Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sai Baba had no property in his name

2011-04-28 14:30:00
Last Updated: 2011-04-28 14:56:19

Despite countless allegations of everything from hand-trickery and sexual a...
Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh): Sathya Sai Baba had no property in his name and had neither named a successor nor left any will, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust said on Thursday.
The trust, which manages the affairs of the huge spiritual empire left behind by Sathya Sai Baba, will choose its chairman soon.

Baba, who was the trust's chairman since its inception, had no property, bank account, flat or land in his name. 'He had repeatedly said his property are his devotees. All the property is in the name of the trust and every rupee is accounted for,' the trust's lawyer, S.S. Naganand, told reporters.
Addressing a joint press conference, the five members of the trust and four members of the council of management denied allegations that there were differences in their ranks. 
One of the members, Venu Srinivasan, said one among them would be chairman but ruled out any outsider's appointment to the post.
'This (selection of new chairman) will happen as early as possible. Maybe in three to four days or by next week,' he said.

Srinivasan, who is also chairman and managing director of TVS Motors, also ruled out inducting Baba's personal caregiver Satyajit into the trust
He also clarified that Baba alone had the power to sign the cheques. R.J. Ratnakar, a member of the trust and Baba's nephew, said he would suggest at the board meeting that there should be two signatories to every cheque.
The trust issued a detailed statement, giving details of the property at various places. It vowed to continue its activities.

Though there are reports that the trust property are estimated at Rs.40,000 crore to Rs.60,000 crore, Naganand, an eminent lawyer from Bangalore, said it had never been evaluated for cost. 


Dozens of people die in storms in Southeastern U.S. (ROUNDUP)

28 April 2011 | 17:26 | FOCUS News Agency

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Washington. Approximately 200 people have died in storms in Southeastern U.S.
The worst hit U.S. state of Alabama has asked for federal assistance. According to the data the storms have claimed the life of at least 131 people in the state.

"Today, we'll ask the president to declare an expedited major disaster request" that would swiftly free up federal assets to assist with rescue and recovery operations, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley told a conference call, adding there were as many as half a million to a million people in the state without electricity.

At least 15 people died when a tornado hit a university campus. According to the mayor of Tuscaloosa the city was completely destroyed.

In the state of Mississippi the victims are 32. There are dead people also in Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.
A state of emergency was declared in seven states.
According to the U.S. National Weather Service nearly 300 tornadoes lashed the southeastern states since the end of last week. On Wednesday solely the tornadoes were 130.

President Barack Obama said the authorities were ready to help the residents of Alabama and all residents affected by the storms.



April 27, 2011

Ram Puniyani

The death of Satya Sai Baba, April 24th 2011, has created a big turmoil, not only amongst his followers but also amongst those who had more mundane things to look after, like law and order, visit of VVIP’s to Puthaparthi etc. Bhajans (devotional songs) to mourn his death are being held all over in the country and abroad. A large number of those belonging to the list of ‘Who is who’ of the political, business world, and all those who matter in the country are already there to death of the God. In addition ‘who will inherit his vast empire’, created singlehandedly out of no where, the way he used to ‘create’ Vibhuti, gold chains etc. from the thin air is another issue haunting those concerned.

Undoubtedly Bhagwan (God) Sai must have been the God man with a very large following and probably largest wealth amongst the leading Godmen. The latter can not be confirmed, as large part of the wealth controlled by those presented as divine beings, is not known for various reasons. Not only that one does not know if any body can dare to think that Lok Pal type auditing of the wealth of these renunciators of Worldly goods should also be thought of. Such Godmen do demonstrate that you get more when you know how to ‘renounce’ the World, and of course part of the earnings are put as a part of social service, which is made prominently visible part of activities of these men of God.

Bhagwan’s life is mired with multiple controversies and there are many a dilemmas in understanding him. He was expert in the tricks of Vibhuti production from air and also production of gold chains as well. Earlier he was also ‘producing’ HMT watches, but that was stopped soon enough as the watches carry the date of manufacture on them. Many a rationalists confronted him by and replicated his tricks and even took out yatras to demonstrate that there is nothing divine about such tricks. They are but clever maneuvers of hand and even magician of repute P.C. Sarkar also challenged the divine nature of these acts. Interestingly he was challenged to produce things like pumpkin, which he refused to do for obvious reasons.

Notwithstanding that his followers were undeterred and the number of his followers cutting across different spheres of life kept swelling. He had proclaimed that he is reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. As an aside, the transformation of Shirdi Sai to present level of opulent divinity is a phenomenon in itself as Shirdi Sai had lived a Spartan life under the tree with no material wealth to his credit and currently his idol sits on a Golden throne.

This self proclaimed reincarnation of Shirdi Sai not only must be sitting over one of the wealthiest empires but also went on to proclaim to be a God himself and also prophesied that he will leave this physical body at the age of 96 years. Unfortunately the physical body could not be saved beyond the age of 85 years. Bhagwan who has saved so many lives through divine powers was to be put on ventilators for survival for quite some time and he could not be made to live his prophesy.

The remarkable thing about Bhagwan Sai is that he survived many controversies associated with his life. He was charged with Pedophilia, sexual abuse by various sources but such mundane things could not shake the firm faith of ever expanding tribe of followers at home and abroad. Tom Brooke’s book (Avatar of the Night: Hidden Side of Sai Baba) described his own experience. Similarly sexual abuse of young male devotees on the pretext of yogic technique of ‘Kundalini raising’ also came to light. There was also a case of murder in his living quarters to which Bhagwan himself was a witness, but it was not investigated beyond a point as worldly laws probably don’t reach in the realm of spiritual world. The ties of Bhagwan with the one’s at the topmost echelons every tine ensured that the matters are not pursued, be it the expose’ of his tricks or the cases of murder in his living quarters, all were ignored and soon forgotten from public memory.

To be fair to him, Bhagwan Sai is not the first one to proclaim himself as God. There have been the likes of Rajneesh, who for example began his Godly career from Acharya Rajneesh, promoted to Bhagwan Rajneesh and then attained the status of Osho.

After the death of Bhagwan all those who matter in the echelons of power are making a beeline to visit his mortal remains. One does not know whether these visits by the state functionaries are official or personal, one does not know whether such distinctions are any longer valid in our country, where the Constitution does permit us to practice and preach our faith at personal level but not at political level. State visits to such events in official capacity should be a strict no no. Our Constitution does direct us to promote rational thought; but that again remains ignored as all the rationalists like Abraham Kovoor or Premanand were totally by passed by the mainstream power centers and the issues raised by them remained unanswered and unattended to. There are a couple of films questioning Bhagwan’s claims and also accusing him of sexual abuse, ‘Guru Busters’ and ‘Secret Swami’ are couple of such films.

Some one interestingly remarked that there are two types of politicians who visit the Bhagwan. First are those who are corrupt and want to hide their sin, and second are those who are sincere and work with the first lot. That apart, the impact of such Baba’s, has been a major accompaniment of the politics in the name of religion. This is an era, where the waves of faith are trying to drown the boat of reason, with due support from the incompetent boatman, in the form of state power. The tempest of faith is becoming so overwhelmingly powerful that even raising the questions against these God man is becoming difficult, else how does one explain that a person calls himself God, does tricks which magicians can replicate with ease and is able to collect huge wealth, part of which is showcased as the charity work. One also knows that to expose the prevalent blind faith is swimming against the tide.

One also concedes that these are also the times when the existential anxiety of a section of population forces them to resort to some support system. In the decades of 1970s it was LSD, now it is the ever proliferating posse of God men. Sai’s prediction about his future reincarnations will be a matter of great interest and curiosity, how the God will resurface and how his followers will recognize and worship his new reincarnation will unfold over a period of time. Meanwhile one hopes that some semblance of reason is brought forth while dealing with the innumerable Godmen, flourishing all around like mushrooms.

Doctor symbol of disaster courage Kyodo

Thursday, April 28, 2011

News photo
Seeing for themselves: Minamisanriku Mayor Jin Sato (right) explains the devastation to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the playground of the tsunami-hit Isatomae Elementary School in Miyagi Prefecture on Wednesday. AP

Doctor symbol of disaster courage

NEW YORK — A Japanese doctor who was recently chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people said Tuesday he believes he was picked as a symbol of all the people who have been courageously fighting against difficulties after being affected by the March 11 disaster in his homeland.
Takeshi Kanno, a 31-year-old internist, spoke with media outlets in New York, where he was visiting at the invitation of the magazine. He was noted for helping evacuate patients at his hospital in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, after the tsunami alert and waiting until the last of his patients had been helicoptered out before he too left.
Then on March 16, Kanno attended his wife's delivery of a baby boy.
Asked about the latest conditions, Kanno said, "Needs for goods and housing are being met to a certain extent, but (the survivors) still cannot fully live like humans. The question used to be how to survive. Now it has shifted to how to live and be independent.
Kanno said he debated whether to leave the site to visit New York, but decided to make the trip after people around him encouraged him to directly deliver the voices of the victims.
Kanno, who arrived in New York on Sunday, said he was heartened by those who welcomed him for coming all the way and suggested that he take a break. He said the victims, too, need time for relaxation.
"I want to deliver the message that the Japanese will undoubtedly accomplish reconstruction although tough situations will continue," Kanno said before a dinner Tuesday hosted by the magazine.
Kanno worked tirelessly evacuating and treating patients at the Shizugawa public hospital in Minamisanriku when the quake and tsunami struck March 11. He began his doctoral studies at the Tohoku University Graduate School earlier this month.
The magazine selects the 100 most influential people every year on its own criteria from the political, academic, arts and business circles among others.
Also included in the list this year is Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, who used the video-sharing site YouTube to criticize the Japanese government's response to the nuclear accident near his city.

Maharaja, 13, inherits palace intrigues, feuds, lawsuits

Padmanabh pays his respect to the late Bhawani Singh. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras
n 27 April, 13-year-old "Maharaj Kumar" Padmanabh Singh will become the "Maharaja" of Jaipur. This adopted son of the late "Maharaja" Bhawani Singh will ascend the throne after 12 days of mourning. The heir apparent of Jaipur's erstwhile royals is a Class V student at Ajmer's Mayo College and inherits the Kachhawa rulers' immense wealth running into several thousand crores. However, young Padmanabh will wear a crown of thorns as a huge chunk of his property is mired in litigation.
Bhawani Singh's adopted son is actually his grandson, the son of his daughter Diya Kumari and her husband Narendra Singh. Bhawani Singh, who did not have a son, adopted Padmanabh on 22 November 2002. Bhawani Singh's father, Sawai Man Singh II — originally from Isarda village near Sawai Madhopur — was adopted by the then ruler, Madho Singh II, in September 1921. Even Madho Singh was adopted by the Jaipur rulers. Bhawani Singh was born to Sawai Man Singh and Marudhar Kunwar on 22 October 1931.
Padmanabh's biological father Narendra Singh worked as a clerk in Jaipur's City Palace. Bhawani Singh's only offspring, Diya Kumari, chose to marry him against the wishes of her family. Narendra Singh was awarded the title of "Maharaj" by the late king, an honour that was questioned by many as sons-in-law were not given this coveted title.
The Jaipur royals are involved in litigation over the control of their immense wealth. Sawai Man Singh had three wives, Bhawani Singh's mother Marudhar Kunwar, a second wife Kishore Kunwar and a third wife, the famous Gayatri Devi. Kishore Kunwar had two sons, Jai Singh and Prthviraj Singh. Gayatri Devi had one son, Jagat Singh.
Gayatri Devi and her two stepsons, Prithviraj and Jai, were involved in a legal dispute over how the ancestral palaces and wealth should be distributed among the next generation. Jagat Singh, a party to the dispute died a decade ago. Jagat had also filed a petition against Bhawani Singh in the Delhi High Court demanding a share in the royal wealth.
Prithviraj and Jai Singh run the famous Rambagh Palace, a heritage property converted into a hotel. The current conflict centres on the ownership of Jai Mahal, a palace hotel once owned by Jagat Singh.
Jagat Singh got the Jai Mahal Palace from his father Sawai Man Singh. When Jagat died without a will in London in 1997, his two children, Lalitya and Devraj, assumed that they would inherit the hotel and a part in other family properties. They came from Thailand, where they were based, before the death of Gayatri Devi to discover that their share in the palace hotel had dwindled from 99% to 7%, while their uncle Prithviraj Singh's share had increased to 93% from 7%.
Bhawani Singh supported Jagat's children's claim. Gayatri Devi, before her death named Devraj and Lalitya as her heirs. This is being disputed by Prithviraj and Jai, who say that the children's claim is based on a fake will. Gayatri Devi's estate was estimated to be worth $214 million.
Jagat Singh's divorced wife, Priyanandana Rangsit, a Thai, accused the stepuncles of robbing her children. She started legal action, claiming that the grandmother had wrongly recognised a "forged will". Devraj and Lalitya filed a petition in the Company Law Board (CLB) accusing Prithviraj of fraudulently diluting their shares and misleading them.
n administrator has been appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the Jaipur royals' property. No member of the family can sell, lease or rent out any property. Thus, young Padmanabh will be able to control only the City Palace which was in possession of the late Maharaja. He can rent out the palace for shooting, parties and weddings, but what his actual income will be may depend on his step uncles, Prithviraj and Jai. "The step uncles were not happy when he was made the heir. But Bhawani Singh adopted Padmanabh after completing all legal formalities which the step uncles cannot challenge. The Maharaja wanted an out of court settlement, but his stepbrothers did not agree to it," said Ramesh Sharma, advocate of the late Maharaja.
"The litigants are growing old. They should sit down and resolve their disputes. We don't know what will happen to their huge wealth," said Bhawani Singh Malsisar, a close relation of the royals.


Courtesy:AP Photo
And Tupaiki

800 AI pilots on strike, several flights hit

From India Today

New Delhi:A section of Air India pilots numbering about 800 went on strike on Tuesday night demanding pay parity and better working conditions. 

There have been 6 flight cancellations in Mumbai and 7 in Delhi. Two Kathmandu flights from Delhi have also been cancelled. Air India management though unperturbed by the strike maintained that the passengers won't be affected and said that the strike is illegal. It has warned that strict action will be taken against those who refuse to report for work, and some pilots may even be terminated. The tug of war between pilots and the mangement of Air India has been on for a while on pay parity and yesterday, talks failed again during the meeting with the Cheif Labour Commissioner. 

The ICPA decided to go strike following breakdown of talks involving the Association, the management and the Chief Labour Commissioner. The talks were being held over a period of several weeks. 

The 800-odd pilots belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owe allegiance to the ICPA. The merged entity--Indian Airlines and Air India--has about 1,200 pilots. 

According to airline sources, the services of pilots belonging to management cadre will be roped in to ensure there is no large scale disruption of flights of the national carrier. 

The ICPA want the pay for pilots of Indian Airlines to be on par with Air India. 

It has claimed that there are differences in salaries and working conditions of pilots of Indian Airlines and Air India and that the management has violated the memorandum of settlement signed in November 2009 on implementing the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. 

The 400 pilots who operate international flights belong to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG). 

The ICPA claims that while the Air India pilots enjoy a big fixed salary component, the same is almost minuscule for the former IA pilots. 

The Association claims that while their entire pay package depends on the hours they fly every day, the airlines has been curtailing the number of flights by 30 to 40 per cent. 

"The management is instigating and provoking us to go on a strike so that they can derecognise our union. They have done it in case of two major unions -- AIR Corporation Employees Union and the union representing the aircraft engineers," ICPA leaders from southern region said. 

The ICPA leaders welcomed the Union Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi's initiative in setting up a three-member committee to look into pay parity issue. The committee is to submit its report in five months. 

They maintained that they have been cooperating with the management, including for operations to Libya and Tokyo. 

The ICPA had given strike notice on February 23 demanding better working conditions and fixed pay component. 

The union, which had threatened to go on strike from March 9, had deferred their agitation till March 15 following tripartite talks with the carrier's management and the CLC. 

Later, the Delhi High Court restrained them from going on strike from March 16. 

Taking note of the situation, Civil Aviation Ministry constituted a three-member committee to examine the wage parity issue in Air India. 

Why Do We Forget Things?

The brain can store a vast number of memories, so why can't we find these memories when we need to? A new study provides insights into this question.

Our brains are crammed with a massive amount of memories that we have formed over a lifetime of experiences. These memories range from the profound (who am I and how did I get here?) to the most trivial (the license plate of the car at a stoplight). Furthermore, our memories also vary considerably in their precision. Parents, for instance, often know the perils of a fuzzy memory when shopping for a birthday gift for their child: remembering that their son wanted the G.I. Joe with Kung Fu Grip rather than the regular G.I. Joe could make an enormous difference in how well the gift is received. Thus, the “fuzziness” of our memory can often be just as important in our daily lives as being able to remember lots and lots of information in the first place. 

Different Levels of Detail for Different Types of Memory?

In the past several decades, cognitive psychologists have determined that there are two primary memory systems in the human mind: a short-term, or “working,” memory that temporarily holds information about just a few things that we are currently thinking about; and a long-lasting memory that can hold massive amounts of information gained through a lifetime of thoughts and experiences. These two memory systems are also thought to differ in the level of detail they provide: working memory provides sharp detail about the few things we are presently thinking about, whereas long-term memory provides a much fuzzier picture about lots of different things we have seen or experienced. That is, although we can hold lots of things in long-term memory, the details of the memory aren’t always crystal-clear and are often limited to just the gist of what we saw or what happened.

A recently published study by Timothy F. Brady, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and colleagues suggests that these long-term memories may not be nearly as fuzzy as once thought, however. In their work, the researchers asked subjects to try to remember 3,000 pictures of common objects—including items such as backpacks, remote controls and toasters—that were presented one at a time for just a few seconds each. At the end of this viewing phase, the researchers tested subjects’ memory for each object by showing them two objects and asking which one they had seen before. Not surprisingly, subjects were exceptionally good (more than 90 percent correct) even though there were thousands of objects to remember. This high success rate attests to the massive storage ability of long-term memory. What was most surprising, however, was the amazing level of detail that the subjects had for all of these memories. The subjects were just as good at telling the difference between two pictures of the same object even when the objects differed in an extremely subtle manner, such as a pair of toasters with slightly different slices of bread.

If It’s Not Fuzzy, Why Do We Still Forget Things?

This new work provides compelling evidence that the enormous amount of information we hold in long-term memory is not so uncertain after all. It seems that we actually hold representations of things we’ve seen in a fairly detailed and precise form.

Of course, this finding raises the obvious question: if our memories aren’t all that fuzzy, then why do we often forget the details of things we want to remember? One explanation is that, although the brain contains detailed representations of lots of different events and objects, we can’t always find that information when we want it. As this study reveals, if we’re shown an object, we can often be very accurate and precise at being able to say whether we’ve seen it before. If we’re in a toy store and trying to remember what it was that our son wanted for his birthday, however, we need to be able to voluntarily search our memory for the right answer—without being prompted by a visual reminder. It seems that it is this voluntary searching mechanism that’s prone to interference and forgetfulness. At least that’s our story when we come home without the Kung Fu Grip G.I. Joe.

Are you a scientist? Have you recently read a peer-reviewed paper that you want to write about? Then contact Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer, the science writer behind the blog The Frontal Cortex and the book  Proust Was a Neuroscientist.


Edward Vogel is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon. Trafton Drew is a graduate student in the Vogel lab.