Indian Forces Battle Pockets of Militants


A commando rappelled from a helicopter near Nariman House, where militants are believed to be hiding, in Mumbai on Friday. Peter Keep/Reuters

MUMBAI, India – As the crisis in Mumbai approached its third day, Indian commandos fought running battles with militants on Friday, still struggling to end the murderous assault on India’s financial capital that has shaken the nation and raised perilous regional tensions with neighboring Pakistan.

Two Americans were confirmed killed, among a total of at least eight foreigners who the Indian authorities said had died during the attacks. In addition, five bodies of Israeli citizens were removed from a Jewish center, Chabad House, after Indian commando units stormed the attackers inside the building, Israeli officials said. The terrorists had executed the hostages during the commando raid, the Indian military said.

Shortly before night settled over the stricken city, the police said the death toll had reached 143 with the discovery of 24 bodies in the luxury Oberoi hotel, where the police had finally taken control and many guests were set free on Friday.

But the army’s operation at a second luxury hotel, the Taj, was only entering its “final phase,” according to the Indian military, with commandos battling one terrorist left inside who the army said was moving between two floors of the hotel, including an area that had been a dance floor for weddings and other parties. The army said two other terrorists had been killed overnight in the Taj hotel.

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Water vapour discovered on Saturn’s moon

Huge plumes of water vapour and ice particles are bursting out from Saturn’s moon Enceladus at supersonic speeds in a way that strongly suggests they come from liquid water down below the icy surface, scientists have said.


Artist’s impression of the Cassini spacecraft passing through plumes from geysers that erupt from giant fissures in the moon’s southern polar region Photo: REUTERS

The research, published in the journal Nature, offers new evidence that the moon may harbor an underground ocean of water, meaning conditions might exist that could support life, even if only microbial organisms.

‘We think liquid water is necessary for life and there is more evidence that there is liquid water there,’ said lead researcher Candice Hansen of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

‘You also need energy, you need nutrients, you need organics. It looks like the pieces are there. Whether or not there’s actually life, of course, we can’t say.’

Scientists are aware of only three places where liquid water exists near the surface of a planet or other body – Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa and now Enceladus.

In July Nasa’s Phoenix Mars Lander confirmed the presence of ice on Mars.

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Russia seeks new missiles due to U.S. shield plans

“Medvedev also said Russia would try to electronically jam the U.S. system.”

The Russians supposedly have developed scalar weapons that can easily take out any electronic equipment and those longitudinal waves cannot be shielded.
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Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missile takes off from Plesetsk launching pad, May 29, 2007. REUTERS/Str

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has intensified efforts to develop new ballistic missiles in response to U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile system in Europe, Interfax news agency quoted a top Russian general as saying on Friday.

The decision by the United States to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic has angered Moscow, which says Russia’s national security will be compromised by the U.S. anti-missile system.

Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, was quoted by Interfax as saying that Russia had bolstered its efforts to develop new missiles.

“At the present time, work has been intensified to create the research and technical foundation for new missile systems, which will be needed after 2020,” Solovtsov said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced on November 5 that Moscow would install Iskander short-range missile systems near the Polish border if Washington proceeds with its missile plans.

Medvedev also said Russia would try to electronically jam the U.S. system.

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Ruble Collapse Prompts Russia to Raise Rate on Currency Plight

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — Russia’s ruble headed for its biggest weekly decline against the euro in at least five years as the central bank let the currency depreciate and raised interest rates to halt an exodus of foreign capital.

Bank Rossii widened the ruble’s trading band for the second time this week by about 30 kopeks (1 U.S. cent), or 1 percent, on each side, according to Mikhail Galkin, head of fixed-income and credit research at MDM Bank in Moscow. The central bank said today it will raise its benchmark refinancing rate to 13 percent from 12 percent to help stem currency losses.

Russia is among a handful of countries raising interest rates after it drained $148 billion from the world’s third largest foreign-currency reserves since August to arrest a 16 percent currency slide against the dollar. BNP Paribas SA estimates that investors pulled $190 billion out of the country since August as oil prices fell below the $70-a-barrel average required to balance Russia’s budget in 2009.

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How an Italian judge made the internet illegal

Italian bloggers are up in arms at a court ruling early this year that suggests almost all Italian blogs are illegal. This month, a senior Italian politician went one step further, warning that most web activity is likely to be against the law.

The story begins back in May, when a judge in Modica (in Sicily) found local historian and author Carlo Ruta guilty of the crime of “stampa clandestina” – or publishing a “clandestine” newspaper – in respect of his blog. The judge ruled that since the blog had a headline, that made it an online newspaper, and brought it within the law’s remit.

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Thai government declares state of emergency at two Bangkok airports


Apichart Weerawong / Associated Press Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the site of anti-government protests that have halted flights, stranding scores of travelers.

The action avoids broader restrictions that many Thais had feared. Protesters are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Reporting from Bangkok, Thailand — Thailand’s beleaguered Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on Thursday declared a state of emergency around two Bangkok airports occupied by protesters but insisted he wanted a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“I do not have any intention to hurt any members of the public,” he said in announcing the targeted restrictions on civil liberties aimed at reopening the country’s main international airport.

By declaring the state of emergency, the government can suspend civil liberties, ban public gatherings and take other measures to restore order without imposing broader restrictions that many Thais have feared.

Thousands of People’s Alliance for Democracy demonstrators on Tuesday seized the newly built Suvarnabhumi Airport, one of the busiest airports in Asia, marooning thousands of foreign travelers.

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VIDEO: Brazil reels from flood damage

Nov 27 – President Lula flies over flooded area in southern Brazil where 100 have died and some 54,000 are homeless.

Six areas in Brazil’s southern state of Santa Catarina declared a state of emergency and as many as 100,000 people are still trapped after landslides and raging rivers washed out roads and cut power.

In Rio Bonito in the province of Rio de Janeiro ambulances rushed to a scene of a landslide while residents scrambled to dig through the mud, searching for survivors.

Houses and cars were buried under mudslides throughout the region, while trees and household items drifted through flooded streets.

Fri Nov 28, 2008 3:30am EST

Source: Reuters

China’s banks to pump billions into economy – but will it work?

China is about to pump billions of dollars through state-owned banks to save the domestic economy. But will it work? That depends on whether the banks know when to lend – and when not to. The fallout from the failed $66bn takeover of miner Rio Tinto suggests they have much to learn.

China Development Bank (CDB) helped Chinalco, the Chinese state-owned mining group, buy a 12pc stake in Rio in February. Chinalco spent $14bn on the shares, cheered on by Chinese steel makers who feared a takeover of Rio by rival BHP Billiton might leave them at the mercy of the enlarged metals giant.

BHP’s bid for Rio indeed foundered this week – albeit not because of Chinalco – sending Rio’s shares tumbling 37pc in a day. Chinalco now nurses a horrible loss. Its $14bn investment is worth a paltry $3bn.

That could be even worse for CDB than it is for Chinalco. The state bank lent Chinalco $6bn up front, plus a $7bn facility of which $2bn had been drawn but not used when the shares were purchased, according to US regulatory filings. That makes for $8bn lent against assets which, today, are worth less than half that amount.

Assuming $8bn of loans drawn, Chinalco would owe $260m of interest this year. Dividends paid to Chinalco from Rio, though, are unlikely to top $200m. Worse, $1.8bn of borrowings are due for repayment in January 2009.

Read moreChina’s banks to pump billions into economy – but will it work?

Top Chinese official warns on downturn

The downturn in the Chinese economy accelerated over the past month and could lead to high unemployment and social unrest, the country’s top economic planner warned on Thursday.

Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the government needed to take “forceful” measures to limit the slowdown in the economy, which included Wednesday’s large cut in interest rates and a sharp increase in fiscal spending. The rate cut was the fourth since September.

“The global financial crisis has not bottomed out yet. The impact is spreading globally and deepening in China. Some domestic economic indicators point to an accelerated slowdown in November,” Mr Zhang said on Thursday at a rare news conference.

Mr Zhang’s warning about the potential for social unrest as a result of factory closures underlined the mounting concern in Beijing about the fallout from the global financial crisis.

“Excessive production cuts and closures of businesses will cause massive unemployment, which will lead to instability,” Mr Zhang said.

His comments came a day after the mayor of Shenzhen, China’s largest export centre, said factory closures had claimed 50,000 jobs in the city so far this year after 682 factories closed or stopped production.

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‘Heavy water’ could help us live longer

Drinking “heavy water” enriched with a rare form of hydrogen could prolong our lives by up to ten years, it has been claimed.

Mikhail Shchepinov, a former Oxford University scientist, says that the modified drink protects against dangerous chemicals known as free radicals that are known to contribute to conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

He also claims that foods such as steak and eggs could be enriched with the special hydrogen isotope, known as deuterium, raising the possibility of people being able to “eat themselves healthy”.

His research has shown that worms live 10 per cent longer and fruitflies up to 30 per cent longer when fed on heavy water, which is slightly sweeter than normal water.

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