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The US ambassador to Iraq on Monday inaugurated the new American embassy in Baghdad.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the inauguration is a sign of the United States’ long-term relationship and commitment to Iraq.

US Marines raised the flag over the largest US embassy in the world during a ceremony in the courtyard of the large complex that will have working space for 1,000 people.

The embassy sits on a 104-acre site in the heavily fortified Green Zone and cost more than $700 million to build.

The ceremony was attended by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani and US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who also served as ambassador to Iraq in 2005.



In a major boost for India’s post 26/11 diplomacy, US President elect Barack Obama will deliver what is being described as a categoric message to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari when they meet in Washington.

According to a report in the Pakistani press, President-elect Obama is expected to convey a categorical message to President Zardari regarding Pakistans role in combating terrorism in the South Asian region.

Pakistan government sources say the reasons for such an early visit of President Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Washington is to send a signal that Obama is serious about addressing the menace of terrorism and the new US administration wants to see its new approach to combat terrorism being implemented.

As predicted by many political strategists, terrorism and Pakistan will be among the top agenda items on the list of President Obama, when he begins his term as the US President. Presidential advisers on South Asia and terrorism are already working on various options to deal with the situation in South Asia.

The meeting incidentally comes at a time when Obama has sent the first of his messengers to Pakistan in the form of US Vice President elect Joe Biden.


Oil prices rose back above USD 47 on Monday (Jan 5) as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raged on and major crude producer Iran said OPEC would hold a special meeting next month. Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February climbed 70 cents to USD 47.61 a barrel in afternoon trade on London’s InterContinental Exchange.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for February, gained 70 cents to USD 47.04. Crude futures have been boosted over the past week as the conflict in Gaza stokes tensions in the key oil-producing Middle East.

The Gaza conflict has added to the “geopolitical risk premium embodied in the oil price,” said David Moore, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Israeli warplanes carried out intensive raids on Hamas targets today as ground troops surrounded Gaza’s main city, while Israel faced mounting diplomatic pressure for ceasefire.

Elsewhere, Iran’s OPEC representative Mohammad Ali Khatibi today said that the oil producers’ cartel would hold an extraordinary meeting in Kuwait in February. “The extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is due to be held next month in Kuwait,”.

“The exact date has not been fixed yet and no invitation has been sent to the members either,” he added in a statement posted online. OPEC, whose 12 members together produce about 40 per cent of world oil, last month agreed to cut output by 2.2 million barrels per day in a bid to shore up crude prices.


Vijay Mallya-owned Kingfisher Airlines today (January 5) launched its first daily non-stop Mumbai-London flight with a new Airbus 330-200 aircraft, configured in two classes.

“The flight had almost full occupancy with 28 passengers in Kingfisher First and 169 in Kingfisher Class,” company spokesperson told.The flight ‘IT 007’ left the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) at 1350 hrs and was carrying 10 chief executive officers of top travel agencies from Delhi and Mumbai, the spokerperson said.

The return flight from London ‘IT 008’ would leave at 2030 hrs and arrive at the Mumbai airport on the next day at 1100 hrs.Mumbai-London is the private carrier’s second overseas flight after the one on Bangalore-London route that was launched in September last year.

Kingfisher also plans to launch Mumbai-Hong Kong operations from January 12 and Mumbai-Singapore flight from January 16.In addition, its flights from Bangalore and Chennai to Sri Lanka capital, Colombo, will start from January 19.


“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” led the foreign box office for the fourth time in five weekends as the overseas tally for the animal cartoon raced to $340 million — about $2 million more than the final total of its 2005 predecessor.

“Madagascar 2,” which began its slow international rollout in late October, earned an estimated $32.2 million from 60 territories during the weekend. It opened at No. 1 in Poland with $3.8 million. Territory totals include Germany ($4 million), France ($39.5 million), and Italy.

In its second weekend on the international circuit, “Australia” drew an estimated $21.7 million from 51 territories for an international total of $82.7 million. The period epic topped the charts in Germany, Spain, Sweden and Denmark.

Third was “Bedtime Stories,” the family feature with Adam Sandler, which registered $21.2 million from 22 markets for an overseas total of $44 million.

Tied for the fourth spot were the sci-fi remake “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and the Jim Carrey comedy “Yes Man,” with each drawing an estimated $12 million. “Earth,” now in 63 territories, boasts an international total of $128.6 million. “Yes Man” has pulled in $34 million from 21 markets; it opened at No. 1 in Australia with $3 million.


Claiming that the country’s largest public broadcaster, Doordarshan was under the process ofmodernization, Baljit Singh Lalli, Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharti, on Monday (Jan 5) revealed that during the forthcoming commonwealth games, DD would relay its signals on latest technology of High Definition.

“Process of establishing four studios in metro cities including, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai is already on and well before the coming commonwealth games it will be ready”, Lalli told.

The High Definition studios would help to relay digital signal to all the viewers of DD as it would drastically improve the quality of picture and  sound of the channel, he claimed.

Lalli revealed that process of digitilisation of the transmission system was already under process and it was expected that in the years to come the process would be completed, he said adding that for the modernization of the DD, new equipments were being purchased, for which a budget of Rs 430 crore has been earmarked.

Asked as DD used to be the sole broadcaster of international cricket matches till few years ago, would it try to get back its status, CEO  revealed that since the agreement with other broadcasters with Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) would end only next year, DD would definitely make its bid to get the broadcasting rights.

He admitted that the DD was facing difficulties in getting transmission in all over the country because some of the cable operators were not implementing the rules of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) under which it was mandatory for every cable operator to pub the channels of DD on prime band.

“We have taken up the matter with the concerned authority and it is expected the rule will be strictly implemented”, he added.

Lalli, who was here in the local Doordarshan Kendra, for a special function on the occasion on broadcasing of special programme “Guru Manyo Granth” revealed that as there was great demand of the broadcasting of this particular programme, it has been planned to make English, Urdu and Arabic versions of the programme very soon.

“Guru Manyo Granth is already been telecasted in Hindi from the National hook- up of Doordarshan in a prime time chunk in October” Lalli said adding that the Punjabi version of the serial is commencing from today.

Lalli revealed that bouquet of Direct to Home (DTH) of Prasar Bharati has been strengthened and as many as 59 channels were being offered under the  service. He said that Doordarshan has decided to strengthen the production of in-house programme rather than outsourcing it.

India Drinking Actors

After banning smoking in public places and on screen, the Union Health and Family Welfare ministry is all set to make labelling of food products mandatory, informing consumers about ingredients, calories and saturated fat, in an apparent drive against junk food.

“In a month’s time, all food products in India will mandatorily have ingredients on one side (of the cover of food packets) and on the other side, nutritional value like calories and saturated fat”, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Anbumani Ramadoss said here today.

“People will know what to eat and how much to eat”, he told after attending the convocation function of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), a deemed university.

Pointing out that junk food was contributing to juvenile diabetes, childhood obesity and hypertension, he said more needs to be done to enhance awareness. His ministry has sent advisories to states to ban junk food in educational institutions, Ramadoss said.

His ministry was also bringing out a national alcoholic policy — which would be recommendatory in nature to states and not mandatory — listing among other things, fixed timings for alcohol consumption, quantity limitation, age limit and holidays (alcohol-free days).

Ramadoss said he would introduce in the coming session of Parliament a clinical establishment act by which all hospitals and labs–big or small- would have to be registered. They would be regulated and they have to follow Indian Public Health Standards in a bid to streamline quality.

He said Indian doctors, who migrated to the West, were returning to India in droves, given the current opportunities, atmosphere and investments in this country.


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