Friday, August 31, 2007

Something's going on

And as always, it involves me.

As each day passes in this profession, when we're counting off the days we've spent working for one organisation and the minutes we spend actually working, when we're dragging ourselves out of bed despite the body rebelling against any movement and when we're so pumped up about a story that we just can't sit still, when we're picking ourselves up after seeing a well-written story being ass-fucked or not being used at all till the time that we're quietly taking in the praise for a job well done...we're forgetting one basic fact:

You're never going to grow up if you're never going to learn.

See, it's easy being a reporter. At least, easier than it was, say 10 years ago, when you didn't have the Internet doing all your researching for you. Easier than the time when there were no mobile phones and no two ways of sending an urgent copy. It's easy because now everyone's looking for newsspace. And because packaging is a bigger factor than content.

But it's tough being a reporter. Tougher now, because of so much mediocrity around you, you actually have to slap yourself hard if you get congratulated for a story, which in hindsight, wasn't such a big deal after all. Tougher also because the guys up there are older and jumpier, so they sit on you that much faster if you strut your stuff around much. And tough, oh yeah, because though we have everything - Convergence, big news reporting teams, satellite technology - some important factors have become extinct. You know, the usual...imagination, enterprise, hard work, knowledge.

Yeah, we're making a lot of money, much more than we used to. But we're making very little headway elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The one that got away...

...was the one that should have been used a day after the Hyderabad blasts happened. Is not the greatest stories of all time, but still.

August 26, 2007

H/l: Easiest thing to make high intensity bombs
Intro: Metal scraps, ball bearings, nails, even discarded strips form the shrapnel outside a deadly chemical core. And the bomb is ready
Byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: The explosives used in the twin blasts in Hyderabad city on Saturday evening were part of the ‘newly fashionable’ high explosives meant to cause maximum damage and loss of life, said retired army explosives expert Colonel M P Choudhary yesterday.

Speaking to The Herald, Col Choudhary said, “It is the terrorists’ intention to wreck maximum havoc in a public place using easy-to-procure substances. At Hyderabad too, the bombs were made using a combination of steel balls used in cycle tyres with a chemical core of an ammonium nitrate derivative.”

He also said that state police in such places as Hyderabad, Mumbai and other metros in the country, barring Delhi, were sadly lacking in any pre-emptive measures to nip such terrorist acts in the bud before they are carried out. “The Hyderabad blasts are just one in a series of intelligence failures in recent times,” he alleged.

Reiterating that the high-intensity bombs, which come under the Neogel-90 or Slurry category, are generally used in mining explosions and are industrial explosives, Col Choudhary said, “These explosives have a huge destructive capability, more than bombs using gelatin sticks but lesser than that of RDX.” The Neogel-90 bombs are also high-speed bombs, he said, with speeds of six to 10 kms per second.

“These bombs have a destructive value more so because of the shrapnel used in them, besides the blast wave they give off on exploding. Anything or anyone in the path of the shrapnel would immediately be cut into pieces,” he said.

Interestingly, he explained, it is easy and cheap to assemble such high-intensity explosives at home as well. “There is a lacuna in monitoring the amounts of industrial explosives manufactured and sold, as against the licences and permissions that factories have from the central government,” he remarked.

However, the easiest bombs to assemble are those containing urea. “These are very deadly bombs, and quite easy to put together considering that urea can be purchased in quantities of tonnes at a time,” he said.

So just how easy it is for terrorists to get their hands on industrial explosives? Very easy, says Col Choudhary. “For example, if a manufacturer has the license for producing 1,000 kg of explosive, he might manufacture 1,500 kg and sell off the balance to terrorists. Or he can declare that he purchased 1,000 kg and that he used all of it. Then he can get off by selling some amount,” he explained.

He also mentioned that such places that are fast developing or are major contributors to the national economy are prime targets for terrorist attacks. “The idea behind attacking Hyderabad would be to deter foreign investment,” he said.

Know your bomb
- A bomb derives its name from its container. Hence, a bomb placed in a car would be a car bomb, and so on
- A bomb has a core of nitrate/ gelatin/ glycerine
- The core determines the force and speed of explosion
- The shrapnel comprises metal pieces, nails, ball bearings, or other scrap
- The bomb is triggered using a switch. Cell phones reportedly triggered the Hyderabad bombs
- The heat component at the blast site can reach up to 4,500 degree Celsius

Monday, August 27, 2007

This is how we package it...the Salman Khan story

H/l: Five years for Poacher Salman
Intro: Salman gets 5 years RI after Jodhpur court rejects appeal

From: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Bollywood’s proverbial bad boy Salman Khan is in deep trouble again, after a Jodhpur trial court rejected his appeal against a five-year imprisonment in connection with the chinkara poaching case of 1998.

However, the bad boy in question was nowhere to be found yesterday, though industry sources confirmed that Khan had arrived in Mumbai in the early morning hours. He remained untraceable till about 4.00 p.m., prompting speculation that he had decamped to avoid arrest, when news of his being at home but unreachable started trickling in.

Khan’s lawyer Dipesh Mehta gave a televised statement that, “Salman is not absconding, he is at home. We are considered the terms of the revision application that we will file tomorrow, and the reason he did not remain present in court yesterday was that he was not directed by the court to do so.”

The actor had been convicted and sentenced to a year's imprisonment on April 10 last year by chief judicial magistrate B K Jain, who had also slapped a Rs 25,000 fine on him.

Interestingly, if Khan had been present in court yesterday as Judge Singhvi read out the order rejecting the appeal, he would have been arrested and sent to jail immediately. The court would be closed today and tomorrow owing to weekly off, following which Khan would next appeal against the sentence on Monday. However, the court will be closed on Tuesday on account of Raksha Bandhan. This means that if Khan had been arrested yesterday, he would have faced a minimum of five days in jail before being granted bail. As it is, Khan only bought a day's freedom more by remaining untraceable yesterday.

Yesterday, the Jodhpur District and Sessions judge Kamalraj Singhvi issued a non-bailable warrant against the star, who had reportedly returned to Mumbai on Thursday night after a 10-day shooting schedule in Hyderabad.

The infamous chinkara-shooting incident – in which Khan had gunned down three chinkaras over two days while shooting was on for the Barjatya film 'Hum Saath Saath Hain' – had initially landed the actor in Jodhpur Central Jail on April 10 last year for three days before being released on bail.

After the sentence was upheld yesterday, police teams from Rajasthan were deployed to bring Khan from Mumbai. Meanwhile, the actor’s legal team said it would file a revision petition in the Rajasthan High Court, as well apply for suspending the sentence and hearing his case on a priority basis.

Box #1:
Hunting in Jodhpur:
From 1992 onwards, Jodhpur courts have registered 72 cases of animal hunting, of which only three have resulted in convictions. Of these, Khan accounts for two – he allegedly used his .32 bore revolver to kill three chinkaras and a .22 bore rifle to shoot two black bucks, all in 1998.

The other conviction to date, that of Bheel Singh from Oshiya village, had been sentenced to three years RI in 2000 for killing a black buck and also gunning down a villager who tried to save the deer. Singh was also awarded a lifer for the murder he committed, but is out on bail. Hence, Khan’s five-year sentence came as a something of a surprise when it was announced on April 10 last year.

Box #2:
Salman worth 100 crores in 2007
As in the case of the other Bollywood Bad Boy Sanjay Dutt, actor Salman Khan also has a lot of money, about Rs 100 crores, riding on his shoulders. Three important projects featuring Khan are under production – 'Saawariya', 'London Dreams' and 'God Tussi Great Ho' – all of which will release at the end of this year.

His recent releases, barring the Govinda starrer ‘Partner’, have not been hits. 'Baabul' (with Rani Mukherji), 'Salaam-e-Ishq' (a multi-starrer) and 'Marigold' (with Ali Larter and Khan’s first international project) were all big banner films that fared badly after a good initial opening.

Box #3:
The others got off
Interestingly, while Salman was given a one-year imprisonment term for shooting two black bucks on September 28, 1998, the others who accompanied him on the hunt were let off on grounds of insufficient evidence.

These included Khan’s co-stars on the then under-production 'Hum Saath Saath Hain', the Sooraj Barjatya multi-starrer that later tanked at the box office. Those on the hunt with Khan were Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam, Sonali Bendre and Satish Shah. Interestingly, actor Karisma Kapoor who was one of the lead actresses had reportedly declined going on the hunt since she was not on good terms with the other women.

Of these actors, Shah’s role was more prominent than the others, since he was actively involved in arranging for two jeeps and firearms for the shoot. Apart from the jeep carrying the actors, another jeep had been used to carry locals Kuldeep Singh, Mohd Hussain, Yashpal Singh, Mahendra Pal Singh, Dushyant Singh and M S Bhati. All of them were later acquitted for want of evidence.

From immediate boss: Good copy
From those who matter: Well done
From me: Can be better, but hee!