A stampede sparked by a night-time road accident in dense forest has killed more than 100 Hindu pilgrims in the southern state of Kerala in India. Kerala’s deputy general of police told reporters that 102 people who visited the Sabarimala Temple to offer prayers to the Hindu deity Ayappa had been killed on Friday night. Officials at a Hindu temple estimated the death toll at around 100, Kerala Temple Affairs Minister Ramachandran Kadannappally said by telephone.
Pope Benedict will be confronted by posters on London's famous red buses during his trip to the British capital next month which will call for the ordination of women priests.
from Photographers' Blog:
ATTENTION: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT
By Erik de Castro
I arrived at the scene of the hostage taking in Manila with feelings of excitement because it was a big story. But also, with a pang of sadness as I was at exactly the same place two months ago when yellow was the color of festivities for thousands of people attending the inauguration of our new president, Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino.
A bus poster which claimed "There definitely is a God, so join the Christian Party and enjoy your life" attracted more complaints than any other advert last year, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said on Wednesday.
It's hard to get too excited about bus and coach travel. So why is there so much interest in taking over British bus and rail group National Express?
Buses, including ferrying kids to school, and coaches are relatively recession proof. National Express ran into trouble by running more than a billion pounds in debt by expanding too far in the U.S. and Spain. It also over-bid for a British rail franchise, the east coast main line, and ended up such big losses that it was forced to surrender it.
The business faces a potential liquidity crunch. It must repay a 540 million euro loan maturing in September 2010, which is daunting given its market capitalisation is only 515 million pounds. Moreover its two other rail franchises are under threat if the government tries to exercise a "cross-default" clause because of the east coast surrender.
These mistakes cost its chief executive, Richard Bowker, his job. They now threaten its independence, with opportunistic bidders -- including its largest shareholder, a private equity firm and its biggest competitors Stagecoach, FirstGroup and Go-Ahead -- all sniffing around.
The latest bidder to declare an interest, Spain's Cosmen family, which already holds some 18.5 percent of National Express, has even teamed up with a private equity bidder, CVC, in order to offer cash. The Cosmens know the value of the Spanish business. After all, they sold Alsa to National Express in 2005.
There is more than an air of vultures descending. After all, broker UBS puts a sum-of-the-parts enterprise value of almost 1.6 billion pounds on National Express, while Cazenove reckons it is worth 1.8 billion to 2 billion pounds. Strip out the debt and the equity is worth 530 to 909 million pounds, with a per share value of 350 to 530 pence.
That's above the current price of 344 pence. It also puts into perspective a putative offer price of 400 pence, which is the level at which the National Express board is reported to be willing to start talking.
Fear of being lowballed may explain why shareholders are talking about stumping up for a rights issue of as much as 350 million pounds ($586 million) rather than cashing out.
This would eliminate the liquidity crunch risk and buy National Express some time, while the company appoints a new chief executive. It would eliminate the need for a fire sale.
Whether investors are serious about shutting bidders out and letting National Express trade on to recovery remains to be seen. It could of course just be a negotiating tactic to squeeze out a higher price.
It will be intriguing to see how the Spanish, or indeed any of the other bidders, react.
The Atheist Bus Campaign, launched in London by the best-selling biologist Richard Dawkins, has been copied in 10 countries, mostly but not always with success. It seems to have stalled in Germany. The campaign there, which has its own website called www.buskampagne.de, reports that the transit authorities in Berlin, Cologne and Munich have turned down their requests to run the ads. The campaign will continue trying to run the ads in other German cities.