Global partners join forces on SKA

first_imgAustralia – Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and ResearchChina – National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of SciencesItaly – National Institute for AstrophysicsNew Zealand – Ministry of Economic DevelopmentRepublic of South Africa – National Research FoundationThe Netherlands – Netherlands Organisation for Scientific ResearchUnited Kingdom – Science and Technology Facilities Council SAinfo reporter 3 January 2012 The world’s biggest telescope project has taken a crucial step forward, with its international partners joining forces and agreeing funding for the detailed design of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA is a €1.5-billion global science project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Scientists, engineers and industry partners from around the world are collaborating on research and development for the SKA, which will be capable of answering some of the most fundamental questions about the universe. South Africa, allied with eight other African countries, is competing against Australia (allied with New Zealand) to host the SKA. The decision on the host country is due to be announced in early 2012. On 23 November, seven national governmental and research organisations announced the formation of the SKA Organisation, an independent, not-for-profit company established to formalise relationships with international partners and centralise the leadership of the SKA project. The signatories – from Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK – plan to spend €69-million (including in-kind contributions) to fund the project in the period leading up to the construction phase, which starts in 2016. Further signatories are expected to join the SKA Organisation and commit additional resources over the next six months. Professor John Womersley, chair of the founding board that prepared the formation of the SKA Organisation, said in a statement: “I am delighted that the partners have recognised the scientific, economic and societal benefits that investing in international science projects like the SKA can bring.” The new SKA Organisation will directly employ staff, have the power to make legally binding decisions and lead the work of the international partners on the design of the telescope. Outgoing SKA project director Professor Richard Schilizzi said: “We are keen to start reaping the rewards that this new structure will bring, not only to the engineering development work, but to the project as a whole.” The office of the SKA Organisation will be located in purpose-built premises funded by the University of Manchester at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, UK. The office will take over from the SKA Program Development Office currently based at the University. Dr Michiel van Haarlem was appointed interim director-general of the new SKA Organisation following Schilizzi’s retirement in December. The SKA project is expected drive technology development in antennas, fibre networks, signal processing, software and computing, and power. The design, construction and operation of the SKA has the potential to boost skills development, employment and economic growth in science, engineering and associated industries, not only in the SKA host countries but in all partner countries. The SKA signatory organisations are:last_img read more

Ajmer dargah blast case convicts awarded life imprisonment

first_imgThe National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court here on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to two persons convicted for the 2007 Ajmer dargah blasts, in which three persons were killed.Both the convicts owed allegiance to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the past.The convicts, Bhavesh Patel and Devendra Gupta, were held guilty under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Explosives Act and various sections of Indian Penal Code. This is the first-ever conviction and sentencing of the RSS cadre in a terror case.NIA Special Judge Dinesh Gupta also imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 on Patel and Rs.5,000 on Gupta. Patel was an RSS activist at his hometown Bharuch in Gujarat, while Gupta, a resident of Ajmer, worked for RSS in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.The court had convicted three persons and acquitted seven others, including self-styled monk and former RSS activist Aseemanand, in the case on March 8 and postponed the verdict on sentence to those found guilty.The third convict, Sunil Joshi, who was an RSS pracharak, was murdered in suspicious circumstances in December 2007.Defence counsel Jagdish Rana told reporters outside the court that the convicts would file an appeal against the judgment in the High Court.The explosion in the historic shrine of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on October 11, 2007, during Ramzan, had left three persons dead and 17 injured. The dargah was packed to capacity with about 5,000 devotees when the blast occurred at the time of Iftaar (breaking of fast).last_img read more

Pakistan’s Mystery Abductions: Slain Salman Taseer’s son Shahbaz still remains untraceable

first_imgPolicemen inspect the car that Shahbaz Taseer was driving when he was abducted in Lahore.Shahbaz Taseer, the billionaire son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer noticed the black Landcruiser and motorcycle shadowing him around 10 a.m. on August 26. By then, it was too late. Four unidentified men dragged the,Policemen inspect the car that Shahbaz Taseer was driving when he was abducted in Lahore.Shahbaz Taseer, the billionaire son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer noticed the black Landcruiser and motorcycle shadowing him around 10 a.m. on August 26. By then, it was too late. Four unidentified men dragged the 28-year-old out of his shiny two-seater Mercedes sports car in Lahore’s posh Gulberg area and bundled him into their vehicle. They tossed his laptop and mobile phones back into the Mercedes roadster before driving away.Police said Shahbaz was driving to his office in Gulberg without his usual police escort. A Taseer family driver later spotted the Mercedes parked in the middle of the road, doors ajar. No group claimed responsibility for the sensational kidnapping and no ransom call was made. A high-ranking law enforcement official told India Today on condition of anonymity that Shahbaz was kidnapped by intelligence agencies as they “doubted his loyalty” to the nation. The agencies have, in the past, illegally detained people on mere suspicion.Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped on August 26Kidnapping for ransom has now spilled over from Karachi, Peshawar and the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, to enter Lahore. Children, tourists and middle or upper class Pakistanis and businessmen are common targets for ransom that range from Pakistani Rs 20 lakh to Rs 10 crore.Shahbaz’s is the third high-profile kidnapping in the past two months. A Swiss couple, Divid Oliver Och and Daniela Widmer, were abducted from their camping van in Quetta on July 1, allegedly by gunmen belonging to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). An American aid official, Warren Weinstein, 70, was also kidnapped from his Lahore home by six assailants on August 13. No ransom calls were made in any of these cases. This has led to speculation of political motives behind the kidnapping.advertisement”The agencies abducted more than a hundred innocent people during the Pervez Musharraf era and the practice continues,” says Amna Janjua, chairman of an NGO, Defence of Human Rights. Janjua’s husband, Masood Janjua, an educationist, went missing in May 2005. Janjua claims he has been detained by security agencies.Swiss couple Daniela Widmer and Dividoliveroch were abducted from their camping van in Quetta on July 1.However, the Federal Investigation Agency and police have claimed that they have arrested a dozen suspects and are pursuing investigations into the Shahbaz kidnapping. Some theories linked the abduction to extremists who are seeking the release of Shahbaz’s father’s assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, now lodged in Adyala jail in Rawalpindi. Shahbaz was a vocal critic of Pakistan’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws. An official of Pakistan’s Investigation Bureau said three of the arrested suspects belong to the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, a charity arm of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, and frequently visited Qadri in prison.”Shahbaz’s kidnapping is an eye-opener. Where are the government, law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies?” said a member of the Taseer family on condition of anonymity. “The government has failed to safeguard the lives and property of people,” she added.Shahbaz took over as the director of the family’s businesses, founded by his father, following the latter’s assasination on January 4. They include real estate firm Pace Pakistan, brokerage firms First Capital Equities and First Capital Securities Corporation, as well as Media Times that controls the leading English newspaper Daily Times, Urdu Daily AajKal, kids channel Wikkid Plus and satellite channel Business Plus. He and his wife Maheen Ghani were offloaded from a New York-bound flight at San Francisco on August 19 last year when a hoax caller said they were potential hijackers. The couple filed a lawsuit against the airline in March this year.The kidnapping of the scion has sent a wave of fear and anger across the country, particularly in the ruling PPP, of which Salman Taseer was a member. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani contacted Shahbaz’s mother and assured her of the government’s support. He directed the Punjab police chief to take all measures to find the missing billionaire. President Asif Ali Zardari also telephoned Shahbaz’s mother and assured her that efforts would be made to find her son. A hurried meeting called by the Chief Minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, was attended by the chief secretary, home secretary and inspector general of police. Police have apprehended two suspects who were allegedly shadowing Shahbaz.The case has clearly embarrassed the Punjab provincial police. Chief City Police Officer of Lahore, Malik Ahmed Raza, denied police negligence. He said Shahbaz did not use his security cordon of 17 policemen. Provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah blamed Shahbaz for leaving his security detail at home.advertisementThe Crime Investigation Branch says that 47 people were kidnapped for ransom last year. Thirteen people were kidnapped in the first three months of 2011. The principal suspects are militant groups who kidnap high value targets, such as businessmen, and use the ransom to purchase arms and ammunition from Afghanistan and Iran.last_img read more