

After a brief reception and interaction with the leaders, MsGandhi left for Puducherry by a helicopter to address an election meeting.

From Puducherry, she would arrive in the city at INS Adyar by a helicopter at 1700 hrs. She would drive down to Island Grounds to address an election meeting for the DMk-led DPA.

After the meeting, she would leave for INS Adyar at 1810 hrs and reach airport by the helicopter. She would leave for Kochi by the special flight at 1825 hrs.

Earlier, high drama was witnessed when Special Security Group officials denied entry for Mr Elangovan, Congress MP J M Haroon and legislator Ms D Yasodha.

Mr Karunanidhi, who came to receive Ms Gandhi, asked why they were standing outside and went in.

A few minutes later, when Mr Thangkabalu arrived, supporters of Mr Elangovan, Mr Haroon and Ms Yasodha prevented him from going inside.

They said unless the three leaders were allowed inside, they would not allow Mr Thangkabalu to go inside the airport.

However, after making some frantic calls, the SSG personnel came out and read out the names of Mr Elangovan, Mr Haroon and Ms Yasodha after which they were allowed inside.

Later, representatives of various TV channels staged a protest when Mr Thangkabalu took the crew of Mega TV, owned by him, to shoot the arrival of Ms Gandhi.

As other channels protested, Mr Thangkabalu said intimation was sent to all channels. Since there was no response from them, passes could not be arranged.

Crusader Hazare’s fight against corruption is on

New Delhi:

UPDATED  5/4/2011 10:20:18 AM

 Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Tuesday began his fast unto death demanding enactment of a comprehensive law like the Jan Lokpal Bill to tackle corruption. 72-year-old Hazare began his fast at Jantar Mantar after taking out a march from Rajghat where he paid tributes to Mahatma GandhiMeanwhile government sources say that it is open for talks with Hazare to resolve the issue. 

"We will fast unto death until the government enacts the Jan Lokpal Bill which is most necessary to fight corruption in our country," Hazare told reporters here. Activists Swami Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi and Sandeep Pandey were also present. Hazare had yesterday said that he was saddened when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected the demand by leading civil society members to include them and senior ministers in the joint committee to draft the Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen`s ombudsman Bill).

Hazare lamented that the views of eminent persons like Justice (Retd) Santosh Hegde, advocate Prashant Bhushan and Agnivesh were not considered important by the government and "a minister like Sharad Pawar, who is known for possessing large amounts of land in Maharashtra, is heading a committee that will draft the bill."

The Prime Minister`s Office, meanwhile, expressed disappointment over Hazare`s decision to go on fast unto death. "The PMO has noted with deep disappointment that Hazare is still planning to go ahead with his planned hunger strike," a PMO release said last night. However, the Prime Minister has enormous respect for Hazare and his mission, it said.

Giving details of the steps taken on the Lokpal Bill, it said Hazare and his group had presented Singh a draft of their proposal on Lokpal. "The Prime Minister offered and the group accepted a suggestion that a sub-committee of the Group of Ministers (GoM) could interact and discuss the draft with the civil society activists," the release said.

The sub-committee headed by Defence Minister AK Anthony met colleagues of Hazare "but the interactions proved fruitless as the activists were insisting on the government accepting their draft in full", the PMO said. ( PTI )

Why hypertensive people's BP increases during exercise

Washington, Apr 5 :  

Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found one reason people with hypertension experience an even greater increase in their blood pressure when they exercise, and they''ve learned how to prevent the rise.

A study has reported that hypertensive people who exercise undergo decreased blood flow and oxygen in muscles. The scientists also identified a specific type of blood pressure medication that minimizes this effect.

"While there are many hypertension medications effective at lowering blood pressure at rest, very few are effective during exercise," said Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study. "People with high blood pressure"  need to exercise not only to help their blood pressure, but also their overall cardiovascular health."

Vongpatanasin and colleagues had 13 participants with mild hypertension and 13 with normal blood pressure  perform hand grip exercises under regular conditions, followed by activity under conditions that affect a part of the nervous system that controls blood pressure.

They found increased nerve activity in hypertensive participants during exercise but not in those with normal blood pressure. Blood flow and oxygen levels in the arm muscles also fell more rapidly in the hypertensive group.

"Hypertensive patients have increased nerves and impaired ability to maintain muscle blood flow adequately,” Vongpatanasin said.

Researchers then treated study participants with two types of blood pressure medications. An angiotensin receptor blocker, which prevents the hormone angiotensin from increasing blood pressure, increased blood flow during exercise. A diuretic that reduces blood pressure by stimulating sodium loss did not.

"Since nerve increases weren''t reduced during treatment, we believe the angiotensin receptor blocker works directly on blood vessels to improve blood flow," Vongpatanasin concluded.

The study has been published in the March issue of the Journal of Physiology.

EC suspends Tamil Nadu poll official

Press Trust Of India  Posted on Apr 05, 2011 at 12:23pm IST

Chennai: Election Commission on Monday ordered suspension of former Madurai East Assembly constituency Returning Officer S Suhumuaran, who had accused District Election Officer and Collector U Sahayam of harassing him to file cases against Union Minister M K Alagiri and his men.
EC also directed the Tamil Nadu government to initiate disciplinary action against Suhumaran, who was only two days ago ordered to be moved out of politically-sensitive Madurai district of which he was the Revenue Divisional Officer.
"Election Commission of India has directed the state government to initiate disciplinary proceedings for major penalty against S Suhumaran and also to place the officer under suspension pending disciplinary proceedings." a terse statement from the Chief Electoral Officer said in Chennai.

On Saturday, Suhumaran had accused Sahayam of harassing and pressuring him to file cases against Alagiri, son of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, and party workers.
Suhumaran had charged that Sahayam, who was posted to the district by the Election Commission as part of an official shake up ahead of the polls, telephoned him frequently and was harassing him though he was maintaining a neutral stand.
Suhumaran was admitted to a private hospital on Saturday itself after he complained of high blood pressure. He had also written a letter to Election Commission, requesting it to relieve him from election related work.
Madurai, where Alagiri wields tremendous clout, is considered politically sensitive. Alagiri had criticized Sahayam recently for reportedly stating that it was natural for people to look for a change during elections.

Poll officials seize Rs 5.11cr from atop bus in Tiruchi, money meant to bribe voters

V Mayilvaganan, TNN | Apr 5, 2011, 02.45pm IST

TIRUCHY: In a major catch, officials of the Election Commission seized Rs 5.11 crore stashed atop a private bus stationed in a residential area in Tiruchy limits in central Tamil Nadu in the wee hours of Tuesday.

This could perhaps be the EC's biggest seizure yet in Tamil Nadu which is going to polls on April 13. The bus belonged to Udhayakumar, said to be a relative of state transport minister K N Nehru.

Revenue divisional officer and returning officer S Sangeetha said the wads of currency were covered with a tarpaulin sheet atop the bus.

''On a tip-off we conducted a search in the bus and found Rs 5.11 crore atop the bus. We have handed over the cash to the income tax department,'' she said. The driver of the bus fled the spot the moment the officials reached Ponnagar, where the bus was stationed close to Udhayakumar's residence.

Sangeetha said that enquiries were on to ascertain the source of the cash and the motive to stash it atop the bus. 
The IT sleuths meanwhile raided the house of Udhayakumar. EC officials suspect that the cash was hidden atop the bus to be distributed to voters as bribe. 
Courtesy:The times of  India

Woman power remains low in 2011 assembly polls

 Updated Apr 05, 2011 at 06:07pm IST

New Delhi: Although the ongoing assembly elections in five states in India could possibly come up with two more women chief ministers, there is hardly anything big to celebrate over the representation of women in this massive democratic exercise.

While all major parties contesting the April 4 - May 10 polls, which began with the first phase of voting in Assam on Monday, support the women's reservation bill, this is not reflected in the number of women contestants on the field. The bill, which provides for 33 percent reservation for women in parliament and state assemblies, was passed by the Rajya Sabha last year but is awaiting the nod from the Lok Sabha.

In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress led by Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee, in alliance with the Congress, is challenging the decades-long rule by the Left Front. In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK leader and former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa is giving a tough time to the ruling DMK-Congress alliance.

Woman power remains low in 2011 assembly polls
Political experts predict positive results for both the AIADMK and the Trinamool Congress, which presents the possibility of Jayalalithaa returning to the chief minister's post in Tamil Nadu and Banerjee becoming West Bengal's first woman chief minister. That is about all for women politicians to cheer about, at least in this round of elections.

In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is contesting from 160 out of the 234 assembly constituencies. Among the contesters only 13 are women - making it approximately eight percent representation. The ruling DMK, led by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, has fielded 119 candidates, 11 among them women, making it 9 percent.

The scene is less impressive in neighbouring Puducherry, where only six woman candidates are in the fray out of 187 candidates for the 30 seats.

The Trinamool Congress has fielded 34 women among the 228 seats it is contesting in West Bengal, making it 14 percent. The Left parties, which have been spearheading the movement for 33 percent reservation for women, have 15.8 percent representation of women in their list. Among the 10 Left allies, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and the Forward Bloc have 41 and four women candidates respectively.

In Kerala, which has 140 assembly seats, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) has put up 14 women candidates, which is 10 percent, while the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) has eight women contestants.

In Assam, there are 447 male candidates and 38 women in the first phase of polling. In the second phase, it is 449 males and 47 females.

"When it comes to elections, nominations are made on the basis on winnabilty of a candidate, and usually women are left behind," said Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst. "Very few women in India own properties, few are highly educated and most of them do not wield much power. Electoral politics is about power and a section of society has been deprived of power completely. It should not be a surprise if they are missing from politics," he said.

According to Rangarajan, politics being one the most male-dominated fields, women, even though they play the important role as voters, fail to rise up to governing positions. "Even in south Indian states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the social conditions for women are much better than in other parts of the country, we see only a minuscule percentage of women contesting elections," he added.

Analyst G.V.L. Narsimha Rao agrees. "Politics is one of the toughest professions. It places huge demands on leaders and so we see very few women leaders rising up to positions of power. Most women politicians are from political families, very few start from the grass roots and climb up the ladder," Rao said.

According to experts, the only way to yield more positive results is to ensure reservation for women in politics. "It is difficult if you expect women to have equal participation without reservation in politics. The present system is loaded against women and reservation could be one way we can hope for more women leaders to emerge," Rao stressed.

Sharing this view, Rangarajan said reservation could lead to something which has otherwise been so far unachievable in the country. "The present situation is an accurate reflection of the long distance we need to travel to reach gender equality. Reservation may give it a push," he added.

Apart from Assam, where the second phase of voting will be held on April 11, the other states going to the polls are West Bengal (six phases - April 18, 23, 27, May 3, 7 and 10), Kerala (April 13), Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Puducherry (both April 13). The results will be announced on May 13.