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30 killed, 70 injured in fire at cracker factory in TN

SIVAKASI (Tamil Nadu): In a major tragedy, at least 30 persons were today charred to death and 70 others injured when fire swept through a cracker unit at Sivakasi, a fireworks manufacturing hub in Tamil Nadu.

Police and fire officials said the toll may rise, as firefighters struggled to enter the building of Omshakti fireworks factory.

Thirty persons have died, police and fire officials at the spot said.

"These are times ahead of Deepavali. So activities go on at breakneck speed in the cracker units," Virudhunagar District Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda said.

A factory official said 300 persons were at work at the unit at the time of the incident.

In October 2009, 32 persons, most of them Deepavali shoppers, were killed at a cracker godown fire in Pallipattu in Tiruvallur district. — PTIBack




Promotion quota bill set for delay

NEW DELHI: A contentious bill providing for reservation to SCs and STs in government job promotions is set for a delay notwithstanding the urgency displayed in bringing it, with government on Wednesday citing paucity of time in passing it during the current session of Parliament.

The indication that the bill will be delayed was given by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held consultations with him and Defence Minister A.K. Antony soon after introduction of the proposed legislation saw a scuffle between members of Samajwadi Party and BSP in Rajya Sabha.

“There is no time now,” Shinde told reporters when asked whether the Constitution Amendment Bill would be passed by Parliament in the ongoing monsoon session.

On the strong opposition to the bill witnessed in Rajya Sabha, he said, “We will convince them. It is a question of giving justice to the SC/STs who have been struggling for ages.”

He said the Prime Minister and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were keen to have such a law in place.

Shinde disapproved of BSP chief Mayawati’s bitter remarks calling Congress and BJP ‘snakes’

“It cannot be said. Our intention is very clear. The intention of the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi is very clear. Justice has to be given to them,” he said.

Shinde said Congress had also tried to bring the bill earlier but had not succeeded.

He said SC/ST MPs and MLAs have been demanding for the past two-three years reservation in promotion in government jobs.

Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha today witnessed high drama as a scuffle broke out between SP and BSP members when the government introduced a contentious Constitution amendment bill to provide reservation in promotion to SCs and STs in government jobs.

The bill, which seeks to circumvent a Supreme Court order quashing such a decision of Uttar Pradesh government in April, seeks to bring certainty and clarity in the matter by substituting a clause of Article 16 of the Constitution.

The scuffle broke out as soon as Deputy Chairman P J Kurien asked the government to move the Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012. Members of SP, a party opposed to the bill, were on their feet and party MP Naresh Agrawal proceeded towards the Well.

He was encountered by BSP member Avatar Singh Karimpuri, who grabbed the SP member by his collar to prevent him from trooping into the Well. At this, other members from the BSP including Brajesh Pathak immediately intervened and held back Karimpuri.

Tempers ran high as the scuffle continued for a few minutes before Karimpuri was finally made to take his seat. Soon marshals were called in the House. Amid the commotion, the bill was introduced by Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present when the incident took place. Six SP members including Ramgopal Yadav and Agrawal then rushed to the Well shouting slogans saying reservations in promotion would not be allowed. — PTI



Jawan dies as Army foils infiltration bid

SRINAGAR: A soldier and a militant were killed as Army foiled an infiltration bid near the Line of Control (LoC) in the Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district in Kashmir, a defence spokesman said in Srinagar on Wednesday.

"An infiltration bid was foiled in Tangdhar sector last night. One terrorist
was killed while another managed to flee back across the LoC in an injured condition," Defence spokesman Lt Colonel J S Brar said.

He said a soldier was also killed in the gunbattle with the infiltrators.

Lt Col Brar said this was the second infiltration bid in Kashmir Valley in last three days.

The Army on Sunday foiled a bid by militants to sneak into the Valley from Uri sector of Baramulla district but there were no reports of any casualty in the operation. — PTI




Michelle tries to rekindle Obama magic

Charlotte, North Carolina: Four years ago, Michelle Obama told skeptical voters that despite her husband's funny name, he was just like them. On Tuesday, she tried to convince them he was also an exceptional President. More popular than her husband, the First Lady kick-started the Democrats' 2012 convention with a prime-time address in Charlotte, North Carolina that marked another step on her path from reluctant campaigner to political heavy hitter.

While First Ladies since Nellie Taft 100 years ago have waded into the turbid waters of US presidential politics, Michelle reprised the modern role of providing a humanizing antidote to the hyper-partisan caricatures of the day.

It was before a stadium packed with supporters in Denver, Colorado four years ago that the Harvard and Princeton-trained lawyer made her political debut.

Then she sought to show Americans that the Obamas were indeed like them.

She also began to tell her own story - that of a devoted mother and wife who made an improbable journey from the poor South Side of Chicago to the storied corridors of power in the White House.

She spoke touchingly of Obama playing basketball with her six foot six brother and of her now deceased father using two canes to get across the room to kiss her mother.

On Tuesday she made the case that he was also a compassionate and diligent president.

"When people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago."

"That's the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him.

"The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills, from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care, from the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities.

"I see the concern in his eyes, and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, 'you won't believe what these folks are going through, Michelle. It's not right. We've got to keep working to fix this. We've got so much more to do.'"

In recent months, as the first black First Lady, with charm, hidden steel and growing political skill, she has injected some much-needed verve into her husband's battered brand.

She has headlined over 70 fundraisers since April, and in Charlotte has been drafted to not only headline the first night of the convention, but to lead a slew of side events to woo African American, Hispanic, gay, military and women activists.

Since occupying the East Wing of the White House she has also built goodwill with healthy eating and fitness campaigns, and a drive to help families of military veterans.

"She's the first fashionista, the mom-in-chief, the first gardener, the cool aunt - she's Oprah with good arms," said Robert Watson, an expert on First Ladies from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.

"I don't know if it's rebranding or we're finally getting the real Michelle. Whatever it is, it's very effective."

Born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson on January 17, 1964, she rose from a humble upbringing to go to two of the most prestigious US universities.

She worked in corporate law, as director of a community non-profit in some of Chicago's less moneyed neighborhoods, and at the University of Chicago and its medical center.

But she has not been without detractors.

In the 2008 campaign an affectionate tap of clenched fists with her husband was dubbed "a terrorist fist jab" and she was called "unpatriotic" for an unguarded comment in which she said the public support for her husband made her proud of her country "for the first time in my adult lifetime."

A lavish trip to Spain in 2010 was panned by critics and mocked by conservative radio talk show hosts as evidence of undue entitlement. — AFP




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