A huge task, says new ISRO chief

A huge task, says new ISRO chief

Dr K Radhakrishnan on Saturday, 31st Oct 2009 took charge as chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from Dr G Madhavan Nair. The 60-year-old scientist, who joined the ISRO as an avionics engineer in 1971, was a key person behind the Chandrayan I mission.

Before his elevation as ISRO chief, Dr Radhakrishnan was the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here. He was in charge of the assembly and integration of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle which launched the Chandrayan satellite. Soon after taking charge, he along with Madhavan Nair attended the stone-laying ceremony of the new campus of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology at Valiamala near here. The stone was laid by T K A Nair, principal secretary to the prime minister. Dr Radhakrishnan took his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, in 1976 and later doctorate from IIT-Kharagpur. During his 38 years of service in ISRO, Dr Radhakrishnan has worked as Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information and also director of Regional Remote Sensing Service Centre under the National Natural Resource Management at the ISRO.

He has served as vice-chairman of Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and as founder chairman Indian Ocean Observing System. Meanwhile, Parivakkam Subramaniam Veeraraghavan, a rocket technologist, has taken over as Director, VSSC, in place of Radhakrishnan. Veeraraghavan began his career in ISRO in 1971 after completing his BE in Electrical Engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai.

A gold medallist, he secured the first rank from Madras University. He obtained his MTech in electronics from IIT Madras. He was an engineer in-charge of the computerised check-out systems of SLV-3 whose first flight took place from Sriharikota in 1979. Veeraraghavan was till now Director, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit.

U.S. economy recovering

U.S. economy recovering

Big spending efforts to stimulate the economy by Barak Obama are working. This week’s positive job and economic growth figures proved that the US economy is on the recovery path.

The U.S. unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 9.8 percent, despite a $787 billion economic stimulus that Obama and his fellow Democrats, who control Congress, pushed through in February. New unemployment numbers due out next Friday are expected to show U.S. employers cut 175,000 jobs in October, according to economists polled by Reuters. The unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 9.9 percent for October.

But new data this week showing the U.S. economy growing in the third quarter for the first time in more than a year, signaling the end of the worst recession in 70 years, was good news for the Obama administration. The White House said on Friday the stimulus had directly saved or created more than 640,000 jobs so far, based on data about who had received loans or grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Republicans, who favor tax cuts, say the stimulus has failed to halt rising joblessness and they also questioned the White House’s figures on jobs saved or created.

No bar on Husain coming back to India, says Congress

No bar on Husain coming back to India, says Congress

With noted painter M F Husain expressing his desire to return to India, Congress has welcomed it saying there was no bar on the painter coming back to the country.

The 94-year-old painter has been living in self imposed exile for several years now after a series of cases were lodged against him in the courts here. Protection to Husain after he returned is the responsibility of the state governments concerned.

The India Art Summit held in August this year did not feature a single work by me. The reason given was that they could not afford to take the `risk’. How will they protect me if they cannot protect my work? How can I trust them? asked M.F.Hussain who is in exile from last four years.

BSNL to stop pre-paid service in JK

BSNL to stop pre-paid service in JK

Public sector mobile service provider BSNL will stop the pre-paid mobile services in Jammu and Kashmir as per the policy of the government of India. However, pre-paid mobile services could be converted to postpaid connections.

Two new Customer Service Centre (CSC) will be opened at Kupwara and Dalgate in srinagar for prepaid mobile subscribers to convert into postpaid connections in addition to the existing CSC at Pulwama, Anantnag and Baramulla. Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government today said it would take up the issue of ban on prepaid mobiles with the the Union Home Ministry to ensure that genuine users do not suffer and security is not compromised.

Rajapaksa worships at Lord Venkateswara shrine

Rajapaksa worships at Lord Venkateswara shrine

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa offered prayers at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala. Rajapaksa, who flew in here by a special Sri Lankan aircraft from Nepal, offered prayers at the temple, accompanied by his wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa and an 80-member entourage.

On his arrival at the temple, Rajapaksa was accorded a traditional welcome by the priests and temple officials. Before leaving, he was presented with a sacred silk cloth of the Lord, holy water and laddu ‘prasadams’ by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Chairman D K Adikesavulu Naidu and Executive Officer IYR Krishna Rao.

Rajapaksa had previously visited the temple in July last year, well before the final stages of ethnical war between Sri Lankan army and the LTTE. This time he is visiting the temple as part of pilgrimage tour after the war with LTTE.

China is Misleading World About Tibet

China is Misleading World About Tibet

According to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Chinese leaders are misleading the world about the situation in Tibet.

Beijing was fooling the world into thinking the situation between the Tibetan people and the Chinese had improved. Chinese media is leading the propaganda that Tibetan culture had become popular among the Chinese – that both sides were learning to co-exist peacefully. The actual fact is different Chines government has created such impression by censoring anyone who questioned them. Transparency is lacking in all these authoritarian governments. Particularly in the People’s Republic of China.

Intel makes tiny microservers a standard

Intel makes tiny microservers a standard

an Francisco: In September 2009, Intel launched its back-to-the-future idea of tiny ‘microservers’. Now, the company plans to make the design into a standard others can use too.

“The chipmaker will offer its design specification to the Server System Infrastructure Forum by the end of the year. If the group’s board votes its approval for the specification, group members may use the designs royalty-free, before the end of the year, it will happen,” said Jason Waxman, General Manager of Intel’s High-density Computing Group.

Waxman believes the servers will appeal to web site hosting companies that need a lot of servers for relatively low-traffic Web sites. “At most web sites hosting providers, do you know what the server does? Nothing. It just sits there, so a low power draw when idle is an important characteristic. But when that request to view the Web page does arrive, it must respond quickly,” said Waxman.

The diminutive server consists of a single quad-core processor and four memory banks. Intel showed 16 microservers housed in an 8.75-inch tall chassis that supplies them all with power, cooling, and a network connection to the outside world. Along the bottom of the chassis is a bay with 16 ‘sleds’ that each has a trio of 2.5-inch hard drives that directly connect to each microserver.

The present microserver uses a 1.86GHz quad-core processor, the ‘Lynnfield’ model of Intel’s new ‘Nehalem’ generation. Its top power consumption is 45 watts, but early in 2010, Intel will release a dual-core ‘Clarkdale’ model that consumes only 30 watts when running flat-out.

That’s at the top end, though. Intel’s goal is for the entire microserver–which also includes memory and supporting chips – to idle at just 25 watts of power.

Towards better US – Cuba relations

Towards better US – Cuba relations

President Obama’s declaration of a “new beginning” in US-Cuba relations had raised Cuban expectations that this signalled an end to 47 years of economic warfare against their Caribbean island, known as the 1962 US trade embargo. Stringent sanctions that prohibit even the sale of vital medical supplies are still zealously enforced and the embargo is still firmly in place.

Havana’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, told the UN that the Obama administration had “a historic opportunity” to eliminate the “obsolete” and “unacceptable” blockade. But despite some steps to ease travel restrictions and remittances for Cuban-Americans, the US president could have done much more to alleviate the pain and suffering caused by an embargo that can only be finally terminated by US Congress.

In September, Obama followed in the footsteps of George Bush by signing the annual renewal of Cuban sanctions in defiance of world opinion and intense lobbying by Latin American heads of state. By taking this step he has assumed authorship – it is now in effect Obama’s trade blockade.

This time last year, a UN general assembly resolution calling for an end to these extraordinary sanctions was overwhelmingly passed by 182 votes, with only three against. The US could only muster two supporters: Israel and the tiny island of Palau.

The general assembly is due to vote again today on a motion calling for an end to the embargo against Cuba. The motion details the impact of the embargo on areas such as health, education, food and transportation and its $96bn cost to Cuba since its inception almost half a century ago.

There is one difference this year. The new face in the White House had proclaimed a policy of working with the UN and having respect for multilateral solutions. Yet he has defended the indefensible by saying that sanctions will remain in place until the communist government in Cuba frees political prisoners and improves human rights, just like his predecessor. Amnesty International’s secretary general Irene Khan answered this hoary old justification of a US foreign policy designed to bring the defiant Caribbean island to its knees with the firm declaration that “the US embargo against Cuba is immoral and should be lifted”.

How is it possible to justify the violation of humanitarian norms that requests from Cuba for life-saving US medicine and devices used in heart surgery have been repeatedly refused by US pharmaceutical companies citing the trade embargo.

Obama could have used his executive powers to order amendments and exceptions on humanitarian and medical sales to Cuba. He also could have ordered the US Treasury and its Office of Foreign Assets Control to stop its extra-territorial harassment of European companies trying to sell medical equipment to Cuba. The Dutch company Philips was fined in July 2009 for selling medical equipment to Cuba, which means that the Obama administration continues to enforce the extra-territorial legislation the Helms-Burton Act rejected by the EU, which infringes on the sovereign rights of other nations to trade freely with Cuba.

Obama has just sent a message to Havana conveyed by the Spanish foreign minister asking Cuba to take some initial steps on reform and to improve human rights before there can be any improvement in ties. In fact Cuba has launched several reforms under its new president, Raúl Castro.

Raúl Castro’s position is that everything can be discussed provided Cuba is treated with respect, and high on Havana’s agenda will be the US’s imperial attitude in clinging on to a foreign base on Cuban soil, Guantánamo Bay, despite notices to quit this US-occupied enclave going back 50 years.

Cuban officials say they still believe in the presidential pledge for a new era in US-Latin America relations, and understand that “hidden forces” of the right and Bush appointees in the state department have held back his “new beginning” policy.

Over the last 50 years nothing has done more to block reform and inhibit political debate and the flowering of a more open and libertarian socialism than the US embargo. The world grasped this point long ago. But Obama’s real desires appear to have been sadly thwarted by a traditional state department line on Cuba, which remains a hostage to the extremism of Cuban exiles living in Miami and fresh attacks from resurgent rightwing lobby groups.

MHA hits out at loose-cannon social activist

MHA hits out at loose-cannon social activist

The home ministry has criticised civil society activists who were defending Maoists by manufacturing human rights violations against the government. In a statement, the home ministry said it was time that some clear words were uttered against Maoists who indulge in wanton killings and destruction of economic infrastructure.

The strongly-worded MHA statement — which takes a dig at the activists “who speak on their (Maoists’) behalf and chastise the government” — comes in the backdrop of a Maoist strike on the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) premises on Sunday at Bacheli in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

As many as four personnel of CISF, which protects NMDC mines, were killed and two constables critically injured in the landmine blast triggered by the Maoists. “It is yet another example of “wanton, mindless and pre-meditated violence unleashed by CPI (Maoist)”, the MHA said.

This is the second major attack on CISF — which, incidentally, is not engaged in any counter-Naxal operations — deployed in PSUs operating in Maoist-infested areas. Earlier in April, a group of Maoists had attacked the Nalco bauxite mines in Koraput, Orissa, killing 10 CISF personnel guarding the facility.

The Centre’s offensive against Maoists across Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra and Orissa has seen rights activists invading seminar halls and media with concocted stories of repression and police brutality. The campaign comes even as Naxals are killing innocent tribals, beheading policemen and blasting away symbols of development.

Writer Arundhati Roy, for one, is all over TV studios and newspaper columns, condemning the government’s decision to turn the heat on Maoists. On Sunday, she went to the extent of alleging that the “UPA government was doing to the Maoists what the BJP government had done to Muslims”.

The government on Monday shot back asking the activist brigade to introspect on why Maoists were murdering villagers in cold blood after branding them as informers or exploding landmines to kill forces that protect the very mines and other works that bring development and jobs to the tribal areas.

Emphasising that NMDC was a PSU developing minerals, offering thousands of jobs and engaging in welfare activities as part of its corporate social responsibility, the Centre asked the activists as to what the CPI (Maoist) aimed to achieve by attacking the police force that provides security to NMDC.

“What is the message that the CPI (Maoist) intends to convey? These are questions that the government would like to put not only to the CPI (Maoist) but also to those who speak on their behalf and chastise the government,” said the home ministry statement.

The release also cited another recent incident of mindless violence, this time against innocent villagers in Kodka village of Kanker, Chhattisgarh. On October 21, 100 Maoists descended upon the village along with five villagers.

For reasons known only to them, they freed three villagers but killed the other two on October 23. The killed persons were identified as Ramji s/o Gour Singh and Kamta Pudi s/o Gangia Ram, both residents of village Kodka.