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Chirac embarks on India visit this week
Paris, February 16
President Jacques Chirac heads to Thailand and India this week for a visit that narrowly missed being overshadowed by concerns over a decommissioned French aircraft carrier laden with toxic materials.

37 Indian Americans get OCI status
Houston, February 16
Thirtyseven Indian Americans have received their Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards at the Indian consulate here. Consul-General S.M. Gavai presented the OCI cards at a special ceremony at the consulate yesterday.

Massive rally in Karachi
Effigies of Danish PM burnt
Karachi, February 16
Tens of thousands of people today shouting “God is Great” marched through Karachi and burned effigies of the Danish prime minister in Pakistan’s latest round of protests over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Over 50? Simple test predicts mortality
Washington, February 16
A simple 12-point questionnaire that takes minutes to complete can predict mortality for people over 50 with 81 per cent accuracy, San Francisco researchers said in a study published today.


Hamid Karzai visits Pakistan.

(28k, 56k)

USA admits Katrina lapses
Washington, February 16
US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has acknowledged widespread lapses in the government response to Hurricane Katrina as a Congress report blasted the official failures.

Bangladesh bans entry of toxic ship
Dhaka, February 16
Bangladesh has taken a cue from India by banning the entry of the toxic-laden ship, SS Norway into its waters. ‘‘We have information that the ship is carrying toxic materials like asbestos and mono-carbon, and asked all the authorities concerned to keep vigil so that it (the vessel) cannot enter into our territory,’’ Bangladesh’s Forest and Environment Minister Tariqul Islam told reporters in his office on Thursday.



Iran's President Mahmound Ahmadinejad and President of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran Reza Aghazadeh (left) visit the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities some 322 km south of the capital Tehran on Wednesday
Iran's President Mahmound Ahmadinejad ( right) and President of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran Reza Aghazadeh (left) visit the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities some 322 km south of the capital Tehran on Wednesday. — AP/PTI

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Chirac embarks on India visit this week

Paris, February 16
President Jacques Chirac heads to Thailand and India this week for a visit that narrowly missed being overshadowed by concerns over a decommissioned French aircraft carrier laden with toxic materials.

The asbestos-carrying Clemenceau had been en route to India to be dismantled when Mr Chirac ordered it to return to France yesterday. Environmentalists have assailed the ship as hazardous, and the Indian Supreme Court had been studying the risks to workers taking it apart.

With the ship on its way back to France, Mr Chirac can focus his trip on boosting economic ties, as planned.

He will spend Friday and Saturday in Thailand, becoming the first French president to pay an official visit to the country. Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit have invited him for a state dinner at the palace.

The French leader will hold talks with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pay homage to victims of the 2005 Tsunami, and announce a push for more French businesses in Thailand. Mr Chirac’s state visit to India starting Sunday will be his first since 1998.

Aside from any fallout from the Clemenceau dispute, another possible sore spot in his India visit is last month’s bid by Mittal Steel Co., run by NRI Lakshmi N. Mittal and based in the Netherlands, to buy Arcelor SA.

Mr Chirac is expected to meet Mr Mittal in New Delhi, his office said.

He is also to sign an agreement for a French-Indian telecommunication satellite, a framework accord on defence cooperation and a pact to cooperate on nuclear power.

Mr Chirac said the process of consultation initiated by France, since the Indo-American declaration on July 18 last year, “continues today with the support of the American administration and other major partners”.

He said “recognition of a special status for India with respect to the NSG is a priority for us. We are close to reaching an agreement, but more work is required on both sides. Asked why there was delay in the agreement since he considered India responsible, he said “because it is a multilateral issue, France stands firmly alongside India. — AP, PTI

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37 Indian Americans get OCI status

Houston, February 16
Thirtyseven Indian Americans have received their Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards at the Indian consulate here.
Consul-General S.M. Gavai presented the OCI cards at a special ceremony at the consulate yesterday.

For Arulmani Periaswamy, who was the first to receive the OCI status, and perhaps the first one in the entire US, along with his family, it was the most “fulfilling moment” of his life.

“I looked forward to retain my Indian passport and now I am glad that my family is the holder of the OCI card which will strengthen the ties of my children, who were born in the US,” said Periaswamy who immigrated as a student in 1989 from Tamil Nadu.

“Now we can travel, invest, live and work in India as long as we wish without worrying about visa expiry”, said another recipient.

The Consul-General, while presenting the OCI cards to the first batch of 37 Indians families living in Houston, said the response to the dual citizenship scheme from the community was overwhelming.

“We are processing the applicants without any delay and hope that the applicants would get the documents soon,” he said. — PTI 

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Massive rally in Karachi
Effigies of Danish PM burnt

Karachi, February 16
Tens of thousands of people today shouting “God is Great” marched through Karachi and burned effigies of the Danish prime minister in Pakistan’s latest round of protests over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

About 5,000 police and paramilitary forces, wearing helmets and wielding guns and shields, were deployed along the 3 km route of the rally to prevent the violence that has plagued other protests throughout the country this week, police said.

The rally in Karachi ended peacefully and about 40,000 people participated in it, said Mr Shahnawaz Khan, a senior Karachi police officer.

Protesters burned Danish flags and also chanted, “God’s curse be on those who insulted the Prophet.” The government ordered educational institutions to close for the day and many shops in the city — a hotbed of Islamic militancy — were shut.

Mr Shah Turabul Haq, the head of Jamat Ahl-e-Sunnat, the Sunni Muslim group that organized the rally, said the “movement to protect the Prophet’s sanctity will continue.

He demanded the government expel Ambassadors of countries where newspapers published cartoons of the Prophet. Another cleric, Mufti Munibur Rahman, called for a boycott of products from those nations, and called for world bodies like the UN to treat “attacks” on the Prophet’s sanctity as a crime.

Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf and visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday appealed for European and other Western nations to condemn the cartoons, saying freedom of the Press did not mean the right to insult the religious beliefs of others. — AP

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Over 50? Simple test predicts mortality

Washington, February 16
A simple 12-point questionnaire that takes minutes to complete can predict mortality for people over 50 with 81 per cent accuracy, San Francisco researchers said in a study published today.

The researchers of the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center said the questionnaire was useful in indicating whether a person faces the likelihood of death within four years. That makes it a valuable prognostic tool for doctors doing preliminary assessments of patients’ health, they said.

The 12-question form, which assesses various health risk factors on a point system, “could be completed in a few minutes by a patient or medical office receptionist,” said Sei J. Lee, a geriatric specialist at the center and the lead author of the study.

“There’s a real need for this kind of prognostic index,” he said, because it helps doctors make key decisions on medical tests and clinical care.

“For example, is it worth it to order a Pap smear or colonoscopy for a particular patient? Those sorts of screening interventions generally don’t help patients until five to eight years after they are given. — AFP

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USA admits Katrina lapses

Washington, February 16
US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has acknowledged widespread lapses in the government response to Hurricane Katrina as a Congress report blasted the official failures.

Chertoff told incredulous senators yesterday that when he went to bed on the night of the storm, which killed about 1,300 persons, he did not believe that Katrina had been as bad as many people had predicted.

But Chertoff took the blame for much of the criticism of the government since the August 29 hurricane that devastated much of New Orleans and the US Gulf Coast. — AFP

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Bangladesh bans entry of toxic ship

Dhaka, February 16
Bangladesh has taken a cue from India by banning the entry of the toxic-laden ship, SS Norway into its waters.
‘‘We have information that the ship is carrying toxic materials like asbestos and mono-carbon, and asked all the authorities concerned to keep vigil so that it (the vessel) cannot enter into our territory,’’ Bangladesh’s Forest and Environment Minister Tariqul Islam told reporters in his office on Thursday.

He said the government had asked the country’s central bank to check whether any letter of credit was opened for this purpose, and to cancel it if it exists. — ANI

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