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Mars Lander fails to call home
PASADENA, California, Dec 4 — The highly anticipated Mars Polar Lander touchdown on the red planet turned into a nail-biter yesterday as the spacecraft failed to call home, leaving scientists wondering what, if anything went wrong.

Millennium baby boom goes bust
LONDON, Dec 4 — The millennium baby boom has gone bust. From Hong Kong to London, couples appear to have heeded the warning from doctors — don’t plan a turn-of-the-century baby in overcrowded hospitals battling the Y2K bug.
 
Mothers burst into tears after recognising the clothes of their missing children at the house of Javed Iqbal in Lahore on Friday
Mothers burst into tears after recognising the clothes of their missing children at the house of Javed Iqbal in Lahore on Friday — AP/PTI
Serial killer, accomplices held
ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 — The police has arrested six accomplices of a man who claimed to have killed 100 children in central Pakistan, state-run television reported today. A search was under way since yesterday for Javed Iqbal, who wrote to a newspaper that he murdered the children to avenge personal humiliation.
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British singer Robert Palmer, who will be performing at the Miss World Finals on Dec. 4, poses with contestants
LONDON : British singer Robert Palmer, who will be performing at the Miss World Finals on Dec. 4, poses with contestants Miss Greece, Evagellia Vatidou (left) Miss Venezuela, Martina Thorogood (right) and Miss Paraguay, Mariela Candia Ramos in London on Friday — AP/PTI
Laden ‘has links’ with Chechen rebels
WASHINGTON, Dec 4 — The US State Department has said that the organisation headed by terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and allied groups have maintained links with Islamic rebels in Chechnya, and it warned that the conflict there could spread south to Georgia and to oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Chechens plan govt-in-exile
MOSCOW, Dec 4 — As the Russian army continued to advance towards Grozny, encircling the Chechen capital, the President of the rebel province Aslan Maskhadov is reportedly planning to set up a government-in-exile in Afghanistan.

6-month jail term for Indian businessman
PARIS, Dec 4 — A French court today sentenced an Indian business executive to a six-month jail term for a violating trademark and copyrights law on a complaint given by French car maker Peugeot

First woman to row across Atlantic
MIAMI, Dec 4 — Tori Murden, a 36-year-old from Kentucky, yesterday pulled into Bas du Fort harbour in Guadeloupe after an 82-day Atlantic crossing to become the first woman and first American to row an ocean alone and unsupported.

Sharif: military regime vindictive
ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 — Detained Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif today accused the country’s military regime of adopting a partial approach in the plane hijacking case and said the recent amendment to the Anti-terrorism Act showed the rulers’ "vindictive attitude."

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Mars Lander fails to call home

PASADENA, California, Dec 4 (Reuters) — The highly anticipated Mars Polar Lander touchdown on the red planet turned into a nail-biter yesterday as the spacecraft failed to call home, leaving scientists wondering what, if anything went wrong.

The craft had an opportunity to talk to NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory (JPL) at 12:39 p.m. PST (3:39 p.m. EST/8.39 p.m. GMT) and again at 1:59 p.M. (4:59 p.m. PST/9.59 p.m. GMT). The window for both communications sessions was about 45 minutes, but the controllers at the JPL in Pasadena heard nothing.

Lander Project Manager Richard Cook told reporters it was far too early to panic. He stressed that the silence was ‘’not unexpected”.

“I am very confident that the Lander survived the descent. We are a long way from being concerned, let alone being panicked. We have plenty of additional opportunities (for communications) and we have a carefully worked out contingency plan. We haven’t even thought about (the possibility of) losing the craft”, he added.

Mr Cook said signals would be sent to the craft during the next window, which starts at 8:10 p.M. (11:10 p.m. EST/4.10 a.m. GMT) telling it to start searching the skies for earth with its main antenna so that it could lock on and send signals.

Another option would be to have the craft use an ultra high frequency (UHF) antenna to communicate with the Mars Global Surveyor Satellite, orbiting above the surface of the red planet.

But that would not happen until Sunday at the earliest, if the Lander had failed to get in touch by then, Mr Cook said.

Mr Dave Crisp, a member of the Lander team, said there were a number of scenarios that could account for the craft’s failure to communicate.

He said it could have broken through the crust of Mars’ surface on landing, a footpad could have crumpled on landing or it might have landed with a footpad on a rock.

While all these possibilities were unlikely, he said, any one of them would have caused the craft to go into a “safe mode”, effectively putting itself to sleep.

More likely, Mr Crisp said, was that the Lander could not immediately establish its geographical position on Mars and therefore did not know where to look for earth.

Another possibility was that the antenna had failed to deploy properly, in which case it could be commanded to use its UHF antenna. The craft also has a low gain antenna but can only receive signals through it and not send them.

Mr Cook said the Lander was “a little shallow” going into the martian atmosphere but not enough to effect the landing.

Ideally, the Lander would have deployed its main antenna soon after landing, which scientists estimate occurred at 12:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m. EST/8.15 GMT), and started sending signals informing controllers that it had started its mission to search Mars for signs of water and gather data about its climate.

Scientists long had cautioned that it was possible no communications link would be established during the initial windows of opportunity, and Mr Cook said it could be days before communications were established.

“This (initial failure to communicate) was not entirely unexpected, though naturally we are a little disappointed”, Mr Cook said.

He said earlier: “We are a gnat’s eyelash away from the target. When you think that Mars is 140 million miles (224 million km) away from earth, and we are talking about a kilometre or two off, that’s fantastic.’’

In the final minutes before landing, the spacecraft should have jettisoned its protective “cruise ring” and two grapefruit-sized microprobes. These were due to smash into the Martian surface at 640 km/h.

Mr Cook said he would not be surprised if the probes — should they have survived the impact — communicated with controllers before the Lander. They were due to start sending signals through the global surveyor at 7:30 p.m. (10.30 EST/3.30 a.m. GMT).
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Serial killer, accomplices held
They killed 100 kids in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (DPA) — The police has arrested six accomplices of a man who claimed to have killed 100 children in central Pakistan, state-run television reported today.

A search was under way since yesterday for Javed Iqbal, who wrote to a newspaper that he murdered the children to avenge personal humiliation.

Newspapers published details of the crimes, committed in Lahore, capital of central Punjab province, provided by the man in a letter to the city’s Urdu-language daily, Jang.

Iqbal (40) reportedly said he became a serial killer to avenge the humiliation he suffered at the hands of a rapist and a police officer who, instead of prosecuting the rapist, protected him.

“Today, November 25, 1999, I have decided to commit suicide. Yesterday I killed my employee, Sajid, and incinerated his body in the (acid) container ... now I can go to sleep in the depths of the (river) Ravi,” the newspaper Dawn quoted him as saying.

A packet containing photographs and information on 57 of his victims accompanied the letter.

Jang said the killer approached the newspaper after the police failed to act on the letters he had sent to them.

Reporters, who followed the leads given in the letter discovered the bodies of two boys immersed in drums of acid in his rented house.

They also discovered sacks of clothes and shoes of the victims as catalogued by the killer.

Iqbal said he found his victims among homeless boys, aged 10 to 15, at a well-known shrine and the red light area of Lahore.

Dawn quoted him as saying in his letter: “the runaway children seek refuge there and learn to commit murder, theft, pick-pocketing and become involved in immoral activities. If the government failed to check this, people will find a solution, like I did.’’

Newspapers today said about 40 families had identified their children from the clothes and pictures catalogued by the killer.

“That does not mean the kids are dead — not until their bodies or any corroborating evidence is found,’’ the Nation newspaper quoted a police officer as saying.
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Millennium baby boom goes bust

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) — The millennium baby boom has gone bust. From Hong Kong to London, couples appear to have heeded the warning from doctors — don’t plan a turn-of-the-century baby in overcrowded hospitals battling the Y2K bug.

From Tokyo to Budapest, the message seems to have got through — it is ok to be fruitful and multiply but don’t make a special effort to do it as the clock ticks down to the new millennium.

A Reuters survey around the world revealed just two major exceptions. In Sydney and Beijing the temptation to aim for that magic target has proved too great although the Chinese are motivated more by the Chinese new year calendar.

April 9, 1999, was signalled as the perfect day to conceive a millennium baby. British radio stations played romantic classics. A New Zealand hotel hosted a “night of love” for 100 couples hoping to hit the millennium jackpot.

But doctors warned that the timing of any birth was an inexact science. Getting the date right was a tough assignment.

The British Airways has reported that hundreds of its stewardesses are expecting to have babies at the turn of the century, but they are the exception to the rule.

“Nationwide, the expected baby boom has not materialised,” a British Health Ministry spokesman said.

And that was after all the media hype, with big-name publicist Max Clifford estimating that the first British baby of the millennium could become a sponsorship-laden instant millionaire.

In Japan, doctors report that it will be babies as usual on New Year’s eve, with no millennium surge in births expected.

“I have no particular sense of an increase this year,” said Shizuko Kikuchi at Sapporo Maternity Hospital. “I haven’t heard of anybody deliberately planning to have a baby then.”

New York doctors are not expecting many more deliveries than usual but some have been asked whether there are any “prizes” for giving birth in the early minutes of January 1.

“I had one patient at least who asked me whether I could do a caesarean section that night and I said this is not an acceptable practice,” said Dr Amos Grunebaum as St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital in the heart of Manhattan.

In Washington, Dr John Larsen at George Washington University said: “There is normally in the US a flurry of people trying to get their labours induced so that they get their tax deduction before the end of the calendar year.

“That sweeps in a lot of people who are biologically due in at around that time.”

Hungary seems to have missed the opportunity to turn round a decade-long trend of declining newborns.
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6-month jail term for Indian businessman

PARIS, Dec 4 (PTI) — A French court today sentenced an Indian business executive to a six-month jail term for a violating trademark and copyrights law on a complaint given by French car maker Peugeot

In a shocking verdict, businessman Chand Mehta was sentenced to a six-month term and a three-month suspended term by the court, the executive’s lawyer, Vijay Phadke, told PTI.

Sources here said this is for the first time in the history of Indo-French trade ties that a senior business executive has been sentenced to such severe punishment.

In addition to his prison term, Mehta, Chief Exports Manager of Jaipur-based Auto Lite India Ltd, has been asked to pay a fine of Rs 15 lakh by the lower court in Bobigny, a suburb in the northwest of Paris.

The surprise arrest forced many Indian exhibitors to leave Paris in a hurry fearing they might also be targeted by other French companies on similar charges.

Mehta was arrested by the French Police in October during the Equip Auto ‘99 exhibition on complaints from Peugeot that the Indian firm had put on display a headlight for Peugeot-205 for which it had no licence.

He was remanded to police custody immediately following the judge’s refusal to release him on bail. An appeal court released him on bail last month and Mehta returned to India after undergoing a horrifying two-week jail term.

In today’s verdict the judge found Mehta personally responsible for trademark infringement, a criminal offence according to the French law, and asked him to pay Rs 7 lakh to the French state.

The court also asked Mehta to pay another Rs 7 lakh to Peugeot as compensation claimed by the carmaker for manufacturing and displaying its headlights without licence.

Mehta would also have to pay the legal costs of Peugeot estimated at about Rs 70,000 and another Rs 3000 for violation of customs duty, Mr Phadke said.

Sources said relations between Peugeot and Auto Lite Ltd. soured with the French carmaker suddenly pulling out from its decision to start a joint venture in India with Premier Automobiles (PAL) to manufacture Peugeot-205.

Auto Lite Ltd, which received orders for tooling and headlights, demanded compensation from Peugeot for the investments they had made on research and development, which the French company refused to give.

While Mehta has been found guilty by the French court in the verdict, Auto Lite Ltd which produced the headlights was not given any punishment by the court, the sources said.

Mehta can now approach the appeal court in Paris within 10 days to get the judgement suspended. If not, Mehta forfeits his right to appeal and will be arrested by the French authorities on his arrival in France.

The judgement has come as an embarrassment to officials and the business community in both countries as the much publicised India-France 2000 exhibition is all set to start in New Delhi from Monday.
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Laden ‘has links’ with Chechen rebels

WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (AP) — The US State Department has said that the organisation headed by terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and allied groups have maintained links with Islamic rebels in Chechnya, and it warned that the conflict there could spread south to Georgia and to oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Spokesman James Rubin yesterday said the support of these groups extends to rebels throughout the former Soviet Union. “We do believe there are funds and equipment and support that exists between a number of these organisations,” he added.There only cause “appears to be to oppose the whole civilised world,” he said.Rubin said the USA shared Russia’s concern about the need to contain terrorist groups but he reaffirmed US opposition to the tactics Russia was using to achieve its objectives in Chechnya.

One of the profound US concerns about the conflict in the North Caucasus is the “potential of its spilling over into Azerbaijan” and the instability that could create in the region, Rubin added. He also mentioned the possibility of the conflict affecting Georgia as well.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in September that Bin Laden had been in Chechnya several times and was backing Islamic militants in their quest to carve out a separate state in southern Russia.

He said Russia and the USA were working together to hunt Bin Laden down. Bin Laden is wanted by US authorities for the bombings of US embassies in East Africa last year.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright received assurances yesterday from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that he would fulfil a promise to allow a senior official from the organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe to visit Chechnya, Rubin said.

During a telephone conversation with Ivanov, Albright also said US-Russian relations could be affected because of the strong US disagreement with the way Russia had been handling the Chechnya crisis, the spokesman added.
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First woman to row across Atlantic

MIAMI, Dec 4 (Reuters) — Tori Murden, a 36-year-old from Kentucky, yesterday pulled into Bas du Fort harbour in Guadeloupe after an 82-day Atlantic crossing to become the first woman and first American to row an ocean alone and unsupported. “This land does wobble and my legs are tanned,” said an exhausted but overjoyed Murden as she set foot on the French Caribbean Island.She had covered a distance of 2,961 miles (4,765 km) since departing Tenerife, the Canary Islands, on September 13, 1999, according to a statement from her sponsors.

During the Atlantic crossing in blazing heat and changing winds and currents, Murden averaged 57 km a day. She was held up for nearly two weeks in November by hurricane lenny and stifling headwinds. Lenny hit Murden with 10 to 20-foot seas and caused her to capsize once on November 20, the statement said.

The voyage was made in a 23-foot custom rowboat, the “American Pearl”, without a motor or sail, nor any support or escort.

Murden’s landing in Guadeloupe makes her the first woman in history and the first American to traverse an ocean alone in a rowboat, using only human power, the sponsors said.
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Chechens plan govt-in-exile

MOSCOW, Dec 4 (PTI) — As the Russian army continued to advance towards Grozny, encircling the Chechen capital, the President of the rebel province Aslan Maskhadov is reportedly planning to set up a government-in-exile in Afghanistan.

A Chechen parliamentary delegation, despatched by Mr Maskhadov, has discussed with the Taliban leadership the setting up of the government-in-exile in the country, Moscow daily Sevodnya reported today quoting intelligence sources.

The delegation also held talks with international terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who has asked anti-Taliban Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood to bury the hatchet with the Taliban and join hands with them in helping Chechens to fight the "infidels", the daily said.

The Chechen delegation is scheduled to visit Pakistan for similar talks, it added.

Meanwhile, rebel officials have conceded that after a powerful thrust from west and east along the Rostov-Baku highway, the federal armoured columns have completely encircled Grozny, Interfax reported from besieged provincial capital.

The Commander of the Russian forces in the northern Caucasus region, General Viktor Kazantsev, also told Russian television channel NTV that Grozny had been "completely blocked off".

The blockade of Grozny coincided with the announcement by Russian President Boris Yeltsin of the beginning of the third phase of the Chechnya campaign.
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Sharif: military regime vindictive

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (PTI) — Detained Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif today accused the country’s military regime of adopting a partial approach in the plane hijacking case and said the recent amendment to the Anti-terrorism Act showed the rulers’ "vindictive attitude."

Mr Sharif, who was produced before the anti-terrorism court in Karachi this morning, said the move to amend the Anti-terrorism Act "clearly speaks of the partiality of the government and their vindictive attitude."

"They want to punish us by hook or crook," the ousted Premier said during a brief interaction with newspersons outside the court room.

The amendment, brought through an ordinance promulgated by General Musharraf’s regime only two days ago, enlarged the jurisdiction of anti-terrorism courts.

"You can understand clearly that the government wants to exercise its choice of judge in midstream whenever they find a judge acting judiciously and independently," Mr Sharif said in a note passed on to an international news channel by his lawyer.

He alleged that "inhuman conditions" prevailed inside the jail where he was detained.

The deposed Prime Minister’s comments outside the court room are in defiance of a ban on political statements by either the prosecution or the defence side.

In the meantime, Mr Sharif’s lawyers have indicated that they would challenge the "eleventh hour amendment" in the Anti-terrorism Act through an ordinance.

Mr Sharif’s counsel Khwaja Sultan Ahmed while arguing against the amendment before the court said the defence "will challenge it before the relevant forum."
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Ex-lover to spill beans
LONDON: Princess Diana’s former lover James Hewitt has sold his kiss and tell autobiography “Love and War” to China for 100,000 ($ 160,300). “I am hoping it could be as successful as Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book,” the former army officer dubbed “the love rat” by British tabloid newspapers, said on Friday. — Reuters

Stanford man jailed
STANFORD:
A researcher of Stanford University in the USA was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted by a Chinese court of leaking the country’s state secrets, university officials have said. Hua Di, a former high-ranking official in China’s missile programme, was arrested in China while attending a family funeral almost two years ago and charged with leaking unspecified state secrets, Stanford President Gerhard Casper said. Hua has been a social science research associate at Stanford’s centre for International Security and Cooperation since 1989 and planned to become a US citizen, colleagues said. — AP

9 feared dead
WILHEMSBURG, (Austria):
Rescuers have found four more bodies bringing the number of dead to seven following a gas explosion that levelled a three-storey apartment building. Two more persons were feared buried in the debris. Following Thursday explosion, about 200 firefighter, soldiers, police and dogs searched around-the-clock for survivors. One woman was brought out alive after medics amputated both her legs to free her — AP

10 killed in storm
HAMBURG:
A powerful storm swept across northern Europe on Friday leaving a trail of destruction and 10 persons dead, police and rescue services said on Saturday. Winds of up to 180 km per hour uprooted trees and brought down power lines in Germany, Denmark and parts of England. — DPA

Ex-general detained
BUENOS AIRES:
A top general of the military junta that ruled Argentina for seven years has been detained on charges of kidnapping and hiding babies born in secret torture camps during the junta’s rule, Federal Judge Adolfo Bagnasco said. Former general Guillermo Suarez Mason, (74), who was detained on Friday in connection with 230 cases in which babies were stolen from captives, given new identities and placed with new families. — AFP

Schroeder mimic
FRANKFURT:
A German student who impersonated Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on air could face up to a year in jail after a listener complained to the police. Duesseldorf impressionist Elmar Brandt fooled radio listeners with a spoof phone call from Mr Schroeder to a small German firm, offering it a slice of the government bail-out he brokered to rescue 150-year-old builder Philipp Holzmann AG from insolvency last week. — Reuters

Tango legend dead
BUENOS AIRES:
Renowned Argentine tango composer Enrique Cadicamo, who wrote hundreds of tunes immortalised by Carlos Gardel, the tango superstar of the 1920s and ’30s, died on Friday at the age of 99. In recent months Cadicamo had been in and out of a Buenos Aires hospital suffering from severe heart problems, his doctor said. The doctor did not give the actual cause of death. — Reuters

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