PMA threatens strike for special salary package

LAHORE, Feb 28: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has announced observing a nationwide strike during the next leg of its comprehensive protest drive in case the government did not come up with a special salary package for doctors soon.

Officials of the PMA's Punjab and Lahore chapters Dr. Ashraf Nizami, Dr. Tanveer Anwar, Dr. Izhar Chaudhry, Dr. Akhtar Rashid Malik, Dr. Ehsanur Rehman, Dr. Kamran Saeed, Dr. Salman Kazmi, and Dr. Khalid Chaudhry told reporters at the PMA House on Monday that the association had started a national campaign to procure from the government a special salary package for the doctors.

They said the PMA had taken into confidence other organisations, including Young Doctors Association, Provincial Doctor Association and Medical Teachers Association, and had completed the first phase of the protest movement in which posters and pamphlets were distributed.

The PMA had also called a provincial convention on March 28 in which all organisations of doctors from across the country would participate to agitate the demand of a special salary package.

They said the PMA had already conveyed to the government that a special salary package for the house officers, postgraduates, medical officers, senior registrars and doctors of the teaching, general and administrative cadres was need of the hour to effectively block a huge brain drain.

Fearing that the government would raise the salaries of only one class of doctors to divide the community, the PMA officials said that any such move would not be accepted at any cost.

They also demanded that all seats of BS-17 to BS-20 doctors, especially 4,000 seats of medical officers, be filled on a priority basis through the Punjab Public Service Commission and specialists, senior medical officers and assistant professors be promoted.

The PMA officials warned that a group of doctors was planning holding a strike to get a 'minimum salary raise' for only one class of doctors which was a matter of concern for the entire community.

They invited all the organisations to participate in their national protest drive to press the government emphatically for announcing a special pay package instead of launching such campaigns individually.

Meanwhile, Punjab health parliamentary secretary Dr. Saeed Elahi has said that the strike call given by a group of doctors was unconstitutional, illegal and against the principles of Islam as it would endanger the lives of patients and bring a bad name to the noble profession.

According to a handout, Dr Elahi said this while talking to a representative delegation of doctors consisting of Dr. Akhtar Rashid, Dr. Tehsin Riaz, Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Dr. Riaz Hussain and Dr. Faisal Baig.

Dr. Elahi said that a committee headed by the chief secretary was working on preparing pay packages for the doctors and had met a number of times.

He said the chief minister had shown great interest in the matter and had decided to enhance the salaries in phases as huge sums of money – to the tune of Rs18 billion – were required to enhance the salaries abruptly.

The delegation members disassociated themselves from the strike call given by a group of doctors and assured Dr. Elahi that they had complete faith in the assurance given by the chief minister in this regard.

Dr. Elahi said that complete security would be provided to those doctors who would not observe strike and would perform their duties instead.

CDGL contractors lack expertise: Nespak declines to do third-party validation

LAHORE, Feb 28: For the last three months or so, the City District Government of Lahore has been pressing the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Pvt) Limited to carry out third-party validation of 182 development schemes but the latter has been declining to do so because the schemes lack proper design besides testing facilities for quality control.

The CDGL had on Nov 26 last year requested the Nespak through a letter (No G/1989/EDO W&S) to take up 110 schemes of roads and 59 of buildings sectors under four-sector programme besides 22 schemes of road sector under city package for resident supervision or third-party validation. In response to a CDGL reminder on Dec 17 last year (No G/2108/EDO W&S), the Nespak expressed its inability to take up the assignment as the schemes were small in nature.

Nespak argued that the 182 schemes were allotted to contractors who could execute works worth Rs0.26 million and did not have any surveying equipment, testing laboratories or tools, essential for resident supervision or third-party validation.

The CDGL brought to the notice of Nespak through a letter (No G/2380 EDO W&S) on Dec 28 that nature and scope of schemes under four-sector and 22 schemes of city package (NA-128) had not been different than the schemes under Lahore Ring Road Project (LRRP) and city package already undertaken by it (Nespak).

Two days later, the Nespak responded: "We honestly feel that our involvement in such petty work will not result in any improvement in the quality."

Sharing its experience with the CDGL regarding third-party validation of 74 schemes under city package, the Nespak recalled that even none of the three contractors involved, being of no-limit category, had proper testing laboratory and survey equipment, a prerequisite to resident supervision or third-party validation.

"The contractors took more than one and a half months to establish a laboratory as none of them was familiar with the quality control process and at every stage they had to be guided by Nespak staff," it said.

Regarding the 182 schemes, the Nespak maintained: "In most cases, the works are almost completed up to 90 per cent or partially done and lying abandoned for the last many months. All these works have been done under the supervision of CDGL engineers who are responsible for executed works. By involving Nespak at this stage, the quality of work cannot be improved as contractors involved are not at all familiar with documentation and quality control process," it said.

Manipulation of prices

THE world food crisis of 2007-2008 rumbles on uncontrolled. This food crisis saw the doubling of maize prices, wheat prices rising by 50 per cent and rice prices increasing by as much as 70 per cent. Economist

At the end of 2007, the magazine noted that its consumer price index — a measure of inflation — had reached its highest point since 1845.

Globally, the food price hike is not over, with wheat prices shooting up again last year, impacting the prices of other commodities. Although the principles of demand and supply have an explanatory role in the creation of the food crisis, yet the main reason behind the crisis lies elsewhere.

For example, how do we explain the 165 per cent rise in rice prices between April 2007 and April 2008 when rice stocks were not unusually low? This applies to the rising prices of other commodities too where market fundamentals do not offer a satisfactory explanation.

Not surprisingly, increased attention is now being paid to the role of banks and hedge funds in creating artificial price hikes through commodity speculation. According to leading economist Jayati Ghosh, after the collapse of the housing market in the US, banks and hedge funds began pouring astronomical sums into financial speculation on agricultural commodities.

This trend of shifting focus from the housing market to agricultural commodities was reflected in the 500 per cent increase in the number of derivatives in commodities between 2002 and mid-2008. In 2006, Merrill Lynch estimated that speculation in commodity prices was causing the commodity prices to trade at 50 per cent higher than if they had been based on the fundamentals of demand and supply alone.

According to estimates of the anti-poverty organisation World Development Movement, Goldman Sachs alone made $1bn in profit in 2009 from speculating on food. That the financial speculator profited from the increasing penury of the already poor is disgusting. What has been the net effect of this artificially-created food-price volatility by financial speculation on commodities on the poorest countries?

The effects have been far-reaching and nothing short of a disaster. This shows up in the figure of 50-60 per cent of income being spent on food purchase in developing countries as compared to 10 per cent in the developed world. As a result, the food crisis has affected the world`s poor disproportionately. The number of people in poor countries falling into the poverty category has increased by about 200 million during the food crisis.

Pakistan, where the effects of food crisis are accentuated due to weak regulatory mechanisms, has seen the number of food-insecure districts increase in recent years.

There are harrowing tales of an increasing number of distressed people committing suicide. Food price hikes have led to poor households spending on average 60 per cent of their household income on food purchase, leaving little for health, education and housing; and with food inflation of 64 per cent since 2008, according to one economist.

Poor households are resigned to eating less and less with dire effects on nutritional status and poverty levels. Whereas in the past a family could afford meat once a week, now it can barely purchase it once a month.

A recent report unveiled by Unicef paints a grim picture showing rising rates of malnutrition in Sindh at 23.1 per cent. These rates are well above the 15 per cent emergency threshold set by the World Health Organisation.

More worryingly, these rates of malnutrition are comparable to those of Chad and Niger. To be compared to these countries on this indicator is alarming. Although the report comes out against the backdrop of the floods, it complements the finding of an earlier report issued by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute which highlighted growing food insecurity in an increasing number of districts as a result of price hikes and the absence of robust price-control mechanisms.

The escalating problems of poverty and hunger induced by the food crisis are an indictment of the failure of government policy to shield consumers from the spiral effects of internationally-engineered food price hikes which have been manipulated by local cartels to fleece consumers. In this regard, the sugar crisis is a classic example

In Pakistan, food price rises are inexorably on an upward trajectory. January 2011 saw a 20 per cent increase in the price of essential food items; while the cost of non-perishable food items rose by 17.27 per cent that of perishable items surged by 44.5 per cent with a corresponding 16 and 13 per cent increase in medical and transport costs.

Given the rising cost of living the poor consumers do not know what hits them on a daily basis. At the same time, the government`s failure to shield consumers from the rise in the prices of food items is glaring.

While it is true that the food crisis is partly rooted in financial speculation, the government too has failed to institute strong regulatory mechanisms to curb upward rises in prices. The old mechanism of price control through the magistracy system has been done away with, without any alternative system replacing it. n

As well as not doing enough to move towards achieving food sovereignty to set up a stable food chain system immune from largely-engineered food price hikes in the international arena, there have been accusations that the government is engaged in handing out large parcels of our cultivable land to the Gulf countries to meet their food needs. Though Pakistan differs from Tunisia and Egypt in many respects, rising food prices constitute a common thread which can cause the pent-up anger of consumers to erupt.

The writer is executive coordinator of the Network for Consumer Protection.

By Dr Arif Azad

Wasting time

AFTER its ouster from the Punjab government by the PML-N, the PPP has decided to sit on the opposition benches. But the PPP has expressed it anger…. It appears that the period of reconciliation is over, the Charter of Democracy has come to an end, the philosophy of political reconciliation … has also come to an end. Some political observers had termed it an unnatural alliance…. The PML-N failed the reconciliation idea when it withdrew its ministers from the federal cabinet. But the two rival parties continued their alliance in Punjab. It was hoped that both the parties would somehow complete the five-year tenure.

Reconciliation in politics, that too in Pakistan, appears impossible. The JUI-F and MQM have also withdrawn their ministers from the federal cabinet. Where has reconciliation gone? It is nowhere to be seen. …After removal of the PPP from the Punjab government, it can be said that the two rival streams cannot remain united…. For the first time in history, a party has removed ministers without levelling charges against them. These were ministers who held portfolios of departments entrusted to them by the people. In principle, no party has the right to expel ministers from the cabinet — even morally this act cannot be justified. It is deplorable no one is thinking about the people's mandate….

No stone has been left unturned by the parties to harm their rival. The Charter of Democracy, promises and commitments have all been thrown away…. The war between the PPP and PML-N is untimely, and will further complicate the situation in the country, already in the grip of economic crises. Five years is not a long time, nor is it too small a period. During this tenure, political parties are supposed to solve a number of outstanding problems. …[Political parties] are supposed to compensate for the losses of the Musharraf era and solve political and economic issues. But it seems this grace period has been wasted in unnecessary disputes, controversies, clashes and superficial issues. Through artificially created crises, political parties have caused damage to themselves.… — (Feb 27)

Selected and translated by Sohail Sangi

Cry for democracy

THE freedom fighters who have been met with the most brutal, inhumane and criminal antics of Col Muammar Qadhafi come from all sections of Libyan society. Qadhafi has tried to win over some Libyans by promising them immense riches, on one occasion even physically showering them with bundles of cash.

However, the people now control the major part of Libya — with new groups, tribes and leaders disavowing their links with Qadhafi and announcing their stand alongside the revolution virtually every hour.

While Qadhafi's partial grip on the capital Tripoli remains in place, people now realise that they have passed the point of no return: either topple him or be killed. They also realise that Qadhafi's recent speeches and tactics show a desperate dictator who has almost entirely lost control. This opportunity will never come round again in their lifetime.

Over the last week, a steady stream of former leaders of the Qadhafi regime have deserted him and declared allegiance to the Libyan people and to the revolution. Many have spoken of their utter disgust at his order to shoot and kill demonstrators. A number of generals appeared on camera stating their disbelief at the orders to launch fighter jets against unarmed civilians demonstrating on the streets.

Despite the heavy sacrifice they are offering every day, Libyans utterly reject any foreign intervention, even for their defence and protection. From the outset, Qadhafi warned his overthrow would make Libya the same horrific, chaotic arena that Iraq and Afghanistan are today. But the people are adamant that this revolution is theirs alone. There is little doubt this determination and resilience comes from the transformation in spirit and atmosphere across the Arab region after the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. This new spirit is locally produced and nurtured, refusing to be western-driven or influenced. Its aim is not only to return Libya to a state where transparency, democracy, pluralism, freedom and fairness prevail, but to restore its standing in the world. Its relations with the West must be based on mutual recognition, shared and common interests and parity, not the old ways of a relationship built on corrupt dealings, fear and abuse.

Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have studied and lived in Europe and the US in the decades since oil was discovered, and those highly educated individuals yearn for a productive, cooperative and collaborative relationship with the West. Make no mistake, post-Qadhafi Libya will require a healthy link with western governments and companies to benefit from their technology, skills and expertise, while the West needs our immense natural and mineral riches.

Until then the liberation of Libya, street by street and town by town, goes on unabated. Already, a number of towns and cities have declared independence from Qadhafi's regime and have begun in earnest the job of running their daily affairs.

Community committees and councils of the elders have already been established in Benghazi, Musrata and Zawiyah, to help restore life and normality in anticipation of the fall of Tripoli and the complete removal of Qadhafi and his inner circle.

The fear expressed by some international commentators that Libya will fall into the hands of extremists is totally unfounded.

The very nature of Libyan society will not allow it. There is little doubt that Islam as a faith, culture and identity runs strongly through our heritage and tradition, but violence and extremism are foreign.
— The Guardian, London

The writer is a Libyan author living in London.

Conversion rates

KARACHI: The following are March 1, State Bank conversion rates for foreign currency deposits, dollar bearer certificates, foreign currency bearer certificates and special US dollar bonds.

US dollar             Rs    85.6814
Japanese yen    Rs    1.0476
Pound sterling    Rs  138.9324
Euro    Rs  118.3860


The following is Libor rate for calculating interest on special US dollar bonds for February  28.

For 6 months    0.46%

FO springs into action for evacuation of Pakistanis in Libya

Libyan anti-government fighters flash the V-sign in the southwestern town of Nalut, Libya. -AP Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday finally joined the long list of countries undertaking mass evacuations of their nationals from strife-torn Libya by arranging two chartered flights, Foreign Office announced on Monday.

According to a statement of the Foreign Office Two special chartered flights carrying 354 Pakistani expatriates evacuated from Libya will arrive in Lahore.

The first special Turkish Airlines chartered flight carrying 180 Pakistanis will reach Lahore later tonight. The second special chartered flight is due tomorrow at Lahore, the statement said.

Around 22 countries have either already evacuated their nationals or are in the process through all possible routes and means. Pakistan has around 18,000 of its nationals in Libya.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani taking note of the problems of the stranded Pakistanis in Libya directed the Foreign Office on Sunday to take immediate measures for safety of Pakistani expatriates.

The Foreign Office in response set up a Task Force and sought assistance from the friendly governments for repatriation of the stranded Pakistanis.

"Our Missions in the region have clear instructions from the Foreign Ministry to facilitate early and safe repatriation of Pakistani expatriates to Pakistan," a statement of the Foreign Office spokesperson said.

Pakistan embassy officials are working with the local authorities in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Turkey to ensure prompt repatriation, especially of those Pakistanis who have arrived without proper documentation and passports, the statement said.

The Foreign Office said embassy officials have been sent to the Libyan border to receive arriving Pakistanis. Arrangements were being made for the arrival of a group of Pakistanis by sea to Turkey from where they will be evacuated by air.

Ogra increases prices of petroleum products by 9.9 per cent

ogra, petrol prices

The petrol price was increased by Rs 7.23 per liter while the new price of gasoline was Rs 80.19 - File photo.

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) increased the prices of petroleum products by 9.9 per cent, according to DawnNews.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Javed Naseem, Ogra spokesman, said the petrol price was increased by Rs 7.23 per liter while the new price of gasoline was Rs 80.19

Mohammad Ashraful – back from the brink

When Ashraful bowled all-rounder Andrew White for his second wicket he celebrated in a manner as if that alone had won Bangladesh the game. —Photo by Reuters

When Ashraful bowled all-rounder Andrew White for his second wicket he celebrated in a manner as if that alone had won Bangladesh the game. —Photo by Reuters

DHAKA: Mohammad Ashraful thought he had played his last innings in the World Cup before his part-time bowling gave him a new lease of life during Bangladesh's Group B must-win game against Ireland.

Former skipper Ashraful, who was not selected for Bangladesh's opening match against India, was out for one run playing a suicidal sweep shot in an important stage of the innings, which put his future in doubt.

As he trudged back to the pavilion, the 26-year-old feared that pens were already being sharpened to write his one-day international obituary.

His two wickets for 42 runs not only gave him the hope of reviving his one-day career but also helped Bangladesh win the game by 27 runs.

"It was a very painful moment for me when I got out," Ashraful told Reuters in an interview on Monday as he reflected on the dramatic game three days earlier.

"I thought maybe I played my last innings in this World Cup. I was really very disappointed.

"But when I started warming up for fielding, our fielding coach and trainer cheered me up.

"Tamim (Iqbal) and Shakib (Al Hasan) also came to encourage me and they asked me to get ready for bowling."

He continued: "I finally came on in the 12th over, bowled two overs in the power play, did well, which gave me confidence.

"Then I changed ends and got a wicket (caught and bowled Ed Joyce). It came as a big relief. When I got the second wicket, it took all the pressure off," said Ashraful.

When Ashraful bowled all-rounder Andrew White for his second wicket he celebrated in a manner as if that alone had won Bangladesh the game.

"The celebration came from inside. I didn't really plan for it," said Ashraful.

Ashraful bowled nine overs in the match and the first seven of them were extremely tight. If he had not received some punishment in his last two overs, his bowling figures would have been even more impressive than they were.

In his 165-match ODI career, the longest by a Bangladeshi, Ashraful has bowled nine overs only once previously and that was back in 2002 against the West Indies.

Ashraful, who bowled leg spin at the start of his career before turning to off spin, has only 17 wickets to his credit in a career spanning nearly a decade.

Ashraful, however, planned to pay more attention to his bowling after the Ireland game, and he believes it can also help cement his place in the squad.

"I have been bowling for the last two years but I didn't get that much a chance to do it in international cricket," he said.

"Hopefully, I will bowl regularly now. Both coach and captain know that I am interested in bowling," he said.

Sammy dedicates Windies win to injured Dwayne Bravo

"His (Roach's) role in the team is to be a strike bowler for us and it was important that he went out and did it," West Indies captain Darren Sammy said. —Reuters Photo

NEW DELHI: Captain Darren Sammy hailed a vital win for his West Indies side after their disappointing opening defeat to South Africa, dedicating the victory over the Netherlands Monday to the injured Dwayne Bravo.

Seamer Kemar Roach grabbed a hat-trick as the Caribbean side crushed the minnows by 215 runs in a Group B fixture to get their World Cup campaign up and running.

Roach, who became the sixth bowler to take a World Cup hat-trick, finished with 6-27 as the Dutch were dismissed for 115 in 31.3 overs.

"That's what we've been asking for and it's good to see us do that with ball and bat," said Sammy.

"We all know how it's important for a player to play in a World Cup. To see the pain on his (Bravo's) face, most of the guys agreed that we're going to lift up our spirits and use Dwayne Bravo as an inspiration to the team."

"This win was for Dwayne," he said.

Bravo, the side's leading all-rounder and talisman for the past four years, suffered a major injury to his left knee during the defeat against South Africa last Thursday.

He has been ruled out of the tournament and is expected to be out of the game for a minimum of four weeks.

Speaking about hat-trick star Roach, Sammy said: "It was great, it was brilliant. His role in the team is to be a strike bowler for us and it was important that he went out and did it."

"It's important to see us winning but not only winning but winning convincingly and Roachy came out and put his hand up and doing what he came to do for the team," he added.

A delighted Roach said the win would give the West Indies much-needed confidence ahead of their next match against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Friday.

"The surface was kind of slow so our plan was to bowl straight at the stumps," he said, putting his improvement over the past year down to "ability to keep my pace up and be as accurate as possible."

Torrential rains in Balochistan, emergency in Quetta

quetta rain

Most roads were also left inundated. - File photo.

QUETTA: Heavy rainfall in the city of Quetta led to major flooding of the drainage system on Monday, according to DawnNews.

Most roads were also left inundated.

Emergency had already been imposed earlier in the city.

Moving on

With two wins out of two in the bag, the Pakistan cricket team have set their sights on the third match, against Canada on Thursday. The men in green underwent a nets and practice session at the P. Sara Oval at Colombo on Monday and selected members of the team spoke to the media.

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SC strongly objects to statements on Drag race tragedy

The bench in its order said that legal heirs of deceased had no authority to make statements about the guilt or crime. -APP File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its displeasure over the use of language in written statements about a compromise reached between the accused and legal heirs of those persons killed in Drag race held in Rawalpindi on December 5.

A three-member bench of supreme court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani, directed the counsels for accused, to submit fresh statements under Section 345 of CRPC.

The bench in its order said that legal heirs of deceased had no authority to make statements about the guilt or crime.

The bench also directed the trial court to continue its proceedings without being influenced by this Court’s observations.

At the outset of proceedings, when the bench was told by Hamid Khan, counsel for accused Ali Riaz chief executive of Bahria Town, that a compromise had been reached between parties and the heirs had exonerated the accused of their guilt, the Chief Justice objected to the use of language in the statements saying that reaching a compromise meant admission of guilt.

He also raised question over the trial Court judge’s conduct for accepting such a statement.

He said "We will have to see compromise which should come upto our satisfaction. If our Judge has observed such things, we will bring him to task. That is the reason that complaints are raised as to why the judges do not apply their conscience."

"How the Additional Sessions Judge has accepted it "We will pass a judicial order and would take up the matter with the Chief Justice of High Court to look into it," he added.

He further said if such things were accepted, it would become precedents and people would start lying before the Supreme Court.

"We will not allow it as such issues relates to prestige of the Supreme Court," he added.

The Chief Justice told Advocate General Punjab Khawja Haris that these people (heirs) should be thankful to the Court that took notice otherwise it was being hushed up.

"Look at the former IG Police Islamabad (Kaleem Imam) who was trying to secure illegal gains for the accused," he added. Advocate General also objected to language of statement.

Charlie Sheen in interview rant demands pay hike

Actor Charlie Sheen talks to ABC News' Andrea Canning in Los Angeles, California, February 26, 2011. Canning sat down with Sheen for an interview to air on 20/20 on March 1, 2011. -Reuters/ABC News/Handout

NEW YORK: Actor Charlie Sheen demanded a pay rise to return to his halted TV show "Two and a Half Men" and said he was not angry but passionate in two rambling and self-aggrandizing television interviews aired on Monday.

The troubled star, whose erratic behavior and insults has put the future of his top-rated comedy in jeopardy, ranted about everything from his problems with the top-rated comedy show to denying he has a drug problem, to his thoughts on being misunderstood.

Sheen, responding to CBS’s decision last Thursday to stop production of "Two and A Half Men" for the rest of the season, unleashed an expletive-filled attack on the show’s producer.

He told ABC news in an interview with excerpts aired on "Good Morning America" that he felt let down the show was stopped.

"I was actually disappointed because I thought, I think the mistake, the mistakes, I made is that people misinterpret my passion for anger," Sheen said.

Asked if he would sue, he said: "Wouldn’t you? I don’t have a job. I have a whole family to support and love … I am here to collect and they are going to lose."

He said last week’s attack on the show’s producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre, which some suggested was anti-Semitic, had been misinterpreted.

"I feel terrible about it," he said. "I just thought, you know, after you wailing on me for eight years, that I could like take a few shots back. I didn’t know you were gonna take your little ball and go home and punish everybody in the process."

Sheen told the "Today" show that he was not angry but passionate.

"It’s like, everybody thinks I should be begging for my job back, and I’m just going to forewarn them that it’s everybody else that’s going to be begging me for their job back."

Speculation has been rife about the future of "Two and a Half Men" or at least Sheen’s lead role in it as a womanizing bachelor. TV industry sources have said a deal was already in place for a ninth season, but have declined to speculate whether Sheen would be in it.

Sheen, who is the highest paid actor on US television, told the "Today" show that to go back to the comedy he would need a pay rise, saying the roughly $2 million per episode he makes now is too low.

"I am a man of my word, so I will finish the TV show. I’ll even do Season 10, but at this point, (because of) psychological distress, oh my God, it’s 3 mil an episode. Take it or leave it," he said.

"I’m tired of pretending like I’m not special," Sheen added. "You can’t process me with a normal brain."

Production of "Two and a Half Men" was suspended in January when Sheen was persuaded to seek help after a wild 36-hour party at his home that ended with him being hospitalized.

He denied problems with drugs, said he was not violent with women and had never shown up on set drunk.

"I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body," he said in the ABC interview.

UK planning for no-fly zone over Libya: Cameron

This file photo taken on November 20, 2010 shows British Prime Minister David Cameron speaking during a press conference in Lisbon. Cameron told Libya leader Moamer Gadhafi that it was "time to go", saying there was no role for the long-serving ruler in the troubled country's future. -AFP Photo

LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday he’s ordered his top brass to work with Britain’s allies on a plan to establish a military no-fly zone over Libya.

Cameron did not say whether that meant that the UK and its allies were preparing to enforce such a flight ban or simply making plans in case the situation there escalated.

But he told British lawmakers that ”we do not in any way rule out the use of military assets” to deal with Moammar Gadhafi’s embattled regime, which has attempted to crush pro-democracy protests with intense violence.

”We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,” Cameron said. ”It is clear that this is an illegitimate regime that has lost the consent of its people. My message to Col. Gadhafi is simple: ‘Go now.”’

The international community already has moved to impose an arms embargo, visa bans and other sanctions on the Libyan government, part of an escalating global effort to halt his crackdown.

Negotiating the approval of a no-fly zone at the United Nations would be complex, but calls for the imposition of such a ban are growing.

Chelsea take action against Ashley Cole after shooting accident

Police have said they are investigating newspaper reports that Cole shot a 21-year-old man, who was hit by lead pellets fired from an air rifle at the ground in Cobham —File photo by AP

Police have said they are investigating newspaper reports that Cole shot a 21-year-old man, who was hit by lead pellets fired from an air rifle at the ground in Cobham —File photo by AP

LONDON: Chelsea have taken "proper action" against defender Ashley Cole after he accidentally shot an intern with a high-powered air rifle at their training ground, manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Monday.

Police have said they are investigating newspaper reports that Cole shot a 21-year-old man, who was hit by lead pellets fired from an air rifle at the ground in Cobham, southwest of London, last week.

Ancelotti, speaking before Chelsea host Premier League leaders Manchester United on Tuesday, declined to say what action Chelsea had taken against the England international, but told reporters: "Obviously, we are not happy with what happened.

"But I have spoken with him. He was very disappointed with this, said sorry, made a mistake. It was an accident.

"We have taken proper action but tomorrow he will play.

"The mistake was that the gun was here in Cobham. We didn't know the gun was here."

Asked to whom Cole had apologised, Ancelotti replied: "First, he said sorry to the guy that was involved in this, second sorry to the team mates, third sorry to the club."

He said the club had not considered sacking the player, something that would probably have happened in any other job.

"He is our player, he always had very good behaviour here," he said. "Now, we have to move on. Who didn't make a mistake in his life?"

A Surrey police spokeswoman said earlier that while no direct allegation had been made, the matter had been brought to their attention through media reports.

"We will be contacting the club in due course to establish whether any criminal offence has been committed," she said.

Media reports said the 30-year-old defender had mistakenly shot the man using a .22 air rifle, the most powerful gun available without a licence in Britain.

One eyewitness was quoted as saying the victim had "bled profusely".

Club staff treated the man, identified as sports sciences student Tom Cowan who was on work placement with Chelsea, according to reports. He did not need hospital treatment.


‘Sharifs were pressured by PPP to support Dogar’

Shahbaz Sharif was disqualified by the Justice Dogar-led Supreme Court on Feb 25, 2009. — File Photo

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has alleged that President Asif Ali Zardari had once threatened that the Sharifs would be disqualified if the PML-N did not support Dogar (former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar) courts.

"President Zardari said to me in a meeting that Justice Dogar should be given three-year extension and warned that otherwise the Sharifs would be thrown out of politics," he said at a ceremony held here on Sunday in memory of Hameed Nizami, the founder of Nawa-i-Waqt group of newspapers.

"I made it clear to the president that it was impossible for him (Zardari) to do so because by the grace of Allah we (the Sharifs) will continue to face him."

Shahbaz Sharif was disqualified by the Justice Dogar-led Supreme Court on Feb 25, 2009. It was followed by imposition of governor's rule in Punjab and the ousting of the PML-N government. The government was, however, reinstated on March 31 by judges who had been deposed by Pervez Musharraf, but restored following a long march by the PML-N in March.

The chief minister accused the federal government of deliberately suspending gas supplies to Punjab industries for four days a week in order to malign the provincial government.

Blaming President Zardari for the gas loadshedding plan, he said the presidency should stop such 'dramas' because the closure of industries was depriving the poor of their means of livelihood.

He said the PPP leaders had warned the Punjab government against expelling its ministers from the provincial cabinet, instead of implementing the (10-point) agenda.

Referring to Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza's threat to ransack PML-N offices in Sindh if the PPP ministers were sacked, the chief minister said these people always used coercive language.

He said the PPP ministers refused to quit on their own, thereby forcing him to send a summary to the governor for their removal.

Federal government's failure to implement the PML-N's 10-point agenda, he said, was the last nail in the coffin of Charter of Democracy.

He said the court would decide the Raymond Davis case.

PPP not to indulge in politics of confrontation: Kaira

Central Information Secretary PPP Qamar Zaman Kaira. -APP File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Central Information Secretary Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Qamar Zaman Kaira on Sunday said PPP would not indulge in politics of confrontation and leg-pulling.

Talking to a news channel, he said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had promoted politics of ‘Lotaism’ (turncoats) by seeking the support of Unification Bloc in the Punjab which is against the democratic values and norms.

To a question he said, the country was being pushed towards the politics of 90s but PPP would utilize its all energies to avoid such tendencies. PPP does not want to be involved in politics of alle gations and counter-allegations, he added.

Regretting the situation, he said, after great efforts the politics of ‘lotacracy’ was eliminated from the country but, Mian Shahbaz Sharif has once again started politics of ‘lotaism’.

Kaira said it is the time for national unity and solidarity to meet the challenges being faced by the country on different fronts.

To a question he said, politics of confrontation was done away with by PPP and a new political culture was introduced in the country by promoting reconciliation policy.

He said that the government was committed to serving the masses despite all odds. The elements engaged in conspiracies would not succeed in their nefarious designs, he added.

He said, concerted efforts were needed to be taken by all political forces to further strengthen the democratic system of country.

England tie with India in World Cup thriller

Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan celebrates after taking the wicket of England cricketer Paul Collingwood. -AFP Photo

BANGALORE: A masterly century by Sachin Tendulkar and an inspired bowling spell by Zaheer Khan led India to a nail-biting tie against England in their World Cup Group B match on Sunday.

After India slammed 338 runs, England were coasting before Zaheer produced a superb bowling spell to take three quick wickets to revive India’s fortunes.

The match went down to the last ball with England needing two to win but they managed to get one to tie the match — a result that was loudly cheered by all those lucky enough to witness it at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Earlier India’s total revolved largely around Sachin Tendulkar’s (120) 47th one-day international century and a record fifth in World Cups.

In reply, England’s run-chase was set well on its way helped by a cracking century by skipper Andrew Strauss (158), the first century by an English captain in a World Cup.

India innings

V. Sehwag c Prior b Bresnan 35
S. Tendulkar c Yardy b Anderson 120
G. Gambhir b Swann 51
Yuvraj Singh c Bell b Yardy 58
M. Dhoni c sub (Wright) b Bresnan 31
Y. Pathan c Swann b Bresnan 14
V. Kohli b Bresnan 8
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Bresnan 0
Z. Khan run out (Prior/Strauss) 4
P. Chawla run out (Anderson) 2
M. Patel not out 0

Extras (lb-3 w-7 nb-5) 15

Total (all out; 49.5 overs) 338

Fall of wickets: 1-46 2-180 3-236 4-305 5-305 6-327 7-327 8-328 9-338 10-338

Bowling: Anderson 9.5-0-91-1 (1nb 1w), Shahzad 8-0-53-0 (2w), Bresnan 10-1-48-5, Swann 9-1-59-1 (2w), Collingwood 3-0-20-0, Yardy 10-0-64-1 (2w).

England innings

A. Strauss lbw b Khan 158
K. Pietersen c and b Patel 31
J. Trott lbw b Chawla 16
I. Bell c Kohli b Khan 69
P. Collingwood b Khan 1
M. Prior c sub (Raina) b Harbhajan Singh 4
M. Yardy c Sehwag b Patel 13
T. Bresnan b Chawla 14
G. Swann not out 15
A. Shahzad not out 6

Extras (b-1 lb-7 w-3) 11

Total (for eight wickets; 50 overs ) 338

Did not bat: J. Anderson

Fall of wickets: 1-68 2-111 3-281 4-281 5-285 6-289 7-307 8-325

Bowling: Khan 10-0-64-3 (1w), Patel 10-0-70-2 (1w), Chawla 10-0-71-2 (1w), Harbhajan Singh 10-0-58-1, Yuvraj Singh 7-0-46-1, Pathan 3-0-21-0

Result: Match tied

Toss: India won the toss and elected to bat.

Pakistan among top 10 nations in human development improvement

"With such an increase Pakistan is ranked 10 in terms of HDI improvement, which measures progress in comparison to the average progress of countries with a similar initial HDI level", said the report. -AP Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been ranked 10th among the countries in term of human development improvement by the United Nations Development Programme’s 20th Human Development Report 2010.

Those among the 135 countries that improved most in Human Development Index (HDI) terms over the past 30 years were led by Oman, which invested energy earnings over the decades in education and public health.

The other nine "Top Movers" are China, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Tunisia, South Korea, Algeria and Morocco. Remarkably, China was the only country that made the "Top 10" list due solely to income performance; the main drivers of HDI achievement were in health and education.

The UNDP report said that in Pakistan, between 1980 and 2010, the HDI value increased by 58 per cent (average annual increase of about 1.5 per cent).

"With such an increase Pakistan is ranked 10 in terms of HDI improvement, which measures progress in comparison to the average progress of countries with a similar initial HDI level", it added.

Pakistan’s life expectancy at birth increased by more than nine years, mean years of schooling increased by about nine years and expected years of schooling increased by almost 4 years.

Pakistan’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita increased by 92 per cent during the same period. The relative to other countries in the region, in 1980, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh had close HDI values for countries in South Asia.

However, during the period between 1980 and 2010 the three countries experienced different degrees of progress toward increasing their HDIs states the Report.

The Report introduces the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health and standard of living.

The average percentage of deprivation experienced by people in multidimensional poverty is 54 per cent.

The MPI, which is the share of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor, adjusted by the intensity of the deprivations, is 0.275.Pakistan’s "HDI neighbors", India and Bangladesh, have MPIs of 0.296 and 0.291, respectively.

West Ham beat Liverpool to climb off the bottom as Fulham hold City


Manchester City's Bosnian forward Edin Džeko (L) vies with Fulham's Aaron Hughes during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Fulham. -AFP Photo

LONDON: West Ham United climbed off the bottom of the Premier League with an uplifting and well-deserved 3-1 home win over Liverpool on Sunday.

In the day’s other game Manchester City were held 1-1 at home by Fulham as former City manager Mark Hughes enjoyed a satisfying return to his former club.

Scott Parker was again West Ham’s inspiration, defying a shoulder injury to deliver a great performance and score the opening goal.

"Scott Parker was a big doubt. We didn’t know if he could play," West Ham manager Avram Grant told the BBC.

"He came and said he wanted to play and I don’t know many players would have done so with his type of injury."

West Ham went ahead after 22 minutes with a superb goal by Parker, the England midfielder playing a one-two with Thomas Hitzlsperger before placing a shot beyond Pepe Reina.

They doubled their lead at the end of the first half when Demba Ba headed in a Gary O’Neil cross.

Liverpool struggled to get control and though they pulled one back through Glen Johnson after 86 minutes West Ham had the final say when Carlton Cole blasted home in stoppage time.

The victory took West Ham to 28 points and above Wigan Athletic and West Bromwich Albion and behind Wolverhampton Wanderers only on goal difference. It completed a good week for the Londoners after they thrashed Burnley 5-1 on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Liverpool remain sixth on 39 points, six behind fifth-place Chelsea.

Manchester United, who beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 on Saturday, lead the standings on 60 points, four clear of Arsenal, who were playing Birmingham City in the League Cup final on Sunday.

Manchester City remain third on 50 points, three ahead of Tottenham Hotpur, after failing to beat a battling Fulham side.

City led with a powerful shot by Mario Balotelli after 26 minutes but did little else to impose themselves.

Fulham levelled three minutes into the second half when Andy Johnson crossed low for Damien Duff to finish.

A geologist’s view of the Hingol Island

The close view of newly appeared mud volcano near Hingol shows oozing of Methane gas. – Photo courtesy by Geological Survey of Pakistan.

Hingol, Balochistan: A soft muddy island appeared a few kilometers offshore in Hingol on the Makran coast, Balochistan on November 16, 2010. The Director General, Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) dispatched a team of earth scientists to investigate the sudden appearance of this white mud dome, about three kilometres offshore near the Kund Malir beach.

The island is 90 metres high with a span of approximately three kilometers.

Before the upsurge of sludge, local fishermen reported high tides near the coast and several boats were trapped due to the emergence of this mud volcano from nowhere.  Another island of similar nature was also reported to have appeared 12 years ago. That island disappeared into the sea after four months. It is inferred that this mud dome which is given the name of Khizr, will also disappear with passage of time when methane and other gases are released from this structure.

The image shows white hot muddy sludge on the top of the island. – Photo courtesy by Geological Survey of Pakistan

The image shows white hot muddy sludge on the top of the island. – Photo courtesy by Geological Survey of Pakistan

The pictures taken by GSP earth scientists during their field investigations shows the eruption of white hot muddy sludge on top of the island. The ejected material is a sludge of fine solids, hydrate-bearing sediments suspended in acidic water and hydrocarbon fluids.

This mud dome seems to be formed by geo-excreted liquids and methane gas when hot water mixes with mud and surface deposits. Mud volcanoes are associated with subduction zones and the Makran coastal area is in close vicinity of triple junction where three major tectonic plates – namely Eurasian, Arabian and Indian plates meet.

Mud volcanoes are not true magmatic volcanoes.They are like steam-vents erupting pressurised gases and the strength of their eruption is quite diverse. It may be a result of a cone-like structure created by pressurised mud diaper or salt dome, which breaches the earth's surface or ocean bottom.

Mud volcanoes along tectonic subduction zone may be indicative of petroleum products. These mud domes tend to start out as small bulges in the earth which develop into cones.

The bulge is created by a build-up of pressure underneath relatively plastic rock. Areas of increased tectonic activity are frequent sites for mud volcanoes. More than 80 active mud volcanoes have been identified on the Makran coast; there are about 10 locations in Hingol and Hinglaj area having clusters of mud volcaones.

One of the highest and biggest mud volcanos in the world, Chandragup – means moon volcano – is located in close proximity. It is 125 metres high and more the 450 metres wide. Such type of mud volcanoes are associated with active subduction zones and tectonic forces and large sedimentary deposits create these geological formations.

Mud volcanoes sometimes temporarily emerge due to earthquakes but the mechanism by which earthquakes trigger changes in submarine mud extrusions are not completely understood.

An earthquake may have resulted in mud flow and release of methane and hydrogen sulfide gases which can cause the volcano to flare. On 28 November, 1945 during M8 great Makran Earthquake, which also generated a tsunami, a light was reportedly seen over the Chanay mountain in the direction of Hinglaj and fell on the sea, burning for about three days in two parts. Interestingly enough, an earthquake of 5.1 magnitude was recorded the in the area on the 16th November, 2010.

The geological field investigation for the emergence of Arabian Sea Sapt Island (ARSSI) revealed that the island is located 17 km from the Wad Bandar and 3.2 km from the Chadman coast. The island is spread over an area of 0.8 Sq. km and its height is 35 meters above sea level. There are five vents on the island which are still active and erupting mud with pressure. Methane gas emitted out from the vent-2 is highly flammable while vent-3 mostly reacts after four minutes with sound and pressure and mud is flown in the air up-to 15 meters.

Azerbaiijan and its Caspian coastline are home to nearly 400 mud volcanoes. While mud volcanoes found in Andaman Island, India; Taman Peninsula of Russia and Kerch Peninsula and Ukarine are sometimes used for recreation, this is not advisable with Makran coast mud volcanoes due to the unpredictability of ongoing seismic activity and sudden eruptions.

Asif Nazeer Rana, Deputy Director, Geolabs, Geological Survey of Pakistan,  Islamabad and former director of GSP museum at Quetta.

Turkey’s first Islamic leader Erbakan dies

Former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Felicity party, addresses party supporters in Istanbul, in this April 20, 2003 file photo. Erbakan, the founder of Turkey's modern Islamic movement, died from heart failure on February 27, 2011, aged 85. -Reuters Photo

ANKARA: Necmettin Erbakan, the mentor of political Islam in secular Turkey and its first Islamic prime minister, died Sunday, aged 84, after a tumultuous four-decade career, marred by feuds with the army.

In a post-mortem gesture, the military honoured Erbakan with a message of condolences, saying that his "great services to our country will be always remembered."

Under treatment in an Ankara hospital since early January, Erbakan died of a heart failure following "an abrupt disorder in his heart rhythm," doctor Ali Kucukbas said.

President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both Erbakan disciples who would later revolt against him, expressed sorrow, with Erdogan shortening a visit to Germany in order to attend his mentor’s funeral in Istanbul Tuesday.

"We will always remember him with gratitude for what he taught us and for his persevering character," Erdogan said.

Erbakan, who died as head of the small Islamic Felicity Party, had looked increasing frail recently and often used a wheelchair. But he lost nothing from his political zeal and held meetings with party associates even in hospital, aides said.

Despite his plump and genial exterior, Erbakan was a fierce ideologue and tough political survivor who tirelessly spread his message.

Nicknamed "Hoca" (Master), he loathed Turkey’s pro-Western tradition, preaching a blend of Islamic and Turkish nationalism.

He called the existing international system a "Zionist order" responsible for worldwide poverty and contested some economic pillars such as the interest rate, which Islam rejects.

"Humanity owes everything to Islam. Our civilization is superior to the West… They do not know how to wash their faces, they do not know running water and, excuse me, but they come out of the toilet without cleaning themselves," he said in November, in remarks carried on a party website.

Erbakan became Turkey’s first Islamic prime minister in 1996 in a coalition with a centre-right partner after his Welfare Party won 21 per cent of the vote and became the largest parliamentary group.

But Welfare moves to raise the profile of Islam in social life and seek closer ties with Islamic states such as Iran and Libya quickly irked the staunchly secularist and then-omnipotent military.

A harsh army-led secularist campaign forced Erbakan to step down in 1997, after about a year in power.

The following year, the constitutional court outlawed Welfare and banned Erbakan from politics for five years, which eventually led to a split in his movement as moderates, led by Erdogan, broke ranks with their mentor.

In 2001, Erdogan set up the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP), which disowned its Islamic roots and pledged to respect secularism.

The AKP came to power in 2002 and was re-elected in 2007, with Erbakan’s movement failing to even enter parliament.

Under Erdogan, the army has been humbled and forced to lower its profile as dozens of its soldiers were arrested and put on trial as part of unprecedented investigations into alleged plots to overthrow the government.

In a gesture to his former leader in 2008, President Gul pardoned Erbakan while he was under house arrest, serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for embezzlement of party funds.

Born on October 29, 1926, Erbakan earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 1948 and pursued an academic career that took him to Germany, where he also worked on projects for the German army.

He entered politics in 1969, creating a pro-Islamic party, which was banned in 1971 but quickly replaced with another.

He served as deputy prime minister in three coalition governments in the 1970s, marked by Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus and deadly political unrest, which prompted a military coup in 1980.

Coup leaders banned Erbakan, and many others, from politics, but he made a comeback after the ban was lifted in 1987.

Libya rebels gear for fight in city near capital

A civilian who has volunteered for the rebel army sits inside a weapons store in Benghazi. The rebel army is preparing to fight Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces in Tripoli if necessary, an official in the rebel army said. -Reuters Photo

ZAWIYA: Hundreds of armed anti-government forces backed by rebel troops who control the city closest to the capital Tripoli prepared Sunday to repel an expected offensive by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi surrounding Zawiya.

The Gadhafi regime, eager to show foreign reporters that the country is calm and under their control, took visiting journalists to Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli.

But a n Associated Press reporter on the tour confirmed the anti-government rebels are in control of the center of the city of 200,000. They have army tanks and anti-aircraft guns mounted on pickup trucks deployed.

On the outskirts of the city, however, they are surrounded by pro-Gadhafi forces, also backed by tanks and anti-aircraft guns.

There were at least six checkpoints controlled by troops loyal to Gadhafi on the road from Tripoli to Zawiya. Each checkpoint was reinforced by at least one tank, and the troops concealed their faces with scarves.

”To us, Gadhafi is the Dracula of Libya,” said Wael al-Oraibi, an army officer at Zawiya who joined the rebels. He said his decision to defect was prompted in large part by the Libyan leader’s use of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa against the people of Zawiya.

Gadhafi has launched by far the bloodiest crackdown in a wave of anti-regime uprising sweeping the Arab world. The United States, B ritain and the UN Security Council all imposed sanctions on Libya over the weekend.

And President Barack Obama said it is time for Gadhafi to go. Human rights groups and European officials have put the death toll at hundreds, or perhaps even thousands though it has been virtually impossible to verify the numbers.

Doors for reconciliation with PML-N still open: Firdous

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan — File photo

GUJRANWALA: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Sunday that the option of reconciliation with PML-N was still open and the PPP would play the role of opposition in Punjab.

Talking to reporters, Firdous Awan said that although the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had parted ways with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but the latter had not closed its doors for reconciliation.

She said that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani wanted to continue work on the 10-point agenda irrespective of the situation in Punjab and did not want to have a deadlock in that regard.

The information minister said the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) would play its rule in Punjab as per the constitution.

To a question on Raymond Davis, she said that the government would present its point of view in the court on March 14 and would accept the court decision on the case.

Humanoids run world’s first robot marathon race

A humanoid robot is crossing the finish line. – AFP Photo

OSAKA, Japan: Robovie-PC, a toy-sized humanoid, won the world's first full-length marathon for two-legged robots by a whisker Saturday, beating its closest rival by a single second after more than two days of racing.

Five bipedal machines began the non-stop 42.2-kilometre contest on a 100-metre indoor track in the western Japanese city of Osaka Thursday morning after doing knee bends or raising their hands to greet spectators.

One of the competitors retired after finishing only the first lap, but the others continued running day and night, getting up by themselves every time they fell to the floor or got into collisions with rivals.

Robovie-PC, 40 centimetres tall and weighing 2.4 kilograms stormed into first place with only a few laps to go after Robovie-PC Lite, which had established a comfortable lead and appeared to have secured an easy victory, suddenly locked up.

Robovie-PC Lite managed to return to the track and fiercely chased the leader, but after 422 laps Robovie-PC crossed the line in 54 hours 57 minutes 50 seconds, organisers said, one second ahead of its rival.

Their average speed was 0.77 kilometres per hour.

After the dramatic finish the two robots — both made by Vstone Co., a robot technology firm based in the industrial city which also organised the "Robo Mara Full" race – waved their arms and bowed, to wild applause from the crowd.

According to the event's regulations, competitors were allowed to change batteries and the servomotors which control the robots' speed and other functions.

Russia launches vital navigation satellite

A Russian engineer working on a GLONASS-M space navigation satellite. – Reuters Photo

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday launched a satellite vital to the deployment of its own navigation system after a similar attempt failure prompted the Kremlin to sack two top space officials.

The Federal Space Agency said in a statement that the Soyuz-2 rocket blasted off without a hitch from Russia's northern Plesetsk launchpad at 6.07 am (0307 GMT).

But the main test will come later Saturday when the high-tech Glonass-K navigation satellite detaches from its booster rocket after reaching its intended orbit.

The launch is being watched closely by Russian space officials after the last attempt to put three Glonass satellites in orbit failed spectacularly on December 5.

An error prevented the craft from reaching its set distance from Earth and the satellites ended up plummeting into the the Pacific off the US state of Hawaii.

A furious President Dmitry Medvedev fired two top space officials after a probe into the embarrassing failure found that it was caused by a simply fuel miscalculation.

The three satellites would have completed a Glonass system whose research had been started by the Soviet Union in 1976 before being interrupted and then picked up again by the country's president-turned premier Vladimir Putin.

Russia's de facto leader has vowed to place Glonass readers on every car made in Russia by 2012 and hailed the system as an example of how the country can claw back its Soviet-era technological might.

But analysts said that Glonass would more importantly enable Russia to finally target its missiles from space — something that other armies using the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) have been doing for years.

Tunisian prime minister announces resignation

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his resignation Sunday after a renewed outbreak of street violence in the North African country in the last few days. Ghannouchi was a longtime ally of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and had pledged to guide the country until elections can be held this summer. Ben Ali fled the country on Jan. 14 amid massive protests. -AP Photo

TUNIS: Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announced Sunday his resignation, as security forces clashed with protesters demanding the removal of some ministers of the interim government.

"I have decided to quit as prime minister," Ghannouchi told a news conference, saying that he thought carefully before taking the decision which was supported by his family.

"I am not running away from responsibility. This is to open the way for a new prime minister," he said.

"I am not ready to be the person who takes decisions that would end up causing casualties," Ghannouchi said, as security forces clashed Sunday with anti-government protesters who were heading to the interior ministry.

"This resignation will serve Tunisia, and the revolution and the future of Tunisia," he added.

Protesters are demanding the removal from the interim government of members of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose toppling on January 14 after weeks of protests sparked similar uprising across the Arab world.

Three people were killed when an anti-government protest in Tunis on Saturday turned violent as riot police and masked police in civilian clothes fired warning shots and tear gas at hundreds of protesters.

Protest marches jam Bahrain’s capital

Yara Yasser gestures as she gathers with thousands of others calling for democratic reforms, at the Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain. -AP Photo

MANAMA: Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters are streaming through Bahrain’s diplomatic area and other neighborhoods as demonstrations against the kingdom’s rulers show no signs of easing.

At least three processions Sunday paralyzed parts of the capital Manama.

Some of the marchers claim that authorities still hold more than 200 political prisoners despite the release of about 100 political detainees last week. There are no reports of violence.

Nearly two weeks of protests and clashes have left seven people dead in the strategic island nation, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The embattled monarchy is seeking talks with opposition groups. Government spokeswoman Maysoon Sabkar says there is no deadline for the offer of dialogue.

Two protesters shot dead in Oman as turmoil spreads

Oman's leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said attends the opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha in this December 3, 2007 file photo. -Reuters Photo

MUSCAT: Omani police shot dead two demonstrators with rubber bullets on Sunday as the deadly wave of protest rocking the Arab world spread to the normally placid pro-Western sultanate, a security official said.

Five people were also wounded when the security forces opened fire on the demonstrators who tried to storm a police station, the official said.

"Two were killed after being shot with rubber bullets as protesters attempted to storm a police station," in Sohar, some 200 kilometres northwest of Muscat, the official said requesting anonymity.

State news agency ONA confirmed that there had been casualties in Sohar, saying that police and anti-riot forces had clashed with demonstrators.

"Police and anti-riot squads confronted this group of wreckers in a bid to protect people and their properties, which caused casualties," it said.

The police station targeted by the protesters is near Earth Roundabout, where some 250 demonstrators have been holding a sit-in, witnesses told AFP.

The demonstrators have dubbed the intersection "Reform Roundabout," as they press for change in the Gulf sultanate whose ruler Qaboos has been in power for four decades.

The protesters, who were mostly unemployed have been demanding jobs, better salaries and measures to curb corruption, the witnesses said.

For decades the sultanate was an isolated country living on the margins of the modern world, but the 2010 UN Human Development Report released in November said Oman made the most improvement since 1970 out of 135 countries.

Previously, the sultanate had been largely spared the deadly turmoil that has swept the Arab world since the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising.

Around 300 Omanis, including women, staged a peaceful rally in central Muscat on February 18 to demand an increase in salaries and political reforms.

But the demonstrators have emphasised their loyalty to the ruler with placards declaring: "We are always loyal to you, Sultan Qaboos."

That rally was the second of its kind in the sultanate in the past two months, after about 200 demonstrators took to the streets on January 17 in protest against rising prices and corruption.

In an apparent move to calm the demonstrations, Qaboos announced on Saturday an increase in the monthly allowance for students at universities and vocational schools.

The state news agency said the sultan ordered a raise in the allowance of between 25 and 90 Omani rials ($65 to $234) to "achieve further development and… provide a decent living for his people."

He also ordered the creation of a consumer protection bureau, and was looking into opening cooperatives, ONA said.

Earlier this month, Oman raised the minimum wage for an estimated 150,000 private sector employees from $364 to $520 a month.

HEC scholar publishes work in Nature Biotechnology

The website of Nature biotechnology- the world renowned primary research journal- shows the title of the submitted paper by Rabia Amir and others. -- Screenshot of www.nature.com

ISLAMABAD: Rabia Amir, who is pursuing her PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of Edinburgh, UK under Higher Education Commission's (HEC) Overseas Scholarship has published her research in Nature Biotechnology, one of world's leading journals in Biological Sciences.

A press release issued by HEC said, the research entitled "Cultured cabmbil meristematic cells as a source of plant natural products" has developed new techniques for isolated and cultural of Cambial Meristematic Cells (CMCs).

It also identified marker genes and transcriptional programmes consistent with stem cell identity.

The use of CMCs and development of these techniques has overcome the problems usually associated with the culture of de-differentiated plant cells at commercial level and provide a cost effective and environmentally friendly platform for sustainable production of a variety of natural plant products.

Rabia is currently working with one of the leading groups on Taxol Biosynthesis at the University of Edinburgh.

She also participated in training on Molecular Cytogenetics at the University of Leicester, UK for six months before starting here PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Apple MacBooks get speedier with Intel technology

Apple's new Macbook Pro laptop that uses Intel's newly introduced Thunderbolt, a high-speed PC connection technology formerly code named Light Peak, is displayed during the "Views at 10" press briefing in San Francisco,California. – AFP Photo

SAN FRANCISCO: Apple on Thursday unveiled an updated line of MacBook Pro laptop computers featuring new Intel "Thunderbolt" technology for moving digital films and other data "blazingly fast." Apple upgraded the new-model laptops with the latest multi-core chips from Intel and high-definition "FaceTime" cameras for video chat and other uses.

"The new MacBook Pro brings next generation dual and quad Core processors, high performance graphics, Thunderbolt technology and FaceTime HD to the great design loved by our pro customers," said Apple senior vice president of marketing Philip Schiller.

Apple also released to software developers a preview of the next generation Macintosh operating system named "Lion," which it said "takes the best ideas from iPad and brings them to the Mac." A finished version of Lion for Macintosh computers is on track for release in mid-2011, according to Apple.

Lion software available at the online Mac App Store was intended to allow outside developers begin crafting hip, functional or fun programs that fuel the popularity of Apple gadgets.

"The iPad has inspired a new generation of innovative features in Lion," Schiller said.

"Developers… can now start adding great new Lion features like full screen, gestures, Versions and Auto Save to their own apps." Cupertino, California-based Apple has sold more than 15 million iPads since the tablet computers hit the market last April.

The company has a tradition of releasing new products annually and is expected to introduce a second-generation iPad tablet computer at a March 2 press event in San Francisco.

The debut of the new MacBook Pro models came on the 56th birthday of Apple's iconic chief executive Steve Jobs, who is on an indefinite leave of absence for medical reasons but remains involved in running the company.

MacBook Pro prices ranged from $1,199 for a 13-inch (33-centimeter) model with a 320-gigabyte hard drive to $2,499 for a 17-inch (43-centimeter) model with a 750-gigabyte hard drive.

Apple touted the new models as being twice as fast as the prior generation, with Thunderbolt making it possible to transfer an entire Blu-ray film for viewing in less than 30 seconds.

Digital data is transferred at a rate of 10 gigabytes per second, according to Intel.

"We're thrilled to collaborate with Intel to bring the groundbreaking Thunderbolt technology to Mac users," said Mac Hardware Engineering senior vice president Bob Mansfield.

"Thunderbolt is a breakthrough for the entire industry and we think developers are going to have a blast with it." Thunderbolt technology built into computer ports moves media faster and simplifies connections between devices, according to Intel, which demonstrated the technology Thursday at its Silicon Valley headquarters.

"Working with HD media is one of the most demanding things people do with their PCs," said Intel PC Client Group general manager Mooly Eden.

"We've taken the vision of simple, fast transfer of content between PCs and devices, and made it a reality."

Lahore – no ordinary rain

A rare hailstorm struck Lahore at 4.45pm on Saturday, concentrating its intensity downtown and in areas around Gulberg. Hailstones the size of small strawberries soon carpeted streets and rooftops. People were left stunned watching the freak turn of weather. At a few places, some people panicked and started giving "azans". – Photos by Online and PPI

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Bundesliga secures extra Champions League spot

The recent performances of German sides in European competitions have moved Germany's teams ahead of the Italians in UEFA's rankings. -AP Photo

BERLIN: Germany’s Bundesliga has secured a fourth Champions League spot for the 2012/13 season at the expense of Italy’s Serie A, the German Football League (DFL) has confirmed.

The recent performances of German sides in European competitions have moved Germany’s teams ahead of the Italians in UEFA’s rankings and they will have three automatic spots, as well as one play-off spot, in 2012/13.

As a result, Serie A will only have three Champions League places: two automatic places and one play-off spot.

Inter Milan suffered a late defeat to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 first-leg match last week and all three Italian sides in the Champions League lost their home ties while Napoli were eliminated from the Europa League.

Despite Inter winning the Champions League last season, German sides have now moved ahead in the UEFA rankings.

German clubs have increased their total points to 68,103, opening up an 8,122-point lead over Italy’s Serie A (59,981).

As a result, Germany can no longer be ousted from third place behind England and Spain in UEFA’S five-year coefficients, which determines a nation’s ranking based on the performances of their domestic teams.

Federer says skiing, football will have to wait

Federer says he has given up most recreational sports for fear of picking up an injury that will keep him off the court. -AFP Photo

DUBAI: There was a time when Roger Federer was seen on the slopes and even on a football pitch.

Not anymore.

Federer says he has given up most recreational sports for fear of picking up an injury that will keep the 16-time Grand Slam winner off the tennis court.

He said at the Dubai Championships on Thursday he last skied three years ago but stopped after he fell ill, and he has hasn't played much football regularly since 2001 when "he was unable to move" following several games.

Even a recent round of golf in Dubai with his parents raised alarms when his back hurt afterwards.

"To be quite honest, I do miss (skiing). I used to do it up until a few years ago," Federer said.

"Last time I skied was in 2008 when I had mono. Came back after the Australian Open, went skiing, and next day I got ill again. So I was like, OK, it's a sign for me. No more skiing. That's a pity."

Federer said there will be plenty of time to pick up other sports after he retires, which may be a while. He doesn't turn 30 until August.

"I played a round of golf with my parents. It was my mom's birthday the other week here, and I went to play on the Emirates Golf (Club)," he said.

"It was nice to do, but the same thing again. Next thing you know, your back hurts just a little bit.

"You just don't want to do it, because my body is accustomed to playing tennis right now.

"Honestly, I can wait for many more years until I can do all those sports really well. I actually do miss it, to do all those things a bit more often."

He says he's sticking with sports that don't require him breaking a sweat.

"I can play ping pong. I can do that," he said.

"Yeah, I can play cards if that's a sport. Look, I'll be able to enjoy (other sports) much more when I'm done."

Fans get creative as India plays England

Indian and England cricket fans cheer at the Cricket World Cup match between England and India at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on February 27, 2011. – Photos by Agencies

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Barca stretch lead to seven points as Real held

Real Madrid's German midfielder Mesut Ozil reacts during the match. -AFP Photo

MADRID: Barcelona moved seven points clear in La Liga after Real Madrid showed plenty of effort but insufficient invention as they drew 0-0 against a well-organised Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.

After Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Mallorca earlier, the pressure was on Real who went into the late game in confident mood after three consecutive wins.

From the start though it was evident that it would be a tough task as Deportivo defended deeply and appeared to be battling for their lives.

Cristiano Ronaldo was a constant threat but most of Real’s shots came from


Their best openings came in a grandstand finish when first substitute Emmanuel Adebayor and then Ronaldo hit the post but they were unable to find the all important goal.

Barcelona had shrugged off claims that they were starting to feel the strain as a makeshift team overcame Mallorca.

Barga had not been at their best as they lost to Arsenal in the Champions League and then struggled to beat Athletic Bilbao. Injuries to Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes suggested that the exertion was starting to take its toll.

With Dani Alves also suspended it was an unfamiliar looking Barga side but after Messi opened the scoring with a header following hesitation in the penalty area, they never looked back.

David Villa may have been narrowly offside as he raced clear of the defence to increase the lead and then Pedro Rodriguez completed the scoring.

After the game coach Pep Guardiola admitted that they were finding it difficult to break down Mallorca until the first goal.

"It is not easy to come in if you don’t play every week but if you have the personality of Seydou (Keita) then it is a lot simpler. He along with Andres (Iniesta) were vital to us in the first half and I will remember this match as the toughest for us to score," he said.

"After a long week we didn’t have much rhythm but the first goal helped us a lot and we suffered less. The 3-0 result was very good against a side which has conceded few goals at home."

An impressive second half display by Espanyol helped them to a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad and put their European hopes back on track.

All the talk before the game was about the return of Sociedad’s Raul Tamudo to his former club where he is the all-time highest goal scorer, but he failed to find a way passed an impressive Carlos Kameni in the Espanyol goal.

Against the run of play, Daniel Estrada put the ball into his own net but he made amends two minutes later to bring Sociedad level.

Espanyol, who had lost their last four games, were much improved after the interval with Sergio Garcia’s clinical finish followed by goals from Jose Callejon and Javi Marquez.

Atletico Madrid twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Sevilla.

In a match between two sides that have struggled for consistency, Alvaro Negredo gave Sevilla the lead but Jorge Koke headed Atletico level immediately after the restart. Ivan Rakitic restored the Andalusian side’s advantage before Jose Antonio Reyes earned Atletico a point.

Sporting Gijon’s relegation clash with Zaragoza ended in a 0-0 stalemate as neither side showed sufficient courage to commit players in attack.

Valencia have taken advantage of a slump in form from Villarreal to move into third place but tomorrow they face a tough match away to Athletic Bilbao who have a strong home record.

Villarreal travel to Racing Santander having picked up just one point from three games as their extra commitments in the Europa League appear to be taking their toll.

India win toss and elect to bat against England

Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar (L) congratulates teammate Virender Sehwag after a boundary. -AFP Photo



BANGALORE: India won the toss and elected to bat in the eagerly anticipated World Cup Group B showdown with England on Sunday under clear blue skies.

India made one change to the team that beat Bangladesh by 87 runs in their opening match, bringing in spinner Piyush Chawla for wayward pace bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

England were forced make changes after their main strike bowler Stuart Broad was ruled out with an upset stomach. Paceman Ajmal Shahzad was brought in as a replacement while all rounder Michael Yardy was picked instead of Ravi Bopara.

India: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Piyush Chawla, Munaf Patel.

England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Michael Yardy, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Ajmal Shahzad, James Anderson.

India take on England

Welcome to Dawn.com's live coverage of the ICC Cricket World Cup where readers will get the opportunity to commentate on the match in real time. Here's your chance to provide your analysis, set the field, predict the outcome of the match and have your say as India take on England in their Group B match.

Toss: India won the toss and elected to bat.


India: MS Dhoni (capt), V Sehwag, R Ashwin, PP Chawla, G Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, V Kohli, A Nehra, MM Patel, YK Pathan, SK Raina, S Sreesanth, SR Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh

England: AJ Strauss (capt), JM Anderson, IR Bell, RS Bopara, TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, PD Collingwood, KP Pietersen, MJ Prior, A Shahzad, GP Swann, JC Tredwell, IJL Trott, LJ Wright, MH Yardy

Umpires: Billy Bowden and Marais Erasmus

TV umpire: Rod Tucker

Match referee: Roshan Mahanama