Monday, October 12, 2009

North Korea's Kim Jong Il Reasserts Control

NPR's Louisa Lim has just returned from a rare five-day visit to North Korea, where her movements were strictly controlled and monitored.

North Korea is one of the least-visited countries on Earth, and for months, diplomats, analysts and spies have been trying to understand what's happening here. Speculation has been swirling about whether ailing leader Kim Jong Il has anointed his youngest son as successor.

On our first night in Pyongyang, karaoke girls in the restaurant sang a jaunty song. "Socialism is our thing," they sang, beaming, "since the people chose it, and socialism makes people's lives a paradise."

That boundless, blind confidence set the tone for this heavily stage-managed trip. This was a visit designed to show North Korea as it would like to be seen.

Cult Of Personality And The Succession Question

Our first stop was a 60-foot bronze statue of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, where lines of drably dressed Koreans bowed and placed bouquets at his feet.

"Every morning I come here and pay my respects," said our guide, Kim Hyang Mi, reverentially, calling the site one of the most sacred places in North Korea.

The statue was our introduction to the personality cult of Kim. He towers over Pyongyang, where he is omnipresent despite his death 15 years ago. There are an estimated 140,000 monuments to Kim around the country, and his face still looks out from numerous propaganda billboards.

From that point on, we were spun around monument after monument erected to glorify the man known as the "Great Leader" and his son and successor in this hereditary communist dynasty, the "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il. Last summer, the 68-year-old was reported to have suffered a stroke, sparking concern about his succession. But in Pyongyang, no one talks about that.

Instead, in vast Kim Il Sung Square, tour guide O Kum Sok talked about one of the happiest days of his life — the day he took part in a parade, marching through this square holding a blazing torch.

"I feel so excited," he said. "You know why? You get a chance to see the 'Dear Leader,' Comrade Kim Jong Il. So exciting."

But among the elite, the rumors swirl about another display of loyalty: a spectacular fireworks extravaganza held in April that is said to have been orchestrated by Kim Jong Il's favored successor, his youngest son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un.

His name is now widely known in North Korea compared with a year ago, but it's not mentioned in public. During our five days in the country, only one person directly answered a question about the man known as the "Young General." That was Kim Sun Hee, a state-sponsored artist who has spent six months painstakingly capturing the fireworks display on canvas.

"If the 'Young General' Kim Jong Un organized these fireworks, it [captured] all the minds of all the people," she said, echoing an idea much repeated here — of "single-hearted unity," melding the minds of the leader, the party and the masses.

Transfer Of Power, Reforms Put On Hold

These days, his father, Kim Jong Il, is firmly back in control, apparently recovered, though sleeker after his illness. Five days ago, he was seen bear-hugging Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a lavish welcoming ceremony at the airport. Some observers, such as Leonid Petrov, a North Korea expert at the University of Sydney, now believe his succession has been put on hold.

"Kim Jong Un has in the past months got great popularity among the younger representatives within the army, within the party, as opposed to the old guard," says Petrov. "Here, we can see a sort of brewing conflict, which at the moment is not visible, but within the elite they probably detected some signs of interest in reform, change, experimentation. And I think Kim Jong Il decided simply to put it on hold. The family is not interested in any change."

Moves toward economic liberalization, too, are being rolled back. This spring, North Korea aired its first television commercial ever, for Taedonggang beer. That ad was shown for a few weeks, but it is no longer running.

The authorities also have tightened controls on local markets. Their opening hours have been cut, and efforts are reportedly being made to restrict market trading to older women only, thereby forcing men and younger women to return to state-run work units instead of engaging in market activities.

Petrov says the regime is clamping down on private enterprise, driving it underground.

"Back in 2003, Pyongyang looked like one big market. Now, we can see there's no trade on the streets. Trade and market and commercial activity is deemed to be something ideologically contaminating, something alien to the very nature of socialist society," he says.

Boosting Control And Discipline

To reassert political control, a series of mass mobilization campaigns is under way, encompassing ideological education, the market crackdown, urban beautification and a drive to increase production. The wider focus is now on building a great, prosperous and strong nation by 2012, the centennial of Kim Il Sung's birth.

To this aim, loudspeakers play rousing music, while street banners trumpet the latest "100 day campaign," which was launched days after the "150 day campaign" ended. Guide Kim Hyang Mi is confident of this latest campaign's success.

"It means within 100 days, we'll have rapid progress in economy, culture and everything," she says.

These campaigns were featured in an event of the Arirang Mass Games, the highlight — and eeriest part — of our visit. Tens of thousands of performers danced in perfect unison. Behind them, thousands of schoolchildren flipped colored cards simultaneously, creating a living backdrop glorifying the regime's achievements. Control and discipline is all; the individual is entirely subsumed by the masses.

This astonishing display serves to keep people busy in the run-up to 2012, distracting them from daily hardship or dissent. For with reforms reversed, it appears North Korea is rolling back the clock, as it looks toward the future.

High Point Market to celebrate centennial

The High Point Market will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a Centennial Celebration on the night of Sunday, Oct. 18th, according to an announcement.

The N.C. A&T State University Blue and Gold Marching Machine will lead a march through the streets of High Point, and Market attendees will see a performance by singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw. The celebration will also include games and fireworks.

High Point Market Authority President Brian Casey said the twice-yearly wholesale furniture trade show, the largest of its kind in the world, has become integral to thousands of people in the home furnishings professions during the last century.

“At the same time, we see the Market’s first 100 years as only the beginning, a period of spectacular growth that has created the infrastructure for an expanding global industry," Casey said.

Music, dance and fireworks launch Champions League

Bangalore, Oct 8 (IANS) Dazzling lazer show, breathtaking fireworks, martial arts by Shaolin monks, Japanese drummers and pop star Shaggy, Jamelia and Chaka Khan belting out their popular numbers Thursday launched the Champions League T20 at the nearly full Chinnaswamy stadium here.

The stadium, with a capacity of about 40,000, roared as the spectacular opening ceremony began with captains of the 12 teams exchanging flags, taking the “MCC - Spirit of Cricket” oath and leaving their hand prints on clay.

About 200 school children did a choreographed sequence to the Champions League Twenty20 theme song, revealed the team logos and released balloons.

A team of 12 Japanese drummers electrifed the atmosphere, and they were followed by international dancers.

Grammy Award winner Chakha Khan wowed the audicence with her hit single “I feel for you.”

Acrobatic Cube artists, who took the stage, got a thunderous applause for their display.

The Shaolin monks, dressed in bright golden yellow and red dress left the audience spellbound with their Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Chi Kung movements and dragon dance.

Kerala’s Kalaripayattu artists matched the Shaolin monks with the display of their mastery of the ancient martial art from of the state.

Reggae artist and Grammy Award winner Shaggy belted out his hit “Feel the rush”, accompanied by a multi-coloured laser show.

British pop star Jamelia followed with her super hit “Superstar”.

All the artists, including the children, converged onto the field to a synchronized segment of lights, laser, concert sound as fireworks lit the sky over the Chinnaswamy Stadium for a spectacular climax to the opening ceremony.

Earlier, IPL commissioner Lalit Modi declared the league open, saying: “Today marks a change for the better. We look forward to athletes forgetting their differences and invite competitiveness in a constructive manner.”

“There’s no better time to unveil a new format. CLT20 will help to grow a global fan base for the sport. And all this is possible because of the vision of the three founding members - Cricket South Africa, Cricket Australia and the BCCI,” he said.

Ogunquit fireworks rescheduled for Saturday

OGUNQUIT — The Friday night fireworks display at the main beach has been rescheduled for Saturday at 9 p.m.

Favorable weather on Saturday evening and rain forecast for Friday prompted the postponement, according to Town Manager Tom Fortier in an Oct. 7 e-mail.

The U.S. Army Brass Quintet is slated to perform from 7:30 to 8:50 p.m. Saturday at the main beach, as well.

Parking won't be available at the main beach parking lot, but all other municipal lots will be free.

Central Maine Pyrotechnics has promised an extra special show, Fortier wrote.

This is the last in a three part series of fireworks displays hosted by the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the town.

Private donations helped fund the events.

Festival, fireworks, food to kick off Homecoming '09

Published By Ariel Nagi

Excitement is stirring around campus as the University community prepares for this year’s Homecoming festivities.

This weekend, Homecoming will take over the University with several events sponsored by the Rutgers University Alumni Association, said the RUAA’s Director of Reunions and Homecomings, Michael Rutkowski.
Rutkowski said he hopes there will be a large turnout for the kickoff festival.
“I hope [students] and all of their friends come out,” Rutkowski said. “Everything is going to be free but the food — it will be a good time.”
The “Kickoff Festival and Pep Rally,” beginning at 3 p.m. at Bucceleuch Park, will feature an appearance from the football team, game booths run by Greek Life, fireworks at 7 p.m. and an outdoor screening of Disney and Pixar’s “Up,” said Director of Student Centers and Programs Anthony Doody. “Up” was chosen for its cross-generational appeal.
Students can also take their Homecoming spirit to an after party at the “There’s No Place Like Homecoming” dance party at 9 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus for just $5 at the door, said Lori Smith, associate director of Rutgers University Student Life.
The RUAA will finish up Friday’s festivities with a “Young Alumni Beer Tasting and Dinner,” which also requires registration, Rutkowski said.
Tomorrow, the football team will square off against Texas Southern University at 3:30 p.m. at Rutgers Stadium.
Sara Abdelmottlib, a transfer student, said although she does not know much about football at the University, she is still excited for the Homecoming activities and the football game because they will help her learn more about the University’s spirit.
“I’m a transfer student and I’m really still trying to get adjusted,” said Abdelmottlib, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “But I am planning on going to the game Saturday.”
Before the game, the University community can participate in walking tours of the Old Queens campus and Voorhees mall at 10 a.m. on the College Avenue campus, Rutkowski said. Registration is required.
There will be a Graduate School of Education Alumni Association information table at Scarlet Square on Busch campus and a pre-game tailgate party, Rutkowski said.
During the football game, RUPA will announce the Distinguished Man and Woman of the Year Award recipient, awarded to two University students.
“It’s an award for upper-class students to recognize their balance of achievement in academics, student involvement [and more],” Smith said.
Applicants will not only be competing for the title, but also for one of eight RUexpress Award prizes, Smith said. One $500 RUexpress prize each will be awarded to the Distinguished Man and Woman of the Year. $100 RUexpress prizes will be awarded to each of the remaining finalists.
Students will also be able to get some laughs in at the “Homecoming Comedy Show” featuring Joel McHale of E!’s “The Soup,” according to the Web site. The show is set to begin at 9 p.m. Saturday at the College Avenue gymnasium.
Homecoming weekend will wrap up on Sunday with a “Run for RAH 5K Charity Race” at the Rutgers Stadium, an effort to support donations for Rutgers Against Hunger, according to the RUAA Web site.
School of Arts and Sciences junior Mona Dalia said she plans to attend a tabling event tomorrow, where she hopes to learn more about the festivities going on this weekend.
“I am so excited for Homecoming,” Dalia said. “I can’t wait to see what entertainment they whip up. Everyone is talking about it.”
But Mohsin Rafiq, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he is not excited about Homecoming because he does not think the festivities are as fun as they used to be.
“I’m honestly not too excited,” Rafiq said. “I think it’s not going to be what it used to be.”
The Homecoming happenings kicked off Wednesday night with the second annual “Homecoming Bed Race” in front of Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus. The race was an effort to help donate umbrellas to New Brunswick public school students, according to the University’s Student Life Web site.
Today there will be a homecoming golf tournament from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; legacy admissions tours from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., which requires registration; Rutgers Experience panels from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and the annual “Kickoff Festival and Pep Rally,” sponsored by Student Life and the Rutgers University Programming Association.
More information about Homecoming 2009 can be found at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sponsors sought for Darwin fireworks

Businesses across Shropshire are being asked to sponsor the final large scale event of Charles Darwin’s bicentenary year — a massive bonfire and firework display

The extravaganza on November 7 will mark 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, Shrewsbury’s most famous son, and will feature a full fun fair for youngsters and a son et lumiere — a sound and light show.

The event, which is set to be held at the Berwick Road Showground in Shrewsbury from 7pm, will be presented by the Shropshire Ambulance First Emergency Responders (Safer) and the West Mid Show organisers.

The show has already received interest from a number of Darwin groups across the country and organisers.

Gary Tudor, commercial director of the West Midlands Agricultural Society, said: “Following the huge success of the last three years the society, along with Safer, is seeking sponsorship for what really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“The event is the last large scale event of the Darwin bicentenary and a son et luminaire will take place in several locations around the showground.

“Children can enjoy the funfair and there will be plenty of catering outlets on offer.

“Last year’s event was attended by over 5,000 people and more are expected this year.”

Two packages are available for sponsors this year – one for headline sponsors and another for associate sponsors. Both include tickets to the event and Chinese lanterns to release, with headline sponsors having the chance to light the bonfire with the Mayor of Shrewsbury.

For more information or to take up a sponsorship package contact Mr Tudor on (01743) 289831 or e-mail

Turnersville Auto Mall, WTHS PTO to serve as sponsors of annual Washington Township High School Spirit Parade, Fireworks

The Turnersville Auto Mall and Washington Township High School PTO will serve as the official sponsors of the Ninth Annual Washington Township High School Spirit Parade and Fireworks that coincides with the school’s annual Homecoming events on Friday, Oct. 16 in the Washington Township High School Football Stadium.

The Washington Township High School Minutemen will host perennial rival Cherokee High School in this year’s homecoming game at 7 p.m.

Turnersville Auto Mall’s donation of $3,500 to Washington Township High School will pay for the costs of the fireworks at the conclusion of the evening.

Sponsored in part by the Washington Township PTO, the Spirit Parade will begin at 6 p.m. The Washington Township High School Marching Band, cheerleaders and invited dignitaries will include Superintendent of Schools Dr. Cheryl Simone, WTHS Principal Rosemarie Farrow and newly appointed assistant principal at Chestnut Ridge Middle School and longtime teacher and band director at WTHS James Beyer, who will serve as Grand Marshal.

They will lead last year’s homecoming queen Jessica Lettieri, the 12 members of the 2009 homecoming court and their escorts in a procession from the Acme parking lot into the football stadium and around the track.

Many WTHS clubs, organizations and sports teams will have representation in the parade. Students will march and present performances to judges from the PTO in front of the home stands in a competition to see which student organization has the most school spirit.

The WTHS Minuteman Football team will kick-off versus Cherokee High School at 7 p.m. Halftime festivities will include the introduction of the homecoming court and the crowning of the homecoming queen.

The Washington Township Marching Band will perform at the conclusion of the game and a 20-minute firework display, coordinated with music, will cap off the evening.

Admission to the game and activities is $3 for adults, $2 for students. Senior citizens will be admitted at no charge.

Cash crisis halts Firework Fiesta

Bristol will have no Fireworks Fiesta on Bonfire Night next month because of last year's washout November.

The Clifton Downs event has been running for more than 30 years and is organised by Clifton Rotary Club and Bristol Round Table.

It costs £40,000 to stage and raises money for local charities.

But last year only 3,500 spectators turned up instead of the expected 15,000 - resulting in a £19,000 loss for the event.

The event organising committee says it now has almost no money in reserve and the Firework Fiesta will not take place this year.

However, organisers hope a benefactor can be found to rescue the event in time for next year.

Clifton Rotary Club spokesman John Knight said: "We are disappointed because we're there to serve the charities and now we've got to find alternative funding.

"Last year we lost a considerable amount of money. We had to stop and take stock."

Rutgers Homecoming Features Fun, Food, Fireworks, Football

You are invited to send a reporter, photographer or camera crew to cover Rutgers Homecoming events. For more information, contact Sandra Lanman, 732-932-7084, ext. 621.


Rutgers Homecoming 2009, a weekend of activities celebrating Rutgers’ traditions and spirit. For a schedule of events on the New Brunswick campuses,click here. For Rutgers-Camden events, click here.


Rutgers University alumni, friends, family, students, staff and community


Friday through Sunday, Oct. 9-11 (see below for highlights) on the New Brunswick campuses; Saturday, Oct. 10, at Rutgers-Camden.


Various locations on and around the campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway


Thousands of Rutgers alumni are expected on the New Brunswick campuses for a weekend of special activities for all ages. Many are open to the public. Highlights include:

Homecoming Kickoff Festival and Pep Rally: 3-9 p.m., Friday, Buccleuch Park, New Brunswick. Free and open to the public. Enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere at the park with carnival-style games, prizes, contests, food, live music and fireworks at dusk. New this year will be the Rutgers Homecoming Idol contest.

Historical Walking Tour: 10-11 a.m., Saturday, Winants Hall, College Avenue Campus. Free and open to the public. Student Knight Guides will discuss the origins of Rutgers and its architectural points of interest.

Scarlet Square Pre-Game Tailgate Party: Saturday, noon-3:30 p.m., Busch Campus, adjacent to stadium: Music, games, Kids’ Zone, food. Free and open to football fans and guests.

Rutgers Football vs. Texas Southern: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Rutgers Stadium, Busch Campus, Piscataway (ticket required)

Run for RAH (Rutgers Against Hunger) 5K Charity Race: 9 a.m., Sunday, (registration at 8 a.m.) starting at Rutgers Stadium. Fee is $15 donation and one non-perishable food item.

Contact: Sandra Lanman
732-932-7084, ext. 621

TinCaps Announce 2010 Schedule

Fort Wayne, IN - The Fort Wayne TinCaps announced their schedule for the 2010 season today. In addition to the regular 70 home games, the city of Fort Wayne will be hosting the 2010 Midwest League All Star Game at Parkview Field. The team has also scheduled a franchise record 22 fireworks shows over the course of the summer.

"We are excited to announce the TinCaps 2010 schedule and look forward to the second season for baseball at Parkview Field," said TinCaps President, Mike Nutter. "2009 was a tremendous year for the TinCaps both on the field and off. The team is heading into the off-season with so much positive momentum - a Midwest League Championship, a first class facility, and the best fan support in the country - we look forward to spending the next six months preparing for what should be another recording setting year in 2010!"

The highlight of the summer will be the 2010 Midwest League All Star Game. "We have the opportunity to welcome the 15 other teams and communities of the Midwest League to Fort Wayne," said Nutter. "Parkview Field, and downtown Fort Wayne, will be showcased and we can't wait for the opportunity. The Midwest League All Star Game has seen some of the best talent every single year. It is a chance for fans in Fort Wayne to see a collection of future Major League players all on the same field. It is my favorite event every year and we get the chance to host it in our hometown. I couldn't be more excited." The All Star Game will take place at Parkview Field on Tuesday, June 22nd with the Home Run Derby and other All Star activities taking place the night before on Monday, June 21st. Tickets for All Star Game events will be available in January 2010.

The TinCaps will cap off a night of entertainment with a fireworks show on 22 dates in 2010. "When the fans speak, we listen," stated Michael Limmer, TinCaps Vice President of Marketing. "Fireworks are by far the most talked about entertainment we have at Parkview Field. We know that on those 22 nights fans will be leaving downtown Fort Wayne with a smile on their face, and that's what it's all about."

The TinCaps are also bringing back "Day of the Week" promotions from the 2009 season. Sundays will be primarily afternoon games with on-field player autographs after the game. Mondays will be continue to be Family Feast Nights with a selection of $1.00 food menu items. The team's four day games will fall on Wednesdays in 2010 (April 21, April 28, May 26, and July 28). Parkview Field will again play host to Thirsty Thursdays throughout the season as well as the popular Friday Theme Nights (specific themes have not yet been announced). Fridays and Saturdays from May 21st through the end of the season will also host post-game fireworks. Saturdays, starting May 22nd, will welcome national entertainers to Fort Wayne including BirdZerk, ZOOperstars, Myron Noodleman, QuickChange, Jake the Diamond Dog, and Breakin' B-Boy McCoy. Individual game tickets for the 2010 season will be available for purchase in February 2010.

Other regular season highlights include Opening Day 2010 on Thursday, April 8th, which will include a post-game fireworks show and a celebration of the TinCaps Midwest League Championship. The team will play home games on July 4th as well as Labor Day weekend, with special fireworks shows planned to commemorate each. The TinCaps are also expanding post-game fireworks dates by including shows on Thursday, June 17th and Monday, July 12th - as well as Opening Day, which falls on a Thursday. "We saw tremendous success with our first midweek fireworks display in 2009," said Limmer. "There was a demand to add another show for next season, so we did."

Season ticket packages are now available, with 2009 season ticket holders having a renewal period, until Friday, November 13th, to renew and reserve their same seat locations for 2010. Groups who had outings and picnics during the 2009 season will have an early period for booking an outing for next season. This period will begin Wednesday, October 14th and will close on Wednesday, November 11th. After this date any groups or organizations, may reserve tickets and in-game food service areas for 2010.

Ringling festival opens with governor and fireworks

Published by Jay Handelman

The Ringling International Arts Festival opened with a bang Wednesday, with a five-minute fireworks display as the sun set over the courtyard of the Ringling Museum of Art.

Gov. Charlie Crist welcomed the more than 500 people who sipped drinks and dined on jumbo shrimp, sushi and stir fry during a reception before the opening night concert by the Florida State University Symphony Orchestra.

The reception kicked off five days of performances by an array of theater, dance and music troupes and performers from around the world. Museum officials said they had sold about 80 percent of the tickets before the start of Wednesday’s sold-out concert in the Mertz Theatre of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Performances will be held through Sunday in the Mertz and Cook theaters in the FSU Center and the Historic Asolo Theater in the museum’s visitor center.

After being introduced by former state Sen. John McKay, Crist praised the area’s arts scene and the festival’s prospects for introducing a broader audience for the performing and visual arts.

The festival is a joint venture between the Ringling Museum and the Baryshnikov Arts Center, founded by dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was seen standing on the steps of the museum’s courtyard watching the fireworks display. The Baryshnikov center programmed the festival and chose the artists, while the museum coordinated logistics.

For more on the festival, go to or

Utah Hindus ready to light up the season

Retailers, take note: There's an upcoming Hindu holiday that is like Christmas, New Year's, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July rolled into one.

It's Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, which Utah Hindus will celebrate Oct. 16 at the Sri Ganesha Temple in South Jordan.

That means scores of Indian Americans will be caught up in a frenzy of shopping, buying new clothes, Asian delicacies and plenty of fireworks. They deep-clean their houses from top to bottom, then decorate the porch with fragrant flower and mango leaf garlands and special fabrics marked with huge Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Diwali commemorates the triumph of Lord Krishna over the demon who personifies all of life's ills, explains Indra Neelameggham, a leader among the state's Hindus. On a practical level, it signifies the end of ignorance and heralds the coming of prosperity and joy into everyone's lives.

"It is a festival of splendor, brightness and happiness," she says. "Every home and business is illuminated with deeps -- oil lamps -- and every heart is filled with joy."

At dawn, the eldest woman of the house, usually a grandmother, distributes the gifts and a sweetmeat. Family members take special baths, mirroring bathing in India's holy Ganges River. The family then will light sparklers and fireworks, Neelameggham says, to celebrate the coming of a new day.

For Indian business executives, Diwali marks the end of the fiscal year. Old accounts are settled,new books are opened.

On this day, people purchase something for the house or jewelry for the women. It is auspicious to buy something metallic, such as silver.

Sneha Kumar Kasera lights his porch and every room in his Salt Lake City house with lamps.

"That's welcoming Lakshmi into our home," says Kasera, a computer-science professor at the University of Utah. "It's welcoming a new year and welcoming prosperity."

South Jordan resident Hari Selvaraj, his wife, Roopa, and two children enjoy Diwali's social traditions.

"We exchange gifts with 10 other families in the Hindu community," Selvaraj says. "We give them sweets and they give us sweets. It's a happy time of year."

Selvaraj, a software programmer, came to Utah from southern India about 10 years ago. Back home, Diwali also is a time when the latest Bollywood films are released, he says. People always wonder which movies will come out at that time of year.

In his area, on Diwali, people build a giant effigy of the demon, then hang it from a tree. In the evening, they burn it.

"This is the story of the liberation of all good people," he says. "I have taught it to my children and they know it well."

Most American Hindus try to phone home on that day, sometimes clogging up the system.

Though there are dozens of Hindu celebrations throughout the year, Diwali is the biggest.

"We might sometimes miss one of the other ones," Selvaraj says, "but we'd never miss Diwali. The temple will be packed."

Volunteers needed to save Pepperell fireworks

Published By: Nathan Lam ,

PEPPERELL-- The Pepperell 4th of July Committee is a group in transition -- one that will reportedly need an influx of new volunteers this fall if the tradition of local fireworks is to continue.

That assessment was offered during a recent interview with committee secretary Jannine Kraus, who said the group was able to overcome the loss of public funding for the fireworks last year, but has since lost several members and will need new blood to pull off a repeat performance.

"Physically, we can't make this day what it has traditionally been without the support from volunteers to do it," she said.

The committee will hold its first meeting for the 2010 celebration on Monday, Oct. 12, and it will likely begin making decisions about the scope of that event shortly after.

Held on the first Saturday of each July, the daylong event includes a parade, fireworks and an old fashioned Independence Day celebration with food and music at the town fields. While Krause described the event as an ideal small-town celebration, she said it take a huge amount of volunteer hours to organize and staff it, adding that fundraising has become an increasingly large focus in recent years.

The committee traditionally raised about $15,000 to $18,000 each year to host the parade and celebration, with the town contributing another $12,000 for the fireworks. However, the committee took on the fireworks as well when they were cut from the town budget last year and Krause said they were able to bridge that gap with additional work and support from local businesses.

Having seen the group lose some key members since then, Krause said they simply don't have enough people on the roster to do all that work, adding their current priority is maintaining the parade and celebration, if it comes to making tough choices.

The 10-person group currently has five members; having lost a couple of people to relocation and seen several other long-standing members opt for reduced roles.

Among the notable departures is Kathy Mercurio, who has been with the committee for eight years, the last four as president. She said it was simply time to move on, saying that she has a lot of other commitments and needs to take a break from the committee.

In the big picture, Mercurio said that groups like the 4th of July Committee have some turnover each year, but she agreed the combination of key losses and an increased workload could result in some major changes for this event, if more people don't step up.

"There are some really dedicated people who are left, but there are not a lot of them," she said. "They just need help."

Kraus said she got involved after moving to town several years ago, adding it's been a lot of fun. She compared preparation of the event to putting together a great Thanksgiving dinner and that the day itself is a lot like Christmas morning for the organizers.

That said, Kraus was hoping that a few more people are interested in sharing that experience

"We need more people to get involved to give us ideas, suggestions, and criticisms," she said.

"Everybody has been very supportive," she added, at another point. "The key is to keep that going."

The committee's first meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12, at the community center. Kraus can be contacted at 978-433-5230.

Thom to perform at Hogmanay event

Singer songwriter Sandy Thom has been unveiled as a guest performer at this year's Hogmanay celebrations being held at Stirling Castle.

The 'Punk rocker' singer will join X Factor stars the MacDonald Brothers and Freddie Mercury tribute act Gary Mullen for the 31 December event.

Organisers said this year's show would have a "distinct Scottish edge" and will also feature a fireworks display.

Tickets for the celebrations are currently on sale priced £15 each.

Stirling Provost Fergus Wood, said: "Getting Sandi Thom on the bill is a real coup adding to a fantastic line up that will no doubt be a memorable Hogmanay at Stirling Castle, providing fun for all the family and at prices that most can afford.

"The bells will be brought in, in a traditional style with massed pipes and drums crossing the castle drawbridge and a fantastic firework display to illuminate the historic Top of the Town."

Expect small hike in firework prices

CHENNAI/MADURAI: Chennaiites can have a blast this diwali. Firecrackers worth Rs 200 crore will be on sale in the city. And, the good news is that there would be only a marginal increase in price compared to last year with traders desperate to clear stocks which were not sold due to recession and low-key weddings. More colour, less sound and same price is Sivakasi's mantra this season

"Perhaps there is just a marginal increase in the price of firecrackers, says about Rs. 5 to Rs. 7," said R Paneerselvam a vendor in T Nagar. The most sought-after fire displays were the Meteor, Night Parachute, Assorted Cartoons, Grape Garden, Beautiful Flowers, bombs' named after actress Sneha and Snow Balls. However, fireworks named after actress Namitha (Namitha Dance) did not find their way into the city, though they are selling like hotcakes in rural Tamil Nadu.

With the festival fervour picking up, a few rules too have been amended by the government. Earlier, an individual could stock only 25 kg of firecrackers in a safe and secure environment in his or her home, 14 days prior to a wedding, function or festival. But the amended Explosives Rule 2008, permits a person now to store 100 kg of fireworks, said S Srinivasan, a senior functionary of the Sivakasi firecracker manufacturers' association. Manufacturers have also been asked to adhere to the 125 decibel level.

Meanwhile, Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu's fireworks hub, which contributes hugely to the colourful skies during Diwali, is once again gearing up for the season. With the industry just recovering from recession, it will sustain on the existing varieties and the price fixed last year.

Kaleeswari fireworks proprietor and member of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Association (TANFARMA), AP Selvaraj said recession affected the sales in the fireworks industry by 30%. "Hence, we have decided to sustain on the existing varieties. Our factory introduced around 80 new multi-coloured varieties between 2002 and 2005 and as the demand came down, we are not exploring new varieties now," he said.

More than 60% of the firecrackers produced throughout the year are consumed by the extravagant north Indian weddings, but they too have gone in for cost cutting measures with firework displays being one of the first items to be axed, he pointed out.

Chinese pyrotechnics use more of chloride base, but Indian fireworks depend more on nitrate-based products which have a higher melting point. Though the cost of production has gone up, manufacturers have decided to reduce their profit ratio and offer the products at last year's pricing according to P Ganeshan, vice president, of TANFARMA who owns Sony Fireworks. They were now concentrating on manufacturing firecrackers, which produce sounds less than 125 decibels as per the Supreme Court order, he said. "Customers too prefer the display fireworks compared to the noisy ones," he added.

His company however, has gone in for new products including the golden dragon', eden garden, and the Euro series which has 10 varieties. All of them could explode 30 times on reaching its destination in the air and can produce an aerial extravaganza.

Another manufacturer is introducing fireworks in tiny packets that resemble bags of goodies, just to lure children. The bags would include crackers with colour displays. Other new products by the manufacturers this year are `Namitha dance', `bursting wonders' and `vaname ellai' (the sky is the limit). So the skies will be filled with colour and design this diwali.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

China's leaders dance as fireworks, songs end birthday gala

Published by Asia-Pacific News
Beijing - China's top leaders danced and sang with performers in Beijing's Tiananmen Square Thursday night as spectacular fireworks ended a day of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

State President and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao, his predecessor Jiang Zemin and other leaders left their seats on the Tiananen Rostrum to join the finale with about 60,000 performers in the square.

The leaders earlier watched mass performances of long medleys of songs and dances representing China's 56 officially designated ethnic groups and its 30-plus regions.

Many well-known singers took part in the fast-changing mixture of popular, folk and patriotic songs with strong propaganda value to the Communist Party.

Firework 'paintings' of dragons, a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft and the railway to Tibet were displayed on a 90-metre-long screen in the square.

Thousands of people held giant cards above them to create images of white doves as fireworks exploded over the square to represent 60 more doves.

The fireworks were designed by artist Cai Guoqiang, who directed the fireworks for the opening and closing ceremonies of last year's Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Beijing Daily newspaper quoted Ding Zhenkuan, who took charge of the pyrotechnics, as saying about 42,000 shells would be let off, double the number used for the Olympics opening ceremony.

Many of the performers wore the costumes of China's ethnic minorities with Tibetan, Uighur and Mongolian dancers featured prominently.

But the official Xinhua news agency said one group of dancers in Tibetan costumes was actually organized by a neighbourhood committee in Beijing's Haidian district.

The evening gala began with the song 'I Love China' as 4,000 people formed a 'light cube' in the centre of the vast square, which hosted the first major military parade in 10 years earlier in the day.