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K'taka all-party team to meet PM on Cauvery row

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February 13, 2013


22:48  EU regrets Afzal Guru's hanging:  

The European Union has regretted the hanging of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, asking India to put a moratorium on executions. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was with "regret" that she learned of the execution of Afzal Guru last Saturday.         

 

While recognising that "terrible murders" were committed in the attack and aware of the sufferings of the victims and their families, the EU "reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances", Baroness Ashton said in a press statement.         

 

Afzal had been on a death row during the last ten years since he was convicted in December, 2002 for playing a central role in the attack on the Parliament on December 13, 2001 that left nine people dead.         

 

His execution at the Tihar Jail in New Delhi last Saturday comes less than three months after Ajmal Kasab, the only survivor among the perpetrators of the terror strike in Mumbai in 2008, was hanged in November.

22:35  K'taka all-party team to meet PM on Cauvery row:  

An all-party delegation from Karnataka would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday to apprise him of the state's position on the Cauvery issue.    The announcement to take a delegation of floor leaders of both Houses of the state legislature to New Delhi was made by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar in the assembly today.  

 

The BJP government has been facing fire from opposition Congress and JD-S for releasing Cauvery water in compliance with the February seven order of the Supreme Court.   

 

The apex court had directed Karnataka to immediately release 2.44 TMC feet of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu whose plea for 12 TMC ft was refused.  

22:01  I can vouch for S P Tyagi's integrity: Pallam Raju:  HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju, who was minister of state for defence when the deal for procuring 12 choppers from Italian firm Finmeccanica was signed in 2010, today said he can vouch for the integrity of former IAF chief S P Tyagi, whose name has surfaced in the scam.        

"I think it was somebody who was distantly related to him, from what I read in the media reports. But I can vouch for his integrity," Raju told reporters.
21:58  Lawyers Pancholi, Haksar withdraw as counsel to Guru's family:   Lawyers N D Pancholi and Nandita Haksar have withdrawn as counsel to the family of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged at Tihar Jail on Saturday morning.

Further details are awaited.
21:57  Four Maoists arrested in Dantewada district:  Four Maoists were arrested in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh today, said the police.        

"Four Maoists were nabbed by a joint contingent of the district police and the Central Reserve Police Force from forests under the district's Katekalyan police station limits," said Additional Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kukreja.
21:11  Virender Sehwagin Tihar Jail to cheer up inmates:  It was a cricket match with a difference -- two teams on the pitch at Tihar Jail and cricketer Virender Sehwag cheering them up.        

Part of the 'Tihar Olympic', the cricket match between Jail one team and Jail two team, was as nail-biting as a regular ODI.        

Both the teams hit 168 runs drawing the match but Sehwag, the chief guest, decided that the team which hit the maximum number of sixes and fours should be declared the winner.
21:06  SEBI freezes accounts of Sahara chief Subrata Roy:  SEBI has also ordered that bank accounts of top executives, including Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy, be frozen in connection to the investor money refund case.     

SEBI also ordered the attachment of all movable and immovable properties in the name of Subrata Roy and three others
20:53  SEBI freezes accounts of two Sahara firms:  SEBI has reportedly frozen all the bank accounts of two firms of the Sahara Group, their promoters and three directors.

The two firms are Sahara India Real Estate Corporation and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd.

Over 100 bank accounts have been frozen after Sahara Group failed to pay back its investors, said media reports.
20:42  Air pollution 5th largest killer in India: Study:  Air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India as it takes 6.2 lakh lives per year. Delhi is among one of the five most critically polluted regions in the country, a study by a US-based health institute has claimed.        

The other four most critically polluted regions in the country are Ghaziabad, Gwalior, West Singbhum district in Jharkhand and Raipur, according to the study.
20:41  Raj provides free entertainment: Congress, NCP:  The Congress-NCP alliance today hit out at MNS president Raj Thackeray over his speech at Kolhapur, saying he provides "free entertainment" and should take up mimicry.     

Reacting to Raj's statement of Wednesday night, that people should "cut off the hands" of migrants from other states if they indulge in crimes in Maharashtra, NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said Raj was misleading the youth.
20:21  Pope says he's resigning for the 'good of church' :  Looking tired but serene, Pope Benedict XVI told the thousands who gathered for his weekly audience that he was resigning for "the good of the church" an extraordinary scene that unfolded in his first appearance since dropping the bombshell announcement. 

The 85-year-old Benedict basked in more than a minute-long standing ovation when he entered the packed hall for his traditional Wednesday catechism lesson. He was interrupted repeatedly by applause, and many in the audience of thousands had tears in their eyes.
20:06  Britain summons N Korea envoy over nuclear test:  Britain summoned North Korea's ambassador today after the pariah state sparked global fury with its third nuclear test, the Foreign Office said. 

"I summoned North Korea's ambassador today to stress in the strongest terms the UK's condemnation of yesterday's nuclear test," Hugo Swire, a junior foreign minister, said in a statement. 

"This is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, and the UK supports the resolve of the UN to implement more stringent measures against the regime."
19:15  Six journos arrested in UK for phone hacking:  Six journalists, including three women of the erstwhile News of the World tabloid owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch were arrested today by Scotland Yard over allegations of phone hacking. 

Three men and three women, including current employees of News International-owned tabloid The Sun, are being questioned at police stations in London and Cheshire today. 

The arrests were made as part of a new line of inquiry that is separate from allegations under the existing Scotland Yard investigation into the phone hacking scandal called 'Operation Weeting'.
18:44  PIL for SIT probe into chopper deal in SC:  A PIL was today filed in the Supreme Court seeking an apex-court monitored probe by a special investigation team or the Chief Vigilance Commission into the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal. 

The PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma has sought a direction to the ministry of defence to scrap the contract with Italian company Finmeccanica for the supply of 12 AW101 helicopters. 

The helicopters are produced by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland and till now India has already procured three of them to ferry VVIPs. 

The advocate has sought a probe without involving Central Bureau of Investigation which, he alleged, is under the government's control. The petition said despite having information since 2011, no FIR was lodged against Indian citizens allegedly involved in the scam.
18:40  Justice (retired) V Bhaskar Rao is Karnataka Lokayukta:  The Karnataka government today appointed former chief justice of Karnataka High Court Justice (retired) Y Bhaskar Rao as the Lokayukta, a post lying vacant since September 2011.    

Rao succeeds Justice (retired) Shivaraj Patil who resigned from the post of Lokayukta in September 2011 following allegations that he illegally possessed a government site despite owning a house in Bangalore.
18:39  India in touch with Maldives govt on Nasheed issue: MEA:  India is in touch with Maldivian authorities to resolve former President Mohammad Nasheed's arrest issue, a spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs has said.

Nasheed has reportedly sought refuge at the Indian embassy at Male to avoid being arrested.
18:02  Pranab again! Rejects mercy plea by 4 of Veerappan aides:  
President Pranab Mukherjee is learnt to have rejected the mercy plea petitions of four of dreaded sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.

The Supreme Court in January 2004 awarded Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran the death sentence for the killing of 21 policemen in a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993. Originally given life imprisonment by the Mysore court, the foursome were given death by the apex court after the government moved it.

However, so far there has been no confirmation of the move by the President's office, as it is up to the home ministry and/or the Karnataka government to do so.
17:52  Chhattisgarh journalist killed by Maoists, say cops:   Suspected Maoists killed a journalist whose body was found today morning, by slitting his throat, on suspicion that he was a police informer, in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, the police said. 

The police also suspect the involvement of some villagers in the incident as the 45-year-old journalist, Nemi Chand Jain, had an argument with some people of the area a few days ago. 

"He was killed by suspected Maoists," superintendent of police Abhishek Shandilya said. "Jain's bloodstained body was found on the road in Leda village of the area, around four kilometres away from Tongpal village," he added. 

Jain, who worked for the region's Hindi dailies Haribhoomi and Dainik Bhaskar, had gone to the weekly market in Nama village yesterday but he did not return, his relatives said.
17:49  Coast Guard intercepts Pak boat with seven fishermen:  Seven Pakistani fishermen were apprehended along with their boat by the Indian Coast Guard off Mitha Port, for illegally entering Indian waters, an official said. 

"ICG interceptor boat C-401 while on forward area patrol apprehended one Pakistani fishing boat Al-Ramzan, along with seven crew members," he said. "The boat was apprehended at a approximately 69 kilometres from Mitha Port, while it was fishing in Indian waters."

17:47  Comedian Raju Srivastav is SP's candidate from Kanpur:  The Samajwadi Party today announced to field standup comedian and actor Raju Srivastava as party candidate from Kanpur in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. His name was formally announced by SP national general secretary and spokesman Ram Gopal Yadav. 

The party also named Bal Kumar Patel and Radhey Mohan Singh as its candidates from Mirzapur and Ghazipur Lok Sabha seats respectively. 

Raju, who was born in Kanpur, later shifted to Mumbai.  The Kanpur Lok Sabha constituency is presently represented by Union Minister and senior Congress leader Sriprakash Jaiswal.
17:46  Petrol price likely to go up by Re 1, of diesel by 50 paise:  The price of petrol may be hiked by about Re 1 a litre and diesel by 50 paise a litre by this weekend, as oil firms begin to exercise the recently accorded freedom to adjust rates in step with cost. 

State-owned oil firms are losing Rs 1.32 a litre on petrol as international oil rates have firmed up during the last two weeks. They intend to pass on most of the loss to consumer at the next review due on February 15. 

Also, diesel prices may be increased by 40-50 paise a litre in line with the freedom given by the government last month to raise rates of India's most consumed fuel in small dozes every month till such time that the Rs 9.22 a litre loss is completely wiped out.
17:44  Court adjourns Shehla Masood murder trial till March 8:  A special CBI court today adjourned till March 8 the ongoing trial in RTI activist Shehla Masood murder case as the prosecution failed to produce original call records documents as evidence. 

"As prosecution witness Saidutt Bohre could not furnish original call records documents cited as evidence, the special CBI Judge Anupam Srivastava postponed the trial till March 8 on a request by prosecution," senior public prosecutor Hemant Shukla said. 

Bohre, along with another witness Santosh Jadhav -- both employees of mobile service providers -- will now depose before the court on March 8, he said. 

The court will also hear the bail applications moved by alleged shooters Tabish and Saqib Ali 'Danger' on March 8, Shukla said.
17:43  'Photographer Giles Duley was nearly killed after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan. Back home, fighting for his life in hospital, he made himself a promise: to return to Kabul to complete his mission of documenting the savage toll that war takes on civilians. This is his story,' says the blurb in The Guardian online, introducing a brilliant read. 

Read all about Duley's heroism here.
17:30  2 Air India attendants suspended for dereliction of duty:  Two Air India attendants have been suspended following instructions from Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on grounds of dereliction of duty. 

Singh said his ministry will have zero tolerance for any such acts which adversely affect the performance of the airlines. 

Both cabin crew staff have been placed under suspension for non-reporting/ delayed reporting on January 28 for the Delhi- Hyderabad flight No AI-126. This caused the flight to be delayed by 40 minutes, causing inconvenience to passengers.
17:27  Disinvestment target may be raised to Rs 40,000 cr:  Encouraged by the response of foreign investors to the PSU stake sale, the government is proposing to raise the disinvestment target to Rs 40,000 crore in the next financial year by selling equity in 20 companies. 

"As per the discussion within the disinvestment department, initial estimate is that, next year's target will be somewhere around Rs 40,000 crore," official sources said. 

 So far this fiscal, the government has raised Rs 21,500 crore as against the target of Rs 30,000 crore. DoD Secretary Ravi Mathur has already said that government will try to raise Rs 27,000 crore this fiscal ending March.
17:26  Supplementary chargesheet likely in gangrape case tomorrow:  The Delhi police is likely to file a supplementary charge-sheet tomorrow in the gangrape case relating to the robbing of Ramadhar Singh, a vegetable seller, before the accused assaulted the girl in a moving bus on December 16, 2012.

The six accused had allegedly robbed Ramadhar of his day's earnings after luring him into the bus. 

The juvenile, who was acting as the conductor, has been named in this case and a separate charge-sheet will be filed against him before the Juvenile Justice Board. 

Ramadhar, a resident of Sangam Vihar in South Delhi was returning home from the RK Puram market where he used to sell vegetables. He was lured into the bus and was robbed by the accused persons who took away Rs 700 and a mobile phone from the hapless man. 

The police later recovered the looted amount and the mobile phone from the accused.
17:24  'Emotionally overcome', Gulzar cuts short Pak visit:  Renowned poet and lyricist Gulzar today abruptly cut short a visit to Pakistan and returned to India, with film director Vishal Bhardwaj, who accompanied him, saying there were no political or security reasons behind the decision. 

Officials of the Indian high commission in Islamabad dismissed reports in the Pakistani media that Gulzar had been advised to return for security reasons, saying no one from the mission had been in touch with the poet who was on a private visit. 

Bhardwaj, who accompanied Gulzar to Pakistan, said the poet had cut short his visit after being emotionally overcome by a visit to his ancestral village of Kalra near Deena in Punjab province. 

"Gulzar sahab visited the grave of his mentor, an eminent poet named Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi. After that, he visited his birthplace at Deena after 70 years. He was emotionally overwhelmed and stressed and felt uncomfortable after returning to his hotel in Lahore," Bhardwaj told the media.
17:06  'Xi Dada' fan club shuts down as mysteriously as it came up:  The 'Xi Dada' fan club started by a Chinese migrant worker to drum up support for the ruling Communist Party's new leader, Xi Jinping has been shut down, apparently under pressure from officials. 

After maintaining a mysterious profile while posting details of Xi's interactions with people during his tours, Zhang Hongming who revealed his identity three days ago in a media interview caught everyone by surprise by posting a goodbye message on his blog post. 

His blog called 'Fan Club of Learning From Xi' attracted over eight lakh followers. 

'Goodbye. I was happy when I came here, but I'm leaving today with deep feelings ..... Thanks to all the fans [of Xi], perhaps there is no room for us due to limited public understanding, or perhaps there is no room for us in the real world,' Hong Kong-based the South China Morning Post quoted him as saying in his blog post.
17:04  Just In: Defence Acquisition Council clears procurement proposals worth over Rs 1500 crore; defers decision on 197 helicopters for IAF and Army.
16:46  Violence in Assam: Toll 19, Army flag march on:  The Army staged a flag march today in areas hit by violence in Assam's Goalpara district and shoot-at-sight orders issued even as Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said he would recommend a CBI inquiry into the violence in which the toll rose to 19. 

"The toll in the violence in Goalpara district stands at 19. Twelve persons died in police firing, one was killed in arson and looting and six others in clashes," Gogoi told reporters in Guwahati, as indefinite curfew continued in Krishnai and Mornoi areas after violence broke out during panchayat elections yesterday. 

Gogoi said the state government would ask for a CBI investigation and a judicial inquiry would look into lapses and shortcomings on the part of the administration. 

Miscreants opened fire injuring seven persons, including four seriously, in Gobindapur Sala area under Goalpara police station area last night where 10 houses were set ablaze while another five were torched at Rangagora and 20 at Paharsinghpara under Mornoi police station, police sources said in Goalpara.
16:42  Terrorist influx:Britain mulls banning PIA flights:  The British government has reportedly threatened to place a ban on all Pakistan International Airlines flights, due to the fear of influx of Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists after it was found that tens of Afghan nationals are illegally flying into the UK on Pakistani passports. 

According to British officials, more than 50 Afghans bearing Pakistani passports landed in different UK cities from Karachi and Islamabad during the last two months, reports the Daily Times

Sources said that the immigration officer of the British high commission, acting on a tip-off on February 2, offloaded six Afghan citizens from PIA's flight PK-785 set for London. During  investigation, it was revealed that Afghan nationals had paid 25,000 pounds each for sending them to the UK. 

FIA's additional director Sajjad Haider was reportedly found involved in the scandal, the report said.
16:27  Anoushka Shankar throws weight behind One Billion Rise:  Anoushka Shankar, daughter of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, has thrown her weight behind an online campaign demanding an end to crime against women, in the wake of the Delhi gang rape.

The 31-year-old sitarist has invited one billion women and those who love them, via the website Change.org, to walk out, "Dance, rise up, and demand" an end to this violence this Valentine's Day, February 14.

"The campaign 'One Billion Rising' is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, 'Enough! The violence ends now'," the website said.

It also contains a video of Anoushka speaking out for women who have been victims of abuse and asking people to join the campaign."As a child I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly. Growing up, like most women I know, I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things I didn't know how to deal with, I didn't know I could change," said the Indian composer, now living in London.
16:19  Just In: Supreme Court to pronounce order on February 21 on constitution of team for probing the contents of tapes having the conversations of Niira Radia and others
15:35  No ban on newspapers, they chose not to print: Omar:  As several media offices resumed functioning today after a gap of four days, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said there was no ban imposed on publication of newspapers but the dailies had chosen not to print as curfew had made distribution impossible. 

"There is NO ban on newspapers in Kashmir. Papers are choosing not to print because restrictions make delivery of newspapers impossible," Omar wrote on Twitter. He said in case a ban had been imposed on newspapers, it would have been extended to their Internet editions as well, which was not the case.
15:34  CPM wants Italian chopper deal scrapped:  Demanding that the contract for the Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal be scrapped in the wake of bribery charges, the CPI-Marxist today said it would seek the government's response on the issue in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament. 

"The contract for the helicopters should be cancelled. The CBI investigations should be supervised by the Supreme Court and only then the people will have the confidence that we will get to the bottom of this affair," the CPI-M Politbureau said in a statement. 

"It is clear that the UPA government has failed to check high level corruption in defence contracts in the past eight years of its tenure. The helicopter deal is the latest," it said.
15:33  ED may register criminal complaint in VVIP chopper deal:  With the government ordering a CBI probe, the Enforcement Directorate may also register a criminal case of money laundering to probe allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal from an Italian defence and aerospace firm. 

The agency has already been conducting a probe since last year for alleged violation of forex laws in the country in the conduct of this deal. 

Sources said the ED will take a call to register a case under the stringent clauses of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act once the CBI files an FIR and also will take in account its ongoing investigation under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.
15:05  EU wants India to stop executing prisoners:  The European Union has expressed regret over the hanging of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and asked India to put a moratorium on executions. 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was with "regret" that she learned of the execution of Afzal Guru last Saturday. 

While recognising that "terrible murders" were committed in the attack and aware of the sufferings of the victims and their families, the EU "reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances", Baroness Ashton said in a press statement.
14:59  AMU students union to confer life membership on Sonia:  The Aligarh Muslim University Students' Union will confer its honorary life membership on Congress president Sonia Gandhi. 

Making the announcement today, president of the AMUSU Shahzad Alam said they would extend a ceremonial welcome to the Congress president during her visit to the university on February 16 to deliver the convocation address at the 60th Annual Convocation of the institution. 

"We hope that Sonia will express her views on vital issues related to the aspirations of the Indian Muslim community, especially the youth," Alam said.
14:53  Five Cardinals from India in Vatican conclave to elect Pope:  Five Cardinals from India will participate in the conclave at the Vatican in the 'Holy Week' beginning from March 24 and vote to elect the next Pope. 

Only 117 of the total of 206 Cardinals of the Universal Catholic Church will be eligible to vote in the conclave to elect the 266th successor of St Peter as they are below the age of 80 years, deputy secretary general and spokesman of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council Fr Stephen Alathara said. 

"This is perhaps the first time in the two-millennia history of the Church that five cardinals from India have qualified to attend the conclave and vote for electing the Pope," Alathara said. 

They are: Telesphore Toppo (Archbishop of Patna),Oswald Gracias (Archbishop of Mumbai), Mar George Alenchery and Mar Baselios Cleemis, heads of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches and Ivan Dias (Roman Curia), former Archbishop of Mumbai, he added.
14:33  Rahul calls for testosterone weekend meet in Delhi:  Notwithstanding the focus on women, Rahul Gandhi's scheduled interaction with state Congress leaders in New Delhi on Friday and Saturday will virtually be an all-male affair.

This is because barring Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit there is hardly any woman leader in the party who is either the PCC President or CLP leader in any state.

Gandhi's meeting with the PCC chiefs and CLP leaders also assume significance as there are nine Assembly elections scheduled this year and the Lok Sabha polls not far away. The state polls include those in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
14:30  In Kashmir, clashes, dwindling supplies as curfew continues:  The Kashmir Valley is on the fifth day of a government-imposed shutdown begun immediately after the hanging of the militant Muhammad Afzal, also known as Afzal Guru, who comes from the town of Sopore in Baramulla district. Read
14:19  36 dead in stampede, Cong parties with bar dancers:  While the entire nation was in shock after the death of 36 pilgrims in a stampede at the Allahabad railway station, the Congressmen in Barabanki were celebrating Union steel minister Beni Prasad Verma's 73rd birthday.The party took place amid the gyrations of bar dancers, who danced to Bollywood numbers for about two hours. Read more
14:13  Police to scour burned out cabin for remains of fugitive ex-cop:  Authorities will comb through a burned-out cabin in the mountains above Los Angeles on Wednesday for the charred remains of a suspect thought to be an ex-cop who led them on a six-day manhunt climaxing in a shootout there.

Police say even if they find a body in the smoldering rubble it may take some time to determine if it belongs to Christopher Dorner, the 33-year-old former Los Angeles police officer accused of carrying out a revenge-fueled killing spree.
14:08  Helicopter deal: CBI to begin probe in graft allegations:  CBI will soon begin its probe into the alleged payment of the Rs 362 crore bribe in India by an Italian aerospace firm to clear a Rs 3600 crore helicopter deal for ferrying VVIPs.

The agency today received a complaint from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe in the alleged kickback given in the procurement of 12 helicopters produced by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland, CBI sources said here.

A call on whether to conduct a preliminary enquiry or register an FIR would be taken at a high-level meeting scheduled this evening, they said.
13:54  Thai airline's sexy calendar too hot for the government:  Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air has released a sexy calendar featuring models from Maxim magazine. But not everyone in Thailand is comfortable seeing the female form displayed in such a fashion. 

According to Thai media, the Ministry of Culture's Permanent Secretary, Prisana Pongtatpitakkul, says the calendar demonstrates that some businesses refuse to stop using women's bodies as a marketing tool.  See the picture.
13:44  Military paper shoots down broke Navy SEAL's claims :  The former Navy SEAL who said he shot down three bullets in the head of Osama bin Laden is in fact eligible for the same free health care extended to all vets, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes has said.

The newspaper's claim came after it took issue with a report that said that the shooter is 'screwed' as he returns to civilian life and was getting no heath care.

A lengthy profile of the SEAL, released by Esquire magazine, said that the respected vet has retired after 16 years of military service and got little support from the US government. According to the New York Daily News, the name of the piece is 'The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed'.

More on what the Navy Seal said.
13:25  JD(U) appeals to PM to return Guru's body to family:  JDU chief and NDA convener Sharad Yadav has appealed to the Prime Minister to return Afzal Guru's body to his family.

The family of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru yesterday said their only demand was that the Centre return his body to enable them to give him a proper burial.

"We have no other demand...the only thing we want is that Afzal's body be returned to us," Mohammad Yasin, a cousin of Guru, said over phone from Sopore.

He said the family has written a letter to Tihar Jail authorities as well as Deputy Commissioner Baramulla seeking that Guru's body be given to them.
13:21  Pope to make first appearance since resignation shock:  Thousands of the faithful will flock into St. Peter's Square today to bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI at his first public appearance since the shock announcement of his resignation.

The 85-year-old Benedict, who said on Monday that he would step down on February 28 because of his advancing age, will hold a general audience from his window on the square at 0930 GMT.

He will go on to celebrate an Ash Wednesday mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 1400 GMT, his last public mass and one of his last engagements as pope. The mass is traditionally held in the Santa Sabina Church on Rome's Aventine Hill.

On this occasion however it has been moved: out of respect for the outgoing pontiff, and to accommodate the crowd of faithful who will want to mark the end of his eight-year rule -- one of the shortest in the Church's modern history.
13:16  Sea slug's 'disposable penis' surprises:  A sea slug that is able to detach, re-grow and then re-use its penis has surprised scientists.Japanese researchers observed the bizarre mating behaviour in a species called Chromodoris reticulata, which is found in the Pacific Ocean.They believe this is the first creature known that can repeatedly copulate with what they describe as a "disposable penis". Read
13:14   S Korea to step up missile defence after North test:  South Korea today said that it would accelerate the development of longer-range ballistic missiles that could cover the whole of North Korea in response to a third nuclear test by Pyongyang.

"We will speed up the development of ballistic missiles with a range of 800 kilometres," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said. In October last year, South Korea reached a deal with the United States to almost triple the range of its missile systems -- with Seoul arguing it needed an upgrade to counter the North's missile and nuclear programmes.
12:51  Khurshid rejects Opposition charges of not being proactive:  Rejecting charges that it was not proactive in probing allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal, government today said it would act only according to the law and not to please the Opposition in this case.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also dismissed suggestions that the alleged scam was "Bofors-Part II" saying the Opposition should understand that most of the allegations in the Bofors case were rejected by the Supreme Court.

He also said said India was in touch with authorities in Italy over the case and suggested that Italy was a better place to probe since the firm that produces choppers operates out of that country.
12:43  Sharing the blame:  As India moves on to the Westland chopper bribe scandal, 36 families in the country lost their near and dear ones in the stampede at Allahabad station.
Read the editorial on the Hindu. 
12:40  Tomato juice best post workout drink: study:  Tomato juice can be better than energy drinks at helping the body recover from exercise, a new research has found. Tomatoes provide vital chemicals to help muscles recover and blood levels return to normal after being stretched and strained, experts say.

A number of health institutions in Greece conducted tests on 15 athletes over a period of two months, looking at vital signs before, during and after exercise. Nine of the athletes drank tomato juice after exercise and six consumed their regular fizzy energy drink.

Those drinking tomato juice had quicker levels of muscle recovery and their glucose levels returned to normal faster after strenuous exercise, the 'Daily Mail' reported. Tomatoes contain a compound called lycopene, which principally give them their deep-red colour. Anti-oxidants in tomatoes are already known to combat cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
12:38  High calcium intake may up risk of heart disease in women:  Women with high calcium intake are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has claimed. Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden studied 61,443 Swedish women (born between 1914 and 1948) for an average of 19 years to test an association between high calcium intake and risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke.
12:17  Govt delaying action on chopper deal as it's Italian: BJP:   BJP charges Defence Minister AK Antony with giving a false statement in Parliament on the Italian chopper deal and asks him for a clarification on the AugustaWestland chopper deal.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad also hit out at the government earlier questioning whether the investigation into the Rs 3,700 crore deal was not done earlier because the company was from Italy.

The Ministry of Defence has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the allegations that kickbacks were paid to Indian middlemen in the Rs 3,700-crore deal to buy 12 high-security VVIP helicopters from Anglo-Italian company, AgustaWestland.

According to leaks from the Italian prosecutors, reported in the Italian media, an amount of 51 million Euro has been paid to facilitate the contract with New Delhi.
12:05  Awaiting the white smoke:  Those cardinals who were in Vatican City on February 11 thought they were assembling in the Hall of the Consistory to hear about impending canonisations; instead, they were left stunned by Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he was resigning from the papacy with effect from 8 p.m. on February 28. More
12:02  One versus group:  Left-liberals assist the state in slowing India's natural evolution from a discrete salad bowl to a composite, dynamic melting pot. Read
11:54  Chopper deal to be scrapped if charges proved: Antony:  India will blacklist Finmeccanica Spa and cancel its deal to buy 12 helicopters from the Italian defence group if allegations of bribery are proven against the company, defence minister AK Antony said on Wednesday. Antony said Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had been ordered to investigate the matter and if the allegations were proven, those involved would "pay for their lapses. Nobody will be spared."
-- Reuters.
11:16  Fugitive police officer's body found in rubble of burned cabin:  Meanwhile, in the US, the extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three murders converged on a mountain cabin where authorities believe he barricaded himself inside, engaged in a shootout that killed a deputy and then never emerged as the home went up in flames. A single gunshot was heard from within, and a charred body was found inside.

If the man inside proves to be Christopher Dorner, the search for the most wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected death, with the police pursuing him.
11:15  Ex-Air Chief Tyagi on bribe taint: There is smoke:  More on former Air chief SP Tyagi's reactions to the bribery allegations.

"I have been hit by a thunderstorm," Tyagi told reporters on allegations that the Italian company had bribed him to swing the chopper deal in its favour.

Another scam unfolded with the arrest of the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company that is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for helicopters to ferry Indian VVIPs, prompting the government to order a CBI probe.

The Ministry of Defence also decided to put on hold the receipt of the remaining nine of the 12 helicopters for which the Rs 3600 crore deal was struck in 2010.

"Giuseppe Orsi, the head of Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, was arrested on Monday in relation to a probe into international corruption. He is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale to the Indian government of 12 helicopters produced by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland," Italian news agency Ansa said.

"There is smoke," Tyagi said while favouring a probe into the deal. "When I became the Air chief in 2004 and in 2007, I retired, during that period no changes were made. "According to my information, nothing was done which raises a suspicion from my side. But it is true if there are so many reports, then there is something in it.

"I don't know what it is but all I can say is that it should be inquired. There should be an inquiry so that all the facts come out. I am not only ready for an inquiry but I want an inquiry," he said.
11:10  Banks will now encash Mallya's securities for debt recovery:  After waiting for almost a year, lenders led by State Bank of India on Tuesday decided to recall loans given to Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines and encash shares that are pledged with banks as collateral.

Subsequently, if loans adding up to Rs 7,500 crore and overdue of over Rs 1,000 crore are not repaid by the flamboyant businessman, who often drew comparisons with Virgin's Richard Branson, lenders will encash other securities, including Mallya's personal guarantee and property. Already, banks are in the process of selling his villa in Goa to recover part of the dues. More
11:06  India sees Pakistani hand in North Koreas nuclear test:  India on Tuesday officially protested against the third nuclear test by North Korea which it sees as evidence of a clandestine proliferation network from Pakistan. Indian sources stressed that if the test was found to have been conducted with enriched uranium, it would confirm Pakistani "proliferation linkages". Read
10:54  Car runs over people in Khar; 2 dead, 5 injured :  Just in: Two people have been killed, and several injured as a car in Khar, in suburban Mumbai, ran over them. The car is believed to belong to a foreigner but her driver was at the wheel. Details awaited. 
10:51  India bought helicopters Obama rejected as costly:  US president Barack Obama had found a variant of the AW-101 helicopters too exorbitant to pass muster in 2009. But theIndian government had no such qualms while inking the Rs 3,546-crore deal for 12 plush AW-101 helicopters just a year later in 2010. Read
10:47  Ex-Air Chief: Bribery charges baseless, had retired:  Former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi has denied bribery charges in the $750 million chopper deal with Italian firm Finmeccanica. Tyagi was allegedly bribed by the company to swing the contract in its favour. Tyagi says he is innocent and that the deal was finalised three years after he retired as air chief. He said the charges were baseless.
10:31  Won't spare those guilty in chopper scam: Antony:  
Defence Minister AK Antony on Wednesday said that the government will take strict action on the guilty, if any, after the CBI submits its report on the alleged scam in the $750 million deal for 12 VVIP AgustaWestland helicopters. 

The government had ordered a CBI probe, yesterday, hours after the arrest of the chief of AgustaWestlands parent company -- Italy's Finmeccanica on corruption charges in the contract. 

Speaking to reporters, Antony said, "I am not the judge, yesterday only I ordered a CBI enquiry and we have conveyed to the CBI our request for an early enquiry. I can assure you that the moment we get the report from the CBI we will take the strong action." 

The Defence Minister said that strong checks have been incorporated into the integrity pact which has to be mandatorily signed by defence equipment manufacturers before they sign a deal with Indian government. 

"I don't want to jump into conclusions. At any stage of the probe if anybody is found guilty in any stage of the deal we will take action, no one will be spared. We are not bothered how influential the companies are but everything depends on CBI enquiry. Whoever is guilty, Indians or foreigners, will be punished, nobody will be spared," he said. 
10:14  Grave reserved for Afzal Guru in Srinagar:  
Days after his execution, Kashmiri separatists have reserved a grave for Afzal Guru at the Mazar-e-Shahuda (martyrs graveyard) at Eidgah in downturn Srinagar. 

The Parliament attack mastermind was bestowed the title of Shaheed-e-Watan (martyr of the nation) and a grave, with an epitaph, was set aside for him right next to a similar empty grave of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Maqbool Bhat, who was executed and buried in Tihar jail on February 11, 1984. 

The black granite epitaph has Afzal's name on it. Its inscription in archaic Urdu read: "The martyr of the nation, Mohammad Afzal Guru, Date of Martyrdom: 9th February 2013 Saturday, whose mortal remains are lying in the custody of the Government of India. The nation is awaiting its return."
09:49  Ex-IAF chief Tyagi in the dock over chopper deal:  
Italy's ongoing probe into its defence firm Finmeccanica's $750 million chopper deal with India now points to the involvement of former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, who was allegedly bribed by the company to swing the contract in its favour. 

Hours after arresting Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi, the Italian investigators claimed that the country's state-run defence firm paid huge kickbacks to Tyagi when he was chief of the IAF to swing the controversial AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal in its favour. 

Reports on Wednesday claimed that Italian investigators have given details of their ongoing investigation into the alleged chopper deal in a 64-page report that was filed in the tribunal of Busto Arsizio city for the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO on Tuesday. 

In the report, the Italian prosecutors have alleged that the then IAF chief, SP Tyagi, was instrumental in swinging the deal and was paid -- "certain amount of money, not yet quantified"- through intermediaries --  one of them being Julie Tyagi, a close relative of the former IAF chief. 

The preliminary inquiry report further alleges that technical requirements for the contract were tweaked by India to allow the AgustaWestland chopper enter the bidding process and that kickbacks of 51 million euros (about Rs 370 crore) were paid in Italy and India. 
08:57  US must be beacon to all who seek freedom: Obama:  
Highlights of US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address:
  • "It remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story."
  • We may "hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens."
  • America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change.
  • By the end of next year, US war in Afghanistan will be over.
  • America's commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of commitment will change
  • Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self
  • Will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia provide for their own security
  • Where necessary, US will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat
  • America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons
  • North Korea must know that they will only achieve security & prosperity by meeting their international obligations
  • The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution
  • Will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals
  • After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three
  • This year, Apple will start making Macs in America again
  • Have to invest in the best ideas
  • Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race
  • We are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We produce more natural gas than ever before - and nearly everyone's energy bill is lower because of it
  • Over the last 4 years, emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution have actually fallen. We must do more to combat climate change
  • Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let's generate even more.
  • If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will
  • As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we
  • I propose we use some of our oil & gas revenues ... to shift our cars & trucks off oil for good
  • Also issuing a new goal for America: let's cut in half the energy wasted by our homes & businesses over the next 20 years
03:14  Syria crisis: Rebels 'seize northern air base':  

BBC: Syrian rebels have captured a military air base near the northern city of Aleppo, activists say. Fighters took control of al-Jarrah base after days of clashes there with security forces, reports said.

 

The reported capture comes a day after rebels in the north-east overran Syria biggest hydro-electric dam, delivering a strategic blow to the government. Turkey's prime minister meanwhile has said a deadly blast at a crossing with Syria was caused by a car bomb.

 

At least 10 Syrians and three Turkish nationals died on Monday in the explosion at the Cilvegozu customs post on the Turkish side of the border, in the southern province of Hatay. "A vehicle loaded with bombs was able to reach our customs gate because the customs gate on the Syrian side is not working and is not being controlled," Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

03:13  'Fugitive LA cop' in police shoot-out:  

BBC: A man believed to be a former Los Angeles police officer accused of three murders has been involved in a shoot-out with police, reports say. The fugitive exchanged shots with federal officers in California's Big Bear Lake region, according to the Los Angeles Times.

 

Christopher Dorner, 33, has been on the run since last week, after the murders in southern California. He had sworn revenge on police officers he blamed for his sacking in 2008.

01:28  French MPs approve gay marriage law :  

France's National Assembly has approved a law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. After days of intense debate, the bill was passed by 329 votes to 229. It must now win final approval in the Senate.

 

The "Marriage for All" bill was backed by President Francois Hollande's Socialists and other left-wing MPs. But it was opposed by many in the opposition conservative UMP and provoked months of mass protests and counter-protests.

 

Read more on BBC

01:27  Obama to announce 34,000 troops out of Afghanistan:  

President Barack Obama will announce in his State of the Union speech 34,000 US troops will leave Afghanistan by early 2014, a White House official has said. The move would effectively halve the current US troop levels in the country from about 66,000.

 

The US will end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but it is unclear how large a residual training force will remain behind. Mr Obama is not expected to address post-2014 troop levels in the speech.

 

Read the full story on BBC

00:26  Vatican prepares momentous papal transition:  

AFP: The Vatican prepared for a momentous transition after Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign on February 28, starting with a special mass tomorrow and culminating in a final farewell in St Peter's Square on the eve of his departure.        

 

The rumour mill over a successor was into full swing after what will be only the second voluntary papal resignation in he Catholic Church's 2,000-year history, although no clear favourite has emerged.        

The 85-year-old Benedict told cardinals in a speech in Latin yesterday that he will step down after just eight years because he could no longer fulfil his duties in a fast-changing world. Benedict will have no influence on the election of his successor -- he is too old to be eligible to vote.        

 

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Vatican had not yet decided what title the pope will have once he resigns, but said among those being considered was "Bishop Emeritus of Rome".        

 

The Vatican said the pope had an operation to replace the batteries in his pacemaker but said the surgery had no bearing on his decision, amid speculation that the resignation was due to health reasons. The Holy See has emphasised that Benedict's decision part of a long thought process.

00:21  Top headlines at this hour:  

We want peace but LoC incident is unacceptable: PM

Raj Thackeray rules out merger with Shiv Sena

BJP, RSS leaders hold discussion for over five hours

Afzal hanging: 5 injured, curfew relaxed in Srinagar

Cong identifies two MPs who can replace Kurien

2G probe not polluted by alleged collusion: CBI chief

PIL seeks judicial probe into Kumbh stampede

Yasin Malik's passport likely to be revoked

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