Monday, July 07, 2008

Newstrack !!! - Lastweek


Bill Gates said a teary goodbye on Friday to Microsoft Corp, the software maker he built into the world’s most valuable technology company based on the ambitious goal of placing a computer on every desk and in every home.

He leaves his full-time executive role at Microsoft, which he co-founded with childhood friend Paul Allen in 1975, to focus on his philanthropic organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charity, funded in part by his vast fortune.

At an event at Microsoft’s headquarters campus here, Gates, who will become a non-executive chairman and work part-time, joined Chief Executive Steve Ballmer on stage to deliver a short speech and field questions from employees.“There won’t be a day in my life that I’m not thinking about Microsoft and the great things that it’s doing and wanting to help,” said Gates, who wiped away tears as the group of employees rose to give him a standing ovation.

Ballmer, a Harvard University classmate who joined Microsoft at Gates’ behest, got choked up as he tried to describe Gates’ impact on the company and society at large. “There’s no way to say thanks to Bill. Bill’s the founder. Bill’s the leader,” said Ballmer. “We’ve been given an enormous, enormous opportunity and it was Bill that gave us this opportunity.”


Fight for judges


Former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif pledged after his party won the most seats in by-elections that he would keep pushing for the restoration of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf. The polls were for five parliamentary constituencies and 23 provincial assembly seats left empty following general elections in February in which a coalition including Sharif’s party trounced Musharraf’s allies.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won three of the seats in the national assembly while the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, the senior partner in the coalition, took the other two, official results showed. “We are grateful to God and to the people who voted for our party members for our victory in the by-elections,” Sharif told reporters while speaking after the funeral of a politician in northwest Pakistan. “We will continue to struggle for the restoration of the judges.”


No nuclear weapons


The U.S. has urged North Korea to “abandon” all its nuclear weapons in a culmination of the process set on course by the demolition of the cooling tower at the Yongbyon complex. The U.S.’ call acquires unusual importance because of Japan’s comment that the elimination of North Korea’s existing stockpile of nuclear weapons is the real issue to address rather than just the dramatic destruction of a cooling tower. Japan is one of the six parties still engaged in parleys to bring about the denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula. The other interlocutors are the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea, the U.S., China as the proactive host, South Korea, and Russia.

Speaking in Seoul, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said: “I expect that the North (Korea) will live up to the obligation that it has (already) undertaken. At the end of this (six-party process), let me just emphasise again, at the end of this, we have to have the abandonment of all programmes, weapons, and materials (by the DPRK].” Diplomats said the current phase of disabling North Korea’s declared nuclear facilities and their dismantlement in the proposed follow-up stages would only destroy its “capabilities” without dispossessing it of its atomic arsenal.


Power for what?


Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was sworn in as president on Sunday and prepared to face other African leaders who want him to share power with his main rival after a widely discredited election in which Mugabe was the only candidate. Mugabe sounded a conciliatory note just hours after electoral officials said he won Friday’s presidential runoff, which was marred by violence and intimidation. “Sooner or later, as diverse political parties, we shall start serious talks,” said the 84-year-old president, who has led Zimbabwe since its 1980 independence from Britain. African leaders will likely push for Mugabe to enter a power-sharing agreement with Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in order to end the country’s crippling economic and political crises. Tsvangirai, who pulled out of the runoff citing violence and intimidation targeting his supporters, dismissed Sunday’s inauguration and said he believed members of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party were ready for talks. The electoral commission said Mugabe got more than two million votes in the runoff and Tsvangirai 233,000. Turnout was put at about 42 percent, and 131,000 ballots had been defaced or otherwise spoiled. Neither candidate got credit for the spoiled ballots. Independent observers said the poll was neither free nor fair, and that many people had voted out of fear. Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Mugabe supporters beat people who couldn’t prove they voted.


Budget for monarchy


The Queen and the royal family cost taxpayers 40 million pounds in 2007-08, a rise of two million pounds from the previous year, Buckingham Palace has said. The annual report into the royal finances showed that the Queen was not immune to the rising costs that have hit millions of her subjects in the last year. It warned that cuts to the royal property budget have created a backlog of urgent works that will cost 32 million pounds within 10 years.

Outstanding projects include: Replacing the lead and slate roofs at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. (Cost: £ 16 million); Updating the heating and electrical systems at Buckingham Palace. (£ 2.4 million); Replacing the 19th Century iron and lead water pipes at Windsor. (Three million pounds)

Palace officials said a drive to conserve energy at palaces and other royal buildings had helped to cut costs and reduce environmental pollution.Electricity usage fell 7.3 percent in 2007-08, helped by the introduction of low-energy light bulbs. Water from a borehole in Buckingham Palace was used to cool the wine cellars and water the gardens.

Travel costs rose to 6.2 million pounds in the year to March 31 from 5.6 million pounds in the previous 12 months.During the year, there were State visits to the United States, Uganda, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The Queen had 440 engagements across Britain and entertained 38,000 guests at garden parties in Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.The money, which also paid for royal staff wages, amounts to 66 pence per taxpayer each year.

Spokesman Graham Smith said the Queen should receive a fixed salary managed by the government and that parliament should set an annual budget for the monarchy.


LTTE casualties

The Sri Lankan military claimed to have driven off LTTE cadres from Andankulama general area in the Mannar district “with heavy casualties” even as the Air Force announced that it destroyed two more Tiger “facilities” in the north. The Defence Ministry claimed that troops intensified attacks at the remaining LTTE flanks positioned at the Mannar defences. On Sunday, the military said it had captured a strategic point of the LTTE in Mannar. “Troops are making tactical advances in the areas, while consolidating defences as LTTE terrorists were forced to abandon trench and bunker lines during the military launched multi-pronged offensive,” said the Ministry. It said infantry supported by armour and artillery stepped-up fresh attacks with air support on the remaining terrorist strong-points in Mannar. Troops recovered 25 bodies of LTTE cadre killed in the fighting. The military said arrangements were being made to hand them over through the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). The Defence Ministry said “scores”’ of LTTE cadre were killed and 25 bodies recovered after fighting broke out in Chiraddikulama ahead of the Vavuniya defences. Separately, the Air Force said its jets raided an LTTE “training facility and special unit headquarters” located in the general area Oddusuddan in the north.

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