November 6th, 2010
Indo-Asian News Service
Namaste India! In all likelihood that will be silver-tongued Barack Obama's opening line when he addresses the Indian parliament next week. But to help him pronounce Hindi words correctly will be a teleprompter which the US president uses ever so often for his hypnotising speeches.
According to parliament sources, a technical team from the US has helped the Lok Sabha secretariat install textbook-sized panes of glass around the podium that will give cues to Obama on his prepared remarks to 780 Indian MPs on the evening of Nov 8.
It will be a 20-minute speech at Parliament House's Central Hall that has been witness to some historic events, including first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's "tryst with destiny" speech when India became independent.
Obama will make history for more than one reason during the Nov 6-9 visit. This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls.
Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama.
"We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact," an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.
Obama is known to captivate audiences with his one-liners that sound like extempore and his deep gaze. But few in India know that the US president always carries the teleprompter with him wherever he speaks.
Teleprompters, also called autocue or telescript, are mostly used by TV anchors to read out texts scrolling on a screen and attached to a camera in front of them.
Parliament officials have had a busy week preparing for a red carpet welcome for Obama and his wife Michelle. Parliament House these days looks fresh with a new coat of paint, new carpeting and new green plants in mud vases decorating the corridors.
Sources said the Obamas will pose for a photograph with Indian leaders at one of the three well laid-out courtyards that have lush green lawns and fountains.
On the dais in the Central Hall will be Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The sources said the event will be an hour-long affair and will start with Ansari's welcome address and end with a vote of thanks by Meira Kumar after the US president's address.
The Obamas would sign the Golden Book, the visitor's diary in parliament, before leaving the eight-decade old building.
"Thank god they won't eat anything or have tea or coffee from our canteen. We would have to go through a tough security drill otherwise," quipped an employee.
Security managers in parliament also had a tough job for the high profile visit even as the house is already highly protected following a terrorist attack in 2001.
A team of US security officials, including from the CIA, were in the Indian capital and visited the complex to review security measures to be taken during the parliament event.
Parliament security officials have decided that barring special invitees and former MPs, no visitor would be allowed inside when Obama addresses the MPs.
Only journalists who have permanent radio-frequency passes would be allowed inside the Central Hall to cover the event.
November 6th, 2010
By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller, Ap White House Correspondent Sat Nov 6, 2:27 pm ET
November 6th, 2010
(CNN) -- Scientists have found evidence of "dramatic" damage to deep-sea coral near the site of the Gulf oil disaster, with one biologist describing it as a shocking find that "slapped you in the face."
"This was the first time that anyone has seen a visually compelling indication of impact to deep sea animals in the vicinity of this deep-sea event," said Charles Fisher, a Penn State University biologist and the leader of a government-funded research expedition.
"We have some very compelling circumstantial evidence and that came from this expedition where we were out studying deep sea coral communities we know about, and exploring for new communities."
The research team encountered an apparently "unhealthy" colony of Madrepora -- a hard coral species -- on November 2 at a depth of 1,400 meters. While some in the coral colony appeared normal, others were covered in a "brown material" and were producing "abundant mucous," he said.
The scientists also encountered a community of soft corals nearby that also appeared to be affected. Extensive portions of the coral colonies were either recently dead or dying.
The discovery was made more than six months after an explosion aboard an oil rig sent crude spewing from a BP-owned well deep below the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers found the coral about seven miles southwest of the site of the spill.
Fisher, who called the discovery a "smoking gun," said researchers can't say for certain that the coral died from the oil, noting that dispersants could have been the culprit.
"The next step is to go back out there and look for direct evidence that the oil caused this damage. We're looking for hydrocarbons that could have been fingerprinted," Fisher said.
BP officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, said the damage is significant because "this is the first indication of just how widespread the damage is."
He wondered whether there is damage that has not yet been discovered.
November 6th, 2010
SWIEBODZIN, Poland – A gigantic statue of Jesus that Poles claim is the world's largest rose majestically above a small town on Saturday, as the grandiose dream of a local priest finally came to pass.
The white statue with outstretched arms and golden crown rising above the western Polish plains in Swiebodzin provides competition to Rio de Janiero's iconic Christ the Redeemer.
The mayor of the western Polish town, Dariusz Bekisz, claims it is now the world's tallest.
Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue said it rises 108 feet, or 33 meters — one meter for every year that Jesus lived. Other members of the construction team, however, gave differing figures. One said it rises 167 feet (51 meters) if you include a mound it sits on and the crown on the head.
By comparison, the statue in Brazil's Rio is 125 feet (38 meters) tall.
While it wasn't possible to verify the exact height of the new statue, there was no doubt that "Christ the King," as the golden-crowned Polish statue is called, cut an imposing sight as it was finally completed.
It has divided Poles and underlined the deep cultural divide between a deeply Catholic population and an increasingly confident secular society — with many mocking the statue project as tacky.
But many residents in Swiebodzin welcome it. They believe it will put their town of 22,000 on the map for tourists and Roman Catholic pilgrims and bring in needed money to renovate the historic buildings in the tiny town center.
"I am extremely proud," said Danuta Gordzelewska, a 60-year-old who watched as the statue's head was lowered into place.
Gordzelewska has donated money to the statue, which was funded by contributions from as far away as Canada. "It's special to watch something being built that later generations will have."
After many delays, a crane on Saturday morning lifted the arms and shoulders and slowly placed them onto the figure's lower body. Hours later, workers hoisted on the head, which is crowned with a golden king's crown — rather than the crown of thorns favored in Christian iconography.
Hundreds of onlookers then broke into applause, and some prayed, grasping rosaries. Workers in safety helmets and neon vests gathered at the base of the statue for a group photo, and Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue, waded into an adoring crowd.
"I have never been as happy as I am today," he said, beaming but clearly exhausted after seeing through the project that experienced setbacks and delays.
Zawadzki, known in town as "the builder priest" after also erecting two churches and other buildings, said he felt that he was called by Jesus to build the statue.
"This is the culmination of my life's work as a priest," he told onlookers and reporters who pressed around him.
"I felt inspired to fulfill Jesus' will, and today I give thanks to him for allowing me to fulfill his will."
The priest, wearing a dark coat over his black robe, turned to walk away and local people flocked after him, some shaking his hand. "We thank you! We thank you!" they chanted.
The project faced numerous problems along the way. A skeptical bishop put the brakes on it at one point and state officials also suspended the project for some time, fearing the size made it unsafe. The priest had a heart attack but recovered.
More recently, an attempt to finally mount the figure had to be aborted because it turned out that the crane at hand was not powerful enough to lift the arms and shoulders — weighing 30 tons (27 metric tons) — onto the standing body. A more powerful crane was obtained but further delays were caused this week by heavy winds.
Zawadzki said he kept the faith all along.
"I never had any doubts, not even for a minute," he said.
Marta Kucharska contributed to this report.
November 6th, 2010
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