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December 13, 2012

23:38  Italy summons India ambassador over Marines:  Italy has summoned India's ambassador to insist that India's Supreme Court issue a decision soon concerning two Italian marines detained since February for the deaths of two Indian fishermen mistaken for pirates. 

Italy maintains the shooting occurred in international waters and that as a result, Rome should have jurisdiction. India claims the ship was in Indian territorial waters. The Indian Supreme Court is to decide on Italy's petition to try the sailors at home. 

In a statement today, the Foreign Ministry said it was "profoundly bewildered" why the court hasn't ruled even though arguments ended three months ago. It asked for a decision before Christmas.
23:15  Quota Bill: Its advantage Maya all the way:  Mayawati, the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, looks set to have her way on the Quota Bill. If the constitutional amendment bill gets passed in Rajya Sabha on Monday, she would be scoring a massive political victory over her arch Uttar Pradesh rival Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party. The fate of the bill would also impact the stability of the minority UPA government and would indicate whether the country is headed for general elections earlier than 2014.

The Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012, which promises reservation for SCs and STs in promotions, requires two-thirds majority to be cleared in either House. The UPA does not have the numbers to get it passed on its own strength, so the support of the opposition parties becomes critical. The BJP does not appear averse to backing the bill, though it has a few riders. Others are likely to join in, given none wants to be seen as blocking a bill that is linked to their potential vote banks.
23:14  Four more arrested in Gurgaon hospital shooting:  Four more persons were arrested on Thursday in connection with the firing incident at a private hospital in Gurgaon, police said.

The youths Dinesh, Raju, Lakhan and Manjeet, along with key accused Manoj, were produced before the local court on Thursday which sent them to two-day police custody, DCP (Crime) Maheshwer Dayal said.
23:10  Senator urges India to give greater market access to US firms:  With India approving FDI in multi-brand retail, an influential US Senator today asked New Delhi to take the next steps by providing greater market access to American companies and increasing the FDI cap on insurance and banking sectors. 

Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, in an address at the Capitol Hill at an event organised by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think-tank, called for accelerating the pace of negotiations on India-US Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT).
23:09  Panetta: Karzai to meet Obama in Washington:  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accepted an invitation from President Barack Obama to meet in Washington. Panetta said at a joint news conference with Karzai that the meeting is to be held during the week of January 7. 

The two leaders will use the meeting to discuss Afghanistan's future. Karzai said he and Obama will discuss the number of US troops that will remain in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends there in December 2014.
22:42  Mali gets new prime minister after military ouster:  The troubled nation of Mali swore in a new interim prime minister today, just days after soldiers behind this year's military coup arrested his predecessor and forced his resignation. 

Diango Cissoko officially took office in the Malian capital of Bamako, where he said the former prime minister would be available as needed during the political transition. Earlier this week, Cheikh Modibo Diarra announced his resignation as prime minister on state television at 4 am hours after soldiers stormed his house.
22:41  Bachchan releases book on maestro Amjad Ali Khan's father:  Amitabh Bachchan today lauded sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan's contribution to Indian classical music and professed an interest in learning the musical instrument. 

"Many a time, I thought if learning the sarod. I have purchased the instrument," the Big B said and requested Amjad Ali Khan to teach him a tune or two. He was speaking after releasing a book on Amjad Ali Khan's father Hafiz Ali Khan penned by the sarod maestro. 

The book "My Father, Our Fraternity: The Story of Hafiz Ali Khan And My World" has been published by Roli Books.
22:37  PM, SP leaders meet, make truce on quota bill:  It was at a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh and Ram Gopal Yadav on Thursday morning when a truce was called on the quota bill.   

A senior official at the Prime Minister's Office played a crucial role in this truce. 

It is learnt that even if the Rajya Sabha passes the quota bill, it will not come up in the Lok Sabha by December 20, therefore a delay is bound to take place.  

The Yadav brothers met the PM immediately after the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict giving partial relief to them in the disproportionate assets case that has been hanging over the family for a long time.
22:16  SC judge delivers verdicts in 95 cases in a day:  In what could be termed as an unprecedented feat, a Supreme Court judge, whose term is about to be over, today delivered judgements in 95 cases.

Justice Swatanter Kumar, who is to retire on December 30, passed the judgements as his last working day is tomorrow as the apex court will be closed for 15 days winter vacation from December 17.

He passed judgements on cases of different natures including civil and criminal ones, including the verdict on providing facilities to Amarnath pilgrims.
21:39  24 killed in car bombing near Damascus: state TV:  AFP reports: At least 24 civilians, including a large number of children, were killed in two separate car bombings southwest of Damascus today, state media reported. Eight people, mostly women and children, were killed by a car bomb in the poor Sunni town of Jdaidet Artuz, state television reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four civilians were killed in the blast. Less than eight kilometres away, a similar blast rocked the town of Qatana earlier in the day, leaving 16 people dead, seven of them children, state news agency SANA reported.

"This morning, terrorists targeted the residential area of Ras al-Nabaa with a vehicle loaded with explosives, blowing it up in front of the Mikhael Samaan school," the agency said. It blamed the attack on "terrorists," the standard regime for rebels.
21:00  Hackers bring down BSNL website:  State-owned telecom firm Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited 's website was hacked on Thursday by a group that demanded withdrawal of section 66 A of the IT Act.   The Website '' was quickly restored.

The group Anonymous India said that it hacked the Website in support of activists Aseem Trivedi and Alok Dixit, who are on a hunger strike to protest Section 66A of the IT Act.

"Our website has been hacked and our people are working on it," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director R K Upadhyay told PTI.

The site has since been restored.
20:22  Land Acquisition Bill cleared by Union Cabinet:   The Union Cabinet approved the Land Acquisition Bill which was brought for consideration at its meeting today.

The bill was finalised last week by the Rural Development Ministry incorporating the suggestion of United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi who had asked the government to take consent from 80 per cent land owners for purchase of land for the purpose of setting up industries and PPP projects.
19:49  PM to head Cabinet Committee on Investment:  The Cabinet today cleared setting up a Cabinet Committee on Investment for fast tracking decision on big projects. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will head the Cabinet Committee on Investment that will fast track clearances for mega projects.
19:40  Rehman Malik's wish to meet with Sonia turned down:   Visiting Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik is likely to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday but will not have an interaction with Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi.

Official sources said the Prime Ministers' Office had agreed to a morning meeting with Malik after a request was made for the same by the Pakistani authorities through diplomatic channels.

The sources said meetings with the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon are also being fixed at the request of Malik for Saturday before he returns on the same afternoon.

However, the Ministry of External Affairs turned down the desire of the Pakistani side for a meeting with United Progress Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the sources said.
19:11  Norway: Indian couple's kin appeal for release:  Family of the Indian couple, who have been sentenced to 15 months in prison in Norway, today made an emotional plea to Norweigan government to release or deport the duo, citing the sufferings of their children.   

Bhargava, brother of Anupama, also asked the Norweigian administration to let the children unite with their parents.   

Addressing a press conference along with evangelist Dr K APaul, he said, 'Tthe kids are crying and suffering. They want to unite with their parents, I appeal to Norway to release or deport them on humanitarian grounds."   

The Oslo district court had recently sentenced Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni and his wife Anupama, to 18 months and 15 months jail term respectively on charges of gross or repeated maltreatment of their child/children by threats,violence or other wrong.
18:50  68 pc voter turnout in first phase of Gujarat polls:  An impressive voter turnout of more 68 per cent was recorded across Gujarat during the first phase of state assembly elections today.

The break up:

Baruch: 67.5 per cent, Narmada: 71.8 per cent, Surat: 64 per cent, Tapi: 76 per cent, Navsari: 72 per cent, Dang: 66 per cent, Valsad 67 per cent, Junagadh: 67 per cent, Rajkot: 68.8 per cent, Amreli: 65.6 per cent, Porbandhar: 63.5 per cent, Jaamnagar: 63 per cent, Surendra Naga 68 per cen, Bhavngar: 68 per cent, Ahmedabad rural: 66.8 per cent. 

18:30  The number of fire tenders has now been upped to 20. More details awaited. 
18:20  Major fire at Delhi's Chandni Chowk market :  Just in: A major fire has broken out at Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk. Early reports say that 15 fire tenders have been rushed to the spot. Bhagirath Palace is an electrical goods market.
18:13  Parliament attack: Martyrs' families demand Afzal's execution:  Upset over the delay in the hanging of Afzal Guru, some families of martyrs in the 2001 Parliament attack, today boycotted the function at Parliament, demanding the convict's immediate execution.

They skipped the homage ceremony held at Parliament on the eleventh anniversary of the attack. "Kasab's hanging has given us some solace. Though he committed the crime much later but was hanged earlier, why is Afzal's case still pending," said Ganga Devi, wife of deceased Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Nanak Chand at a function organised by All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) They expressed hope that Guru will be hanged soon after Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's promise of looking into the case.

"Life has been tough since my father died. Though my mother has helped me a lot to overcome the loss," said Gaurav Yadav, son of another victim Jagdish Prasad Yadav. The victims' families have already returned gallantry medals to the President in protest against the delay in hanging of Guru.
18:11  Talibanistan: Negotiating the borders between terror, politics, and religion. Read
18:02  Assassins plotted to vastrate and murder Justin Bieber. Read
17:56  Khosla Ventures Hires Condoleezza Rice :  Khosla Ventures, the venture firm founded by Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, said it had retained former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her consulting firm as strategic advisers. Read more
17:40  On the New York Times' India blogs: Is it Time to Tear Up Lutyens Delhi? Read
17:29  Zee editors refuse to give lie detector tests:  A Delhi court has rejected a Delhi police plea to subject the two Zee editors to lie detector test in the absence of their consent in the alleged Jindal extortion case. The court says that Zee Group chief Subhash Chandra can undergo lie detector test after advice of his doctor and in his lawyer's presence.
17:13  Modi's letter on Sir Creek can be taken to EC: Khurshid:   External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today questioned the timing of Narendra Modi's letter on Sir Creek issue saying the Gujarat Chief Minister has raised the matter at the time of elections, and indicated the government could take it up with the Election Commission.

"When we take some good decisions (increasing cap on LPG cylinder from six to nine) we are told you can't take these decisions. But someone writes a letter that is related to international relations during the elections, it's really for us to consider through appropriate organisation including Election Commission as what are the permissible limit of the issue that can be raised," he said.

Taking a dig at Modi, he said, the Prime Minister has written back to him. "I think he finds time to read that letter while he is busy campaigning," Khurshid said.

The Prime Minister's Office had yesterday rubbished Modi's claim that Sir Creek was being "handed over" to Pakistan. The PMO had said the baseless charges were "mischievous" and motives questionable as these came on the eve of Gujarat polls.

Modi, in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had said Sir Creek issue should "not be handed over to Pakistan" and talks on this issue should be stopped. A strip of water body, Sir Creek located in Gujarat is a point of dispute between New Delhi and Islamabad.
17:08  Midnight's Children to release without any cuts in India:  Deepa Mehta's film adaptation of Salman Rushdie's novel 'Midnight's Children' has been passed without any cuts by the Censor Boardof Film Certification (CBFC). The 62-year-old Indo-Canadian filmmaker's ambitious project, which is slated for a February release, has recently opened the ongoing 17th edition of International Film Festival of Kerala.

"India here we come-intact! Great news... Midnight's Children went through Indian Censor board today without one pic cut. Salman Rushdie and I thrilled," Mehta posted on Twitter.
17:00  Pancham-taar may have snapped, but the dhwani remains. The obit to Pt Ravi Shankar on the Hindu. Read
16:47  The other side of Ravi Shankar: Annapurna Devi:  Read: Notes from behind a locked door.  An ode to Annapurna Devi, Pt Ravi Shankar's ex wife.

Madhu Kishwar tweets: Can't think of Ravi Shankar without remembering how he destroyed music career of his wife Annapurna dtr of his guru Ustad Allauddin Khan. Annapurna believed to be far more talented than Ravi Shankar. He's reported to have battered her into giving up music. She became recluse. People say once Ravi Shankar dragged Annapurna with such violence from a performance that he broke her arm. She never performed after that.  
16:27  Quota Bill: 18 lakh govt staff on flash strike in UP:   CNN IBN: 18 lakh government employees go on a flash strike in UP over the SC/ST Quota Bill with immediate effect. Emergency services have been exempted.  
15:51  Lodha buys Mumbai's US consulate house for Rs 341 cr :  Leading realty firm Lodha Group has said it has completed the acquisition of the US Consulate's Washington House in south Mumbai for Rs 341.82 crore. It is estimated that the property, nearly 2702 sqmt, was sold at over Rs 1.2 lakh per sqft.

Lodha had sealed the deal for the purchase of the property, standing in the plush area of Altamount Road in south Mumbai, in June this year by making a payment of Rs 40 crore.

"The balance payment was made on Dec 11, thus completing the acquisition procedure," the company said in a statement here. The company plans to develop a 30-storey super-luxury residential tower housing exclusive 3, 4 and 5 bedroom apartments, one on each floor with sizes ranging between  3,000 to 4,000 sqft, in place of the three-storey Washington House.
15:46  Hoax call case: Nurse had injuries on wrists, left three notes:  Update on the hoax call case: At the inquest, the Westminster Coroner's Court heard that injuries were also found on the nurse's wrists - and that she had also left three notes. Two were found in her room and another was among her possessions. The inquest was told police were exploring emails and texts sent by the 46-year-old, who was discovered in her nurses' quarters by a colleague and a security guard on Friday.
15:36  Hoax call nurse was hanging from wardrobe: Report:  The nurse tricked by a radio prank call was found hanging from a wardrobe by a scarf, an inquest has heard. Jacintha Saldanha died days after falling victim to the hoax that targeted the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated. Read another report on the story
15:34  Hoax call nurse was 'hanging from the neck': Report:  The nurse fooled by a hoax call to the London hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge was later found hanged, an inquest has heard. Jacintha Saldanha was found dead on Friday, three days after the call from Australian radio presenters pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles. Read more
15:30  SC/ST Quota Bill introduced in Rajya Sabha:   The SC/ST Quota Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Earlier in the House, the deputy chairman had evicted SP member Arvind Kumar Singh, who  first refused to leave the House, but later relents and withdraws.
14:58  Pak Taliban to target security forces, diplomatic missions:  Elements of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan based in Afghanistan and the Mohmand tribal region have despatched suicide bombers for a string of planned attacks on security forces, diplomatic missions and public gatherings across Pakistan, according to a media report today.

Taliban elements in Afghanistan's Kunar province have dispatched nine operatives, including two suicide bombers, to Pakistan via the Torkham land border to carry out attacks, The Express Tribune quoted an intelligence report as saying.
14:55  Sachin Tendulkar: A Ricardian analysis:  As long as Sachin's average performance is better than anyone else's, he cannot be dropped. Voluntary retirement is something else. Read
14:54  Indians first, Muslims later:  Indians first, Muslims later: We don't need faux concern of do-gooders. That's the column by Irfan Iqbal Gheta. Read 
14:45  RS Dy chairman evicts SP MP Arvind Kumar:  Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson evicts SP MP Arvind Kumar from the House after uproar over the SC/ST Quota row. House has been adjourned for 10 minutes. 
14:01  Prank call nurse was found 'hanged' in her flat :  The nurse who apparently took her own life following the royal hoax call scandal was found hanged in her staff housing, it has been claimed.Mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, left a note for her family, it was revealed yesterday. She had not told her husband or children that she was involved in the incident, meaning the letter may provide their only clue to what prompted the respected nurse to take such a drastic and tragic step. Read more
13:50  LS pays tribute to Parliament attack martyrs:  Lok Sabha today remembered nine martyrs who laid down their lives defending Parliament which was attacked by armed terrorists 11 years ago. "On this occasion, this House offers its respects to the brave security personnel and convey our condolences to their families," Speaker Meira Kumar said on the 11th anniversary of the attack on Parliament.
13:48  Fundamentally Wrong:   Historian, writer, Ramachandra Guha is wrong, and the term Hindu fundamentalist is an oxymoron. Read
13:27  My Guru Pandit Ravi Shankar, my father and I. -- a disciple pays tribute. Read
13:26  Track hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus: Justice dept to FBI:  Concerned over spurt in attacks on Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities in America, the US Justice Department has asked FBI to track hate crimes against them. Terming bullying and harassment of Sikh children as a "serious problem", a top official of the Justice Department has recommended that crimes against Sikhs and Hindus should be added to the religion-based hate crimes tracked by the FBI to help law enforcement officials tackle the problem. The extra-ordinary gesture by the administration has come in the wake of Sikhs petitioning the Congress asking that hate crimes against their religion be started to be traced by the federal agency.
13:24  Towards a larger Asia-Pacific security architecture:  The security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, which American 're-balancing' towards Asia and Barack Obama's tour of some Asian countries so early into his second presidency seek to address, are many and complex. Read
13:22  Pandit Ravi Shankar-Sukanya wed at Balaji temple in Hyderabad :  For the older priests of the Balaji temple in Chilkur, the news of Pandit Ravi Shankar's sudden demise brought back vivid memories of the day he landed in Hyderabad and paid them a quiet visit, taking them all by surprise.Not many people know but the sitar maestro married Sukanya Devi, mother of Anoushka Shankar in 1989 at the very temple, when it was frequented by only a handful of devotees. Read
13:08  Gujarat Polls 2012 -- Don't waste your Vote on Caste, National Interest is also at stake. Read
13:05  Figuring out the Modi speed machine:  Rural Gujarat is in distress and today more and more people seem willing to speak out against Narendra Modi. Yet even his detractors say he will win. Read
13:01  Sena blinks, Thackeray memorial to be moved a 'little':  Under pressure from the government, Shiv Sena today indicated its willingness to shift Bal Thackeray's memorial to the margins of Shivaji Park in the city. "Shiv Sainiks will with their own hands shift the 'samadhi sthal' a little," Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said in a statement in party mouthpiece 'Saamna', of which he is the new editor.

"The stance of Shiv Sena on the 'samadhi sthal' has always been that of restraint. A permanent 'samadhi sthal' will come up at the 'Shiv Teerth' by shifting the present samadhi sthal a little," Uddhav said. Uddhav's readiness to shift back the structure to the margins of the Shivaji Park in Mumbai is a climb down from earlier announcements by senior party leaders that Shiv Sainiks would not budge from the present structure.
12:55  Govt should announce date for hanging Afzal Guru: BJP:  On the eleventh anniversary of Parliament attack, BJP today said the government should announce the date for hanging convict Afzal Guru today itself to pay "real tribute" to the martyrs of the strike.

"Real tribute would be only if the Home Minister assures the House today that we have paid tributes to the martyrs but their families and country will get relief only when he (Guru) would be hanged. "If they fix a date (for hanging Guru) and announce it today, this would be the real tribute to these martyrs," the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said inside Parliament House complex.
12:52  Chants of 'Afzal Guru ko phaansi do' adjourn LS:  The Lok Sabha today witnessed repeated uproar on the demand for immediate hanging of Afzal Guru, with Speaker Meira Kumar expressing anguish over disruptions saying 13 people did not lay down their lives for this during the attack on Parliament 11 years back.

Soon after the House paid homage to martyrs of the 2001 attack, BJP members led by Shahnawaz Hussain started raising slogans demanding immediate hanging of Guru. BJP and Shiv Sena members trooped to the Well shouting slogans 'Afzal Guru ko phaansi do' (hang Afzal Guru). "Why is the government not hanging Afzal Guru. Why is the government helpless in carrying out the death sentence," Hussain asked.

Amid the melee, BSP members also rushed to the Well raising the issue of coal block allocation. As the uproar continued, an anguished Speaker remarked, "11 years ago, on this day, 13 people had sacrificed their lives. They did not sacrifice their lives for this. I will not adjourn the House."

The Speaker went ahead with the Question Hour despite the uproar and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh answered supplementaries on the rural jobs scheme.

SP members were also seen in the Well demanding action against the agitating BSP members. Amid the uproar, the Speaker first adjourned the House till 11:30 am and then till noon. The House met briefly at noon and was adjourned till 2 pm after laying of papers.
12:49  N Korea rocket launch control room footage:  Hours after it successfully launched a long-rage rocket into space, North Korea has released raw footage of technicians tracking the rocket's orbit from the North Korean mission control center outside the capital Pyongyang. Watch
12:45  Japan scrambles fighter jets over China plane:  Japan scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese plane entered airspace over disputed East China Sea islands, officials say. Government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said that Japan mobilised F-15 jet fighters when the Chinese Oceanic Administration plane was observed. Read the BBC story.
12:41  How the political class has looted India:  The Supreme Court today ruled that the CBI probe against UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav will continue in the disproportionate assets case.

The Hindu has an interesting piece on how politicians dutifully disclose their increasing assets at each election but no questions are ever asked about how they acquired this wealth nor are any explanations provided. Read
12:19  Gujarat polls: 18 per cent polling in first three hours:  Update on the Gujarat polls. A moderate 18 per cent voting was recorded in the first three hours of polling across 87 seats in the first phase of Gujarat polls which will decide the fate of state political big-wigs like Keshubhai Patel, BJP's R C Faldu and Congress' Arjun Modhwadia.

Long queues where seen outside some polling booths as people preferred to come early to vote. The constituencies where polling started include 48 in seven districts of Saurashtra, 35 seats in seven districts of south Gujarat and four seats in Ahmedabad district. Leaders like former Chief Minister and GPP president Keshubhai Patel, BJP state unit president R C Faldu, state finance minister Vajubhai Vala and state Congress president Modhvadia cast their vote in the early morning hours.
12:16  The Telegraph, Kolkata, today devoted pages and pages in tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar, who passed away yesterday.  Have a look.

He tuned, world roared and he showed them a new world. Read

Annapurna Devi speaks: Great loss. Read

Power of communication and ability to read pulse.  Read

A test of love Calcutta could not pass. Read

Yellow ship in city for Robu Kaku & George. Read

The man and his women. Read
12:07  India watcher Jason Overdorf on the Global Post. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi looks to cement claim as BJP's next candidate for prime minister. Read
12:02  Poll prediction:  This is the most recent seat prediction by G V L Narsimha Rao. The
survey was conducted after the filing of nominations. A representative
cross-sectional sample of 12,078 voters between 28 November and December 8 was taken for the survey. Rao had rightly predicted 117 seats for the BJP in 2007 in Mint besides 206 seats for the BSP before 2007 assembly poll.

12:02  How Saurashtra has rattled Modi and made him insecure:  There has been a six per cent voter turnout in the first phase of the Gujarat polls. Meanwhile, for the first time since the riots of 2002, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi finds himself on uncertain territory in Saurashtra, where the intense caste politics of the Patels is now intertwined with the water problems of all the farmers of the region, reports Sheela Bhatt. Read
11:57  The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till noon amid BJP, Shiv Sena uproar over the demand to hang Afzal Guru. The BSP raised the coal scam.
11:55  nk call: Oz watchdog launches 'rare' probe :   Australia's media watchdog today launched a rare probe into the broadcast of a prank call by a Sydney-based radio station to a UK hospital treating pregnant Princes Kate that led to the death of an Indian-origin nurse.

Australian Communications and Media Authority used its special powers to launch a rare "own motion" probe contrary to other cases where it has to wait for complaints. A spokesman of the authority said the body would investigate whether the licence holder Today FM Sydney Pty Ltd, breached its licence conditions or the industry's code of practice, The Age newspaper reported.

It will examine whether the network breached standards of decency, invaded privacy or broke rules of consent. The media watchdog said it "will be seeking to expedite this investigation and does not propose making any further statement while its investigation is underway".
11:36  Figuring out the Modi speed machine:  Rural Gujarat is in distress and today more and more people seem willing to speak out against Narendra Modi. Yet even his detractors say he will win. Read
11:24  Gujaratis will vote for change and reject Modi: Keshubhai Patel:  As Gujarat goes to the polls today in its first phase today, the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) supremo Keshubhai Patel today said the people would vote for a change in the state, and added that Chief Minister Narendra Modi would be thrown out of power after the assembly polls.

"There is a wave of change in entire Gujarat now, be it the tribal areas, coastal region, Ahmedabad, towns or villages," said Patel.

"People have rejected him. The children poke fun at him. Narendra Modi will go this time," he added. The former Gujarat Chief Minister cast his vote here as polling in 87 constituencies for the first phase of assembly polls began at 8 am amidst tight security in the state. Patel, considered to be Modi's arch political rival, is banking on the support of his 'Leuva Patel' community, which dominates 17 constituencies in Saurashtra and Kutch.

The 'Patels' are a key 20 percent of Gujarat's electorate. Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party is contesting 83 of the 87 seats that poll today. The fate of 846 candidates will be decided in this phase, out of which 46 are women.
11:12  CBI to file report to SC not to government:   The SC has also directed the CBI to file a status report in the DA case before it and not to the government. The ruling is expected to create problems for Mulayam's relationship with the Centre. The SC also ruled that the CBI is independent from the government and can continue with the probe as per the law.
11:06  Dimple does not hold office of profit: SC:  The Supreme Court said there will be no probe against Mulayam Singh Yadav's daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav as she did not hold an office of profit at the time the inquiry was started. On March 1, 2007, the top court had ordered a CBI inquiry against Mulayam Singh Yadav, sons Akhilesh Yadav and Prateek Yadav and daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an advocate in December 2005. More
11:03  DA case against Dimple dropped, not Akhilesh, Mulayam :   The Supreme Court drops the probe against UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's wife Dimple in the disproportionate assets case. However, the CBI probe against Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh will continue in the same case, says the Supreme Court. Mulayam had alleged that the Centre used the CBI to harass him.  The SP chief is also meeting the PM today to discuss the SC/ST quota bill.  
10:31  BJP to raise delay in hanging of Afzal Guru in Parl:  Just in: BJP gives notice for adjournment of Question Hour in Lok Sabha to discuss delay in hanging Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. 
10:21  Kudankulam commissioning put off to new year:  
Controversy-embroiled Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project will once again miss the target as the time frame of commissioning of the first unit has now been revised to the new year. 

Commercial operation of the 1,000 MW first unit, where 99.65 per cent of the physical progress has been completed, is expected to take place in January next, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) said.

Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy, who has been monitoring the progress of the Indo-Russian project, hit by protests over safety concerns,had informed Lok Sabha last week that Unit-I was likely to be commissioned by this month end.

Similarly, commercial operation of the second unit has also been fixed for August next year.

M Pushparayan, a leader of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, spearheading the over year-long stir demanding scrapping of the KNPP, said though it has been said the commissioning would take place some time this month "now, we heard that they have given a date on January 15". 

After resorting to a series of protests including "sea siege" of the plant, located in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district, PMANE now wants a national debate on the Centre's "ambitious and aggressive" nuclear power programme and intends to make it an issue in the Lok Sabha elections.
10:20  Ravi Shankar to receive lifetime achievement Grammy award:  
Legendary sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar would receive the lifetime achievement Grammy award, organisers of the top music award announced on Thursday.

Shankar would receive the award posthumous on February 10 at the 55th Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, said the Recording Academy, which gives the prestigious Grammy Awards. 

The sitar maestro, who popularised Indian classical music in the West and had a major influence on The Beatles' George Harrison and Yehudi Menuhin, died on Wednesday at the age of 92 after undergoing heart-valve replacement surgery at the
Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.

"As one of the world's most renowned sitar players, three-time Grammy winner Ravi Shankar is a true ambassador for international music," said a statement issued by the Recording Academy.

"As a performer, composer, teacher and writer, he is considered a pioneer in bringing Indian music to the West. With a performance career spanning more than 80 years, he has influenced a variety of musicians, including the Beatles, John Coltrane, Philip Glass and his daughters, Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar," it said.

"A humanitarian and philanthropist, in 1971 Shankar, along with George Harrison, organised the Concert for Bangladesh, which paved the way for many other fundraising charity concerts," it said.
10:16  Sensex recovers 66 points in early trade:  
The BSE benchmark Sensex on Thursday recovered by over 66 points in early trade on fresh buying by funds and retailers amid a firming trend on the other Asian bourses.

The 30-share barometer, which has lost nearly 132 points in the past four sessions, rose by 66.46 points, or 0.34 percent, to 19,421.72, led by gains in stocks of auto, realty, healthcare and IT sectors.

Similarly, the wide-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty moved up by 19.45 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 5,907.45.      
Brokers said fresh round of buying by funds as well as retail investors, tracking a firming trend on the Asian markets after the US Federal Reserve took new stimulus steps to bolster the economy. 

They said, however, rising inflation, which dimmed hopes of a rate cut, capped the gains.

Meanwhile, in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.22 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei gained 1.90 per cent. 

The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.02 per cent lower in Wednesday's trade.
10:14  Hoax call tragedy: Nurse's autopsy report today:  
London police say the result of an autopsy on the nurse involved in a prank call for information about the former Kate Middleton's hospital stay will be revealed on Thursday.

Scotland Yard said on Wednesday the cause of Jacintha Saldanha's death will not be released until a Westminster Coroner's Court hearing.

Saldanha took the call when two Australian disc jockeys rang up the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness. The DJs, who were impersonating Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, later broadcast the call.

Saldanha was found dead on Friday. Although police have made no connection between Saldanha's death and the prank call, people from London to Sydney have been making the assumption she died because of stress from the call.
10:13  Heavyweights in first phase of voting in Gujarat:  
The first phase of the Gujarat assembly elections today will decide the fate of several heavyweights from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition Congress and Keshubhai Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP).

Today's voting puts to test GPP chief and Narendra Modi's rival Keshubhai Patel, Assembly Speaker Ganpat Vasava, Gujarat BJP president RC Faldu, state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia and Leader of the Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil. 

State ministers Vajubhai Vala, Vasuben Trivedi, Narottam Patel, Mangubhai Patel, Purshottam Solanki, Kiritsinh Rana, Dilip Sanghani, Kanubhai Bhalala, Mohan Kundaria and Ranjit Gilitvala are also in the fray in some of the 87 constituencies where votes are being cast.

Congress leaders Vithhal Radadia, Kunvarji Bavalia and Somabhai Patel too are contesting.
10:11  SC verdict on Mulayam's plea against CBI probe today:  
The Supreme Court is expected to pronounce its verdict on Mulayam Singh Yadav's plea asking the apex court to review its order which initiated a CBI probe into the alleged accumulation of illegal assets by the Yadav family on Thursday.

Mulayam and his family members have said that there is no evidence against them and that they are being harassed by political adversaries. 

A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice HL Dattu, which had reserved its order on February 17, 2011, will pronounce the verdict on review petition filed by Yadav, his sons Akhilesh and Prateek and daughter-in-law Dimple.

The apex court had ordered a CBI inquiry on March 1, 2007 into the alleged accumulation of disproportionate assets by Yadav family, on a public interest litigation (PIL) by an advocate, Vishwanath Chaturvedi, reportedly a Congress leader.
10:10  Sena to move structure away from Thackeray's cremation spot:  
The Shiv Sena is for the first time showing signs of a debate on the structure constructed where Bal Thackeray was cremated. 

Their mouthpiece 'Saamna' has claimed that the party has decided to shift back the memorial to the margins of the Shivaji Park in Mumbai.

This comes days after the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation gave a notice to the Shiv Sena over the structure. It will now be moved 20 feet away from where it is currently and will be done by Shiv Sainiks themselves.
09:22  Voting begins for first phase of Gujarat polls:  
Voting on 87 constituencies for the first phase of Gujarat Assembly elections began on Thursday amidst tight security where Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a fourth term.

The constituencies where polling started include 48 in seven districts of Saurashtra, 35 seats in five districts of south Gujarat and four seats in Ahmedabad district.

A total of 846 candidates are in fray. For this phase, BJP has fielded candidates on all 87 seats going to the poll, whereas Congress is contesting on 84 and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) on 83 seats.

The Election Commission (EC) has made robust security arrangements to ensure that voting is carried out peacefully by deploying security forces in the areas going to polls in first phase.
03:37  9/11 accuseds' torture testimony to be kept secret :  A US military judge ordered today that testimony from defendants accused of taking part in the September 11 attacks describing their torture and secret imprisonment must be kept secret. 

Judge James Pohl released his ruling on his military tribunal's website, agreeing with a request from the US government that the testimony should be kept secret from the public and media for reasons of national security.
03:36  Official: Syria fires Scud missiles at rebels:  Syrian government forces have fired Scud missiles at insurgents in recent days, escalating the 2-year-old conflict against rebels seeking to overthrow the regime, US officials said today.  

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two officials said forces of President Bashar Assad have fired the missiles from the Damascus area into northern Syria. These officials asked not to be named because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
01:44  Plan to name chowk in Pak after Bhagat Singh dropped:   The Dilkash Lahore Committee has apparently dropped the idea of renaming Shadman Chowk after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in the face of opposition from rightwing religious groups and decided to instead rename it after poet Habib Jalib.

A press release issued on Wednesday night after a meeting of the committee said that it had recommended the following changes to the provincial government: Shadman Chowk be renamed after Habib Jalib, Bekhewal Chowk after Waris Mir, the Model Town Park roundabout after Hafeez Jullundhri, Hafeez Centre Chowk after Masood Khadarpoosh, Old Club Road after Hashim Khan, GC Chowk after Professor Ashfaq Ahmad, Kucheri Chowk after Professor Nazir, the GT Road Interchange after Sher Shah Suri and the DHA Interchange after Sir Justice Mian Abdul Rasheed.

Read full report here
01:24  Iraq attacks kill seven, inmate detonates explosives:  Shootings and bombings killed six Iraqi security forces members and an academic today, while an inmate detonated explosives in a Baghdad prison in an attempted suicide attack, officials said. Gunmen killed four police near Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a police captain and a medical source said, while gunmen in Mahmudiyah, south of the capital, shot intelligence service Captain Muntasser Abdul Rizzaq, according to an interior ministry official. 

A doctor said Rizzaq later died in Mahmudiyah Hospital. Gunmen armed with silenced weapons killed a policeman at a checkpoint east of Mosul in north Iraq, a police officer and a doctor said.
00:47  Chavez recovering after cancer surgery:  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was recovering in a Cuban hospital today after six hours of surgery to treat a cancerous lesion in an operation his vice president said ended "successfully." Chavez would soon begin a "post-operative phase" that would last several days, Nicolas Maduro said in an address to the nation in Caracas late yesterday. 

Chavez, 58, flew to Havana for surgery on Monday after revealing that his cancer had returned just two months after his triumphant re-election. His new six-year term in office is scheduled to begin on January 10.
00:35  Afghanistan, Pakistan pursue peace despite attack:  The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan are determined to press ahead with peace efforts after a meeting in Turkey, the country's president said today, despite an attack that wounded the Afghan intelligence chief. President Abdullah Gul described the bombing, which Afghanistan believes was planned in Pakistan, as an attempt to derail dialogue between the two countries. 

At the end of a meeting aimed at easing tensions and increasing cooperation between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad, Gul said both had "renewed trust and are determined to work together." He was flanked by counterparts Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan.
00:25  UN Council condemns N Korea for rocket launch:  The UN Security Council, including China and the United States, today condemned North Korea for carrying out a banned rocket launch and warned it could take further action. 

"Members of the Security Council condemned this launch which is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874," said a statement by the 15-nation body after emergency consultations. The council warned after a failed rocket launch in April that they could take "action" if the North Korean government made a new attempt. 

North Korea launched a rocket earlier Wednesday which it said carried a satellite into space.
00:25  Savile a suspect in 199 crimes, 31 rapes: police:  Late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile is a suspect in 199 crimes, including 31 allegations of rape, police said today, adding that the scale of his alleged crimes was "unprecedented" in Britain. Ten weeks after Scotland Yard began investigating claims that Savile was a paedophile, the London force confirmed that 589 people had come forward with information, of which 450 related to Savile, mainly alleging sex abuse. 

Some 80 per cent of the victims were children or young people, police said, while 82 per cent who claimed they had been abused were female. "These levels of reporting of sexual abuse against a single individual are unprecedented in the UK," Scotland Yard said in a statement.
00:23  Top headlines in the past 24 hours:  
Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar passes away

Supreme Court frees Pak scientist Dr Khalil Chishti

Govt orders judicial probe into Walmart lobbying

Zee boss ready for lie-detector test, his editors refuse

RPI supports Shiv Sena on Shivaji Park renaming issue

LPG cap issue: EC lets Moily off with warning

PMO rejects Modi's claim on Sir Creek

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