The Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its debut in India.

The Boeing  787 Dreamliner made its India debut landing at New Delhi International Airport at 11:09 a.m. (IST), arriving from Tokyo.

“Indian air carriers have recognized the tremendous value the Boeing 787 offers airlines,” said Dinesh Keskar, president Boeing India.

Water salute to Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Indira Gandhi International Airport

 Air India is one of the early customers and has ordered 27 787s. Jet Airways also has ordered 10 Dreamliners. The 787 offers the potential to enhance the revenues of customers due to its passenger appeal and reduction in maintenance costs and fuel burn.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Taxing at Indira Gandhi International Airport.

“We look forward to the airplane’s introduction into the fleets of our valued customers in India,” said Keskar. He also mentioned that the 787’s visit was a great day in the long history of Boeing’s partnership with India.

The airplane will depart for the Mumbai Airport in the evening of July 15 and will fly back to Seattle on the morning of July 16.

The 787 Dreamliner is built by an international team and will provide airlines around the globe with a new level of efficiency in operations, with a 20 percent reduction in fuel use when compared to similar-sized airplanes. The 787 also brings a new level of passenger comfort to travelers including bigger windows and more personal space as well as an environment designed to help them arrive at their destinations feeling refreshed.

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South Sudan gains independence

At 0000 EAT Saturday (2100 UTC Friday), the Republic of South Sudan achieved independent recognition, becoming the newest country on the planet. The parliament speaker for the new country recited a formal independence declaration. After independence was declared, the South Sudanese flag was lifted for all to see, with Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement secretary general Pagan Amum stating: “Today we shall raise the flag of South Sudan to join the nations of the world”.

Thousands of jubilant people celebrated in the new country’s capital Juba. They danced in the streets, sang songs and waved flags. Churches rang their bells at midnight as independence arrived. People crowded to the official ceremonial site, held at the mausoleum of John Garang, leader of the rebellion who died several months after the peace deal was signed with Sudan, ending the bloody conflict. Many of the celebrants spoke emotionally of their family members who died in the long struggle with Sudan.

George Garang, an English teacher, said he lost his father, grandfather and eleven brothers. “My whole body feels happy,” he said. Valentino Achak Deng, who was a refugee during the war, said: “Really in my heart what makes me happiest is that from today, when people ask me where I am from, I do not have to say Sudan.”

Flag of South Sudan

Salva Kiir Mayardit has assumed the role as president of South Sudan. Kiir swore to pledge true alliance and faithfulness to South Sudan. In a speech, Kiir declared amnesty for any who have taken up arms against Sudan.

Kiir insisted that martyrs for the cause of the new country did not die in vain, although South Sudan waited 56 years to be free. The southern Sudanese had agitated for more rights, even before Sudan became free from its British colonizers in 1956. Sudan was divided into three seperate demographic groups, with the southern part of the country home to Christians and animists and the northern part dominated by Arab populations and those of Muslim faith. Kiir said to people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, who remain part of Sudan, that “we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed. I pledge to you today that we will find a just peace for all.”

Amongst those attending the event were Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations and Omar al-Bashir, the current president of Sudan. The latter was the guest of honour, despite the fact that the International Criminal Court has a warrant out for his arrest based on offences of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.

“We congratulate our brothers in the south for the establishment of their new state,” al-Bashir said at the event. “We share their joy and celebration. The will of the people of the south has to be respected.”

Two million individuals died in the civil war between the two territories of Sudan and Southern Sudan and four million more exiled, a war that was waged for decades. Control of south Sudan’s oil rich reserves was the primary reason for the fighting. An agreement of peace was signed in 2005, effectively bringing the war to an end, and Sudan became one of the first countries to recognise South Sudan. Under the regulations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Sudan held an independence referendum. In excess of 99% of those participating in the vote agreed to the concept of independence for South Sudan.

Meanwhile, the United Nations plans to make the independent state its 193rd recognised country and its 54th African U.N. member state. United States president Barack Obama formerly recognized the new nation on behalf of the US and acknowledged the enormous struggle of its people to achieve independence.

South Sudan remains a desperately poor country, with one in five of its inhabitants chronically hungry, only one third having access to safe drinking water and with the world’s highest rate of maternal death. The country lacks infrastructure such as roads and railways. It remains torn by ethnic and tribal rivalries and many problems with the north remain unresolved, including the exact boundary line. Important revenue for Sudan has come from the rich oilfields of the south, keeping the country afloat and essential now for both economies. A formula remains to be developed on how to split these revenues between the two areas.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said today that the peace process between Sudan and North Sudan could come apart if issues such as the division of the oil revenues and the border location are not solved soon.

Cassini spacecraft captures large storm on Saturn

On Wednesday NASA released details of a giant convective storm on Saturn gathered from the international Cassini spacecraft orbiting the planet. The storm, known as a “Great White Spot”, is around 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) wide and visible from Earth.

The White Spot storms have been observed since 1876 and occur approximately every 30 years; only five previous storms have been seen in the last 137 years. The first signs were detected on December 5, 2010 by instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft when it recorded lightening outbursts in a small bright area on Saturn’s northern half. The area was tracked by the spacecraft and by astronomers on the ground through telescopes. It was later identified as a brewing storm during the start of Saturn spring. Its size and intensity grew until its tail wrapped around the planet. It now covers 1.5 billion square miles.

Saturn showing the Great White Spot. Image: spacetelescope.org.

Cassini has been monitoring storms on Saturn since the craft arrived there in 2004. This is the most intense yet seen and was observed in unprecedented detail, according to the journal Nature in two papers published Thursday. The storm is 500 times larger than the biggest storm on Saturn monitored by Cassini. The spacecraft’s instruments showed the rate of the nearly continuous lightning flashes was up to ten times more frequent than during past storms it has monitored. This electrical activity is 10,000 times stronger than lightning bursts measured on Earth.

Saturn’s huge storm is bright due to its gaseous content, scientists say.

A key question is the source of the energy powering Great White Spots. Originally researchers thought the storms’ power might come from the sun. However, researcher Agustin Sánchez-Lavega told Space.com the new data showed that to make sense of the cloud patterns, the winds must “extend deep into the ‘weather layer’ … where the main clouds reside.” Since sunlight does not reach this depth, this “points to the action of an internal heat source as the power for the winds.”

Hidden treasure worth billions of dollars discovered in Indian temple

Officials announced that a treasure containing sacks of diamonds and gold coins as well as golden idols, jewelry and other riches has been discovered in the secret subterranean vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, in the southwestern state of Kerala, India. Estimates of its worth have been rising and it is now thought to be worth $20 billion.

The Hindu temple was built in the 16th century by the kings of the then Kingdom of Travancore to serve as a royal chapel for the rulers of Travancore. The six vaults containing the treasure have been undisturbed for over a century. Assessment of the treasure began on June 27 after a lawyer concerned about the security of the treasure petitioned India’s Supreme Court, which then appointed a seven-member panel of experts to inventory the treasure. The panel does not have the power to determine to whom the treasure will belong. Estimates of the treasure’s worth are rising, provoking a heated debate as to how the treasure will be used in a country that has 450 million poverty-stricken people.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram Image: Ilya Mauter.

The chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, announced on Sunday the treasure would remain with the temple, and security matters would be decided in consultation with the Travancore Royal Family, the temple management, and the temple priest.

“The gold was offered to the lord. It is the property of the temple. The government will protect the wealth at the temple,” Oommen Chandy said. Meanwhile, hundreds of armed police have been deployed around the temple to protect the treasure.

Mr. Oommen chandy, Chief Minister of the Indian State of Kerala.

However, the view that the treasure should remain at the temple has been disputed. Among the dissenters is eminent jurist V R Krishna Iyer, who said the treasure should be put in a national trust for the peoples’ benefit. “God’s wealth belongs to the people, not to the king. It’s meaningless to say that it belongs to Hindus or any particular religious community,” said Iyer. “A mechanism should be devised to ensure that the benefits of it reach the poor and the needy and not the rich.”

Five of the six vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple have been inventoried.

On Saturday, reports leaked to the press revealed that the treasure, including a golden idol of Mahavishnu and a golden ‘anki’, were found in one of the vaults, estimated to weigh 30 kilograms, along with precious stones, silver, two coconut shells of pure gold and another golden idol as well as other jewels and valuable coins. The panel hopes to find more treasure when the sixth and final vault is opened, but the attempt was suspended on Monday because the iron door inside presented “technical problems” requiring further consultation before opening. This vault is thought to contain the bulk of the wealth.

Keralan officials in a preliminary estimate said that the treasure was worth over $11.2 billion; those estimates have now risen to $20 billion. Historians say that the temple’s location on a site through which passed lucrative trade routes support the higher evaluations.

“Traders, who used to come from other parts of the country and abroad for buying spices and other commodities, used to make handsome offerings to the deity for not only his blessings but also to please the then rulers,” said P.J. Cherian, the director of Kerala Council for Historic Research

Some suggest that the profit from the sale of the treasure would be enough to wipe out the entire public debt of Kerala and fund future Kerala projects such as seaports, airports and highways.

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