Saturday, 21 January 2012

Breaking News

Breaking News

PML-N and PML-Q going for an alliance

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:52 AM PST

Lahore( and PML-Q going for an alliance.
Pakistan's main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has expressed readiness for an alliance with his arch-rival Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain's PML-Q provided it parted ways with the ruling PPP.

Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood, a landlord politician of Rahim Yar Khan district in Punjab province, conveyed the PML-N chief's message in this regard to Hussain, who had served as premier during the previous military regime.

Mehmood, a leader of the PML-F party, is considered to be very close to former prime minister Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Mehmood told Hussain and his cousin, federal minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, that the ice had melted and Sharif had expressed his willingness to forge an alliance between the PML-N and PML-Q.

"Joining hands with the Sharifs means you will have to say goodbye to the PPP right away and discuss matters related to a future set-up or fresh elections," a source privy to the developments said.

The PML-Q was formed by leaders who broke away from the erstwhile Pakistan Muslim League when Sharif's government was deposed in a military coup in 1999.

Mehmood said Sharif had proposed the name of veteran journalist Majid Nazami, the editor of the rightwing Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt, as guarantor of the alliance between PML-N and PML-Q.

However, the source said Hussain told Mehmood that if Sharif publicly promised not to ditch the PML-Q at any point, he was ready to hold talks with Sharif.

"Hussain and his cousin Elahi also told Sharif's messenger that he (Sharif) is not a reliable person and no one is ready to give a guarantee that he will keep his words," the source said.

The source further said the PML-N did not want to use the option of getting its members to resign from the national and provincial assemblies to force the government to hold an early general election and believed that it could achieve its goals if the PML-Q quits the PPP-led government.

"The PML-Q leadership is seeing Sharif's offer as a trap," the source said. Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood said he met Hussain and his cousin as part of his own efforts to unite all the factions of the Pakistan Muslim League.

"It is my initiative and I had no specific direction from Nawaz Sharif," he said.

He said if all the PML factions, especially those led by Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, were united, no other party had the potential of beating them.

"The voters of the Pakistan Muslim League want the merger of all factions," he said.

Asked about strong differences between Sharif and Hussain, Mehmood said there could be no "last word" in politics.

Senior PML-Q leader and federal minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said that Mehmood had met his party's leadership and discussed the possibility of PML-N and PML-Q forming an alliance.

Asked whether the PML-Q was considering the option of quitting the PPP-led coalition, Elahi said: "We have not said yes to Mr Mehmood. We will remain with the PPP."

PML-N lawmaker Pervaiz Rashid said his party was ready to hold talks with the PML-Q provided Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain parted ways with the PPP.

"Chaudhry Shujaat made Asif Ali Zardari the President by fielding Mushahid Hussain Syed for the slot and now he is publicly saying that PML-Q will contest the next election along with the PPP," Rashid said.

I.S.I will not give special protocal to mansoor ejaz in pakistan

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:38 AM PST

Islamabad( - The US Embassy said on Saturday that it would not provide security to Mansoor Ijaz.
Also I.S.I will not give special protocal to mansoor ejaz in pakistan.
The US embassy spokesman said in a statement that Mansoor Ejaz would travel to Pakistan as a common US citizen as per his own choice and would be treated like other American citizens.
The Supreme Court had ordered the government for taking security measures for Mansoor Ijaz, who would appear before the Judicial Commission in the memogate hearing.
Ijaz's lawyer Akram Sheikh expressed serious concern over the government's vague statements on the security of his client.
He said he would stop his client from coming to Pakistan unless the army was not deployed for his security.
Moreover, Mansoor Ijaz has been advised by his friends not to stay in Pakistan during January, 24 to 26 due to security reasons and return to the US after appearing before commission.
Mansoor Ijaz contacted his several friends in the UK on Friday to solicit their advice to proceed to Pakistan. His friends suggested him not to contact travel agencies directly and just to appear before memo commission to state the facts as commission has been constituted under the Supreme Court orders.

Vodafone not liable for up to $4.4bn of India penalties

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:23 AM PST

India's highest court has ruled that Vodafone is not liable for taxes and penalties of up to $4.4bn (£2.8bn).

The judgement could relieve pressure on other foreign companies facing similar tax investigations in India.

The case centred on Vodafone's $11bn acquisition of the Indian assets of China's Hutchison Telecommunications in 2007.

Vodafone said it did not owe tax on the deal, as the assets were held by a firm based in the Cayman Islands.

In May 2007, Vodafone's Dutch subsidiary acquired a 67% stake in CGP Investments Ltd, a Cayman Islands registered company which held the Indian telecom assets of Hutchison.

It was presented with a tax demand of 112 billion rupees, currently worth $2.2bn. The Indian government subsequently sought penalties of up to 100% of the original bill.

"The court has concluded that Vodafone had no liability to account for withholding tax on its acquisition of interests in Hutchison Essar Limited (now Vodafone India Limited) in 2007," the company said in a statement.
Wider impact

Analysts say about eight other foreign companies are facing similar litigation from Indian authorities, as the country tries to increase corporate tax revenues.

"This settles a prolonged litigation which had created a lot of uncertainty for multinationals," said Sandeep Ladda, executive director at PricewaterhouseCoopers in India.

GE, SAB Miller, Cadbury, AT&T, Sanofi, and Vedanta are among the firms which may be affected by the ruling.

"This should provide much needed respite to other litigants in other cases," he added.

Advocates of higher corporate taxation, however, were disappointed by the judgement.

"This is deeply harmful," said John Christensen, Director of the Tax Justice Network and author of a book on offshore tax havens.

"It will simply encourage all other companies around the world to use offshore structures to avoid tax," he added.

However, the legal precedent may be short-lived.

9 Ways to sexually arouse your man

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:14 AM PST

Tired of your man's lack lustre libido? Want him to make passionate love to you? Follow these nine stimulation techniques to pep up your man's sexual appetite.

1. Tie Him Up: Take control and get your man all tied up. Buy silky tights to tie him up loosely to the bed post above his head. Keep his head propped up with a pillow so that he can see your wild moves. All guys love being dominated and you will get a high by watching your guy's desire for you rise.

2. Wet Pleasures: Guys just love making out in the shower. Kissing under a shower is a sure fire way of getting the sexual action kick started. Work up lather and sensuously wash each others' bodies. It will leave you feeling fresh for the real action to follow.

3. Girlie Groping: Ignite your youthful lust by making out in the last row of a cinema or indulging in some heavy petting on the couch until you are both hot and ready.

4. Dress it up: Walk around the house clad in lacy underwear and some killer stilletoes. Your man will love nothing more than to watch you strut sexily around the house.

5. Dirty dancing: Erotic slow dancing is great tool of seduction. Enjoy a sensual dance which is the perfect appetiser for some raunchy bedroom antics.

6. Mirror image: Learn to master body language techniques to let him know you are interested in sex. Try and mimick some of his actions to turn him on. Don't copy everything he does. Instead if he leans towards you, lean into him at the same time, making passionate eye contact all the while.

7. Maximise a massage: Make your man lie down on the bed and apply warm oil on his aching body. Use lingering sensuous strokes along his back and down his legs making sure his body relaxes.

8. In the outdoors: Foreplay doesn't need to be restricted to the bedroom; all men love sex in the open. Make love under the stars and land in sexual heaven.

9. Teasing talk: Men too love a bit of naughty talk. Whisper sweet nothings into his ear describing all the things you would like to do to him, or have him do to you. Alternatively send him a sexy SMS letting him know he is in for a treat.

Will Priyanka Chopra be outcast?

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:10 AM PST

Actress Priyanka Chopra has managed to create a stir, and this time is in the news for the worng reasons.

Her alleged affair with co-star Shah Rukh Khan has become the topic onf conversation at dinner tables and Gauri Khan isn't too happy about the rumours!

So what next for the actress? It can be remembered that Priyanka Chopra isn't in Salman Khan's good books ever since she declined being a part of Mr. & Mrs. Khanna and now, we hear, it's SRK who'll keep his distance from the wonderful actor if his family life has to return to normal.

Apparently, Gauri Khan, it is being touted, isn't keen that SRK work with PC! This usually happens with star wives - Twinkle warned Akshay Kumar against working with Priyanka Chopra after rumours of an affair on the sets of Aitraaz surfaced, Mahima Chaudhary and Suniel Shetty didn't work together on the behest of Mana Shetty, Hrithik and Kareena have stayed away from each other thanks to Susanne Roshan. And now wethinks the PC and SRK jodi isn't going to be seen anytime soon on the silver-screen.

Ranbir Kapoor watched semi-porn movies

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:07 AM PST

When asked if he would watch sleazy B-grade Junglee Jawaani kind of movies in real life (like he did in Rockstar) Ranbir Kapoor was honest enough to admit that he was quite into watching semi-porn stuff, "In fact, I grew up on Junglee Jawaani.

Guess I realised I was a man when I started going for those kind of films." Must say, someone is keen to prove his manhood.

Gunmen kidnap American in north Somalia: Police

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 07:03 AM PST

MOGADISHU: Gunmen kidnapped an American man in the northern Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday, officials said.

The gunmen surrounded the man's car shortly after the man left the airport, said policeman Abdi Hassan Nur, who witnessed the incident. He said they then forced the American into another vehicle.

Galkayo is on the border between the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland and a region known as Galmudug. It is ruled by forces friendly to the U.N.-backed Somali government.

A minister from the Galmudug administration said the kidnapped man is an American engineer who came to Somalia to carry out an evaluation for building a deep water port in the town of Hobyo. The gunmen severely beat the foreigner's Somali companion when he begged them not to take the man, said the minister.

The minister spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

A staff member at the Embassy Hotel, where the man was staying, said the American had gone to the airport to drop off an Indian colleague. The hotel said that the man had both American and German citizenship. The staff member asked not to be identified because he was not supposed to give out information about guests.

In October, gunmen kidnapped an American woman and a Danish man working for the Danish Demining Group from the same town. They are still being held.

Kidnapping for ransom is has become increasingly common in Somalia over the past five years. Currently at least four aid workers, a French military official, a British tourist taken from Kenya and hundreds of sailors are being held captive.

Greece's creditors leave Athens, talks to continue

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 06:59 AM PST

(apsenews) - The representatives of Greece's private creditors left Athens unexpectedly on Saturday without a deal on a debt swap plan that is vital to avert a disorderly default, sources close to the negotiations told Reuters.

Negotiations will continue over the phone during the weekend but it is unlikely that an agreement can be clinched before next week, the sources said, as Athens races against the clock to strike a deal.

A lot of progress has been made on the details of the plan during talks between Athens and Institute of International Finance chief Charles Dallara, sources say, but any deal needs the approval of the IMF and euro zone countries, who insist on a substantial cut in the debt load.

The IMF and EU countries, and in particular the bloc's paymaster Germany, want to make sure the deal puts Greece's derailed finances back on a sustainable track before they agree to a new, 130-billion euro bailout, which is also crucial to avoid a messy default.

The IMF insists the debt swap deal must ensure Greece's debt burden will be cut to 120 percent of GDP by 2020 from 160 percent now, as agreed at an EU summit in October, and has warned that this is made more difficult by the fact that Athens' economic prospects have deteriorated since.

"Things are complicated, we are getting closer on the numbers but there is still quite some work ahead," one source close to the talks said. "Discussions will continue over the phone this weekend but an agreement is unlikely before next week, if there is an agreement at all."

A meeting Monday of euro zone finance ministers will be crucial for the debt swap talks.

"We will want to test the waters among member states because given the complex connections between private sector and official funding elements, we have to have the backing of member states for a deal," a senior EU source told Reuters.

"The outcome in terms of achieving the debt-to-GDP target will depend on how the debt sustainability analysis is constructed, which is not a precise science but at most a form of art," the source said.

A new analysis of Greece's debt sustainability could be ready before Monday's Eurogroup, or by mid-week, the source said.

The IIF said on Friday that the elements of the deal were coming into place, adding: "Now is the time to act decisively and seize the opportunity to finalize this historic deal and contribute to the economic stability of Greece, the euro area and the world economy."

The statement seemed to be addressing Greece's official lenders, the EU and the IMF, who have driven a hard bargain behind the scenes of the negotiations, insisting that the deal must slash Greece's debt substantially, sources in Athens said.

"The euro zone ministers will examine the proposal and say whether we have a deal. If they say we don't, we're back to the negotiating table," said a banking source close to the talks.

Private bondholders will likely take a hit of 65 to 70 percent on their holdings, with Greece's new bonds featuring 30-year maturity and a progressive coupon, or interest rate, averaging out at 4 percent, another banking official close to the talks told Reuters.

A 15 percent cash sweetener will be made up of short-term bonds from Europe's temporary bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), two sources told Reuters.

Haggling over the coupon had held up the long-running talks as Greece raced to wrap up an agreement, raising the prospect of a messy default when Athens faces 14.5 billion euros ($18.5 billion) of bond repayments in March.

Rescuers to resume search on doomed Italian cruise ship

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 10:10 AM PST

Giglio, Italy ( -- Rescue workers -- who had suspended their underwater search of the Costa Concordia after the cruise ship moved, making it too risky for divers to operate -- planned to resume searching Friday night on the upper part of the ship, the Italian Coast Guard said..

Rescue workers suspended their search when sensors on board the vessel measured movement, Massimo Maccheroni, of the Coast Guard general command, told CNN.

"When this happens all rescue forces have to leave the ship, (so as) not to put their lives in danger," he said.

But search operations were to resume Friday night, only on the upper part of the ship. Underwater searches will not resume until Saturday, the Italian Coast Guard said.

The authorities are now assessing their options. One possibility being considered is an attempt to anchor the vessel to the rocks off Giglio island using chains.

But, warned Maccheroni, "It's very difficult. The Concordia weighs 110,000 tons and it's like a 300 meter-high skyscraper in an horizontal position."

Italian authorities are considering when to call off the search for survivors and start the recovery operation, which would mean salvage workers can start emptying the ship's huge fuel tanks.

Coast Guard Captain Cosimo Nicastro said that preparation for the fuel removal operation is underway, though it has not started yet. A vessel with a huge tank still needs to come to the island to store the fuel. This will happen in the coming days, he said.

At least 11 people are known to have died in the disaster, and 21 are still missing, according to the Italian Crisis Unit.

A week after the ship ran aground off the Tuscan coast, it appeared increasingly unlikely that any survivors will still be found aboard the ship.

On Friday, more relatives of the missing passengers arrived on the island.

"It's terrible, we spend all day with relatives of those that have someone still missing and of those that have been identified," Giglio Vice Mayor Marco Pellegrini said.

A little bar located on the harbor was drawing a bit of business selling hot drinks and coffee.

"But I prefer our usual calm. All this is really sad,'' said a 24-year-old bartender who gave her name only as Alessandra.

A private boat carrying French, Italian and Peruvian relatives of the dead and missing, chartered by the Italian authorities, sailed from Porto Santo Stefano on the mainland Friday lunchtime, to Giglio island.

A spokesman for the mayor of Giglio said the families had scattered flowers on the water by the wreck site.

Also on the boat was Susy Albertini, the mother of a missing 5-year-old Italian girl, Dayana Arlotti. The girl's father, Albertini's ex-husband, William Arlotti, is also unaccounted for.

"'Dayana was very happy and excited for this trip," said Davide Veschi, lawyer for Susy Albertini. "She packed all her nicest clothes last Thursday. We know from other passengers that she was wearing a life vest but her father no. They are not experienced swimmers. Susy tried to reach the father's mobile many times that night, but nobody answered."

Eight of the dead have so far been named -- four French passengers, a Spanish passenger, and an Italian one, and one crew member each from Hungary and Peru.

Criticism from both Costa Cruises and the authorities has focused so far on Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is under house arrest and facing possible charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.

Further doubt was cast on his leadership late Thursday when a cook from the ship told a Filipino television station that the captain ordered dinner for himself and a woman at about 10:30 p.m., less than an hour after the collision.

"We wondered what was going on," cook Rogelio Barista told GMA Network. "At that time, we really felt something was wrong. ... The stuff in the kitchen was falling off shelves and we realized how grave the situation was."

However, a Moldovan woman Domnica Cemortan, 25, who also works for the Costa cruise line but said she was on the Concordia as a passenger, defended the captain in a TV interview.

"I've heard in Russian media that the captain left the ship first, or among the first. But this is not true," she said.

"I'm a witness -- I don't know if I'm invited to testify in the court or not, but as a witness I can say that I left the deck at 11:50 p.m. following an order from the captain who told me to go to the third deck to get into a lifeboat that could take more people."

Cemortan said she had gone to the deck to help translate the captain's orders after hearing a coded announcement that raised the alarm for crew members.

Coast guard records published Thursday by an Italian newspaper added to the pressure on Schettino and his officers, suggesting authorities first became aware of the crash from a friend of the mother of a passenger about 15 minutes after the ship hit rocks.

The Coast Guard identified the ship in trouble and contacted it, asking if there were problems on board, at 10:14 p.m. -- more than half an hour after the 9:41 p.m. collision -- according to a Coast Guard log published in the newspaper La Repubblica.

The ship responded that it was experiencing a "black out," according to the log and said the crew believed it could solve the problem in a short time. The log does not indicate which crew member was speaking.

What appears to be the audio of that first radio call between the Costa Concordia and the Coast Guard was broadcast on Italian media Thursday.

A Coast Guard official is heard to ask: "What kind of a problem is it? Just something with the generator? The police of Prato have received a phone call from the relatives of a sailor who said that during the dinner everything was falling on his head."

The unidentified crew member responds: "We have a black out and we are checking the conditions on board."

"The passengers say they have been told to put on the life vests, is this correct?" the Coast Guard then asks, to which the crew member repeats the same answer, before promising to keep the Coast Guard updated.

Experts are performing toxicology tests on a sample of the captain's hair, prosecutor Francesco Verusio said Thursday.

Verusio is preparing a motion to have Schettino sent back to jail from house arrest, he said.

In Schettino's hometown of Meta di Sorrento, residents were standing by the cruise ship captain.

A spray-painted sheet left hanging outside the home where Schettino is under house arrest says, "Captain, don't give up."

"It looks like the only one responsible is the captain. That's what everyone on the outside think," Mayor Paolo Trapani said. "But in this village, people know he cannot be responsible for everything. It's not like journalists want to portray it."

Schettino's brother-in-law defended him in an Italian newspaper on Thursday.

Schettino "managed to avoid a tragedy -- it could have been worse," Maurilio Russo said in Corrierre della Sera.

And he denied that the captain had abandoned ship, saying: "He was not running away, he came down (from the ship) to survey the damage."

Russo also said the route the captain took was not out of the ordinary.

''It is a usual procedure, the owners are well aware of it, it is useless to pretend otherwise," he said. "Passengers pay to see something and skirting very close to the shore is part of the show."

Schettino's parish priest, Don Gennaro Starita, accused the media of "killing him" in an interview with an Italian newspaper.

"It's a shame," he said. "Already there are all these dead people; do we want to add another one to the list?"

The decision to give up the search for survivors is expected to come by the weekend, when the weather is forecast to deteriorate.

Declaring the operation to be recovery rather than rescue would allow salvage experts to start pumping fuel out of the ship, potentially averting an environmental catastrophe.

The ship was carrying about 2,300 tons of fuel when it hit rocks off Giglio on Friday night.

Prosecutors have accused the captain of piloting the ship to fast to allow him to react to dangers, causing the shipwreck, according to legal papers.

Judge Valeria Montesarchio's initial ruling found Schettino changed the ship's course, steering too close to shore and causing the ship to hit a rock.

Costa Cruises chairman Pier Luigi Foschi earlier this week placed the blame for the wreck squarely on the captain, saying it was his choice to deviate from frequently traveled routes.

There were roughly 4,200 people on the Costa Concordia when it ran aground -- about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members, the vast majority of whom made it off the ship safely.

Costa Cruises said it was contacting all passengers on the ship "to make sure they have returned home and are well, and to confirm that they will receive a refund for the cruise and all material expenses relating to it."

Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Costa Cruises, said it would audit and review the safety and response procedures across all its cruise lines after last week's accident.

"While I have every confidence in the safety of our vessels and the professionalism of our crews, this review will evaluate all practices and procedures to make sure that this kind of accident doesn't happen again," Carnival CEO Micky Arison said in a statement.

Sundance opens with eye on broken American dreams

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 09:58 AM PST

( - The Sundance Film Festival opened on Thursday night with four features, including a documentary highlighting America's housing crisis, the fractured American dream and values humbled by today's lackluster economy.

The documentary, "The Queen of Versailles," follows self-made former billionaire and timeshare mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie, who at first glance may not seem in touch with many Americans who have struggled in the current, downbeat economy.

The film, which debuted Thursday night to a packed house and solid applause, opens with the couple constructing their dream house: A sprawling 90,000 square foot mansion named "Versailles" inspired by the French palace.

But the story eventually comes to resemble many of the lessons learned by those who have lost their homes, jobs and experienced the effects of the economic crisis.

"The American dream has always been this idea of home ownership," director Laura Greenfield told Reuters, but the film shows the Siegels dealing with the slumping economy, like many in the United States, and "how they downsize and cope with the situation," eventually rediscovering what is important to them.

"They do take on this everyman quality that ends up putting them nearer to us in terms of the overreaching of America and downsizing and getting back to core values," said Greenfield.

"Versailles" is one of several high-profile films here that show Americans tackling problems associated with the weak economy, greed and dreams reevaluated.

"It's no secret that times are dark and grim," Robert Redford, whose Sundance Institute for independent filmmaking backs the festival, the largest gathering for U.S. independent filmmakers, told reporters on Thursday.

Even though Americans were experiencing some hopelessness, including a Washington in "paralysis," Redford said Sundance audiences could be upbeat because while some films "might be reflective of these hard times...there is not paralysis here."

10 DAYS; 100+ FILMS

Overall, there are more than 100 fiction and documentary films showing at the festival that runs for the 10 days in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah, east of Salt Lake City.

Other opening night screenings include two fictional tales, "Hello I Must Be Going" starring Melanie Lynskey as a demoralized, divorced 35-year-old who moves back in with her parents and "Wish You Were Here," an Australian film starring Joel Edgerton as a man clinging to a shattered family.

"Searching For Sugar Man," competing in the world documentary section, completes the opening night lineup. It is one of many films here centered on musicians and shows two fans looking into the mystery of how a would-be 1970s rock icon declined into obscurity.

Festival director John Cooper said the opening night films reflect the choice of more experienced storytelling at a festival that prides itself on being a launch pad for careers and for premiering low-budget hits like "Little Miss Sunshine" and documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

"We like a filmmaker who knows the ropes -- something that will play well," he said.

Of all the opening films, Greenfield's "Versailles" was the most hyped. Adding to the buzz, David Siegel sued the filmmakers and Sundance for defamation over promotional materials for the film, but Greenfield said she could not comment on the lawsuit.

Coming into the festival, other films on which audiences and buyers are focused include Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer," "Red Lights" with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro and Stephen Frears' "Lay The Favorite" starring Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

"Bachelorette," with Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher tells of a group of young, single women casting aside bitterness at a hedonistic bachelorette party. Numerous other stars are expected to appear including Kate Bosworth, Chris Rock, Julie Delpy and Paul Simon as the tiny, snowy town transforms into promotional suites and film parties.

Redford talked of the "two sides" of Sundance with marketers having descended upon its success years ago and at times misplaced hype, but said it was still a place for indie filmmakers to find their feet.

Sundance is offering filmmakers a new service this year advising on the latest methods of Internet distribution and Redford heralded more freedom and control for filmmakers by releasing films and reaching audiences via the Web.

"It's pretty obvious we are in a period of tremendous change," he told the opening film audience. "We embrace it."

Angry authors read 'Satanic Verses' at Jaipur Literature Festival; Salman Rushdie feels 'very sad'

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 09:46 AM PST

JAIPUR: Two prominent authors on Friday read out portions from Salman Rushdie's banned book "Satanic Verses" at the Jaipur Literature Festival as a mark of protest after the India-born author had to pull out of the event over security concerns.

As the literary community expressed outrage over Rushdie not being able to make the trip, Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar used their session at the festival to read from "Satanic Verses". The controversial book was banned in the country shortly after it was published in 1988, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Muslims.

The two authors referred to the book during their own readings and discussions and actually went on to read out portions from the book.

In fact just before his reading, Kunzru tweeted: "About to defy bigots and shoe throwers, reading @SalmanRushdie Satanic Verses on stage with @amitavakumar at #jaipur #jlf (sic)."

They also read out Rushdie's tweet to the audience in which he had thanked the two for reading from his work to a loud applause.

The organizers later asked Kumar not to go ahead with his reading. Kumar initially agreed to the suggestion but later continued reading from Rushdie's work.

Later, authors Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi also read from the Satanic Verses.

A perturbed Rushdie later tweeted: "@amitavakumar says organizers asked him not to continue reading from Satanic Verses." Willie, Sanjoy: why did this happen?". He was referring to William Dalrymple and Sanjoy K Roy, the festival organizers.

Rushdie again tweeted: "Joshi too said they would be reading from the Satanic Verses."

"Very Sad"

After cancelling his visit to India citing threats to his life, author Salman Rushdie on Friday said he was "very sad" not to be in Jaipur for the literature festival and was "sorry" if people felt that he let them down.

Immediately after festival organisers read out a statement by Rushdie announcing his decision to not travel to Jaipur as planned, the author expressed dismay on the microblogging site twitter.

"Very sad not to be at jaipur. I was told bombay mafia don issued weapons to 2 hitmen to "eliminate" me. Will do video link instead. Damn (sic)," posted Rushdie.

Within minutes, the twitterspace was flooded with reactions expressing outrage at the author's decision.

In response, Rushdie posted another tweet. "Much support and sympathy: thanks,everyone. Some say I let people down: sorry you feel that. Some Muslim hate tweets: pathetic," he said.

The Booker-Prize winning author also reacted to a post by novelist Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar who tweeted that Rushdie's absence from the festival is "a stain on India's international reputation" and suggested holding a reading of the Satanic Verses at the Jaipur Durbar Hall.

"About to defy the bigots and shoe throwers, reading @SalmanRushdie Satanic Verses with @amitavakumar on stage at #jlf," posted Kunzru.

Rushdie wrote a thank you message to both of them. "@harikunzru @amitavakumar Thank you both very much."

Journalist Vikas Bajaj tweeted that Amitav Kumar had read out "some bits from the Satanic Verses on how to turn London into a tropical city".

Rick Santorum's Iowa Win Deserves More Attention

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 09:44 AM PST

Former Sen. Rick Santorum got cheated. Not on delegates—the number he captured in the Iowa caucuses when the counters put him in a very close second to former Gov. Mitt Romney is still what he'll have now, as the real winner of the contest. But Santorum, who achieved the extraordinary feat of surging from the back of the pack to beating the presumptive front-runner, barely got the attention he deserves for it.

Part of it is just pure dumb luck for Santorum. The day the Iowa Republican party announced the new count, lots of other things were happening in the campaign. Texas Gov. Rick Perry pulled out of the race. Marianne Gingrich, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's second wife, went on national television and revealed that her ex-husband had asked for an "open marriage" after telling her that he was involved with another woman (who is now his third wife). And a spirited GOP debate ahead of Saturday's pivotal South Carolina primary added more drama to the Republican primary story.

But Santorum deserves his due. He was the winner. The Romney campaign described Santorum's 34-vote victory as a "virtual tie," and it is. But it was even more of a virtual tie when Romney, initially declared the Iowa winner by eight votes, claimed victory in the contest.

Momentum isn't what it used to be, so Santorum probably won't be slowed down much merely by being denied official winner status in the first count. Internet fundraising allows candidates to raise cash very quickly, allowing campaigns to linger longer. And since the Iowa contest is not a winner-take-all race (none of the pre-Super Tuesday races is), the caucuses become just the first step in what can be a long process.
That, in itself, raises serious questions about how we run the general election. Awarding an entire state's delegates to a candidate—even if he or she only wins by a few votes—seems unfair and undemocratic. It also set up a situation where candidates largely ignore certain sates, knowing those venues are almost certainly going to vote for one party's candidate or the other. Not only are the votes of those non-swing states' residents under-appreciated, but the issues in those states tend not to be addressed. A general election campaign that treats every vote equally might not produce a different result very often (it's very rare that a candidate loses the electoral college but wins the popular vote, as former Vice President Al Gore did), but it would force candidates to pay attention to all of the states.