The death toll in the train collision in eastern India has gone up to 71, a railways spokesman said.

At least 149 people were injured when two trains collided after one was derailed by what officials said was an act of Maoist sabotage.

The Calcutta-Mumbai passenger train derailed overnight in West Bengal where a section of track had been removed.

Carriages and passengers were thrown in front of a goods train travelling in the opposite direction.

Officials said rescue workers were still struggling to free survivors.

They said the toll was expected to rise as many people have yet to be cut free from the wreckage in the Jhargram area of West Midnapore – about 150kms (90 miles) west of Calcutta.

The area is known to be a stronghold of Maoist rebels.

Maoist claim

The state police chief said a 46cm (1.5ft) portion of the train track was missing, and that the Maoists had claimed responsibility for the act of sabotage.

“We have recovered two posters by a local Maoist militia from the site of the accident,” said West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh.

“They have claimed responsibility for the incident in the posters.”

The rebels had called for observance of a “black week” of protests from Friday to Wednesday in five states – including West Bengal – where they wield considerable influence.

Early reports said the passenger train had been derailed by an explosion.

The incident happened at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) on Thursday.

Some 14 hours later, rescue workers were still using sledge hammers and gas cutters to break into carriages where survivors were thought to be trapped, the BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali reported from the scene.

Bodies are still being removed from mangled carriages and helicopters are airlifting injured passengers to nearby hospitals.

Hundreds of police, troops and emergency workers are involved in the search and recovery effort.

Crushed bodies

Railway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar said five coaches of the passenger train, the Gyaneshwar Express, had been derailed due to missing “fish plates” – which join rails together.

These coaches then fell on to the neighbouring track where they were rammed by the goods train, he said.

There were 13 carriages – including 10 sleeper coaches and a coach with unreserved seating – on the passenger train, the Times of India reported.

Our correspondent said three carriages were totally wrecked, while several others were damaged.

Among the emergency teams sent to the scene were 12 doctors and 20 paramedics from Kharagpur, and two doctors from the Kalaikunda airbase in the district, the newspaper reported.

India’s railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, has visited the crash site to oversee the rescue operation.

The government has been under pressure following a wave of Maoist-led violence, the most audacious one taking place in April when 76 paramilitary troopers were ambushed and killed.

It was the single biggest attack on the Indian security forces by the rebels.

The BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali describes devastation at the crash scene

The death toll in the train collision in eastern India has gone up to 71, a railways spokesman said.

At least 149 people were injured when two trains collided after one was derailed by what officials said was an act of Maoist sabotage.

The Calcutta-Mumbai passenger train derailed overnight in West Bengal where a section of track had been removed.

Carriages and passengers were thrown in front of a goods train travelling in the opposite direction.

Officials said rescue workers were still struggling to free survivors.

They said the toll was expected to rise as many people have yet to be cut free from the wreckage in the Jhargram area of West Midnapore – about 150kms (90 miles) west of Calcutta.

The area is known to be a stronghold of Maoist rebels.

Maoist claimThe state police chief said a 46cm (1.5ft) portion of the train track was missing, and that the Maoists had claimed responsibility for the act of sabotage.

“We have recovered two posters by a local Maoist militia from the site of the accident,” said West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh.

“They have claimed responsibility for the incident in the posters.”

The rebels had called for observance of a “black week” of protests from Friday to Wednesday in five states – including West Bengal – where they wield considerable influence.

Early reports said the passenger train had been derailed by an explosion.

The incident happened at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) on Thursday.

Some 14 hours later, rescue workers were still using sledge hammers and gas cutters to break into carriages where survivors were thought to be trapped, the BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali reported from the scene.

Bodies are still being removed from mangled carriages and helicopters are airlifting injured passengers to nearby hospitals.

Hundreds of police, troops and emergency workers are involved in the search and recovery effort.

Crushed bodiesRailway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar said five coaches of the passenger train, the Gyaneshwar Express, had been derailed due to missing “fish plates” – which join rails together.

These coaches then fell on to the neighbouring track where they were rammed by the goods train, he said.

There were 13 carriages – including 10 sleeper coaches and a coach with unreserved seating – on the passenger train, the Times of India reported.

Our correspondent said three carriages were totally wrecked, while several others were damaged.

Among the emergency teams sent to the scene were 12 doctors and 20 paramedics from Kharagpur, and two doctors from the Kalaikunda airbase in the district, the newspaper reported.

India’s railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, has visited the crash site to oversee the rescue operation.

The government has been under pressure following a wave of Maoist-led violence, the most audacious one taking place in April when 76 paramilitary troopers were ambushed and killed.

It was the single biggest attack on the Indian security forces by the rebels.

Maoist rebels have in recent months stepped up attacks in response to a government security push to flush them out of their jungle bases.

They have attacked police, government buildings and infrastructure such as railway stations.

Earlier this month they blew up a bus in the state of Chhattisgarh, killing 35 people.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

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 (by bbc.co.uk)

Health care reform has stalled with recent US political factors and a renewed focus on other economic concerns. President Obama, in the 1/27 State of the Union address, indicated however that “he will not walk away” from the issue and it is likely to brought up as part of a broader agenda.

 It is unclear how this will affect the versions of Health Care Reform that were being considered. According to Brian St. Hilaire, Senior Director Market Relations for Aetna Student Health Insurance, “the plan would have likely meant significant changes for U.S. students, but it was not clear how this would impact incoming international exchange participants. The best guess is that it would not have applied to foreign nationals.” Mr. St. Hilaire did mention that there was some speculation that the establishment of a standard level of benefits for Americans would have created be some downward pressure for DOS to match the domestic requirement for its Exchange Visitor Program.

 Other thoughts on how health care reform may affect the exchange market are that future health insurance costs may become more predictable as medical inflation is tempered. It is also likely that Americans would become more aware of their insurance’s limitations abroad and be more prudent consumers of travel medical insurance.

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