"Star Lanka Online" Our NEW Web site And Web TV Channel Launched

TFGE , The Future Global Educational Center Has Launched
the official web site, called
*** Star Lanka Online Dot Com ........................

www.starlankaonline.com will be completed in very near future....

*** Star Lanka Online TV Channel,..................

Just One Click ahead ...

Now you can watch "Star Lanka Online TV" channel broadcasts from Matara, Sri Lanka in most part of the day. Still we are keeping a test transmission also. There is a link right side of your hand to watch our TV channel. You can watch (Click On the Box) live channel on this site without going to another site to watch the TV. and also recorded parts, following the below link.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The many ills of a little pilll

The many ills of a little pilll

The withdrawal of a substandard thyroxin tablet, commonly used in Sri Lanka, brings up questions of quality control, informing the public and the quality of the substitute drug
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi, Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

A quality failure, a drug is withdrawn from the state and private sectors but doctors are concerned not only whether there has been adequate “transparency” in letting people know about the issue but also whether the efficacy of the substitute is any better.

In the eye of the storm is the small, white thyroxin pill which many people like Kamala, a young woman, who has been grappling with hypothyroidism for many years has to take daily. On no account can she stop it, not only for her own health but also due to the fact that she is newly-married and may become pregnant.

However, for the past two weeks she and her husband have been rushing from one pharmacy to another in search of thyroxin with speculation and rumours doing the rounds that the low-cost thyroxin which has been prescribed by most doctors is substandard.

What has gone wrong with thyroxin, in a country where the prevalence of goitre problems is around 5% of the population?

“We have had quality issues with a particular thyroxin tablet that we have been prescribing in the state hospitals,” confirmed Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist Dr. Noel Somasundaram of the National Hospital in Colombo, when contacted by The Sunday Times.

Although for two years they have been experiencing doubts about its efficacy, with the drug working for some patients and not working for others, their suspicions had aggravated in January when they witnessed major problems, he said, explaining that they first discussed the matter with the Drug and Therapeutics Committee and with the National Drug Quality Assurance Laboratory (NDQAL). Subsequently, they sent a letter to the Director-General of Health Services.

The Sunday Times learns that physicians, both in the state and private sectors, across the country have been having issues with the thyroxin freely available in the market with several voicing concern on the impact it would have on pregnant women and also their unborn babies. (See box for the devastating effects on the foetus.) Echoing the view of many others, Dr. Somasundaram said that they have seen expectant mothers who have uncontrolled hypothyroidism giving birth to babies also with uncontrolled hypothyroidism. What would be the mental health of these children when they grow up?

In recent times, National Hospital doctors realized that the tests to check the adequacy of levels of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood of patients were not showing positive results. However, when the same type of drug but from a different manufacturer was prescribed, the levels improved, said another senior Consultant Physician of the National Hospital. Obviously, it was due to something being wrong with the earlier medication, he said. A normalizing TSH would indicate to doctors that the drug dosage is adequate.

“When we heard about the efficacy issues with regard to thyroxin being dispensed at the state hospitals, the matter was referred to the Drug Evaluation Sub-Committee and the drug was tested at the NDQAL which found a quality failure,” said a high-level official of the Health Ministry, explaining that it was followed up with all state hospitals being informed to return the stocks.

The state hospitals’ requirement of thyroxin per month is around 1.5 million tablets, which is met by a well-known pharmaceutical company which has been doing so for the past 18 years, The Sunday Times understands. The company imports the raw material and manufactures the tablets in Sri Lanka, and supplies the requirements of the state sector, on a tender basis, through orders placed by the Medical Supplies Division and procured by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation.

“Of course, the stock withdrawal resulted in a shortage and although there are two more varieties of thyroxin tablets imported from India and Britain, mainly for the private sector, the stocks are much smaller,” the official said. Attempts to purchase more stocks from those two companies and also from other sources failed. However, the company whose tablets were withdrawn and blacklisted or registration cancelled for this drug, reacted promptly and stopped their raw material import from China and sought out raw material from Germany.

The official added that now the drugs made from the German raw material have been tested and found to be of the quality required. “The NDQAL checked it and found no quality issues while samples have also been sent abroad for testing,” the source said, adding that pending the report from abroad, the pharmaceutical company has been allowed to manufacture thyroxin for the state. The company has also done independent testing of the drug with the new raw material.

The thyroxin tablets imported from India (each costing around Rs. 3) and Britain (each costing around Rs. 4) meet the requirement only of a small number of patients even in the private sector, The Sunday Times learns, while once again it is the local tabets (costing about 30 cents) that comprise about 90% of that market as well.

So what happens in the private sector?

As soon as a drug needs to be withdrawn, the Medical Technology and Supplies Division (the drug regulatory authority) issues a notice through the media while also informing its drugs inspectors to spread the word to the pharmacies to return the stocks.Then the drugs inspectors would check whether such blacklisted stocks are still on the shelves and seize any stocks left, it is learnt.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company which manufactures the thyroxin locally assured that all measures had been taken through its distribution network to recall the stocks in question. “We have acted with responsibility. Even though efficacy could be affected due to many reasons such as place of storage etc, we have withdrawn the stocks, changed our supplier of raw materials and gone through the stringent procedure of the Medical Technology and Supplies Division to get registration for the new drug which we are manufacturing with raw material from elsewhere,” said a company official who declined to be identified, adding that such issues with regard to thyroxin were experienced not only in Sri Lanka but in countries across the world.

Another important area the doctors insisted that the authorities should focus on was “bio-availability” not only of thyroxin but of any drug. “Bio-availability is the amount of ‘active drug’ in any medication, especially in tablet form that is absorbed by the human body,” explained another physician questioning whether the NDQAL had tested even the new thyroxin for this. These concerns were reiterated by many doctors who said that checking whether the weight is right, the packing is good etc, were not the only tests that should be carried out with the most important being bio-availability.

They have requested that testing be performed by giving the drug to patients and checking whether the TSH levels in the patients have been normalized. The largest society of endocrinologists, the Endocrine Society based in America had highlighted this issue in June 2008 by publishing a position paper titled ‘Bioequivalence of Sodium Levothyroxine’. It had argued that merely checking the thyroxin quantity is not good enough as its effects on the body need verification by the authorities. It had also quoted instances where serious adverse events occurred due to the switch of thyroxin products from one to another (due to a difference in efficacy).

While doctors were perturbed over bio-availability and bioequivalence, they also claimed that people got to know about the thyroxin withdrawal by word of mouth as transparency on the part of the authorities was questionable. The Sunday Times was unable to get verification from the Medical Technology and Supplies Division whether it had in fact placed advertisements in the media to inform not only pharmacies but also the patient who may have stocked up two-three months of tablets.

Have the authorities conveniently ignored that all-important patient-victim in this thyroxin crisis? The need to keep them informed whether the right measures have been taken to prevent a drug disaster and what they should do in case they have purchased extra stocks is the duty of the government. Otherwise, it may very well lead to a health crisis in Sri Lanka.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is under-active and does not make enough of the thyroxin hormone which is essential to keep the body’s function or metabolism working at the correct pace. Many cells and tissues need thyroxin to keep them working right and not slowing down.

Lack of thyroxin would cause symptoms such as tiredness, weight gain, constipation, aches, feeling cold, dry skin, brittle and coarse hair, fluid retention, mental slowing and depression.

If hypothyroidism is untreated, the possible complications could be: increased risk of developing heart disease and if a person is pregnant an increased risk of abortion, pre-eclampsia, anaemia, premature labour, low birth weight babies, stillbirth and serious bleeding after delivery.

As the foetus is fully dependent on the mother for his/her thyroxin requirements, doctors say, it is essential for the mother to take the recommended dosage. If the foetus does not get the required thyroxin particularly during the first 10 weeks of life, the baby could have permanent brain damage, doctors say.


Khemadasa: End of a musical journey

Khemadasa: End of a musical journey

Veteran music composer Dr. Premasiriri Khemadasa was cremated yesterday at the Independence Square amid state honours for his services to Sri Lankan music.

He was 71 at the time he passed away at Apollo Hospital in Colombo.

The remains of Music Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa being taken to Independence Square for cremation yesterday. Picture by Sudath Nishantha

Actors, actresses , singers , music composers, film directors, producers, his pupils at Premasiri Khemadasa Foundation and the Khemadasa Study Centre, religious dignitaries, schoolchildren, university students , politicians, artistes and his admirers came to pay their last respects to Khemadasa at the Independence Square.

First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa paid her last respects to Khemadasa at his residence at Rajagiriya yesterday morning. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe also paid his last respects to the master musician.

Khemadasa left his wife S.Somalatha Perera and two daughters Anupa Kemadasa and Gayathri Khemadasa.

Khemadasa pioneered a greater tradition of Sri Lankan music by skillfully combining Sri Lankan folk music, Hindustani music, Western classical music and many other streams of music to create a unique style.

He was a music genius who emphasized the importance of expressing a piece of music rather than restricting oneself to playing what is written on the notation sheet. He maintained that it was essential to understand the movement of a note pattern of a given piece to play it. Khemadasa said it was the expression that produces the “magical element” in music in the sphere of musical sound.

Khemadasa composed symphonies like Muhuda and Mage kale mavni. He used operatic vocals in his music with his vast knowledge of opera . He is the only known Sri Lankan musician who practised and created opera. His famous operas include Manasawila and Doramandalawa.

Recently he created the opera Agni with the story line taken from Greek mythology. He composed music for Golu Hadawata and Nidhanaya directed by film director Lester James Piries. Later he contributed to films Agnidaahaya and Ammavarune , the latter by Lester. Apart from film music Dr. Khemadasa has composed music for teledramas and theatre.

His collaboration with director Jayantha Chandrasiri has turned out remarkable products. The theme he created for Chandrasiri’s television series Dandubasnamanaya was much acclaimed .

Even in his 70s , he worked hard to secure the future of Sri Lankan music.

As pointed out by his admirers and critics, close associates and musicians , it remains a challenge to take forward the great tradition of maestro Khemadasa after his demise.

WE MISS YOU ! - Admin

Controlling child access to the Internet !

Controlling child access to the Internet


Internet is a very useful resource for children as well as adults to collect information, gain knowledge and connect with other people all around the world. Children are considered to be the most important resource in any country. Children use the Internet to find information for their homework, chat with friends, send/receive emails, play games and many other activities.

There are various people connected to the Internet with different intensions. Among them are criminals looking to exploit your innocent children. Unless you supervise your children’s Internet activity they will be vulnerable to such criminals.

There are thousands of web sites managed by individuals or groups who sexually exploit children in their services offered through the Internet. Some of them gradually and tactfully approach children by showing them kind attention and even by offering gifts. These individuals use Internet services such as chat and email to collect information about targeted children. First, they might appear to be very helpful and kind individuals to children, but gradually they will lure children to participate in their sinister activities. Some of these criminals may be interested in collecting or trading child pornographic material while others might be pedophiles trying to engage in sexual conversations with children.

As a parent you should be aware of your children’s Internet activity. The following are warning signs of your child becoming a victim of online criminals. If you observe any of the following perhaps you should investigate more in to your child’s Internet activity:

  • Your child spends lot of time on-line (connected to Internet) specially at night

  • You find pornography in your child’s computer

  • Your child has used your credit card without informing you

  • Your child is speaking with a foreign stranger over the phone.

  • Your child switch off / change the screen of the monitor when you come to the room

  • Your chilled is using other people’s accounts to connect to the Internet

  • Your child always tries to be alone when using the computer

    The following tips may help you to analyze your child’s Internet activity further:

  • Try to get a detailed Internet access bill from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) (you can analyze the dates and times of your child’s Internet access)

  • Analyze your child’s computer with the support of knowledgeable person. You may look for hidden images, saved chat sessions, suspicious emails etc.

  • Ask your child if he ever used your credit card online and check whether the answer is consistent with your credit card bill

  • Obtain a detailed telephone bill and check it for unknown numbers (specially overseas) dialed

  • Use CLI (Caller Line Identification) feature to identify the caller

  • Monitor you child’s communications (chats, emails etc)

Also as a parent you should be able to minimize the possibility of your child becoming a victim of crimes discussed above by adhering to the following best practices:

  • Keep the computer in a common place in your house which is observable by you at all times.

  • Take special care to monitor the child’s behavior when he is online (connected to the Internet)

  • Educate your children not to chat, send email, or engage in telephone conversations with strangers

  • Educate your children on possible harm that may be caused to the computer by downloading suspicious files or viewing unknown websites

  • Get filtered Internet access from your Internet service provider

  • Educate children on how information they post on the Internet may be misused by others

Internet can be a wonderful learning tool for your children if you are aware of their activities. Only irresponsible parents would allow their children to have unrestricted access to the Internet.

As part of Cyber Security Week 2008, SLCERT is organizing CSW_2008 Workshop & Conference from 28th to 31st October 2008 at the Hilton Colombo Residencies from 8.00 am – 5.00 pm.

For more information please visit www.slcert.gov.lk



Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa of late and Khemadasa ‘Master’ of all times, will live into our future with many trying to define him in many different tones and colours. He certainly lived his long musical life with many facets and many shades. At times contradicting himself, but never afraid to do so. At times reaching to the past, but never loosing the grip on the future. Picking what he wanted from the North Indian tradition, yet never wanting to stop there. He, Khemadasa was in fact a curious musical traveller, who couldn’t simply stop travelling. And for me, therefore, he was not just another great musician. Not just a creative composer. He was the musical expression of post independent Sri Lanka that grappled to find its future direction, and to date is still struggling. He was therefore the “Obamian” Sri Lankan musician who wanted a change and believed in it.

Developing a national musical identity

Khemadasa finds his foot hold in the Sinhala musical world, or rather, Khemadasa is taken note of in the Sinhala musical world in early 60’s, when others before him were trying to identify and develop a musical genre for the Sinhala society, that was understood as developing “our own national musical identity”. Ananda Samarakoon perhaps pioneered the voyage in searching for a musical soul in ordinary Sinhala language, when he a baptised Christian, George W. Alwis, became a converted Buddhist by the name of Ananda Samarakoon. His lyrics were simple and ordinary as in “Podimal ethano” and “Wiley malak pipila”. Sunil Shantha, another Catholic was a contemporary of Samarakoon who went further with his Sinhala lyrics and the pace was set to make a difference in song from that which ‘Ceylon’ in its pre-independence, listened and sang. Munidasa Kumaratunge was a strong influence with his “Hela” language during that period and is very evident in Sunil Shantha’s genre of songs.

But that was ‘songs’ and not music. Music had to be brought in from somewhere. During the pre independence period the most inspiring experience for music came from India that fought the British stronger and louder than we Ceylonese. Reaching out for the Western classical music was “imperialistic”. Our musical base thus became North Indian Hindustani and less Dravidian. Samarakoons and Sunil Shanthas had their first grooming in North Indian musical tradition with Sunil Shantha taking a special fancy towards Bengali folk. W. D. Albert Perera leaves Ceylon to learn music in India and comes back as “Visharada” Amaradeva. Sinhala musical culture thus gets institutionalised on what came to be known as “Uttara-bharatheeya” music. Songs for Radio Ceylon was rated on their relationship with that tradition. Music in schools had their syllabi based on that same tradition. Sinhala music per se was what based itself on Uttara-bharatheeya music. “Baila” the popular culture in coastal areas coming down from the Dutch – Portuguese influence was not taken for any consideration in creating a Sinhala musical identity. To that extent, the Sinhala society was able to identify itself separately from the Tamil society which had its musical life born out of Karnataka and other Dravidian musical influences.

The ordinary life in society meanwhile had a different experience through popular South Indian Tamil film and its influence on post independent Sinhala cinema in the 50’s. It was then that Makuloluwa and Kulatilake experimented to be different through Sinhala folk poems that had a very simple melody and a soft rhythm. Although their efforts provided a collection of some 3,500 folk ‘songs’ those folk traditions did not have a strong musical language to develop a new musical tradition of “our own”. Therefore even at the end of the decade of 50 and early 60 with the ’56 Sinhala resurrection of Bandaranaike energising the Sinhalisation process, it was only the Sinhala song that started developing with new genres of lyrics with different metres, but not Sinhala music. Sinhala music was nothing more than North Indian Hindustani tradition.

Classical Western music

It is within this lost effort of developing a musical tradition with a Sinhala face, that Khemadasa emerges without any serious musical roots or tradition. He had learnt music formally for a short while, but wasn’t a hardened traditionalist. Therefore his instinct and yearning to learn music on his own, left him outside all others. And left him on a voyage of learning and de-learning to learn more. Being one without a tradition gave him the privilege to seek all traditions. He thus roamed the classical world of Western music that for the Sinhala musicians was almost taboo. While the Sinhala society was moving in search of its past glory, while the Sinhala society was politically positioned against the developed West and refused to get influenced by the Western culture, Khemadasa was moving in the opposite trajectory. He was talking of Bach, Mortzart and Beethoven. He indulged and marvelled in the vastness of their musical compositions and tried to understand how they had interpreted the world around them through musical arrangements. He then wanted to experiment in interpreting our own experiences through their form of music.

Post Soviet music

The 70’s gave him an added advantage too. With our politics heavily layered with Soviet values and thinking, there were lots of traffic between Socialist East bloc countries and Colombo. The advantage was in cultural exchanges. That was the era when Russian authors became the only known international literary heroes to the Sinhala reader. That period gave Khemadasa an opportunity to acquaint post Soviet music at its best. And he grew to be a musician in search of new landscapes in music and without tradition.

This Khemadasa was thus revolting against his own musical learning, trying to give his creative self another platform that went beyond writing music for songs. That he found in film music. The greatness of Khemadasa comes to life in film music that was neither background nor filler. There he had a larger canvas than in writing music for songs to experiment and create his own style. While “Bambaru Awith” could be the popular Khemadasa, the Maestro was in “Nidhanaya” that is internationally ranked as one among the Best 100 films in the world with Khemadasa’s musical score.

Tomorrow’s rhythm

Khemadasa definitely was too large a character to sit along with classical traditionalists. He wasn’t a formal musician. He was one who wanted to feel the sweat of the toiling men and women, to breathe the salty pathos of the women on the rough sea edge and one who wanted to caress the love and agony of all mothers. And he Khemadasa, was one who struck the most emotional chord for them all in the realms of sophisticated musical emotions. One who could not live for today but searched the rhythm of tomorrow’s life; the “Obamian” musician of Sri Lanka.

Kusal Perera - Daily Mirror

Computers : Using buffers against malware And Virus

Using buffers against malware

People use the term “virus” for any piece of software that causes harm to their computers. Nevertheless, a computer virus is only one form of harmful software among many others which are purposely fabricated to disrupt computers or computer networks. Other types of harmful software include worms, trojans, spyware, adware, etc. Malicious Software or Malware for short, is the common term used to define all these harmful software.

Malware can destroy your data in computers, shut down networks/services by creating enormous amount of data traffic, or steal your confidential information which may result in considerable amount of losses both in terms of time and money. Even worse, you may not be able to recover the systems back to the original condition resulting in a permanent loss of your valuable data.

In order to protect your computers from these malware you need to get some basic understanding on the behavior of each type and possible defensive mechanisms.


A malware can be called as a virus only when if it fulfills the following three (3) requirements.

  • It should have the capability to cause harm to a computer or its information
  • It propagates with the support of another file (host file)
  • It can add or send its replica to selected targets Worms

A worm is a self propagating malicious piece of software. It uses the network connections of the infected computers or services such as email to propagate and infect other computers. Worms do not need a host file to propagate as in the case of a virus.

Spyware and Adware

These types of malware are distributed using malicious or compromised web sites. If you access such web sites spyware/adware will be installed secretly on the computer without your consent.

The intent of these programs is to spy on your interests and browsing habits so that some web sites can tailor their advertisements to those interests. They might send the list of web sites (URLs) that you are visiting to an Internet connected computer or store them in your computer itself in small files known as “Cookies” for later retrieval. Spyware may also collect your personal information; credit card numbers etc. and send them outside entities without your knowledge. Spyware and adware may also degrade the performance of your computer, steal confidential data, capture passwords, destroy data etc.

Let’s see how we can defend against malware. Most of the antivirus software has the ability to detect viruses and other forms of malware. So make sure that you have installed antivirus software in your computer and it is running in the background.

In order to detect malware, antivirus software look for specific code sequences called “Signatures” which are used by known viruses inside the files of your computer. So it is very important to update the database of known signatures by updating the antivirus software. Otherwise the installed antivirus software may not be able to detect newer malware and your computer will be still vulnerable to them. There are both free and commercial antivirus software available for your selection.

Following tips will also help you to keep your computer malware free:

  • Do not open emails or email attachment received from unknown sources
  • Turn on automatic updates so that your operating system and all software are kept up to date by installing patches developed by the vendors
  • Use strong passwords for all computer user accounts
  • Configure installed applications for maximum level of security
  • Don’t copy or open files from USB drives, diskettes, CD ROMs received from unreliable sources.
  • Do not surf / download files from unknown web sites.
  • Enable or install a personal firewall in your computer

It is impossible to protect any computer system interacting with the outside world from malware with a 100% guarantee even if you use the best antivirus products. However, above tips will help to make your computers fairly safe from malware infections by reducing the potential risks.

********* Dailymirror.lk**********

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell backs Obama

Colin Powell backs Obama

WASHINGTON - Former secretary of state and military supremo Colin Powell Sunday endorsed Democrat Barack Obama's White House bid, in a stinging rebuff to Republican candidate John McCain.
The former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff expressed disquiet over the rightward shift the Republican Party has taken under McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin -- who he said was not ready to be president.

Powell, on NBC programme "Meet the Press," said Obama had "met the standard" to lead "because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America."

"I think he would be a transformational president. For that reason I will be voting for Senator Barack Obama," said Powell, who was the first African-American to occupy the top US military post.

Should the mixed-race Obama win on November 4, "all Americans should be proud, not just African-Americans," he added.

"It would not just electrify our country, it would electrify the world."

Powell said that both Obama and his old friend McCain were ready to be president.

"But I strongly believe that at this point in American history we need a president... who will not just continue basically the policies we have been following in the recent years," he said.

"I think we need a transformational figure, I think we need a generational change. That is why I'm supporting Senator Obama."

Speaking on the Fox network, McCain said he had "always admired and respected General Powell."

"We're long-time friends. This doesn't come as a surprise," the Arizona senator said, while touting his endorsement by other former secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger.

Powell again defended his role in the build-up to the Iraq invasion, insisting that he acted in good faith on the basis of intelligence evidence that, he felt, showed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

He denied he was keen on returning to government in an Obama administration to help repair his political reputation.

Powell said he would have to be ready to serve if asked, "but I am in no way anxious to rule it in."

He had harsh words about the tone of McCain's campaign and rising Islamophobia in Republican circles as smears purport to portray Obama as a secret Muslim.

"I have said to Mr McCain that I admire all he has done. I have some concerns about the direction the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it," he said.

McCain had gone "too far" with a negative advertising barrage over Obama's ties to former 1960s radical William Ayers, Powell said.

He said the economic crisis engulfing the United States had made up his mind, along with McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Palin as his vice presidential nominee.

"In the case of Mr McCain I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we are having. Almost every day there was a different approach to the problem, and that concerned me," he said.

"I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin," he said. "I don't believe she is ready to be president of the United States. And so that raised in my mind some question as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

Powell said that Obama, in contrast, had come out of recent weeks looking presidential.

"He displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at (economic) problems like this, and picking a vice president (Joseph Biden) that I think is ready to be president on day one."

- AFP/ir

Friday, October 17, 2008

Diamond found in Lesotho among largest ever

Diamond found in Lesotho among largest ever

JOHANNESBURG: Gem Diamonds, a London- listed mining firm, said it had recovered a 478-carat diamond from its mine in Lesotho: the 20th largest rough diamond ever found.

The discovery of the gem had the potential to become one of the largest round-cut diamonds in the world, was made on September 8 at the Letseng mine in Lesotho, the South African Press Association quoted the company source as saying.

"Preliminary examination of this remarkable diamond indicates that it will yield a record-breaking polished stone of the very best color and clarity," the company's Chief Executive Clifford Elphick said in a statement.

The diamond, which has not yet been named, has the potential to yield a 150-carat polished stone, a company spokesman said.

That would be far bigger than the 105-carat round-cut Koh-i- Noor diamond seized by Britain from India in the 19th century and now part of the Crown Jewels.

It would still only be a fraction of the size, however, of the Cullinan diamond discovered in 1905, which was 3,106 carats when recovered and yielding a teardrop shaped diamond of 530 carats: the Great Star of Africa.

The Letseng mine is owned by a mining company that is 70 per cent owned by Gem Diamonds, with the remaining 30 percent held by the Lesotho government.


Problems and prospects of promoting harmonious cities

Problems and prospects of promoting harmonious cities

Colombo City

The United Nations (UN) has chosen the theme of ‘Harmonious Cities’ for World Habitat Day 2008.

‘Harmonious Cities’ can be described as habitable urban human settlements. These could generally be brought about by the integrated planning and development of the socio-economic, physical and environmental aspects of urban settlements. Such a promotional effort will include urban development, poverty alleviation, improved land and housing and the provision of basic amenities, facilities and urban services. World Habitat Day is being celebrated worldwide on the first Monday in October of each year in terms of the UN resolution.

The objective of the UN initiative is to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of human habitat and reflects on the state of urban settlements and the basic right to adequate shelter for all. While the global observance of the occasion was to be held in the Angolan capital of Luanda, the UN expects every nation to organize events to bring about maximum awareness of the conditions leading to harmonious urban settlements.

As stated at the outset, harmonious cities should be socio-economically, spatially and environmentally harmonious. Socio-economic issues, in this context relate to unemployment, poverty and social conflict. To be socio-economically harmonious, it is necessary to achieve inclusiveness and equity to overcome poverty and social conflict. Spatially, it is necessary to avoid conflicts in the different activities carried out on land. It is necessary to categorise compatible land uses together and separate them from non-compatible land uses. Planning being a part of the organization of society, some control over the use of land is and will be important for the creation of a harmonious living environment. Land use planning, essentially seeks to influence change and control the use of land for sustainable and conducive human settlement development.

There are some critical issues connected with the urban environment. Those relate to the high incidence of slums and shanties, environmental pollution and problems of solid waste management. Slums and shanties are occupied by a significant number of low income urban dwellers. These unhealthy and overcrowded settlements could be seen as the cause and effect of environmental degradation and pollution. Solid waste management and pollution are crucial factors adversely affecting city dwellers, particularly those living in slums and shanties under unhealthy and harsh conditions, often deprived of safe drinking water and other urban services. Thus, the goal of achieving environmentally harmonious urban settlements is indeed a challenging task.

The problems detailed above are basically the result of rapid urbanization worldwide, where people in increasing numbers move into towns and cities looking for a better life, creating in its wake the growth of slums, shanties and the urbanization of poverty. The adverse impact of this phenomenon is felt more severely in the Asian region. In fact, two thirds of the world’s poor are found in Asia and the Pacific and one in three Asians lives on less than one dollar a day. Of the world’s population without access to safe drinking water, almost two thirds live in Asia and even a greater number lack adequate sanitation.

Sri Lanka has not witnessed a rapid movement of people into towns and cities as is seen elsewhere. However, in the past decade, there has been a steady movement of people into urban areas, aggravating the problem of the scarcity of habitable urban human dwellings. Sri Lanka has several key national agencies dealing with various aspects of human settlement development and matters connected therewith, to ensure harmonious human settlements. These comprise the Urban Development Authority (UDA), the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA), the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC), Coast Conservation Department (CCD), the Board of Investment (BOI), National Physical Planning Department (NPPD) and the Mahaweli Authority among others.

These agencies come within several ministries at national level. The subject is also dealt with at regional level under the purview of Provincial Councils and by Local authorities, at grass root level. All these agencies have been in existence for decades.

With such an array of specialized agencies at national, regional and local levels, one would expect a clean slate in all operations pertaining to human settlement development. In practice however, it has been observed that these agencies often function in water tight compartments with little or no co-ordination or integration among each other, resulting in the overall weak enforcement of meticulously designed measures. There is therefore a felt need to remedy problems associated with administrative co-ordination, institutional integration, policy direction and monitoring progress on all matters connected with and incidental to human settlement development. Most of the agencies mentioned above have not developed logistics for implementation and monitoring of policy measures intended to achieve goals and objectives of human settlements development.

A case in point is the recent measures instituted to evict squatters residing at Station Passage, Glennie Passage and Garden Stuart Street in Slave Island, prior to the SAARC summit. Their unauthorized dwellings in Slave Island were ordered to be demolished and the 359 households with a total population of about 1770 persons were to be re-located. In a rights violation petition to the Supreme Court, the respondent agencies cited comprised the UDA, the NHDA, the SLLRDC and the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), among others. These squatters had been living in the location for well over 20 years. Several obvious questions that arise in regard to the modus operandi of the re-location process are:

1. Why were the squatters not prevented from putting up unauthorized dwellings in the first instance?

2. Why were they allowed to remain in the location for such a long period?

3. If they were allowed to squat temporarily on humanitarian grounds, why were they allowed to put up permanent structures?

4. Why didn’t the relevant authorities take action as a matter of priority to re-locate these families who were facing imminent danger from accidents, being so close to the rail track?

5. Why did the CMC indirectly acknowledge their right to dwell in the location by allocating assessment numbers to the unauthorized dwellings?

These depict the downright inaction of the relevant agencies to take appropriate and timely action. The inaction on the part of the agencies and the sudden eviction of the affected people had caused immense distress to them. On the other hand, they have lived for decades in these unauthorized dwellings without adequate urban services, thus causing tremendous pollution problems in the entire vicinity. It is unbelievable that the relevant agencies had to wait till the eleventh hour to bulldoze these unauthorized settlements, having been passive observers for nearly two decades.

A harmonious human settlement should be free from all types of pollution. This would mean that the living environment is free from water, noise and air pollution. The protection and management of the environment in Sri Lanka is mandated to the Central Environmental Authority. In terms of Part II Section 10 (e) of the National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980 the CEA has to specify standards, norms and criteria for the protection of beneficial uses and for maintaining the quality of the environment. According to the Chairman of the CEA, there is apparently no standard or norms fixed by the CEA regarding the permissible noise levels. This is unfortunate for an agency which has existed for well over 25 years. Performance standards pertaining to noise levels vary from country to country and in different locations within a country. The table below gives the intensities of noise and thresholds of effects in terms of a Nigerian Study.

As the tolerable noise level differs from country to country, depending on cultural and other traits, the above can be taken as a guide in determining the noise levels which would also differ in primary residential, mixed commercial and industrial zones and during day time and night.

This country has indeed a long way to go before it could achieve harmonious urban status. Solid waste management is an islandwide problem of nightmarish proportions. Not many of the towns and cities have sewerage facilities. The sewerage system in the Colombo city is nearly 150 years old and is at bursting point. Not many urban communities are assured of a source of safe drinking water. The implications of all these aspects need separate treatment and had been dealt with only briefly in this article. The multiplicity of agencies dealing with these several aspects lacks co-ordination, integration and logistical facilities for monitoring and evaluation and therefore need a complete re-appraisal of the respective roles and their social costs and benefits.

Intensities of noise in decibels Threshold effects

25 - 35 — tolerable

45 – 55 — causes annoyance and irritation

60 – 80 — interferes with normal speech

85 – 95 — reduces working efficiency

100 -120 — gives pain in the ears

130 – 150 — may result in deafness

(The writer is the former Head of the Department of Town and Country Planning, University of Moratuwa, Director of Post Graduate Studies and Senior Professor of Town & Country Planning)

Stardust evidence points to planet collision

Stardust evidence points to planet collision

Masses of dust floating around a distant binary star system suggest that two Earth-like planets obliterated each other in a violent collision, U.S. researchers reported.

"It's as if Earth and Venus collided with each other," Benjamin Zuckerman, an astronomer at the University of California Los Angeles, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

"Astronomers have never seen anything like this before; apparently major, catastrophic, collisions can take place in a fully mature planetary system."

Writing in the Astrophysical Journal, the team at UCLA, Tennessee State University and the California Institute of Technology said it spotted the dust orbiting a star known as BD +20 307, 300 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Aries. A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, or about 6 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km). So the observations are, in essence, looking back in time 300 million years.

"If any life was present on either planet, the massive collision would have wiped out everything in a matter of minutes: the ultimate extinction event," said Gregory Henry of Tennessee State University. BD +20 307 appears to be composed of two stars, both very similar in mass, temperature and size to the Earth's sun. They spin about their common center of mass every 3 1/2 days or so.

"The planetary collision in BD +20 307 was not observed directly but, rather, was inferred from the extraordinary quantity of dust particles that orbit the binary pair at about the same distance as Earth and Venus are from our sun," Henry said.

"If this dust does indeed point to the presence of terrestrial planets, then this represents the first known example of planets of any mass in orbit around a close binary star."

In July 2005, the team reported it had spotted the system, then believed to consist of a single star. It was surrounded by more warm orbiting dust than any other sun-like star known to astronomers.

"This poses two very interesting questions," said Tennessee State's Francis Fekel. "How do planetary orbits become destabilized in such an old, mature system? Could such a collision happen in our own solar system?"


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