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Iran upbeat on nuclear talks, West still wary

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February 27, 2013

23:43  World Bank lauds Bihar's high growth rate:  A senior officer of World Bank today praised the high growth rate achieved by Bihar which indicates that an "encouraging" environment of progress has been created for faster economic development of the hitherto laggard state. 

Bihar clocked highest growth rate of 16.71 per cent during 2011-12, as per Economic Survey presented in Parliament today. Bihar's growth rate was followed by Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra during the period, according to the report.
23:18  Iran upbeat on nuclear talks, West still wary:  Iran was upbeat on Wednesday after talks with world powers about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again, but Western officials said it had yet to take concrete steps to ease their fears of a secret weapons program.

The United States, China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany offered to ease sanctions slightly in return for Iran curbing its most sensitive work, but had made clear they expected no breakthrough in the talks in Kazakhstan, the first in eight months.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the talks had been "useful" and that a serious engagement by Iran could lead to a comprehensive deal in a decade-old dispute that has threatened to trigger a new Middle East war.
22:36  Iran should face 'military sanction': Israel PM :  If Iran does not heed calls to halt its nuclear programme, it should face "military sanction," Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu said today in an apparent reference to a military strike. 

"Iran is continuing to defy the international community, (and) doesn't seem to seek an end to its military nuclear programme," the Israeli prime minister said during talks with visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris.
21:49  India, Afghan asked to clear stand on Hagel's remarks: Pak:  Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik today asked India and Afghanistan to make their positions clear on the alleged remarks by Chuck Hagel, the newly appointed US Defence Secretary, that New Delhi has over the years "financed problems" for Islamabad in the war-torn country.

Hagel, during a speech in 2011 said, "India for some time has always used Afghanistan as a second front, and India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border".

Malik told reporters that he had asked Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Indian authorities to clear their positions on the matter.
21:39  NIA team in Kolkata to probe Hyderabad blasts:  A team of the National Investigation Agency and personnel of the Andhra Pradesh Intelligence Bureau investigating the Hyderabad blasts arrived in Kolkata today.  

"A team of NIA and SIB (Hyderabad) arrived here this morning," a senior police official told PTI on condition of anonymity.   

With investigators trying to put together pieces ofevidence, nearly 40 people have been questioned by the police and central probe agencies, for the blasts in Hyderabad that left 16 dead on February 21.
21:08  Mutilated Afghan reveals newly reconstructed face:   Three years after she became an emblem of the brutality of the Taliban, a young Afghan woman, who had her nose and ears sliced off as punishment for running away from her abusive husband, has unveiled her reconstructed face to the world.

Aesha Mohammadzai emerged as an emblem of the horrors of the Taliban when her mutilated face appeared on the cover of Time magazine in August 2010.

Now, she has begun a new chapter in her life after doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington succeeded in rebuilding her nose using skin from her forehead and her arm.
20:43  Fire breaks out at Sadar Bazar in New Delhi:  A fire has broken out at Sadar Bazar in north Delhi this evening, reports NDTV.

At least 20 fire engines have been rushed to Matke Wali Gali in Sadar Bazar to battle the blaze. The fire department says that the fire is not massive but they have sent the extra fire engines as it is a congested area and has plastic factories, the report said.

More details are awaited. 
20:32  Mend ways or face consequences, Ajit Pawar warns MNS:   Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Wednesday asked Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to mend ways and desist from the smear campaign against the Nationalist Congress Party or face a "befitting reply".

"Some people are trying to defame the NCP. If they try to attack us by doing nautakni (theatrics), we are ready to give a befitting reply. We have done good developmental work and that is why people are electing us", Ajit said while addressing party workers at Guhagar in coastal Ratnagiri district.
19:56  'Three dead' in Swiss factory shooting:  

Three people have been killed and seven injured during a shooting at a factory near the Swiss city of Lucerne, local media quote officials as saying. The killer is among the dead, police and prosecutors are reported as saying.


Shooting broke out in the canteen at the Kronospan wood processing plant in the town of Menznau at around 09:00 (08:00 GMT). Police and rescue services are at the scene and the entire area is currently sealed off.


"The workers were eating a snack in the cafeteria during the morning, and there was a massacre," said a man quoted by the Swiss news website 20minutes, who had phoned the factory to check on the welfare of his father.


Read more on BBC

19:26  Stone pelting at Raj's convoy stage-managed: NCP:  

Rebutting Maharashtra Navnirman Sena allegations that its party workers were involved in the attack on Raj Thackeray's convoy in Ahmednagar district, NCP today claimed that the stone pelting incident was "stage-managed".        


"Stone pelting on Raj's convoy was stage-managed. NCP has no history of politics of destruction unlike the MNS which has mastered the art of misguiding the youth and making them anti-social elements", said party spokesperson Nawab Malik.        


He, however, admitted that NCP activists held a demonstration and waved black flags at Raj Thackeray's convoy at Bhingar town in Ahmednagar district in western Maharashtra last night. Raj, who has been on a statewide tour, had gone there for some party-related work. "Our workers did stage a demonstration and waved black flags at Raj's convoy to protest against his derogatory remarks against our leaders in his Solapur rally," Malik told reporters.

19:05  'Molested' lady cop attempts suicide at Mantralaya :   Just in: A woman constable from Aurangabad attempts suicide at Mantralaya after she was allegedly sexually harassed by her senior. She was at the Secretariat in Mumbai to meet state home minister RR Patil.
18:38  JPC to probe AgustaWestland chopper deal:   In the past, a Joint Parliamentary Committee was set up to probe the 2G spectrum allocation scam. Former telecom minister A Raja, an accused in the case, has attempted to depose before the panel as a witness. The DMK leader last week, called on Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and handed over his letter to her, requesting for an opportunity to depose before the parliamentary panel.
18:34  RS passes motion for JPC probe into chopper scam by voice vote:  The motion for JPC probe was passed by a voice vote even as the main oppostion party had walked out. 
18:31  So, there will be a JPC probe into the chopper scam. The BJP, JD(U) and the TMC opposed the motion and had staged a walkout. The BJP says the JPC will be an exercise in futility. 
18:27  RS passes motion for JPC probe into chopper scam :   The motion for a JPC probe on the AgustaWestland deal is put to vote and the House votes for a probe.  Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde speaking now.
18:25  TMC, BJP stages a walkout:   The Trinamool Congress stages a walkout from the House as the government (Parl Affairs minister Kamal Nath) moved the motion for a JPC.

Following the TMC's lead, the BJP also walks out of the House.

Kamal Nath says, "They (the TMC and the BJP) are running away from a JPC.

18:22  The JD(U) says it is ready to back a JPC probe if the committee is headed by an opposition member. The BJP says the JPC is simply a diversionary tactic by the government. 
18:19  BJP opposes motion for JPC probe in chopper scam:  Jaitley argued that it was inconceivable that the JPC would get enough evidence to find the bribe taker within the stipulated time frame."The JPC will simply be an exercise in futility... the BJP oppose's this motion," Jaitley said.
18:17  Govt moves motion for JPC probe in chopper scam:  The government has moved a motion for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the AgustaWestland scam. The SP, BSP and CPI-M want JPC probe into chopper scam, the BJP does not.

Jaitley says the JPC probe will not be able to find the bribe givers.
18:13  Jaitley vs Antony: Don't blame Italy, find guilty:  Jaitley: People should be taken into custody after an FIR is registered. The government has given enough time to culprits to destroy the evidence in the case.

If you've just joined us, The BJP asked the government to disclose the names of two families which were allegedly paid kickbacks in the controversial VVIP chopper deal.
18:05  Jaitley takes on Antony: Why wasn't FIR registered?:  Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley takes on defence minister AK Antony.  Replying to Antony's contention that Italy was not helping in the probe, Jaitley said finding out who received the bribe was not Italy or the UK's job. There is a sense of helplessness in the defence minister's speech. It is strange that the identity of the bribe takers are still secret when the person or persons are sitting in India. Why is an FIR still not registered in the case?" he asks.  
17:56  Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi, the former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief who has been named by Italian investigators as a recipient of bribes in India's Rs 3,700-crore purchase of 12 AW-101 AgustaWestland helicopters, had revealed that it was former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra who took the crucial decision that a helicopter which could convey VIPs to helipads at 15,000 feet would meet Indian requirements.  Read more
17:53  Antony: Chopper norms lowered by Vajpayee's PMO:  The defence minister says the ministry does not play politics and in fact, it was during the tenure of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee that the norms for the Agusta Westland choppers were lowered.
17:42  'As defence minister I'm ashamed of chopper scam':  The BJP today demanded a Supreme Court-monitored, time-bound probe into the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

Taking part in a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the issue, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said all those who were the beneficiary in the deal must be bought to book, whether they are in Italy or India. Also, those in Italy should be brought to India to face law, he added.

"The money trail must also be established. Further, Letter Rogatory (LRs) must be issued,' Javadekar demanded.

Antony adds, " My ministry has shown no mercy to corrupt companies."
17:30  'As defence minister I'm ashamed of chopper scam':  Defence minister AK Antony tells the Rajya Sabha that he is ashamed of the chopper scam. "We will go to the root of the scam. It is a matter of serious concern for the people of this country and we will go to the bottom of the scam. The government does not believe in a cover up," he says in Parliament. 
17:25  Why apologising for Amritsar is pointless :  If UK PM David Cameron feels real contrition for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre he should make teaching of the British empire a compulsory part of the GCSE history syllabus, writes author, historian William Dalrymple. 
17:21  In Saudi Arabia, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown :  Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is greatly affected by the suffering of the Syrian people and problems such as unemployment and lack of housing faced by his citizens, according to rare insights into the ruler's daily life and his concerns offered by one of his sons.  Read
17:17  'Several dead' in Swiss shooting:  In other news: Several people have been killed and seriously injured during a shooting at a factory near the Swiss city of Lucerne, police say. Read
17:15  'Lack of honesty, work culture retard India's growth':  Meghalaya, which recorded 88 per cent polling in the assembly elections held on Saturday, will have to wait for another day for the counting. The state recorded a high turnout defying a bandh call by militants in some districts and came close to its last time turnout of 89.04 per cent.'s Archana Masih spoke to Meghalaya Governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, a former head of the Border Security Force and the National Security Guard, in a rare and candid interview in Shillong. Read

17:06  India to vote against Sri Lanka on war crimes in UNHRC:  India will vote in support of a US-backed resolution against Sri Lanka proposed to be moved before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva next month, Union minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) V Narayansamy said on Sunday. Read
16:59  A local activist named Abdul Qayoom has alleged in court that Gandhi tried to subvert the investigation by not sharing his voice sample. He also said that witnesses were questioned in a hurry, and that news channels were not asked to furnish copies of the speeches, which compromised the probe. The activist wants a deeper investigation to be ordered in the second case against Gandhi.-- NDTV.
16:54  Varun Gandhi acquitted in one of two hate speech cases :  The Pilbhit court acquitted him in one of two hate speech cases. The second case is expected to be decided on Friday.  Gandhi won his parliamentary election after he spent 19 days in jail. He has denied that the speeches he delivered were designed to incite communal hatred. The cases relate to speeches he made in two different towns.
16:51  Varun Gandhi acquitted in hate speech case:   BJP leader Varun Gandhi has been acquitted in the hate speech case by a court in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh.

Gandhi had been accused of making a hate speech while campaigning for the 2009 Lok Sabha election.

Gandhi had won the Parliamentary election from Pilibhit, which was earlier the constituency of his mother Maneka Gandhi.

Varun even had to spend a few days in jail for allegedly making the hate speech.
16:30  Six MNS workers arrested for rioting :  Six MNS workers arrested for rioting and breach of public peace. Two cases have been registered. MNS workers had blocked the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Vashi, in suburban Mumbai. 

Tension brewed in parts of Mumbai and adjoining Thane districts today following yesterday's incident of stone pelting on Raj Thackeray's convoy by alleged NCP workers in Ahmednagar district, with MNS supporters attacking NCP office in Ambernath and calling a bandh.

Angry MNS workers burnt effigies of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and blackened his posters in some parts of the city.

Incidents of stone throwing were also reported from city suburbs including Chembur, Kurla and Bandra, police said. In Thane's Ambernath, MNS workers attacked NCP office and tried to enforce a bandh today.

NCP activists were furious at Thackeray's criticism of Pawar, nephew of party supremo Sharad Pawar.
16:25  Govt still vague on AFSPA: Amendment after review:  The government today said any decision on amending the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act will be taken only after taking into consideration the ground reality where it is in force and no time frame can be given on the issue of changing the controversial legislation.

Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran said the issue of repealing/amending AFSPA has been under consideration of the government and Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee and the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) have also made certain recommendations on the subject.

"Now the Group of Ministers has to take a final decision on the ARC recommendation. On direction of the GoM, comments of the state governments concerned on the ARC recommendation have been called for.

"On such security-related issued, all factors, including the ground reality are taken into consideration before taking a decision and hence no time limit can be specified," Ramachandran told Rajya Sabha.

Several groups and political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and north eastern region have been demanding either repeal or amendment to AFSPA which has been in force in some of the disturbed regions in the country.
16:19  Rahul Pandita on Kashmir and its stories:  Rahul Pandita talks to Forbes India about why he wrote Our Moon Has Blood Clots, and why more such books should come out of the Kashmir Valley. Read
16:13  Five years after 26/11, India faces intelligence famine:  Even as the MHA promises to set up new, Rs. 3,400-crore spy centre, intelligence services say little effort has been made to enhance existing capacities. Read Praveen Swami's piece for the Hindu. 
16:12  Even the chairman has the freedom of speech:  Being outspoken has no connection with my being associated with the Press Council of India, says Markandey Katju at the Hindu. Read
16:10  In UP, babus' tenure is just three months:  A rough estimation of a bureaucrat's term in Uttar Pradesh suggests each posting lasts an average of three months. For the favoured few, this could stretch up to six months, but rarely goes beyond. Monday's massive midnight transfers, of nearly 200 officers across IAS, IPS, PCS and PPS officers, therefore, is not surprising. Read
16:07  Obese convict petitions HC to undergo 'weight loss' surgery:  A rape convict undergoing sentence in Pune's Yerwarda prison has moved the Bombay High Court seeking temporary bail to undergo Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, as he is 'obese and tremendously overweight'.

Hearing his plea yesterday, Justices Naresh Patil and A R Joshi asked the Prison Superintendent to examine the convict, Atmaram Dengle, and submit the medical reports about his condition to the court within two weeks.

Dengle wrote a letter to the High Court which has been converted into a writ petition. He pleaded in the letter that he was advised to undergo weight loss surgery as he weighed 145 kgs, which was considered as overweight.

Dengle further submitted that he was suffering from diabetes, blood pressure, blood clotting and asthma. He said he was not able to perform daily chores as he was obese and overweight.
15:54  Pope: Resigned for good of the church, not for my good:  The Pope says resigning "not for my good, but for the good of the church."

At 8 pm the Swiss Guards who stand as sentries at the residence will march off in a sign that the papacy is vacant.Benedict will move into a convent in the Vatican in April, after it has been restored.

On Friday, cardinals in Rome will begin meetings known as "general congregations" to prepare for the secret conclave that will elect a new pope.This week Benedict changed Church rules so that cardinals could begin the conclave earlier than the 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant prescribed by the previous law. -- Reuters
15:50  Q&A: Yashwant Sinha on Indias Economy:  In other news: Yashwant Sinha, senior BJP leader and former finance minister in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about the Indian economy, steps the government can take to boost growth, and what he expects from India's national budget. Read 
15:45  "My heart is open to the entire world," the Pope says as his followers applaud. 
15:42  Pope's final audience: Renew your faith in God:  Pope Benedict is now delivering his last address as pope. Speaking in Italian, the Pope says God guided me and has been close to me. "I'd like everyone to renew their faith in God," he says. "I have experience moments of intense joy and difficult moments as well."
15:23  Pope arrives at Vatican for historic last audience :  Vatican City has prepared for a crowd of at least 200,000 people. The Pope is now arriving at St Peter's Square in his Popemobile. He is the first pope to step down since the Middle Ages. After he retires tomorrow, he will be known as the Roman Pontiff Emeritus.

He will also continue to be known by his papal title of Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to Joseph Ratzinger.

He will wear his distinctive white cassock without any cape or trimmings.

He will surrender his gold ring of office, known as the fisherman's ring, and his personal seal will be destroyed in the same way as when a pope dies.

Benedict will also give up wearing his specially-made red leather loafers, instead wearing brown shoes hand-made for him by a craftsman during a brief visit to Mexico last year, the Vatican said.
15:18  Pope arrives at Vatican for historic last audience :  Benedict XVI arrives at the Vatican to hold his final papal audience.  Tens of thousands of people have crowded into St Peter's Square in the Vatican for the Pope's final general audience before his resignation.Papal audiences are normally held inside a Vatican hall in the winter.But such is the level of interest that the event is being held outdoors and 50,000 tickets have been requested. As many as 200,000 people may attend.After Benedict XVI steps down on Thursday, he will become known as "pope emeritus". -- BBC.
15:08  India posts optimistic economic projections :  India's economy severely underperformed expectations over the past year, and has slowed considerably since 2008, but the government projected strong growth in the coming fiscal year. The latest Economic Survey, published Wednesday by the government of India, addresses the country's recent slowdown. Read
14:57  Did Varun Gandhi make hate speeches? Verdict expected today:  While on parties that foment hate, a court in Uttar Pradesh is expected to decide today whether BJP leader Varun Gandhi made hate speeches while campaigning in his constituency of Pilibhit in 2009 for the national elections.

Gandhi won his parliamentary election after he spent 19 days in jails in Pilibhit and Etah before being granted bail.  He has denied that his speeches were designed to incite communal hatred.  

51 witnesses called by the prosecution did not give any evidence or statement that implicated Mr Gandhi. The Uttar Pradesh police has been investigating the case.-- NDTV
14:55  MNS workers block Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Vashi:  MNS workers have blocked the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Vashi, in suburban Mumbai. 

Tension brewed in parts of Mumbai and adjoining Thane districts today following yesterday's incident of stone pelting on Raj Thackeray's convoy by alleged NCP workers in Ahmednagar district, with MNS supporters attacking NCP office in Ambernath and calling a bandh.

Angry MNS workers burnt effigies of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and blackened his posters in some parts of the city.

Incidents of stone throwing were also reported from city suburbs including Chembur, Kurla and Bandra, police said. In Thane's Ambernath, MNS workers attacked NCP office and tried to enforce a bandh today.

NCP activists were furious at Thackeray's criticism of Pawar, nephew of party supremo Sharad Pawar, whom the MNS leader blamed for the severe drought in several parts of the state.

Thackeray had at a public meeting in Solapur recently attacked Pawar, who headed the water resources ministry between 1999 and 2009, for allegedly having failed to check water scarcity despite huge spendings on irrigation projects.

There have been allegations of a Rs 70,000 crore scam in the irrigation department, which has been with NCP since inception of Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra in 1999.

Meanwhile, MNS MLA Ram Kadam issued an open threat to NCP leaders and workers if they continued to target Thackeray. "We know how to give tit for tat. We believe in replying in the language people choose to speak to us. They (NCP leaders) have forgotten that they have to move in Maharashtra.... Their homes are in Mumbai," he said while speaking to a TV news channel.
14:53  Husain Haqqani: Looking forward to speaking at Jamia Millia University Delhi in half an hour on Pakistan Democracy.

Haqqani was Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.
14:41  Love's labour: the complete works of Shakespeare now available in Punjabi.
Balle Balle! Read
14:39  Khurshid: India will get justice for Lanka Tamils:  External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Wednesday that India's stand on the issue of human rights violations in Sri Lank was clear as he emphasised on the need for resettlement of Tamil refugees in the island nation.

Speaking on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Khurshid said, "Our position is clear... We want resettlement and rehabilitation. We are not just concerned, we have made special efforts. Three lakh displaced Sri Lankan Tamils have been helped by the Indian government.

"The minister said that India has made constant efforts to persuade the Sri Lankan government to stand committed to human rights.

"We expect the Sri Lankan government to stand by their commitment," he said, adding, "Full and final settlement is required. No space should be left for doubt."

"India wants a prosperous and united Sri Lanka and is committed to bring justice to Lankan Tamils," said Khurshid.

Also read: Torture and rape of Tamils is widespread', says Human Rights Watch report
14:31  Tension in Mumbai, Thane district Raj's convoy attacked:  Tension brewed in parts of Mumbai and adjoining Thane districts today following yesterday's incident of stone pelting on Raj Thackeray's convoy by alleged NCP workers in Ahmednagar district, with MNS supporters attacking NCP office in Ambernath and calling a bandh.

Angry MNS workers burnt effigies of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit pawar and blackened his posters in some parts of the city. Incidents of stone throwing were also reported from city suburbs including Chembur, Kurla and Bandra, police said.

In Thane's Ambernath, MNS workers attacked NCP office and tried to enforce a bandh today.

However, NCP spokesman Mahesh Tapase, whose office was targeted in Ambernath around midnight, claimed his party workers foiled attempts by MNS men to enforce a bandh. Minor clashes were reported between activists of the two parties but there was no official confirmation.

NCP activists were furious at Thackeray's criticism of Pawar, nephew of party supremo Sharad Pawar, whom the MNS leader blamed for the severe drought in several parts of the state.
14:26  Kai Po Che and the Strange Case of the Vanishing Villain:  Kai Po Che, or Brothers for Life, which opened in theaters on Friday, isn't a film about the Gujarati entrepreneurial spirit, or friendship, or cricket, or any of the various themes that the popular author Chetan Bhagat has suggested in press interviews over the past two weeks. Read
14:16  It's not about us:  Forget about the 'war on terror.' The next few decades will be dominated by the bitter divide within Islam itself. Read the report on Foreign Policy. 
13:52  Delhi not unsafe for women, insists government :   Dismissing the notion that Delhi was unsafe for women, government today said the national capital stands at 16th-17th place as compared to other Indian cities and noted that women have become more "confident" in registering complaints at police stations.

"It is not as bad as compared to other states... Delhi stands at 16th-17th place as compared to other states," Minister of State for Home Affairs told Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

He said several measures have been taken to check crime in the city following the gangrape incident here in December last year and that a "large number of women are going confidently to the police station and registering complaints".

"If you say that crime against women has increased, it is because of these complaints," he said. The Minister said departmental proceedings have been drawn against police officers for not registering complaints including against IPS officers.

So this survey is bukum? Delhi most unsafe metro, Mumbai safest. Read 
13:46  Michelle Obama faces Oscars backlash:  Michelle Obama is suddenly dividing the country. A debate is raging about the propriety of the first lady's actions.Why? Because she had the temerity to show up at the Oscars -- virtually speaking, that is. See more
13:36  Luxor hot air balloon disaster: Tourist saw wife die:  Only survivor from Egypt's hot air balloon disaster saw wife die. Read
13:31  The millionaire and his mission to Mars:  World's first space tourist plans privately-funded mission to the Red Planet when it makes its nearest approach to Earth in 2018. Read
13:29  'Never give up and don't lose hope':  Afghan teenager who had nose and ears cut off by abusive husband reveals new life and new face following reconstructive surgery. See
13:25   Pistorius' slain girlfriend was pregnant when shot to death:  Oscar Pistorius' slain girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp was pregnant on the night of her killing, according to explosive allegations that came into light in the US.

It is believed Steenkamp broke the news of the baby to the Blade Runner on the night of her killing, the Daily Star reports. Pistorius has denied her murder, insisting he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder at his home.

Reports in a US magazine claim Steenkamp was overjoyed about becoming a mum and could not wait to tell the Olympics and Paralympics star, the paper said.
13:22  New Zealand man killed in shark attack, first in 35 years:  A New Zealand man was killed in a rare shark attack at a popular tourist beach, with police forced to shoot at the predator from a boat to retrieve the victim's body, officials said.

The attack took place at Muriwai Beach, 40 kilometres west of Auckland at about 1:30 pm (NZ time) today, police said, and is the first confirmed shark fatality in the country for more than 35 years. The victim was a 47-year-old man, who witnesses said was a local who had been swimming about 100 metres offshore when he was attacked.

They reported seeing a huge patch of blood in the water and said swimmers, including a large group of students on an excursion to the beach, scrambled for shore as the cry of "shark" went up.
13:18  SBI raises fixed deposit rates by 0.25 per cent:  State Bank of India (SBI), the largest bank of the country, today announced increase in interest rate on fixed deposits by 0.25 per cent on select maturities. Of the total 9 maturity periods for fixed deposits, rates have been revised upwards in 4 categories with maturities of over one year. The new rates would be effective from March 1, SBI said in a statement.
12:59  Egypt balloon crash: Balloon had nearly landed:  The view from above southern Egypt is stunning, a contrast of beige desert valley giving way to green farmland,including fields of sugar cane. Tourists soak in the sight by hiring hot air balloons that have large baskets to carry passengers hundreds of feet above the countryside.

Tuesday morning, as one of the balloons prepared to land, an explosion pierced the air, followed by a spreading billow of smoke. More on the devastating accident yesterday.
12:57  The pope in retirement: What to expect:  Don't expect a lot of shuffleboard games for the soon-to-be former Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, Head of the College of Bishops, Vicar of Christ, and Pastor of the Universal Church: Pope Benedict XVI. Read
12:55  Lakhs gather for Pope Benedict's final audience :  Crowds have begun gathering in St Peter's Square in the Vatican for the Pope's final general audience before his resignation on Thursday.

Papal audiences are normally held inside a Vatican hall in the winter.But such is the level of interest that the event is being held outdoors and 50,000 tickets have been requested. As many as 200,000 people may attend.

After Benedict XVI steps down on Thursday, he will become known as "pope emeritus". There has been no papal resignation since Pope Gregory XII abdicated in 1415.
12:52  Mamata in la la land: People shouldn't live in shops:   West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee urged people, who sleep in markets in the night to be more careful and take precautionary measures like not to light a fire near inflammable materials. "They should be more careful. Mischief makers also can cause damage," she said. "Everything will be investigated to find out the cause of the fire," she said before leaving for the Medical College morgue where the dead bodies have been taken. She said the Surya Sen market had come up during the Left rule. She also said she would provide shelter for those who live in shops and markets.
12:47  Standard gauge:   Except for the fact that it was after 17 long years that a Congress minister got to present the Railway budget, there was nothing particularly unique about Pawan Kumar Bansal's maiden essay. Having raised fares a little over a month ago, he was able to spare passengers this time, but he has put in place a dynamic tariff mechanism for freight to take care of future increases in the price of fuel. Read the editorial on the Hindu.
12:41  US Senate approves Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense:  The US Senate on Tuesday voted 58-41 to confirm Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. Hagel will be sworn in today. The vote was basically along party lines, with four Republicans breaking rank to join the Democratic majority. Hagel needed a simple majority of over 50 votes to be confirmed.  

The confirmation came as expected after GOP resistance was broken in a cloture vote to end debate earlier in the afternoon.  

Hagel, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran, will succeed current Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, who made no secret his desire to retire.
12:40  Met PM for return of Afzal's body: Omar:  Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has made a strong push for the return of the body of Afzal Guru to his family in the Valley by meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with this request.

Omar made public today his meeting the Prime Minister a few days ago and his writing a letter to him earlier on February 19, hours after opposition PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed released a letter he wrote to Manmohan Singh demanding the body of the Parliament attack convict be returned to his family for proper burial. Read
12:35  'Can't react Hagel's anti-India statement two years ago' :  External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today downplayed Chuck Hagel''s alleged remark that India has over the years ''financed problems'' for Pakistan, saying the US Defense Secretary nominee has made no such statement.

"He has made no such statement. You are talking about some lecture given in a university two years ago. I cannot react to something he said about two years ago," Khurshid told media outside Parliament.

Khurshid earlier in the day said Indian Embassy in Washington has conveyed New Delhi''s concern in this regard.

"What we had to say, we have said it through our High Commission. At this point of time, we don''t require to say anything further officially. We welcome the new political developments there. But we will not speak further on the discussions that are presently on there until it comes to us in a formal manner," he added.
12:29  Railway to boost safety of women and elephants:  In his railway budget speech, Pawan Kumar Bansal made it clear that improving the safety of women passengers is among his priorities this year.Addressing lawmakers in Delhi Tuesday, the railway minister said his department plans to significantly expand the number of female officers in the railway's police force with the aim of strengthening "the security of rail passengers, especially women passengers.' Read
12:25  WB CM: 2 lakh compensation for victims of fire :  West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today directed the police, fire brigade and the municipal corporation to submit a report on the fire at a market here within three days and announced a compensation of Rs two lakh to the kin of those who died.

"A compensation of Rs two lakh will be paid to the kin of those who have died in the fire and Rs 50,000 to those injured," Banerjee said after visiting the market housing a godown-cum-office complex in the Sealdah area in central Kolkata, where the inferno has already claimed 18 lives and left several others injured.
12:20  Rail budget: 2% Didi, 98% no drama :  This is the Telegraph's take on the rail budget:  Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today struck a fine balance between the exigencies of crafting a populist budget ahead of the general election next year and the economic necessity of putting the utility's finances in order. Read more
12:11  Air fares out of reach, trains back in favour:  Galloping operating costs for airlines have made train travel -- if you can manage to get a confirmed ticket -- way cheaper than flying even a low-cost carrier (LCC). Now, the only time flying is cheaper is when airlines engage in a price war and offer low, all-inclusive fares during lean travel periods. Read more
12:04  Kolkata fire death toll goes up to 18:  The death toll in the fire at Kolkata has gone up with at least 18 persons killed and many others sustaining serious burns. A major fire engulfed a market housing a godown-cum-office complex in central Kolkata's Sealdah area early on Wednesday. Fifteen persons were rescued by firefighters. The fire was detected at 3.50 am when the victims were fast asleep, they said. The injured were rushed to state-run NRS and Medical College hospitals. See the slideshow on
11:41  Benedict XVI to be known as Pope Emeritus from Friday:  Vatican officials have said that Pope Benedict XVI will be known as 'Pope Emeritus' and will retain the honorific 'His Holiness' after he steps down on Thursday. 

He will also continue to be known by his papal title of Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to Joseph Ratzinger. 

The Pope will wear his distinctive white cassock without any cape or trimmings. 

According to the BBC, he will surrender his gold ring of office, known as the fisherman's ring, and his personal seal will be destroyed in the same way as when a pope dies. 

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said that Pope Benedict XVI would also give up wearing his specially-made red leather loafers, instead wearing brown shoes handmade for him by a Mexican craftsman during a brief visit to Mexico last year. 

According to the report, the title "emeritus" is used when a person of status, such as a professor or bishop, hands over their position so their former rank can be retained in their title.
11:38  BlackBerry Z10 launched in India:  BlackBerry has finally launched its much-awaited smartphone, BlackBerry Z10, in India. The new phone is the first BlackBerry smartphone to launch with the re-designed, re-engineered, and re-invented BlackBerry 10 platform. 

"With BlackBerry 10, we have re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry to create a new and unique mobile computing experience, and we are uniquely positioned to change the way in which our customers view mobile technology. With BlackBerry 10, every feature, every gesture, and every detail is designed to keep you moving,' said Sunil Dutt, managing director for India at BlackBerry. 

The new device is the most advanced BlackBerry smartphone yet. It features a 1.5 GHz dual core processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and an expandable memory card slot that supports up to 64GB of additional storage. 

The BlackBerry Z10, available in black and white colours, will be available in over 2000 retail outlets across 50 cities in India and will support carriers respective 3Gor HSPA+ networks, including connectivity support for global roaming.
11:29  2G case: Vahanvati appears before CBI special court:   Our correspondent from New Delhi reports: Attorney General Goolam Vahanavati appeared as a witness in the 2G spectrum allocation scam before a Central Bureau of Investigation court in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Vahanvati's testimony is being recorded before Special Judge O P Saini. Defence lawyers will cross-examine Vahanvati, who is the country's top legal official.
11:15  JPMorgan to cut 4,000 jobs, cut $ 1 bn in costs:  JPMorgan Chase has planned to eliminate 4,000 positions and cut costs by one billion dollars over the course of the year. 

The bank said it plans to eliminate as many as 19,000 employees in its community and mortgage banking units by the end of 2014. But it didn't give an overall headcount number for the end of 2014, so those job cuts could be offset by hiring elsewhere in the bank, CNN reports.

According to the report, even with the job cuts, JPMorgan will still be plenty big. The firm's head count fell modestly in 2012 to 258,000 employees, the report said, up from just over 180,000 five years ago.
11:14  Get Hagel to withdraw his anti-India remarks, says BJP:  The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday termed the new US defense secretary Chuck Hagel's alleged remark that India has over the years ''financed problems'' for Pakistan, to be outlandish, bizarre and baseless, and asked the UPA government to "ensure the former retracts his statement, modifies it and corrects it."

"A statement has been made by Hagel, who is to be sworn-in as the defense secretary of the US, that India has created and financed problems in Pakistan. This statement has been made by no less than a person who is to be sworn in as the defense secretary, as good as the defence minister of America. I personally believe and the BJP believes that it's an outlandish remark, it's a bizarre remark and it's a baseless remark," said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

"But having said that, we are amused that a nation who harboured Osama bin Laden responsible for killing more than 5,000 Americans in the backyard of a Pakistan's military area is being protected by the person who is to be sworn in as the defense secretary of the US," he added.
11:05  Counting for Tripura assembly poll tomorrow:  Counting of votes for the 60 assembly seats in Tripura would be held tomorrow amid tight security.

"The counting will be held in 17 venues in eight districts of the state with three-tier security layers created in each counting hall," Chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal said.

Elections were held on February 14. Jindal yesterday held meeting with 44 returning officers and district election officers to ensure free and fair counting which will start at 8 am.
11:05  Malinga, Murali to discourage asylum seekers from boat rides:   Sri Lankan cricketers, Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan have joined hands with the Australian government in a campaign to discourage asylum seekers from taking dangerous boat journeys to Australia. 

According to an official statement issued by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O'Connor recently, the campaign 'Don't be sorry' is targeted to reach ethnic communities whose members often encourage family to take the help of people smugglers to reach Australia. 

Malinga and Muralitharan signed on to the campaign, targeting the Iranian, Iraqi, Afghan and Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia.
09:55  Abducted AP-based engineer released in Assam:  According to media reports, Visakhapatnam engineer Chintala Paidi Rajuwho was abducted from Assam on February 18, was released today near the Indo-Bhutan border. 

More details are awaited
09:22  9 killed, four injured in Kolkata fire:   Nine persons were killed and four others sustained serious burns when a major fire engulfed a market housing a godown-cum-office complex in central Kolkata's Sealdah area early today.

Fifteen persons were rescued by firefighters. The fire was detected at 3.50 am when the victims were fast asleep, they said. The injured were rushed to state-run NRS and Medical College hospitals.

Fire Services Minister Javed Khan told PTI that six persons were brought out from the burning godown in an unconscious state by the firemen, who were trying to locate if others were trapped inside.

Khan said 26 fire tenders fought the blaze for over three hours to bring the situation under control. Firemen and police personnel cordoned off the area to facilitate fire fighting operations.

The cause of the fire and the extent of damage were under investigation, the police said.
09:17  'Dr Death' Patel testifies in Aus supreme court:  Indian-origin doctor Jayant Patel, who is facing a manslaughter trial in Brisbane, today took the witness stand and testified in the Supreme Court. According to ABC report, it is the first time that 62-year-old Patel has testified in defence of the charges.

The former Bundaberg Base Hospital director of surgery has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mervyn Morris, who died three weeks later at the hospital in 2003.

Patel is accused of criminal negligence for mis-diagnosing Morris' rectal bleeding as diverticulitis and then operating on him despite his age and pre-existing health conditions that made surgery especially risky.

The doctor told the court that he remembered Morris as a very pleasant, honourable man, who never complained of anything, and said it was hard to forget someone with such unusual complications.
08:29  Choppergate: Will govt investigate Haschke's role?:  After fresh disclosure about middleman Guido Haschke pushing the navy deal, will the govt offer a Joint Parliamentary Committee? This seems to be the question floating around major news channels on Wednesday morning.

According to Times Now, the government is going to debate the armsgate debate in Parliament at noon today.
07:24  Pakistan violates ceasefire at LoC again:  According to media reports, Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire one again in the late hours of Tuesday night in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian troops responded to the fire, killing an alleged terrorist.According to the army, the Pakistani troops were providing covering fire to a terrorist who was trying to cross over to the Indian side.

In the ensuing gunfight, the terrorist was killed, army sources said. There was no casualty on the Indian side.
03:27  AFP's Twitter photo account hacked:  The Twitter account of AFP's photo service, @AFPphoto, was hacked today at 16:45 GMT. The images posted until the account was suspended more than an hour later did not come from the agency, AFP's management said in a statement. 

"Starting at 16:45 GMT, the Twitter account of AFP's photo service @AFPphoto was hacked. The documents posted after that on the account did not originate from the agency," the statement said. The account has since been suspended and AFP is working to restore it.
03:26  NCP workers attack Raj Thackeray's convoy :  Suspected NCP workers pelted stones at MNS chief Raj Thackeray's convoy in Ahmednagar district this evening, police said. NCP workers also waved black flags. The incident took place at around 8.30 pm at Bhingar in the Western Maharashtra district, about 125 km from Pune, local Police Inspector Shankarrao Deshmukh told PTI by phone. 

No injury was reported, he said. Around 50 NCP workers had gathered at Bhingar, where Raj was visiting for party-related work, to protest against his criticism of senior party leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
02:01  Sri Lanka 'using rape as weapon on Tamils':  RAPE is being used as an instrument of torture by Sri Lankan security forces to extract confessions from suspected Tamil separatist supporters, Human Rights Watch has alleged.

As a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting that will examine Sri Lanka's civil rights record begins in Geneva, a report released by Human Rights Watch, We Will Teach You a Lesson, details 75 statements from Tamil victims who say they were raped and tortured by soldiers, police and other pro-government paramilitary groups.

Thirty-one of the victims allege they were raped after the cessation of Sri Lanka's long-running civil war in May 2009.
01:39  2 Indian sailors set free in Nigeria:  Six foreign sailors, including two Indians, kidnapped from an oil service ship off Nigeria were released unharmed by armed pirates today, police said. The sailors have been kidnapped 40 nautical miles off oil-rich southern Nigeria on February 17. 

No ransom was paid before the security agencies regained freedom of the sailors, police commissioner for the state of Bayelsa Kingsley Omire said without giving further details.
01:38  US teen pleads guilty to killing three at school:  An Ohio teenager pleaded guilty today to killing three students and injuring three others in a shooting at a high school near Cleveland. TJ Lane, 18, had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but changed his plea a day before the one-year anniversary. 

He did not explain his actions and showed no emotion as he answered the judge's questions about his decision, a video of the proceedings posted on the Cleveland Plain Dealer's website showed. Lane bolted from the school after firing 10 shots from a .22 caliber gun he took from a relative's home. He was chased by a teacher before giving himself up to bystanders who alerted police.
01:15  Rocket From Gaza Hits Israel, Breaching Cease-Fire:  For the first time in more than three months, at least one rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israelearly on Tuesday morning, according to Israeli authorities, breaching a cease-fire put in place after eight days of intense violence between Israel and Gaza last fall. 

The Israeli police and military reported that a single Grad rocket landed in a road outside the city of Ashkelon, causing damage but no injuries.
00:51  Pope praying, packing ahead of move out of Vatican:  Pope Benedict was praying and packing on Tuesday two days before his move out of the Vatican and into retirement where he will assume the title of "pope emeritus" and still be referred to as "your holiness".

The Vatican said Benedict was spending a quiet Tuesday in the apostolic palace with no audiences.

"Today is a day dedicated to prayer and preparation for the events of the next two days," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said at a daily news briefing.
00:28  Obama's Pentagon nominee Hagel clears major hurdle in Senate:  Chuck Hagel, US President BarackObama's nominee to head the Pentagon, cleared a major hurdleas the Senate today agreed to bring his nomination to a vote.

Senators of the opposition Republican Party relented topave the way for the Senate to confirm its former member fromNebraska to become the next US Defense Secretary. 

Amidst controversy over his alleged anti-India remarks,that he made in 2011, the Senate with support from a block ofRepublican lawmakers voted 71-27 to end the debate and moveforward with Vietnam combat veteran Hagel's nomination.
00:26  Top headlines in the past 24 hours:  
Twin blasts: CCTV video sent to Gujarat lab; SIMI men held

Sharif after Kargil: 'Mr President, Pak army will GET me'

'I was branded a terrorist, but now I am free'

In PHOTOS: When political drama unfolded at the Oscars

Suryanelli rape: Congress defends Kurien in Rajya Sabha

Egypt hot air balloon crash kills 19 tourists

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