Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai under siege! About a hundred dead.

MUMBAI, India – Teams of gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, hospitals and a crowded train station in coordinated attacks across India's financial capital Wednesday night, killing at least 82 people and taking Westerners hostage, police said. A group of suspected Muslim militants claimed responsibility.

Parts of the city remained under siege as dawn approached Thursday, with police and gunmen exchanging occasional gunfire at two hotels and an unknown number of people still held hostage, said A.N. Roy, a top police official. Soldiers also took up positions across the city.

A raging fire and explosions struck the landmark Taj Mahal hotel shortly after midnight. Screams could be heard and black smoke billowed from the century-old edifice on Mumbai's waterfront. Firefighters sprayed water at the blaze and plucked people from windows and balconies with extension ladders.

The attackers specifically targeted Britons and Americans, witnesses said. Officials said at least 200 people were wounded.

The motive for the onslaught was not immediately clear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.

State home secretary Bipin Shrimali said four suspects had been killed in two incidents when they tried to flee in cars, and Roy said two more gunmen were killed at the Taj Mahal. State Home Minister R.R. Patil said nine more were captured. They declined to provide any further details.

An Indian media report said a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen had claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media outlets. There was no way to verify the claim.

Police reported hostages being held at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, two of the best-known upscale destinations in this crowded but wealthy city.

Gunmen who burst into the Taj "were targeting foreigners. They kept shouting: `Who has U.S. or U.K. passports?'" said Ashok Patel, a British citizen who fled from the hotel.

Authorities believed seven to 15 foreigners were hostages at the Taj Mahal, but it was not immediately clear if hostages at the Oberoi were Indians or foreigners, said Anees Ahmed, a top state official. It was also unclear where the hostages were in the Taj Mahal, which is divided into an older wing, which was in flames, and a modern tower that was not on fire.

State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said U.S. officials were not aware of any American casualties, but were still checking. He said he could not address reports that Westerners might be among the hostages.

"The United States condemns this terrorist attack and we will continue to stand with the people of India in this time of tragedy," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "President Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians killed and injured in the attacks."

Johnny Joseph, chief secretary for Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, said 82 people had been killed and 120 had been wounded.

Officials at Bombay Hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Japanese man had died there and nine Europeans were admitted, three of them in critical condition with gunshot wounds. All were brought in from the Taj Mahal, the officials said.

At least three top Indian police officers — including the chief of the anti-terror squad — were among those killed, said Roy, the senior police official.

Blood smeared the floor of the Chhatrapati Shivaji rail station, where attackers sprayed bullets into the crowded terminal. Press Trust of India quoted the chief of the Mumbai railway police, A.K. Sharma, as saying several men armed with rifles and grenades were holed up at the station.

Other gunmen attacked Leopold's restaurant, a landmark popular with foreigners, and the police headquarters in southern Mumbai, the area where most of the attacks took place. The restaurant was riddled with bullet holes and there were blood on the floor and shoes left by fleeing customers.

Officials also reported that terrorists attacked the city's Cama and Albless Hospital and G.T. Hospital, but it was not immediately clear if anyone was killed in those places.

A British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi hotel told Sky News television that the gunmen who struck there singled out Britons and Americans.

Alex Chamberlain said a gunman, a young man of 22 or 23, ushered 30 or 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and ordered everyone to put up their hands. He said the gunman spoke in Hindi or Urdu.

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?" and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything — and thank God they didn't," he said.

Chamberlain said he managed to slip away as the patrons were forced to walk up stairs, but he thought much of the group was being held hostage.

Early Thursday, several European lawmakers were among people who barricaded themselves inside the Taj, a century-old seaside hotel complex and one of the city's best-known destinations.

"I was in the main lobby and there was all of a sudden a lot of firing outside," said Sajjad Karim, part of a delegation of European lawmakers visiting Mumbai ahead of a European Union-India summit.

As he turned to get away, "all of a sudden another gunmen appeared in front of us, carrying machine gun-type weapons. And he just started firing at us ... I just turned and ran in the opposite direction," he told The Associated Press over his mobile phone.

Hours later, Karim remained holed up in a hotel restaurant, unsure if it was safe to come out.

The British Foreign Office said it was advising all British citizens in Mumbai to stay indoors.

Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, strongly condemned the attacks. "Today's attacks in Mumbai which have claimed many innocent victims remind us, yet again, of the threat we face from violent extremists," Miliband said in a statement.

India has been wracked by bomb attacks the past three years, which police blame on Muslim militants intent on destabilizing this largely Hindu country. Nearly 700 people have died.

Since May a militant group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen has taken credit for a string of blasts that killed more than 130 people. The most recent was in September, when a series of explosions struck a park and crowded shopping areas in the capital, New Delhi, killing 21 people and wounding about 100.

Mumbai has been hit repeatedly by terror attacks since March 1993, when Muslim underworld figures tied to Pakistani militants allegedly carried out a series of bombings on Mumbai's stock exchange, trains, hotels and gas stations. Authorities say those attacks, which killed 257 people and wounded more than 1,100, were carried out to avenge the deaths of hundreds of Muslims in religious riots that had swept India.

Ten years later, in 2003, 52 people were killed in Mumbai bombings blamed on Muslim militants and in 2006 a series of seven blasts on railway trains and at commuter rail stations killed at least 187.

Relations between Hindus, who make up more than 80 percent of India's 1 billion population, and Muslims, who make up about 14 percent, have sporadically erupted into bouts of sectarian violence since British-ruled India was split into independent India and Pakistan in 1947.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Should your business rely on phone cards?

Buying prepaid phone cards could be compared to playing a card game, as the right card can make all the difference.

However, if you want to make the odds work for you, you'll need to shop around for the right call card. If you've picked up a phone card recently, you're in good company.
According to an estimate by the International Prepaid Communications Association, an industry trade group, Americans use them to make more than 8 billion calls yearly.

These call cards are very popular with students, immigrants, military personnel, teens and travelers. Retirees and small to medium-sized businesses also use them to control their expenses, while roommates buy them to avoid fighting over phone bills every month. An online prepaid phone card company, has a specific type of prepaid account for business use, which helps control over company expenses on long distance.

What Makes Phone Cards Work? To know why phone cards offer reasonable, and competitive call rates, here's quick overview of how the prepaid card market works. We all know that the major telecommunications carriers are responsible for the telephone lines that carry calls, while it's the card resellers who buy telephone minutes in bulk from the carriers.

The issuers then set the card rates and provide toll-free customer service and access numbers. From hereon, the distributors sell the cards to the retailers., and the retailers sell the cards to consumers, although it is important to take note that a store may not have control over the quality of the card or the service it provides.

Phone Cards Offer Businesses Better International Call Rates - The rates for international calls may dramatically vary based on the country that you call, or the method used to make the call. These often offer rates that are generally much lower than a telephone company's basic international prices. Businesses can also make calls from a phone that is not international-calling enabled. Consumers also choose phone cards when they want to call up their friends, relatives or business partners who live half way down the globe. The good thing is that businesses need not sign any formal agreements, and wouldn't have to wait for monthly bills.

Savings: The Best Reason To Use Phone CardsBusinesses and individual customers generally save from 50% to 75% on international and domestic calls with prepaid phone cards. With advancements in technology, consumers can today cut costs of international calling by as much as 50%, simply by using these.

For instance, the cost of calling to India from USA starts from 5 US cents a minute plus local call charges if theres any. For toll-free access of international calls, per-minute charges may be a little bit higher.

The customer also doesn't have to pay hefty taxes as much as they would if they use their regular telephones or mobile phones to make long distance international calls. Phone card users also can keep track of how much of a card's calling time is used through the providers website.

Consumers may add time to some prepaid phone cards, and the added cost can usually be billed to a credit card or debit card. However, if you cannot add time on a particular card, you will need to buy a new one once all the time has been used. In addition, they often have expiration dates, so ensure that you keep track of the date your card expires so you don't lose any unused minutes. Some cards let the unused balance roll over the next expiration date.

Michael Jordan lose to a 5'11" guy

Ok, so this was less than a half-court battle, best to three points and Michael Jordan’s “Flight School.” MJ was just having a good time and giving maybe 10 percent effort. He also hit two long balls when his opponent, CEO and Chairman John Rogers if Ariel Investments, got his buckets with layups.

But the fact remains that this dude beat Michael Jordan. And even if you beat Michael Jordan in Rock, Paper, Scissors, it’s still a big deal

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama wins!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama won a grueling two-year struggle for the White House on Tuesday, U.S. media projected, beating Republican John McCain to become the first black president in U.S. history.

Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. president on January 20, 2009. He will face a crush of immediate challenges, including easing the economic crisis, ending the war in Iraq and striking a compromise on overhauling the health care system.

Barack Obama told supporters that "change has come to America" as he claimed victory in a historic presidential election.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there," Obama said in Chicago, Illinois, before an estimated crowd of up to 240,000 people.

With Obama's projected win, he will become the first African-American to win the White House.
Obama had an overwhelming victory over Sen. John McCain, who pledged Tuesday night to help Obama lead.

"Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much, and tonight, I remain her servant," McCain said.

McCain called Obama to congratulate him, and Obama told the Arizona senator he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them can work together.
President Bush also called Obama to offer his congratulations.

Bush told Obama he was about to begin one of the great journeys of his life, and invited him to visit the White House as soon as it could be arranged, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Obama will be working with a heavily Democratic Congress. Democrats picked up Senate seats in New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia, among others.

"While the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress," Obama said.

Flanked by American flags, Obama told the roaring crowd, "This is your victory."
"To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too," he said.