Soy Protein Reduce Symptoms of Heart Disease

We have been familiar with soy as a source of healthy food. Recently found evidence that soy protein can reduce the symptoms of liver disease.

University of Illinois scientists report that the protein may reduce the accumulation of fat asses and trigeliserida in the liver that can lead to the emergence of liver disease, especially in people who are obese. This is because soy is able to restore some of the key functions of the organ signaling pathway.

"Nearly a third of American adults have fatty liver disease, and many of them without experiencing certain symptoms. Obesity is a key risk factor for this condition and this can lead to liver failure," said Hong Chen, assistant professor of food science and nutrition humans at the University of Illinois as reported from Health24, Wednesday (25/04/2012).

In general, fat is metabolized in the liver, but the people who are obese, fat transport to the tissues can be slowed down so adiposanya become dumping grounds for excess liver fat, he said.

"When fat accumulates in an organ that is not supposed to store fat, such as the liver, the function of vital organs can become dangerous," he added. But eating soy protein sources like tofu and soy yogurt seems to reduce some pressure on the liver fat, he said.

Chen compared the accumulation of fat in lean rats and rat liver obesity. The result, Chen did not find any effect of diet on rat liver thin profile. However, obese rats that were fed soy showed a reduction in triglycerides and fat accumulation by 20 percent so that Chen believed that soy protein can be used to reduce the symptoms of fatty liver disease.

Furthermore, researchers also found that soy protein partially restored the protein Wnt signaling pathway as a crucial player in lipid metabolism.

"In the obese, there is a traffic problem in the body. When there is more fat that can make a way out of the heart, pressure on the organs that could be reduced," he said.

Obama kicks off battle versus Romney with big money lead

Mitt Romney had his best fundraising month yet in March, but the presumed Republican nominee remained far behind Democratic President Barack Obama in the money game, filings with the Federal Election Commission showed on Friday.

Romney reported raising nearly $12.7 million last month, with some $10.1 million left in the bank as he sought to wrap up the nomination and focus on raising money for the costly fight to unseat Obama in the November 6 election.

The deep-pocketed "Super" political action committee, or PAC, that supports Romney, Restore Our Future, brought in $8.7 million in March, with three-quarters of it remaining on hand.

Democratic PACs have struggled to match the prowess of Restore Our Future, but Obama's campaign - spared the strenuous nominating process - raised $34.8 million in March and had $104 million left in the bank at the end of the month.

Republicans and Democrats are waging a war to raise as much money as possible to fund crucial television and radio airtime and get-out-the-vote efforts, projected to total $1 billion on each side of the aisle.

Romney's March haul came at a time when the former Massachusetts governor was still facing stiff competition from his last big conservative challenger, Rick Santorum, who has now dropped out of the race.

The pro-Obama group Priorities USA - a Super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited funds but cannot coordinate with the campaign - reported raising $2.5 million in March. It spent only a fraction of it, $318,254, and had $5 million left on hand.

While Romney just started fundraising jointly with the Republican National Committee this month, Obama has been taking full advantage of that option with his party organization, the Democratic National Committee since last year.

The joint fund greatly increases how much a donor can give to help a candidate, thanks to larger contributions allowed for party organizations in addition to the campaign.

Obama's two joint funds shared with the DNC had about $6.5 million in cash on hand and sent $7.5 million to the Obama campaign and $10.5 million to the DNC.

Both the RNC and the DNC plan to spend nearly everything they raise to help their candidates.

The RNC in March also had its best month, raising $13.7 million and reporting $32.7 million in cash on hand, according to the FEC filings. The DNC reported receiving a total of $17.9 million in March, with $24.4 million in the bank.


But donations to outside Democratic groups have lagged those given to Republicans, a source of concern for Democrats.

Campaigns can take only $2,500 from each donor, once for the primary process and again for the general election. Super PACs can take unlimited donations as long as they do not coordinate with the campaigns, and these have largely taken over the dirty task of negative advertising.

The pro-Obama Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has struggled to catch up to the pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future.

Restore Our Future on Friday reported raising $8.7 million in March, spent $12.7 million on knocking Santorum out of the race but still emerged with $6.5 million on hand.

The group's biggest donors last month included Texas billionaire banker Harold Simmons, who gave another $600,000 for a total of $800,000; hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin of Citadel LLC, who gave $850,000 for a total of $1.1 million; and Huron Carbon LLC, which gave $1 million and shares an address in Florida with Oxbow Carbon, run by Bill Koch and itself a big donor to the Super PAC.

Other big donors included Charles Schwab Corp founder Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen, Cisco Systems Inc Chairman and Chief Executive John Chambers, New Balance Athletics Chairman James Davis, Marriott International Inc CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. and his brother Richard Marriott, chairman of Host Hotels and Resorts Inc.

Priorities received $1 million from Amy Goldman, heir to the fortune of New York real estate mogul Sol Goldman, and a second installment of $500,000 from Kareem Ahmed, CEO of California medical billing and collecting firm Landmark Medical Management.

The PAC also received $250,000 from Anne Earhart, granddaughter of oil baron J. Paul Getty. Earhart is also the top donor to another Democratic Super PAC, opposition research-focused American Bridge.

Other big donors included U.S. standup comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler and longtime Democratic donor New York investor Bernard Schwartz, both of whom gave $100,000.


Helping Romney bridge the gap between his money power and Obama's is American Crossroads, perhaps the most formidable Republican Super PAC, which was co-founded by Karl Rove, former top aide and election strategist for President George W. Bush.

American Crossroads and its non-profit sister group Crossroads GPS have made plans to spend up to $300 million on this election cycle and by the end of March were two-thirds of the way to raising that sum, having hauled in $99.8 million over 2011 and the first quarter of 2012.

American Crossroads reported $24.4 million left in cash on hand, but raised only $1.2 million in March. Citadel investor Griffin was its top donor with his $700,000 contribution.

The non-profit Crossroads GPS is not legally required to report its fundraising or donors to the FEC.

The groups have been running ads slamming Obama, his policies and his party's congressional candidates. The $300 million plan covers the efforts launched last year into the rest of the cycle, with two-thirds focusing on the presidential race and the rest on Senate and House of Representatives races.

One of Romney's two rivals left in the Republican race is Texas Representative Ron Paul. His campaign's FEC filing on Friday showed he raised $2.6 million and had $1.8 million left in cash on hand at the end of March.

The second rival, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, was heavily in debt, running up a $4.3 million tab. He raised $1.7 million and spent about $2 million in March.

The Super PAC backing Gingrich, Winning Our Future, has been heavily reliant on Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family. In March, despite Gingrich's campaign fading far into Romney's shadow, Adelson's wife, Miriam, gave another $5 million, bringing the total Adelson clan contribution to the Super PAC to $21.5 million.

Santorum, who ended his campaign on April 10, also had nearly $2 million in debt and has continued to try to raise money to pay for it. He raised almost $5 million in March and spent $5.8 million.

The Super PAC backing his candidacy ended the month with less than $270,000 on hand, having spent almost all of the $8.3 million it had raised over the campaign cycle. Foster Friess, Wyoming millionaire investor and Santorum's friend, gave another $500,000 to the PAC in March for a total of $2.1 million.

Mini iPad: The good, bad and ugly

Apple generates more gossip than the Kardashians.

There's a constantly spinning mill of rumors about Apple products, most of which turn out to be untrue. What's unusual this week is that talk has revived of a smaller iPad model, an idea company founder Steve Jobs derided publicly a year before he died.

Apple and its suppliers aren't commenting. Rumors of a smaller iPad, or "iPad mini" have percolated ever since the first iPad was launched two years ago. This time around, they're fed by media reports from South Korea, China and Taiwan, saying Apple has ordered Samsung screens that are 7.86 inches measured on the diagonal. That would make the screen about two-thirds the size of the current iPad, which has a diagonal measurement of 9.7 inches.

Why it's a good idea: A smaller tablet would help Apple further its lead in the tablet market.

"From a competitive standpoint, we believe an iPad mini with a lower price point would be the competition's worst nightmare, says Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee. "Most (competitors) already have a tough enough time competing against the iPad 2, as well as the new iPad."

Apple has successfully fended off competitors who have tried to sell tablets in iPad's size range. But last year, Inc. figured out how to crack Apple's stranglehold on tablets by making a half-size, no-frills tablet. The result was the Kindle Fire, which sells for $199 —basically, the cost of production. Amazon has sold millions of them.

Apple sells the iPod Touch for $199, but its screen is about a quarter of the size of the Kindle Fire — a big disadvantage for people who want to enjoy books, movies and games. It also sells the older iPad model for $399. It has nothing in between.

Price isn't the only reason customers might prefer a smaller tablet. A 7-inch model would fit in many handbags, unlike the current iPad.

Wu says he's seen evidence of Apple experimenting with both smaller and larger tablet screens since 2009, and doesn't sense that the release of an iPad mini is "imminent."

What it might cost: It could be hard for Apple to make money from an iPad-quality 7-inch tablet that sells for $299. Analysts at IHS iSuppli estimate that a smaller tablet would cost around $250 to produce, a figure that doesn't include development costs, packaging or patent royalties. That suggests Apple would price it at $329 or $349.

"The first thing you always have to keep in mind is: Apple is not going to sell an unprofitable product," says Rhoda Alexander at iSuppli.

Why it's a bad idea: A smaller iPad would be a headache for software developers.

"Going to a different screen size ends up being a ton of work," says Nate Weiner, the creator of Pocket, an application that stores Web pages and other material for later reading.

"If you take, for an example, an interface built for the iPad and try to cram it into the Kindle Fire, it just doesn't fit," he says.

However, developers who have already adapted their programs to the Kindle Fire or other 7-inch tablets wouldn't face a big hurdle in adapting to a third Apple screen size, Weiner says.

What jobs thought: Apple's late CEO made a rare appearance on an October 2010 earnings conference call to launch a tirade against the 7-inch tablet Samsung Electronics Inc. was set to launch as the first major challenger to the iPad.

"The reason we wouldn't make a 7-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit a price point, it's because we don't think you can make a great tablet with a 7-inch screen," Jobs said. "The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad."

He said the resolution of the display could be increased to make up for the smaller size, but that would be "meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size."

"There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps," he said.

Jobs failed to mention Apple's success developing apps that use taps, flicks and pinches on the iPhone, with its 3.5-inch screen.

Plane Crash in Pakistan

Civilian aircraft crashes in bad weather near Islamabad international airport: Pakistani television channels.
Over 120 passengers were on board

The plane had flown from Karachi, and was due to land in Islamabad at 6:40pm local time.
Rescue teams were en route to the crash site, located near the Pakistan Air Force base Chaklala.

New James Bond director admits 'doubts' about Daniel Craig

LONDON –  The director of the new James Bond movie said he initially had doubts about Daniel Craig being cast in the role of the legendary British spy.

James Bond

Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes admitted his concern at the media launch of the 23rd Bond movie, "Skyfall."

Speaking at Pinewood Studios, he said, "I was one of the people who said I didn't think he was the right casting. At the time, I was asked in an interview and I said, 'I'm not sure, I would advise him not to do it'."
Mendes, who directed Craig alongside Jude Law in 2002 movie "Road To Perdition," admitted he was wrong.
"I watched him go through that intense pressure and come through that with flying colors," Mendes said. "I bumped into him after 'Casino Royale' and I was so excited to see him as Bond. It was great to watch him come through that and prove the doubters wrong."

Craig said that working with Mendes for the second time -- and the first on a Bond film -- had helped him deal with the pressures of the role.

"I have got an awful lot to worry about when making a movie like this -- it's another level making a Bond movie," Craig said.

He added, "Sam has allowed me to forget about that and concentrate on the job. I have been able to remember why I love this job."

Audi said to be set to buy Ducati for $1.1 billion

Audi is poised to purchase Italian motorcycle maker Ducati from owner Investindustrial for about 860 million euros ($1.1 billion), a person familiar with the matter said.

Audi has reached an agreement with Investindustrial to buy the maker of luxury motorbikes, with VW's supervisory board set to approve the deal on Wednesday, said the person, who declined to be identified discussing the private negotiations.

Audi and Investindustrial declined to comment. At that price the deal, minus debt, would value Ducati at about seven times last year's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Ducati's total liabilities are less than 200 million euros, buyout firm Investindustrial said last month.

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, who turned 75 today, has long coveted the brand, publicly expressing interest in buying Ducati in April 2008 before eventually losing out to Investindustrial.

The purchase will make Ducati the 11th brand in VW's portfolio, alongside super-car marques Lamborghini and Bugatti and heavy-duty truck manufacturers Scania AB and MAN SE.

"Ducati is one of the finest machines you can buy but strategically it's insignificant for Volkswagen," said Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst with IHS Automotive. "Its revenue is more than Lamborghini's and Bugatti's combined, but to the automotive operations, it's a mere accessory."

BMW competition

Ducati would complement Audi's luxury-car lineup with products such as the $28,000 Superbike 1199 Panigale S Tricolore and expand the brand's competition with BMW, which makes BMW and Husqvarna motorcycles.

Ducati, which last year sold about 42,000 motor bikes, had revenue for 2011 of 480 million euros.

For Volkswagen, the deal would mean an entry into the motorcycle business and gaining another asset in Italy after buying super-car brand Lamborghini and Italdesign Giugiaro. Piech has also expressed interest in the past in Fiat's Alfa Romeo brand.

Hero MotoCorp Ltd., India's biggest motorcycle maker, had also expressed interest in Ducati after Investindustrial made it known in February that it planned to sell the company. Daimler reiterated on Tuesday that it's not interested in acquiring Ducati.

Ducati, which was founded in 1926, sells the Superbike, Monster, Streetfighter, Hypermotard, Multistrada and the new Diavel models in 65 countries. Over the past 60 years it has won 17 manufacturer's World Championship titles, most recently winning the 2011 World Superbike Championship title.

Suu Kyi to visit Norway, UK after 24 yrs in Myanmar

Yangon: Nobel Peace Prize laureate and newly elected lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi will travel outside Myanmar for the first time in 24 years after accepting invitations to visit Norway and Britain in June, her party said on Wednesday.
Her travel caps months of dramatic change in Myanmar, including a historic by-election on April 1 that won her a seat in a year-old parliament that replaced nearly five decades of oppressive military rule. 

Her trip will include a visit to British city Oxford, where she attended university in the 1970s, said National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesman Nyan Win.

"But I don't know the exact date yet," Nyan Win said, adding he did not know which country she would visit first. She has previously indicated that it would be Norway.

Suu Kyi, 66, was first detained in 1989, and spent 15 of the next 21 years in detention until her release from house arrest in November 2010, refused to leave the country during the brief periods when she was not held by authorities, for fear of not being allowed to return.

She won one of her party's 43 seats in this month's by-election following a series of reforms under President Thein Sein, a former general, including the release of political prisoners, more media freedom, dialogue with ethnic militias and an exchange rate unification seen crucial to fixing the economy.
'Great progress'

Suu Kyi was invited to visit Britain when she met Prime Minister David Cameron in Yangon on Friday. At the time, she said the fact that she would consider the offer, rather than reject it outright, showed "great progress" had been achieved in Myanmar.

"Two years ago I would have said thank you for the invitation, but sorry," she added.

Suu Kyi's long refusal to leave Myanmar characterized her steely determination to defy the ruling junta, which offered to release her from house arrest to be with her late husband, Michael Aris, who died of cancer in Britain in 1999.

Their story was played out on the big screen late last year in the film "The Lady", as she is affectionately known, with Malaysian action star Michelle Yeoh playing Suu Kyi.

The daughter of assassinated independence hero Aung San visited Myanmar in April 1988 to take care of her dying mother, Khin Kyi, a former ambassador to India and Nepal.

Her NLD went on to win by a landslide a 1990 election for a constitution-drafting assembly, but the military ignored the result, leading to a two-decade political stalemate between the junta and Suu Kyi's opposition.

Agni-V to be test fired today

Taking a major leap forward in missile technology and military deterrent capability, India is all set to test fire its 5,000 km range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-5 today from a test range off the coast of Odisha. 

The test fire of the missile will be conducted today from a test range in Wheeler island off the coast of Odisha. 

Preparations have reached their last stage to conduct maiden flight of the missile, Defence Ministry officials said. 

DRDO Chief V K Saraswat had recently said the missile is being integrated at various facilities for the test launch which will be witnessed by military officials and other agencies which participated in its development.
Only the US, Russia, France and China possess the capability to operate an ICBM. 

DRDO plans to conduct more such tests of the missile over the next one year after studying and analyzing the parameters achieved in each subsequent trial. 

On the timeline fixed for fully developing Agni-5, Saraswat had said another one year of testing will be involved. 

In November last year, DRDO had successfully test fired the 3,500 km range Agni-4 missile giving muscle to India's deterrent capability against the military adversaries. 

DRDO has also placed necessary equipments to collect data on the trajectory and flight of the missile and other necessary data which will be studied further for its future development. 

Agni-5 will be a three-stage, all solid fuel powered, 17-metre tall missile with capability to carry various forms of payload, officials said.

Yahoo's 1Q results show progress under new CEO

Yahoo's first-quarter results showed signs of progress that may help boost the credibility of recently hired CEO Scott Thompson as he tries to turn around the long-sputtering Internet company.


The strides announced Tuesday were small compared with the huge gains that rivals such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. have been reaping as advertisers shift more of their budgets to the Internet.

Nevertheless, Yahoo's showing for the first three months of the year included an elusive breakthrough. The company's revenue increased from the prior year for the first time since the U.S. economy was sinking into the depths of the Great Recession in the autumn of 2008. It broke a streak of 13 consecutive quarterly declines in Yahoo's net revenue _ the amount of money that the company keeps after paying commissions to its ad partners.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but it's an important milestone for us,'' Tim Morse, Yahoo's chief financial officer, said in an interview.

Yahoo's earnings also rose in the first quarter, but that's not a new phenomenon. The company's net income had also been rising under Thompson's predecessor, tough-talking Carol Bartz, mostly because of cost cutting.

But Bartz never could produce a year-over-year increase in Yahoo's quarterly revenue before she was fired last September. Yahoo lured Thompson away from eBay Inc.'s online payment service, PayPal, three months ago.

In Thompson's first full quarter as CEO, Yahoo earned $286 million, or 23 cents per share. That represented a 28 percent increase from net income of $223 million, or 17 cents per share, at the same time last year.

The earnings for this year's quarter exceeded the average estimate of 17 cents per share among analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Thompson didn't spend much time crowing about the first-quarter revenue increase, probably because it was such a small gain. Net revenue totaled $1.08 billion, an increase of $13 million, or 1 percent, from the same time last year.

Google's first quarter net revenue, in contrast, soared by 24 percent from last year to $8.14 billion. The overall Internet ad market in the U.S. increased by about 23 percent, according to the research firm eMarketer.

In a Tuesday conference call, Thompson assured analysts he won't be happy until Yahoo's revenue is keeping pace with the rest of the Internet ad market.

"Yahoo must be nimble, responsive and act with a real sense of urgency,'' Thompson said on the call. ``We have to think and to move like a growth company.''

Investors evidently liked what they saw in the numbers and what they heard from Thompson. Yahoo shares rose 43 cents, or nearly 3 percent, to $15.44 in Tuesday's extended trading. The stock hasn't traded above $20 since the third quarter of 2008 _ the last time Yahoo's revenue climbed from the previous year.

The vote of confidence comes as Thompson tries to ward off a rebellion from one of Yahoo's largest shareholders, Daniel Loeb, who is waging a campaign to gain four seats on the company's board of directors.

Yahoo is trying to bring in more money with fewer workers and products. Earlier this month, Thompson announced the largest layoffs in Yahoo's 17-year history in a cost-cutting move that will save the company about $375 million annually. The housecleaning will jettison 2,000 employees, or 14 percent of Yahoo's workforce.

Jet Airways, IndiGo dump MakeMyTrip in protest against opaque fares scheme

Jet Airways and budget carrier IndiGo, which fly almost half the total air-passengers of the country, have pulled out inventory from Nasdaq-listed website in protest against the 'opaque fares' scheme the portal deployed on its website.
Jet Airways

The move came even as the portal claimed that it had absolved itself from such practices, after the government disallowed airlines from participating in such schemes.

'Opaque fares' was a scheme offered by a few travel portals such as and, which offered heavily discounted air tickets without disclosing the airline name until the payment was made. However, the country's aviation regulator DGCA had directed all airlines to "immediately withdraw" participation from such schemes through a directive on March 28.

IndiGo, India's second largest airline by market share, sent out an official statement on Tuesday saying it has withdrawn all content from as "the arbitrary display of fares and opaque pricing is anti consumer and in violation of DGCA norms and directives."

The airline President Aditya Ghosh, in a text message, further said, "We have raised this with MMT on several occasions but unfortunately, there has been no resolution. We were, therefore, left with no choice. IndiGo can't be seen supporting a blatant violation of the law and something that is apparently anti-consumer."

Meanwhile, Jet Airways, which had earlier called opaque fares a scam and had threatened to pull out inventory from last month, also confirmed the move.

"Jet Airways has not pulled out its inventory from However, we have limited the inventory available to them for sale," the airline spokesperson said through a text message.

A person from the travel industry, who did not want to be identified, however, said that these protesting airlines are deploying pressure tactics to make the travel portal drop Kingfisher Airlines from its list. "You will soon see everything fall back into place. These airlines are trying to thwart ailing Kingfisher's chances," he said.

The aim of this scheme (opaque fares), described variously as discount or special fares by the portals, was largely to get rid of tickets of Kingfisher Airlines, a debt-laden carrier. Some passengers, unaware that they were buying Kingfisher tickets, have subsequently been booked on flights that have later been cancelled.

Meanwhile, an official statement from said that all fares are displayed with the approval of participating airlines.

"We would like to maintain as before that fares and inventory on our website is controlled by the airlines. All the fares are displayed as per the guidelines received and approved by airlines, including the special fares that has been approved by the participating airlines. As India's leading online travel agency, MakeMyTrip strives to give customers the best quality of services and value based offerings," the company said in an emailed response.

iPhone + Cute Puppy = i-Puppy

Some people love their iPhones. Some people love their puppies. Bandai Co., Ltd., which specializes in character-related products from toys to costumes to various Pokemon snacks and gadgets, has figured out a way to blend the two, with its new “Smart Pet”– a kind of i-Puppy.

iPhone + Cute Puppy = i-Puppy

It starts with the robotic body of a dog not quite seven inches tall. Owners download a Smart Pet app onto to their iPhone or iPod touch. Then they nestle it between the floppy ears of the robot, and the iPhone becomes the dog’s face and brain.

The machine then transforms into an animated robotic dog, which will recognize its “owner,” can be “fed,” do more than one hundred tricks, and for all intents and purposes be a man’s best friend–without the necessary daily walks, vet visits, dog chow, and pooper scoopers that a flesh dog would require. (It’s reminiscent of Sony Corp.’s much-beloved Aibo, and has similarities to Bandai’s turn-of-the century digital pet, Tamagotchi.

And the mechanical Sparky can do all sorts of things real dogs can’t. It can help charge the iPhone, serve as an alarm clock, and, should a call happen to come in while the owner is playing with the pet, turn into a hands-free phone set. In another less-normal canine feature, the Smart Pet’s face is removable, so users can take it outside without the body, legs, and tail of the dog. In addition, owners with two Smart Pets—they run in white and black—can use the communication function to synchronize the two dogs as they dance and sing.

The battery-charged Smart Pet is designed so that the robotic dog “learns” more tricks, games, and facial expressions as its owner continues to use it, “playing” chores like feeding the pooch, simulating the relationship between a real dog an its owner. Smart Pets also have a mic and camera installed inside that enable them to do various tricks at the owners’ beck and call.

Smart Pets will run from Y7,800 yen starting April 28. Bandai expects its “completely innovative and new” not-so-furry friend to “not once bore its owners throughout the day,” according to its promotional video. As of now, the Smart Pet will only be available in Japan.

Tsunami unlikely after 8.6 earthquake hits Indonesia

Jakarta: A tsunami watch was issued for countries across the Indian Ocean after a 8.6-magnitude earthquake, the eight worst in the last 100 years, hit waters off Indonesia on Wednesday, triggering widespread panic as residents along coastlines fled to high ground in cars and on the backs of motorcycles. But earthquake and tsunami experts say that quake was horizontal and not vertical, lessening the threat of a tsunami. The National Disaster Management Authority in India said that there was no likelihood of tsunami being formed anywhere in the Indian Ocean. 

Tsunami unlikely after 8.6 earthquake hits Indonesia
Tsunami unlikely after 8.6 earthquake hits Indonesia
The US Geological Survey said the 8.6-magnitude quake was centered 20 miles (33 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor around 269 miles (434 kilometers) from Aceh's provincial capital. 

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami watch was in effect for Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore. 

According to earlier reports the tsunami waves were likely to be more than 6 metres high. A tsunami watch means there is the potential for a tsunami, not that one is imminent. 

Said, an official at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency who goes by only one name, said a tsunami warning has been issued for cities all along the coast of Sumatra island. Residents in Banda Aceh are already moving to higher ground. 

There was chaos in the streets, with fierce shaking continuing for nearly four minutes. 

"I was in the shower on the fifth floor of my hotel," Timbang Pangaribuan told El Shinta radio from the city of Medan. "We all ran out. ... We're all standing outside now." 

He said one guest was injured when he jumped from the window of his room. 

The tremor was felt in Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India. High-rise apartments and offices on Malaysia's west coast shook for at least a minute. 

Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center issued an evacuation order to residents in six provinces along the country's west coast, including the popular tourist destinations of Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga. Indonesia agency also reported an aftershock of 6.5 quake Richter scale in Aceh. 

Tremors were also felt in Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Patna, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar and several other cities on the eastern coast of India. India has also issued tsunami warning for coastal regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands following the earthquake. 

The Chennai port has been shut down due to tsunami alert. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have already been rushed to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. 

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. 

A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, nearly three quarter of them in Aceh.

8.7 quake hits Indonesia, India issues tsunami warning for Andaman and Nicobar Islands

India issued a tsunami warning for Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the eastern coast on Wednesday after a 8.7 magnitude quake in Indonesia shook major cities, causing panic and sending people fleeing onto the streets.

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Service issued a red
high-level warning for the islands, and also put out lower alerts for the coasts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

India's tsunami warning center said waves measuring up to 6 metres were expected along parts of its eastern coast, which was heavily hit by the 2004 tsunami. Smaller waves were expected to hit the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was centred 33 kilometres beneath the ocean floor around 495 kilometres from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

Said, an official at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency who goes by only one name, said a tsunami warning has been issued.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.

A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on December 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, nearly three quarter of them in Aceh

Huge quake hits Indonesia: Pictures

Earthquake sparks Indian Ocean tsumani alert

A massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra has triggered a tsumani alert around the Indian Ocean.

Indonesia has issued a tsunami warning after a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 8.9 hit waters off westernmost Aceh province.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 33km beneath the ocean floor around 495km from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

Said, an official at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency who goes by only one name, said a tsunami warning has been issued.

US monitors issued an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami watch but said it was not yet certain a giant wave had been generated.

"Earthquakes of this size have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean basin," the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.

A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on December 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, nearly three quarters of them in Aceh.

Massive earthquake hits Indonesia, tsunami alert sounded in Indian Ocean

An earthquake measuring 8.7 on Richter scale hit Indonesia's Aceh province. Indonesia issues tsunami warning as powerful quake hits off west coast. The mild tremors were also felt in Indian cities of Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and several other cities on the eastern coast.

According to reports, India too has issued Tsunami warnings for Nicobar islands and east India following the earthquake.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reportedly said it was not yet known whether a tsunami had been generated, but advised authorities to "take appropriate action".

The region is regularly hit by earthquakes. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 killed 170,000 people in Aceh.

Meanwhile, the US Geological Survey, which documents quakes worldwide, reportedly said the Aceh quake was centred 33km (20 miles) under the sea about 495km from Banda Aceh.

The tsunami centre's warning said quakes of such a magnitude "have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean basin".

8.7 quake hits Indonesia, tsunami warning issued

Indonesia’s geophysical agency has registered an 8.7 magnitude earthquake in the Aceh region, off the coast of northern Sumatra. A tsunami warning has been issued, the US Geological Survey reports.

­The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre is monitoring the situation in the Indian Ocean.

The closest city to the quake’s epicenter 33 km beneath ocean floor is provincial capital Banda Aceh with a population of over 220,000, some 500 kilometers away.

Tremors from the earthquake have been felt in Singapore, Thailand and southern India, Reuters witnesses said.

Major 8.7 magnitude earthquake hits Indonesia

Jakarta: A massive earthquake on Wednesday hit Indonesia’s Sumatra Islands forcing the authorities to issue a Tsunami warning. 

According to reports, the magnitude of the earthquake was measured to be 8.9 on the Richter Scale. 

However, it was later revised to be 8.7 on the Richter Scale by the USGS. The epicenter of the earthquake is said to be in Sumatra Islands. However, there are no reports of any major casualty or any large scale destruction of the property. 
The tremors of the high intensity quake also felt in northeastern and other region of the India including West Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Manipur. More details are awaited.

STUDY: Obama's health care law would raise deficit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reigniting a debate about the bottom line for President Barack Obama's health care law, a leading conservative economist estimates in a study to be released Tuesday that the overhaul will add at least $340 billion to the deficit, not reduce it.

Charles Blahous, who serves as public trustee overseeing Medicare and Social Security finances, also suggested that federal accounting practices have obscured the true fiscal impact of the legislation, the fate of which is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Officially, the health care law is still projected to help reduce government red ink. The Congressional Budget Office, the government's nonpartisan fiscal umpire, said in an estimate last year that repealing the law actually would increase deficits by $210 billion from 2012 to 2021.

The CBO, however, has not updated that projection. If $210 billion sounds like a big cushion, it's not. The government has recently been running annual deficits in the $1 trillion range.

The White house dismissed the study in a statement late Monday. Presidential assistant Jeanne Lambrew called the study "new math (that) fits the old pattern of mischaracterizations" about the health care law.

Blahous, in his 52-page analysis released by George Mason University's Mercatus Center, said, "Taken as a whole, the enactment of the (health care law) has substantially worsened a dire federal fiscal outlook.

"The (law) both increases a federal commitment to health care spending that was already unsustainable under prior law and would exacerbate projected federal deficits relative to prior law," Blahous said.

The law expands health insurance coverage to more than 30 million people now uninsured, paying for it with a mix of Medicare cuts and new taxes and fees.

Blahous cited a number of factors for his conclusion:

- The health care's law deficit cushion has been reduced by more than $80 billion because of the administration's decision not to move forward with a new long-term care insurance program that was part of the legislation. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program raised money in the short term, but would have turned into a fiscal drain over the years.

- The cost of health insurance subsidies for millions of low-income and middle-class uninsured people could turn out to be higher than forecast, particularly if employers scale back their own coverage.

- Various cost-control measures, including a tax on high-end insurance plans that doesn't kick in until 2018, could deliver less than expected.

The decision to use Medicare cuts to finance the expansion of coverage for the uninsured will only make matters worse, Blahous said. The money from the Medicare savings will have been spent, and lawmakers will have to find additional cuts or revenues to forestall that program's insolvency.

Under federal accounting rules, the Medicare cuts are also credited as savings to that program's trust fund. But the CBO and Medicare's own economic estimators already said the government can't spend the same money twice.

Blahous served in the George W. Bush White House from 2001-2009, rising to deputy director of the National Economic Council. He currently is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center.
His study was first reported late Monday by The Washington Post.


Sony to axe 10,000 jobs

TOKYO, JAPAN - Japan's Sony Corp is cutting 10,000 jobs, about 6% of its global workforce, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday, as new CEO Kazuo Hirai looks to steer the electronics and entertainment giant back to profit after four years in the red.

The job cuts would be the latest downsizing in Japan Inc where companies from cellphone maker NEC Corp to electronics firm Panasonic Corp are trimming costs in the face of a strong yen and competition from rivals like Apple and Samsung Electronics.

TV makers in particular have been hit hard by the tough business climate as well as sharp price falls, with Sony, Panasonic and Sharp expecting to have lost a combined $17 billion US in the fiscal year just ended.

Investors will closely monitor a briefing on Thursday by Hirai, who formally took over this month as chief executive from Howard Stringer, for further clues on how Sony plans to revamp its business.

"Under a new CEO, it's easier to cut jobs or go in a new direction," said Yuuki Sakurai, head of fund manager Fukoku Capital, which had around $7 billion US worth of assets under management as of end-March 2011.

"One of the things I'd like to see is that they shift their resources to other areas outside TVs ... If they stick to TVs, they may have to fight a war they may not be able to win."

The Nikkei said half of the latest round of job cuts would come from consolidating the firm's chemicals and small and midsize LCD operations.

Sony said last month it was selling a chemical products division, accounting for some 3,000 people, while on April 1 it merged its Sony Mobile display unit, which had about 2,000 workers, with the small LCD panel businesses of Toshiba Corp and Hitachi Ltd into a new firm called Japan Display.

The Nikkei said it was not clear how many of the cuts would take place in Japan or overseas.

As of end-March 2011, Sony had 168,200 employees on a consolidated basis, according to the company's website.

Sony may also ask its seven executive directors who served through the fiscal year to end-March, including Stringer, who is now chairman, to return their bonuses, the Nikkei said.

Sony declined to comment on the report.

Sony announced 16,000 job cuts in December 2008 after the global financial crisis battered demand for its products, but it has not managed to make a profit since then.

The company has forecast a 220 billion yen ($2.7 billion) net loss for the fiscal year just ended, hurt in large part by its ailing TV business.

Sony said last month that Hirai would keep direct charge of the TV business as part of a structural reorganization.

Sony shares closed up 0.6%, while the benchmark Nikkei average ended 1.5% lower. The stock has dropped more than 10% in the past 3 weeks since hitting a 7-month high.

Ancient skeleton linked to Polynesia

A human skeleton formally buried almost 8000 years ago on a small strategic island off China's coast is creating excitement that it may represent a direct line to the world's youngest race - New Zealand's Maori and Polynesians. 

Genetic evidence has long suggested Polynesians - including their youngest branch the Maori - derived from Taiwan's aboriginal people. 

Now the link may be made in the skeleton found on 400 square metre Liang Island, part of Taiwan controlled Matsu islands, within shelling range of China's Fujian Province. 

The skeleton was discovered by the Taiwanese military who were building a road on the unpopulated island. 

Taiwan's Council for Cultural Affairs says more scientific investigation is need after a local archaeological team exhumed the remains, believed to be 7900 years old. 

The bones are thought to have belonged to a male, around 167 centimetres tall, who was between 30 and 35 years of age at the time of his death.

"We will send the remains to the US and Germany for more professional accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating and DNA biochemistry analysis," the Council said in a statement. 

The head of the archaeological team, Chen Chung-yu, told Agence France-Presse the clue to the Polynesian link was in the burial. 

"Judging from the way the body was buried, it could be a person from what we now call the Austronesia language family," said Chen. 

Taiwan's aborigines belong to the same language family, as do the people who migrated through Melanesia, as the Lapita people, and out across the Pacific, reaching as far as Hawaii, Rapanui and New Zealand. 

Chen told AFP the body was buried in a foetal position like the one used by Taiwan's aborigines as late as the 20th century. 

The find, if proven, could link all Polynesians and Taiwanese aboriginal people to southern China. 

"The people of the Austronesian language family lived near the ocean and were very mobile," Chen told AFP. 

"They had developed some level of shipbuilding techniques that had already enabled them to sail far away from land."

China sets up rare earth body to streamline the sector

China has set up a rare earth association in a bid to streamline the sector's development, as it continues to face criticism over its policies.

Beijing has imposed quotas on exports of rare earth elements, a move which its critics say has pushed up prices. 

Last month, the US, Japan and the European Union filed a case at the World Trade Organization, challenging China's restrictions.

China produces more than 95% of the world's rare earth elements.

These elements are critical components in the manufacture of various high-tech products, including DVDs, mobile phones, flatscreen TVs and hybrid batteries. 

China's trading partners have alleged that Beijing has been trying to utilise its position as the world's biggest producer of rare earths to benefit domestic manufacturers.

They have argued that by limiting exports, Beijing has kept prices low for domestic buyers, while international firms have had to pay more.

It's also claimed that Beijing was trying to put pressure on international manufacturers to move to China.
The state new agency Xinhua said the new association was likely to help with efforts to cope with international trade frictions and disputes. 

'Clean up'
China has denied these allegations and said that it imposed the restrictions to ensure that excessive mining of these elements did not cause environmental damage. 

Su Bo, an industry vice minister, said Beijing is looking to further tighten its policies for the sector. 

"China will continue to clean up the rare earth industry, expand rare earth environmental controls, strengthen environmental checks, and implement stricter rare earth environmental policies," Su was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.

According to Xinhua, the association will have 155 members, including some of the biggest producers of rare earths, and report to the Ministry of Industry and Technology which regulates production of these elements.

North Korea moves rocket into place for launch

North Korea has moved into place a long-range rocket for a controversial launch later this month - amid reports it is also planning a nuclear test.

Pyongyang says the Unha-3 rocket, which it plans to launch between 12 and 16 April, will put a satellite into orbit.

But opponents of the move fear it is a disguised long-range missile test.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials say new satellite images suggest the North is preparing to carry out a third nuclear test.

The images show piles of earth and sand at the entrance of a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site, where tests of a nuclear bomb were previously carried out in 2006 and 2009, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports.

"Recent satellite images led us to conclude the North has been secretly digging a new underground tunnel in the nuclear test site... besides two others where the previous tests were conducted," one unnamed official told the AFP news agency.

North Korea has been under close scrutiny by its neighbours and the international community since Kim Jong-un became leader of the secretive state following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011.

Pyongyang had agreed in February to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid. But the deal was put on hold last month after the North announced its rocket launch plans. 

'Peaceful purposes'
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas was among a group of foreign journalists taken by train to the Sohae satellite station at Tongchang-ri, on the country's north-west coast, on Sunday to see the final preparations for the rocket launch.

All three stages of the rocket were visibly in position at the launch pad.

Station manager Jang Myong-jim told reporters that preparations were on track and fuelling would begin soon, without giving exact timings.

He said the 100kg (220 pound) satellite is designed to send back images and information that will be used for weather forecasts as well as surveys of North Korea's natural resources.

But should the country be putting its effort into a satellite launch when it cannot feed its own people, our correspondent asked. 

''If we don't develop our own technology, we will become slaves,'' the director of the launch site told the BBC. ''We need our own technology to be an advanced country, to be a powerful space nation.'' 

Pyongyang has previously said the launch, for "peaceful purposes", is to mark the centennial of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-sung.

But the United States and North Korea's neighbours say it contravenes UN resolutions that were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009. 

Japan and South Korea have warned they will shoot the rocket down if it strays into their territory.

The North says any of those responses would be considered hostile acts. But it seems determined to go ahead even if it sets of a dangerous cascade of events, says our correspondent.

Syrian rebels reject new demands as ceasefire nears

Rebels in Syria have rejected a last-minute demand by the government, made just 48 hours ahead of a proposed ceasefire which now looks set to fail.

Damascus on Sunday called for written guarantees from rebel fighters to end attacks and a promise from foreign states not to fund them.

The Free Syrian Army said it backed the UN-Arab League truce, but refused to meet the government's demands.

Violence has risen ahead of Tuesday's deadline for the ceasefire to start.

Activists said nearly 70 people were killed on Sunday, bringing the weekend death toll over the weekend to at least 180, most of them civilians.

On Monday, Turkey said a Turkish translator and two Syrian nationals were wounded overnight at the Kilis refugee camp by shots fired from the Syrian side of the border.

Also on Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem is visiting Russia - Syria's key ally - for what may now be crucial talks on the crisis.

Syria's opposition says the new demands are a ploy by President Bashar al-Assad to derail the peace plan mediated by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The Free Syrian Army's Col Riyad al-Asaad told Associated Press news agency that while his troops were "committed" to the plan, they did not recognise the Assad government "and for that reason we will not give guarantees".

The ceasefire is due to come into effect on Tuesday after government troops pull back from populated areas.
But on Sunday, the Syrian foreign ministry cast new doubt on the agreement, saying it did not want the rebels to exploit any troop withdrawal to reorganise and rearm themselves.

"To say that Syria will pull back its forces from towns on April 10 is inaccurate, Kofi Annan having not yet presented written guarantees on the acceptance by armed terrorist groups of a halt to all violence."

It said that the regime was also awaiting written guarantees from the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey "on stopping their funding to terrorist groups".

"Syria is not going to repeat what happened in the presence of Arab observers when armed forces left towns," the foreign ministry said, referring to a monitoring mission by the Arab League earlier this year which failed to end the violence.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said: "Syria has a plan for military pullback already in place and being implemented, but completing and achieving the main goal would definitely require the guarantees from the other side and those supporting them."

Meanwhile, Mr Annan called the recent escalation of violence "unacceptable" and appealed to the Syrian government to abide by its commitments. 

"This is a time when we must all urgently work towards a full cessation of hostilities, providing the space for humanitarian access and creating the conditions for a political process," he said.

The shooting into the Kilis refugee camp is the first such attack since Turkey began housing refugees. Turkey called in the Syrian charge d'affaires to protest.

Mr Annan will reportedly visit Syrian refugees on the Turkish border on Tuesday.

A Turkish diplomatic source told AFP: "The visit will only last a few hours, ahead of Annan's trip to Iran."

The BBC's Jonathan Head, on the Turkey-Syria border, says this is a necessary move by Kofi Annan as there is a diplomatic need for him to show his concern for those who have fled.

Mr Muallem is scheduled to travel to Moscow on Monday for talks and correspondents say the focus may now fall on Russia to try to salvage the Annan plan.

On Monday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin called on the government and opposition in Syria to "honour their commitment of ceasefire and withdrawal of troops".

However, the violence showed no sign of abating on Monday, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group reporting that at least six members of the Syrian security forces had been killed in clashes close to the Turkish border.

The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Mr Assad's rule which began more than a year ago.

The Syrian government says 2,000 security personnel have been killed in the uprising and blames the violence on "armed gangs" and "terrorists".

Winner Of Record US Lottery Prize Claims Cash

One of three winners of the biggest lottery jackpot in history - the $656m Mega Millions prize in the US - has come forward to claim their share of the cash.

Lottery officials have said the lucky ticketholder from Kansas, who has chosen to remain anonymous, made themselves known on Friday.

Opting for a lower cash prize rather than a higher pre-tax amount of $218.6m (£137.7m) paid out over 26 years, the winner will pocket $110.5m (£69.6m) after taxes and fees.

Cara Sloan-Ramos, from the Kansas Lottery said: "They checked their ticket on Monday and realised that, 'holy cow, we think we have the winning ticket'.

"Then the winner checked it over and over and over, just to make sure, and then they contacted us."
The only detail that has been released is that the ticket was purchased at a Casey's General Store on Main Street in Ottawa. The shop is to be awarded $10,000 (£6,300).

Lottery officials have said that three winning tickets were bought - one in Kansas, one in Illinois and one in Maryland - but neither of the other winners have been confirmed.

A row has broken out in Maryland after a member of staff at a McDonald's in Baltimore claimed to have bought a winning ticket outside of a syndicate with 14 colleagues.

Mirlande Wilson, a 37-year-old woman of Haitian descent, has said she has no plans to share the jackpot - and also claims to have hidden the winning ticket.

However, lottery officials in the state have said that so far no one has presented a valid winning ticket to their offices.

The Mega Millions jackpot became the largest in history on March 30 when it reached $656m (£409m).

The lottery is one of the biggest multi-state games in America and is played in 42 states, plus Washington, DC and the US Virgin Islands.

The odds of winning were one in about 176 million, according to the official Mega Millions website.

More Than 100 Killed In Pakistan Avalanche

A devastating avalanche that engulfed a Pakistan army base in the Himalayas has left 135 feared dead, the Pakistan army says.

A security official told Sky sources more than 15 bodies have been recovered from the Gayari sector of Siachen in the country's north.

More than 12 hours after the disaster at the entrance to the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram mountain range, no survivors had been found.

Troops with sniffer dogs, aided by helicopters, have been trying to find signs of survivors in the snow.

But snow left by the avalanche was up to 80 feet (25 metres) deep over an area a kilometre wide, state television quoted army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas as saying.

A team of doctors and paramedics has also been sent to the mountainous area, a security official said.

Pakistan High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan told Sky News that a huge rescue operation is underway.

"It is a very horrendous tragedy," he said.

"Attempts are being made to rescue as many [soldiers] as possible. The terrain is most difficult... it is the highest battlefield in the world."

State-run Pakistan television said rescuers were facing difficulties getting heavy machinery to the far-flung area.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said: "At six o'clock this morning this avalanche hit... over 100 soldiers and personnel are trapped.

"We are waiting for news and keeping our fingers crossed."

In a statement, Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed his shock at the incident, which he said "would in no way would undermine the high morale of soldiers and officers."

The Kashmir region - of which Siachen is a part - is divided between fierce rivals Pakistan and India, and is claimed by both in full.

Thousands of Pakistani and Indian troops are based on the Siachen Glacier, which is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level.

More soldiers have died from natural disasters than actual fighting in the region.

Avalanches and landslides frequently block roads and leave communities isolated in the mountains of Pakistan, neighbouring Afghanistan and Kashmir.

In February, at least 16 Indian soldiers on duty in the mountains of Kashmir were killed when two avalanches swept through army camps.

Most of the time on Siachen, the bad weather prevents any troop movement and despite the heavy deployment, clashes are generally low-level skirmishes involving a few dozen troops.

Exclusive - Egypt's Islamist candidate says IMF deal unlikely

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has warned the government it will not support an IMF loan unless the terms are changed or it moves aside and allows a new administration to oversee how the funds are spent, its candidate for president said on Sunday.
The government has been negotiating a $3.2 billion (2.0 billion pounds) loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it avert a balance of payments crisis caused by the political and economic turmoil of the last year, and an IMF technical team is now in Cairo.

The IMF has said that before it agrees to a loan, the government must first sell the plan to the country's political groupings, especially the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, which won nearly half the seats in the new parliament.

"We told them (the government), you have two choices. Either postpone this issue of borrowing and come up with any other way of dealing with it without our approval, or speed up the formation of a government," Khairat al-Shater said in an interview.

He said he realised the country's finances were precarious and a severe crunch could come by early to mid-May as the end of the fiscal year approached, but that this was the government's problem to resolve. Egypt's fiscal year runs to June 30.

"It is not logical that I approve a loan that the transitional government would take for two or three months, then demand that I, as a permanent government, repay," he told Reuters.

The government has been financing much of its fiscal deficit by borrowing from domestic banks, which are reaching the limits of their ability to lend.

"I have to agree to a loan, somebody else gets to spend it, then I have to pay it back? That is unjust."

The Brotherhood could also accept a loan if the size of the initial disbursement were reduced so that most of the funds were paid out after the completion of a presidential election in June, when a new government is scheduled to take power, Shater said.

"We are not opposed in principle. We are opposed to the timing and the method of implementation," he said.
"If it were $500 million instead of a billion and a bit, and there was a clear plan on how it would be spent, we might take another look at it," Shater said.


Planning Minister Faiza Abu El-Naga said on April 2 that she expected the government to sign a memorandum of understanding with the IMF within a few weeks and seal a final agreement by June, when half of the loan would be disbursed.

Egypt has spent more than $20 billion in foreign reserves since last year's uprising to prop up its currency, limiting its slide to only 3.65 percent against the dollar since January 2011 despite the loss of some of the country's main sources of foreign exchange.

Egypt's reserves fell another $600 million in March to $15.12 billion. This is equivalent to less than three months worth of imports and includes $4 billion in gold bullion the government would be reluctant to draw down, economists say.

Shater, a businessman, said he strongly supported a market economy. He added that a lack of government resources would force Egypt to rely almost exclusively on private investment to build infrastructure over the coming two to three years.

The formation of a permanent coalition government would benefit Egypt in this regard as well, Shater said.

"When we met with lots of investors around the world, all of them said they would not begin investing until there was a permanent government or presidential elections. But in this current situation, nobody wants to enter the country," he said.

President unconscious after heart attack

Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika was unconscious in hospital Thursday after suffering a heart attack. The 78-year-old vowed two weeks ago that he would govern until his term ends in 2014, despite demands for his resignation.

Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika was unconscious in hospital after suffering a heart attack Thursday, amid mounting discontent with his leadership and demands for his resignation. 

State radio said the 78-year-old president, who is in critical condition, would be airlifted to South Africa for specialist treatment later Thursday, as officials called for the people of Malawi to pray for his recovery. 

A senior official at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the political capital Lilongwe said Mutharika collapsed at his official residence and was rushed to the hospital where he is being treated in an intensive care unit. 

"He had a cardiac arrest, he is still unconscious since 9:00 am (0700 GMT)," the official said on condition of anonymity, describing his condition as critical. 

Mutharika has been visited by senior politicians from his cabinet, as well as his wife and children, hospital sources said. 

"When I first heard the state president had been taken ill, I quickly wished him quick recovery," said Vice President Joyce Banda, who is currently at odds with Mutharika. 

"I wish to ask all Malawians to pray for the quick recovery of our state president," said Banda, who fell out of favour with the president a year after being elected as his running mate in 2009. 

She was the first official to make any announcement about the president's health, and earlier state media had not broadcast any news about his condition in an information blackout that lasted most of the day. 

But later state radio said he would be flown to South Africa "to receive further specialist attention".
South African foreign affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela declined to comment on Mutharika's treatment in the country. 

The constitution stipulates that the vice president assume executive power in the president's absence, but it's not yet clear if that will happen given the tensions between Mutharika and Banda, who was kicked out of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2010. 

The president had also apparently been grooming his brother, foreign minister Peter Mutharika, as a successor. 

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist who first came to power in 2004, was re-elected with a sweeping majority in 2009 as president of the poor southern African country. 

But his second term has been marred by anti-government protests, with activists accusing him of mismanaging the economy and trampling on democratic freedoms. 

Two weeks ago he vowed to govern until his term ends in 2014 after a leading rights group threatened unrest if he did not resign or call a referendum on his leadership. 

"I would like to say that Bingu doesn't run away from work, Bingu doesn't desert responsibility even if the going gets tough," the president told a rally. 

Last month, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), made up of religious groups, rights activists and the opposition, demanded that Mutharika quit office or call the referendum within three months. 

The group accused him of mismanaging the economy and trampling on democratic freedoms, saying the country was on the brink of becoming a failed state. 

Critics have lambasted new laws to restrain the media, limit protests, and restrict lawsuits against the government. 

Political tensions erupted into rioting in July, when police shot 19 people dead. 

Ahead of the riots, alarmed by his restrictions on political freedoms, donors had already begun suspending aid, with former colonial power Britain slashing its financial support. 

The leader presided over steady economic growth but has struggled to manage foreign currency reserves, which have also been hit by a drop in earnings from the country's main export tobacco. 

His refusal to listen to criticism, whether from civil society or the International Monetary Fund, has earned him the moniker "Mr Know-it-All".