A heavy price
Hundreds of lives were lost in the Mumbai terror attacks. Many victims are still struggling between life and death in hospital. As investigations into the attacks gather momentum, reports have emerged that suggest warnings were given to the Maharashtra government by intelligence agencies as early as March this year. The warnings seem to have been ignored. It is to be noted that the last one was just 24 hours before the attack. In March 2008, intelligence agencies had warned the Maharashtra government that the Gateway of India and Oberoi Trident hotel were potential targets. In August, intelligence agencies warned the crime branch that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was training 500 to 600 terrorists for attacks through sea.
Agencies said that the terrorists would be disguised as fishermen. In September, the Maharashtra state police was again warned of potential attacks on the Taj and Oberoi Trident hotels. A month later, intelligence agencies warned of a sea-borne attack and said an Indian unmarked vessel might be used. On November 18, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) again issued a warning to the Coast Guard, Navy and Maharashtra Police that the Taj and Oberoi were potential targets. Naval intercepts revealed “chatter” on the sea, and an attack being planned by the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s naval wing.
Anti-government protesters, who have occupied Suvarnabhumi and the domestic Don Mueang airports in Thailand have said they would not leave until the government resigned. Thousands of travellers have been trapped. Many have been heading for provincial airports in Phuket, Chiang Mai and Had Yai in the hope of catching regional flights. Others have taken buses and trains to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, and Singapore. Following this, about 40 empty planes have flown out of Bangkok’s international airport after authorities reached a deal with protesters camped there for seven days. The deal allows a total of 88 planes to be flown out to other Thai airports, where it is hoped they can evacuate some of the blockaded tourists. France, Spain and Russia have organised charter aircraft to evacuate their nationals, but Bill Rammell, the Foreign Office minister, claimed this was not a solution. “The key issue is the fact the two airports in Bangkok are closed and therefore you’ve effectively got planes stacking up and not being able to get slots. The situation is tense and we are monitoring events hour by hour.”
A normal life
The two daughters of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will still be expected to do chores after they move into the White House, their mother, Michelle Obama, has said. She wanted them to make their own beds and grow up in a “normal” way. Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven, will be the youngest children to live in the White House since the 1960s. Michelle Obama, during a visit to the White House, told the staff not to make the children’s beds. “That’s going to be one of their goals. You don’t make their beds. Make mine. But skip the kids. They have to learn these things. They would also be expected to tidy their rooms and keep up with their homework,” she said. President-elect Barack Obama added that he hoped to usher in “a return to an ethic of responsibility”.
Back for a cause
Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt has made a surprise visit to Colombia for the first time since she was dramatically freed five months ago. The French-Colombian politician has lived in Europe since her release from Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels after six years in July. She was due to meet President Alvaro Uribe in Bogota later. The visit came despite her saying just a day earlier that she had agreed for the sake of her concerned children not to return to the country. When Betancourt arrived in Bogota from Paris, she said: “I am very happy to be here.” Her mother Yolanda Pulecio was with her, and they were welcomed by French ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud. Earlier, she led a march in Madrid, while thousands of people also marched in Colombia and other countries, and appealed for Farc to release its captives.
Utzon no more
The Danish architect of the iconic Sydney Opera House, Jorn Utzon, died at the age of 90, after suffering a heart attack. Utzon, an award-winning architect, put “Denmark on the world map with his great talent,” said Danish Culture Minister Carina Christensen. Having won a competition in 1957 to design the building, he left the project before it opened in 1973. Utzon never visited the completed landmark, after disputes about costs. Even decades later he declined invitations to return to Australia, but did design, with his son, a new wing which opened in 2006. Most of the interior of the opera house was not completed according to his plans after government-appointed architects took over the job. The Sydney Opera House planned to dim the lights on the sail-shaped roof to mark Utzon’s death. The chairman of Sydney Opera House Trust, Kim Williams, said: “Jorn Utzon was an architectural and creative genius who gave Australia and the world a great gift. Sydney Opera House is core to our national cultural identity and a source of great pride to all Australians. It has become the most globally recognised symbol of our country.”
Compiled by SUBAJAYANTHI
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