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Odds stacked against an Asian pope

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March 12, 2013

23:48  Odds stacked against an Asian pope:  
Catholics in Asia and other parts of the world where the Roman Catholic Church is growing fast would dearly like to see the cardinals choose an Asian pope for the first time in history when they begin meeting today to select a successor to Benedict XVI.

They argue that the choice of the new pope should reflect the changing face of the Catholic Church, which is expanding rapidly in Asia, Africa and Latin America yet ageing fast and shrinking in Europe, its one-time stronghold.

Despite the decline in church attendance in the developed world, when the 115 cardinals solemnly walk into the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday to begin selecting a new pope, two thirds will be from Europe and North America. 

The odds are stacked against Asia. Not only does it only have just nine representatives among the cardinals eligible to vote, but few move in the inner circles of the Vatican, or have held positions within its apparatus.
23:38  Swine flu: Death toll cross 100 in Gujarat:  
With five more persons succumbing to H1N1 virus in various parts of Gujarat today, the death toll due to swine flue death has risen to 103 even as as many as 133 persons are undergoing treatment at various hospitals.

"While one person each from Amreli, Bhavnagar and Junagadh districts died today, two deaths have been reported from Jamnagar district", said Gujarat Nodal Officer for swine flu and Deputy Director (epidemics) Dinkar Raval. 

He said out of the total of 541 H1N1 positive cases being registered, 305 persons have recovered while 133 are undergoing treatment in various government and private hospitals across the state. 

"Close to 85 per cent of positive cases were reported from Rajkot, Jamnagar, Amreli, Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Kutch districts", Raval said. 
22:34  Shibani Kashyap vows Mauritians:  Saisuresh Sivaswamy from Mauritius: Bollywood singer Shibani Kashyap was the star attraction in Mauritius's National Day celebrations at the Anjalay stadium in capital Port Louis. Shibani's brief, 3-song routine was preceded by an hour-long flypast, march-past, etc with the crowds thronging the venue. But it was the Indian singer who brough the Bollywood-crazed people to their feet.
21:40  Shettar rubbishes Cong comeback claim:  Putting up a brave front despite facing a setback in the Urban Local Bodies polls, Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar today rubbished the opposition Congress claim that it was on a comeback trail with the assembly polls just two months away.

As the BJP struggled to come to terms with the electoral loss that saw the party share the second spot with JDS while yielding the ground to Congress, he also maintained that the outcome would not impact party's electoral prospects in the assembly elections.
19:53  Jayalalitha's case adjourned to tomorrow:  The Special Court trying the disproportionate asset case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today recorded the evidence of five defence witnesses and cross examined three others.

With today's proceedings, the evidence of 33 witnesses has been recorded so far. Pandurangan, a former member of the Jayalalithaa cabinet, was among the defence witnesses whose evidence was recorded.

Judge M S Balakrishna then adjourned the matter to tomorrow for further recording of evidence of the defence witnesses and their cross examination.
19:06  Salman's hit-and-run case assigned to judge:  The 2002 hit-and-run case involving actor Salman Khan was today assigned to a Sessions Judge who will also hear his appeal challenging a Magistrate's order invoking the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder which provides for punishment up to 10 years.

Principal Sessions Judge Swapna Joshi assigned the case to Sessions Judge U B Hejib.

However, papers have not yet reached the concerned judge. Once the papers are transferred to this court, the judge would issue notice to the actor and fix a date for hearing his case, court sources told PTI.
18:49  Jaya Prada threatens reporter with one tight slap:  Actress-turned-politician Jaya Prada today lost her cool and threatened a reporter to slap him when she was asked a question regarding her relations with the Samajwadi Party, with which she was associated earlier.

"Kya sawal puch rahe hain aap. Ek lafa dungi" (What question you are asking...I will give you a slap), Jaya Prada, the independent Lok Sabha MP from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh said.

"I am expelled by the SP..", she said. Earlier, she met Praveen Azad, wife of slain DSP Zia-ul- Haq, who was shot dead on March 2, and consoled her. Meanwhile, CBI team probing the DSP murder case called Azad on her mobile and inquired something from her and also directed her not to share it with media.
18:45  DSP murder case: Two accused sent to CBI custody till Mar 18:  Two close aides of former Uttar Pradesh minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh were remanded in CBI custody till March 18 by the agency court in Lucknow in connection with the murder case of Kunda DSP Zia-Ul-Haq.

Special judicial magistrate (CBI) Mirza Zeenat remanded Rajiv Singh and Sanjay Singh in CBI custody on the agency's plea seeking remand of the two, arrested by state police in connection with Balipur violence in which the DSP, village head Nanhe Yadav and his brother Suresh were murdered.

The CBI has registered four cases pertaining to three murders in village Balipur on March 2 and has booked Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya in one of the cases for murder on the complaint by Haq's wife. On March 2, the DSP was murdered when he had gone to Balipur village on getting the information of murder of the village pradhan.
18:38  Italian envoy summoned over absconding marines :  The Italian envoy has been summoned to South Block to meet external affairs minister Salman Khurshid. 

Two Italian marines, who were facing trial in India for allegedly killing two fishermen and were recently granted permission by the Supreme Court to go home to vote in the general election, will not return to India, Italian government said on Monday night.

Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year in an anti-piracy operation were permitted by the Apex court to go to Italy for four weeks for voting in last month's election. Last time they were allowed to go home for the Christmas holidays after which they returned to India on the expiry of their leave.
18:23  India's shame: Khairlanji victim yet to get land:  Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, whose four family members were tortured and murdered at Khairlanji in Bhandara district in September 2006, today asked Maharashtra government to hand over the land promised by it in the aftermath of the killings, which sparked nationwide protests.

Bhotmange, who met Home Minister R R Patil, told reporters at the Vidhan Bhawan that he was yet to get the promised land. Patil spoke to Social Justice minister Shivajirao Moghe and asked him to do the needful.

Bhotmange also demanded a "competent" lawyer to represent the CBI in the Supreme Court on its appeal against the Bombay High Court's decision to commute the death sentence of six convicts in the Khairlanji killings.
17:59  Social media users in urban India to reach 66 mn by June 2013:   Social media users in urban India are estimated to reach 66 million by June 2013 on the back of availability of affordable smartphones and consequent mobile Internet use, a report said today.

"The number of social media users in urban India reached 62 million by December 2012 and it is estimated to reach 66 million by June 2013," a report on social media in India by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) said. The report said about 74 per cent of all active Internet users in urban India use social media.
17:43  Weird planets discovered, stranger than science fiction :  The truth is out there, but when it comes to the search for other planets beyond our Solar System the truth has turned out to be far stranger than science fiction. More
17:42  Growing up in the world's deadliest city :  Thanks to a truce in the drug wars, Ciudad Jurez, Mexico, for the first time in years, no longer has the world's highest murder rate. But for a generation that grew up around constant violence, the fight for normalcy is just beginning. Read
17:38  Tamara Shopsin is the author of the upcoming Mumbai New York Scranton, which will be published on March 12. It's a compellingly disjointed memoir about travel, marriage, illness and the interesting and strange connective details that we notice to make sense of life. Read
17:08  Sex offenders at the bottom of inmates hierarchy:   Sex offenders in prison often find themselves positioned on the lowest rungs of a hierarchy of inmates, which exposes them to particularly bad treatment from fellow prisoners, psychologists who have studied jail violence have said. Read the story on the Telegraph.
17:06  Tihar call intercepts reveal plot to kill Ram Singh:  Just in: The Delhi police have confirmed there was in fact a threat to kill the prime accused in the gang rape of the 23-year-old student. Several cell phone intercepts have revealed that there was a plot to kill Ram Singh while he was being taken to court, reports CNN IBN. Several phone calls were made inside Tihar jail from January, almost all plotting to kill not just Ram Singh, but the other four rape accused. . The police also said the Tihar jail officials were informed of the threat and commandos were placed used the court after the intercept. A report on CNN IBN says that Amit Shukla the murder accused in the Soumya Vishwanathan case was using a cell phone inside the jail and had made calls to several people. 
16:58  Gang-rape protests: 8 booked for cop death freed:  The eight persons booked on a murder charge for Constable Subhash Tomar's death during anti-rape protests in New Delhi were today given a clean chit by Delhi police which informed the High Court that "no evidence" was found against them.

The police, however, said it has found evidence of their involvement in destruction of public properties during the protests against the December 16 gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedical student who later died in a Singapore hospital.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Siddharth Luthra said that "no evidence" was found during investigations that could lead to the involvement of eight persons to constable's death, but their role was found in destruction of public properties during the protests near India Gate.
16:53  Also read: 20 years later, '93 blast victim awaits Rs 25,000 compensation.

16:51  Uncertain future for 1993 blasts convicts on 20th anniv:  Twenty years ago, on this day serial blasts ripped apart Mumbai. Here's a story from the other side: the convicts.

Two years back, Bashir Usman Ghani, serving life sentence in the 1993 serial Mumbai blasts, came out on parole to marry his lady love who had waited for him for two decades.

Bashir (45), however, had to return to Nashik jail after expiry of parole to undergo the life imprisonment awarded to him by a TADA Court for his role in the bombings, the first in the long list of terror attacks to have rocked the city this day 20 years ago.

Bashir was lucky to tie the knot with the girl he loved but fate willed otherwise for Mohammed Shoib Ghansar, another convict in the same case, ordered to be taken to the gallows, says defence lawyer Subhash Kanse.

Shoib had pleaded for leniency before the TADA court which convicted him and sentenced to death, saying he wanted to marry the girl who had waited for him for 13 years to enter into wedlock. The girl used to come to the court housed in central prison to meet her father and had fallen in love with Shoib. The families of the two hoped that they would get married after Shoib came out of jail.
16:49  Govt to launch 1 bn units of Rs 10 plastic notes in 5 cities:  The government will introduce one billion pieces of Rs 10 bank notes made of plastic on a field trial basis in five cities, Minister of State for Finance said in Parliament today.

"It has been decided by the government and the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) to introduce one billion pieces of Rs 10 notes in polymer/plastic on a field trial basis," Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

The minister said the field trail will be conducted in five cities -- Kochi, Mysore, Jaipur, Bhubhaneswar and Shimla with varied geographical locations and climatic conditions.
16:01  Livid India to summon Italian envoy over betrayal:  As India seethes over Italy's decision not to send two marines accused of fatally shooting two local fishermen back to India to stand trial, the Indian government has decided to summon the Italian envoy for questioning.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singhtoday termed as "unacceptable" Italy's refusal to send its two marines back to India where they were facing trial for killing two fishermen and said the issue will be taken up with that country. Singh conveyed this to delegations of Kerala MPs from Left and Congress, who met him separately to express anguish and demand his intervention in the "serious" matter.
15:50  Jaitley phone tapping case: No bail for constable:   Delhi court dismisses bail plea of constable Arvind Dabas, arrested in connection with BJP leader Arun Jaitley phone tapping case. Police constable Arvind Dabas told a city court last Thursday that there was no direct evidence against him in the Arun Jaitely phone tapping case, and a case has been deliberately made out to frame him.
15:42  Embracing Tradition at Indian Fashion Weeks:  Fashion week fever may have died down in Paris, Milan, New York and London, but in India it's just getting going.The five-day "Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week' begins March 13, with 123 designers taking to the ramp in Delhi. The focus then moves to Mumbai on March 22 as another five-day event, Lakme Fashion Week, kicks off. Read more
15:29  Guardian of the flame:  Some of this you know, some you may not. Arguably the world's most powerful woman, Sonia Gandhi never wanted to enter politics. Now, India's supremo faces her biggest test. Read
15:09  JK Assembly adjourned thrice amid pandemonium over Guru issue:  Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was today adjourned thrice as pandemonium broke out after Opposition members created unruly scenes over Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde' statement that the body of Afzal Guru will not be returned to his family.

The House proceedings were marred by unruly scenes, sloganeering and high-pitched verbal duel by the entire Opposition over Shinde's statment.

Shinde had yesterday ruled out handing over of the body of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru to his family in Kashmir and said "the body has been buried according the jail manual and there was no way it could be handed over."
15:04  All-party meet on anti-rape law on March 18:  The government has called for an all-party meet to discuss the anti-rape law bill on March 18. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde today expressed confidence that the bill, which seeks to make punishment for crime against women more stringent, will be passed in the Budget session.

Following differences in the Cabinet over it, the bill was today referred to a Group of Ministers for further consultations. Shinde said that the bill will be cleared by Thursday, when the Cabinet meets again.

"The Group of Ministers have been appointed and the meetings will take place. By Thursday, it will be cleared... Not more than this," Shinde told reporters outside Parliament. To a question whether he was confident that the bill will be passed in this session itself, the Home Minister responded saying " Yes...I am very confident".
15:02  '14,728 people died of HIV in Maha since April 2009':  More than 14,500 people have died due to HIV in three-and-half years since April 2009 across Maharashtra, State Health Minister Suresh Shetty today said. In a written reply given in the Legislative Council, Shetty today said that between April 1, 2009, to September 30, 2012, about 1,67,151 people were affected due to HIV as per records from Integrated Counselling and Testing ICTC centers.

The minister was countering a point raised by Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt during the Question Hour, in which Dutt stated that 3,43,079 people have been affected due to HIV since April 1, 2009. Shetty said that according to records from anti retro-viral therapy (ART) centres, 14,728 people died due to HIV over a period of three years.
14:44  Cardinals voting for pope can't use Vatican toilets:  Security measures are so strict, that cardinals won't even be able to use the Vatican museum toilets during the voting. They may be installing portable chemical toilets inside the chapel. Read more
14:40   Sistine Chapel Plays A Key Role In Papal Election:  As if the task of choosing the Vicar of Christ and the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics wasn't daunting enough, the voting must also take place under the gaze of Michelangelo's brilliant but imposing frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Read
14:31  India Seethes Over Italian Marines:  In India, tempers are rising over Italy's decision not to send two marines accused of fatally shooting two local fishermen back to India to stand trial.Italy's foreign ministry informed India of its decision in a note late Monday, intensifying a year-long international row over where the two officers should be tried. Read
14:27  Cardinals enter Vatican for historic papal election:  Cardinals today moved into the Vatican as the suspense mounted ahead of a secret papal election with no clear frontrunner to steer the Catholic world through troubled waters after Benedict XVI's historic resignation.

The 115 cardinal electors who pick the next leader of 1.2 billion Catholics in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel will live inside the Vatican walls completely cut off from the outside world until they have made their choice.

In a series of centuries-old rituals today, cardinals will be sworn in with a solemn oath that threatens anyone who reveals the deliberations of the conclave with instant excommunication.
14:21  Toilet cleaner on an Indian train :  Unless you're riding the Orient Express, train travel can be a less-than-luxurious experience, especially when it comes to the Indian rail network. While the frequent services that criss-cross the country can be admired for their accessibility and range, their toilet facilities most definitely cannot. Dusty, dank and often shockingly dirty, those charged with the duty of cleaning them deserve our utmost respect.

More on the worst jobs in the travel industry. See the slideshow
14:18  Cardinals tweet goodbyes before conclave lockdown:  Cardinals entering the Vatican today ahead of a conclave to elect the next pope took to Twitter to say goodbye to their online flock before they are cut off from the outside world.

"Last tweet before conclave: May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for fruitful outcome. God bless!" South African cardinal Wilfrid Napier told his thousands of followers.

Cardinals will be completely isolated inside the Vatican walls for the duration of the conclave, which could last up to a few days. Jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel block all communications and the Vatican has said anyone caught tweeting will be excommunicated.
14:17  How to interpret the Sistine Chapel results:  After the new Pope is elected, he will be led to the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, just above the main door of baroque architectural masterpiece. On that so-called Loggia of the Blessings, Cardinal Proto-Deacon Jean-Louis Tauran of France will announce in Latin: "Habemus Papam,' pronounce the given name of the elected Pontiff and declare the name he has chosen under which to reign.
Read more
14:15  Why they call this India's cleanest village:  On the edges of India's north-east, along the Bangladesh border, is Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, said to be the cleanest village in Asia.

So it comes as no surprise to find a board at the entrance with a long list of Dos and Dont on how to keep the village clean.

'Welcome to Mawlynnong -- God's Own Garden' -- reads another tin board, as church bells peal in the background in this neat croton-lined village where tourists pay an entry fee of Rs 50 for a visit.

"We are very proud of our village and the way we have kept it. If we find any wrapper, bottle thrown by the road, we know it is what the tourists have left behind," says Henry Kharrvmba, 25, a resident and part-time tourist guide, who sits behind a table handing out receipts for entrance tickets.

What draws tourists here is not only interest in the village, but the magnificent root bridge in the neighbouring village of Riwai. A brisk walk down a series of stone steps takes you to a truly natural marvel, a mighty and magnificent bridge made of thick roots that joins the banks of the river.

Archana Masih drops in. Read.
Pic: Rajesh Karkera
14:02  Autopsy: Ram Singh died of hanging; Family: fingermarks on neck:  Delhi gang-rape accused Ram Singh died due to hanging, police sources said today quoting the initial post-mortem report. The autopsy of Singh, who allegedly committed suicide in Tihar yesterday, was conducted at AIIMS today and the body was handed over to his family who said they will take the mortal remains to Karauli in Rajasthan.

The post-mortem started at around 11:15 and ended around 12:30 pm, sources said. They said the initial report suggested that Singh (35) committed suicide.

He died due to hanging, the sources said quoting the report. Singh's brother, who came to AIIMS to receive the body, alleged that he was murdered and that he saw injury marks on his body and finger marks on his neck. "My brother was murdered. I have seen injury marks on the body and finger marks on the throat," the brother, who did not wish to be identified, alleged.
13:58  Mauritius PM, Pranab discuss DTAC :  The prime minister of Mauritius Navinchandra Ramgoolam met President Pranab Mukherjee at his official residence in Port Louis today. The two leaders discussed the Direct Tax Avoidance Contravention (DTAC) in a bid to address India's concerns. The PM told the media after the talks, "We are hopeful of finding a satisfactory solution to both sides."
13:48  Launch of cruise missile Nirbhay terminated mid way:  NDTV reports that India today test-fired its cruise missile called Nirbhay, but the launch was a mixed success as the missile's flight had to be terminated halfway after it deviated from its course.

"The Nirbhay cruise missile launch was a mixed success. The lift-off was successful but the flight had to be terminated halfway. We have not been able to achieve complete range capability, but the mission objectives have been met," the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which developed the missile, said in a statement.

The DRDO said it is examining the flight details.
13:33  Revised tax treaty between India-Mauritius being worked out :  India and Mauritius are jointly working to find out a mutually acceptable and beneficial outcome on the Comprehensive Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) which will be a "win-win" situation for both, President Pranab Mukherjee has said. Mukherjee, who is here on a three-day visit, said the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) cannot be seen in isolation, separate from the many strands that weave the tapestry of India-Mauritius relationship and efforts, and it should remain focused on realisation of the full potential of the bilateral ties.
13:28  India-Mauritius sign three MoUs:  India and Mauritius on Tuesday signed three memorandums of understanding during the three-day state visit of President Pranab Mukherjee. One MoU was on persons with disabilities and senior citizens, another on cooperation in the field of health and medicine, and the third was on cooperation in the field of tourism.

Mukherjee will be the chief guest at Mauritius' national day today. He said that the people of India appreciate the tribute paid by the people of Mauritius to Mahatma Gandhi, in selecting March 12, the day he began his iconic Dandi March, as the Independence Day of Mauritius.

Maintaining that the relationship between India and Mauritius has an unwavering vitality, the President said for several millennia, the Indian Ocean has been a key arbiter of the subcontinent's fortunes and Mauritius is the "proverbial star and key of the Indian Ocean". More
13:26  Ram Singh's family: Saw finger marks on neck:  The brother of Delhi gang-rape accused Ram Singh, claimed that he was murdered and said that he saw injury marks on his body and finger marks on his neck. He also said the family will take Singh's body to Karauli village in Rajasthan where the last rites will be held. "My brother was murdered. I have seen injury marks on the body and finger marks on the throat," the brother, who did not wish to be identified, said. Meanwhile, the post mortem of Singh's body was conducted at AIIMS here today.
13:09  Ram Singh's autopsy over: Death due to hanging:  Just in: The preliminary autopsy report on Ram Singh, the prime accused in the Delhi gang-rape case, suggests that death occurred due to hanging. 
12:51  Acclaimed painter Ganesh Pyne passes away :  Just in: Renowned painter Ganesh Pyne passes away in Kolkata. He was 76. He had a massive cardiac arrest.
Read more on Pyne's works here.
12:48  Was Chavez good for Venezuela?:   What is the economic legacy of Hugo Chvez? A common criticism is that by changing how Venezuela sliced its economic pie, he also reduced the size of the pie for his fellow citizens.  More
12:47  Indigenously-developed sub-sonic cruise missile test-fired:  More on Nirbhay: For the first time, India today test-fired its indigenously developed medium range sub-sonic cruise missile 'Nirbhay' from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur.

"The missile blasted off from a mobile launcher positioned in the launch pad '" 3 of the ITR at about 11:54 AM," defence sources said. The maiden launch developmental trial of the sophisticated missile was carried out at Chandipur, about 15 km from here, in the presence of top defence scientists and senior officials.

The surface-to-surface missile has the capability of being launched from land, sea and air, they said, adding Nirbhay has good loitering capability, good control and guidance, high degree of accuracy in terms of impact and very good stealth features.
12:46  Disrupted sleep may be early sign of Alzheimer's:  Heads up if you have poor sleep.

Sleep loss may be an early symptom of Alzheimer's disease, a new study has warned. Sleep is disrupted in people who likely have early Alzheimer's disease but do not yet have the memory loss or other cognitive problems characteristic of full-blown disease, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have found.

The finding confirms earlier observations by some of the same researchers. Those studies showed a link in mice between sleep loss and brain plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Early evidence tentatively suggests the connection may work in both directions: Alzheimer's plaques disrupt sleep, and lack of sleep promotes Alzheimer's plaques.
12:41  Why the Italian marines must be tried in India:  There are two aspects to the case of the killing of Indian fishermen allegedly by persons on the Enrica Lexie, an Italian merchant ship: the legal and the geopolitical. They are interconnected but looking at the two strands separately is useful. Read
12:32  Where bullet and ballot go hand in hand:  The irony in the northeast is that armed insurgencies coexist with the enthusiasm for the electoral process. Read
12:18  India successfully fires cruise missile Nirbhay:  India conducts maiden test-fire of indigenously developed medium range sub-sonic cruise missile 'Nirbhay', say defence sources.
12:15  Parliament has been adjourned till 2 pm after uproar over various issues including plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Also read: Meira Kumar Wants a Paperless Parliament
12:11  PM thunders: Italy's decision unacceptable!:  First reaction from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Italy's refusal to send the marines back to India. The PM said Italy's refusal is 'unacceptable' and the government will look into the matter. He also assured the Kerala MPs that he would speak to ministers concerned on the issue.
12:02  The men who would be Pope:  The cardinals are locked in the Sistine Chapel and tonight the first vote to select a new pontiff will take place. So is Benedict's successor one of this lot? Read more
11:57  Cardinals set to elect new pope:  Up ahead today at the Papal conclave: Tuesday morning will be dominated by the saying of the Mass "for the Election of the Supreme Pontiff", beginning at 10 am in St Peter's Basilica. In the afternoon, 115 cardinal-electors - all under 80, as those over 80 are excluded - will proceed into the Sistine Chapel for the secret conclave to select Benedict's successor. Read more on the BBC.
11:52  Papal conclave to begin without any clear favourites:  Field remains open as Pope Benedict's unexpected resignation leaves cardinals without any obvious leaders. Read
11:50  What the debate about teen sex is really about:  Should it be illegal for 16-year-olds to have sex? What if they're married?That debate was reopened recently in India, as the government prepares a new criminal amendment designed to better protect women and punish sexual offenders. Read
11:42  BJP on Italian Marines: UPA has made India a banana republic:  BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Tuesday said the Italian Government''s decision not send back two of its marines to face trial in connection with the murder of two Kerala fishermen, has made both the ruling UPA and India look like a ''banana republic''.

Responding to Rome''s decision, Rudy said: "It''s a betrayal and a bluff by the Italian Government. It is also a bluff to the highest court of land, which is the Supreme Court, which was generous enough to allow them (the marines) to go back to their land for the Italian elections."

He asked," Why does the Italian Government take India so lightly? Why do they take the Indian Government to be a ''banana republic''? The BJP demands, in the interest of justice, the fugitive sailors should be brought back to India, and should be tried in Indian courts. It is not a question of whether the government was soft or not. The Supreme Court must have given some affidavit and we have to believe it."
11:39  Why the US has not had an attack after 9/11:  Given the turf wars and lack of coordination among the police and intelligence agencies in India, the National Counter Terrorism Centre will not enhance security.  Read
11:36  Death of a prisoner:  Whether it is suicide or homicide, the death of Ram Singh '" the main accused in the Delhi rape case of December 2012 -- inside Tihar Jail is a damning indictment of the functioning of the prison authorities. There were warning signals, early on. Ram Singh and the other accused were put on special watch, or suicide watch, after they stopped interacting with other inmates. Read
11:32  Uproar in Iran over Ahmadinejad's pic with Chavez mom:  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been criticised by Iranian religious and political groups after a picture from funeral for Hugo Chavez showed him getting up close and personal with the mother of the late Venezuelan president.  

The loose, hand-holding, cheek-to-cheek embrace with a sobbing Elena Frias is not scandalous, but Iranian religious and political groups condemned it as Islamic law forbids unrelated men and women from touching, Al-Monitor reports.  

Hojat al-Islam Hossein Ibrahimi, a member of the Society of Militant Clergy of Tehran, said that 'no unrelated women can be touched unless she is drowning at sea or needs (medical) treatment'.

Here's the pic that's raised a million eyebrows
11:21  AIIMS to conduct autopsy of Ram Singh:  Delhi gang-rape accused Ram Singh's autopsy will be done today at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), clearing all doubts on his death inside Tihar Jail yesterday. Ram Singh committed suicide on Monday around 5 am by hanging himself inside jail number 3 of Tihar Jail. The autopsy will be done at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) this morning on the body of Ram Singh and the report is expected later in the day.

Also read the story on the Telegraph: Sex offenders at the bottom of inmates hierarchy
11:10  Anti-rape bill deferred again, GoM to look into it :  Consensus on the anti-rape bill has eluded the government on clauses relating to the use of the term 'rape', voyeurism, stalking and reducing the age of consent from 18 to 16 years. But the clock is ticking, because if the ordinance that was passed isn't converted into law by April 14, it will lapse. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill for tough anti-rape laws was not discussed by the Cabinet last week after some amendments proposed by the Home Ministry ran into opposition.

The government has now deferred the bill saying it wants to ensure it will stand legal scrutiny. Women and child development minister Krishna Tirath also says that the age of consent for sex should be 16.
11:00  Cabinet defers anti-rape bill :   Cabinet defers anti-rape bill due to lack of unanimity. The group of ministers will once again look into it and the bill will be brought before the Cabinet again.

There were differences over clauses regarding voyeurism, stalking, changing term sexual assault to rape and consent of sex to be reduced.  

More details are awaited.
10:18  Marines case: 'Govt to respond after seeing italy's reasoning':   Reacting to Italy's call not to send back the marines charged with killing two Kerala fishermen in sea waters to India, the government said that the decision to send them home was the Supreme Court's.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "We will respond after seeing Italy's reasoning."

The Centre is expected to consult the Attorney General of India, government sources told CNN-iBN. The Supreme Court will be disappointed with what happened.

The sanctity of sovereign guarantee has been violated by Italy.     
09:55  Cabinet meet to discuss anti-rape laws begins:  The Cabinet meeting to discuss anti-rape laws has begun. The government hopes to reach a consensus specifically on clauses relating to the use of the term 'rape', voyeurism, and reducing the age of consent from 18 to 16 years.

The new anti-rape law is expected to bring back the word rape instead of sexual assault, sources tell CNN-iBN.    
09:40  US expels two Venezuelan diplomats:  In a similar response, two Venezuelan diplomats were asked to leave by the United States after Caracas expelled two American diplomats yesterday.   

Orlando Jose Montanez Olivares and Consular Officer VictorCamacaro Mata were expelled in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, US state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, adding both the diplomats have now departed the country.
08:57  Vijender refuses to give blood, hair sample to cops:  Vijender Singh, India's only Olympic medallist boxer, who has denied using drugs, was interrogated for over three hours last evening by the Punjab police, and refused to share blood or hair samples for forensic examination, reports NDTV.

The boxer was interrogated by a team of Punjab police officials in Panchkula, about 20 kilometres from state capital Chandigarh in connection with the Rs 130-crore drug haul case.

Read the full story on NDTV
08:35  Cabinet to discuss bill on anti-rape law today:  The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, which proposes jail term to a rape convict for his entire life, will be taken up at a special meeting of the union cabinet today, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.

Seeking to dismissing reports of any differences in the Cabinet over the bill, Shinde said "there is a difference of opinion on legal points, which is being addressed to and it will be taken up tomorrow at the special cabinet meeting."
08:25  Delhi gang rape accused Ram Singh's postmortem today:  The postmortem of Ram Singh, the main accused in the Delhi gang-rape case, will be conducted today.  

Singh, who lead a gang of six that allegedly battered and fatally raped a medical student on a bus in Delhi, was found hanging in his cell last morning. While his parents allege that he was murdered, jail authorities claim that the 35-year-old committed suicide.
08:16  Fire at Chennai airport, air traffic hit for 4 hrs:  A fire at the Chennai Airport's Air Traffic Control room in the wee hours today affected air traffic for almost four hours. Authorities say the fire broke out at around 2:30 am after batteries of a UPS burst, reports NDTV.

"There was a small fire by the bursting of batteries in the automation area. And there were flight disruptions from 2:30 am to 5:15 am. Around 5:15 we started the departures," said Suresh, Chennai Airport director. Airport authorities say flight departures will begin in half an hour.

Read the full story here
03:43  Pope candidate axed over trashy Facebook photos:  
The brave new world of social media torpedoed the chances of a leading papal candidate today, as a Dutch cardinal struggled to explain newly surfaced Facebook photos showing him on a 2007 spring-break romp in Tampa.

Cardinal Bonifacius Steuer had been on the shortlist to replace Benedict XVI as Pope, but his fellow cardinals abandoned him after the startling emergence of the photos, which chronicle Steuer on a seventy-two-hour nonstop-party rampage in Florida.

In the Facebook photo album, which Cardinal Steuer labeled "Tampa Phun", the Dutchman appears at a dizzying array of frat parties and strip clubs, throwing gang signs at the camera and steadily drinking from two Old Milwaukees mounted on a beer hat.

Tracy Klugian, a job-placement specialist who helps papal candidates navigate the labyrinthine Pope-selection process, says that Cardinal Steuer's downfall should serve as a cautionary tale to all Pope candidates who are active on social media.

Read more HERE
02:27  US seeks 'serious' action by China on cyber theft:  
The United States has called for "serious steps" by China to stop cyber-enabled theft emanating from the country on an unprecedented scale, and stressed that such an activity was intolerable to the international community. 

"Increasingly, US businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale," Tom Donilon, National Security Adviser to the US President said.

"The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country. As the President said in the State of the Union, we will take action to protect our economy against cyber-threats," Donilon said. 

"From the President on down, this has become a key point of concern and discussion with China at all levels of our governments. And it will continue to be. The US will do all it must to protect our national networks, critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private sector property," he said, in his address to the Asia Society in New York.

"But, specifically with respect to the issue of cyber-enabled theft, we seek three things from the Chinese side," Donilon said.
02:25  Al Qaeda says it killed 51 Syrian soldiers in Iraq:  
Al Qaeda's Iraq branch has claimed responsibility for the deaths of 51 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqis killed in a well-planned assault in western Iraq last week, intensifying concerns that the terror group is coordinating with Islamist rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Iraqi authorities say fighters and weapons are moving increasingly more freely across the long and porous desert border between the two countries as Syrian rebels try to consolidate control on their side of the frontier.

The issue also plays into the conflict between Iraq's Shiite-led government and Sunni insurgents, particularly Al Qaeda.

Iraq officially has not taken sides in the Syria civil war, though Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned in an interview with The Associated Press this month that a victory for rebels would create a new extremist haven and spark
sectarian wars in his own country and in Lebanon.
02:24  Oscar Pistorius 'certainly not suicidal': Uncle:  
Paralympic sprint champion Oscar Pistorius is in deep mourning after killing his girlfriend on Valentine's Day, but is "certainly not suicidal", his family has said.

"Oscar, broken as he currently is, believes he has a purpose in life and is working towards that. Media reports to the contrary are untrue," said his uncle Arnold Pistorius. 

The 26-year-old double amputee was earlier said by a friend to be "on the verge of suicide" as he fights a charge of premeditated murder for shooting dead Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home.

According to a close friend, the sprinter's state of mind had worsened since he was tasked with selling his racehorses to raise money to pay for his spiralling legal fees. 

"I would say that, just speaking to him, that he is a broken man and that I would go as far to say that he would be on the verge of suicide. It really worries me," the friend Mike Azzie told an upcoming BBC3 documentary. 
01:13  Homemade alcohol kills 51 in Libya:  
Fifty one people have died since Saturday after drinking homemade alcohol, most of them in the Libyan capital Tripoli, with more than 300 others suffering from alcohol poisoning, the health ministry said on Monday.

The consumption and sale of alcohol is banned in the North African country, even though it is available on the black market.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said 38 people had died in Tripoli and another 13 had died while on their way to Tunisia for treatment.

"There have been 378 cases of alcohol poisoning so far," the ministry said, adding the illegal concoction is believed to have contained methanol. The deaths were among that figure.
01:10  Bitti Mohanty case: How fake IDs can be had for a price:  
On Precisely how the runaway Bitti Mohanty, who jumped parole after being convicted in a rape case in far-off Alwar, found his way to Kerala and gave himself a fake identity as 'Raghav Ranjan', with official documents to back him up, is not yet known. But it is a fair bet that the influence that his status as an Odisha top cop's son must have counted for a lot, both in securing the fake documents and in keeping him off the radar while a manhunt was under way.

Click HERE to read more
00:59  The Shiite murders: Pakistan's amry of Jhangvi:  
A sense of siege and hopelessness is engulfing the Shias of Pakistan. 

The sectarian war in Pakistan has grown in tandem with the wider radicalization of its society. 

The country's Shias and Sunnis largely lived together peacefully till the nineteen-eighties. 

The downward slide began during the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq, who ruled Pakistan between 1979 and 1987.

Lahore had largely been unaffected by the frequent violence in Pakistan, but the new wave of attacks on the Shia minority, which constitutes around twenty per cent of Pakistan's population of a hundred and eighty million, had left the city stunned

Click HERE to read more
00:51  EU bans sale of all animal-tested cosmetics:  
A complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing has taken effect in the EU.

The ban applies to all new cosmetics and their ingredients sold in the EU, regardless of where in the world testing on animals was carried out.

The 27 EU countries have had a ban on such tests in place since 2009. But the EU Commission is now asking the EU's trading partners to do the same.
00:47  Papal conclave has roots in turbulent 13th century:  
When Roman Catholic cardinals enter the secret conclave to choose a new pope on Tuesday they will be following a ritual dating to the 13th century, when papal elections could last for years and some cardinals died during the gruelling process.

The term conclave comes from the Latin for "with a key" and refers to the practice of locking cardinals away from the world's prying eyes to allow them to choose a new pope without outside interference.

The 115 cardinal-electors will disappear from public view on Tuesday to vote in the Sistine Chapel for a successor to Pope Benedict as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. 

A puff of white smoke from a Vatican chimney, signifying a decision has been reached, is expected within a few days if the conclaves of the past 100 years are any guide. 

It was not always that straightforward.

Click HERE to read further...
00:44  Top headlines at this hour:  Italian marines violate SC order, won't return to India

Sabarmati jail tunnel makers complain of police torture

Pranab on Mauritius: 'You are star of the Indian Ocean' 

Ram Singh wouldn't have possibly hung himself: Neighbours

Chopper scam: Govt gets first set of documents from Italy

Clarke defends players' axing, says mediocrity unacceptable

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