Thursday, 24 March 2011

Over 25 killed in Myanmar earthquake


MyanmarAt least 25 people were killed and dozens of buildings destroyed when a strong earthquake struck Myanmar near the Thai border, officials from both countries said Friday.Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake on Thursday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8.A Myanmar official warned that there could be “many more casualties” in the town of Tarlay, close to the epicentre, as he confirmed 10 men, a boy and 13 women had been killed when the quake struck.
“Five monasteries and 35 buildings collapsed in the town. Those people were killed when the buildings collapsed,” said the official, who declined to be named.
Twenty people were injured in Tarlay in the district of Tachileik, and the official said the main road into the area was closed after being damaged in the quake.
Just across the border from Tachileik, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall of her house collapsed.
Terrified residents across the region fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated during the tremors.
The quake struck 90 kilometres north of Chiang Rai and 235 kilometres north-northeast of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second city and a popular tourist destination. Tall buildings shuddered in Bangkok during the tremor.
Its epicentre was close to the borders with Thailand and Laos and was just 10 kilometres deep.
Thailand’s meteorological department on Friday said it had registered six large aftershocks following the initial quake.
Chiang Rai governor Somchai Hatayatanti told AFP late Thursday that efforts were made to evacuate people from tall buildings and he had ordered all patients from Mae Sai District Hospital to be taken to Chiang Rai.
The shaking was felt throughout China’s southwest province of Yunnan, according to state-run China National Radio, but no casualties or structural collapses had been reported as of Friday morning.
However, the earthquake reportedly caused cracks in some homes and schools in and around the rugged Xishuangbanna region which borders Myanmar, and fear of aftershocks forced many people in the area to spend the night outdoors.
Some residents of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi fled their homes in panic when the quake shook the city.
Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh, 36, who lives on the 10th floor of a highrise, said her husband noticed their pet fish shaking in their tank.
“We all rushed to the street. All the other people in the apartments also rushed out,” she said.
Hanoi felt the tremor at about magnitude 5.0, according to Dinh Quoc Van, deputy head of the earthquake monitoring department.
The quake comes two weeks after Japan was hit by a monster earthquake, which unleashed a devastating tsunami that left around 27,000 people dead or missing and triggered a crisis at its Fukushima nuclear plant.
No tsunami warning was issued after the Myanmar quake as US seismologists said it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.
The USGS initially recorded the quake as magnitude 7.0, but later revised it down to 6.8.

Jitters in India over Pakistan`s World Cup prospects


  • Friday, 25 March 2011 13:00
  • Written by Muslim News Magazine
India_PakAn India-Pakistan semi-final in Mohali now looks set to be the highpoint of the current cricket World Cup but the possibility of Pakistan going on to play the finals in Mumbai is giving nightmares to the Indian security apparatus, the Indian Express said on Thursday.
“Pakistan’s successful run in the ongoing Cricket World Cup has given fresh jitters to India that now anticipates a deluge of visa applications, over and above the 5,000 already processed,” the newspaper said.
It said Pakistan’s High Commissioner Shahid Malik, who met Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai on Monday, apparently told him that with the possibility of Pakistan reaching the semi-finals and final of the World Cup fairly high, India must be ready to stamp close to 5,000 more visas of Pakistani fans.

With an India and Pakistan match now confirmed in Mohali for March 30, problems for the security arrangement will be determined by the outcome.

If Pakistan manage to beat India in Mohali and proceed to Mumbai for the finals, it would be their first game in the city since 1989 when they played Australia in the MRF series.

Shiv Sena factor

“But what bothers the Home Ministry and security agencies is Mumbai as venue, where memories of 26/11 terror attacks are still fresh and the terror threat from the Lashkar-e-Taiba looms large,” the Indian Express said.

The danger of the fanatical Shiv Sena creating ugly scenes and bringing the city to a halt, also could not be taken lightly, it quoted sources as saying.

“While the Home Ministry is not worried about the semi-finals in Mohali which is close to Attari-Wagah border, and arrangements can be made for fans to come through the border point at Wagah via special buses, Mumbai has posed a real challenge,” according to the Express.

“The Home Ministry in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs has decided that the 45-day application period required would be waived off, but has dismissed the suggestion from Islamabad that fans be allowed to reach Mumbai by Samjhauta Express train via Attari border.”

A government source told the Express that there were “other easier ways of reaching Mumbai, say by flight or by the sea”.

As enough flights cannot be arranged and possibility of getting a special trainload from Attari has been ruled out, a short ship voyage from Karachi to Mumbai is being seen as a possibility, the report said.

Tech-savvy Indians cry out for Apple’s attention


Apple_TechNamrata, a Delhi University student, turned an iPad tablet computer round in her hands at an electronics store in the city. It is Apple’s latest must-have item – yet it is already out of date. “No, I’ll wait for the iPad 2,” she said, putting it back on the shelf, aware that the improved version has already gone on sale in the United States. “Perhaps my aunt in Australia will be able to send me one soon,” she said. India looks like a massive emerging market for Apple’s iPads, iPods and iPhones, with an increasingly wealthy, young population hungry for information, entertainment and the latest craze in consumer culture.
But the original iPad finally arrived in India a full nine months after it was available in the United States – and the iPad 2 has no scheduled release date in the country of 1.18 billion people.

The iPad 2 hit the shops in the US on March 11 having been unveiled by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, and it will be released in dozens of other countries – including Britain and Australia – on March 25.

Popular tech blogger Soumyadip Choudhury targeted Jobs, accusing him of using India as a dumping ground for out-of-date Apple technology.

“Is India, for Apple, only a market where you can hold your clearance sale, just before you are ready with the product’s next generation?” he wrote on his blog, addressing Jobs directly.

“You officially began selling your blockbuster tablet device (the original iPad) in India exactly 30 days before announcing the new one (iPad 2),”Choudhury said.

The iPad 2 is selling in the United States at about the same prices as the iPad 1, ranging from $499.

“You have not only miffed Indian consumers with your delayed-till-it-is-obsolete releases but also with your unreasonable pricing,” Choudhury wrote.

The iPad 2 is thinner, lighter and faster – but, with no release scheduled in India, the country’s vast ranks of Apple fans have been left to buy the old model, priced between about $540 and $920, or else import the new one.

“This surely has inhibited non-Apple consumers from buying Apple products,”online technology magazine Pluggd.in founder Ashish Sinha told AFP.

“There is a huge demand for Apple products in India – especially the information technology sector, which is high on consuming gadgets.” An Apple spokesman who asked not to be named said that the company did not disclose sales figures for India or discuss future release dates for products.

He also declined to comment on criticism of Apple’s strategy in India.

Blogger Archana Shukla said that Apple was reluctant to “reach out to local customers” in India.

“The silence is intriguing, especially at a time when most top-league multinationals are ramping up their operations and going all out to woo Indian consumers,” she said.

The US-based information technology research firm Gartner suggests that Apple has been making a judgement call, balancing the unpredictability of the present Indian market and its future potential.

“Apple always targets the niche market and never focuses on the mass market,” Gartner’s principal research analyst Vishal Tripathi told AFP.

“It seems Apple is not getting the right signal from the market or is strategically missing the growth opportunities India offers,” the analyst from the Connecticut-based firm said.

“Apple knows that hardcore Apple lovers will get the devices from abroad but what they are missing out on is new potential buyers.” Other companies are hoping to take advantage of Apple’s apparent reluctance, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Motorola’s Xoom, both priced around $650, vying to grab India’s tablet computer market.

“It is a nascent market but we see the tablet segment growing to one million this year as there are some exciting clients here,” Samsung spokeswoman Ruchika Batra told

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Japan warns radioactive levels high around plant after blast


japanJapan’s prime minister said on Tuesday that radioactive levels had become high around an earthquake-stricken nuclear power plant after an explosion there, and there was a risk of radiation leaking into the atmosphere. Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km of the facility north of Tokyo to remain indoors and the French embassy in the capital warned in an advisory that a low level of radioactive wind could reach Tokyo within 10 hours.
Tuesday’s explosion was the third at the plant since it was damaged in last Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami. 
Authorities have been trying to prevent meltdowns in all three of the Fukishima Daiichi complex’s nuclear reactors by flooding the chambers with sea water to cool them down.  

As concern about the crippling economic impact of the double disaster mounted, Japanese stocks plunged 7.0 per cent to their lowest level in nearly two years, compounding a drop of 7.6 per cent the day before. 

The full extent of the destruction wreaked by last Friday’s massive quake and tsunami that followed it was still becoming clear, as rescuers combed through the region north of Tokyo where officials say at least 10,000 people were killed. 

“It’s a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish,” said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi. 

Kan has said Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two and, with the financial costs estimated at up to $180 billion, analysts said it could tip the world’s third-biggest economy back into recession. 

The US Geological Survey upgraded the quake to magnitude 9.0, from 8.9, making it the world’s fourth most powerful since 1900. 

Car makers, shipbuilders and technology companies worldwide scrambled for supplies after the disaster shut factories in Japan and disrupted the global manufacturing chain. 

“Not Chernobyl” 

The fear at the Fukushima complex, 240 km north of Tokyo, is of a major radiation leak after the quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. The complex had already seen explosions at its No. 1 and No.3 reactors.  

Jiji news agency said Tuesday’s explosion had damaged the roof and steam was rising from the complex. It also reported some workers had been told to leave the plant, a development one expert had warned beforehand could signal a worsening stage for the crisis. 

The worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 has drawn criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and revived debate in many countries about the safety of atomic power. 

Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants and Germany said it was scrapping a plan to extend the life of its nuclear power stations. The White House said US President Barack Obama remained committed to nuclear energy. 

Whilst the Fukuskima plant’s No.1 and No.3 reactors both suffered partial fuel rod meltdowns, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) had earlier said the No. 2 reactor was now the biggest concern. 

A sudden drop in cooling water levels when a pump ran out of fuel had fully exposed the fuel rods for a time, an official said. This could lead to the rods melting down and a possible radioactive leak. 

TEPCO had resumed pumping sea water into the reactor early on Tuesday. 

“This is nothing like a Chernobyl,” Murray Jennex, a nuclear expert at San Diego State University, said earlier. “At Chernobyl you had no containment structure — when it blew, it blew everything straight out into the atmosphere.” 

An explosion at the Soviet Chernobyl plant sent radioactive fallout across northern Europe. 

US warships and planes helping with relief efforts moved away from the coast temporarily because of low-level radiation.

The US Seventh Fleet described the move as precautionary. 

South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines said they would test Japanese food imports for radiation. 

France’s ASN nuclear safety authority said the accident could be classified as a level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, putting it on a par with the 1979 US Three Mile Island meltdown, higher than the Japanese authorities’ rating. 

Japan’s nuclear safety agency has rated the incidents in the No.1 and No.3 reactors as a 4, but has not yet rated the No. 2 reactor. 

Towns Flattened  

About 850,000 households in the north were still without electricity in near-freezing weather, Tohuku Electric Power Co. said, and the government said at least 1.5 million households lack running water. Tens of thousands of people were missing. 

“The situation here is just beyond belief, almost everything has been flattened,” said the Red Cross’s Fuller in Otsuchi, a town all-but obliterated. “The government is saying that 9,500 people, more than half of the population, could have died and I do fear the worst.” 

Kyodo news agency reported that 2,000 bodies had been found on Monday in two coastal towns alone.

After US, more countries will get iPad from March 25


iPad2The new iPad went on sale on Friday as Apple fans lined up outside stores around the United States to be the first to snap up the sleek touchscreen tablet computer. Apple began selling the iPad 2, which was unveiled by chief executive Steve Jobs last week, online overnight and in its 236 US stores starting at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT). The iPad 2 will be available on March 25 inAustralia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The queues did not appear to be as long as those for the iPhone 4 released in June but thousands of people lined up outside Apple stores in San Francisco, New York, Washington and other cities to get their hands on the device, which is one-third thinner, 15 per cent lighter and faster than the previous model.

Hundreds of people formed a line around the block outside Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store in New York, including some who camped out overnight swathed in rain gear and equipped with chairs and big umbrellas.

First in line was Hazem Sayed, an applications developer who bought his coveted spot from Amanda Foote, an entrepreneurial 20-year-old from Florida who staked her claim on Wednesday then auctioned the place on Craigslist.

“It went from $150 to $600 in about 10 minutes,” she said. Finally Sayed came in with the winning bid: $900.

Sayed said he’d be immediately taking his new iPad 2 to a business meeting in Dubai. “I’m going to buy two iPads. If I could I’d buy four,” he said.

Many others in the crowd were foreigners seeking to take advantage of an opportunity they won’t have in their own country for a while. The iPad 2 will go on sale in around two dozen other countries in late March.

Mingda Zhong, 18, a student from Nanjing, said that even the original iPad is rare at home. “You cannot buy the iPad 1 very easily,” he said. “Most Chinese do not have it.”Some 300 people formed a line outside the Apple store in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, many of them killing time by playing with their iPads.

In San Francisco, a queue of about 150 people wrapped around the block housing the Apple store in Union Square.

Many were holding places in line to buy iPads for others.

Joshua Leavitt, the first in line, said he was with an online service called TaskRabbit, where people perform services for others for a fee. He said he was buying an iPad for someone who is flying home to Singapore later Friday.

“He’s probably going to have the first iPad 2 in Singapore,” Leavitt said.

James Almeida, 24, a product design student at San Jose State University, was next, waiting to buy an iPad for myself.

“Josh was next to me in line so I asked about TaskRabbit,” Almeida said.

“So now I’m getting one for a guy in Malaysia.”Besides the size and weight, the other major improvement to the touchscreen tablet computer is the addition of front- and rear-facing cameras that allow users to take still pictures and video and hold video conversations.

Apple sold 15 million iPads last year, bringing in $10 billion in new revenue and creating an entirely new category of consumer electronics devices.

Dozens of other companies have been scrambling since then to bring their own tablets to market, most of them relying on Google’s Android software, and Apple is hoping the iPad 2 will keep it a step ahead of its rivals.

But with the exception of the Galaxy Tab from South Korea’s Samsung, rival tablet-makers have enjoyed little success.

Technology research firm Gartner is forecasting sales of 55 million tablet computers worldwide this year and another research firm, Forrester, said Apple has little to worry about for now.

“Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we’re forecasting that Apple will have at least 80 per cent share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011,” Forrester said.

More than 65,000 applications have been created for the iPad, while there are currently only about 100 crafted for tablets running Android.

The iPad 2 is selling at the same prices as the original iPad, ranging from $499 for the 16-gigabyte version to $829 for the top-of-the-line 64-GB model.

Breakthrough likely in ISI-CIA talks


CIAThe Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are close to a reset in their knotty relations, with behind-the-scene negotiations reportedly making progress. A breakthrough is likely in days ahead. An end to the feud will not only help resolve the dispute over immunity for jailed CIA operative Raymond Davis but also help both countries overcome the hard patch in their ties.
“There are some positive developments in ongoing negotiations,” a security official told Dawn on Monday without specifying how much ground the two sides had covered.

He, however, said both sides were ‘grudgingly accommodating each other’ to save the overall bilateral relationship.

Though there are hardly any evident markers to judge progress in dialogue on affairs of spy agencies, US Embassy’s reaction to the Lahore High Court (LHC) avoiding a ruling on immunity for Davis was quite telling.

US Embassy Spokesman Alberto Rodriguez, in a very brief comment, said: “US position is well known and we are working with Pakistani authorities to resolve the issue.”

His reaction definitely contrasted that of Ambassador Cameron Munter after the previous hearing in the case by the LHC (Feb 17), when he said: “The United States is disappointed that the government of Pakistan did not certify that Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity”.

The immunity dispute quite expectedly remained unresolved in the LHC because Davis is no more central to this controversy, which has been overtaken by other matters pertaining to the problematic Pakistan-US security cooperation whose bedrock is the collaboration between ISI and CIA.

The Davis episode was just the latest manifestation of the disquiet in the relations between the agencies that had been going on for some time and had found varying expressions, be it the frequent CIA allegations of Pakistanis patronising jihadi groups and being insincere in fight against extremists or filing of a law suit in a New York court by relatives of Mumbai carnage against ISI chief or blowing the cover of CIA’s Islamabad station head Jonathan Banks, leading to his recall.

Notwithstanding what face this friction in ties got from time to time, US officials confirm that there had been divergences over strategic interests and timing of anti-militancy operations—a reference to Pakistan military’s reluctance to go after the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network.

As the situation reached the tipping point and both the agencies engaged in an ugly public spat, ISI sought a redefinition of its terms of engagement with CIA.

ISI’s litany of complaints against CIA included the American agency developing its own network of undeclared spies and disregarding ISI as an institution and sacrifices of its personnel.

The progress in negotiations achieved so far, a source said, was made possible because of cool heads on both sides, who realised that keeping the ISI-CIA relationship intact was in the interest of both the agencies.

Analysts believe the outcome of the dialogue was crucial for settling the row over immunity for Davis.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Australia beat valiant Kenya, reach quarters


  • Monday, 14 March 2011 07:41
  • Written by Muslim News Magazine
collinsHolders Australia claimed their place in the last eight of the World Cup on Sunday but they were made to work surprisingly hard by Kenya who restored pride with a defiant performance despite losing by 60 runs.Michael Clarke (93) and the returning Mike Hussey (54) bailed their team out of trouble to help set up a daunting 324-6 but Kenya defied the much-vaunted Australian fast bowling unit to score a respectable 264-6 in Group A.


Earlier, opener Brad Haddin had made 65 but Australia found themselves under unexpected pressure at one stage at 143-4.

After four straight losses, Kenya had clearly decided not to go down without a fight and Tanmay Mishra (72) along with Collins Obuya (98 not out) resisted with a stubborn stand of 115 for the fourth wicket.

The pace trio of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson regularly generated speeds in excess of 140 kmph but the Kenyan batsmen gave as good as they got and notched up their highest score in the tournament so far.

Three of the six Kenyan wickets to fall were by run-outs as the Australian fast bowlers and spinners almost ran out of ideas to dismiss a batting side which was skittled out in their previous four matches.

It had seemed as if the match was headed for a fast finish as Kenya slumped to 46-3 in the 10th over. But as the pitch lost its pace, Mishra took on the role of the aggressor and clobbered eight boundaries and one huge six.

Obuya, however, was more restrained at the start of his innings but accelerated towards the end and singled out Shane Watson for some especially harsh treatment.

Thomas Odoyo joined the African party with a 38-ball 35 at the end but the Kenyans always were well behind the asking run-rate and their valiant attempt fell short.

Earlier, Clarke (93 off 80 balls) paced his innings to perfection to avoid a middle-order collapse after Australia lost three quick wickets in the space of 15 balls at the end of the 27th over.

Clarke and Hussey (54 in 43 balls), who celebrated his return to the World Cup squad with a typically industrious innings, came together with Australia in a spot of bother and with a 300 plus score looking a long way off.

They immediately put the Kenyan fielders under pressure with singles and twos and the odd boundary to wrest the initiative back with a 114-run partnership for the fifth wicket at better than a run a ball.

Shane Watson (21) and captain Ricky Ponting (36) also got some runs under their belt.

US drone strike kills six militants


US-drone-plane-5431A US drone strike targeting a rebel vehicle and a compound on Sunday killed six militants and wounded five others in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.
The unmanned aircraft fired missiles in mountainous Spalga village, 15 kilometres northeast of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district and a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.
“US drones fired six missiles targeting a militant vehicle and a nearby rebel compound owned by a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, Rahimullah, killing six militants,” a senior security official in Miranshah told AFP.

Five militants were also wounded in the attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The identities of those killed and injured were not immediately known.

Another security official also confirmed the strike and casualties but said it was not clear how many drones had taken part in the attack.

He added that several drones were still flying in the area.

Earlier in the day, a US missile strike in the lawless tribal region of South Waziristan had missed its target, a militant vehicle, allowing at least four militants to flee.

Japan quake causes day to get a bit shorter


planet-earth-AP543You won’t notice it, but the day just got a tiny bit shorter because of Friday’s giant earthquake off the coast of Japan. NASA geophysicist Richard Gross calculated that Earth’s rotation sped up by 1.6 microseconds. That is because of the shift in Earth’s mass caused by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.

That change in rotation speed is slightly more than the one caused by last year’s larger Chile earthquake. But 2004’s bigger Sumatra earthquake caused a 6.8-microsecond shortening of the day.

The Japan quake is the fifth strongest since 1900.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sun is shining on Asian tourism trade


china_wallThe sun is shining on the tourism trade in Asia-Pacific with double-digit growth notched up in 2010, spurred largely by Chinese and Indian middle classes packing their bags for a break abroad.Strong economies, the proliferation of low-cost airlines and a burgeoning constituency of online shoppers are adding to the region’srosy outlook.There was an 11 per cent rise in arrivals in the region overall last year, according to preliminary data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). And 2011 is also expected to be a strong year.
“Asia will receive international arrivals at close to double that of the world average growth rates,” PATA’s deputy CEO John Koldowski told AFP

“It’s Asians travelling to Asia, that’s the key to all these numbers and the big shift we are seeing globally in the tourism market. It’s all happening in Asia now.” South Asia reported the strongest arrivals growth with a gain of 14 per cent, highlighting a record year for India which posted 5.6 million foreign inbound visits for the year, a nine per cent increase.

Over 70 million people went to Southeast Asia, 12 per cent up on 2009, with Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines all ratcheting up record growth.

Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific islands also had a record year for tourist arrivals.

The total travel market in Asia Pacific is expected to reach $212 billion this year, reflecting a near five per cent increase over 2010, according to industry analyst PhoCusWright.

Growth in the region is being boosted partly by a newly minted middle class in the enormous populations of China and India – around 46 million Chinese travelled abroad last year, as did over four million Indians, PATA say.

And they take their wallets and credit cards with them.

Chinese travellers spent almost $44 billion in 2009 while travelling overseas, according to data from the World Trade Organization – and that’s excluding the cost of getting there.

“For some markets Chinese and Indian tourists are extremely important,” said Koldowski.

“Indian travellers to Singapore, for example, travel in an average group size of four against an overall average of 2.9 people and spend on average 5.8 days there against a total average of 4.0 days.” The proliferation of low-cost airlines, particularly in Southeast Asia, is also a shot in the arm for the industry.

Carriers such as Malaysia’s AirAsia and Cebu Pacific in the Philippines, among others, continue to expand aggressively.http://muslimgirl1.blogspot.com/

People from Europe and North America are also heading to Asia and the Pacific in their droves – arrivals from Europe were up 11 per cent to 24 million, PATA say, while arrivals from North America grew by over 10 per cent to 13 million.

“Travel has generally rebounded from the global financial crisis,” Carl Jones, director of advisory services for American Express Business Travel in the region, told AFP

“For developing nations, which make up a large portion of Asia-Pacific, short vacations to neighbouring countries will continue to be most popular. As nations grow, so does their exposure and disposable income, leading to trips to farther afield.

“Asia-Pacific will continue to be a growth engine for travel – for both business and leisure.” And many of those will book their trip online, another area of huge potential growth for the travel trade.

US Internet travel booking giant Expedia plans to launch at least five new Expedia-branded sites throughout Asia, having already recently launched a new site in Singapore.

“Already in 2011, we’re seeing growth rates in markets like Asia that are outpacing the growth that we saw in 2010,” an Expedia spokeswoman told AFP.

“One of Expedia’s primary focus areas in 2011 will be on growing its presence in Asia-Pacific and we plan to invest heavily in the region, as we think the opportunities are immense and in some cases untapped.” Booking through mobile devices and social media is also expected to help the tourism industry grow.

According to industry analysts, such as PhoCusWright, the US travel market is approximately 38 per cent online, Europe is 34 per cent online and Asia Pacific is 21 per cent online.

Expedia recently bought mobile travel application firm Mobiata and EveryTrail, a GPS-enabled publishing platform to create outdoor tours and city guides for mobile devices.

“Consumers will use their mobile devices more and more to research and purchase products and services, including travel, at an increased rate,” the Expedia spokeswoman told AFP.

“Social media and user-generated content will continue to be an important factor in the travel decision-making process, with more travellers than ever relying on reviews, photos and videos, and recommendations from peers.”

China blogger angered over losing Facebook account


FB-543Chinese blogger and activist Michael Anti wants to know why he is less worthy of a Facebook account than company founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dog.
Anti, a popular online commentator whose legal name is Zhao Jing, said in an interview Tuesday that his Facebook account was suddenly canceled in January. Company officials told him by e-mail that Facebook has a strict policy against pseudonyms and that he must use the name issued on his government ID.
However, Anti argues that his professional identity as Michael Anti has been established for more than a decade, with published articles and essays.

Anti, a former journalist who has won fellowships at both Cambridge University and Harvard University, said he set up his Facebook account in 2007. By locking him out of his account, Facebook has cut him off from a network of more than 1,000 academic and professional contacts who know him as Anti, he said.

”I’m really, really angry. I can’t function using my Chinese name. Today, I found out that Zuckerberg’s dog has a Facebook account. My journalistic work and academic work is more real than a dog,” he said.

Zhao said there is a long tradition in China for writers and journalists to take pen names, in part as protection from retaliation from authorities. If Facebook requires the use of real names, that could potentially put Chinese citizens in danger, he said.

”For my fellow Chinese, this policy could easily help Chinese police identify them,” he said.

Dissidents in a variety of countries have argued that Facebook’s policy can endanger human rights activists and others if their identities become known.

Facebook says its policy leads to greater trust and accountability for its users.

It’s not the first time Anti has had problems with an Internet site. In 2005, his blog on a Microsoft site was shut down by the company following pressure from Chinese officials.

Microsoft’s action led to a public outcry.

Zuckerberg recently set up a Facebook page for his newly acquired puppy, ”Beast,” complete with photos and a profile.

‘Radicalization’ hearings reignite US Muslim debate


muslim-congressA US lawmaker on Thursday was to hold provocative hearings on the alleged radicalization of US Muslims, in a move critics say fans anti-Islamsentiment nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks. Representative Peter King, the Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, has promised a thorough probe, setting the stage for one of the most controversial congressional debates since the 2001 attacks. “I want (Americans) to realize the extent to which Al-Qaeda is attempting to radicalize within the Muslim-American community,” King said Wednesday in summing up his intent.
The nation’s major Muslim groups, none of which have been invited to testify at the Capitol Hill hearing, and other rights defenders have blasted King’s “fear-mongering.”

“The seven million Americans (who are Muslim)… deserve more than collective guilt by suspicion,” said Shahid Buttar, who heads the non-denominational and non-partisan Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

By trafficking in bias and xenophobia, “Representative King aims to essentially be the (Joseph) McCarthy of the 21st century,” Buttar said.

McCarthyism refers to allegations of treason or subversion without proof, and was coined after the former US senator’s anti-communist witch-hunts in the 1940s and 50s.

King has said that Muslim leaders and mosque imams are doing too little to stop the radicalization of young Americans and are not cooperating with law enforcement. He has also said most US mosques are controlled by extremists.

The charges have alarmed US Muslim communities, the very ones President Barack Obama’s administration insists have been crucial to helping reduce the extremist threat.

Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder shot down King’s assessment that Muslim leaders have not helped law enforcement, stressing that they “have contributed significantly” to thwarting attacks.

“We don’t want to stigmatize, we don’t want to alienate entire communities,” Holder said.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations insisted that King was launching a modern-day “witch-hunt.”

But he and others acknowledged that some American Muslims, while the numbers are small, had indeed been radicalized in the United States.

“We’re not in denial as a community that something is going on,” he said. King is “on to something, but he’s moving in the wrong direction,” he said, voicing the same frustration held by many Muslim leaders, who say they are still viewed with suspicion despite the help they provide to law enforcement.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed concern with how King “has been singling out and stigmatizing the American Muslim community.”

CAIR director Nihad Awad warned that King’s “approach is going to radicalize young people.”

Several rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, insist the probe should be broadened to include all extremist violence, though not extremist thought, which they insist is protected by the US Constitution.

With the battle lines drawn, the congressman at the center of the storm has vowed he “will not back down” on his investigation, which has divided fellow lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday reiterated his support for the hearings, but fellow Republican and House Speaker John Boehner has been mute on the issue, essentially distancing himself from King.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was “deeply concerned about these hearings, which demonize law-abiding American Muslims who make important contributions to our society.”

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer has also objected to the hearing, saying it “sends the wrong message to the Muslim-American community.”

”We need them to work with law enforcement to identify terrorist threats, not be afraid of them,” he said in a statement.

King said two Muslim-Americans with knowledge of radicalization practices in US mosques will testify, as well as an African-American whose son was radicalized and converted to Islam.

Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress, has said he would appear before the committee, in part to offer “an alternative view” to King’s.

CAIR cited a recent study by Duke University that said 11 Muslim Americans have committed domestic terror attacks since 9/11, killing 33 people, compared to about 150,000 murders in the country over the same period.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

We can’t kick Kamran out in the middle of the WC: Waqar


  • Thursday, 10 March 2011 13:36
  • Written by Muslim News Magazine
cant_kick_KamranCoach Waqar Younis is not willing to dump struggling wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal even after his wodereful performance behind the stumps played a key part in Pakistansuffering one of its worst ever defeats in the World Cup. But all bets are off when the dust settles from the one-day tournament. New Zealander Ross Taylor went onto to score a career-best 131 off 124 balls on Tuesday, with Akmal twice letting the Kiwi batsman off the hook _ on 0 and 4.
The 110-run margin of defeat came close to Pakistan’s biggest ever loss in the World Cup when England recorded a 112-run victory in 2003 at Centurion, South Africa.
“Without a doubt, he dropped catches which really cost us the game,” Younis said of Akmal’s poor work behind the stumps.

“We are in the middle of the tournament, we can’t really sort of kick him out at the moment.”

Akmal has had big question marks hanging over his performance for over a year now since Australia whitewashed Pakistan in test, one-day and twenty20 series last year.

The out-of-form wicketkeeper also erred during Pakistan’s narrow 11-run win over co-host Sri Lanka last week when he twice missed opportunities to stump Kumar Sangakkara.

Akmal also dropped Scott Styris, which would have given captain Shahid Afridi his 16th wicket in the tournament on Tuesday.

Asked whether it was time to think about someone else for the wicketkeeper’s job, Younis insisted the World Cup was not the ideal time to think along those lines.

“After World Cup I think maybe we can think about it,” he said. “We are in the middle of the tournament and I don’t think we can make such a change.”

Younis said Pakistan had a few days before it takes on Zimbabwe on March 14 at Pallekele, near Kandy, but conceded time was running out for Akmal to make amends.

“We have five days off, we will try to rectify his mistakes,” he said.

“In such a short time we can’t rectify all his mistakes but we can always try.”

Pakistan has beaten Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada in its first three matches while batting first before failing miserably in the run-chase against the confident Black Caps.

Former Australian batsman Ian Chappell, now commentating at the World Cup, was as blunt as ever.

“If his batting was as good as Don Bradman’s,” he said on air, “he couldn’t score enough runs to make up for what he costs them with his keeping.”

Akmal is Pakistan’s latest attempt at a batsman who keeps wicket. He dethroned Rashid Latif and Moin Khan in 2004 and has been behind the stumps since, resisting all attempts to drop him.

Afridi told Pakistan’s private television channel Geo News that the younger Akmal _ Umar _ could replace Kamran at the World Cup.

“It is very much an option and we might try it in the next game,” Afridi said.

“We have five days before the next game so whatever is better for the team we will try it.”

Kamran has a one-day international batting average of 27.25 and has scored 2,835 runs in more than 100 appearances. His elegant batting is widely admired, but his wicketkeeping has overshadowed his batting performances of the past two years.

Pakistan next plays against Zimbabwe on March 14 and victory could ensure it a place in the quarterfinals before the game against Australia on March 19 in Colombo.

Pakistan plans to buy more F-16s


f-15-543Pakistan is trying to purchase used F-16 fighter jets from the United States to enhance its air capabilities, diplomatic sources told. “We will take as many as they are willing to give,” said a diplomatic source when asked how many of these aircraft Pakistan was seeking.
In 2006, the US Congress agreed to give Pakistan 28 F-16C/Ds under its EDA or excess defence articles initiative. Fourteen of these aircraft have already been delivered.
These are the same that Pakistan purchased from the United States in the 1980s but EDA equipment is almost cost-free.
Some of these aircraft are used for extracting serviceable parts for the existing fleet while those fit for overhauling are inducted into the air force. “Because of the disparity with India, our needs are huge,” said the diplomatic source. “Ideally, we should buy new F-16s but the current economy does not allow us to pay $40-50 million a piece.”
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a lightweight, compact fighter aircraft designed to perform a wide range of military missions. More than 4,000 F-16s have been or will be produced for 24 nations worldwide.

Meanwhile, the US media quoted Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman as saying that while negotiating with the US for more aircraft, Pakistan was simultaneously developing its defence manufacturing capability to reduce its reliance on America.

According to these reports, he told an air chiefs` conference in Melbourne, Australia, that he had made a concerted effort to increase the manufacturing capability of Pakistan`s defence industry because the country has been subject to sanctions and embargoes in the past.

When asked about data links to tie F-16s to JF-17s, Air Chief Marshal Qamar said that Pakistan was working to develop its own solution.

“We have Link 16 on the F-16s. We will not fiddle with Link 16 and not have direct linkages [between the JF-17s] with the F-16,” he said. Pakistan also has different types of airborne early warning and control (AEW and C) aircraft.

Besides AEW and C aircraft, the air force chief said, “We are talking to some western companies about tankers too.”

When asked if Pakistan would like to be part of the Chengdu J-20, fifth-generation fighter programme, the air chief said: “We don`t have any involvement in this development so far. This seems to be an indigenous effort and we will keenly watch it. Obviously, China is a very good friend.” But it will be years before the J-20 becomes operational in the Chinese air force, he added.

Muslim Cops Put Faith, Lives On The Line


r-MUSLIM-AMERICAN-COP-When Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca asked Sgt. Muawiya "Mike" Abdeen to set up a liaison unit to local Muslims in 2008, the idea was to build bridges to a community that is often fearful of, or unknown to, law enforcement.
It was tough going at first, said Abdeen, a 23-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department.
"When we used to drive up to a mosque or a Muslim school, people would get scared, they walked away, they closed the doors," said Abdeen, 48.
But the officers kept returning, helping with parking during Friday prayers, giving talks to Muslim youths about safe driving, and meeting with local and national Muslim groups.

Now, Abdeen said, deputies are welcomed with hugs and tea.

"I always tell other officers, 'If you expect the community to talk to you, you have to talk to them, too," said Abdeen, who was born in Jerusalem and came to the U.S. at age 20. "Terrorism is just a small part of it. The community wants to see that the local police department is genuinely interested in helping them solve the daily quality-of-life issues."

As hearings on Capitol Hill raise the specter of "extremist" Muslims who don't cooperate in terror investigations, the thin blue line of Muslim cops and deputies offer a glimpse of American Muslims who put their lives -- and sometimes their faith -- on the line in the interests of security.

Baca said he has no doubts about Muslims' loyalty to America after deputy traineee Mohamed Ahmed was shot and nearly killed by an alleged gang member earlier this year.

"I've worked with Muslim deputies, and I know that Muslim deputies are as courageous as any other deputies," said Baca, who had recruited the Somali-born Ahmed as part of his effort to improve relations between law enforcement and local Muslims.

It's not just Muslims who need to overcome fear and suspicion: Muslim officers often have to brief their comrades on Islamic beliefs and etiquette, which is why Abdeen recently worked with the Muslim Public Affairs Council to develop a 15-minute training video.

In February, Capt. Paul Fields of the Tulsa, Okla., Police Department was disciplined for refusing to attend a "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day" at a local mosque. He quickly filed suit, alleging a violation of his religious rights because he said visiting a mosque to make nice with Muslims is not a police duty.

The greater challenge, however, is forging positive relationships with local Muslims who are wary of undercover FBI agents inside their mosques, or dragnet prosecutions in the wake of 9/11.

House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., who will convene the hearings on homegrown extremism, has charged that "the leadership of the (Muslim) community is not geared to cooperation."

Baca, who is scheduled to testify at King's hearings, disputes those charges, saying Muslims have several times led officials to extremist individuals. When there is a lack of cooperation, it doesn't necessarily imply terrorist sympathies.

"It's not that they don't want to cooperate, but because they either don't know that we are there for them, or often because they're scared to reach out to us," said Imam Khalid Latif, a chaplain for the New York City Police Department, which has a few hundred Muslim officers and staff.

Many Muslims are immigrants who come from countries where police are corrupt and brutal, and whose fears are amplified by what some perceive to be an anti-Muslim atmosphere in the United States.

Not that long ago, the idea of a Muslim seeking a career in law enforcement was "something you did not do," said Mubarek Abdul-Jabbar, vice president of the New York City Policeman's Benevolent Association

"They were seen as the enemy and doing that was bordering on treason."

When Abdul-Jabbar joined the department 28 years ago, finding a partner was hard. "A lot of guys didn't want to ride with me because they said you can't trust a man who didn't drink and smoke," said Abdul-Jabbar, 55, whose son is also a member of the NYPD.

Often times, in their quest for acceptance, some Muslim officers will engage in what Abdul-Jabbar calls non-Islamic behavior, like drinking alcohol or swearing.

"You spend a quarter of your life with these guys, so you want to fit in," he said. "These are the guys that are going to back you up. You have to have their support, you don't want anyone thinking, 'Oh he's not a good guy.'"

Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca created a Muslim Community Affairs Unit in 2007 -- a move that has led critics to accuse him of coddling extremism sympathizers.

When former Rep. Mark Souder criticized Baca's relationship with the Council of American-Islamic Relations at a homeland security hearing last year, Baca shot back that Souder was "un-American."

Baca will be back on Capitol Hill on Thursday (March 10) to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee to refute charges by committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., that American Muslims do not want to cooperate with law enforcement.

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