Tennis star Baltacha pulls out of Commonwealth Games

By Alix Ramsay and Martin Hannan
SCOTTISH medal hopeful Elena Baltacha pulled out of the Commonwealth Games last night over fears about her health should she make the trip to Delhi.

• Hygiene concerns push tennis star out Picture: Getty

The tennis player made her position known to disappointed Scots officials as the vanguard of her team mates flew out of Glasgow after their departure was delayed by unhygienic conditions in the Athletes' Village.

Just days before she was due to join them in New Delhi, Baltacha revealed she has a chronic liver condition which affects her immune system and said she is concerned about the possible effects of poor hygiene and mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue Fever.

Baltacha, ranked in 50th position in the women's professional game and seen as a genuine medal contender for Scotland, said: "It was such a difficult decision because I was so looking forward to Delhi, I was so excited about it.

"If I didn't have a liver condition (primary sclerosing cholangitis), of course I'd go. But the problem is that with my liver condition I am much more susceptible to picking things up, and that's why it's more of a risk for me.

"It was really difficult because I am very passionate about representing my country, but at the same time, I have got to consider my health."

Jon Doig, Team Scotland Chef de Mission, said: "Bally has been a huge supporter of Commonwealth Games

ever since her medal-winning experience in the inaugural Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh. She committed to representing Scotland in Delhi from the outset and I know she is absolutely gutted about having to make this decision.

"Whilst we are obviously disappointed that Elena has decided to withdraw from the Games, we fully respect her decision."

The first group from Team Scotland, including 280 athletes and staff, plus equipment, left Glasgow Airport for Delhi yesterday after receiving assurances that problems were resolved. Concerns had been raised early this week that facilities were not ready and a party of 41 athletes and staff delayed their departure on Tuesday after complaints about conditions.

Yesterday, weightlifters, shooters, archers and lawn bowlers left Scotland with good luck messages from well-wishers.

Weightlifter Peter Kirkbride, 22, from Kilmarnock, said concerns about preparations in Delhi did not faze him, and added: "I've done a lot of training. I just want to get out there and compete in the Commonwealth Games."

Edinburgh-born shooter Caroline Brownlie, 32, said: "The guys out there have checked things out and if they say it's fine to go, then I'm happy.

We can't be too critical, because it's (the 2014 Games) coming to us next." Meanwhile, in Delhi yesterday, ambassadors and diplomats from 55 Commonwealth countries were given a tour of the main venues and athletes' village to check on progress, while the city's officials have asked the Indian army to build a temporary bridge to replace the footbridge between the main stadium and athletes village that collapsed on Tuesday. The army bridge should be finished within five days.

As fears over conditions receded, concerns about security deepened. Australian fans were warned by their government not to wear the green and gold or fly their flag at the Games for fear of attracting terrorists.

As the first Australian athletes headed for India, the Federal Government issued an explicit travel warning stating there was a "high risk" of a terrorist attack, including potential seizure of hostages.


Scots scale down traditional Fish Friday

By Emma Cowing
IT HAS been a custom in homes, schools and workplaces across Scotland for centuries, and a regular end of the week treat served with chips and peas. But now it seems the traditional Fish Friday is in decline.

• Only 6 per cent of Scots regularly eat fish on a Friday, although it is still a busy day for fishmongers Photograph: Robert Perry

A survey has found only 6 per cent of Scots regularly eat fish on Fridays, despite 85 per cent being aware of the tradition. Across the UK, just 13 per cent eat fish at the end of the week, although six out of ten people say they are conscious they should feed their families more fish because of its health benefits.

Reasons for the decline in fish on Fridays include a rise in eating out at the weekends, as well the increasing availability of a range of tasty alternatives.

The survey, conducted by fish processor John West, also suggested some Scots have abandoned fish on a Friday for less healthy foods, with 13 per cent saying they opted for a fast-food takeaway. Around 12 per cent of Scots said they did not regularly eat fish at home because it was too expensive.

The survey, among more than 1,100 people across the UK, also uncovered some bizarre reasons for not eating fish. It estimates that around 2.4 million people in the UK say they don't eat fish because they don't like the bones, while a further 2.4 million don't eat it because they don't like the eyes. Around 1.8 million are also worried about not cooking it properly, while 400,000 won't touch fish because they or their children have seen the animated film Finding Nemo about a clown fish trying to return to his home.

TV chef James Martin said Britain's health was suffering as a result. "The UK Food Standards Agency suggests we should all be eating two fish meals a week for our health," he said. "But with the decline of the Friday fish supper, and fears about how to cook fish correctly, many of us are failing to meet this target," he said.

Over the years many schools and offices have also abandoned the traditional option of fish in the canteen on a Friday, once a mainstay. According to Edinburgh City Council, the majority of its schools no longer serve fish on Fridays, although a few still offer it on Thursdays instead.

Edinburgh City Council's headquarters still serves the traditional fish on a Friday, and some Scottish corporate caterers still put fish on their office menus, although not necessarily on a Friday.

The notion of eating fish on a Friday originated from the early church tradition of refraining from eating meat at the end of the week, especially during Lent.

It became so popular that it was maintained by post-Reformation traditions across Britain, and became a useful mainstay during the lean times of the 20th century including the Great Depression and the Second World War, as fish was often cheaper
and more readily available than meat.

It also contributed to the great British tradition of the fish supper, with many Scots patronising fish and chip shops on a Friday night. However, the survey also found that despite the decline of Fish Friday, 76 per cent of Scots do eat fish once or twice a week. Retailers insist that Friday is still the most popular day for those buying fish.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "Friday is our biggest day for fish, with over 20 per cent of our weekly sales taking place on that day."

Waitrose fish buyer Jeremy Langley said: "Our two strongest days for fish sales are always Friday and Saturday, which would suggest that to a certain extent people are still buying fish for a Friday, or perhaps the weekend. However, fish sales are extremely strong consistently throughout the week, which suggests that perhaps the move away from Fish Friday is down to fish becoming a more everyday meal.

"Strong sales of fish may also be partially down to consumers becoming increasingly concerned with healthy eating."

Some chefs also believe the decline of Fish Friday is due to the food being more available throughout the week.

Roy Brett, chef and proprietor at Edinburgh fish restaurant Ondine, said: "You can get fresh fish almost daily now, I think that's the big difference.

"The old tradition goes back to a time when you were dependent on when the fish man came round and then you'd have to choose the fish on the day that the van arrived. Nowadays supermarkets and fish merchants get you fish virtually every day of the week."

A spokesman for John West said: "Studies show that people who eat fish regularly are less likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke. Fish is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals."


MQM prepares legal action against UK media campaign

LONDON: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has angrily rubbished reports that its assassinated Convenor Dr Imran Farooq was planning to leave the party to join the new party of former President Musharraf — All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).
After newspapers claimed that the rows within the MQM may have led to the assassination of Dr Imran Farooq or Dr Imran Farooq may have been about to endorse or join new party set up by Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf, a senior leader of the MQM said that the party was preparing legal action media houses on the grounds of “libel and defamation”.
The London-based senior leader said the party was already in talks with its legal team over the damaging speculation while there is a live police investigation into the killing of Dr Imran Farooq.
“There is a limit to what can be tolerated. There should be a clear difference between the objective reporting and the reports based on hearsay and propaganda. We have taken advice from our legal experts over such innuendo which is skewed at damaging the party and its ideology,” said the source.
The source said that Dr Imran Farooq was a committed party stalwart and reports that he was about to leave the party were part of the smear campaign, launched in the wake of his killing in London.
Pervez Musharraf has expressed his sorrows at the killing of Dr Imran Farooq, 50, in a brutal knife attack outside his Edgware home on the evening of 16th September, but he has remained silent over how closely he knew the murdered leader and whether there is any truth to the rumours that Dr Imran was planning to lend support to Musharraf’s upcoming political party.
But a key Musharraf aide also maintained yesterday that no one in the Musharraf’s camp was aware that Imran Farooq had any plan to catapult himself on stage with Musharraf on the 1st October when the exiled leader will announce the launch of his party.
The party clearly has a fear that “dark forces” are active to take advantage from the situation created after the killing of Dr Imran Farooq.
The murder investigation, being led by Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism branch because of the political dimension to the killing, has so far failed to make any breakthrough and that’s the reason the Scotland Yard issued an appeal to catch the killers of Dr Imran Farooq through his widow Shumaila Imran last Thursday. A security official, however, confirm to The News that the police is keeping an open mind about the possible motives behind the killing of Dr Imran Farooq and was making progress in piecing together the evidence it has gathered.
The senior MQM leader, who spoke to The News on Monday, said the MQM’s enemies had come into action. He said the British media was being fed lies and propaganda from the traditional anti-MQM elements which has nothing to do with the reality and the media was taking it for facts, unfortunately.
“The way things are being turned against MQM have hallmarks of conspiracy all over it. Those running this campaign want to defame and malign MQM as they are scared of the rising popularity of the party all over Pakistan,” said the leader vowing that every move will be resisted and anyone found making baseless allegations against the party will be taken to the courts.
Since the death of Dr Imran, the MQM leadership has appealed to the British government to step up the security of its founder and leader Altaf Hussain. The senior MQM leader confirmed that it was talking to the British government about the security of Altaf Hussain and had conveyed its concerns to the authorities.
He told The News the worry of the party — that there is a bigger and more sinister plot against the party and its top leader — got currency after the idea of the “change of the leadership” was floated in some media circles, notably in a recent confrontational BBC interview with Muhammad Anwar, one of nearly three dozens MQM Rabita Committee members.
Anwar told the programme that a lot of things the British media said were a propaganda spread out by the Pakistani establishment. “The British media and NGOs are overwhelmed by the propaganda spread always by the Pakistani establishment. We don’t believe what the Pakistani establishment says. We are clean.”The party leader, who spoke to The News, said such lines of questioning smacked of a “plot” against the party and its mission to help create a liberal and progressive Pakistan.


Airspace violation: Pakistan warns Nato

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday said that Nato has violated Pakistan's sovereignty and we would respond to it if Isaf followed the course, Geo News reported Friday.

He said that the government was working to eliminate terrorism and has asked Senator Kerry and US admin to share credible intelligence.

PM Gilani said the government believes in meaningful consultation and also desires passage of Accountability Bill with consensus.

"There is slight difference between accountability and victimization. We do not want to victimize anyone and the accountability bill shall be unanimous," he told National Assembly in response to a point of order by MNA Sardar Mahtab Abbasi.

"This is the first ever government where there is no political prisoner and I assure you, there will be no victimization or vendetta," he added.

Abbasi had objected the promulgation of the ordinance designating the powers of Chairman NAB to Law Ministry and had raised serious concerns on it pointing out it was not fair to promulgate ordinance in such a manner after the 18th Amendment.

The prime minister said, "it is extremely important. When we came to power, NAB was working under the Chief Executive and Farooq H Naek was the Law Minister and my cases were being heard by the courts."

"As I did not want an impression of influencing NAB on my part, I better decided had to give NAB under the Law Ministry for the sake of justice," he stated.

He said no ordinance is promulgated without the permission of the prime minister and if any wrong is smelled out of promulgation of this recent ordinance, I shall rectify it.

Gilani said, the government does not want to bulldoze the legislation process that is why the accountability bill is still pending.

"We want it as a unanimous bill," he said and elaborated that Chairman NAB shall also be appointed after consensus between the government and the opposition. "We sent two names to Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, who did not agree with it and I sought more time from the Apex Court to reach a consensus."


Power tariff raised by 2pc

ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) increased power tariff by two per cent for eight distribution companies and Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) with effect from Friday.

The Nepra reviewed the tariff for the fourth quarter of 2009-10 in exercise of powers conferred by Sub-section-4 of Section-31 of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act 1997, said a notification issued here.

Nepra's quarterly determination for fourth quarter 2009 - 2010 is on higher side when compared with government levied tariff for all sets of consumers.

In order to reduce the gap between Nepra's determined tariff and consumer's-end tariff, the government has decided to maintain a balance in public interest and to pass on only 2 per cent revision in power tariff.

The government therefore notified 2 per cent upward revision in power tariff across the board for all categories of consumers in Pepco's eight Distribution Companies and KESC, it further said.

It may be noted that in order to make power sector solvent, financially viable and able to serve the public, the government has notified the said tariff increase to be made from October 1.

It is informed that these increases usually are determined after power generation companies file a request for revision in the tariff position which are normally heard and disposed off (by Nepra) through public hearings.


Musharraf seeks apology for mistakes in power

LONDON: Former president Gen. (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf Friday admitted that political mistakes were committed in the twilight years of his regime and sought apology from Pakistani nation for the same.

“These mistakes caused damage to the nation,” he said while addressing a program held here to formally announce launching of his party – All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).

“All Pakistan Muslim League to wage jihad against poverty and illiteracy,” Pervez Musharraf vowed, adding the time for talks is over and now it is time to act.

He invited all Pakistanis to come forward and join hands with APML and strengthen it.

He said his party manifesto will be governed by three documents – the Holy Qura’an, Quaid’s 11 August 1947 Constituent Assembly address and 12 April 1949 Objective Resolution by Liaquat Ali Khan.

He described nepotism and corruption as the biggest curse for any society and vowed to rid the country of the same.

“Internal and external threats will be dealt with strongly and the fight against terrorism will continue till the elimination of this scourge,” the APML Chief pledged.

He said GDP growth will be raised to over 6 percent, referring to 8 percent growth achieved during his government.

“I believe in freedom of media and will support it thoroughly…only those are afraid of media who have got dirty laundry to hide,” he said.

Today I announce starting my political career and joining the All Pakistan Muslim League, he said.

“I want to begin my political career with clean slate.”


Pakistan Jet Crash Kills 152


ISLAMABAD—An Airbus A-321 operated by Pakistani carrier Airblue Ltd. crashed in to heavily forested hills near Islamabad in foggy weather and rain on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board, civil aviation authorities said.

The plane was at the end of a two-hour flight from Karachi to Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. It went down in forested hills north of the city after being asked by airport traffic control to bank around before landing. There were 146 passengers and six crew aboard, authorities said. At least two American citizens and one Austrian were among the dead.

Airblue spokesman Raheel Ahmed said the plane "was in excellent condition and there was no technical fault when it took off from Karachi." The aircraft was commissioned in 2000 in use by Airblue, a privately owned carrier, since 2006, he said.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the possibility of sabotage couldn't be ruled out. " We are investigating the crash from all aspects," he told reporters. He said the plane had strayed into a no fly zone.

A commercial passenger plane crashed in bad weather near Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Many other flights into Islamabad had been cancelled or diverted from Islamabad on Wednesday morning because of bad weather. The visibility had improved slightly when the Airblue flight was allowed to land.

Junaid Amin, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority said the plane had been asked to circle around because of traffic congestion. He said the flight lost contact with the control tower a few minutes before the crash.

Witnesses said the aircraft appeared to be flying very low before it crashed with a huge explosion and caught fire. "It hit the hill with bang," said Anjum Rehman, who saw the crash from the balcony of her house. A blaze of thick fire and plume of black smoke from wreckage could be seen from a distance.

An army battalion, scores of relief workers and three helicopters were involved in the recovery operation, which was hampered by a heavy downpour and difficult terrain. Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the rocky ground.

Pakistan's airline industry has expanded rapidly in recent years to cater to a growing middle class. That expansion has caused safety worries which led to the European Union partially banning state-owned Pakistan International Airlines Corp. from flying in EU airspace in 2007.

The ban came after a PIA Fokker F-27 aircraft crashed in June 2006 after taking off from the city of Multan, killing all 45 people on board. That was the last major air crash in Pakistan. The EU ban was lifted later in 2007 after PIA made safety improvements.

Other airlines in developing countries in Africa and Asia have also faced EU bans due to concerns that regulatory oversight wasn't keeping up with an explosion in new airlines. The EU bars most airlines based in Indonesia from flying in its airspace after a string of accidents and worries about regulatory control. Brussels recently lifted a ban on state-owned Garuda Indonesia and a few other airlines after they made safety improvements but kept its restrictions on scores of other new carriers.Airblue was started in 2004 by Pakistani businessman and politician Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and has quickly grown into the nation's No. 2 carrier behind PIA. Mr. Abbasi was a former chairman of PIA in the 1990s. Airblue flies international routes to the U.K., United Arab Emirates and Oman, as well as domestic flights.

According to Airblue's website, the airline carried 1.4 million passengers in its 2006-2007 fiscal year, compared with PIA's five million, the latest figures available. Until Wednesday, the airline hadn't suffered any fatal crashes.

Plane crash in Margalla hills a big incident: Foreign Minister

KARACHI, July 28 (APP): Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said a plane crash in Margalla hills near Islamabad is a big incident.The Foreign Minister was talking to media at Quaid-e-Azam International Airport here.He expressed grief and sorrow over losses of lives in the crash and prayed for the departed souls.He said these type of accidents are unexpected and same occur throughout the world but security measures should be taken.Shah Mahmood Qureshi said attention of the government is towards rescue and relief operation at the moment so that the survivors if any be provided prompt medical cover.

Plane Crash in Pakistan Kills All 152 On Board

ISLAMABAD – A passenger jet that officials suspect veered off course in monsoon rains and thick clouds crashed into hills overlooking Pakistan's capital Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board and scattering body parts and twisted metal far and wide.

The Airblue jet's crash was the deadliest ever in Pakistan, and just the latest tragedy to jolt a country that has suffered numerous deaths in recent years due to al-Qaida and Taliban attacks. At least two U.S. citizens were on the plane, which carried mostly Pakistanis.

The plane left the southern city of Karachi at 7:45 a.m. for a two-hour flight to Islamabad and was trying to land when it lost contact with the control tower, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official. Airblue is a private airline based in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.

The aircraft, an Airbus A321, crashed some 15 kilometers from the airport, scorching a wide stretch of the Margalla Hills, including a section behind Faisal Mosque, one of Islamabad's most prominent landmarks. Twisted metal wreckage hung from trees and lay scattered across the ground. Smoke rose from the scene as helicopters hovered.

The exact cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and rescue workers were seeking the "black box" flight data recorder amid the wreckage. But Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said the government did not suspect terrorism.

Rescue workers and citizen volunteers were hampered by the rain, mud and rugged terrain. The crash was so severe it would have been nearly impossible for any of the 146 passengers and six crew members to survive, rescue officials said.

"There is nothing left, just piles and bundles of flesh. There are just some belongings, like two or three traveling bags, some checkbooks, and I saw a picture of a young boy. Otherwise everything is burned," rescue worker Murtaza Khan said.

As the government declared Thursday would be a day of mourning and condolences poured in from the U.S., Britain and other nations, hundreds of people showed up at Islamabad's largest hospital and the airport seeking information on loved ones.

They swarmed ambulances reaching the hospital, but their hopes fell as rescue workers unloaded bags filled with body parts. A large cluster of people also surrounded a passenger list posted near the Airblue counter at the airport.

"We don't know who survived, who died, who is injured," said Zulfikar Ghazi, who lost four relatives. "We are in shock."

Mirza Ahmed Baig rushed to the hills after hearing that the plane carrying his brother had crashed. He wept amid the chilly weather, criticizing the rescue effort as too little and too lax.

"I'm not satisfied at all on the steps the government is taking," Baig said.

As of Wednesday night, when rescue work was suspended till the morning, 115 bodies had been recovered, federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said. DNA tests would be needed to identify most of them, he said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire confirmed that at least two American citizens were on board, but he declined to provide any further information on their identities or links to Pakistan.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to be flying very low and that it seemed unsteady in the air.

"The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down," Saqlain Altaf, who was on a family outing in the hills when the crash occurred, told Pakistan's ARY news channel.

The Pakistan Airline Pilot Association said the plane may have strayed off course, possibly because of the poor weather. Several officials noted the plane seemed to be an unusual distance from the airport, which was some 9 1/2 miles (15 kilometers) away.

"It should not have gone so far," said Air Vice Marshal Riazul Haq, deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Authority. "We want to find out why it did."

Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline, said the cause of the crash would be investigated. The plane had no known technical issues, and the pilots did not send any emergency signals, Ahmed said. Airblue flies within Pakistan and to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.

Airbus said it would provide technical assistance to the crash investigators. The aircraft was initially delivered in 2000, and was leased to Airblue in January 2006. It accumulated about 34,000 flight hours during some 13,500 flights, it said.

The only previous recorded accident for Airblue, a carrier that began flying in 2004, was a tail-strike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by one of the airline's Airbus 321 jets. There were no casualties and damage was minimal, according to the U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network.

Other Pakistani airlines have come under international scrutiny due to safety concerns.

In 2007, the European Union temporarily banned flights in its airspace of most of the aircraft operated by Pakistan's national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, because of concerns over the age of the aircraft and poor maintenance. The bloc lifted the ban later that year after the airline took action to comply with safety standards.

The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft operated by PIA slammed into a wheat field on the outskirts of the central Pakistani city of Multan, killing all 45 people on board.

In August 1989, another PIA Fokker, with 54 people onboard, went down in northern Pakistan on a domestic flight. The plane's wreckage was never found. In September 1992, a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a mountain in Nepal, killing all 167 people on board.

The Airbus 320 family of medium-range jets, which includes the A321 model that crashed Wednesday, is one of the most popular in the world, with about 4,300 jets delivered since deliveries began in 1988.

Twenty-one of the aircraft have been lost in accidents since then, according to the Aviation Safety Network's database. The deadliest was a 2007 crash at landing in Sao Paolo by Brazil's TAM airline, in which all 187 people on board perished, along with 12 others on the ground.


AP Aviation Writer Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, as well as Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan in Karachi and Zarar Khan, Nahal Toosi and Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad, contributed to this report.


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