Tigers hit Jaffna with twin strikes
Hot lines sizzle as watchdog winks
Commoner Clinton at home with mom-in-law
Calcutta weather

May 9 
Breaking a nine-day lull, Tamil Tiger guerrillas today relaunched their offensive against Sri Lankan soldiers defending the Jaffna peninsula, but the government claimed it had repulsed the attacks.

The assault in two waves — with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars — were the first since April 30 that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had mounted on soldiers manning the strategic defence line north of Pallai to halt the rebels’ march towards Jaffna.

“During early hours of the morning today, terrorists launched two consecutive attacks on the troops manning defences,” said Ariya Rubasinge, the government’s information director. He said the soldiers thwarted both assaults.

The attacks came a day after the government rejected the LTTE’s offer of a conditional ceasefire to enable the troops to withdraw from Jaffna. The proposal amounted to a call for the surrender of the city used by the Tamil separatists as the capital of their rebel state from 1990-95.

Defence minister Anuruddha Ratwatte told Parliament that troops had moved forward from their defence line 25 km southeast of Jaffna city and plan to push the rebels “back beyond Elephant Pass” — the land bridge between the peninsula and the mainland overrun by the Tigers on April 21.

Disclosing the casualty figures in the latest battle, Ratwatte said 337 soldiers and 21 officers were killed during and after the battle for Elephant Pass.

Though the government claimed its troops were in control, sources voiced fears of the possibility of the Tigers advancing up to Chavakcheri which would put the Palali air base within the rebels’ firing range. If the air base — a crucial supply link for troops defending Jaffna — falls, the government would have no option but to evacuate the soldiers.

The sources, however, argued that if the LTTE was not pressing ahead, it was “not out of charity” and pointed to reports that the Tigers, as well as the government, had asked Norway to mediate.

“Their recent successes should have taken their toll on the LTTE. After all, their manpower is limited. If Prabhakaran is talking peace, it is not just a ploy, it is also a practical necessity. They can see we are regrouping. Besides, we are getting a lot of international support,” said a government leader.

The capital is swirling with rumours that Pakistan and China were providing unofficial assistance. Though Delhi has ruled out military intervention, the LTTE suspects that India has begun back-room manoeuvres to help the Lanka army.

India’s apprehensions of an influx of refugees from the island nation gained ground as fishermen rescued 12 Sri Lankans near Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu.    

New Delhi, May 9 
For a few rupees more, the Centre has shed its inhibitions and given up monitoring international sex phone calls going out of India.

The calls, operated by foreign agencies mostly in the US, Hong Kong and Australia, had been banned from the country by former information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj.

The BJP government, always wary of the bad moral influence of the West, had ordered a stringent monitoring of outgoing calls.

But VSNL, which was to act as the telephone cop, has stopped keeping watch. The VSNL committee set up by Swaraj to restrict access to such calls has become defunct.

Ads in newspapers and television of phone sex agencies — appearing under new not-so-explicit names like Filmi Fever, Cine Talk and Movie Masti — have increased. Previously, the phone call agencies used to be advertised under different names: Fun Line, Party Line, Girl Calls, Boy Calls or Dateline.

VSNL officials are unable to provide any phone number or e-mail address where complaints against such phone calls can be made. Under the terms of telecom licence granted to VSNL by the government, the overseas phone company is bound to comply with government directives, like the one on policing calls.

But the state-run VSNL faces a loss of Rs 5-10 crore if it stops the sex calls. So officials choose to ignore the reality.

Banning the calls, Swaraj had claimed that such calls can be easily blocked by VSNL both legally and technically. Experts, however, maintained that it is not possible to identify such calls as they are advertised under different names.

Swaraj had argued that the phone calls should be banned since they amounted to cultural invasion. She had said the government had received complaints that such calls were being made by teenage children.

When Swaraj banned the calls, it was discovered that about 65 per cent of these were made from telephones installed at government offices and official residences.

Swaraj had asked VSNL also to regularly monitor the newspaper and magazine ads.

The laxity on stopping the sex phone calls is in contrast with the BJP government’s handling of other issues it considered “immoral”.

Never tired of playing moral police, the Centre had banned the Russian channel, TB-6, on account of its “pornographic” contents.

Information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley has also gone on record, branding a fashion channel as “obscene”.    

Washington, May 9 
Eight months away from retirement, President Bill Clinton has allowed a peep into what he plans to do when he leaves the White House. He intends to live with his mother-in-law, Dorothy Rodham, and not his wife, Hillary Clinton.

Of course, said the President, as he talked to reporters aboard Air Force One on a flight back from his native Arkansas on Monday, he will visit his wife, but only on weekends. Hillary plans to live in a home owned by America’s first family in Chappaqua in New York’s Westchester county. The mother-in-law and son-in-law will live in a condominium owned by Dorothy Rodham in Little Rock, Arkansas. Clinton said of his mother-in-law, who accompanied the President on his recent trip to India, along with daughter Chelsea: “I really like her. We get along great.”

Although he was smiling, there was a shade of underlying sadness when Clinton quoted America’s sixth President, John Quincy Adams as saying: “There is nothing in life more pathetic than a former President.” Adams successfully contested election to the US House of Representatives after leaving the White House and remained in public life until his death at the age of 81. Clinton, who is barred by Constitution from running for a third four-year term, will be the youngest American President to retire.

Clinton said the realisation had come after living in the White House for almost seven-and-a-half years and holding elected public jobs for a quarter of a century that he would soon have to earn his livelihood. The President said he had thought about it “a little bit” but had made no decisions on what to do. He would put that off until after leaving office if only because “I am still working on my legacy. I don’t want to make a final decision. I’ve got to keep my powder dry. I have too much fun being President, so I don’t want to contemplate my (future) life right now”. He said he was also worried that speaking about it while in office might create a conflict of interest with his presidential responsibilities. Unlike many of his predecessors who have been lame ducks in their last year in office, Clinton plans to be fully presidential until the inauguration of his successor.

The expectation is that Clinton will make a huge fortune writing books and making speeches over the next few years.

Already, his fund-raising appearances across the country are raking in campaign money for Democratic Party candidates contesting Senate, House of Representatives, and gubernatorial jobs, not to speak of Vice-President Al Gore, his successor for the party’s presidential bid.

Political pundits believe that Clinton with his quarter-century experience in electoral politics, has emerged as the Democrats’ chief poll strategist. It is also believed that he is directing the Gore campaign and that of his wife for the Senate seat from New York from behind the scenes.

But in his chat with reporters on Monday, Clinton underplayed these suggestions. “If they ask my advice, I give it to them, but it is way over-rated.” He said there is no “regular system” for giving such advice: whatever is given is informal.

A priority after his retirement, Clinton said, would be the construction of his presidential library in Little Rock, overlooking the Arkansas river. The project will cost $125 million and take four years to complete. It will have a penthouse, where he will eventually live. He will also renovate the home in Chappaqua, where Hillary will live.

During the weekend the world’s most powerful man spent half an hour in Little Rock discussing with his wife and mother-in-law his plans to redo the floors of the Chappaqua home. The rest of his weekend itinerary in Arkansas was also tailored for a President approaching retirement.

He attended the wedding of a White House staffer in Little Rock, stayed a night at the house of an ailing friend and went in a motorcade to Ozark mountains, Arkansas.    

Temperature: Maximum: 35.5°C (-1) Minimum: 27.1°C (+1) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 92%, Minimum: 55% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of development of thunderclouds towards the afternoon or evening. Maximum temperature likely to be around 36°C. Sunset: 6.04 pm Sunrise: 5.01 am    

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