Snakes of Sri Lanka - 7
By Jayasri Jayakody
Blossom Krait (Balanophis ceylonensis) Mal Karawala
A beautiful snake with a lively scarlet colouration, the Blossom Krait has a brown dorsal stripe and thick black longtitudal stripes with a white underbelly. Its eyes are very large and it has a stout cylindrical body with a thick short tail.
A largely terrestrial snake seldom venturing onto trees, this snake is gentle and inoffensive making no attempt to bite even when harassed. If subjected to sudden shock will lie down and stretch itself revealing its scarlet colouration.
Little is known of its food. Probably feeds on small leaf litter fauna such as grubs, worms and slugs.
Very little is known about its reproductive habits. It is oviparous and lays around 2 to 4 eggs in a single clutch. The eggs are quite large for a small snake and measure 40mmx12mm.
Upon hatching the young measure 160mm. These hatchlings grow to a maximum length of around 460mm.
This rare and non venomous snake is endemic to Sri Lanka and is confined to rainforests of the Central Hills. It has been recorded from Peradeniya, Balangoda, Udugama, Yatiyantota and Uva.
Green Keelback (Macropisthodon plumbicolor) Palabariya
The colouration of the young varies considerably from that of the adults. The young are often greenish yellow or fawn in colour with prominent transverse black stripes. (Left) By the second year they often acquire their adult colouration with
a peculiar intermediate phase. (Right)
A small nearly uniformly green snake with occasional black spots, the Green Keelback has a rounded head and blunt snout with large nostrils and eyes.
This docile and inoffensive snake is active mainly by day and moves around by night. If roused it bluffs by spreading out its neck like a cobra and flees with the first opportunity.
Feeds mainly on frogs and may take lizards and other snakes.
This snake is oviparous. Breeding habits vary according to its range. In India mating takes place around December and the eggs are laid in March and April. In Sri Lanka gravid females are often captured in May and June. The gestation period is over 80 days. In Sri Lanka the eggs are laid in August and the clutch varies from 7 to 31. The eggs are laid during a period of over 3 days in captivity but may not be so in the wild. The incubation period for the eggs is not precisely known. The eggs are oval and measure 36mmx21mm.
Upon hatching neonates measure around 150mm. Maturity is reached at around 35cm. The average adult length is 60cm and the maximum length is 90cm. Females are longer and bulkier than the males.
This non venomous snake can be identified by its ability to erect its neck into a hood.
Commonly inhabits grassy areas and low vegetation. Occasionally found in the trees. Prefers green areas were its camouflage is most effective.
Found in India and Sri Lanka.
A fairly common snake in the forests of the central hills at an altitude from over 800-1800m, commonly recorded from Pallekalle, Balangoda, Badulla, Uva and Moragalla. It has also been recorded from Anuradhapura. It may venture down to the planes occasionally.
"Star Lanka Online" Our NEW Web site And Web TV Channel Launched
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Friday, August 31, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
‘Hot stuff’ Super Stars
Shihan Mihiranga, Malith Perera and Amila Perera are now household names. These three musical stars emerged from the “Sirasa Super Star” contest last year. Using their musical skills these three sizzling youngsters built up a large following of admirers.
This singing trio is today’s “heart throb’ of the youth. With the “Sirasa Super Star” (Season 2) now in progress, Shihan, Malith and Amila have new plans, new albums and new events to offer in the coming weeks.
Like the Friday tabloid, to many they have become an essential ingredient for an exciting weekend.
RETURN OF THE
The events of last week proved that the former President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is ready to take centre-stage again if necessary.
The Sri Lankan people might love to hate her, but they also recognise in her the instincts of a fighter and shrewd political acumen that can make even the worst situations go her way. Her presence in Sri Lanka poses a problem for the administration because she might prove the catalyst around which anti-government forces rally. In a sea of political corruption, she was the wildcard that took a nation by storm and created so much hope in 1994, but even she failed to live up to the people’s expectations. Is this re-entry aimed at rectifying that omission? Will she try to leave a different legacy behind this time around?
By Dharisha Bastians
The speculation about Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s return to active politics has been rampant since November 2005. Her exit from the political scene was anything but graceful, she retired young and some might even say she was unceremoniously kicked out of the SLFP presidency soon afterwards, although she refrained from making too much noise about it then.
But as last week unfolded, it became increasingly apparent that Kumaratunga had returned to the island this time with a clear resolution that she would assume a more public role. Her visits to Sri Lanka since she left office have been largely personal ones and she steered clear of the limelight on all those occasions. On this trip however, the former President has thrown herself back into the public eye, posing with politicians and diplomats and generally making her presence felt.
Last Thursday, Kumaratunga opened up her official residence to journalists for the first time, allowing them to photograph her indoors and in discussions with Western People’s Front Chief, Mano Ganesan.
Ganesan, also leads the Civil Monitoring Commission that observes and reports on abductions and disappearances taking place in the country. He decided on Thursday to hand his commission’s latest report over to the former President and obviously obtained her permission to invite the media to the event.
In keeping with the norm, the media personnel were kept waiting a good hour before Mrs. Kumaratunga swept into the tastefully decorated living room, clad in a pretty pink handloom saree and wearing her customary winning smile. She exchanged pleasantries with her callers and inquired into the contents of the report handed to her. The former President, obviously keeping abreast of things in the country, remarked that she was under the impression that abductions and disappearances were on the wane since July 2007. However, Ganesan responded that while abductions had decreased in Colombo, the north and east were still vulnerable areas.
Once the meeting was over, Mrs Kumaratunga decided to retire indoors when she was hailed out into the verandah where waiting scribes insisted on her saying a few words to be caught on camera. Smiling at the reporters and taking a few jabs at one or two newspapers, Kumaratunga spoke briefly, saying that elected governments cannot behave like terrorist organisations.
Her statement has been played down since by sections of the government, but her choice of words was not hard to read. While she stopped short on that occasion of accusing the government of acting like terrorists, her statement was referring to abductions taking place in the country, where the government’s hand has not gone unnoticed.
It was a fleeting appearance before the cameras, but her news value, despite her retirement was more than apparent when the pictures were splashed on all front pages the following day.
SLFP (M) convenor, Mangala Samaraweera played on her news-worthiness when he urged media personnel to ‘come to Nittambuwa’ and see what happens’ when journalists asked him at a press conference last week whether Chandrika would get on stage with the UNP-SLFP (M) members. She never showed and it was highly anticlimactic in the end, but it served to keep curiosity going in the rally which brought large crowds to the traditionally blue power base.
Her allure is not limited to the fact that she is the only plausible heir to the Bandaranaike legacy and so might be a worthy candidate to bring the SLFP back to its moderate policies alone. She is also undoubtedly one of the most charismatic leaders this country has ever produced. It has often been said of Chandrika Kumaratunga that you might hate her policies and she might be an ineffective leader, but few can resist her smile. It is hard to forget, especially in these times of political bankruptcy, the fresh-faced hope she brought with her in 1994.
It is hard to find a similar example anywhere in the world, where such an unknown could emerge suddenly onto the political stage and sweep the presidency with such an overwhelming majority, having done nothing to prove herself before that. Her ascent to power, however, was made easier by the fact that the LTTE assassinated her chief opponent Gamini Dissanayake shortly before the election, prompting the UNP to put up a sympathy candidate instead to contest the poll. But the fact remained that people wanted a change and Dissanayake represented the UNP, whose 17 years of rule was starting to tell on the populace.
But why would Chandrika Kumaratunga, who has reached the pinnacle of politics in this country and reigned for almost her two full terms in the presidency, want to return to active politics instead of preparing to welcome grandchildren and enjoy her retirement? And why did she choose this precise moment, when opposition to the government is gathering momentum and alliances are in the offing that could well mark the end of this administration’s reign?
Undoubtedly it could be many things that prompted her back to our shores. According to her brother Anura, Chandrika loves the country too much to stay away. She also retired relatively young for a president in this country. Whereas President Jayewardene and President Wijetunge left office in their old, Kumaratunga had just topped 60 and was as energetic as ever, giving her that much more time to continue playing politics if she so wished.
Perhaps. But what is also true is that if ever a leader left office with a huge sign over her head saying – ‘watch out, I’ll be back’ – it was Chandrika Kumaratunga. Court cases filed on her behalf, claiming that the presidential election that brought President Mahinda Rajapaksa to office should be held in 2006, did not go her way. She may have given President Rajapaksa the SLFP presidential nomination, but she did so under duress and both she and his running mate and her brother, Anura made that abundantly clear in the run up to election day that November. There was a grand ceremony being organised to bid her farewell and welcome the new president, but Rajapaksa thwarted that by deciding to take oaths and assume office before the ceremony could take place as scheduled. Following her retirement and her departure for England to be with her son and daughter, she suffered all manner of ignominies. Cases were filed in court demanding that her security and personnel be reduced in number. The mantle of SLFP president was taken away from her on her birthday last September and there were even whispers that she had been informed that if she were to return to the island, her security would be reduced even further, rendering her vulnerable to LTTE attacks.
Despite all this, the former President chose to bide her time, reacting sparsely to criticism and insisting she had better things to do than re-enter Sri Lanka’s political fray. Perhaps her keen political nose sensed a change in the offing? Perhaps the invitation from her former trusted lieutenant Mangala Samaraweera, to come back and save the SLFP proved too tempting to resist? Undoubtedly, this administration, victories on the military front notwithstanding, have made the reign of Chandrika Kumaratunga, dark though some of those times were in reality, look like a golden age. It is a sad but true fact that the political leadership gets worse every time, constantly making those that came before look angelic in retrospect. One can’t help recalling how the people cried out for President Ranasinghe Premadasa in the colossal bungling of the tsunami aftermath in 2005. The Mahinda Rajapaksa administration similarly has made Kumaratunga look good by comparison. To the Tamil people, Chandrika was a disappointment in the end, but till the end she remained a leader of moderate views with regard to the ethnic problem and she was one of Sri Lanka’s first leaders to publicly admit that the Tamils had been done wrong by the state and had legitimate grievances. Had the opposition supported her devolution package – Union of Regions – in 2000, proposing maximum power sharing within a federal structure, Sri Lanka’s destiny today may have been a different one. Whatever her shortcomings, she will be remembered, especially now in these times of hawkishness, as a leader who did even at first, when she was new to high office and filled with idealism, believe in a negotiated settlement to this tragic conflict. Not even the LTTE attack that cost her an eye changed her position on the conflict – she refused to take the attack personally. How the Tamil people view her potential re-entry into the already heady mix of political opinion on the conflict, remains to be seen.
For better or worse and whether we like it or not, it looks like ‘CBK’ is back. Her return is a mixed bag. She is certainly no much-loved leader returning to save the day in the eyes of a population wearying of political games. But in a country where the people are vehemently opposed to the government in power and have no faith in the opposition and are fast losing hope on all fronts, even Chandrika Kumaratunga could emerge a hero.
LDEST BRIDESMAID WAS 97 YEARS
Some unique world records
by Andrew Scott
Today many people throughout the world are using computers and it would be quite interesting to know about the fastest computer in the world. The NEC Earth Simulator at the Yokohama Institute of Earth Science in Japan is the fastest computer in the world. It carried out 35.6 trillion calculations per second.
There are rare human achievements throughout the world. For instance Dean Sheldon of the USA held a total of 21 scorpions in his mouth for 18 seconds. The longest duration of sitting in a glass cage of scorpions goes to Malena Hassan, the scorpion queen of Malaysia. She sat in a glass cage 130 feet square containing 2,000 live scorpions for thirty days. During the whole operation she was stung several times, but only twice quite seriously. In contrast to this record the credit of holding eight live rattlesnakes by their tales in his mouth goes to Jackie Bibby of the USA who held these snakes in his mouth for 12.5 seconds.
The Nobel Prize, awarded in memory of Alfred Nobel, is known throughout the world and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner was Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala who was awarded same in 1922 at the comparatively young age of 33 years. She was the youngest prize winner ever to receive this coveted honour.
First female Prime Minister
The unique record of being the world’s first female Prime Minister goes to Sirimavo Bandaranaike who became our Prime Minister in July 1960 and functioned as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister for a total of nearly 18 years.
People die and this is nature’s way and when they die it is customary to send condolences in various forms. The most condolences posted on the internet was on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in September, 1997. It was an astounding total of 580,000 messages of condolences.
Sometimes people are trapped in lifts and the longest time a person was trapped in a lift was in December 1997. Kiveli Papioannou found herself trapped in her apartment block lift for six days while she was on her way back from a shopping trip. The 76 year old overcame dehydration and the cold by consuming the fruit, vegetables and bread that she had in her shopping bag. Not all people can walk on stilts, but the greatest distance ever walked on stilts is 3008 miles by John Bowen of the USA in 1980. The first ascent of Everest was considered one of the greatest human achievements at the time. However, the most conquest of Mt. Everest has been accomplished by Apa Sherpa of Nepal who has reached the summit of Mt. Everest 12 times.
The mere mention of the word bridesmaid has affectionate association with the young. However, it is interesting to note that the oldest bridesmaid, Flossie Bennett of the UK became a bridesmaid at the ripe old age of 97 years at the wedding of her friend. Hair forms an important component in the human body and having too much hair on the body can be disturbing. The hairiest individuals in the world are reported to be Victor and Gabriel Gomez of Mexico whose entire bodies, apart from their palms and soles are covered with a thick coat of hair. This is due to a rare disease called “werewolf syndrome” Today health conscious people throughout the world are deeply concerned about their blood sugar levels and it is quite surprising to note that the highest blood sugar level of 2350 while still conscious was maintained by a 12 year old American, Michael Dougherty. In the modern world kidney transplants are a common daily occurrence throughout the world and the earliest successful kidney transplant was performed by R.H Lawler in Chicago 54 years ago in 1950.
There are thousands of diseases that effect human beings and among them Leprosy has been described as the oldest disease. It has been mentioned in writings as far back as 1359 B.C
From time immemorial royal palaces have intrigued man and it is interesting to note that the most number of presidential palaces owned by Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq. He had 8 principal palaces and other minor residences throughout Iraq. In Babylon he has a palace where every brick was stamped with the words “the leader Saddam Hussein.” The smallest church in the world Santa Isabel in Spain, stands as a monument to the explorer Christopher Columbus. Mass is held in this church only on special occasions and it has a total floor area of only 21 square feet. It is reported that only one person can fit in to pray at a time. The most valuable object of art ever stolen is the Mona Lisa painting. It was lost from France in 1911 and was later discovered in 1913 in Florence.
One of the luckiest in legal history has been the survivor of the greatest number of legal hanging attempts, Joseph Samuel of Australia, a 22 year old who was sentenced to death for a murder in Sydney 1803. The first attempt at his execution failed when the hangman’s rope broke. Another attempt was made but this was also abandoned after the rope stretched so much that his feet touched the ground. At the third attempt the rope had broken again and later Samuel was reprieved.
First ball point pen
Today ball point pens are used throughout the world as it is one of the most convenient tools for writing. It was a Hungarian journalist, Biro, who invented the world’s first ball point in 1938, along with his brother, George. Later the ball point earned wide spread popularity throughout the literary world.
In the world of writing, the most valuable typewriter in the world was commissioned by Ian Fleming of UK, creator of James Bond, who commissioned a gold plated typewriter in 1952. It was made in USA at a cost of E 56,250 at an auction in London.
(Material drawn from “Guinness World Records”)
“Mangala is now a political refugee” – Lalkantha
While acknowledging that there is a need to defeat the present government, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will have nothing to do with achieving the political agendas of the United National Party due to that fact that its economic, social and cultural policies are detrimental to the development of the country, stated JVP Parliamentarian and Trade Union Front Leader K.D. Lalkantha.
In an interview with The Nation, commenting on the latest invitation extended SLFP(M) Leader Mangala Samaraweera, who called on the JVP to join the new National Congress to defeat the government, Lalkantha asserted that the need of the hour was to build up a truly national front, uniting all progressive and patriotic forces to pull the country out of present mess.
Samaraweera at a press conference held on Wednesday made a passionate plea to members of the JVP, whom he referred to as “my erstwhile friends whom I respect,” to join hands with the National Congress that has been formed with the UNP in order to topple the incumbent government.
Lalkantha stressed that the JVP was a party which did not work to the personal agendas of anyone and that Samaraweera had committed a blunder in joining hands with the UNP.
Following are excerpts:
By S.J. Anthony Fernando
Q: At the press conference held on Wednesday, Mangala Samaraweera once again called upon the JVP to join hands with the National Congress to defeat the government, saying that he would be able to secure the support of eight more MPs from the government for the purpose. What are your views in this regard?
A: First of all, I would like to point out that the JVP is not a party which works according to anyone’s personal agendas. Mangala, no doubt, is harbouring a personal grudge against the President.
When Mangala and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi left the government and formed their SLFP faction, they met the JVP leadership to discuss their future plans. The JVP told them in no uncertain terms that it would have nothing to do with an alliance formed with the UNP.
This was not because of any personal animosity against any UNP members but because of its economic, social and cultural policies, which are harmful to the country. Its Westernised imperialist tendencies have been detrimental to the country. Even on the national question, we don’t agree with its policies. Therefore, we cannot solve the problems facing the country with the UNP.
Mangala may be right in leaving the government, which is reeking of corruption and mismanagement. But he has committed a big blunder in joining hands with the UNP. The question is, after defeating the government, what is the alternative government they are going to form?
Q: Are you saying that he should have joined hands with the JVP in forming a national front?
A: We will certainly welcome him and discuss the manner in which we could work together, but without the UNP. However, he has now fallen into the lap of the UNP and is working according to its bidding. As a result, he has today become a political refugee.
Q: What would the JVP’s stance be at the next Budget? Will it support or oppose the Government?
A: We will await the Budget and decide whether to support it or not, according to the contents of the Budget. In the present context, we vehemently oppose the attitude of the government in condoning waste and corruption and plundering of public property as well as heaping burdens of the people. If the Budget does not provide any respite to the burning problems, we will have to decide on appropriate action.
Q: JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Werawansa stated that if the government decides to adopt a federal system for the devolution of power, the JVP would vote against the Budget. What are your views?
A: Everyone agrees that the forthcoming Budget is a most decisive one. While the people are awaiting some relief for their untold suffering, there are also reactionary forces at work to topple the government.
At the last presidential election, the Mahinda Chinthana categorically pledged to formulate a unitary system of government in devolving power. If the Government dishonours that pledge and adopts a federal system, then it would betray the people.
Although the devolution matter is not directly connected to the Budget, we will take into consideration the government stand on the matter before deciding to support the Budget or not. We hope the government would take a wise decision considering the forces against it.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Education system in crisis
Inter University Students Federation protest: The education system appears to be in crisis with no ready solution in sight, and university students are more on the streets than in their campuses Pic by Nissanka Wijerathne
Mishaps in educational policy can have far reaching and devastating consequences. Some would go so far as to say that the ‘district basis’ policy of university admissions introduced in the seventies gave rise to the northern insurrection which has erupted into the menace of terrorism today and that argument is not without its merits.
Sri Lanka in its post-independent era has for long taken pride in the social luxuries it provides for its people; most notably, free healthcare and free education that it offers, no matter what financial constraints successive governments have been faced with. Of these two services, it is education that has been hogging the headlines in recent weeks – and for all the wrong reasons too.
The education system appears to be in crisis with no ready solution in sight: university students are more on the streets than in their campuses with their capital expenses slashed in half; teachers are on strike refusing to mark advanced level answer scripts; and most infamously, new admissions to national schools are bogged down in a protracted legal wrangle that is rapidly snowballing into a showdown between the legislature and the judiciary.
Seemingly Sri Lanka should be a country cited as a role model in education: there is universal access to free education right through to the university level, and at primary and secondary levels, not only is education free, students are provided uniforms and text books free of charge as well. What more could one ask from the state?
Yet, the recent unrest in the education sector suggests otherwise. That there is this much discontent indicates that while education is free in principle, the planning and resources that have been afforded to this vital sector have been inadequate.
And make no mistake; mishaps in educational policy can have far reaching and devastating consequences. Some would go so far as to say that the ‘district basis’ policy of university admissions introduced in the seventies gave rise to the northern insurrection which has erupted into the menace of terrorism today and that argument is not without its merits.
That was a decision taken for political expediency to satiate the aspirations of the majority community – and win votes in the process. What it meant was that ‘educationally backward’ areas were given concessions for university admissions instead of such opportunities being decided solely on merit.
That concept is laudable in that it addresses the issue of social inequality between regions but it should have been followed by an aggressive programme to uplift the educational standards of the so-called ‘educationally backward’ regions. That sadly did not happen, the district basis for university admissions continue unto this day and the quality of the university undergraduate has fallen drastically.
Then there was that infamous experiment with private medical education in the early eighties. That was when foreigners came to this country to study for a medical degree, bringing in valuable foreign exchange and in effect, subsiding their local colleagues.
That came to a grinding halt in the face of virulent opposition from academia as well as leftist political forces but the baby was thrown away with the bathwater and now, Sri Lankan parents are struggling to send their offspring overseas for medical education!
Obviously unchastened by this experience, international schools have sprung up, mushroom-like, not only in the capital but in every suburban and provincial city. Again the concept may be laudable but there is absolutely no regulation in its implementation: no one is responsible for the quality or qualifications of their teachers who are let loose on an unsuspecting student population naïve enough to fall for the name board of an international school. Admittedly, there are reputed institutions among them which maintain standards but the point is there is no process to assure that such standards are maintained at every such institution of learning.
All this while, the state education sector has gone from bare maintenance to neglect and dereliction. Education is not a fashionable outlet to channel funds into as its outcome is not instant and its funding has not been accorded due priority in recent times. The sector’s human resources – teachers, lecturers – have been lured by higher salaries offered by the private sector. And state-sponsored education is stuttering from one crisis to another. The grade one admissions fiasco is only a symptom of this larger malady.
The admissions issue is of course politically loaded. Admittedly, the previous system was open to corruption and abuse. The highest courts of the law opined that the system was also fundamentally flawed in that it did not afford equal opportunities for every child and that the prospect of admission was instead dependent on other extraneous factors.
But the issue has now escalated into a full scale battle between the legislature and the judiciary. Parliament, in a rare show of unity, agreed that it will formulate its own guidelines for admission which ostensibly were different from what the courts of law desired. In the meantime though, parents are being pushed from pillar to post, from distraught to desperate.
Neither the Education Minister nor the government as a whole appear to be competent to resolve this in a manner acceptable to all and the danger is that some ad hoc policy will be put in place given the politically sensitive nature of the issue. And yet another educational crisis will be brewing with potentially explosive long-term consequences.
It will take the collective wisdom of all the stakeholders in education – parents, students, teachers, university academics, educationists not to mention the politicians – to avert such a disaster. But sadly, such an attempt has not been made and does not seem to be on the horizon either. And it is highly unlikely that a few pearls of wisdom from the highest judiciary will redress the issue adequately.
By Shanaka Amarasinghe
The Nittawela Farce
So I woke up early in the morning. Dragged myself out of bed and drove to Kandy last Saturday with a gut feeling in me that CR were somehow going to pull off a victory in the Kandy Lion’s den that evening. I got to the grounds early and realised that I represented about 10% of the Colombo contingent at the grounds. Watching the teams warm up, I realised the gulf that separated the Kandy boys from the rest of the rugby playing populace in this country. To a man, they looked fit, healthy and in peak condition. Rippling muscles, low body fat and spring in their collective step, it was easy to see why Kandy have been making mincemeat of less mortals for nearly a decade now.
In contrast the CR team looked young and not battle hardened. They were fit, yet lacking that final bit of athleticism that is required at the highest level. Their big boys had a higher body fat percentage then their rivals and the threes lacked the physical presence of players like Pradeep Liyanage and Sajith Mallikarachchi in his prime.
The game, live on TV, was one that was eagerly anticipated as CR had been edging ever closer to Kandy with every meeting. It was also Nalaka Weerakkody’s last game and many a fan had come to pay him homage. Before the game, the Nalaka Weerakkody stand was also opened ceremonially behind the goal post on the near side of the Nittawela ground.
All in all the game was shaping up to be a corker. However, in all the leadup we had forgotten something of vital importance. Something we all take for granted, but in the Sri Lanka context, given the politicking behind this game - we really shouldn’t have. That one thing was the referee. Dilroy Fernando was objected to before the game by Kandy. Nizam Jamaldeen had been objected to during the season by CR. This precluded the best two referees, and in my opinion the only two referees, in the country, from handling the game. The lot, unfortunately for him, and for us, fell to Orville Fernando.
What followed was the most atrocious excuse for officiating I have ever witnessed in my admittedly short rugby life. Regardless of biases, one thing that players and coaches (let’s forget spectators for the moment), expect of a referee is clarity. More often than not this game involved a whistle blast, an incomprehensible speech for about 10 seconds and a half cocked arm which required clarification as to whether it was a scrum or a penalty. There were no clear signals, and towards the end players were left plaintively crying ‘but Sir, what did I do??’ with their heads in their hands.
The Kandy try to even the scores at half time, came from a reversed penalty for CR skipper doing nothing more than gently helping Kandy scrum half Saliya Kumara on his way. What irked the visitors further is that the referee did not see the incident but seemed to react to the partisan crowd. Rugby is a contact sport, and jersey pulling is hardly a crime. Despite that, if the letter of the law was nevertheless satisfied it imperative that the referee sees the incident, or consults his touch judge, who by his non-involvement did not seem to think that the incident required any further action.
The disallowed try for CR also left a lot to be desired. Television commentators, and the player concerned, seemed to think the decision was wrong. Nevertheless, be that as it may, what was blatantly obvious was that the referee was in no position to allow or disallow the try given his positioning at the time. The touch judge, even if he was in position, was never consulted. It was a match changing decision, and should players be deprived purely out of bad positioning by referees.
Late on in the second half there was a clever driving maul set up in open play that Kandy fly half Marija could not stop legitimately. Instead he chose to come around the maul, in a blatantly offside position and TACKLE the feet of the players on the CR side of the maul. It was a violation completely unacceptable from the point of view of the rules, as well as being completely against any safety standards. It went unnoticed and unpunished and could have ended up in serious injury.
These are a mere few of the most obvious, unambiguous, indefensible errors made on the day. It was testament to the fortitude of both teams that the frustration they felt did not overflow into violent conduct. While I have always come readily to the defence or referees who are at times unjustly vilified, I do not find it at all possible to excuse or justify a performance of this nature.
What is even more worrying is the complete silence, either by design or sheer ignorance, that the media has shown in this regard. Such a pitiful display should have raised hackles in every sphere of sporting society, and even Kandy stalwarts have expressed embarrassment at the manner in which victory would have achieved. The lack of media pressure and objective analyses, will allow daylight robbery of this nature to carry on unabated. It is inexcusable that in a professional era, where players train hard and sacrifice much for their trade, that they should be so cruelly robbed of the respect they deserve as top level players.
The silent acquiescence of the larger section of the sporting public also needs to be condemned in no uncertain terms. It is all well and good to point fingers at politicians and blame them for our woes. However, we keep voting them in. In the same way we can never expect improved standards in our sport if we continuously tolerate mediocrity.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” - Edmun Burke
Sunday, August 12, 2007
‘Brief’ Garden of Eden
By Rathindra Kuruwita
I have heard stories about Bevis Bawa and his haven ‘Brief.’ It has been called “a playground of the senses,” a place full of inviting nooks, alcoves, leafy recess and cloisters. A little corner in the country that is so tranquil, it encourages one to just lay back and take it slow.
The long winding road
Finding the place that the villagers call ‘Bawa Mahathayage waththa’ proves to be no easy task. After the turn off from the Galle Road, the Kaluwamodara road seems to get narrower with each curve. Although we have a map of sorts hastily drawn by a friend we find it difficult to keep track of our path. We have to pull into an ally to let a bus pass and have a difficult time getting the vehicle back on to the road, without falling into the ditch lining the path.
Finally realising that the map will not do us any good, we venture to do one of the most difficult tasks for a man, to ask directions. The way they give directions, enthusiastically and with smiles and the way they pronounce the name ‘Bawa Mahathaya’ tell us that he is very fondly remembered. And why shouldn’t they, when he has distributed most of his land among the villagers, a fact that I am to learn later.
We reach a slab of wood, which has faded ornate Gothic lettering carved deeply and precisely into it saying ‘Brief.’ We are unaware that ahead of us is a long winding road. We travel down yet another narrow road raised across a marsh. Half way through we confront a motorcycle coming straight at us in full throttle, both parties break violently and the motorcyclist nearly becomes one with the soil. Despite his near death experience, he’s kind enough to give us directions.
The road ends with a hairpin bend that leads to a red clay road, which ends at a circular driveway with iconic gate posts. We wander up the red clay road through a tunnel of green. There is a large, bamboo-hedged circle, which serves as a car park. The front door is set in this hedge, making the house behind it quite invisible to the first glance. A magnificent white bougainvillea conceals the roof.
It’s hot and humid and we ring the bell over the garden door and the caretaker appears. “Only 45 minutes,” he says. “Are you sure you want to spend 400 rupees?” “Right on,” I say digging into my pocket.
The garden area is so vast that it is difficult not to get lost and all the paths seem to lead to the front door. However, some of the most beautiful spots such as the “hilltop lookout” with a single Araliya tree that I have seen in so many photos are extremely difficult to find.
I ask politely for directions from the caretaker and add that we are from paththaren (newspaper), to drive the point home. He guides us along the perimeter path and leads us to a patch of greensward with a round pond set in the middle. There is an enormous flight of stone steps to climb on to a hill next to the pond. It is perhaps the most grandiose looking spectacle in the garden.
The house is minimalist. The floors are of bare cement, the walls and ceilings are Spartan and without ornament. No signs of etherealness and lavishness. Yet, this is a place of comfort and beauty. The house is full of art, including Bawa’s own work and gifts from his friends, especially Australian painter/sculptor Donald Friend. The sculptures of proportioned male nudes that dot the house and garden stand out among many others.
Donald Friend stayed for more than five years in Brief during 1960s. Therefore his art is strewen across Brief. Among which are a superb mural, which represents Sri Lanka as the favoured isle of Hindu God Skanda, an aluminum sculpture of Aphrodite rising, hides in a nook in the corridor. Terra-cotta tabletops that bear Friend’s designs can be found everywhere.
No more a Garden of Eden
Nearly 80 years ago one man set out to create his own miniature Garden of Eden and succeeded. However, as the caretaker of Brief Nihal says things are gradually falling apart. “Before Mr. Bawa died, he distributed his land among the villagers who served him. We did our best to look after the garden. Yet, this is nothing compared to what it was.” From the dilapidated outhouse to the statues that are being rapidly covered by rust, and the pathways that are under attack by weeds show that Mother Nature is out to reclaim what was once hers.
Snakes of Sri Lanka - 1 -From " Friday Newspaper"
By Jayasri Jayakody
(Echis carinatus) Weli Polonga
* Echis carinatus aliaborri
* Echis carinatus astolae
* Echis carinatus carinatus
* Echis carinatus sinhaleyus
* Echis carinatus sochureki
* Echis carinatus multisquamatus
This small venomous desert snake with highly polished scales has a short snout and rounded cheeks. Often light brown in colour with a lateral row of dark brown outlined mottles. It also has a dark brown dorsal stripe with light brown, fawn or buff coloured spots. Its colour may vary and specimens from sandy deserts have less contrast in their markings.
This snake is active by day but in desert areas may remain hidden by day and go hunting by night. Has a very nasty disposition and this species never hesitates to strike if roused. When suddenly roused the Saw-Scaled Viper coils back with lightning speed as an act of defiance. It is capable of delivering a lightning fast strike and regaining its position of defiance leaving its challenger perplexed. Never likes to be handled but once in captivity may go and coil up in a corner and remain oblivious to external stimuli but almost always turns vicious when attempted to handle.
Feeds mainly on mice, centipedes, lizards and scorpions. This snake is an opportunist and the prey is often first given a lethal dose of venom, let go and consumed once dead. However due to its small size this snake may be preyed upon by larger snakes such as Kraits and Sand Boas. Often it may unwittingly attack much larger prey such as desert rats and get the worse of it with the result often being fatal to the Viper.
Merrem’s Hump-Nosed Viper
(Hypnale hypnale) Kunakatuwa
A miniature venomous snake with a distinctly triangular head and brown colouration, its markings vary from dark brown mottles to black spots or transverse stripes
Diurnal and sluggish but very alert when hunting or roused.
Like many other snakes always attempts to avoid confrontation. Coils back with lightning speed if suddenly roused and remain so in order to deter its adversary but attacks without hesitation if molested. Remains coiled up and sluggish when captive.
Diet comprises mainly of mice, small rodents, frogs and lizards. The prey is stalked and killed with a lethal dose of venom, released and swallowed once dead.
Little is known about its breeding habits. It is viviparous and the brood varies from 4 to 10.
At birth neonates measure around 125mm.
These snakes become mature when over 30cm long and the maximum adult length is around 50cm. Females and males are of similar length but males have proportionately longer tails.Venom potent and could prove fatal. Therefore medical attention should be immediately sought.Prefers the leaf litter of dense forests. Often found in leaf litter near houses but rarely enters human dwellings.
Found in Southern India and Sri Lanka. Common throughout the island including Colombo, up to an altitude of over 800m. Rare in the hills and has been recorded at Kandy and Uva.
A PIECE OF SWEET HISTORY
The Romance of chocolate - From "Lakbima News"
BY ANDREW SCOTT
If we care to walk into any shop, wayside boutique or supermarket in any part of the world today we can see chocolates of varying shapes and sizes wrapped neatly in very attractive wrappers which entice the taste-buds of both young and old, the strong and the infirm and the rich and the poor. In the modern world the art and science of the production of chocolates has become a massive global industry and there is great competition especially among the western countries in the production of chocolates.
Even though all of us cherish the taste of and aroma of this much sought after item of food, yet, specially in our country only a few care to delve into the romance of chocolates which has become a part and parcel of the toddlers as well as the toothless adults.
The story of chocolates dates back to several centuries when it was first used and experimented with. Its use as a beverage was known to the early inhabitants of South and Central America long before white men stepped on their shores. The basic ingredient of chocolate is the cocoa bean from which so many tasty and nourishing products are prepared in the world today.
It is said that Columbus on his return home had brought cocoa beans which later played a very dominant role in the economy of his country. In 1519 the Spaniard Cortes who visited Mexico and discovered the ancient Aztec civilization found that their emperor ‘took no other beverage than the chocolate’. It is interesting to note that coca beans were also used as a form of currency and cocoa and gold were two of the cherished treasures of the ancient Aztecs.
The chocolate drink was considered the royal drink of the early Aztecs and golden goblets were considered the most suitable vessels in which to serve the royal drink. The natives of ancient Mexico discovered that by grinding the cocoa beans in the heat of the sun a paste could be obtained. This paste made into small rolls and set in a cool place formed the original but primitive drinking chocolate. This was a very expensive and exclusive drink which only the affluent classes were able to afford.
After the Aztecs, the Spaniards and the Europeans improved on the chocolate beverage and served it hot with sugar added and they kept this recipe a closely guarded secret for many years, but the Spanish monks, some of whom were addicted to this beverage, introduced it to Germany and France. In 1660 Maria Theresa of Spain married Louis XIV and from that time drinking chocolate became the most fashionable beverage in the court of France and even their renowned physicians recommended it as a certain cure for various ills. Gradually drinking chocolate spread across to England and by and about 1657 it became a very popular beverage in the elite society. Before long great literary figures, politicians and wits took to chocolate drinking as a fashionable social activity. By about 1700 gourmets discovered that milk is a very palatable addition to chocolate but only the very prosperous sections of the community were able to afford it and for the poor this drink was a luxury.
Today people throughout the world know that chocolate has a caloric value, an appetizing taste and an appeal to all of us irrespective of age and social status. The people of the ancient world attributed wondrous virtues to the cocoa pods and the famous Botanist Linnaeus called it ‘the food of the Gods’ and gave the Botanical name Teobrama Cacao.
Although the exact date when eating chocolate in the form of slabs was begun is not known Henri Nestle pioneered in the manufacture of eating chocolates in the modern form.
Thus the story of chocolate is very interesting but we must also remember to give credit to the humble cocoa tree whose pods provide the most important ingredient for the manufacture of chocolates.
During the early period of Sri Lanka’s planting history cocoa plantations too had a unique place in the agricultural sector but today little attention at all is paid to this lovable plant which is found utterly neglected and scattered in many of Sri Lanka’s home gardens.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Nasa space shuttle docks with ISS
The shuttle will be united with the ISS for up to two weeks
Space shuttle Endeavour has docked with the International Space Station, after performing a backflip so that its underside could be photographed.
The slow-motion somersault meant digital images of the shuttle's heatshield could be captured.
Nasa engineers need to check whether foam insulation that broke off during Wednesday's launch damaged the ship.
Nine pieces of foam are thought to have broken away - three of which appear to have struck the shuttle.
John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team, said none of the pieces was believed to have been big enough to cause serious damage.
On Thursday, Endeavour's crew conducted an inspection of the shuttle, using a robot arm and extension boom, tipped with a laser and camera, to hunt for any damage to the wings and nose cap.
Foam damage has been a major concern for Nasa since the Columbia disaster in 2003 when a briefcase-sized chunk of foam insulation broke off during launch and pierced the shuttle's heat-protection tiles. This caused the shuttle to disintegrate on re-entry into the atmosphere, killing all seven crew.
Endeavour launches from Cape Canaveral
Endeavour blasted off on Wednesday
As Endeavour prepared to dock with the ISS on Friday, the crew guided it into a backflip manoeuvre once it was about 200m (600ft) away from the station, so it could be photographed and checked for damage.
Afterwards, the shuttle re-approached the space station and made its final connection at about 1900 BST (1400 EDT).
The mission is scheduled to last for 11 or possibly up to 14 days thanks to a new piece of equipment that can tap into the power grid of the ISS to extend its mission.
'Teacher in space'
On board is former primary school teacher Barbara Morgan, once the reserve behind Christa McAuliffe, who died along with six other astronauts in the 1986 Challenger shuttle tragedy.
After the incident, Nasa asked Ms Morgan to stay on as its Teacher in Space representative and pledged a shuttle flight to fulfil McAuliffe's educational agenda.
But when the agency subsequently banned civilians from flying in its spacecraft Ms Morgan had to become a fully trained astronaut to get her chance to enter space. On Thursday Ms Morgan said: "Hey, it's great being up here.
Barbara Morgan said she was enjoying the mission so far
"We've been working really hard, but it's a really good, fun kind of work."
Ms Morgan and crew will be delivering a 1.58 tonne "truss" section to extend the space station to a length of 108m (354ft).
The astronauts will also replace a defective gyroscope, one of four keeping the ISS on an even keel, and will install a 3.3-tonne exterior stowage platform.
Endeavour is also carrying in its cargo bay a pressurised container with 2.7 tonnes of supplies, foodstuffs and equipment.
Three spacewalks, lasting about six hours and 30 minutes each, will allow the two-astronaut teams to accomplish the assembly and repair tasks.
Should Nasa choose to extend the mission, astronauts could fit in a fourth spacewalk, to prepare for installation of a boom that will allow crews to inspect for damage to the heat shields of future shuttles while docked with the space station.
The mission is the second of four that Nasa plans this year to finish the $100bn (£49.1bn) space station before the shuttle fleet retires in 2010.
Government 'must act on e-crime'
There are no accurate statistics for online crimes
The government must do more to protect internet users from the threat of e-crime, says a House of Lords report.
The Lords Science and Technology Committee said the internet was now "the playground of criminals".
The report criticised the government's current "Wild West" approach of leaving internet security up to the individual as "inefficient and unrealistic".
A Home Office spokesperson said the government was examining the report and would respond shortly.
"We are firm believers in the internet. It is a huge force for good. But it relies on the confidence of millions of users," said Lord Broers, chairman of the committee that published the Personal Internet Security report.
"You can't just rely on individuals to take responsibility for their own security. They will always be out-foxed by the bad guys."
Responsibility for protecting users also fell to "the IT industry and the software vendors, the banks and internet traders, and the internet service providers", he said.
But, speaking later on the BBC's Today programme, he conceded it was hard to contain the problems of the internet.
"Because of the way it's been set up, without a security level, so that people could talk to each other and have access to everybody else's data, it's become almost unrealistic at this stage, because criminals are moving-in in a big way," he said.
"And they're not the sad hacker in their back room - this is organised crime."
The House of Lords report acknowledged that there were no accurate statistics on e-crimes, but said that it was "not surprising" that public anxiety was growing.
The report cited a government survey that suggested more Britons feared internet crime than burglary.
Lord Broers, chairman of Science and Technology select committee
You can't legislate for better internet security
The Get Safe Online study found 21% of respondents felt most at risk from net crime, while 16% worried most about being burgled.
Internet crimes can include malicious hackers taking control of a PC, or online phishing scams where bogus websites are used to try to trick people into handing over confidential information, such as bank details.
Commenting on the government survey, the House of Lords committee said: "This raises the question whether the government needs to do more to help establish a true picture of the scale of the problem, the risks to individuals and the cost to the economy. We believe the answer is yes."
The Lords' report recommended a number of measures to help boost the confidence of internet users.
"The state also needs to do more to protect the public, not only the government itself, but regulators like Ofcom, the police and the court system," said Lord Broers.
Specifically, the report called for a central system for reporting of e-crime.
In addition, it said there should be an increase in the resources available to the police and criminal justice system to catch and prosecute e-criminals.
David Emm, of security firm Kaspersky Lab, agreed that a central unit could help.
"A wider agency can only be of benefit, if only to gauge the size of the problem," he told the BBC News website. "You can't manage something if you don't know the scale of the problem."
We are in discussions with the police about effectively policing the internet
Home Office spokesperson
Net crime fear for Britons
But, he said, there had been a central law enforcement agency to tackle e-crime in the past.
The National High Tech Crime Unit was merged with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in April 2006.
"I've had concerns since then that there wasn't as much of a focus on high-tech crime," he said.
The committee recognised that the responsibility for UK net users - around 63% of the population - did not rest solely with the government.
"You can't legislate for better internet security. But the government can put in place incentives for the private sector to up their game. And they can invest in better data protection and law enforcement," said Lord Broers.
The committee suggested that a kite-mark should be set up that would identify internet service providers that guaranteed a secure service.
In addition it said that government should encourage banks and other companies trading online to improve data security by establishing a law that would require them to notify a central authority when there was a breach.
This was important in cases, such as happened in March this year, when hackers stole the credit card details of 45 million TK Maxx customers.
"Potentially any one of these cards, belonging to innocent individuals, could be used online for illegal purposes in transactions relating to terrorism, or to purchase child abuse images," the committee said.
It also said that steps should be taken to establish legal liability for damage resulting from security flaws found in hardware or software.
Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The key to tackling online crime is prevention, which is why across government we are working closely with industry and law enforcement agencies to improve safety while also seeking to raise awareness to improve people's ability to protect themselves.
"We are in discussions with the police about effectively policing the internet and looking at what measures can be taken.
"We are grateful for the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee's contribution and work in investigating this important area and will look at the report carefully and respond to the committee shortly."
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Google Plans YouTube Antipiracy Tool for September
Long-awaited and much-promised technology to combat piracy in Google’s YouTube video sharing site should be ready by September.
Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service
Google Inc. aims to deliver in September a long-awaited and much-promised technology to combat piracy in its YouTube video sharing site. During a hearing in the copyright-infringement lawsuit that Viacom Inc. filed against Google, a Google attorney told the judge Google was working “very intensely” on a video recognition technology.
The technology will be as sophisticated as fingerprint technology used by the FBI and Google plans to roll it out in the fall, “hopefully in September,” attorney Philip S. Beck told U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton. Fall runs from late September to late December.
Viacom sued Google in March in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging copyright infringement from YouTube and seeking US$1 billion in damages.
The video recognition technology will allow copyright owners to provide a digital fingerprint that within a minute or two will trigger a block from YouTube whenever someone tries to upload a copyright video without permission.
However, contacted by IDG News Service, a YouTube spokesman put some caveats around the attorney’s stated timeline for implementing the technology.
“We hope to have the testing completed and technology available by some time in the fall, but this is one of the most technologically complicated tasks that we have ever undertaken, and as always with cutting-edge technologies, it’s difficult to forecast specific launch dates,” he wrote. Google is collaborating with “some of the major media companies” in experiments with video-identification tools and is “excited” about the progress so far, the YouTube spokesman wrote.
Google officials have acknowledged that the company is working on a system to deal with copyright videos uploaded to YouTube without permission, a nagging problem that has earned Google many enemies among TV and movie companies.
In April of this year, during Google’s first-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Eric Schmidt said the system in development wasn’t being designed to filter out and block pirated videos.
Instead, he said Google’s upcoming “Claim your Content” tool would help to “somewhat automate” the process through which content owners flag illegally copied videos so Google can take them down from the site, he said.
“It’s not a filtering system. The technology doesn’t block uploads,” Schmidt said in April. “It makes it much more effective and quicker to get us to remove inappropriately uploaded content. It’s very much compliant with the DMCA.” It’s not clear whether Google changed the design of the tool at some point after Schmidt made those comments, since the attorney’s description on Friday seems to indicate that the system would indeed block offending videos automatically without content owners notifying Google. The YouTube spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification of this point.
Friday’s hearing was a procedural one intended to set the schedule for the case, such as when the discovery period will begin and end and when the actual trial will begin, Viacom spokesman Jeremy Zweig told IDG News Service.
The comment from Google’s attorney came at the start of the hearing, when the judge gave attorneys on both sides a few minutes to present a short outline of what the case is about, to set the stage and put things in context, Zweig said.
The scheduling wasn’t completed, so another conference was set for Aug. 6, although that hearing could be cancelled if the companies resolve the scheduling issues and notify the judge of their agreements, he said. Google acquired YouTube in November of last year in a $1.65 billion deal.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Matara Mahanama Palama,across river Nilwala, begining to end the construction
Adjacent to the main Bridge of Matara, Mahanama Bridge a new bridge is been made. Now most difficult portion is over. Then less remain to complete. Here are some of pictures to watch
Problems with Minnesota bridge noted twice since 2001
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- Two reports published since 2001 pointed to structural problems with the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed Wednesday into the Mississippi River, but both reports determined the bridge was safe despite deficiencies.
"The bridge's deck truss system has not experienced fatigue cracking, but it has many poor fatigue details on the main truss and the floor truss system," said a report conducted for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2001.
The 40-year-old bridge is of a type known as deck steel truss. It has three parts: a deck, superstructure and substructure.
The deck is made of concrete and rebar, the superstructure is made of steel and the substructure is made of steel and concrete footing, according to Mark Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the collapse that killed at least four people and injured dozens Wednesday.
Rosenker is leading a 19-member team charged with determining the cause of the accident. He asked that anyone with still pictures or video contact NTSB investigators at 866-328-6347.
The executive summary of the 2001 Minnesota Department of Transportation report -- undertaken by the University of Minnesota's Department of Civil Engineering -- points to fatigue problems with the bridge's approach span, the segments that connect the main span of the bridge to land.
However, the report said, "Fatigue cracking is not expected during the remaining useful life of the bridge." Video Watch the bridge collapse »
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Bridge Inventory database concluded the bridge was "structurally deficient."
Minnesota Department of Transportation bridge engineer Dan Dorgan said the term "structurally deficient" is a Federal Highway Administration rating.
Inspectors rate sections of the bridge on a 1 to 9 scale, with 9 being in excellent condition, he said.
"A structurally deficient condition is a bridge that would have a rating of 4 either in the deck, the superstructure or the substructure," he said. "Any one of those in condition 4 or less is considered structurally deficient."
But, he noted, out of 13,000 state and local bridges in Minnesota that are 20 feet and more in span, 1,160 of them -- 8 percent of the state's bridges -- are considered structurally deficient.
Tom Everett of the Federal Highway Administration's National Bridge Inspection Program said the structurally deficient rating was a "programatic classification rather than an indication of safety."
"It does not indicate a bridge is dangerous or that that bridge must be replaced," he said.
The Minnesota bridge was deemed structurally deficient in 1990, Dorgan said, "due to corrosion of the bearings, so they were not able to move as freely as designed."
Later, inspectors found corrosion of steel around joints in the bridge and fatigue cracks in the approach spans. Those problems were repaired in the 1990s.
"Recent inspections in 2005 and 2006 found no evidence of cracking or growth in the existing cracks in the tab well that have been there since the day the bridge was built," he said. Dorgan also cited an in-depth study of the bridge's fatigue potential conducted from 2004 to 2007 that recommended two alternatives for the bridge's future -- to add steel plates to reinforce critical parts of the bridge or to conduct thorough inspections of the wells inside the box to determine whether there were cracks.
"We chose the inspection route, and began in May," he said, adding that officials intended to replace the bridge about 2020.
"We had the bridge partially inspected and were going to complete that this fall after construction was done."
During a Wednesday news conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty described the bridge deficiencies as "minor" and said the state was told that the bridge's deck may need to be rehabilitated or replaced in 2020 or later. Photo View photos from the disaster »
"It was last inspected both in 2005 and 2006. There were no structural deficiencies identified according to [the Minnesota Department of Transportation]," Pawlenty said.
Vital clues about what caused the bridge to crumble may be lying in the Mississippi River.
One expert said it was baffling how the bridge collapsed.
"I am totally puzzled as to why both ends of the bridge would come down all at once. When my colleague tested it, it was very low stress," said Ted Galambos, a University of Minnesota engineering professor. "I don't think it was overload, so it could have been either some fatigue, failure or some sudden buckling that would cause the failure."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said the collapse should trigger action.
"I think we should look at this tragedy that occurred as a wake-up call for us. We have -- all over the country -- crumbling infrastructure, highways, bridges, dams, and we really need to take a hard look at this," Reid said Thursday.
He said it was "the right thing to do" for the infrastructure and the economy. "For every billion dollars we spend in our crumbling infrastructure, 47,000 high-paying jobs are created," Reid said.
Most bridges are inspected every two years and receive ratings based on the conditions of various components, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In addition to "structurally deficient," another bridge classification is "functionally obsolete," according to the Federal Highway Administration.
A bridge is tagged structurally deficient when significant bridge elements have deteriorated and the bridge's load-carrying capacity is reduced, according to the highway administration.
A bridge is dubbed functionally obsolete when the bridge does not meet current design standards.
Neither label indicates a bridge is unsafe for travel, the highway administration said.
As of 2003, there were about 160,570 bridges deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The number represented 27.1 percent of the nation's bridges.
The American Society of Civil Engineers also reported that the number of bridge deficiencies had steadily declined from 34.6 percent in 1992 to 27.1 percent in 2003
Thursday, August 2, 2007
“Prabhakaran” causes panic in Colombo
There was panic and pandemonium as gun wielding soldiers were strutting to and fro and people smeared in crimson lay on the Galle Road near Bambalapitiya junction, yesterday afternoon. It was not another bomb explosion but a mock explosion scene for a shoot of the movie “Prabhakaran.” Many people were panic stricken hearing the mock explosion. Angry commuters who were held up for a long time in the traffic were complaining that the film shoot should have been done on a road with less traffic (Pic. by Dinuka Liyanawatta)
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
A man who claims to be superman
By Yohan Perera
He asserts that he has visited over 196 countries in the world and speaks over 102 languages, perhaps the person who can speak most languages in the world. This is not the only special thing about Captain R. A. F. Berenger or Superman as he is popularly known.
The 59-year-old Sri Lankan who is an Australian citizen, had travelled on 36 different flights and he claims that he was virtually killed and was lucky to have come back to life. He said doctors in Istanbul brought him back to life minutes after his clinical death.
The Superman was robbed assaulted and had his legs broken in North Korea and had been shot and injured in other places. He kept company with highway men in Africa.
The Superman who has a yen for cars had done some unusual stuff with the vehicles he own. He had had linked them together all by him self. This caravan consists of a bed room, a toilet bowl and a bar table. He only takes two minutes to fold the seat and take the bar table up or get the toilet bowl. The caravan has many more peculiarities. This caravan has a myriad of colours on its body. According to him there are 23 colours with some shades made all by himself. On the side of the caravan’s body he had painted a world map which is rather unusual.
He had painted the countries where black people live in black and where brown people live in brown. This way he had divided the countries on the skin colour of the people who live in each country. He had done it in such a way that a small child could easily understand and identify all 196 countries in the world.
After staying in Australia for many years since 1981, he returned to Sri Lanka and had been staying in his house in Maharagama which he calls simply “White House”.
Apart from his passion for travelling and cars he is also immensely interested in social work. In this respect he had been involved in many social welfare activities and had helped Sri Lankan Tsunami victims. He also used his caravan for many charitable deeds such as taking people on pilgrimage to ‘Atamasthana’ and tsunami victims on outings.
However the Superman had decided to go back to Australia but not before giving some thing to Sri Lanka. He had decided to present all his belongings to a poor school where the principal can have a raffle draw and collect funds for the school with the permission of education authorities.
The things he wishes to donate are the world largest bicycle worth Rs.160,000 and Mongoose Cycles worth Rs.36,000 and Rs.48,000. He is also donating his snooker table worth Rs.60,000 and saxophone worth Rs.60,000.
Anyone who is interested in his offer is invited to call him on 2851189.
Launch of Nasa Mars probe delayed
Phoenix Image: Nasa
Phoenix will study whether Mars could be habitable
The launch of Nasa's latest mission to Mars has been delayed by 24 hours.
The Phoenix spacecraft was to have launched on Friday, but lift-off has now been rescheduled.
Severe weather on Tuesday around the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, prevented engineers from fuelling the second stage of the rocket.
Phoenix will land on Mars' northern polar region to analyse samples of soil and ice and to search for signs of past and present life.
The probe has two launch opportunities on Saturday; one at 0526 EDT (1026 BST) and another at 0602 EDT (1102 BST).
The US space agency said that although fuelling of the Delta II rocket was expected to be complete by Wednesday morning, there was insufficient contingency time in the launch schedule to move forward with a Friday launch.
If everything goes to plan, Phoenix should arrive at Mars in May 2008.
It is due to carry out scientific operations for three months on the Martian surface. Phoenix will be stationary on Mars, in contrast to Nasa's roving robots Spirit and Opportunity.
Phoenix has a robotic arm that will dig down to the Martian ice layer and deliver samples to the lander's deck for analysis.
The mission is so-named because it carries with it the legacies of two earlier, failed attempts to explore Mars.
The lander was built for the Mars Surveyor mission originally planned for 2001, but mothballed by Nasa's administration in 2000. And many scientific instruments for Phoenix were built or designed for Mars Polar Lander which was lost as it entered the Martian atmosphere in 1999.