Saturday, 29 September 2007

Holidays to space gain momentum


September 2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: With space tourism being dubbed as the most lucrative travel industry of the future, space scientists, astrophysicists and astrobiologists are busy exploring the ways and means of colonising the moon and the Earth’s neighbouring planet, Mars.
Though establishing human colonies on them may take at least three to four decades, travel to outer space has become a reality. The next 10 years are going to witness a major boom in space tourism. Space experts from across the globe including the USA's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, European Union's European Space Agency and India's Indian National Space Research Organisation, currently attending the 58th International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad, are deliberating theoretically what steps they should take to ensure a comfortable space tourism project.
They are also discussing the feasibility of establishing human colonies on the moon and Mars.
Space scientists are enthusiastic about space tourism to outer space, but are divided over the human tour packages to natural satellites and planets. This is because scientists do not know the short or long term effects of the moon or Mars’ atmosphere on human beings. Sub-orbital vehicles and orbital cities are being planned to boost space tourism to outer space by 2020. Space tourism, though a recent phenomenon, is fast catching up among private individuals, who can afford the journey. The cost is highly prohibitive, about $30 million for a week-long stay in space.
The ongoing Astronautical Congress is also thinking of measures to reduce the price so that more people could avail of the facility. Some scientists foresee a reduction in the overall fares by at least 10 per cent in the next two decades.
Presently, only the Russian Space Agency is offering space tourism packages for the general public. Russia takes enthusiastic space tourists to the international space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. It is the thrilling experience that has attracted at least half a dozen civilians to venture into this new tourism package.
Since the package is limited to the Russian Space Agency, one has to wait for at least two years after purchasing the "ticket". Flights are already reserved for the next two years. Tickets are now available for 2010.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Sunita felt sad while leaving space after 180 days


Published in The Asian/Deccan Chronicle on September 29, 2007
By SYED AKBAR
Hyderabad, Sept. 28: Astronaut Sunita Williams said here on Friday that she felt sad while coming back to earth after spending 180 days in space as it was a "peaceful world" out there.
"It was a world without prejudice and without any physical boundaries to divide people into nations," said the 42-year-old astronaut.
"The philosophy I learnt while living in space was the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated a borderless world where all human beings live together in peace," she added.
Sunita felt that space exploration needed similar international cooperation. "It is better that way than one nation doing it," she said.
She was in the city to participate in the concluding session of the 58th International Astronautical Congress on Friday. She interacted with the conference delegates and also spent time with school students.
According to Sunita, the thrill and fascination of the journey into space overweighed all fears and troubles.
"A visit to Mars and the return journey will take two years," she pointed out. "Though the journey will be in a closed capsule, there will be no sense of isolation since you will be in constant touch with the ground staff." Colonising the moon, Mars and other planets would become a necessity in the future as earth was getting overpopulated, she said. While on her space sojourn, Sunita used to recite a couple of verses from the Bhagavad Gita every morning.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Chanda mama inspired Sunita Williams to take a career in space sciences

2007
Syed Akbar 
It's the cool "Chanda mama" up in the sky that has inspired American astronaut of Indian descent Sunita Williams to take a career in space sciences.
The brightly shinning moon amidst the twinkling stars has always been a source of inspiration for generations but Sunita, as a child, was so moved by its touching glory that she decided to explore it one day.
Strong will coupled with dedication pushed her on the ladder of success in the highly competitive atmosphere of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where she is a "commander".
Sunita arrived in Hyderabad on Thursday for a two-day visit to this happening city. She will interact with about 2000 students from about 60 schools and hundreds of international delegates at the 58th international astronautical congress on Friday.
She will share with students her experiences in the international space station and how she feels being the first woman astronaut to spend six months in the world of weightlessness, zero-gravity and silence and with no-neighbourhood around.
On her first visit to Hyderabad, which is fast becoming a global hub for scientific and technological research, Sunita seems to be moved by its beauty and grandeur. Amidst tight security she was shifted to Novotel Hotel at HICC in Madhapur where the astronautical congress is being held. From Hyderabad, she looks forward to a manned mission to Mars, which NASA is hopeful of achieving by 2037.
"When I was five years old or so, I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and thought, ‘wow -- that’s cool.’ I mean, that’s what I would like to do. Subsequent to that, all the TV shows about going to space sort of set a bit, I think, in everybody’s head that, that would be a great career," says Sunita.
Sharing her experiences before and after the space flight, Sunita points out in the NASA website, that she never really thought that she would visit the outer space in her life.
"It seemed too far out there, something that I could never achieve. Really didn’t touch base with me and hit home until I went to Test Pilot School in Maryland. I’m a Navy pilot, helicopter pilot. In one of our field trips, we came down to Johnson Space Centre," she recalls.
Stating that she got the idea of becoming an astronaut when she was bring trained for a helicopter pilot course, she says, "It was me and a couple of other helicopter pilots sitting in the back while all the jet pilots in my Test Pilot School class were all sitting in the front, listening to John Young talk about the shuttle and about flying to the moon. I remember him talking about learning how to fly a helicopter to land the lunar lander. Something just clicked in my head, and I said, ‘wow,’ you know, maybe there’s a use for helicopter pilots, if we’re going to go back to the moon. So, I sort of said to myself, the only one who’s telling me I’m not going to be an astronaut is me. I did the research on what was required, and I got my master’s degree and applied, and, lo and behold, the second application, I got an interview. So, I think I’m very, very lucky".
She describes the international space station as just a stepping-stone to get people understand space, and how to live and work in space, and then potentially get back to the moon is the next stepping-stone.
"How to work in a low-gravity environment and how to work in an environment that is not habitable for us that will take us to the next place, maybe Mars and then beyond," she adds.

Ice melt in Arctic sea worries scientists, oceanographers

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 27: The sudden spurt in melting Arctic sea ice is now worrying scientists even as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is busy finding reasons for the ice decline.
Though the Arctic sea ice has been melting for decades, it is for the first time that it has shrunk to its lowest in 29 years. Satellite and remote sensing data gathered by NASA reveals that there has been a sudden speed-up of ice melting process of late. The sea ice decline has gone below the minimum level set by oceanographers two years ago. NASA has been closely monitoring the sea ice melting phenomenon since 1979 and now it is busy working on the reasons for the sudden speed-up vis-à-vis what it means for the future of the human planet.
Space scientists attending the 58th international astronautical congress here are discussing the havoc the melting Arctic sea ice would cause to human, plant and animal life on the earth. If the ice decline increases further, it will hurry up the process of submergence of several islands in the world even while changing the geography of the coastline in several countries.
According to NASA scientists, the sea ice has been melting at around 10 per cent a decade for the past 29 years. "But the 2007 minimum, reached around September 14, is far below the previous record made in 2005 and is about 38 per cent lower than the climatological average. Compared to the record low in 2005, the extent and area are 24 per cent and nearly 26 per cent lower this year, respectively. This year, the amount of ice is so far below that of previous years that it really is cause for concern. The trend in decreasing ice cover seems to be getting stronger and stronger as time goes on," says senior NASA scientist Josefino C Comiso.
Scientists attribute this phenomenon to rapid changes in climate. "The implications on global climate are not well known, but they have the potential to be quite large, since the Arctic ice cover exhibits a tremendous influence on our climate. It really is imperative that we try to understand the interactions between the ice, ocean and atmosphere. And satellites hold the key to developing this understanding."

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Chopsuey, pizza, spring rolls for sehri


September 2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: This Ramzan is going to be quite different in Hyderabad, at least on the food front. With the change in food habits of Hyderabadis, the traditional menu for the pre-dawn sehri and the post-sunset iftar has given way to Chinese, Italian and Andhra dishes.
The ritual of fasting was once considered to be incomplete in these parts without the traditional Hyderabadi dishes. But this season, several non-Hyderabadi dishes are all set to make their way into the special Ramzan menu. Instead of the traditional morning dishes nahari kulcha, murgh, kichidi kheema and bagara chawal with dalcha, "modern" Hyderabadis are preferring traditional South Indian breakfast like idli, vada and uthappam and Chinese food including chop suey, chow mein and lo mein. The famous bun muska has simply disappeared from the Ramzan menu.
"The traditional Hyderabadi items are too oily and full of cholesterol. Though the dishes taste good, they have a long term ill-effects on the body. Eating food with high cholesterol content early in the morning is not good for health. So we are going in for lighter stuff to ensure that the fasting goes on well without trouble," says lecturer B. Moinuddin. The highly educated ones, on the other hand, are going in for pizza, French fries, chicken nuggets, spring rolls and egg rolls. In tune with the changed food habits, several restaurants have made special arrangements to supply these items early in the morning in time for the sehri.
Even roadside bandis (pushcards) have come out with the sehri menu to cater to the changed needs, selling hot idli and vada early in the morning.
"There's a perceptible change in the eating habits of Hyderabadis. More and more families are going in for readymade food stuffs even for festivals. Preparation for sehri means waking up at 1.30 am so that the food is ready by 3 am. By the time the fajr (dawn) prayer is completed, it will be 5.45 am. This leaves little time for sleep. And this is primarily the reason why more and more people are going in for readymade and easily digestible items," says senior Islamic scholar Hafiz Syed Shujath Hussain.
The old Hyderabadis still to stick to their favourite all-time dishes like kofta, lukhmi along with nahari kulcha or bagara chawal with dalcha.
Moreover, with Ramzan falling in the rainy season — this is the first time that the festival is coming in the rainy season in 33 years — the menu for Iftaar has also undergone a few changes. The temperature is slightly lower and so there will be less of "cool stuff" like firni, harira, faluda and lassi. Ramzan, which literally means "heat" is also going to be a cool affair this season.
Ramzan falls in different seasons in different years completing the cycle in 33 years. This is because the lunar calendar falls short of 11 days in relation to the solar year.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Dr Bharat Reddy: Cardiologist as a villain in reel life

2007
Syed Akbar

------
5.00 am: An ambulance with sirens blazing makes a screeching halt. It's an emergency and the nursing staff rush a patient to the cardiac intensive care unit. After a few minutes, a young doctor comes out of the CICU with a smile to announce to the anxious relatives outside that there's no danger to life.
3.00 pm: A wicked man abducts a girl and demands ransom. He threatens to kill her if the ransom sought was not paid within 12 hours.
----

Young cardiologist Dr AM Bharath Reddy had a say in both the episodes. The incident at 5.00 am in a corporate hospital is real. The messiah was Dr Bharath Reddy. The abduction at 3.00 pm was a nerve-chilling scene out of a Tollywood movie. And the villain was none other than this young doctor, who specialises in a life-saving system of medicine.
Dr Bharath Reddy doubles up as a heart specialist in real life and as a budding villain in the Tollywood. This cardiac physician has acted in half a dozen Telugu films and is currently busy shooting for four more. He is perhaps the only cardiologist in the country to take to film shooting.
This 31-year-old heart physician, who graduated from a noted medical school in Europe, enjoys acting in negative roles and wants to establish himself as the most wicked villain in the Tollywood.
Except for Dubai Seenu, where he donned the role of a good-hearted police inspector, his roles in all the other films were negative. Even in the four films which are under production he has chosen to be a villain. Dr Bharath has taken to film acting not to earn a few bucks more, but to come out of the mental trauma and stress he undergoes in ICUs as a heart specialist.
Says Dr Bharath, "At times, after working for more than 14 hours in cardiac intensive care unit, I feel terribly frustrated seeing deaths and pain of the relatives. I have become immune to these sorrowful things. But I realised I was losing my track. Then I thought of the concept of second life which is practised in Western countries. Since I have had modelled before doing medicine, I switched over to acting in films".
Besides Okavichitram, he has acted in Katharnak, Annavaram, Rakhi, Dubai Seenu and Classmates. He is currently acting in a negative role in Nargarjuna starrer Don. Three other films, he is acting, are yet to be titled. He takes on Ravi Teja and Pavan Kalyan in these under production movies.
Dr Bharath works between 11 and 14 hours in the cardiac unit and adjusts the free time for film shooting. He accumulates his weekly offs as a doctor and utilises the compensatory offs for film shooting. He says he likes acting in negative roles since his school days and that's the reason why has chosen to be a villain in Tollywood.
"Initially I had to struggle a lot to find a place in the already over crowded film industry. But I did not lose hope and continued my efforts to find a place of my own in the Tollywood. My first break came in the form of Okavichitram produced by Dasari Narayana Rao. I have acted in quite some films since then," he points out.
According to him, many doctors in Europe and the US have been concentrating on what they term, a "second life" to drive away the stress and the mental agony of seeing patients suffer. "In fact, my practice has improved after I took to acting. My mind is fresh and I am able to concentrate more on patients. It's high time doctors in India picked up the second life concept to serve patients even better and with more dedication", he says.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Vedic classes for accurate fest dates


September 2007
By SYED AKBAR
Hyderabad, Sept. 8: A Hyderabad-based Vedic research institute has decided to put an end to disputes over dates of festivals by organising panchangam (almanac) classes for people.
Priests and pandits sometimes give different dates for major festivals, creating a dilemma. The Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas says that its classes on the panchangam will help people decide on their own the exact date of a festival.
To begin with, classes will be held in Hyderabad for three days from September 30 and will later be extended in phases to different parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Till now, panchangams have remained in the domain of Vedic pandits and astrologers. This is the first time that it is reaching the common people.
Both men and women above the age of 20 can attend the panchanga classes. "Brush up your knowledge of the ancient panchangam and clear the confusion in your mind," says institute founder and chairman Kuppa Venkata Krishna Murthy, adding, "Don’t leave the decisions to pandits, who often go by their egos."
For instance, a controversy over the Ugadi festival had forced the Andhra Pradesh government to change the holiday twice. People celebrated the Telugu New Year on two different days. There was confusion, too, over the date of Holi.
Senior pandit Malladi Chandrasekhara Sastry, the regular siddhanti at the official Ugadi almanac reciting function, criticised the government and said it was celebrating Ugadi on an inauspicious day. "The trouble occurs because the ancient texts are in Sanskrit," says Mr Krishna Murthy. "We will translate them into simple Telugu and English."
Festivals, both Hindu and Muslim, based on the lunar calendar are always the subject of dispute.
For Muslims the new month begins with the sighting of the crescent moon and for Hindus the new month starts the day after Amavasya. The Muslim day begins with sunset but the Hindu day is based on tithi, nakshatra and varam. Since these vary with changes in the phases of the moon (waning and waxing), disputes arise.
"There were no such problems in ancient India as people knew the panchangam by heart," says Mr Krishna Murthy. "They also observed the movements of celestial bodies."
Eminent scholars and astronomers, including Madhura Krishna Murthy Sastry of Rajahmundry, Prof. S. Balachandra Rao of Bangalore, Prof. K. Ramasubramanian of IIT Mumbai, and Prof. Sri Pada Bhat of Tirupati will take classes.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Hyderabadi chief qazi on a rescue mission to prevent marriages of minor girls with Arab nationals

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 7: In a first of its kind gesture, a chief qazi in the city has launched a "rescue mission" to protect the interests of young Hyderabad girls deserted by their Arab husbands.
The office of the Qazat Shairat Panah Balda, Hyderabad, which has jurisdiction over the entire old city notorious for ever-increasing menace of Arab marriages, has established a sort of network with the chief qazis in different parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, to trace the whereabouts of the unscrupulous foreign bridegrooms.
About 300 Arabs marry Hyderabadi girls every month secretly and desert them after living with them for a few months. They simply disappear from the country promising to return at an appropriate time, which never happens.
The poor girls thereafter are left in the lurch. Under Islamic law they cannot remarry another man untill they secure a proper divorce or "khula" (separation) from their previous husbands. Also they are denied the marriage rights as poverty prevents them from seeking legal help or approaching foreign governments.
Says Qazi Mir Khadar Ali, chief qazi of Qazat Shariat Panah Balda, "Our rescue mission is two-fold. We try to bring about reunion between the bride and the bridegroom. And if this fails, we will secure divorce or khula from the bridegroom with the help of qazis in those countries".
The Qazat Shariat Panah Balda has been maintaining network with qazis and chief qazis of various countries for the past 30 years. In fact the Qazat used to arrange reunion or divorce as early as 1975 when the menace of Arab marriages was at its peak. Thousands of Arab nationals used to marry Hyderabadi girls in those days only to be deserted afterwards.
"My uncle Qazi Mir Muhammad Mukarram Ali used to reunite or secure divorce for Hyderabadi girls in early 1970s. He used to help around 250 poor brides in those days. I am just reviving this age-old helpline now that the human bazar is once again active in the city," Qazi Khadar Ali pointed out.
All that the affected bride or her parents have to do is to approach the Qazat office at Shahalibanda near Charminar with a copy of the passport of the bridegroom, Nikahnama and other details if any. The service is carried out free of charge. The Qazat office will bear the entire expenditure on humanitarian grounds. The affected parties may contact the helpline on 040-24413743 during office hours (Friday is a holiday).
Hyderabad has six chief qazis and they are likely to follow suit.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Faced with the charge of harbouring foreign nationals, madarasas in the State have decided to observe special "open days"

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 6: Faced with the charge of harbouring foreign nationals, madarasas in the State have decided to observe special "open days" after the ongoing Ramzan vacation and set up their websites for transparency.
Though most of the 4000 and odd madarasas spread across the State have no restriction on the entry of visitors during office hours, the managements have decided to conduct special open days in a bid to tell people that they are transparent. On open days anyone can pay a visit to any of the madarasa, have interaction with students and teachers, inspect the curriculum and seek clarification of their doubts.
"As such we do not have any restrictions. But since doubts are being expressed after the police conducted midnight raids on some madarasas, we want to send home the message that our doors are always open. Anyone can walk in any time. But for the sake of visibility we will conduct open days," says Raheemuddin Ansari, a senior office-bearer of Deeni Madaris Board, the umbrella body of Islamic seminaries in the State.
The madarasas will reopen after the annual Ramzan vacation in the fourth week of October. "We have always kept open our door open. Our hostels (Darul Iqama) follow a strict spiritual-cum-mundane syllabus. People can inspect our accounts and our records. All our accounts are audited. Those in doubt can interview our students and teachers," says Mufti Mastan Ali, chief of Jamiatul Mominath.
The Deeni Madaris Board will soon hold a meeting with Minorities Welfare Minister Muhammad Ali Shabber to chalk out the modalities on interlinking of madarasas and setting up their individual websites. Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy had suggested that madarasas go online and post their information on the internet for transparency.
Moulana Anwar Ahmad of Jamia Nizamia says the madarasas have nothing to hide. "A delegation of senior journalists from the US visited the madarasas recently. Even the US government is giving funds to madarasas in Hyderabad. If we are harbouring foreign nationals, will the US government give us funds," he asks.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Muslim clergy under flak for silent on torture cases

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 3: About 50 women relatives of bomb blast suspects now in police custody on Monday laid siege to the residence of senior Islamic scholar Moulana Hameeduddin Aquil Hussami for over five hours holding him responsible for their "fate".
Moulana Aquil, who is regarded as "Amir-e-Millat" (leader of the community) by lakhs of Muslims down the Vindhyas, had actively campaigned for Congress during the State Assembly elections held in May 2004. He shared dais with senior Congress leaders including Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy.
As a thanksgiving to the Moulana, the Congress government appointed his son-in-law Raheemuddin Ansari as the president of the AP State Urdu Academy, which is a minister of State rank.
The women relatives demanded that Raheemuddin Ansari quit the Urdu Academy as the Congress government had been "targeting" Muslims and branding them as "terrorists and anti-nationals". They held the Moulana responsible for their "fate" and the "sorry state of affairs" because he had supported the Congress and openly appealed to Muslims not to vote for the Telugu Desam.
The women came in black burqas at around 1.00 pm and continued their agitation till 5.00 pm. They left the residence only after Moulana Aquil agreed with them that "there was no difference between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party".
The Moulana addressed the agitating women for about 30 minutes. He said he himself had become a victim of the Congress government after the police raided Darul Uloom Hyderabad, a madarasa run by him.
"We supported the Congress with the hope that it would bring a secular government. But it is treading the path of the previous BJP-led NDA government. We do not see any difference between the BJP and the Congress," he said. The women dispersed only after the Moulana assured them that he would lead a delegation of Muslim elders to the chief minister and find out the whereabouts of the suspects arrested in connection with the blasts in the city.
Moulana Aquil made several unsuccessful attempts to contact on telephone Director-General of Police MA Basith and Hyderabad city police commissioner Balwinder Singh. The Moulana was told by the DGP and CP's offices that they were busy and would not come on line. This had further irked him.
No sooner Moulana Aquil announced that he saw no difference between the Congress and the BJP than Telugu Desam supremo N Chandrababu Naidu deputed party politburo member and MP SM Lal Jan Basha to the residence of the Moulana. Basha spent some time with the Moulana and told him that the TD had never troubled Muslims when it was in power for nine years.
"There were no communal violence. Law and order situation was well under control. We looked after the welfare of minorities and ensured that there was no trouble to them. The TD government did not pick up innocent Muslim youths. No madarasa was raided during our rule," Basha said.
Meanwhile, the police continued with their raids on madarasas. On Monday the police raided Al Mahadal Islami, a madarasa managed by noted Islamic scholar Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani at Shaheennagar.

Toothless Qazi Act gives advantage to unscrupulous qazis in India

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 3: Unscrupulous Qazis in the State have always taken advantage of the toothless Qazi Act, framed by the erstwhile British regime 125 years ago, to perform the marriage of young Muslim girls with old Arab nationals.
Since there has been no amendment to the Qazi Act 1880 in any of the States in the country, unscrupulous Qazis in many places, particularly Hyderabad, simply make a mockery of all established rules by resorting to malpractice during the Nikah. The State Wakf Board does not have any control whatsoever on the functioning of Qazis as the Qazi Act, framed long before the Wakf Board came into existence, is silent on the powers of the Board.
Qazis in twin cities also take shelter under a firman (order) issued by the erstwhile Nizam government making the Qazi system hereditary, though such a practice is against the principles of Islamic law (Shariah). In the absence of a proper regulatory or supervisory body, many Qazis have evolved their own system of performing marriages. They have also appointed their deputies or authorised anyone they like to perform the marriage.
If Arab marriages have become rampant in the city, the blame squarely lies with the Qazis who want to make quick money.
Says AP Wakf Board special officer Syed Anwarul Huda, "the board cannot take any disciplinary action against erring Qazis as it is not their appointing or regulating authority. Some Qazis have even challenged the authority of the Board in AP High Court." The Board simply supplies marriage forms to Qazis and issue marriage certificates to couples seeking jobs abroad.
In fact, a draft Qazi Bill was moved in Parliament way back in 1989 by then Congress MP Moulana Asad Madani, who also heads the All-India Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. Neither the Central government nor the State government pursued the matter further even after the emergence of "human bazar" in Hyderabad.
The Qazi Bill seeks to fix the term of Qazis for five years doing away with the present hereditary system. The State government or the Wakf Board will have all powers to appoint or remove the Qazis. While there will be a chief (Sadr) Qazi at the State level, there will be deputy Qazis in districts. It also suggests a board of Ulema to clear the candidature of the chief Qazi and his deputies.
"We have now taken up the issue with the Central government. We have written to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and AICC chief Sonia Gandhi to pursue to Qazi Bill and ensure that it is passed without further delay," State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief Hafiz Peer Shabbir Ahmad pointed out.

Scientists Discuss Asteroid Threat to Earth


Deccan Chronicle September 24, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 23: The discussion on how to prevent potentially dangerous asteroids from hitting the earth will be the highlight of the week-long 58th international astronautical congress which begins here on Monday.
Astronauts from around the world will discuss and chalk out a strategy on earth-threatening asteroids, some of which may collide with the human planet in the next few decades leaving a trail of death and destruction. The Hyderabad congress will serve as a platform for internationally renowned astronauts to discuss the results presented at the 2007 Planetary Defence Conference held in March in Washington DC.
They will also discuss a range of possible options for deflecting a threatening object and outline opportunities for future research on the nature of asteroids and comets.
The 2036 close approach of the asteroid Apohis, which is currently predicted to have a one in 45,000 change of impacting the earth, will be highlighted at the conference as an example.
During its close passage by the Earth on April 13, 2029, it is possible that asteroid Apophis will pass through a keyhole leading to a collision in 2036.
The meeting will also highlight areas where the international community needs to work together to resolve current political, policy, legal, and other non-technical issues related to asteroid deflection and impact disaster mitigation.
According to an estimation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an impact from Apophis would release more than one lakh times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima.
"Thousands of square kilometres would be directly affected by the blast but the whole of the earth would see the effects of the dust released into the atmosphere," NASA scientists points out.
NASA has suggested two possible methods of protecting the earth from an asteroid or comet determined to be on a collision course, by destroying the object before it hits the earth or by deflecting the object from its orbit before it hits the earth.
To destroy the earth-approaching object, astronauts would land a spacecraft on the surface of the object and use drills to bury nuclear bombs deep below its surface. Once the astronauts were a safe distance away, the bomb would be detonated, blowing the object to pieces. Drawbacks to this approach include the difficulty and danger of the mission itself, and the fact that many of the resulting asteroid fragments might still hit the Earth, resulting in massive damage and loss of life.
In the deflection approach, powerful nuclear bombs would be exploded up to half a mile away from the object. The radiation created by the blast would cause a thin layer of object on the side nearest the explosion to vaporise and fly into space. The force of this material blasting into space would recoil the object in the opposite direction just enough to alter its orbit, causing it to miss the earth.
NASA now supports, in collaboration with the United States Air Force, the Spaceguard Survey and its goal of discovering and tracking 90 per cent of the Near Earth Asteroids with a diameter greater than about one kilometre by next year.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

AP will hire 100 linguists to fight terror


September 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept. 1: The Andhra Pradesh police is planning to hire experts in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Pushto, Bangla, Uzbek, Baluchi, Kurdish, Hebrew, Spanish and Chechen to enable its proposed anti-terrorist cell to study the communications, websites and literature of terror networks.
About 100 experts will study communications of terrorist organisations to preempt possible attacks in Andhra Pradesh or other parts of the country.
But a difficult task lies before the police — recruiting language experts who are "reliable, averse to terrorism and patriotic to the core".
"We cannot hire foreign nationals," said a senior intelligence official. "We will never be sure if they are trustworthy. We need experts who detest terrorism and who are familiar with the modus operandi of terrorists."
Sources said that about 100 foreign language experts will be hired for regular consultation.
At present, the police depends on the forensic department for decoding jihadi websites or literature if the content is in a foreign language. This is a long drawn out process. By the time the police decipher everything, the suspected terror elements simply fall off the radar.
The existing counter-intelligence wing will be merged with the anti-terrorist cell, which will be an elite intelligence-cum-combat wing of the Andhra Pradesh police.
Officers of the cell will be trained in handling hostage situations at bus and railway stations. The police is not geared up to tackle such emergency situations.
Andhra Pradesh is the second state in South India, after Karnataka, to set up such a cell. Though neighbouring Maharashtra, too, has such a unit, they have no foreign language experts.

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Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity