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Nepal begins process of releasing Maoists
Kathmandu, May 6
In an effort to forge lasting peace in Nepal, the Girija Prasad Koirala government has initiated the process of releasing the jailed Maoists after the rebels agreed to hold a dialogue with it to end the decade-old insurgency in the state.

Perspective: Peace in Nepal

Nepal King offers prayers at shrine
Kathmandu, May 6
Nepal’s humbled King Gyanendra used his first public appearance since restoring democracy to sacrifice animals and offer prayers to the Hindu goddess of power, officials and local media said today.

CIA Director Porter Goss quits
Washington, May 6
Porter Goss has stepped down as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), plunging into uncertainty the world’s biggest spy agency shaken by recent intelligence failures and internal turmoil.

Clinton battles child obesity with juices
New York, May 6
Former President Bill Clinton, once a chubby child himself, announced that soft drink makers had agreed to replace high-calorie sodas sold in schools with healthier drinks in an effort to curb child obesity.

Loss of Indian banana species worries UN
New York, May 6
Shrinking numbers of wild bananas in India, the world’s premier producer of the fruit, are causing concern at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Ad ‘vilifying’ Indians withdrawn
Sydney, May 6
An Australian television commercial highlighting poor services by an “overseas” call centre operator has been taken off air after an advertising watchdog found it was racist and vilified Indians.

10 US soldiers die in air crash
Kabul, May 6
As many as 10 US soldiers were killed when a coalition helicopter involved in an anti-Taliban combat operation crashed in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said today.

 

A Sunni man reacts after his four sons and their cousin were murdered in Baghdad on Saturday.
A Sunni man reacts after his four sons and their cousin were murdered in Baghdad on Saturday. The bodies of the five were found on Friday night, hours after they were abducted in the Iraqi capital, the police said. — Reuters

 
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Nepal begins process of releasing Maoists

Kathmandu, May 6
In an effort to forge lasting peace in Nepal, the Girija Prasad Koirala government has initiated the process of releasing the jailed Maoists after the rebels agreed to hold a dialogue with it to end the decade-old insurgency in the state.

The government has started collecting information about the jailed Maoist cadre for their release, Home Minister Krishna Sitoula told Parliament yesterday.

As per the preliminary estimates, there are about 700 Maoists behind the bars. They could be released through different legal procedures on the basis of their offences, a Home Ministry official said.

Sitoula said the government was collecting information on what charges the Maoist leaders and cadre were arrested, according to the state-run newspaper The Rising Nepal.

It is the job of the government lawyers to withdraw the charges against them, he said.

It might take some time to release the Maoists after complete information regarding their conditions of arrest is acquired, said Home Secretary Bal Krishna Prasain.

Maoist chief Prachanda on Thursday said that he was ready for the peace talks after the government declared a ceasefire and removed terrorist tag from the rebels.

Meanwhile, Maoist central committee member Matrika Yadav has submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Koirala to immediately release the detained rebels, scrap the ordinance on the control of terrorist and disruptive activities and bring all war crimes to the book, the newspaper said.

Yadav also warned that he would go on fast-unto-death if the demands were not fulfilled.

Yadav and another Maoist central committee member Suresh Alemagar are among 70 prisoners lodged in the Nakkhu jail.

Home Secretary Prasain also said the process of locating and releasing those who disappeared after being captured by the state earlier would be undertaken after the first phase of releasing the rebels is completed.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, the state was behind the disappearance of 695 people. Another 292 people have gone missing after being captured by the rebels, it said.

The families of those whose disappearance was caused by the state have been demanding that their whereabouts be made public immediately. — PTI 

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Nepal King offers prayers at shrine

Kathmandu, May 6
Nepal’s humbled King Gyanendra used his first public appearance since restoring democracy to sacrifice animals and offer prayers to the Hindu goddess of power, officials and local media said today.

The 58-year-old monarch, accompanied by Queen Komal, made a quiet visit yesterday to the shrine of Dakshinkali, about 25 km south of Kathmandu, a palace official said.

The King offered prayers to the “family deity” in a ceremony marked every year on the eighth day after the half-moon day in the Nepali month of Baisakh (mid-April to mid-May), he said.

“The family deity is the most important of all gods and is worshiped on all auspicious occasions,” said Mukunda Raj Aryal, an expert on Nepal’s Hindu culture.

The monarch offered prayers for more than 90 minutes at the shrine located in a forested ravine and sacrificed a goat, a lamb, a buffalo, a rooster and a duck to the deity, the Kathmandu Post daily said.

It said more than 300 soldiers and policemen kept a vigil along the route and around the temple but the usual rush of people to cheer the monarch was conspicuous by its absence.

It is common for Hindus in Nepal, the world’s only Hindu kingdom, to sacrifice animals to Dakshinkali, considered as the goddess of power.

Nepal’s new multi-party government yesterday set up a panel to investigate the “excessive use of force” by the ousted royalist government to suppress the anti-king rallies.

The interim government and Maoist rebels are also preparing for elections to an assembly to write a new constitution and decide the future of the monarchy.

But the King could try and block attempts to relegate him to a ceremonial position through the supreme court which has many royal appointees, analysts say.
— Reuters

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CIA Director Porter Goss quits

Washington, May 6
Porter Goss has stepped down as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), plunging into uncertainty the world’s biggest spy agency shaken by recent intelligence failures and internal turmoil.

Though no reasons were given for his resignation, which was announced by President George W Bush yesterday, sources said Goss’ stepping down was a result of confrontation with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

“This morning, director Porter Goss offered his resignation as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I have accepted it,” Bush said at the White House with Goss byhis side.

A replacement to Goss is expected to be announced very soon. The names doing the rounds are either close to the White House or those serving Negroponte.

“The CIA,” Goss said as he quit, “remains the gold standard. When I came to CIA in September of 2004, I wanted to accomplish some very specific things, and we have made great strides on all fronts.”

Goss’ exit from the top spy agency, plagued by infighting, is the third within the month in a major White House overhaul.

An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Goss had stood up for the agency when there were differences with Negroponte’s office, which was created about a year ago.

There have been reports that Goss’ exit had also to do with the agency’s Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo who is under investigation for his links with defence contractor Brian Wilkes for providing prostitutes, limousines and hotel suites to a California Congressman who pleaded guilty to taking bribes in exchange for government contracts.

Possible replacements to Goss are Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend; Gen Michael Hayden, the top deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte; David Shedd, Negroponte’s chief of staff; and Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte’s deputy for intelligence collection.

Bush nominated Goss in 2004 and said he would rely on his advice on the sensitive issue of intelligence reform. The former Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Goss was criticised for bringing with him several top aides from Congress who were considered highly political for the CIA. — PTI

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Clinton battles child obesity with juices

New York, May 6
Former President Bill Clinton, once a chubby child himself, announced that soft drink makers had agreed to replace high-calorie sodas sold in schools with healthier drinks in an effort to curb child obesity.

“This is a step forward in a struggle to help more than 35 million American young people live healthier lives,” Clinton said in a press conference at the William J Clinton Foundation in New York.

The former US leader, who launched an anti-obesity campaign in 2005 after undergoing heart surgery, said nine million children were overweight today and 70 per cent risk becoming overweight or obese as adults. He warned that these children could have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

“We should know this is a big challenge for the United States and for the world,” Clinton said yesterday. “It has on the surface a simple solution: To help children reduce the number of calories they consume and increase the number they burn.”

The beverage industry agreed to new guidelines capping the number of calories available in beverages at schools at 100 calories per container, Clinton’s foundation said.

Under the new guidelines, only water, milk and juices will be sold in elementary schools. Middle schools will apply the same standards, except bigger containers will be available.

In high schools, half the drinks will be water and low-calorie selections. Light juices and sports drinks will be available, as well as milk, juices and 100 per cent juices. 
— AFP

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Loss of Indian banana species worries UN

New York, May 6
Shrinking numbers of wild bananas in India, the world’s premier producer of the fruit, are causing concern at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

India is the world’s biggest banana grower, with an annual production of 16.8 million metric tons, or over 20 per cent of the total world output of 72.6 million metric tons in 2005.

But overexploitation and the loss of forests as a result of encroachment and logging, slash-and-burn cultivation and urbanisation are causing a rapid loss of wild banana species that have existed in India for thousands of years, FAO said.

It has called for a “systematic exploration” of the wild bananas’ remaining forest habitat, which lies in some of India’s remotest regions and in the jungles of Southeast Asia, to assess the damage and catalogue the number and types of surviving wild species.

It also called for conservation efforts focusing on better land management by local populations, and research on expanding the use of wild bananas in breeding programmes.

Bananas are the world’s most exported fruit and the fourth most important food commodity on earth after rice, wheat and maize in terms of production value.

“The Indian subcontinent has made an enormous contribution to the global genetic base of bananas,” FAO Agricultural Officer NeBambi Lutaladio said.

“But due to ecosystem destruction, it is probable that many valuable gene sources have now been lost.” — PTI

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Ad ‘vilifying’ Indians withdrawn

Sydney, May 6
An Australian television commercial highlighting poor services by an “overseas” call centre operator has been taken off air after an advertising watchdog found it was racist and vilified Indians.

In the ad, promoting an automobile association’s local call centre, an actor says the overseas operator misunderstood his description of a car accident, instead suggesting they catch up ‘for a curry and a pappadum’ in New Delhi, The Australian newspaper reported.

The ad had been on air for nine months before a complaint was received last month that it “degraded” India and made “a joke of possible cultural and social differences,” the daily reported.

The 12-member Advertising Standards Board was divided over the issue but upheld the complaint after a casting vote from the Chairman. PTI

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10 US soldiers die in air crash

Kabul, May 6
As many as 10 US soldiers were killed when a coalition helicopter involved in an anti-Taliban combat operation crashed in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said today.

"The remains of 10 soldiers were on board the aircraft that crashed last night. There were no survivors," said a spokeswoman for the US-led military coalition, Lieut Tamara Lawrence.

Lawrence said all soldiers killed in the crash in eastern Kunar province were Americans. Details of the dead would be released by the Pentagon, she said.— AFP

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