Saturday, November 29, 2008

Siege at Taj Mahal hotel over in India, death toll up to 195

MUMBAI, India — Indian commandos killed the last remaining gunmen holed up at a luxury Mumbai hotel Saturday, ending a 60-hour rampage through India's financial capital by suspected Islamic militants that killed 195 people and rocked the nation.

Orange flames and black smoke engulfed the landmark 565-room Taj Mahal hotel after dawn Saturday as Indian forces ended the siege in a hail of gunfire, just hours after elite commandos stormed a Jewish center and found six hostages dead.

A dozen suspected terrorists hit 10 sites around Mumbai on Wednesday night, and the last holdout was the Taj hotel. "There were three terrorists, we have killed them," said J.K. Dutt, director general of India's elite National Security Guard commando unit.

At least 16 foreigners and 20 soldiers and police were among the dead. Some 295 people were also wounded in the violence.

Explosions continued to rock the hotel after the battle as soldiers blasted open doors and detonated explosives found on the gunmen as they swept the hotel once more looking for survivors and booby traps left by the militants.

Some hotel guests were still believed to be in their rooms. "They are still scared, so even when we request them to come out and identify ourselves, they are naturally afraid," said Dutt.

Outside, anxious relatives stood in groups hoping family members trapped inside would walk out. Many had been keeping a vigil since the attack began.

With the end of one of the most brazen terror attacks in India's history, attention turned from the military operation to questions of who was behind the attack and the heavy toll on human life.

The bodies of New York Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, were found at the Jewish center. Their son, Moshe, who turned 2 on Saturday, was scooped up by an employee Thursday as she fled the building. Two Israelis and another American were also killed in the house, said Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin, a spokesman for the Chabad Lubavitch movement, which ran the center.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry later said the body of an unidentified third woman was also found inside the five-story building.

Among the foreigners killed were Americans, Germans, Canadians, Israelis and nationals from Britain, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia and Singapore.

By Saturday morning the death toll was at 195, the deadliest attack in India since the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai killed 257 people. But officials said the toll from the three days of carnage was likely to rise as more bodies were brought out of the hotels.

Even as the battle ended, Indians began burying their dead, many of them security force members killed fighting the gunmen.

In the southern city of Bangalore, black-clad commandos formed an honor guard as the flag-draped coffin of Maj. Gen. Unnikrishnan, who was killed in the fighting at the Taj, passed by. "He gave up his own life to save the others," said Dutt.

Bhushan Gagrani, the Maharashtra state government spokesman, told The Associated Press at least 11 gunmen had been killed and one captured alive after the attack that shook the city and the country.

"There is a limit a city can take. This is a very, very different kind of fear. It will be sometime before things get back to normal," said Ayesha Dar, a 33-year-old homemaker.

Authorities scrambled to identify those responsible for the unprecedented attack, with Indian officials pointing across the border at rival Pakistan, and Pakistani leaders promising to cooperate in the investigation. A team of FBI agents was ordered to fly to India to help investigate.

The attack was claimed by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen, but Indian officials pointed the finger at neighboring Pakistan.

On Saturday the Indian navy said it was investigating whether a trawler found drifting off the coast of Mumbai, with a bound corpse on board, was used in the attack.

Navy spokesman Capt. Manohar Nambiar said the trawler, called "Kuber," was found Thursday and brought to Mumbai. Television footage showed a bound body lying face down on the deck.

Media reports said the man was the boat's skipper and had been killed when the trawler was hijacked after it sailed from Karachi, Pakistan. That could not be immediately confirmed.

Indian security officers believe many of the gunmen may have reached the city from a boat using a black and yellow rubber dinghy found near the site of the attacks.

India's foreign minister said the blame appeared to point to Pakistan. "According to preliminary information, some elements in Pakistan are responsible for Mumbai terror attacks," Pranab Mukherjee told reporters.

Jaiprakash Jaiswal, India's home minister, said the captured gunmen had been identified as Pakistani.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani insisted on Friday that his country was not involved. On Saturday Pakistan withdrew a pledge to send its spy chief to India to help probe the attacks.

Zahid Bashir, a spokesman for Gilani, told The Associated Press on Saturday a lower-ranking intelligence official would travel instead.

President-elect Barack Obama said he was closely monitoring the situation. "These terrorists who targeted innocent civilians will not defeat India's great democracy, nor shake the will of a global coalition to defeat them," he said in a statement.

The attackers were well-prepared, apparently scouting some targets ahead of time and carrying large bags of almonds to keep up their energy during a long siege. One backpack found contained 400 rounds of ammunition.

India has been shaken repeatedly by terror attacks blamed on Muslim militants in recent years, but this was more sophisticated - and more brazen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Indian troops storm Jewish centre

Indian commandos are storming a Jewish centre in Mumbai, where gunmen are holding a number of people hostage.

Troops abseiled from a helicopter into the building, as a ground assault was launched. Gunfire was later heard.

Security forces are still clearing gunmen from two luxury hotels, after Wednesday's attacks that killed more than 130 people and injured 300.

The army says it is close to taking control of the Oberoi Trident hotel, after freeing at least 30 hostages.

Media reports say that the majority of those rescued were foreigners.

Meanwhile, security forces are still moving room to room at the Taj Mahal Palace.

An army commander said nearly all guests and staff had been evacuated and that the security operation would be "wrapped up in a few hours".

At first light helicopters swooped over the Nariman House business and residential complex in south Mumbai, which houses the Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch.

Commandos initially dropped "thunder flashes" or smoke bombs to create confusion and then several troops abseiled down ropes to secure the roof.

Commandos abseil from a helicopter onto the roof of the Jewish centre in Mumbai
At first light helicopters swooped over the building housing the Jewish Centre
The BBC's David Loyn say they have been tentatively moving down through the building trying not to cause casualties among the hostages.

Earlier, a woman and child were seen leaving the building, but it was unclear whether they had managed to escape or were released.

The child was identified as the two-year-old son of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holzberg, the main representative at the ultra-orthodox outreach centre. There was no word on the rabbi's fate.

In a separate development, the Indian navy has taken control of two Pakistani merchant navy ships and is questioning their crews after witnesses said some of the militants came ashore on small speed boats.

Conflicting clues

Gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades targeted at least seven sites in Mumbai late on Wednesday, opening fire indiscriminately on crowds at a major railway station, the two hotels, the Jewish centre, a hospital and a cafe frequented by foreigners.

The attacks are the worst in India's commercial capital since nearly 200 people were killed in a series of bombings in 2006.

On Thursday, the Indian prime minister said the government would "take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety and security of our citizens".

Mr Singh said the attackers were based "outside the country" and that India would not tolerate "neighbours" who provide a haven to militants targeting it.

Flames and black smoke billow from the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Mumbai, on 27/11/08

India has complained in the past that attacks on its soil have been carried out by groups based in Pakistan, although relations between the two countries have improved in recent years and Pakistani leaders were swift to condemn the latest attacks.

The Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba denied any role in the attacks.

A claim of responsibility has been made by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen.

Eyewitnesses at the hotels said the attackers were singling out British and American passport holders, which our security correspondent Frank Gardner says implies an Islamist motive - attacks inspired or co-ordinated by al-Qaeda.

But as investigators from other countries join the hunt, he says, most intelligence officials are keeping an open mind as the attacks have thrown up conflicting clues.

Co-ordinated, mass casualty attacks that target civilians and undefended buildings are very much in the al-Qaeda mould.

But our correspondent says al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the region tend to favour massive truck bombs driven into buildings by suicidal volunteers - that didn't happen in Mumbai.

He says al-Qaeda are also acutely media-savvy, filming their attacks and in the case of hostages, sometimes murdering them on camera. Again, that does not appear to have happened this time.

 Map of Mumbai showing location of attacks

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bank capital against risk rises

Mainly driven by three state-owned commercial banks (SCBs) that issued shares in favour of the government on their asset-liability position as on June 30, 2007, Bangladesh Bank (BB) said in its quarterly report.

The capital ratio is the percentage of a bank's capital to its risk-weighted assets. The capital requirement is a bank regulation, which sets a framework on how banks and depository institutions must handle their capital.

The RWCAR is defined as the ratio of capital covering core and supplementary capital to risk-weighted assets of the banks. As per BB requirements, the banks are required to maintain RWCAR at a minimum of 10 percent, with core capital (paid-up capital and statutory reserve) no less than 5 percent.

According to BB regulations on the weight of capital adequacy ratio, cash and government bonds have a zero percent risk weighting, and 20 percent for balances with private financial institutions, bilateral trade and export credits have a 50 percent risk weighting. All other types of assets (loans to private customers) have a 100 percent risk weighting.

RWCAR is the major indicator to gauze the health of the banking sector. An increase in the ratio means gaining higher capacity to weather any systemic shock in the banking sector.

RWCAR remained significantly above the regulatory requirement of 10 percent only for foreign commercial banks (FCBs) and marginally higher for private commercial banks (PCBs).

Still, SCBs lack the regulatory requirement despite a magical improvement in its RWCAR in June. The ratio position for SCBs rose to 6.3 percent in June 2008 from a negative 7.1 percent in December 2007.

The SCBs showed negative RWCAR for the last few years which turned positive in June 2008 after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the three SCBs (Sonali, Janata and Agrani banks) and the government.

Following the MoU, the SCBs issued shares in favour of the government on their asset-liability position as on June 30, 2007.

It is considered that the banks have created goodwill equivalent to their accumulated loss as per international financial principles. The goodwill is treated as an intangible asset, which is shown in valuation adjustment accounts of individual banks and would be amortised by profit in a given period.

“We have been given time until 2011 to amortise the liability by making profit,” said Syed Abu Naser Bukhtear Ahmed, managing director and chief executive officer of state-owned Agrani Bank Limited.

On the other hand, the specialised banks (SBs) showed positive RWCAR in the previous years, which turned negative in June 2008 since the cumulative losses of Bangladesh Krishi Bank and Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank are now shown in the negative retained earnings.

The losses were earlier shown as cumulative loss, which did not influence the ratio. The change in the accounting process of SBs has been introduced to ensure consistency with accounting procedures of other banks, according to the BB quarterly report.

Yahoo tells Microsoft: 'Buy us'

Mr Yang's suggestion also came hours after Google pulled out of an internet advertising partnership with Yahoo.

"To this day the best thing for Microsoft to do is buy Yahoo," said Mr Yang.

"I don't think that is a bad idea at all, at the right price whatever that price is. We're willing to sell the company," he told a packed ballroom at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco.

During the on stage conversation in front of a standing-room only crowd, Mr Yang was asked why the company did not take the $33 a share offered back in the summer. The company's share price closed Wednesday below $14 (£8.80) a share.

"They walked away from a public offering and we were ready to negotiate. We wanted to negotiate a deal. We felt we weren't that far apart.

"At the end of the day, they withdrew and they have since been clear about not wanting to buy the company," explained Mr Yang in a rare public appearance.

Microsoft did however come back and offer to buy the search part of Yahoo, but a deal was never struck.

Again Mr Yang said the offer then was not good enough but he still remained open to persuasion.

"As far as a search deal goes, we are open-minded about it. The last time we felt the deal was not a good one for the company but that doesn't mean we won't do one."

When asked if any negotiations were pending with the software giant, Mr Yang said "There is no new news."

Microsoft declined to comment.

And when quizzed about a possible deal with AOL, Mr Yang played coy with his host John Battelle.

"Buying AOL? I can't talk about that, John. If I told you I would have to kill you."


While Yahoo is still holding the door open to Microsoft, Google closed one earlier in the day on a deal the two companies had struck up over search advertising.

After four months of scrutiny from the Department of Justice, Google decided to back out of the agreement it had made to provide advertising around the internet portal's search results.

It had been estimated that the venture would have been worth around $800m (£500m) a year to Yahoo.

"Pressing ahead risked not only a protracted legal battle but also damage to relationships with valued partners," said Google's chief counsel David Drummond.

Mr Yang said he was "disappointed that they [Google] didn't want to defend this deal."

But he felt that in his mind, the government scuppered it.

"I really thought the government in this case does not understand our industry. They have a market definition that I think is too narrow and I think things like this tend to have unintended consequences for our entire industry.

"So I clearly don't agree with what the viewpoint is, but they are the government and they can decide on these things."

Mr Yang pointed out that the Google partnership was not crucial to its bottom line and that it was "incremental" to its overall growth plans.

Windows 7 knows where you are

Windows 7 has a new programming interface designed to make it a whole lot easier for software to figure out where in the world a PC and its user are located. That should make it easier for a whole new range of location-based services from...

finding nearby friends to LoJack-like PC tracking programs. Even search could be a whole lot better if the search engine knew where you were. Indeed, searchers often enter their city with their location to try and get just that benefit.
"There's so many times you have to enter in where you are at," said Microsoft program manager Alec Berntson.
At the same time, broader use of location-based services could also open up a range of privacy concerns.
Those issues--and how to handle them--was the subject of a discussion this week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here.
Microsoft does give a range of control options, such as turning off location services by default, as well as the ability to limit such services only to specific users or only to applications, as opposed to services that run in the background. However, the operating system doesn't allow users the option of letting only certain applications access your location. So, for example, if you turn it on for a mapping program, any other Windows application running could also access that information.
The reason, Microsoft officials say, is that Windows doesn't have a reliable means of determining that an application is what it says it is, so any attempt to limit the location to a specific application would be easily spoofable, Berntson said during the WinHEC discussion.
"We only promise the control that we can realistically give to them, rather than trying to promise more than we can deliver," Berntson said.
That said, application-based control, "would be great to have and it is certainly on our Christmas list for future stuff," he said.
But, not everyone felt that Windows 7 was doing all it could on the privacy front. One attendee suggested, for example, that Microsoft at least notify users when an application requests location information.
Although technically possible, Berntson said that's not currently on Microsoft's roadmap for Windows 7.
In fairness, location-based services are actually more secure in Windows 7 than in the past. That's because in past versions of Windows, there was really no way to reliably turn off location information.
"The old way of doing it--there was no warning, there was no switch, there was nothing," said Microsoft lead product manager Daniel Polivy. That said, it was so cumbersome that few people have enabled such location-based information or built services on top of them.
A pair of APIs
So just what is it that Microsoft is doing in Windows 7?
Well, at a low level, Microsoft has a new application programming interface (API) for sensors and a second API for location. It uses any of a number of things to actually get the location, depending on what's available. Obviously there's GPS, but it also supports Wi-Fi and cellular triangulation. At a minimum. Users can type in their location if they really want location-based services and don't have any of those other sensors.
Applications can then use that longitude and latitude information to provide any number of services to the customer, of which mapping is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of those applications will be up to developers, though. The only location-based service in the current Windows 7 OS itself is the fact that the weather gadget will use your location, assuming you have such services available and turned on.
Masafumi Kuboyama, a senior manager in Sony's Vaio PC unit in Japan, said he wants to know what's going on in his system and would appreciate knowing what the location-based services were up to. Most computer users, though, don't want to be bothered, he said.
"My relatives never understand what's going on in a PC," he said. "Everybody says, 'Please do (it) automatically.'"
He also said he's interested in the possibilities opened up by location-based services. "I'm looking forward to seeing more convenient applications for the Netbook."
Tim Zinsky, a software architect at Hewlett-Packard, said he wasn't all that disappointed that Microsoft isn't providing all the pieces with its location API.
Zinsky, who stressed he was speaking for himself and not HP, said he isn't convinced that there isn't a way to track which applications are using the location information.
"They are underestimating the capability there," he said. "I think they could do it."
But that's OK with him. "I don't want it all to come from Microsoft," he said. "If they can't do it, maybe somebody else or another company can do it."

Microsoft to offer free security

The new software, code-named Morro, will be a no-frills program suited to smaller and less powerful computers.

The software will be free to download and will support Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

The move comes as sales of the OneCare subscription service are flagging - reportedly because the anti-virus marketplace is already flooded with big-name players such as Symantec and McAfee.

Since its launch in May 2006, OneCare has garnered less than 2% of the security software market share.

In a statement, Microsoft said that Morro would be designed specifically to be a small-footprint program that uses fewer system resources. This, it said, would be ideal for users with low-bandwidth connections or computers without much processing power.

That will be of particular interest to consumers buying comparatively low-powered "netbook" computers.

Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management in the online services division at Microsoft, said: "This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware."

Dirty people try to harm Kangana physically

Though glory is coming Kangana Ranaut’s way splendidly, the sexy actress is going though too much of personal trauma. She gets candid during the promotion of Raaz – The Mystery Continues and evoked what she is going through last couple...

of months. During the interview, she made a shocking revelation that she has been surrounded by 'dirty people' who tried to harm her physically as well as mentally. Kangana did not disclose the names of those wrongdoers. She expresses her fear, pain and anxiety in the following words, "To be honest, I got everything very soon in my life but personally my life was going through too much of trauma. I was really trapped by dirty people and they wouldn't let me concentrate on my work. They tried to harm me both physically as well as mentally".

"Those were indeed bad times. My sister went through an accident (exactly two years back her sister Rangoli was attacked with acid, allegedly by a rejected suitor). So I had so many issues to take care of. And sometimes your work is not always your priority. So I kind of took time to sort out my personal life and then later on I got back to my work."

After Fashion, it’s now Raaz – The Mystery Continues which is expected to bring success to Kangana. Our sympathy with Kangana remains and we hope she gets out of the trauma soon and delivers some more hits.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nepal photo gallery

Relaxing spot with a good city view

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, and it is located at the Kathmandu valley (about 1300 metres above sea level) in central Nepal. The city does not have many tall buildings, but it has many religious monuments, such as the Buddhist stupas and the Hindu temples.

Kathmandu is always bursting with activities, and the streets are usually crowded, chaotic and very dusty. Below are some photographs of life in Kathmandu .....

City buildings in the Kathmandu valley Typical Kathmandu architecture
Mystical sunrise ..... .... followed by a beautiful morning !
A young monk taking a break on the roof Selling colourful hats and other stuff
The colourful trishaw Man using his head to carry goods
The exciting chariot pulling festival on 29th April 2001. Can you spot the tall chariot ? Palace guards in uniform at Patan's Durbar Square

Photographs of the famous Thamel area, which mainly caters for tourists
Exotic Nepalese and Tibetan merchandize comes in all shapes and sizes .....
Strolling along the streets near the Pashupatinath area
Is this a street protest ??? I think this is a candle holder
Lots of colourful prayer flags Wheels of life
The Boudhanath Stupa is the biggest stupa in Nepal
Scenes from Boudhanath Stupa Statue of the elephant
The Swayambhunath Stupa is located on a hill and is the oldest stupa in Kathmandu
Area surrounding Swayambhunath Stupa An ancient religious figurine
Religious monuments forming a beautiful pattern More stupas on the hill .....
People relaxing at Pashupatinath Colourful architecture
Ancient monuments of Hinduism in Nepal .....
The Pashupatinath Hindu temple Another photograph of the ancient monuments
After death, the Hindus are brought to Pashupatinath to take a sacred bath using water from the holy river (left) followed by cremation along the river bank (right). Their ashes will then be spread into the river.