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American Airlines Transports Aid, Relief Workers into Haiti | Dance India Dance: Amitabh Bachchan Special | Financing Deal | Starbucks in India? | Two New Channels | U.S. Nod for Heart Drug | Electric Car Loan

American Transports Aid, Relief Workers into Haiti

American Airlines and American Eagle are partnering with relief agencies and U.S. security officials to continue humanitarian missions into Haiti.

Beginning Jan. 27, American will fly three relief missions from its hub in Miami using Boeing 737 aircraft. American is working with St. Joseph Hospice in Jacksonville, Fla., Yele Haiti, Medishare and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami to transport medical personnel and more than 10,000 pounds of supplies, including water, food, medicine, and other non-perishable goods. The return flights will transport evacuees into the United States as determined by the U.S. Department of State. The other relief flights are scheduled later.

American is also flying missions for the U.S. Department of Defense from Miami utilizing Boeing 767 or 757 aircraft, ferrying military personnel and other government officials into Haiti. On Jan. 19 , American evacuated 179 passengers from Haiti to Sanford, Fla. Future military return flights will also transport evacuees into the United States as determined by the U.S. Department of State.

Additionally, American Eagle will continue to supply humanitarian aid to Haiti from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Eagle has been flying ATR-72 aircraft on these missions. American Eagle has also transported 80,000 pounds of supplies, including food, water, and other non-perishable goods. Eagle has two humanitarian flights remaining for this week and three scheduled for next week.

“All of us within the AMR family stand ready to do our part to help,” said Peter Dolara, American’s senior vice president. “We are also extremely fortunate to have made contact with each of our 106 employees who work in Haiti. Moving forward, we remain dedicated to working with the American Red Cross and other relief agencies to provide whatever assistance is needed.”

The relief flights are not part of normal commercial operations, and tickets will not be sold. American and American Eagle may not transport individuals into Haiti at this time. Individuals interested in volunteering in Haiti are urged to contact relief organizations to learn more about where help is needed most.

American is partnering with the American Red Cross to provide aid to earthquake victims. AAdvantage members can earn a one-time award of 250 bonus AAdvantage miles for a minimum donation of $50 or 500 bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more to the American Red Cross through Feb. 28, 2010. Donations can be made at www.aa.com.

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Dance India Dance: Amitabh Bachchan Special

One of the most popular entertainment channels in South Asia, Zee TV USA, announce that it will bring to its audiences the long awaited reunion of two of the biggest Bollywood stars on its flagship dance reality show Dance India Dance.

“The ‘angry young man’ Amitabh Bachchan reunites with the ‘dancing superstar’ Mithun after nearly twenty years, to make a special appearance on the number one dance reality show this weekend,” Zee TV USA said in a press release.

“Sharing some special memories with Mithun, Big B will be able to watch some mesmerizing performances by the contestants, choreographed by the three mentors Geeta, Terence and Remo to evergreen songs from his films. Amitabh will also be able to give his blessings to the contestants that are still on the show while at the same time, promote his upcoming films.”

Zee has been a dominant player in broadcasting content for more than 17 years in the national and international space. As an Indian channel, Zee says it is committed to supporting the values and cultures that appeal to South Asians across the globe. With many firsts already associated with its name, Zee has also become a pioneer in the international space, refurbishing its flagship channel to reach out to the South Asian Diaspora worldwide.

International operations began in July 1998 for U.SA. Zee is now a strong household name in the Americas, currently reaching out to more than 2 million viewers, and it has been a leader in the market for 12 years.

Zee launched channels that cater to a noticeably wide audience spectrum. Channels like Zee Cinema (Bollywood movie channel), Alpha Punjabi (Punjabi general entertainment channel), and Zee Sports (sports channel) have been launched in the U.S. market.

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Financing Deal

The Export-Import Bank of the US and NACIL, the holding company of national carrier Air-India, have signed an agreement worth $1.1 billion to support financing of sale of Boeing airplanes to the Indian carrier.

The financing will support the sale of Boeing B777-200LRs and B777-300ERs to be operated by Air-India and B737-800s to be operated by Air India Charters, the bank said.

These purchases represent the third phase of Air-India's 68-aircraft fleet renewal plan. EXIM Bank had earlier approved $1.2 billion in 2007 and $548.8 million in 2008 to support the financing of NACIL's purchases of Boeing aircraft.

At a ceremony held at EXIM Bank headquarters, the financing documents were signed by EXIM Bank chairman and president Fred P. Hochberg, NACIL chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav, and JPMorgan Chase & Co head of global structured trade finance Astar Saleh.

"This support has enabled Air-India to raise finances for acquiring latest technology aircraft at competitive rates of interest compared to commercial financing," Jadhav said.

The transaction represent the second partial conversions of two EXIM Bank preliminary commitments to final commitments. The final commitments were approved by the bank’s board in June 2009. The bank is guaranteeing loans extended by JP Morgan Chase & Co, a statement said.

"The fast-growing Indian market continues to offer enormous opportunities for U.S. exporters in many sectors, including transportation," Hochberg said.

"Air-India, as one of EXIM Bank’s largest customers, plays a major role in this very important trade relationship," he said.

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Starbucks in India?

Starbucks, the world’s largest retailer of coffee, has revived its plans for India and has begun talks with Shyam and Hari Bhartia-controlled Jubilant Group for a possible alliance, two persons familiar with the development said.

Jubilant Foodworks, part of Delhi-based Jubilant Group, is the India franchisee for Domino’s, the pizza chain. The group’s flagship is Jubilant Organosys, a leading contract manufacturer of pharmaceutical products.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Jubilant Foodworks declined comment. However, a person close to the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the company regularly spoke to foreign majors seeking to enter India’s food and beverages sector and Starbucks was among them. “Jubilant is regularly in discussions with several companies, including Starbucks,” the person said.

The person added that talks with the U.S.-based coffee retailer were at an early stage. Starbucks didn’t respond to an email query at the time this article was being written.

Starbucks, famous for making coffee drinking fashionable in the U.S., had tried to enter India by striking an alliance with Kishore Biyani’s Future Group three years ago, but these plans were rejected by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, the government body that regulates inflow of foreign money into India’s factories, shops and mines.

Organized coffee retailing is a niche but growing segment in India. Industry officials said the size of the segment, which is dominated by unlisted companies, is around Rs. 5-6 billion.

The major players in India include two franchisees of overseas coffee retailers. These are Barista owned by Italian chain Lavazza that bought a controlling stake in the coffee retailer from C. Sivasankaran, the Chennai-based entrepreneur, and U.K.-based Costa Coffee for which RJ Corp — owned by Pepsi bottler Ravi Jaipuria — is the exclusive licensee.

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Two New Channels

Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, a division of media firm Discovery Communications, Jan. 28 launched two new 24-hour channels in the country.

The non-fiction channels — Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo — will initially air on the Tata Sky's DTH platform, but would soon be extended to other platforms.

"Right now, the channels are available on Tata Sky and in the next 2-3 months, it should be available with other DTH operators and cable companies as well," Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific Senior Vice president and general manager (India) Rahul Johri said.

Discovery operates three channels — Discovery Channel, Discovery Travel and Living and Animal Planet — in India, reaching 116 million cumulative subscribers in English, Hindi and Tamil.

"It’s been our effort to provide unique content. So, while Discovery Science would have shows based on impact of science, say space, human body and genetics, Discovery Turbo will have shows centered around anything with motors like cars, airplanes and ships," Johri said.

Later, the channels would also have content relevant to India, he added.

Asked about its HD channel, Johri said, "We expect to launch it soon... May be it will be within this fiscal."

The company had last year received a license from the I&B Ministry to operate three channels in India — Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo and Discovery HD.

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U.S. Nod for Heart Drug

Pharmaceutical firm Lupin said Jan. 29 its U.S.-based subsidiary Lupin Pharmaceuticals Inc has received approval from the U.S. drug regulator for perindopril erbumine tablets, used in treatment of heart disease.

The company has received final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its perindopril erbumine tablets in the strengths of 2mg, 4mg and 8mg, Lupin said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

According to Mumbai-based drug manufacturer, "commercial shipments of the product will commence shortly."

The tablets are indicated for the treatment of patients with essential hypertension and can be used with conventional treatment for management of coronary artery disease, it said.

Headquartered in Baltimore, Lupin Pharmaceuticals Inc is a U.S.-based wholly-owned subsidiary of Lupin Ltd.

Shares of Lupin were trading at Rs 1,397, down 0.76 percent on BSE.

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Electric Car Loan

The U.S. government closed a $1.4 billion loan agreement with Nissan to help retool a factory in Tennessee to build up to 150,000 all-electric automobiles a year and the battery packs to power them, the Energy Department said.

"This is an investment in our clean energy future. It will bring the United States closer to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and help lower carbon pollution," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "We are committed to making strides to revitalize the American auto industry and supporting the development of clean energy vehicles."

The Department of Energy and Nissan said the loan will create 1,300 U.S. jobs. Nissan will use the government funding to build its all-electric, five-passenger sedan, called the LEAF. The company also plans to produce up to 200,000 battery packs a year for the vehicles.

The company Web site says the LEAF will be powered by fully rechargeable lithium ion batteries. "Nissan applauds the Department of Energy's support of the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies and the creation of clean energy jobs," said Scott Becker, senior vice president, administration and finance, Nissan North America.

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COVER STORY
Jyoti Basu and Indian Left:
Mixed Past, Grim Future

The Indian left has failed to learn from the pragmatism and humility of communist titan Jyoti Basu, writes Partha Banerjee.


EDUCATION
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Aligarh University

Aligarh Muslim University evokes a romance of a different nature — the love of education, tradition and something else, writes Ras H. Siddiqui.


DEVELOPMENT
Mind the Gap:
Pre-Budget Musings

India’s budget must take up the challenge to make the process of development inclusive so that the gap between the rich and poor decreases, writes Sandeep Pandey.


OTHER STORIES
EDITORIAL: Indian Left After Jyoti Basu
NEWS DIARY: January
SUBCONTINENT: The Antics of N.D. Tiwari
SUBCONTINENT: Save the Tiger
RECIPE: Malai Chicken Tikka
HEALTH CARE: Battling H1N1
SUBCONTINENT: Battling India's Fog
COMMUNITY: India Republic Day Essay
AUTO REVIEW: 2010 Toyota Camry LE
BOLLYWOOD: Film Review: Veer
BOLLYWOOD: Guftugu
TAMIL FILM: Aayirathil Oruvan
BUSINESS: News in Brief
COMMUNITY: News Briefs
INFOTECH INDIA: Tech Briefs
HOROSCOPE: February


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