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Syrian forces launch all-out Damascus assault

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July 20, 2012


23:50  Syrian forces launch all-out Damascus assault:  Syrian forces launched an all-out assault on opposition strongholds in Damascus today, a day after rebels seized crossings on the Iraq and Turkey borders on the 16-month conflict's deadliest day so far. 

Rebel fighters also clashed with troops in several neighbourhoods of Aleppo in what a human rights watchdog said was the fiercest fighting so far in Syria's second city. At the United Nations, the Security Council voted unanimously to give one final 30-day extension to a troubled observer mission that was supposed to be overseeing a peace plan for Syria but which suspended its operations on June 16 in the face of mounting violence. 

The vote came after emergency consultations just hours before the expiry of the 300-strong mission's mandate after Russia threatened to use its veto powers as a council permanent member for the second time in as many days. State television trumpeted the news of the military's Damascus offensive.
23:14  New York boosts security after 'Batman' shootings:  New York City police announced today security was being stepped up at movie theaters showing the new Batman film after a deadly shooting spree at a screening in the US state of Colorado. 

"As a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the wake of the horrendous shooting in Colorado, the New York City Police Department is providing coverage at theaters where the 'The Dark Knight Rises' is playing in the five boroughs," police chief Raymond Kelly said in a statement. 

The announcement came hours after a masked attacker opened fire at a packed premiere of the movie near Denver, killing at least 12 people and wounding almost 40. Chaos erupted when the gunman tossed some kind of grenade into the audience at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," then shot at terrified patrons as they scrambled for the exit.
23:12  UNSC approves 30-day extension for Syria monitors:  UN Security Council today unanimously agreed to extend the UN monitoring mission in Syria for 30 days, agreeing to consider further extension only if the government and rebels there cease the use of heavy weapons and stop violence.

The 15-nation Council voted to adopt the British-drafted resolution a day after permanent members Russia and China vetoed another resolution that would have threatened President Bashar Al Assad's regime with sanctions if Syrian authorities did not stop using heavy weapons and withdrew troops from towns and cities within 10 days. 

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was established in April with an initial 90-day mandate, which expired today.
23:01  Baba Ravdev says he would never contest election:  Yoga guru Baba Ramdev today said he had taken a vow never to contest elections. Talking to reporters here, Ramdev said, "I will never contest an election.... it's my "Bhisma pratigya". But I will keep fighting against the systemic ills." 

When asked if he was going to play a king-maker like 'Chanakya', the yoga guru said, "If I say about this, a new row would start." Wishing luck to Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi who had yesterday said he would play a more active role in the party and the government, Ramdev said "The prince should try to get a strong Lokpal Act passed and bring back black money stashed in foreign banks."
23:00  Rave party: Ganguly stands by Rahul Sharma:  Former India captain Sourav Ganguly today stood behind under-fire Rahul Sharma who tested positive for drugs in a rave party in May, saying the young leg-spinner probably committed the "mistake unknowingly" and he, therefore, should not lose his place in the national team for the offence. 

The Mumbai Police today confirmed that Rahul along with South African cricketer Wayne Parnell, who were arrested at a rave party in Juhu on May 20, tested positive for drugs. They are among the 100-odd people who were detained by the police on that day. 

"It's disappointing but I think, it's a mistake more than a routine thing. He's a young boy, he had gone for a party where probably I am not sure whether knowingly or unknowingly, he had it," Ganguly said.
22:46  Brazil removes diplomats from Syria:  Brazil's Foreign Ministry says it has removed nearly all diplomats from its embassy in Syria because of heavy fighting there. The ministry says in an emailed statement today that the diplomats are now stationed in Beirut. 

The ministry emphasised it's not closing the embassy. It says a diplomat remains in Damascus to attend to any Brazilians in the Middle Eastern country. Fighting between government troops and rebels has been raging in Syria's capital Damascus, with hundreds being killed in recent days.
22:37  Death toll rises to 68 in Zanzibar ferry accident:  The bodies of 68 victims of this week's ferry accident in Zanzibar have been recovered, the acting minister for disaster management Ali Juma Shamuhuna said today. 

The real toll from the disaster is likely to be more than twice that as officials have been saying since last morning there is no hope of any of the 77 passengers still reported missing being found alive. 

Moreover, while Tanzanian officials said the passenger list indicated 290 people were on board the MV Skagit when it sank on Wednesday, survivors said the vessel was overloaded. Around 145 survivors have been rescued.
21:59  NCP wants to pull out of UPA government:  The Nationalist Congress Party has decided to pull out of the UPA government and support it from outside in protest against the way the party was treated by Congress, creating fresh trouble for the ruling coalition.       

Party supremo Sharad Pawar, Minister for Agriculture, and the only other representative in the Union Cabinet, Praful Patel, Minister for Heavy Industry, have informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that they are tendering their resignation.       

In a separate communication to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Pawar has said NCP, which has nine members in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Rajya Sabha, will stay part of the UPA.
21:26  Juhu rave case: Rahul Sharma tests positive:   NDTV reports: IPL cricketers Rahul Sharma and Wayne Parnell have tested positive for drugs at a rave party held in Mumbai's suburban Juhu on May 20. They are among the 100-odd people who were detained by the Mumbai Police.

Read the full story here
21:09  Balkrishna's arrest an attempt to scare me: Ramdev:  Hours after the arrest of his close aide Balkrishna, Yoga guru Ramdev on Friday alleged that the government was taking such steps to scare him and break his resolve in the fight for bringing back black money stashed abroad.
20:54  Guj HC rejects Sanjeev Bhatt's plea:  The Gujarat high court on Friday rejected the plea of suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt to set asidecriminal procedure initiated against him in the 1990 custodialdeath case.

After the pronouncement of the order, Bhatt's advocateI H Syed requested for a stay on it for four weeks to enablehim to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
20:11  Reddy was ready to offer Rs 100 cr: ACB:  A lower court judge arrested ina case related to cash-for-bail scam involving formerKarnataka minister Gali Janardhana Reddy, has allegedly saidthat Reddy's relatives were ready to offer as much as Rs 100crore to secure bail for him.

K Lakshmi Narasimha Rao, Chief Judge of Small CausesCourt, arrested by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau, confessedthat Dasaradharami Reddy, a relative of Gali Janardhana Reddy,had made the offer, according a remand application filed bythe ACB a few days ago.

19:42  Services yet to resume in full earnest:  

The strike has been called off, but it will take a while for the services to resume. Our advice is to wait for the services to begin in full earnest as the roads leading to the suburbs and to town are jammed.

19:40  30 minutes to an hour for crowds to clear:  

Approximately 4.5 hours is all it took for the motormen on the Western Railway to get the city on its knees. However, it will take at least another 30 minutes to an hour for the crowds at the stations to ease.

Motormen say some of their demands have been met.

19:37  Mumbai WR motormen strike called off:  The flash strike called by Western Railway motormen has been called off. 

Hormond Motha, PRO of Western Railway, speaking to rediff.com from Churchgate Station, confirmed that the strike has been called off.

Thousands of commuters are currently stranded in stations across Mumbai, after the motormen went on a strike during peak hour.
19:35  At Churchgate commuters destroy railway property:  At Churchgate station, Kumbh-mela like crowds. Despite the police bandobast, angry commuters damage railway property. Situation threatens to get worse though the PRO tells us that few services to Borivali and Virar have started.  
19:33  Mumbai WR motormen strike called off:   At Churchgate station, Kumbh-mela like crowds. Despite the police bandobast, angry commuters damage railway property. Situation threatens to get worse though the PRO tells us that few services to Borivali and Virar have started.  
19:20  BEST is running extra 140 buses between Churchgate and Dadar because of the Western Railway Strike, but be warned, roads are jammed. 
19:18  Borivali, Virar services resume every 15 minutes :  OK, good news trickling in...
Western Railway PRO Hormand Mohta speaking to Rediff.com's Ganesh Nadar says that train services to Virar and Borivali have resumed. One train, every 15 minutes, which means one train every half an hour for Borivali and likewise for Virar. 
19:11  The great English-Hindi channel divide. All Hindi news channels covering the local train strike, skimpy coverage on English channels.
Aaj Tak says there is a traffic jam that stretches from Nariman Point to Girgaum. The Western Express Highway is jammed as well. 
19:05  WR motormen went on strike 4 times in 2010 :  Railway sources, said the motormen (as drivers of suburban trains are called) have for long been demanding providing co-motormen to help them in the operations besides addressing several safety-related issues.

The Western line operates between Churchgate in the south of the megapolis to Virar on Mumbai's outskirts. Western line motormen had gone on a flash strike on August 19 last year also demanding reinstatement of a colleague who was to be discharged from his duties.

In 2010, the WR motormen went on strike four times,i.e. in January, February, May and October.


On Twitter, Mumbaikars swear murder (we will skip the details for the gruesome content) for the striking motormen.
19:00  On Twitter: Western Railway still shut. Hordes of people walking on Railway tracks between Bandra & Mahim
18:58  IBN 7 says the Mumbai rail strike is likely to be resolved soon.
18:52  Cong Core Group discusses NCP's woes, "all solved":  Just In: The Congress Core Group discusses grievances of NCP; matter settled, say sources. Details soon.
18:37  @ankitv: Western Railway Trains r hit due to motormen strike! I'm going frm Andheri Lokhandwala 2 Mahalxmi by car at arnd 7pm, can accomodate 4 ppl.
18:36  Approximately 445 motormen have joined the strike shutting down the suburban lifeline completely.
18:29  And the roads are jammed as well :  @bhogleharsha please rt...western express highway is chocked due to #mumbai local strike 

@smitharnair Traffic jams on roads as western railway services pretty much halted- cops along roads asking motorists to accomodate ppl in cars

@nisrinshinde BEST to runs 114 extra buses between Dadar & Churchgate & ST announces more buses as western railway service collapse in mumba
18:27  Strike still on, but one local allowed to run:  Western Railway PRO Hormand Mohta speaking to Rediff.com's Ganesh Nadar says the first local train since the strike began, a Borivali slow from Churchgate has just left. Mohta says more such locals will be available in a bit. Negotiations with the striking motormen's union are on.
18:23  TV images showing chaos at Dadar station, usually one of the most crowded at any hour.

Ironically, one of the demands of the striking motormen is protection from angry commuters. They say they are pulled out and beaten up when services are disrupted when it's not their fault.

They also want their work schedule to be revised saying they are overworked. 

18:11  Batman screening death toll revised to 12:  Update on the Denver shooting: The gunman was named as Aurora resident James Holmes, by FBI and Department of Homeland Security sources. Police have revised down the death toll from 14 to 12 with 38 injured. 
18:06   Just two months ago, motormen on both the Western and Central railway went on strike demanding higher wages. The two-day strike hit services entirely and inconvenienced commuters. While the government provided extra BEST buses to ferry commuters, long distance trains were also pressed into service.

Railways had indicated it would hold discussions with the Maharashtra government on invoking ESMA against the striking motormen if the situation does not improve.

However, as the strike ended on day 3, the meeting did not take place.
18:01  Shashi Kapoor undergoes successful cataract surgery:  Actor Shashi Kapoor was admitted to the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital for cataract surgery. The procedure went well and he will be discharged today.
17:48  @Umang20294WTH! Total mess due to #Mumbai's Western Railway motormen going on strike. Most trains getting cancelled. Huge rush on all stations. :-|
17:43  Mumbai mayhem: Train services on WR halt:  Rediff.com's Vipin Vijayan who is at Mahim station reports that a few fast trains heading to Churchgate from Andheri have just whizzed by. Probably the last few trains that are being allowed to ply. Announcements at the platform ask passengers to make alternate arrangements.

Earlier, the WR PRO said passengers would be allowed to use long-distance trains.
17:39  On Twitter:  @rubenmasc Western Railway comes to a grinding halt... No trains between Churchgate and Virar! Chaos rains supreme @ Malad Station!

@RealAdityaGupta Western Railway Strike in mumbai! Leave for home now.. start the weekend early :P

17:35  Railways: Motormen did not inform us about strike:  Approximately 34 lakh people travel on Western Railway and given that peak hour has already begun, the evening promises to be chaotic. Train services to CST on the Western Railway have also been stopped. Announcements at train stations say that the motormen have reported sick. Railways say they were not informed about the strike.
17:26  Mumbai: WR motormen go on flash strike:   Nearly 450 motormen belonging to the Western Railway on Friday went on a strike demanding the better conditions and the implementation of sixth pay commission, reports DNA.

The motormen strike is likely to cause great inconvenience to the thousands of local commuters during the peak hour, as they rely on local train services in their day to day life.

If the strike continues, Mumbai's lifeline Western line traffic has come to a grinding halt. The strike is expected to affect the movement of rail traffic on the Churchgate to Virar route.

Motormen of the Western Railway have been agitating for the past few months to implement the Sixth Pay Commission, which will ensure that they are above guards in terms of grade pay, maintain the old formula for calculating running allowance and provide for assistant motormen.

However, the Motormen Association has apologised to the common public for being forced to halt work since the government and rail officials were not listening to them
17:20  Western Railway confirms strike, negotiations with motormen are on... WR has asked commuters to take express trains if needed, says Western Railway PRO.
17:09  TMC sticks to its stand on FDI:  The Trinamool Congress today said that it is sticking to its pre-election stance on opposition to FDI in retail, privatisation of pension funds and forward trading. Mukul Roy said today, "Whenever these will be brought in the form of bills in Parliament we will sit and decide."

"On issues which will hit the common man we will not budge from our stand. We will stick to our pre-election commitments about these," he said when asked about his party's stance on forward trading, FDI entry in multi-brand retail and pension sector reforms.

The Centre yesterday deferred consideration of a bill that sought to amend an existing act to give more powers to commodity markets regulator FMC because of opposition from Trinamool Congress.

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee had yesterday formed a six-member committee of party MPs ahead of monsoon session of Parliament to examine tabled and proposed bills.
16:36  Mumbai ATS gets 26/11 handler Abu Jundal's custody:  Just in: Mumbai Anti-terrorism Squad has been given 26/11 handler Abu Jundal's custody.

After interrogation, Jundal will handed back to the Delhi police. Four different probe agencies approached a Delhi court today for seeking the custody of 26/11 plotter Abu Jundal Hamza for his alleged involvement in different cases.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav on July 5 granted Delhi Police the custody of Jundal for 15 days, rejecting the pleas of other probe agencies. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Gujarat Police, the Mumbai police and the Pune police are keen to take him into their custody for questioning.
16:21  What is Sharad Pawar up to?:  Just when the Congress party thought it had its coalition allies where it wanted them after Mamata Banerjee's embarrassing climbdown over the presidency, Sharad Pawar has stepped in to keep things interesting.

Read the report
16:15  In pictures: Shooting at Denver cinema Batman screening:  See the pictures. The toll stands at 14 dead, 50 injured.

16:05  Bangladesh war graves: India to help locate fighters' remains:  Meanwhile, India has said it is "committed" to finding the graves and handing over the remains of fighters who perished in Bangladesh's 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan. Read
15:59  Olympic spirit, British style: When will the nightmare end?:  In London, the world arrives for the Olympics, but the Brits are unhappy.

Londoners are practicing some of their own favorite sports: complaining, expecting the worst and cursing the authorities. Read
15:55  On Twitter: In Mumbai, around a 100 motormen of the Western Railway have gone on strike with only an hour to go for the peak hour to begin. Details awaited.
15:46  Children, baby among 14 dead:  CNN quoted one witness as saying he saw a "guy slowly making his way up the stairs and firing, picking random people". It said local hospitals were alerted to a "mass casualty incident".

The Telegraph says that as people ran this gunman opened fire hitting people. Police sources have told us there are at least 10 bodies inside the cinema, most of them children or teenagers, and one baby.

A baby was shot at point blank range, the family were gathered around screaming."
15:37  EC rejects Mulayam's vote in Prez poll:   In other news...

The Election Commission today rejected Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav's vote in the Presidential poll and directed the Returning Officer (RO) not to count it as the secrecy of the ballot had been violated.

"The issue of second ballot paper to Mulayam Singh Yadav was not warranted under rule 15 of the Presidential and Vice- Presidential Elections Rules, 1974. Therefore, the second ballot paper issued to Yadav may not be taken up for counting," the Commission said.

The poll panel also directed the RO that the first ballot paper issued to Yadav cannot be counted as its secrecy was violated. In a faux pas, Yadav had yesterday cast his vote in favour of BJP-backed candidate P A Sangma instead of UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee but realised his mistake to make a correction.

Yadav, who was among the early voters, after marking his vote for Sangma, tore the ballot paper and sought a fresh one from the polling officer, according to sources. The SP chief then marked his correct preference on the fresh ballot paper. The ballot paper carrying the incorrect entry made by Yadav was deposited with the polling officer, the sources said.

The Sangma camp had lodged a complaint with the RO, V K Agnihotri, who is the Lok Sabha Secretary General, and sought cancellation of the second ballot paper issued to Yadav.
15:26  ABC reports that the suspect who is in custody made a reference to explosives at his residence, so police have evacuated a building in North Aurora. The theatre has been secured, and the forensic work and the handling of the people inside will go on for some time, reports ABC. 
15:20  Moviegoers thought gunfire came from movie next door:  All of the wounded suffered from gunshot wounds, which ranged from minor to critical, said Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman at the University of Colorado Hospital. "They're arriving by police, by ambulance. Some are walking in," she said.

Moviegoers told CNN that there was confusion in the theatre when the shooting began because many believed the sound of gunfire was coming from the movie next door.
15:14  Assailant was carrying three kinds of guns:  Aurora is a suburb of Denver near the scene of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which 13 people were shot dead and another 24 were wounded. So far, this is what we have...

A man wearing a body armour and a gas mask began shooting during the screening of the Batman movie, the Dark Knight Rises, at a mall in the Denver suburb of Aurora in the US. One person has been taken into custody as police sweep the the theatre and determine whether a second person was involved. The suspect is in his earlier 20s. The gunman was carrying three kinds of guns, and a gas device. It is yet to be ascertained whether it was a tear gas.

The first call came in to the police at 12:39 am. Eyewitnesses say the response from the police was immediate.

The toll has gone up to 14 dead and at least 50 injured -- 10 people died in the theatre while the others died in hospital.
15:00  Toll goes up: 14 dead, 15 injured at Batman premiere:  Early reports on ABC news say one person taken into custody.The Sun, UK, reports that the number of dead are 12 with up to 40 injured.
The assailant apparently went to the front of the screen, released a gas cannister and started shooting.
CNN now reports that the toll has gone up to 10, with four of the injured dead.
14:54  One gunman, not two :  Earlier reports said there were two gunmen, but eyewitnesses confirm that there was just one man wearing a gas mask. Moviegoers say the man was wearing body armour and began shooting during the screening. The theatre is at a mall in the Denver suburb of Aurora, US. 
14:46  A makeshift hospital was set up at the mall to treat those wounded in the attack.Police closed off surrounding parking lots as sniffer dogs were brought in to search for a suspected explosive device.
14:45  Gunman were a gas mask:  The Telegraph, UK, reports:

The gun man reportedly opened fire after 30 minutes of the showing of The Dark Knight Rises and also set off a smoke or tear gas bomb.Brenda Stuart, from 850 KOA Radio, said: "This started with a midnight showing of the new Dark Knight movie and the theatres were packed that were showing this movie."People inside tell us they thought it was part of the movie. They heard what they thought were firecrackers, loud bangs and all of a sudden they saw the bullets flying."Police officers are carting the injured to the hospital in their own cars, not waiting for the ambulances."
14:41  Two masked gunmen shoot dead 10 at Batman screening:  The BBC reports that the Swedish Medical Center, which is not the area's main hospital, it had received three gunshot victims.Many ambulances are at the scene and it not clear if there is an active manhunt for the shooter.

NBC News reports that one suspect was in custody.A witness told 9News that during a shooting scene in the film he heard loud bangs and a lot of smoke and initially thought they were live special effects put on by the cinema.

Projectiles came through the wall from the neighbouring theatre screening, where it appears the shooting occurred.
14:37  Gunmen kill 10, injure 40 in Batman screening in US:   Two gunmen have shot dead 10 people and wounded 30 to 40 others at a showing of new the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises in the US city of Denver last night.
 
A figure in a gas mask had opened fire at the showing in a mall in the suburb of Aurora and set off a smoke or tear gas. It said initial police estimates were of 30-40 injured. The masked gunman had at least one accomplice.

The midnight showing was taking place at the Century 16 Theatre in Aurora.

Read more on the Independent. 

Also read: The Front Row: Shah Rukh Khan on Batman, his future
14:27  'Congress a sinking ship; none of its allies are happy':  The BJP today took potshots at the ruling Congress party over reports of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar offering to resign for not being given the number two position in the government, saying it is an old habit of the UPA to impose pressure on its allies and insult them.

Read the report on rediff.com.
14:13  PM to sulking Pawar: You are a valued colleague:   PM Manmohan Singh reaches out to sulking Sharad Pawar, and describes him as "very valued colleague".

NCP chief Sharad Pawar today held a meeting with his party leaders over the treatment meted out to the party. While Praful Patel was already waiting at Pawar's residence, other NCP leaders Tariq Anwar and D P Tripathi later joined them. The NCP leaders are weighing their options.
14:06  For those of you in Mumbai, heading towards Bandra, avoid Reclamation. The roads are clogged with traffic, possibly due to the media frenzy around Lilavati Hospital where Uddhav Thackeray had an angioplasty today.  
14:03  The importance of being Sharad Pawar :  Even by the pace of political deal-making and abject surrender that we've come to expect of a feckless Congress, this morning's meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and NCP leader Sharad Pawar was extraordinarily swift in ironing out a political quick-fix.

Read the story on Firstpost.com
13:50  Jaswant Singh files nomination for vice-prez polls:  NDA's nominee Jaswant Singh today filed his nomination papers for the Vice Presidential poll in the presence of opposition leaders including L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Sharad Yadav. 74-year-old Singh, whose candidature was declared by NDA on July 16, filed his papers before Returning Officer T K Viswanathan, who is the Lok Sabha Secretary General.

Three sets of papers- one each by L K Advani, Sumitra Mahajan and Yashwant Sinha- supporting Singh's candidature were submitted. Soon after filing his nomination, Singh said elections to the high offices of President and Vice-President are "historic moments".
13:46  EGoM recommends 2G price at Rs 14,000 crore:  Just in: The empowered group of ministers (EGoM, headed by home minister P Chidambaram) asks the Cabinet to take final call on the reserve price of spectrum auction, says Kapil Sibal. The EGoM recommends Rs 14000 cr to Rs 18,000 cr as the reserve price for 2G spectrum.

As per the new rollout obligations announced on Wednesday, the winners at the auction -- both new players and incumbents -- will have to cover 10% of block headquarters in the third year, 20% of the blocks in the fourth year and 30% of the blocks in the fifth year.

As per existing norms, operators have to cover 10% of the district headquarters within the first year of allotment of spectrum.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had earlier recommended that operators should cover 50% of villages having population of over 2,000 people in three years and 100% in four years from the date spectrum is allocated to them.
13:29  More reasons why Pawar is miffed with Cong:  More updates on the NCP-Cong relationship.Our sources in Delhi tell us that Sharad Pawar is also concerned about union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde being made the Leader of Lok Sabha. The NCP suggested that there should be a coordination committee to sort out the issue during the upcoming Parliament session

Pawar feels that while the Prime Minister would frequently consult him on issues of internal and external security, the government did not make Pawar a Member of the Cabinet Committee on Security.
13:14  US cuts aid to 'traitor' Pak by US$ 650 million:  In other news, the US House of Representatives has unanimously voted to cut military aid to Pakistan by a whopping USD 650 million, with a top Republican lawmaker calling the country "Benedict Arnold", the most well-known traitor in American history.

The amendment to cut the aid, which was proposed by Republican Congressman Ted Poe, passed on the floor of the House with a voice vote. Poe had demanded a USD 1.3 billion cut, but settled for the USD 650 million cut.

The measure will now go to Senate for approval. "Pakistan is the 'Benedict Arnold' to America in the war on terror. They are disloyal, deceptive and a danger to the United States," said Poe, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
13:03  Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi reacting to Praful Patel's comments says he will not comment about what allies are saying.
13:01  Pawar worried about Uddhav-Raj unity:  Our sources in Delhi tells us that Sharad Pawar is also concerned over the erosion of his political base in Maharashtra if the two Thackerays -- Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray's MNS -- come together. Pawar, apparently, waited for one week to vent as he did not want to upset the presidential polls. 
12:57  Train collision: 12 trains cancelled, many diverted:  Rail traffic was today disrupted on the Kalyan-Kasara section of the Central Railway with 12 trains cancelled and over a dozen others diverted after the Vidharbha Express collided with derailed bogies of a local train leaving one person dead and 13 injured.

Even as the restoration work on the affected track was on, six long distance trains have been cancelled, nine trains have been short-terminated while over a dozen have been diverted on alternate routes, a railway spokesman said. Six suburban train services between CST and Kasara have also been cancelled besides local train services on the Asangaon-Kasara section, causing inconvenience to a lot of daily commuters on the route.

One person was killed, four were injured seriously, and nine sustained minor injuries when Mumbai-Gondia Vidarbha Express collided with derailed bogies of a local train between Kasara and Umbermali last night. The deceased has been id
12:45  Subhash Chandra Bose's compatriot Sehgal still critical:  Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, a compatriot of Subhash Chandra Bose, who was admitted to hospital yesterday following a cardiac arrest, still continued to be in "very critical" condition, family sources said.

"Sehgal's condition is very critical. There has been no significant improvement," Sehgal's daughter Subhashini Ali told reporters here today. She has been placed in ICU and is under observation by a team of doctors, Ali added. Sehgal (97), who was ill for some time, was admitted to hospital last morning after she suffered a heart attack at her residence in Civil Lines area here.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat have visited the hospital last evening to enquire about her health conditions. Captain Lakshmi Sehgal was very active in the independence movement of India and commanded the 'Rani of Jhansi Regiment' of INA, formed by Subhash Chandra Bose.
12:40   Just in: The Supreme Court appoints a high-powered committee to look into the issue of the growing number of casualties of Amarnath pilgrims.
12:29  On the resignations, Praful Patel says that unless the resignations are accepted, both Pawar and himself will continue to remain cabinet ministers.

No comebacks from the Congress on the resignation letters.  
12:23  Absurd to call Pawar leader of a small party: NCP:   Praful Patel says that it is absurd to call Mr Pawar the leader of a small party. He says the NCP has been one of the pillars of the government. He says Pawar enjoys his position because of his stature. He reiterates that Pawar is not a petty man to raise such a petty issue (the number 2 slot in the Cabinet).

Patel says the issues, the problems the NCP has with the Congress has not been raised earlier because of the Presidential polls.
12:12  Issue is not about resignations: Patel :  Praful Patel says the NCP will meet on Monday to decide the future course of action. He admitted that there have been problems with the Congress and that the party must be more decisive, but he slammed the Congress for raising unnecessary speculations.

On rumours of resignations, Praful Patel said that "the issue is not about resignations. It's only a communication that has been raised to the PM. We would first likely to discuss the issue within the party itself on Monday."
12:07  Praful Patel: Pawar not petty to raise #2 issue :  Senior NCP leader Praful Patel addresses the press meeting after the party met a while ago.

Patels says the NCP is the most important and responsible ally of the UPA and the strength of the party.

He said that NCP chief Sharad Pawar had raised a communication to the Prime Minister yesterday. Patel said Pawar had raised about the problems with the Congress and that the Congress and NCP must gear up for the 2014 polls. There are some sections of people in the Congress party which have been fueling unnecessary speculation.

Patel said, "The issue of #2 has been thrown out of proportion. Mr Pawar in Parliament sits right next to Sonia Gandhi or Pranab Mukherjee. The issue is absurd. His stature is far more and the Congress realises that Mr Pawar brings far more to the table and he is not such a petty leader to raise such an issue."

  
11:57  NCP meet ends, compromise with Cong likely:  After meeting Sonia Gandhi for about half an hour, NCP chief Sharad Pawar headed for his residence where he held confabulations with his party leaders. While Praful Patel was already waiting at Pawar's residence, other NCP leaders Tariq Anwar and D P Tripathi later joined them. The NCP leaders are weighing their options.

However, there was no official word as to what transpired at the meeting. Instead of his official vehicle, Pawar used his daughter's personal car to drive down to Sonia Gandhi's residence this morning. The NCP leaders remained huddled in the meeting at Pawar's residence from 10 am, which was still on.
11:53  Time to stop partying, Rahul:  In the eight years since he was elected to Parliament from Amethi, Rahul Gandhi has shown a lot of political promise but little else.

That's the Hindu's editorial today. Read
11:52  Gilani's son wins parliamentary seat vacated by him:  Pakistan People's Party leader Yousuf Raza Gilani's son has won a parliamentary seat in Punjab province that was vacated by former prime minister after being disqualified by the Supreme Court last month. 
11:42  Patels burn midnight oil for compromise formula :  Our sources in Delhi tell us that the crisis in the UPA2 has blown over after NCP senior leader Praful Patel and Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel worked out a peace formula. Apparently, both have been burning the midnight oil to bring about a solution to the crisis.

Sonia Gandhi said that she felt the absence of the articulate Pranab Mukherjee, always called upon as a troubleshooter. Sonia is believed to have also conveyed to Sharad Pawar the compulsions of the Congress.
11:25  Warship INS Sahyadri to be commissioned tomorrow:  To further enhance its stealth and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, the Indian Navy will be commissioning one of its most advance warships INS Sahyadri on July 21 at Mumbai-based Western Naval Command headquarters.

The warship, which is last of Project-17 undertaken by Indian Navy, will be commissioned into service by Defence Minister A K Antony in presence of Admiral Nirmal Verma and other senior naval officials.

The 4,900-tonne INS Sahyadri is equipped with some of the most advance surface and air-to-air missiles and can carry two helicopters -- a mix of Dhruv, Sea King or Kamov -- onboard for various missions.
11:23  Police now say that the Naxals have fled the area and firing has stopped. No one from the police team was injured in the firing, police said, adding that search operations were still on. 
11:22  Naxal-CRPF encounter :  There has been an encounter between CRPF jawans and Maoists in Kaneri forest in Dhanora taluka of the district today. The firing between the two sides began at around 7.30 am and was still continuing, police said. Acting on a tip-off that there was a Naxal hideout in the forest area, jawans of CRPF 192 battalion rushed to the site. On seeing the forces, the ultras started firing at them and in retaliation police also opened fire.
11:14  Ex-Army Chief V K Singh, 4 others get bail in defamation case:  An ex-Army Chief and four top serving officers, including Vice Chief of Army Staff, today appeared before a Delhi court following summons against them in a criminal defamation case. They were all granted bail.

Former Army Chief Gen V K Singh, Vice Chief of Army Staff S K Singh, Lt Gen B S Thakur (Director General of Military Intelligence), Major General S L Narshiman (Additional Director General of Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney appeared before the court in the case filed by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh.

All the five accused were granted bail by Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja on a personal bond of Rs 20,000 each. In his complaint, Tejinder Singh has accused them of misusing their official position, power and authority to level false charges against him.

Tejinder Singh had filed the complaint alleging that he was defamed by the Army through its press release issued on March 5, which accused him of offering a bribe of Rs 14 crore to the erstwhile Army Chief to clear a deal of 600 trucks, a charge refuted by him.
11:06  Bond of brothers as Uddhav undergoes angioplasty:  The two cousins, once inseparable, were estranged for six years till earlier this week, when Uddhav was admitted to hospital with chest pain where he underwent an angiography.

Raj was in Alibaug then and upon hearing the news, rushed back to Mumbai. That same evening, he drove Uddhav home in his Mercedes.

Then, at Matoshree, Raj spent over 30 minutes with Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, his uncle. He has since made several visits to the Thackeray residence.

Raj, however, has insisted that the new closeness is a personal matter. "It's our personal matter, and you should note and respect that," he said. But the buzz about a possible political reconciliation between the two branches of the family will just not die down. 
11:02  Uddhav in hospital for angioplasty, Raj beside him:  In Mumbai, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray will undergo an angioplasty at the Lilavati Hospital today to remove blockages in his arteries.

Uddhav (52) reached Lilavati Hospital in suburban Bandra this morning. Uddhav's estranged cousin and MNS chief Raj Thackeray was also at the hospital. Uddhav had undergone an angiography on July 16 which had revealed three blockages.

There were reports that the Lilavati medical team had strongly recommended a bypass surgery as angiography had shown three blockages.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sainiks organised a 'puja' at the Siddhivinayak Temple at Prabhadevi in Central Mumbai to pray for Uddhav's speedy recovery. The doctors had briefed Uddhav's father Balasaheb Thackeray on Monday on his son's medical condition.

At the time of angiography, Raj had visited him at Lilavati and later drove him to Matoshree bungalow, the Thackeray family home in suburban Bandra.
10:50  Cong to Pawar: No such thing as #2 in cabinet:  Just in: NCP boss Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel have offered to quit from the union cabinet. Pawar is miffed at not being made number 2, a spot taken by defence minister AK Antony.
Congress sources say that Pawar has been told that there is no such thing as the number 2 spot in the Cabinet.
10:45  Sonia-Pawar meet ends:  Sulking NCP leader Sharad Pawar today met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Pawar drove down to 10 Janpath apparently to discuss various issues including Congress' treatment of its allies. Read
10:35  Bangladesh rights abuses under Washington spotlight:  Sharad Pawar's meeting with Sonia Gandhi has ended. Details in a bit.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said in a hearing today that the US government should continue to press Bangladesh to improve on labor issues and women's rights, reform abusive security forces, and meet its obligations to refugees. Read
10:23  Defamation case: V K Singh appears in Delhi court:  
Former Army Chief Gen V K Singh on Friday appeared in a Delhi court following summonses issued against him in a criminal defamation case filed by Lt Gen(retd) Tejinder Singh. 

Besides Gen V K Singh, the other four named in the complaint and have been summoned are Vice Chief of Army Staff S K Singh, Lt Gen B S Thakur (DGMI), Major General S L Narshiman (Additional Director General of Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney.

In his complaint, Tejinder Singh has accused them of misusing their official positions, power and authority to level false charges against him. 

Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja on June 8 had directed them to appear before him saying all the five have been "summoned as accused in the present matter".

The court, however, had said the summons are only for the alleged offence of defamation as the allegation of hatching a criminal conspiracy appeared to be "absurd".

Tejinder Singh had filed the complaint alleging that he was defamed by the Army through its press release issued on March 5, which accused him of offering a bribe of Rs 14 crore to the erstwhile Army chief to clear a deal of 600 trucks, a charge refuted by him. 
09:48  CRPF-Naxal encounter on in Gadchiroli:  
An exchange of gunfire is on between the Central Reserve Police Force and Maoists in the Kaneri forest near Pendhri in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra since early Friday morning, police said.

The firing between the two sides began at around 7.30 am and was still continuing, police said.

Acting on a tip-off regarding the Naxal hideout in the forest area, personnel belonging to the CRPF 192 batallion rushed to the site.

On seeing the forces, the Naxals opened firing.

Further details are awaited. 
09:40  I have not resigned from UPA govt: Pawar:  
The NCP on Friday sought to push the Congress leadership into a corner with its two senior leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel believed to have resigned from the Union cabinet aggrieved over a variety of issues including no 2 slot for Pawar and Congress' treatment of its allies.

Pawar, however, expressed surprise over reports of his resignation and flatly denied them. 

The NCP leaders are expected to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday on the issue.

The agriculture minister who sat in the No.2 seat in the first Cabinet meeting after Mukherjee's resignation but in the next meeting the seat was taken by defence minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony.

This was interpreted as Congress' way of sending a message that Antony was the virtual No.2 in the government.

To add to NCP's anger, Pawar's name had appeared in the No.2 position in the list of Cabinet ministers on the Prime Minister's website but the list itself was removed from the official websites of the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat.

Pawar, a senior leader, had been a Maharashtra chief minister thrice, was defence minister in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet and was once even considered in the race for Prime Ministership.
09:22  Russia, China on wrong side of history: US on Syria veto:  
The Obama Administration has condemned the decision of Russia and China to veto the United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, saying "those who voted against the resolution are on the wrong side of the history."

Thursdays resolution sought sanctions against Syria. However, Russia and China vetoed it, while India was among the 11 countries that voted in favour.

"The decision by a very small minority of the Security Council to veto this action is deplorable and regrettable," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told media persons travelling with him on Air Force One to Florida.

"We need to come together behind a simple proposition that the Syrian President is waging a brutal, murderous campaign against his own people and that we need to come together to do everything we can to bring about a future in Syria that does not include Bashar al-Assad," he said.

"Those who vetoed the measure -- those nations that vetoed the measure are on the wrong side of history. They're on the wrong side of the Syrian people," Carney said.

"We find it highly unfortunate, because it is absurd to send forth unarmed UN observers in the face of the brutality of the Assad regime if the consequences of failing to live up to their commitments, of the Assad regime's commitments, are non-existent. There have to be consequences," he said. 
09:18  India's children neither healthy nor happy:  
India fares poorly among middle-income countries when it comes to overall well-being of children even as the world witnessed significant progress in child health, education and nutrition during the last decade.

India has slipped by 12 ranks since 1995 and is placed 112th in the global "Child Development Index" released by Save the Children, the world's leading independent NGO that works for child rights.

According to the report, which analysed child well-being on three basic parameters of health, education and nutrition since 1995, India's CDI fell by three ranks from 100 to 103 between 1995 and 1999, and by another nine ranks (103 to 112) between 2005 and 2010. Out of 141 countries covered by the report, India is among the 14 whose ranks have dropped, it said.

"It is a wake-up call for India. Save the Children has reiterated economic progress must result in inclusive growth for all, especially the poor and the marginalised," said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children, India.

The CDI, launched in 2008 as a tool to monitor the progress in child well-being, ranks the best and worst places for children and improvements in child well-being globally.

It measures the number of children in school, under five mortality rates and number of underweight children. The three indicators are aggregated by simply calculating the average score between them for each period under review, meaning that each of them has equal weighting in the index scores.
09:15  Fisherman's death: US assures India of thorough probe:  
Seeking to assuage the apprehensions of India, the United States has assured that it would conduct a "thorough and independent" probe into the death of Indian fisherman and would "keep it apprised of full facts of the incident."

Earlier, the US had confirmed that shots fired by its Navy vessel killed the Indian and injured three more off a Dubai port on July 16.

The message was conveyed by the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, in a meeting with the Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, on July 18, according to an embassy statement issued on Thursday. 

"US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R Sherman met Ambassador Rao on July 18 to convey her personal condolences and deep regrets for those Indian nationals killed and injured," it said.

"Under Secretary Sherman conveyed that the US Government was investigating the incident in a thorough and independent manner and would keep the Indian Government apprised of full facts of the incident," the Embassy said.
09:08  Kalyan-Kasara train network hit after mishap:  
The traffic on Kalyan-Kasara section of the Central Railway in Thane district of Maharashtra, was affected due to the collision  between an Express and a local train on Thursday night, will be fully restored by early Saturday morning, a top official said.

One person was killed, four were injured seriously, and nine sustained minor injuries when Mumbai-Gondia Vidarbha Express collided with derailed bogeys of a local train between Kasara and Umbermali on Thursday night.

Officials had put the death toll at three earlier, which was later revised downward to one.

"We will open one of the two lines by Friday mid-night and the second one by Saturday morning," Central Railway General Manager Subodh Jain told PTI at the accident site. 

In the meanwhile, some of the long-distance trains will run via Manmad.

According to Jain, the mishap occurred after the loco pilot of Vidarbha Express applied emergency brakes on spotting the derailed local train on the the tracks. 
09:05  Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel quit UPA govt:  
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and party member Praful Patel have resigned from the United Progressive Alliance government.

The ministers had on Thursday boycotted the meeting of Union Cabinet in New Delhi to show their unhappiness over party leader Sharad Pawar not being given the number two position in the government.

Sulking Agriculture Minister Pawar as well as Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel skipped the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh amid a row over the pecking order in the government that has relegated the NCP chief to the third position.

"We did not attend," NCP spokesman D P Tripathi told PTI. He, however, did not want to give any reasons, merely saying "no comment".

While the Cabinet meeting was on at the PM's residence at 6 pm, Pawar was closetted with Patel and Tripathi at his residence here.

The row erupted after Pranab Mukherjee, who held the de facto post of the number two, quit the government to contest the Presidential poll.
01:45  US Navy helicopter crashes in Oman:  A US Navy helicopter crashed today in Oman during a transport mission, and the fate of its five-member crew is unknown, the US military said, ruling out an attack. 

The MH-53E Sea Dragon, used for long-range mine sweeping, crashed 90 kilometres southwest of the Omani capital Muscat "while conducting heavy lift support operations," the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said. The Fifth Fleet monitors the waters of the Gulf and keeps an eye on Iran. 

"The crash was not due to any sort of hostile activity and the status of the five crew members is still being determined," the statement said. Another MH-53E was on the scene to assist the search and rescue operation.
01:26  US House votes to cut USD 650m in Pakistan aid:  The US House of Representatives has passed an amendment unanimously that cuts down USD 650 million in military aid to Pakistan as Republicans sought to tamp down demands for still deeper reductions. Congressman Ted Poe had demanded a USD 1.3 billion cut, but later settled for the 650 million cut.

"Pakistan is the 'Benedict Arnold' to America in the war on terror. They are disloyal, deceptive and a danger to the United States," Poe, who had moved the amendment, said. "This so-called ally continues to take billions in US aid, while funding the militants who attack us. 

And we've kept the money flowing. It's time we turn off the tap," Poe said in a statement after the amendment was passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
01:25  FBI joins Bulgaria probe into suicide attack on Israelis:  Bulgarian investigators worked with the FBI and Interpol today to identify the suicide attacker behind a deadly bombing on a bus carrying Israeli tourists, as Iran denied involvement. 

US President Barack Obama described the blast at a Black Sea airport yesterday that killed six people plus the bomber a "barbaric terrorist attack" as Israel blamed arch foe Iran and Tehran's "terrorist proxy" Hezbollah. "The suicide bomber, wearing shorts and carrying a backpack, looked like any other tourist," said Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. 

A video released showed a white man with long hair -- possibly a wig -- and sunglasses wandering around the airport in Burgas. Tsvetanov said he appeared to be aged around 26 and that he had a fake driving licence from the US state of Michigan.
00:55  3 killed, 31 injured as trains collide near Nashik:  At least 3 persons were killed 25 people were injured in a collision between a local train and Vidarbha Express near Khardi station near here on Mumbai-Kasara route tonight. 

The mishap took place after 11 bogeys of an EMU train from Kasara going to Kalyan derailed possibly due to landslide, Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said in New Delhi. 

The derailed EMU coaches blocked the adjacent track on which the Vidarbha Express, going from Mumbai to Gondia, came from the opposite direction and collided with EMU bogeys at around 2130 hours, he said.
00:24  Top official defends Obama's immigration policy:  The head of the Homeland Security Department is defending President Barack Obama's decision to stop deporting many illegal immigrants brought to the US as children and let them apply for work permits. 

"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner," Janet Napolitano said in prepared remarks submitted to the House Judiciary Committee. "But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case." 

In the remarks, Napolitano described the plan and defended the administration's decision. The secretary was appearing before Congress for the first time since the plan was announced.
00:21  Top news stories in the last 24 hours:  US issues terror warning on travel to India

MPs line up to vote for India's new President

Bose's lady commander Lakshmi Sehgal hospitalised

Pranab casts his vote with PM, Sonia by his side

Ready for larger role in New Delhi: Rahul

NCW treated Guwahati molestation case as photo op: BJP

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