The NewsFuror

Thursday, November 1, 2007

9 killed, 40 injured in Sargodha suicide attack on air force bus

SARGODHA: A suicide bomber rammed his explosive laden motorbike into a bus carrying Pakistani air force officials Thursday, killing at least nine and wounding 40 others, the interior ministry said.

"The bus was carrying trainee flying officers when it was attacked by the suicide bomber" in the Sargodha district of central Punjab province, interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.

"Eight air force officials died in the terrorist attack," Cheema said, and around 40 were wounded.

"It was a suicide attack and the target was the bus which was carrying the air force officials," chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.
The injured have been shifted to hospital where 21 out of the injured are in critical condition.

The sources said that the head of the suicide attacker was found at the site of the attack. Sargodha is home to the largest air force base in Pakistan.

Up to 70 militants killed in new Swat clashes

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani security forces backed by gunship helicopters killed up to 70 militants in two days of clashes in a northwestern region, the army said Thursday quoting police and paramilitary sources.

A ceasefire broke down in the troubled Swat Valley on Wednesday and fresh fighting erupted early Thursday when militants loyal to a hardline pro-Taliban cleric attacked a security checkpost, the army said.

"Police and Frontier Constabulary sources have confirmed death of 60 to 70 miscreants," an army statement said. On Wednesday night officials gave a death toll of 20.

Top military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said that the latest round of fighting began at 4:30 am when the rebels attacked the checkpoint and law enforcement personnel responded with mortar and small arms fire.

"It is going on and helicopters are still engaged by law enforcing agencies," he said. The figures could not be confirmed independently.

Pakistan moved 2,500 troops into Swat last week to counter radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who is also known as "Mullah Radio" for his speeches on his private radio station, in which he calls for a holy war on the authorities.

He and his followers are pushing for the imposition of harsh Islamic Sharia law in the area, which formerly drew tourists from around the world to see its ancient Buddhist heritage.
A day after the deployment, 30 people were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary vehicle in the region.

The violence in Swat has fuelled fears of a spillover from the troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, where 90,000 Pakistani troops are combating Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Jail term for Prison Break actor

Former Prison Break actor Lane Garrison has been sentenced to three years and four months in prison for a drunken car crash which killed a teenager.

Garrison, 27, pleaded guilty in May to vehicular manslaughter, drink driving and providing alcohol to a minor.

The actor was driving his Land Rover in California last December when it left the road and struck a tree. One of his three passengers later died.

Garrison played "Tweener" in the Fox TV series, shown on Five in the UK.


Speaking before the sentencing, he said he was "sick" of his conduct on the night of the crash and felt "genuine" remorse.

Garrison was found to be two times over California's limit for alcohol in the blood after the accident on 2 December 2006.

The crash killed Vahagn Setian, 17, and injured two 15-year-old girls who were also in the car.

Superior Court Judge Elden S Fox said the public had a right to know that "conduct such as this, causing devastation such as this" would be punished.

"In this case, you have to be the messenger," he told the actor, who was also ordered to pay around $300,000 (£144,000) in compensation to the victims and their families.

Talks fail to end Hollywood row

Hollywood screenwriters and producers have failed to resolve a contract dispute at last-ditch talks.

The failure means the writers may stage a strike that could cripple production of many television programmes.

Studios have stockpiled scripts, but they will have no writers for comedy programmes that depend on topical gags.

The writers' union is seeking extra payments for their work when it is re-used on other platforms such as DVDs, the internet and mobile phones.

At present, they receive nothing extra if their work is featured in such formats.

The writers' current contract with the studios expired at 0001 local time (0701 GMT) with no replacement agreed and no new negotiations immediately scheduled.

Fruitless talks

Wednesday's negotiations started with the Writers' Guild of America (WGA) reportedly presenting a new set of proposals containing unspecified concessions and were attended by a federal mediator.

But after eight hours of talks the studios issued a statement saying the writers' demand for a greater share of revenue from DVD sales constituted "a complete roadblock to any further progress".

The WGA should "take the necessary steps now to break this impasse", said the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

But in its statement, the union disputed this version of events, saying the alliance had insisted writers not only accept the existing "hated DVD formula", but extend it to internet downloads.

"Every issue that matters to writers, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction, has been ignored" in the bargaining, said the WGA. "This is completely unacceptable."

The WGA voted unanimously in favour of strike action two weeks ago, but it is unclear whether it will go ahead.

In the event of a strike, the studios are expected to resort to repeats, extended news programmes and reality TV shows.

However, late-night topical comedy shows - such as the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart - would be severely affected.

The last major WGA strike in 1988 lasted 22 weeks, delayed the start of the autumn TV season and cost the industry an estimated $500m.

The studios say higher royalties for writers on new media products would stifle growth at a time of increasing production costs, but the union accuses the studios of pleading poverty while earning healthy profits.

Rowling completes Potter spin-off

Author JK Rowling has completed a set of handwritten fairytales which were mentioned in her last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

There will be just seven volumes of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and they will not be published.

One copy will be auctioned to raise money for her charity, The Children's Voice, and the author will give away the rest of them.

She said the books were a "wonderful way" to say goodbye to Potter.

"People kept saying to me 'you'll be glad to have a break from writing', when of course I wasn't taking a break at all," added the writer.

Handwritten books

"I was literally writing out - as these are handwritten books - these new stories which has been a wonderful way to say goodbye. It's like coming up from a deep dive."

The fairytales, which were illustrated by Rowling herself, are the first works she has written since the Potter novel was published in July.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard was left to Potter character Hermione by Hogwarts school headmaster Dumbledore.

In a recent US book tour, the author revealed that Dumbledore was gay.

Rowling said she had always seen him as gay in her mind.

"No-one ever asked me had he ever been in love or fallen in love. People were very focussed on what happens to Harry so I had never been asked a direct question.

"And because to answer it would immediately flag up an infatuation with what happens in book seven, I never said it."

The new book will be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on 13 December with a starting price of £30,000, although it is expected to sell for a lot more.

Harry Potter book sales already stood at 325 million copies even before the seventh novel came out - it broke records on both sides of the Atlantic by selling 11 million copies in 24 hours.

It was published simultaneously in more than 90 countries.

Legal action

  • JK Rowling and the makers of the Harry Potter films, Warner Bros, are suing a US publisher over its plans to release a book version of a popular website dedicated to the boy wizard.
  • The legal action claims that RDR Books will infringe on Rowling's intellectual property rights if it publishes the 400-page Harry Potter Lexicon.

    It adds that this would interfere with her plans to write her own definitive Harry Potter encyclopaedia.

    RDR Books publisher Roger Rapoport said the suit dismayed him and dismissed any notion it could compete with any official encyclopaedia written by Rowling.

    Spears defends parenting skills

    Pop star Britney Spears has defended her parenting in a US radio interview.

    When asked by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest on his Los Angeles show if she was doing all she could for her children, Spears said: "Oh, God yeah."

    The singer is currently embroiled in a custody battle over her two young boys with ex-husband Kevin Federline.

    "It's sad, how cruel the world can be. At the end of the day, you've just got to know in your heart you're doing the best you can," she said.

    "I try not to let it get to me," she added, referring to recent media coverage.


    Federline has full custody of Sean Preston, aged two, and one-year-old Jayden James but Spears is allowed three monitored visits with them a week.

    In Tuesday's ruling, Spears was granted two afternoons and one full night per week with her two sons.

    But the pop star seemed unsure when asked by Seacrest how often she would have access to them.

    "That's, like, all in the court. Stuff like that, my lawyers know all that stuff," she said.

    Spears told Seacrest she did not do anything special to celebrate the release of Blackout, her first studio album in four years.

    "We watched movies... had fried chicken," she said.

    She said her favourite track on the album was Heaven on Earth.

    The short telephone interview on radio station KIIS-FM was ended abruptly when her assistant Alli Sims told Seacrest that Spears had left to have a shower.

    Detailed testimony was presented during the latest custody court ruling.

    Spears' parenting coach Lisa Hacker concluded in her report that the singer loved her sons and that they were bonded to her.

    But the report also criticised Spears, calling the atmosphere at her home "chaotic" and saying she rarely played with or spoke to the boys.

    Australia name squad for new era

    Australia have announced their squad for the new era with Phil Jaques, Shaun Tait and Brad Hogg in a 13-man squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka.

    It is Australia's first Test series since Justin Langer, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne retired after the Ashes.

    Jaques opens with Matthew Hayden while spinner Hogg will vie with Stuart MacGill for Warne's place.

    Brett Lee leads the pace attack as Tait and Mitchell Johnson compete for the place vacated by McGrath.

    Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch admitted the experience of picking a Test side after the retirements of three great players was daunting.

    "It's the first time any of us have sat down and named a side that doesn't include the greats like Warne and McGrath," he said.

    "But we're confident about the new era of Australian cricket which starts at the Gabba on Thursday (8 November)."

    MacGill, 36, is likely to get the nod over Hogg, but Hilditch wants to see all 13 players train before making a final decision.

    "We are replacing someone who will never be replaced in Warne," he said.

    "But in Stuart MacGill we're really confident, he's a class leg-spinner with a great Test record.

    "Having both in the squad gives us the opportunity to assess the conditions and then decide which selection is best."

    Left-handed Jaques, 28, is set for only his third Test appearance, and first for 18 months.

    MacGill, who has played 40 Tests in a career spanning nine years, said: "I'm close to taking 200 Test wickets and that will be an interesting one for me because I know I've only got two wickets to get there.

    "If I get a game, then two wickets isn't enough really. I think it'll be a case of 'yep that's good, got that - now move on', and look forward to taking more and more wickets."

    Australia squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Phil Jaques, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait.

    Soaring oil climbs past $96 mark

    Oil prices have continued their unremitting climb, passing the $96 a barrel mark after figures showed a surprise fall in US crude reserves.

    US light crude rose as high as $96.24 in Asian trading on Thursday morning before falling back to $96.05.

    Traders were concerned by a second weekly fall in US crude stockpiles ahead of the intensive winter period.

    At the current rate of increase, prices are set to top $100 a barrel during the next week.

    Adjusted for inflation, prices are still below the $101 high reached in November 1980.

    US supplies

    US light crude closed trading on Wednesday at a record settlement high of $94.53, after prices rocketed by as much as $4 to $5 in highly volatile trade.

    Brent crude was trading up at $91.63 a barrel on Thursday morning.

    We are stepping into an unknown area
    Ken Hasegawa, Fimat Japan

    The US government's figures showed that domestic crude stocks fell by 3.9 million barrels last week, worrying analysts who had forecast an increase of 100,000 barrels.

    The US is the world's biggest energy consumer and the state of its inventories is a key concern for market watchers.

    "We are stepping into an unknown area," said Ken Hasegawa, a broker at Fimat Japan, said of the latest price spike.

    "Nobody wants to sell, given the fear of a further rise."

    Upward pressure

    An array of factors has been driving oil prices higher.

    Oil prices have risen as the sliding greenback makes oil, which is priced in dollars, cheaper to buy outside the US.

    The dollar hit its weakest levels against the pound since 1981 on Wednesday.

    At the same time, oil investors have been casting a nervous eye on Turkey's threats to carry out a major military incursion into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels.

    In past months, there have also been concerns about the stop-start violence in Nigeria's main oil producing region, the international community's unresolved nuclear dispute with Iran and heating supplies for the US winter.

    Mexico was forced to halt one-fifth of oil production at the start of the week by a tropical storm hitting its Caribbean coast, sparking further supply fears, but it has now resumed full production.

    Oil producers' body Opec continues to be criticised for not doing enough to restrain prices despite agreeing to lift daily output by 500,000 barrels, an increase which came into effect on Thursday.

    A senior Opec official said the organisation was not to "blame" for the price rises and insisted there was no shortage of capacity in the market.

    "We never fix oil prices," said Abdullah al-Attiyah, Qatar's energy minister.

    "It is market driven and it is out of control."

    Chad case children 'not orphans'

    International agencies have rejected the "war orphan" label given to 103 children at the centre of a child abduction scandal in Chad.

    A joint report by two UN agencies and the Red Cross said 91 of the children came from a home with "at least one adult ... considered a parent".

    The report also said most of the 21 girls and 82 boys, aged 1-10, came from villages in Chad near the Sudan border.

    Six workers from the French Zoe's Ark charity are charged with kidnapping.

    Three French journalists and seven Spanish air crew are also facing charges.

    The charity said the children came from Darfur, on the Sudanese side of the border, while local reports said they were from Chad.

    A wife of one of the accused charity workers said they only wanted to rescue the children and give them a better life.

    The affair has caused a diplomatic storm between Chad and its former colonial power, France, although France has condemned the charity's activities.

    Correspondents say there have been worries the affair would damage relations - France is the main backer of a European Union peace force due to go to the region in the next few weeks to protect Darfur refugees.

    People in the Chadian border town of Abeche came out onto the streets on Wednesday in protest at the alleged kidnappings.

    Pressure increases on PKK rebels

    Turkey, Iraq and the US have all taken steps to combat the threat of Kurdish fighters based in northern Iraq and defuse the crisis in the region.

    The Turkish government has announced economic sanctions against groups which support those responsible for a recent upsurge in attacks on Turkish soldiers.

    The move came after Baghdad announced more checkpoints to curb the activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

    The US also said it was giving Turkey intelligence on PKK positions in Iraq.

    Washington has urged the Turkish government to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis on its south-eastern border, where it has deployed thousands of troops and threatened to invade.


    Following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said his government had initiated "military, political diplomatic measures" to combat the PKK.

    "The targets of these measures are the terrorist organization and those groups which are supporting, aiding and abetting it," he said.

    Mr Cicek gave no details of the economic measures, but correspondents say they may result in a boycott of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, which Ankara says is failing to rein in the activities of the PKK.

    The territory receives food imports from Turkey, as well as investment and electricity supplies.

    Mr Cicek said Turkey would avoid making innocent people suffer hardship as a result of the "precautions".

    Earlier, the US Department of Defence said it had stepped up supplying Ankara with "actionable intelligence" on the positions of PKK fighters in northern Iraq.

    Formed in late 1970s
    Launched armed struggle in 1984
    Dropped independence demands in 1990s
    Wants greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurds
    Leader Abdullah Ocalan arrested in 1999
    Ended five-year ceasefire in 2004
    Called a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and US

    Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the US had given Turkey "intelligence with regards to this situation for a long time".

    "We are assisting the Turks in their efforts to combat the PKK by supplying them with intelligence, lots of intelligence," he added.

    "The key for any sort of military response from the Turks or anyone else is having actionable intelligence and that's a pretty high standard, and we are making efforts to help them get actionable intelligence."

    No details were given of how the information is collected but reports suggest American-manned U2 spy planes have been flying over the Turkish-Iraqi border.

    Last week, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said his country and Turkey needed better intelligence about the location of PKK fighters in northern Iraq before launching any military strikes.

    Border tensions

    The Iraqi government says that it too is acting against the PKK.

    Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari - a Kurd - said checkpoints along the border with Turkey were being set up to cut off the PKK's supply lines.

    He added that he had not given up hope of a peaceful solution to the problems.

    Mr Zebari's comments came after he met his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, for talks in advance of a conference about Iraq on Saturday in Istanbul.

    The meeting, bringing together Iraq's neighbours with major international powers and institutions, is aimed at bolstering the country's security and stability.

    Afterwards, both men stressed that the border tensions in northern Iraq should not be allowed to dominate the conference.

    But the tensions clearly loomed large in the talks.

    The two men agreed that the activities of the PKK against Turkey, and those of another Kurdish group, Pejak, against Iran, had to be curbed.

    Submarine Fibre Optic one-week repairs shutdown

    KARACHI: The system interconnecting Pakistan with the whole world Submarine Fibre Optic Cable seame.we3 will be shutdown for repairs from October 31, 2007 to November 7, 2007.

    Senior journalist Zubair Kasuri said that the PTCL has already notified to all the companies providing Internet service across the country in this regard.

    PTCL sources told that the Fibre Optic Cable was being closed for repairs near Indonesia, however, the Internet traffic coming to Pakistan from abroad would be transferred on sea-me.we3.

    Sources said that the Internet, mobile phone and foreign call services in Pakistan could face difficulties and may cause interruptions in Internet due to the closure of Submarine 3. Nearly 4000 total bandwidth of Pakistan Submarine 4 would be available countrywide, which was highly inadequate and may irk the customers.