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LIVE! Cong sees no threat to alliance from Third Front

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February 05, 2014

23:50  US freezes assets of Pak-based Haqqani militants:  
The US today targeted the financial and support system of the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network by nominating three of its leaders to its list of "specially designated global terrorists." 

The Treasury Department said that Saidullah Jan, Yahya Haqqani and Muhammad Omar Zadran had been designated "specially designated global terrorists," meaning that assets belonging to the men within US jurisdiction would be frozen. 

"The Haqqani network poses a grave threat to US civilians, military personnel, and our broader interests in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region," said  David S Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. 

"Where we have the opportunity to disrupt this network and undermine its ability to finance its activities, we will take action. Today's action underscores our resolve to continue targeting any potential means of support for the Haqqanis," he said.
22:58  Lankan security forces accused of war crimes in new report:  
Sri Lankan security forces committed the "vast majority" of war crimes, including arbitrary killings, torture and rape, in the final months of the country's civil war, a new investigation claimed today. 

The report, released by the Australia-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), had accused government troops of trying to destroy evidence of its crimes committed in 2008 and 2009 when it crushed the Tamil rebels fighting for a separate homeland. 

"Although violations were committed by both sides, the evidentiary material indicates that members of the Sri Lankan security forces perpetrated the vast majority of alleged crimes during the investigation period," the report said. 

The investigation, that came ahead of a third resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month, also claimed that the Sri Lankan government "may have sought systematically to exhume and destroy evidence of mass civilian deaths".

The US has said it would table the third resolution against Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes committed by government troops  during the final phase of the military battle with the LTTE.

Sri Lanka encountered similar UN resolutions both in 2012 and 2013, moved by the US and supported by India.
22:55  US FDA chief to visit India next week:  
The head of US Food and Drug Administration Margaret A Hamburg would make her maiden visit to India next week amid concerns over the quality of generic medicines entering America. 

Hamburg's India trip comes at a time when US federal regulator is seen increasingly targeting Indian drug and pharmaceutical companies, particularly Ranbaxy, for their alleged violations of US regulations. 

During her stay in the country, she Hamburg travel to New Delhi, Cochin and Mumbai, a statement said today. 

Her India trip from February 10 to 18 is aimed at further strengthening cooperation between the FDA and its Indian regulatory counterparts, the federal regulator said. 

"The FDAs ongoing engagement with our regulatory counterparts in India is critical to our ability to effectively promote the health and safety of American and Indian consumers," Hamburg said.
22:05  Cong sees no threat to alliance from Third Front:  

Congress today downplayed the contention that attempts by regional parties and the Left to cobble together a Third Front will seal the prospects of a Congress-led secular alliance saying "possibilities change in politics with the passage of time".        


Party spokesperson Randip Surjewala said, "Politics is an expression of possibilities and the possibilities change with the passage of time. Let us wait for a while."        


His remarks came on a day when 11 non-Congress and non-BJP parties formally joined hands as a block in Parliament to pitch for pro-people, anti-communal and federal agenda.        


The announcement of the front was made at a joint press conference of leaders of these parties including the four Left parties, Samajwadi Party, JD(U), AIADMK, AGP, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, JD(S) and BJD.

21:13  Tewari hits out at Modi for remarks on Mukherjee:  

Hitting out at Narendra Modi for his remarks on Pranab Mukherjee, Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari today said it was unfortunate that the BJP leader had sought to drag the office of President into political discourse.          "I think its extremely unfortunate that the Chief Minister of Gujarat has sought to trample constitutional propriety by dragging the august office of the President of India into a political discourse," he told reporters in New Delhi.         


He was asked about BJP Prime Ministerial candidate accusing Congress of denying Pranab Mukherjee, now the President, the prime minister's post in 2004 even though he "deserved" the chair.         


Tewari said the President is a symbol of Indian state and is supposed to be above partisan politics - a decorum that has been maintained. "But unfortunately in Chief Minister of Gujarat, you see a tendency that to score political brownie points in order to take a partisan potshot, he does not even spare the office of the President of India."

19:53  Cong introduced reservations, will continue to champion them: Sonia:  

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said there should be no doubt or ambiguity on Congress' stand on the system of reservation for SC/ST and OBC.   The system of reservation was introduced by Congress and it will continue to be championed by Congress, she added.  


The comments come in the wake of AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi's remarks that it's high time reservations are given based on economic criterions and not caste.

19:36   Rajya Sabha deputy chairman has deferred the Communal Violence Bill.
19:19  Alleged Dawood associate discharged in MCOCA case :  Brijesh Singh, who was allegedly associated with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, and his aide were today discharged by a court of charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act in a case lodged against them by the Delhi police.        

The court discharged Brijesh and Tribhuvan Singh, saying it lacked jurisdiction to try them for the offences under MCOCA and the special cell of Delhi police "woke up belatedly" in slapping the charges under the stringent law against them.
19:17  BJP has the hidden agenda of blocking Lokpal: Congress:  The Congress today came down heavily on the BJP over its protest against the appointment of a jurist to the Lokpal selection panel, saying the Opposition party has a"hidden agenda" of blocking the constitution of Lokpal itself and hence is using such "lame duck excuses".        

"The BJP is attempting to block the appointment of a Lokpal by its lame duck excuses. The decision of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to oppose the appointment of eminent jurist P P Rao on the selection panel for Lokpal on purely flimsy grounds and by levelling baseless allegations with political motives exposes the hidden agenda of the BJP," party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
18:34  Roller coaster skids off at theme park near Mumbai, 2 injured:   Two people were injured, reportedly seriously, when a roller coaster at Adlabs Imagica theme park in Khopoli, near Mumbai, came off the rails.

Some media reports claimed that several people were injured in the accident and some of them suffered severe skull injuries.

They have been admitted to nearby Jakhotia Hospital.
18:30  BJP takes up Lokpal selection panel row with President :  Upping the ante, the BJP today took the controversy over the appointment of a jurist to the Lokpal selection panel to the President's doorstep, seeking his support for its demand for a consensus on the issue after differences emerged over the name of the Supreme Court lawyer.        

Opposing the government's nominee P P Rao for appointment on the panel, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj met Mukherjee and lodged her protest at the manner in which the government pushed for his nomination and sought the President's intervention.    

Swaraj, who is a member of the Lokpal Selection Committee, feels that Rao is a "Congress loyalist" and should not be in the panel to ensure its neutrality.
18:27  Andhra CM meets President Pranab over Telangana:  Andhra Pradesh CM Kiran Kumar Reddy has met President Pranab Mukherjee and requested him to use his power to stop the impending bifurcation of the state.
18:25  Punjab CM asks British government to apologise:  Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today sought an unconditional apology from the British government for "secretly assisting" India in the launch of Operation Blue Star in 1984.       

Both the then governments were equally guilty of the "unpardonable act of attacking the most revered Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple", he said.      

The action had hurt religious sentiments of Punjabis in general and the Sikhs in particular, the 86-year-old 5-time chief minister said, according to an official release.
18:04  Caravan magazine publishes sensational interview:  A press release from Caravan magazine, which has rediscovered the art of long-form journalism, says that 'Swami Aseemanand, incarcerated in Ambala central jail for abetting terrorist attacks on various targets between 2006 and 2008 -- Samjhauta Express (February 2007), Hyderabad Mecca Masjid (May 2007), Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) and two attacks in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008)  -- which together took the lives of 119 people', has made a revelation in an interview to them, that which has been published in the latest issue of the magazine, that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat sanctioned the terror attacks.   

The press release states: Aseemanand told Caravan that Bhagwat said of the violence, 'It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.'   

It adds that a list of questions was sent to Bhagwat, but he had not responded at press time. The latest issue of the magazine carries Aseemanand's interview.  

The press release offers this extract from the interview: 'Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation's powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living -- a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, 'You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you'.'

17:54  Why Satya Nadella's appointment is ironic:  Here is some more information on B N Yugandhar, the father of soon-to-be Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Amitabha Pande remembers his association with the former IAS officer: "I am sure everyone is trying to work out his connections with Satya Nadella ( Truth Serum? ). I have not met the young man, but his father was a mentor for those of us who claimed to belong to what I used to call the IAS ( ML). He was our Deputy Director in the Mussoorie Academy, as fiery a radical you could then find in the country and could afford to call people like Mohit Sen of the CPI ( a fine intellectual himself) a 'revisionist'. He was a bundle of nervous energy, extraordinarily sharp witted and his record of work with tribals and the landless poor was exemplary. Many hated him because he was so openly left wing, but for those of us who were ashamed to have joined the IAS by selling our souls, as we thought, he gave us real hope and inspiration. 

Much of our world view and our approach to social problems was deeply influenced by him.

Satya Nadella's father in law too was a course mate in a course I was doing in the University of Manchester. A very earnest and high minded officer, he too had strong left wing sympathies although he was more the jhola wala type and less the revolutionary. 

In Manchester, he was the serious student, who had little to do with my pub crawling approach to life and frowned on the frivolousness of my pursuits. He had a 'pass'. I don't think he ever forgave me for that. But he was a fine man-albeit a little too seriously inclined. 

Ironic too that the son and the son in law of two fervently socialist and anti capital persons should now be the CEO of the company that personifies 'neo liberalism'.!
17:51  Congress distances itself from Dwivedi's comment:  Congress has distanced itself from Janardan Dwivedi's suggestion  for ending caste-based quotas and said that it subscribes to the existing system.
17:49  Jewel thief captured by DNA after kissing captive!:  A jewel thief in France who kissed the owner of a jewellery shop during a robbery was nabbed after police analysed the DNA on the victim's cheek.        

The robber had kissed the 56-year-old woman apologetically after gagging her for hours.        

According to the French newspaper Le Parisien, two masked men tied the jeweller up in her home last year.        

The men apparently poured petrol over the woman's head, threatening to light it unless she co-operated.
17:27  Delhi faces pollution emergency!:  If you wanted definitive proof about just how polluted Delhi is, the Centre for Science and Environment has it for you.

The CSE has found out that if the city authorities used the air quality classification or health alert system adopted by the United States or China in Delhi, our national capital would figure in the list of cities which are in a state of an emergency pollution and need contingency action.
17:23  Tharoor to make first public appearance since wife's death:  Shashi Tharoor, Union minister of state for the human resources development ministry, will address a conference on Literacy through Literature at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi on Thursday.

This will be the first public appearance for Tharoor after the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar.

Sunanda was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a five-star hotel in Delhi on January 17.
17:19  How long will hereditary politics continue?:  The too-most echelon of India's politics is made up of people who have had close, and rich, relatives who have been in politics for decades.

A close scrutiny of the fortunes declared by candidates whose families have been dabbling in politics for years shows that they are wealthier than even the most prosperous businessmen in the electoral fray.

How long will India's voters put up with leaders who are simply incapable of understanding their problems and grievances?

Click here to read more  
17:15  Now, Maharashtra govt gives nod to Shivaji statue:  
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has said that the state cabinet has cleared the proposal to build a giant statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in Mumbai.

The 100 crore project is stated to rival the giant statue of Vallabhbhai Patel, Narendra Modis pet protect in Gujarat.

Chavan said that the Maharashtra government has chosen the exact location in the megacity where the statue will be erected.
17:14  The horror story of India's child labourers:  The unbelievably outdated laws in India on child labour provide little protection to the millions of children who lose their lives to forced labour and sex trafficking.

Here are some shocking statistics: One child goes missing in India every 8 minutes and nearly half a million children have been forced into domestic labour.

Click here to read more
17:07  Satya Nadella's father worked for the impoverished India:  He is going to be the future CEO of Microsoft, one of the biggest forces of capitalism on the planet.

But Satya Nadella's father B N Yugandhar, a prominent IAS officer who headed the Union rural development ministry, devoted his tenure to helping the poor in India's most impoverished regions.

Yugandhar, who also served as a secretary to then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, later became a member of the Planning Commission.

Click here to read more
16:43  Lynchpin Jaffer Sait did PR job for DMK's first family:  Tamil Nadus most powerful IPS officer during the previous DMK regime, Jaffer Sait, was allegedly fully involved in the cover-up operation that was on in the DMK camp prior to the arrest of Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi when the investigations on the 2G scam were at a crucial stage, reports the New Indian Express.

He allegedly tried his best to save Kanimozhi -- with whom he was seemingly close -- from the CBI.

Read the full report here

16:41  Karzai's closing act: It's him vs US :  After remaining in power for 12 long years, President Hamid Karzai, towards the fag-end of his rule, is making his last-ditch stand against the superpower that brought him to power.

His latest, and probably last, battle before the April 5, 2014 presidential election isnt against his numerous Afghan rivals. This time he is pitted against the US, his frequent benefactor.

Read the full story here
16:37  Why the church is waltzing with Narendra Modi in Kerala?

Read this blog on The Times of India

16:36  Hamid Karzai's clever politics:  In an interview to, William Dalrymple who recently interviewed Afghanistan President, discussed Hamid Karzais mental state, his anger at the United States, and what will happen after American troops depart.

Read the Dalrymple interview here 
16:32  'Islamic movement can't simplify what's happening in Pak':  What is happening in Pakistan cannot be simplified as an Islamic movement, Akbar S Ahmed says in the second part of his essay about a recent trip to the country.

Read the full report here
16:29  Homecoming to Jinnahs Pakistan:  In the first part of an essay about his recent trip to Pakistan, Akbar S. Ahmed describes the country's security crisis in the context of the stark disparity between center and periphery.

Read the full story here
16:14  Pranab should have been made PM: Modi @ Kolkata rally:   At his rally in Kolkata, Narendra Modi said, "Don't forget the Congress insulted Pranab Mukherjee. The Congress should have made him the prime minister after Indira Gandhi's death. In 2004 also Pranab was the senior-most, but Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh." 
15:59  East is hungry for progress: Modi :   "Western India has progressed because it has never had a Third Front rule. The east is hungry for progress, it is pulled down by the Third Front. The Third Front will make India third grade," Modi said at a rally in Kolkata today. 
15:53  Addressing a rally in Kolkata, Narendra Modi said, "In 2014, the BJP government at centre will help the people in Bengal. Then who is benefiting? There should be a government in Delhi that will work for West Bengal also. If you give me all the seats, will I not want to come here more often? "Won't I want to work for you more?

"If West Bengal accepts BJP once again, we will solve all your problems. If you have made such a decision for a the state, make a decision for change on a national level. Bengal is a state that has the blessing of Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Laksmi."
15:49  Let the third front see which way the wind is blowing. The BJP will form the government after coming Lok Sabha elections, Modi said in Kolkata.
15:41  Put Mamata on notice, vote for BJP: Modi @ Kolkata rally:  Narendra Modi targert Mamata Banerjee at his rally in Kolkata. He asks Bengal to put their chief minister on notice and vote for the BJP.

He asks the people of Bengal, "You voted for 'poribartan' change, but has that happened?. Vote for Mamata and you will waste your time"    
15:30  Modi speaks in Bangla at mega rally in Kolkata :  BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi speaks in Bengali as he addresses a mega rally in Kolkata today.

"Bengal has a special relationship with Gujarat. I have never seen such a huge rally in Kolkata," Modi said.

"WB played a role in development of Gujarat's textile industry." He said Rabindranath Tagore's brother had a bog role in the development of Ahmedabad.

"Bengal must play the role of Rashtra Guru. We must built India of Swami Vivekananda's vision. India can be a world leader only in Bengal progresses," he said.   
15:21  Suspect in Sunil Joshi murder case suffers from cancer:  Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a key suspect in the murder of RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi, was taken to a hospital in Bhopal following ill-health, hospital sources said. 

Pragya, who had been undergoing treatment for some ailment at the Pandit Khushilal Ayurveda Hospital, was yesterday rushed to a cancer hospital after her health deteriorated, they said. 

Last year, Pragya was diagnosed with cancer. 

Doctors at the Jawaharlal Nehru Cancer Hospital where Pragya was taken said some pathological tests had been done on her and the reports were awaited.
15:17  Summon Lanka high commissioner, Jaya tells PM:   Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has urged the Prime Minister to summon the Sri Lankan high commissioner to lodge a strong protest over the arrest of Indian fishermen and take action to secure release of 87 fishermen apprehended in the last one week.

"I exhort you to take immediate action to ensure that all the 19 fishing boats and 87 fishermen who were apprehended by Sri Lankan Navy in the last one week are released forthwith without prolonged detention," she said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday.
14:59  News of the day...:  And for all those keen on knowing the latest news, the link to click on is the Rediff Headlines of the Day. Bookmark it, will you?
14:44  Sibal rakes up 2002 riots in defence of Communal Violence Bill :  While defending the Communal Violence Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Kapil Sibal rakes up the 2002 Gujarat riots. "The Centre must be able to intervene in state-sponsored communal riots like Gujarat," he said.    
14:29  Kapil Sibal bats for Communal Violence Bill in RS:  Law Minister Kapil Sibal bats from Communal Violence Bill in the Rajya Sabga. "The bill will not violate the federal structure. It will not encroach upon the rights of the state. No positon in the bill will interfere with the law and order situation."

"Large part of the bill deals with compensation of victims," Sibal added. "There is no provision in the bill which gives power to the Centre." 
14:23  Chaos over Communal Violence Bill in Rajya Sabha :   The BJP has opposed the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

"The Communal Violence Bill is beyond legislative competence. Law and order is a state problem, not a Centre subject," said Leader of Opposition in RS Arun Jaitley.     
14:22  Telangana row: Andhra CM begins dharna at Jantar Mantar :   Andhra Pradesh CM Kiran Kumar Reddy, his ministerial colleagues from Seemandhra began a dharna at Jantar Mantar to oppose the creation of Telangana this afternoon.
14:21  Just In: 11 non-Cong, non-BJP parties form block in Parliament to pitch for a pro-people, anti-communal agenda.
14:16  Check out Sunil Gavaskars latest adventure!:  Sunil Gavaskar recently experienced the thrill of skywalking in Auckland!!

Check out the former Indian cricketer's latest adventure!
14:03  Conditions at Muzaffarnagar relief camps woefully inadequate:  The Akhilesh Yadav government can cry hoarse over the various measures taken to rehabilitate victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots, but the reality on the ground contradicts his tall claims.  

Several children have died due to the severe cold and lack of medical facilities, the make-shift toilets in the camp have sunk after heavy rains and there is no private area to bathe, the provisions for pregnant women and newborn babies are grossly inadequate and there is no arrangement for trauma counselling for rape survivors.   

And these are only some of the many, many stark and bitter truths revealed by a visit to the camp.   

Click here to read the full report
14:02  Pakistans future is linked to Afghanistans stability:  With the United States and its allies pulling out their troops from Afghanistan, the stakes have never been higher for Pakistan, which has faced a spate of attacks from the angry Taliban in the recent months.   

Islamabad has little choice but to hold talks with the Taliban, as elements in its very own Inter Services Intelligence as well as citizens living in the virtually lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan hold strong links with the fundamentalist outfit.   

Click here to read more
14:01  ECB owes cricket lovers a proper explanation:  Watching the English cricket team, sans Kevin Pietersen and his often outrageous batting, would be less fun, rues Mike Selvey.     

It is obvious that Pietersen's shocking sacking is due to reasons which are more serious than England's recent dismal performance and alleged insubordination by the talented batsman.   

Click here to read more
14:00  Sacking Pietersen is a terribly wrong decision:  If the ECB thinks that sacking Kevin Pietersen will rid England of all its cricket-related woes, then the Board could not be more wrong, believes former cricketer Michael Vaughan.   

If Pietersen did step out of line, says Vaughan, it was the duty of the Board, the coach and the team captain to keep him in check.   

Read more about what Michael Vaughan has to say
13:45  North and South Korea agree to hold family reunions this month:  CNN reports: About 100 people from North and South Korea are expected to reunite between February 20 and 25. The families have been separated since the Korean War.

If they go ahead, the meetings of divided Korean families would be the first to take place since 2010.
13:38  I am a very bad reader, says Marquez:  This may come as a shock to the many readers who have loved One Hundred Years of Solitude, the masterpiece of magical realism and the book that won Gabriel Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

Marquez has confessed that when he started to write the book, he thought it would be the best book in the world. But when he tried reading the published version the first time, he could not get beyond the first 3-4 chapters and felt quite ashamed by it.

Click here for a Must Read interview of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

13:15  Xi, Abe will share stage in Sochi but nothing else:  For the first time since a diplomatic row broke out between China and Japan over the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine, leaders of the two nations will be sharing a stage for the first time on Friday, reports the South China Morning Post.

But it is not clear if Xi Jinping and Abe will actually interact at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in Russia on Friday, the newspaper adds.

After the disputed visit by Abe to the Yasukuni shrine in December, he had been dubbed an 'unwelcome' person by Beijing, and the chill is expected to continue at Sochi.

SCMP quotes Da Zhigang, expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that the two may not even share a handshake when they come to face to face on Friday.

For Xi, who will arrive in Sochi on Thursday, Russia is the first overseas call in the new year, for the second year running in fact, a fact that has been noted by the official news agency Xinhua as a sign of the close ties between the two giants.

If at all the Chinese and Japanese sides to interact in Sochi, it is expected that Beijing will put across its point of view in no uncertain terms. Perhaps adding to the chill already in place for the winter Olympics in Sochi.
13:04  Telangana decision a conspiracy in Andhra: Chandrababu Naidu :  Speaking about the Telangana issue, Telugu Desam Party President Chandrababu Naidu said, "The nation has to understand the Congress conspiracy in Andhra Pradesh. There is a match fixing between Congress, TRS and Jagan Reddy."

"The Centre can't impose its will. The resolution has to be cleared by the Andhra assembly." 
12:58  Won't wait 4 years between tweets: Microsoft boss Satya Nadella:  The day after he was picked as Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella made a big announcement. "first commitment as CEO...i won't wait 4 years between tweets!" he posted on Twitter.

His last tweet, in 2010, was about Microsoft Bing.
12:55  Delhi HC seeks AAP reply on foreign funding :  The Delhi high court asks the Aam Aadmi Party to file reply on a PIL alleging foreign funding to it. The AAP terms as misleading the plea of the Centre that it is not cooperating in the foreign funding probe.
12:38  Lok Sabha adjourned for the day :  The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till tomorrow and the Rajya Sabha till 2 pm. 
12:31  Address bias over north-east community: Sushma in Lok Sabha:  Lok Sabha adjourned over Nido Tania death case.

Earlier, Sushma Swaraj appealed to the government to make student hostels for people from the north-east where they can stay with students from other parts of India. 
12:21  Fertility centre coming up at AIIMS to boost Parsi population:  For all those despairing at the dwindling numbers of the Parsi population, help is at hand. 

The Telegraph, Kolkata, reports that the central government is 'setting up a fertility centre for married Parsi couples at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to boost the community's numbers through its Jiyo Parsi scheme'. 

The first of its kind, the centre is expected to be operational from next week. 

Read more about it here.
12:19  MPs bond with friends and foes alike on first day of last Parl session:  From a correspondent in Delhi: The Central Hall of Parliament is packed and bubbling with enthusiasm today.

As this was the first day of the last session of the 15th Lok Saba, Union ministers looked gloomy but Andhra Members of Parliament looked jubilant. Congress MPs from Seemandhra were seen cracking jokes with their counterparts from the Bharatiya Janata Party.

When Congress President Sonia Gandhi crossed the Central Hall to get to her office, many party MPs from Andhra Pradesh, miffed over the Telangana Bill, didn't even stand up.  Some of them, including L Rajagopal, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao and Undavali Aruna Kumar threatened to disrupt the proceedings of the House if the bill was introduced. MPs from the BJP could be seen smiling.

They huddled near the podium and talked in hushed tones.Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MPs remained silent. Parliamentarians A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran were seen talking about the recent ruckus created by Alagiri within the party and about Prashant Bhushan's revelations about the 2G scam.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley was seen talking to leaders of the Samajwadi Party and the Biju Janata Dal.BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu was seen talking to YSR Congress leader Jagan Reddy.Haryana Janhit Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of Bhajan Lal, was seen trying to make an entry into the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.Congress leader Manish Tiwari was seen talking to BJP leaders Piyush Goyal and Jaitley.'I have never witnessed such a positive mood in the Central Hall earlier,' said BJP leader Smriti Irani All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MPs, led by Dr Maitreyan, gave a notice on the 2G expose allegedly featuring a CD of DMK leader Kanimozhi.

The AIADMK MPs were seen holding the CDs in their hands.
12:14  Sushma raises Arunachal student Nido's death case in LS:  Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha raises the issue of Arunachal student Nido Tania's death.

"We must address the bias against the north-eastern community. We must demand protection for these students. It is our responsibility to protect every Indian child," she says.

"Students from the north-east are forced to migrate because of underdevelopment in their states," she says.

Taking a dig at Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi, Sushma said that the governments which are answerable are sitting on dharnas  
12:09  Rajya Sabha adjourned for 20 minutes as Telangana storm continues.
12:02  TRS president to meet Modi:  MLAs from the Telugu Desam Party protest at the reception of the Parliament. They are seeking permission to enter its premises.

TDP President Chandrababu Naidu is expected to meet BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi this evening.
11:59  Akali Dal MPs protest outside Parl over Operation Bluestar:   MPs from the Akali Dal protest outisde the Parliament over Operation Bluestar.

They are demanding a fast track trial in pending cases against Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagadish Tytler, who are facing allegations for the  involvement in the 1984 ant-Sikh riots.

Image: Sikhs protest demanding justice in the anti-Sikh riots.  
11:37  Telangana, Seema-Andhra protesters clash outside Andhra Bhawan:   Delhi has been rocked by the Telanagana issue. Even as both the houses of the Parliament were adjourned after a uproar, Telugu Desam Party workers protested outside the Andhra Bhawan. 

There were clashes between pro and anti-Telangana protesters, which were stopped by the police.
11:21  Both Houses adjourned till noon:  The Rajya Sabha too has been ajourned till noon following a ruckus over Telanagana.
11:12  Lok Sabha adjourned till noon after Telangana ruckus:  The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till noon following uproar over Telangana.  
11:06  Last session of 15th Lok Sabha begins :  Both Houses of the Parliament  for the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha. 
10:58  Telangana row: Seemandhra MPs threaten no-trust motion in Parl :  Six Congress MPS from Seemandhra are moving notices for a no-confidence motion against the government for its decision to press ahead with its plans to introduce the Telangana Bill, reports NDTV.

Notices for the no-confidence motion were sent to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar this morning, hours before the winter session is expected to resume.

Read the full report here
10:32  Expelled MLA Vinod Kumar Binny quits AAP :   Aam Aadmi Party's rebel MLA Vinod Kumar Binny has quit the party, reports Times NOW. He said that he has withdrawn support from the party.

He insisted that Kejriwal should resign. "He has failed on all fronts," Binny said.  
The MLA was expelled earlier for "anti-party activities."

Binny has said that he will meet Lt Governor Najeeb Jung today.
10:19  Doubt if Parliament will pass any bill in this session: Chidambaram :  Doubt if Parliament will pass any bill in this session, says Finance Minister P Chidambaram said today as the winter session is set to resume.

Storm over the Telangana Bill and the death of Arunachal student Nido Tania in Delhi is expected in the Parliament.  
09:35  I'm not aware of advice by UK govt on Op Bluestar: Lt Gen Brar:  Lieutenant General K S Brar who led Indian troops in Operation Bluestar, has maintained that he is not aware of anything that might have transpired between the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and her UK counterpart Margaret Thacher, reports CNN IBN.  

His remarks come after Britain officially admitted that they had an advisory role in Operation Bluestar.

"I am not aware of any advice by UK government to India on Operation Blue Star. UK played no role "limited" or otherwise in Operation Blue Star. I came into picture on June 1, 1984 and the operation was started on June 5. I have no idea if UK advised India before that and what conversations the British government had with the Indian government," Brar told CNN IBN.
09:23  US reveals 'specific' threat to Sochi Olympic Games :  Three days before the Winter Olympic Games open in Sochi, United States officials say there are a "number of specific threats" and dangers are more likely outside the venues for the Games, CNN reports. 

Speaking at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, highlighted concern over the Games and whether Muslim fundamentalists in disputed regions of Russia -- or other groups -- could launch deadly attacks on selected targets.
09:18  UK 'involvement' in Op Blue Star shocking beyond belief: Punjab CM:  Unhappy over the disclosure that help had been sought from UK prior to Operation Blue Star, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal also expressed shock at the revelation that the British adviser's warning against use of the military option as the first course of action was ignored by the government of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

"I find it hard to believe that the prime minister of a sovereign nation would so humiliate her own people and country as to turn for military advice against its own citizens. This is the gravest sin against the Sikhs, the Punjabis and the people of India," Badal said in a statement.

He said that the disclosure by the British government also proved that all the past and present leaders of Congress had been "lying through their teeth" while claiming that the then Congress government had never wanted to carry out a raid in order to flush out militants from Golden Temple and that the decision of an army assault was a "sudden one".
09:11  Arunachal student Nido's death to rock Parl today :  Minister of State for Minority Affairs Ninong Ering has given a notice in the Lok Sabha for suspension of Question Hour to discuss the dead of Arunchal Pradesh student Nido Tania.

Tania had reportedly gone to Lajpat Nagar on January 29 in search of an address, and was allegedly mocked by someone at a shop for the style his hair.

In a fit of rage, Nido broke a glass at the shop but he paid money for that. Afterwards he was allegedly beaten with sticks.

The next day, when he didn't wake up, his friends rushed him to AIIMS, where he was declared dead.

09:06  Obama meets war commanders over troops uncertainty in Afghan:  United States President Barack Obama has met top Afghanistan war advisors amid uncertainty about the presence of troops in the war-torn country post 2014 with Hamid Karzai government's refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement demanded by America.

Obama had a "useful and constructive" meet with his defence leadership and while he continues to "weigh inputs" from military officials he has not yet made decisions regarding the presence of US troops post 2014, the White House said.

"The president continues to weigh inputs from military officials, as well as the intelligence community, our diplomats, and development experts, and has not yet made decisions regarding the post-2014 US presence," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
08:55  IAS officer BB Mohanty suspended in rape case:  The Rajasthan government has suspended Indian Adminsitrative Service officer B B Mohanty over allegation of sexual exploitation of a girl.

Mohanty was earlier summoned by the Jaipur police to appear before them for questioning. Soon after receiving a detailed case report from the police, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje sprung into action and issued order of suspension.

An IAS aspirant had accused Mohanty for exploiting her on the promise of helping her clear the IAS examination. She asserted that the officer raped her for the first time on February 19, 2013 at his flat at New Sanganer road.
08:40  Let Parliament function: PM tweets ahead of special session today:  The government is determined to introduce the Telangana Bill in Parliament in the special session, which begins today.

"I sincerely hope that Parliament, in its wisdom, will transact the essential business which is its primary concern," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tweeted.  
04:27  India's largest auto expo starts today:  
The 12th edition of the Auto Expo is set to start on Wednesday at Greater Noida, against the background of a prolonged slowdown in the domestic automobile sector and with top global auto chiefs deciding to skip the show. 

As many as 55 vehicle manufacturers are set to take covers off 69 new passenger cars, utility vehicles, two-wheelers and commercial vehicles, making it the largest exhibition in the countrys automotive history.

Open to the media and industry representatives from Wednesday, the expo will be open for the public from Friday.

The focus for passenger car makers is compact cars and utility vehicles, the only segments that saw an increase in sales in the past 12 months. 

Top car makers such as Maruti Suzuki will introduce automatic manual transmission in small car Celerio. 

The technology, a first in the segment, would enable the driver to change gears without engaging the clutch. AMT, unlike automatic transmission variants, would not hit fuel efficiency. 

While Nissan would showcase its small car Datsun GO, Renault has scheduled the global premiere of a compact car.

Read more HERE
03:44  FBI: Kids forced into prostitution for Super Bowl:  
Sixteen juveniles forced into prostitution including some teens who had been reported missing by their families were rescued by the FBI in a two-week operation leading up to the NFL's Super Bowl championship, the agency said today.

Officials said the children ranged in age from 13 to 17 and were found in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

More than 50 women who were also forced to work as prostitutes were also rescued and more than 45 pimps were arrested, according to authorities. Officials said many of the women and children were forced to travel to the New York City area during the Super Bowl, America's biggest sporting event. 

"The FBI and its partners remain committed to the identification and rescue of minor victims, and to hold accountable those who exploit children for financial gain," said Aaron Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark field office.
02:16  US Navy probes alleged cheating on nuke tests:  
Officials say the US Navy is investigating alleged cheating on tests by senior enlisted sailors training on naval nuclear reactors. 

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is conducting the probe.

The allegations involve alleged cheating on tests related to the nuclear reactors that provide propulsion for Navy submarines and aircraft carriers. It does not involve naval nuclear weapons and thus is not comparable to the Air Force's investigation of alleged cheating by officers who operate land-based nuclear missiles.

The officials revealed the probe on condition of anonymity because it has not been publicly announced. 
02:14  Asia fuels rise in world defence spending: study:  
World defence spending will rise in 2014 for the first time in five years, a key study found today, driven by arms races in Asia and the Middle East, as well as a resurgent Russia.

The closely watched IHS Jane's Annual Defence Budgets Review said military budgets this year would inch up by 0.6 per cent, after years of falls brought on by lower spending in the West. 

"We have seen substantial increases in defence spending from countries like Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Oman over the past two years," said Paul Burton, Director of IHS Jane's Aerospace, Defence & Security.

Military spending in Russia is on the advance, the study said, with President Vladimir Putin pushing through a 44 per cent surge in defence expenditure over the next three years. 

Already, spending in Russia last year shot to USD 68 billion, putting it ahead of Britain and Japan. 

Spending by superpower China last year was USD 139 billion dollars, with only the United States expending more defence. 

In 2015, the study said military spending in China will outweigh that of Britain, France and Germany combined.
01:21  Kevin Pietersen dropped from ICC World T20 squad:  
England`s disastrous tour to Australia ended recently. After a forgettable series, England and Wales Cricket Board had been thinking of taking some harsh decisions as far as some seniors were concerned. And one of first to be at the receiving end of ECB is none other than the flamboyant cricketer Kevin Pietersen. 

Kevin Pietersen has been informed by the ECB that he has not been included in the England's squad for the forthcoming tour of the Caribbean later this month nor the ICC World Twenty20 to be held in Bangladesh in March. 

Reacting to the move by ECB, Pietersen said according to BCC reports, "I will continue to play but deeply regret that it won't be for England. 

In the official statement, Paul Downton, the Managing Director England Cricket, said, "Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country's leading run scorer in international cricket demonstrates.
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