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LIVE! Not returning to combat role in Iraq: Obama

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June 19, 2014


23:25  Not returning to combat role in Iraq: Obama:  President Obama says U.S. sending military advisers to Iraq bu President Obama says US sending military advisers to Iraq but not returning to combat role in the country. 
23:23  Govt's response on Iraq crisis much delayed: Ambika Soni:  Speaking with a news channel Congress's Ambika Soni claims the government acted very late on the Iraq crisis. She say the delay of a week will cost India dearly. What the Modi government is doing now should have been done a week back, Soni said.
22:54  Modi making a U-turn on Biometric National Population Register?:  The Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties has submitted to the Minister of Home Affairs that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had opposed biometric National Population Register in his letter to Dr Manmohan Singh on October 6, 2011.   

The forum argued that MHA's support for 12 digit biometric aadhaar number generating NPR makes Indians worse than prisoners, violates Citizenship Act, Census Act and constitutional rights. The forum has demanded to know why Modi had opposed biometric NPR.   

The MHA's must explain as how is India's NPR for identity cards different from Identity Cards that has been abandoned in UK. There is a need to guard against ID Card cartels and learn from the fate of such databases in Egypt, Pakistan and Greece. It must set up a committee to examine why countries like China, Australia and France abandoned such ID projects. 

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday reviewed the scheme of the National Population Register (NPR), and directed officials to take the project to its logical conclusion.
22:52  Ajit Doval working hard to solve Iraq crisis:  National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is working hard to solve the Iraq crisis.

Those officers who are working behind the scene claim that "best efforts are on.

"Forty Indian workers have been kidnapped in strife-torn Iraq, prompting the government to launch all-out efforts to trace them.  
22:01  Crisis in Iraq will lead to spike in inflation: Mukesh Ambani:  

Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries which operates the world's largest single-location oil refinery at Jamnagar, today said the crisis in Iraq will lead to higher fuel prices which in turn will raise inflation.        

 

"In an inter-connected world like the one we are living in today, what's happening around the world affects everywhere.        

 

"The geopolitical crisis in the Middle East, especially the ongoing one in Iraq will increase crude oil prices which in turn will spike inflation in our economy," Ambani said at the 106th annual general meeting of Indian Merchants Chamber in Mumbai today.        

 

Crude oil prices have gone up by four per cent as the civil war has engulfed Iraq and some analysts believe that if the crisis worsens it could jack up India's oil import bill by over USD 20 billion this fiscal, at close to USD 200 billion.        

 

On the growth prospects of the domestic economy, which slipped below 5 per cent for two consecutive years, Ambani said our progress is both irrefutable and unstoppable, but there are developmental hurdles like low education and poor infrastructure.

20:44  Guj HC notice to Adani for collecting deposits from consumers:  

Admitting a public interest litigation alleging charging of unauthorised deposits from consumers with domestic PNG connection, the Gujarat high court issued notices to Adani Gas Ltd and Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board in Ahmedabad today.        

 

A two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala, issued a notice and posted further hearing on July 3.        

 

The High Court acted on the PIL filed by three Ahmedabad-based social activists Dhanesh Desai, Sanjay Raval and Bharat Shah who alleged Adani Gas Ltd has been charging an additional amount of Rs 500 as "security deposit" from its customers.         "Apart from all other charges for installation of pipeline and supply of gas authorised by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, Adani collects additional amount of Rs 500 as so-called 'security deposit'," the PIL said.        

 

The petition alleged the additional amount as "security deposit" is absolutely illegal and unauthorised and cannot be imposed on consumers of natural gas.        

 

The petition also alleged the gas company charged the amount which is not even mentioned in the tariff determined by the regulatory body.        

20:41  Deaf-mute girl gang-raped in MP:  

A deaf and mute minor girl was allegedly gang-raped by three youths near Alirajpur, police said on Thursday. The victim had gone to attend a marriage function in Motaumar village of the district when the three accused abducted her on a motorcycle on June 13 and took her to an isolated place and gang-raped her, Aambua police station in-charge, S K Solanki told reporters.        

 

The girl somehow managed to escape from the place Wednesday evening and later filed an FIR at the Aambua police station. All the accused are absconding and efforts are on to nab them, he added.

19:42  Sushil Kumar Shinde likely to replace Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan:  TV channels are reporting that Prithviraj Chavan might be asked to step down as the chief minister of Maharashtra and the post will be handed over to Sushil Kumar Shinde. Sources say that the Congress is keen on a change following the dismal results in the recently held Lok Sabha polls. The Congress alliance partner in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party, has also reportedly expressed unhappiness with Chavan and has sought a replacement.
19:36  Three militants killed in encounter in Pulwama :  Three militants were killed and two army troopers were wounded in a fierce encounter in south Kashmir.
19:23  Himachal: Bodies of three students fished out of river:  Three more bodies have been recovered from Beas river twelve days after 25 persons, including 24 students from a Hyderabad engineering college, were swept away in the river. The three deceased students were identified as Shiva Prakash Varma, Ashish Mantha and Machrala Akhil, Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar said. With the recovery of these three bodies, the total number of bodies recovered so far has risen to twelve while thirteen more bodies including three girls and a co-tour Prahlad, are yet to be recovered.
18:48  One militant killed in gun battle with security personnel in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. 
18:41  Twitter snitch reveals ISIS secrets... :  A mysterious Twitter account is trying to stop ISIS's rise to power by spilling the terror group's secrets online.

For more than six months a series of tweets have detailed the alleged covert alliances and conspiratorial machinations behind the ascension of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the Islamist group taking over large parts of Iraq.

Taken together, the tweets form a slanted but valuable picture of ISIS and one of the only portraits of its leaders. Read
18:38  'NO order has been passed to use Hindi as official language':  And this should soothe Karunanidhi's ruffled brow. The centre says that no order has been passed to use Hindi as an official language by the MHA.


This will give you a idea of why the DMK chief is troubled.
Read: Modi sarkar, DMK in war of words over Hindi
18:33  Nitish staves of BJP challenge, wins both RS seats :  JDU's Gulam Rasool Balyavi & Pawan Verma win Bihar's Rajya Sabha by-election. All 232 MLAs, barring two, today cast votes in the by-poll to fill up two Rajya Sabha seats in Bihar amidst reports of cross-voting by members of prominent political parties. The two MLAs who did not vote included BJP's Rameshwar Chaurasia who has gone to the US and RJD's Kedar Singh, absconding in a criminal case. The effective strength of Bihar Assembly at present is 232 following 11 vacancies.

Read this column to understand why this win was crucial for the JD-U
18:24   Iraq forces regain control of main refinery:   Iraqi government forces regained full control today of the country's biggest oil refinery after heavy fighting with Sunni militants attempting to seize it, officials said.

Sunni Arab insurgents had stormed the complex in Baiji, south of Iraq's militant-held second city Mosul, yesterday, setting fire to several storage tanks for refined products in a move that sent jitters through world oil markets.
18:15  'Asked everyone to remain inside their homes':  Swaraj said the government has advised all the Indians in Iraq to stay home. She urged the families to have faith in the government and assured them that everything possible would be done to bring those stranded there back home safe.
18:12  Sushma tells families of abducted Indians: Trust us and continue praying :   External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's meeting with Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and the families of the Indians abducted in Iraq ends. She tells the families that patience is essential. "Not only are we doing what the government is bound to do, but more. We are leaving no stone unturned to help Indians in Iraq," she says.

Twenty-four family members of Indians abducted in Iraq met Swaraj today. She said she requested them to trust the government and pray to God. "We are in contact with every organisation possible to help us in our efforts to rescue Indians. Nurses from Kerala are safe in Iraq. Once the situation becomes peaceful we will bring them back." 
18:01   Dr Karan Singh, Chairman, ICCR, on reports that the Centre has asked for his resignation: I've not heard anything from the government.
17:56  LIVE! I resigned three days ago, admits NDMA's vice chief Shashidhar Reddy:  NDMA Vice Chairman M Shashidhar Reddy has put in his papers. Reddy said he resigned on his own and added that the PM should have the prerogative to build his own team. All members of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), appointed by the previous UPA government, have been asked to resign. Reddy confirmed that the home secretary has asked other members to resign as well. Five members have already quit he said and added that he had submitted his resignation three days ago.
17:39  LIVE! Punjab CM, families of abducted Indians meet foreign minister Sushma Swaraj:  External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj meets with Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and families members of Indians abducted in Iraq.
17:33  Six Cabinet Committees have been reconstituted. These are on Security, Political Affairs, Parl Affairs, Eco Affairs, Accommodation and Appointments.
17:30  China to move its citizens in Iraq to safer places:  This is what China is doing about the Iraq crisis. China today said it would move some of its citizens in Iraq -- a key energy provider to the Asian giant -- away from danger zones amid an intensifying insurgency.

"We have about 10,000 Chinese workers in Iraq. Most are in relatively safe areas," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. Its work force is believed to be the biggest and mostly works in oil companies.

"For those employees close to areas where the situation is relatively grave due to proximity to the conflict zones, they will evacuate to safe zones," Hua said.

Reports said that two Major Chinese oil firms have prepared evacuation plans in case the situation deteriorated and threatened  their operations.

In 2011, China mounted a massive land, sea and air operation to evacuate about 35,800 of its workers from Libya during the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi regime.
17:16  Punjab CM: We know govt is doing its best :   Parkash Singh Badal, CM, Punjab, "I have requested Rajnath-ji to do their best to bring back our people stranded in Iraq, we know they are doing their best. Any steps that can be taken so that the Indians stranded in Iraq are released should be taken."
17:01  Felipe is proclaimed new king of Spain:  And in Spain, Felipe VI, was proclaimed head of state in Parliament on Thursday, ushering in what royalists hope will be a new era of stability for the country's embattled monarchy.
17:00  Lanka moderate monk critical of anti-Muslim violence beaten:  A moderate Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka who is highly critical of an extremist Buddhist group has been found beaten and unconscious near Colombo. Read
16:57  Preity-Ness case: Cops record IPL COO statement:  Police have recorded the statement of IPL's Chief Operating Officer Sundar Raman in connection with the complaint lodged by Preity Zinta. In her written complaint, Zinta had alleged that Ness Wadia had publicly humiliated her on several occasions, including once at an IPL auction where Raman was present.
16:53  Iraq forces fight over key oil refinery:  Iraqi government forces are battling Sunni militants for control of the country's biggest oil refinery. A military spokesman said troops had repelled repeated attacks by the militants, led by the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Read
16:45  ISISs savage strategy in Iraq:   And here's what the New Yorker says on the ISIS: The Islamist storm passing through Iraq right now has been building up since the United States invaded the country in 2003, which unleashed longstanding sectarian rivalries that spilled over into civil war. But the appalling brutality currently on display, initiated by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, is more than a carnival of revenge. Read

Pic: Families of the Indians abducted in Iraq outside the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi 
16:29  CBI chief Ranjit Sinhas request turned down:  Meanwhile, the revenue secretary and the Central Board of Direct Taxes have rejected the request from Ranjit Sinha, director, Central Bureau of Investigation, for the transcript of BBMs his predecessor AP Singh exchanged with a, well, person of interest.

Sinha, in fact, carefully drafted a two-page letter to seek the transcript, as a case against the other person was also being pursued by the CBI.  

However, a brief, one-line reply was sent to Sinha by a deputy secretary in the revenue department turning down his request.

After all, babudom understands its internal politics like no one else, so the present CBI directors attempt to know more about his predecessor was nipped in the bud itself.
16:26  Read: ISIS militia not human beings; they kill people for fun: Indian worker.
16:22  Indian Air Force evacuations unlikely right now:  The MEA on evacuations from Iraq: At present Baghdad and Erbil airports are open, flights operational. Will see what the situation requires, says Akbaruddin to a question on whether the Indian Air Force would airlift those stranded in Iraq.

He said the abducted Indian nationals were kept with nationals of other nations. So far, the MEA has received 130 calls on the Iraq helpline. 
16:16  'Documentation not a factor in the return and repatriation of our citizens':  Documentation can be arranged by faxes and by other means. Documentation is not a factor in the return and repatriation of our citizens, says the MEA spokes. He said that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has talked to Punjab CM and Kerala CM. 
16:12   Syed Akbaruddin says documentation and the lack of it, (some Indians don't have passports) is not an issue. The MEA will help those stranded to return. 
16:10  LIVE! MEA: No safety in captivity, location of abducted Indians can't be revealed:   MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin briefing the media on the developments in Iraq. He says envoy Suresh Reddy has reached Iraq. "There is no safety in captivity," says Akbaruddin on a question on whether the abducted Indians were safe. "We do have an understanding of the location, but we cannot reveal it," he says. 

He says the Indian embassy in Iraq is following up with the authorities there. The Iraq government has also confirmed that the Indians were abducted, he says.
16:04  Goon Ravi Pujari threatened Nusli Wadia: Mumbai police :  The Mumbai police confirm that the man who threatened industrialist Nusli Wadia is underworld don, Ravi Pujari. Pujari called Wadia yesterday asking him to back off from the Preity Zinta case or face the consequences. The Mumbai crime branch is keeping a close watch on Pujari's associates in the country. The don is believed to have called from Iran.  
15:54  'People being killed like mosquitoes in Iraq':  Mehboob Rizvi, and Indian back from Iraq says people were killed like mosquitoes. "We could not contact kin back in India, I think all SIMs were blocked. Being pilgrims we were still secure but God save locals, they are under big attack."
15:51  Indian money in Swiss banks rise to over Rs 14,000 cr:  Indians' money in Swiss banks rises more than 40% to 2.03 billion Swiss francs or about Rs 14,000 crore: Switzerland's central bank. The funds held by Indians with banks in Switzerland rose by over 40 per cent during 2013, from about 1.42 billion Swiss francs at the end of previous year, as per the latest data released today by the country's central banking authority Swiss National Bank.
15:48  Minister of State for Commerce & Industry, who also holds the portfolio of Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs  Nirmala Sitharaman to be BJP Rajya Sabha candidate from Andhra Pradesh.
15:45  Patna bomb blast accused gets bail:  Patna bomb blast accused Tabish Nyaz who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Ranchi in November, last year, gets bail. Special judge (NIA) Anil Kumar granted bail to Nyaz on the ground that the anti-terror investigation agency had failed to submit the chargesheet against him within the stipulated period of six months since his arrest.

The Patna blast had taken place on October 27, last year at Patna railway station and the Gandhi Maidan during Narendra Modi's 'Hunkar' rally in which six persons had been killed.

The NIA had brought the accused to Patna and produced him before a court here on November 12, last year. The court had sent Nyaz to 14 days' judicial remand in Beur jail on the same day.
15:21  Two-year extension for secy who served 4 PMs :  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accorded a three-month extension to his secretary, R Ramanujan, an IAS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre of 1979 batch. Ramanujan, who was to retire on the last day of this month, has served Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Inder Kumar Gujral and H D Deve Gowda, apart from Dr Manmohan Singh.  

Ramanujan is only 58 and can continue in office for two more years, but since he had given his date of birth wrongly in his school certificate, he is forced to retire now.

But unlike someone we all know, the bureaucrat does not want to fight it out since the error was made by his parents inadvertently.
15:19  And thereby hangs a tale..:  Why did the Union government have a rethink on nominating solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam as a Supreme Court judge? According to sources, a Union minister prepared a top-secret note containing three paragraphs saying why, and even got it approved by the highest authority. However, foreseeing a possible RTI query on why the government backtracked on its intent, the note has been given the status of 'Top Secret'.
15:18  A new cabsec?:  The NDA leadership is reportedly not too happy with Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, according to insiders. At times, during presentations and summing up of disputes and controversies, there is no bureaucratic input from him to resolve them, they say, which is required by the prime minister.

The buzz is that after the Budget session of Parliament there is a possibility of the government naming Rajiv Mehrishi, presently Rajasthan chief secretary, as the next cabsec.

No wonder Mehrishi has been seen more in New Delhi than in Jaipur, comment his batch mates.
15:16  LIVE! Centre asks SC/ST panel chief, NCW chief to resign:   After NDMA officials, the Centre has now asked the SC/ST panel's chief PL Punia and National Commission for Women chief Mamata Sharma (pictured) to resign. The centre has been cracking down on all political appointees across departments. Both Sharma and Punia are UPA appointees.

Earlier today, the government asked National Disaster Management Agency members to put in their papers. NDMA members said they will resign if the government insists.
15:09  Governor Margaret Alva disillusioned with Congress?:  Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva did not meet UPA president Sonia Gandhi during her Delhi visit, but her schedule included a meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee and PM Narendra Modi. Alva, it seems, told her close friends that the Congress has no future. She is believed to have said that she devoted her life to a party that has been routed. We hear that her son, Nivedith, may join the BJP in Karnataka.

Alva has previously been a governor in Uttarakhand.

If you've just joined us: The Narendra Modi government has asked some UPA-appointed governors to put in their papers, Uttar Pradesh Governor B L Joshi and Karnatakas H R Bhardwaj have tendered their resignations.
14:58  Facebookdown trends after Facebook's brief outage:  #Facebookdown trends on Twitter. Social networking site Facebook crashed on Thursday afternoon and it was down for close to half an hour. Users who attempted to refresh their page saw a message that read "Sorry, something went wrong.' The site said it was working to get the issue fixed "as soon as we can.'  However, it was up and running soon after.

Here are some of the tweets ...

Mitul Dadhania: ‏Facebook was down for a bit, productivity levels around the world went up for a brief moment there! #facebookdown

BaiSk8r: ‏"Where were you in the Great Facebook Crash of 2014 dad?"
"On Twitter son, but I InstaGramed about it" #facebookdown

Rhiannon Irons‏:The Great Facebook Depression 2014 #facebookdown

@fliptongz:  Facebook is like the fridge. You keep checking it but theres nothing good. #facebookdown

Vicky Newborough: ‏Think its a sad sad day when Facebook goes down for 15 minutes and it makes a headline on the news....#facebookdown.
14:54  Governors get ready to bow out:  The NDA government has avoided a major political crisis over the governors issue. 

By Saturday there will be a spate of resignations, with as many as 12 to 14 governors submitting their resignations.

How the government handled this issue, along with the  political managers of the governors, is the real story. Among those who will be resigning is K Rosaiah from Tamil Nadu who is reported to have conveyed his decision to 10, Janpath.
14:45  'Abducted Indian workers are alive':  Huge relief for families of Indian workers abducted in Iraq. TV reports quoting MEA sources says that the workers are alive, though their location is still not known. The exact number of workers who have been abducted are still not known, says the MEA. 
14:40  Happy birthday, Mr Gandhi:  That's a cake for Rahul Gandhi's birthday at the party office in Lucknow. The birthday boy, however is not in India.  Rahul turns 44 today.  See our 12:34 pm post.
14:15  Govt treating non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens, grumbles Karuna:  K Rijiju, MoS Home, reacts to DMK chief M Karunanidhi's claims that there was an unwarranted emphasis on the use of Hindi.

Rijiju says, "Hindi is our national language and we need to promote it. But it will not be promoted at the cost of regional languages. It doesnt mean we'll discourage regional languages, all languages will be given due importance."

Karunanidhi said that the PM should focus on development rather than on promoting Hindi. He was objecting to an order issued  recently by the Union Home Ministry which said that government departments and bureaucrats must use Hindi on social media for their official accounts.
Karuna said that the government was treating non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens.
14:09  Facebook back up after brief global outage :  Facebook is back up after a brief global outage.
14:00  PMO asks all seven NDMA members to resign: sources:  The government has asked National Disaster Management Agency members to put in their papers. Sending out yet another loud and clear signal of his intent for "more governance, less government", the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday asked all members to resign, said sources.

There are total seven members in the NDMA - Shashi Dhar Reddy, KM Singh, B Bhattacharya, JK Sinha, Muzzafar Ahmad, K Salim Ali and Major General JK Bansal. Ali, a 1978 batch IPS officer was the latest entrant in the NDMA. He was special CBI director and investigated Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case.

The Home Secretary had called all NDMA members on Wednesday to resign.

NDMA members said, "We are sending a letter to the government with our stand." Sources in the NDMA said that if the government insisted, then they will resign.

The post of the NDMA is equivalent to that of Minister of State level.
-- IBN Live

13:54  We don't like! Facebook just died on you :   Facebook seems to have a hit a bump. Here's what we got when we tried to log on a few minutes ago. The message says: "Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can."

Yesterday, Facebook Inc launched a smartphone app that will allow consumers to exchange disappearing photos and videos without requiring Facebook accounts, the Internet company's latest effort to develop mobile services beyond its core social network.
13:53  Zulfiqar Abbas, an Indian who is back from Iraq, says the situation is very dangerous, but Indian embassy there is helping. "I want to tell families of Indians here that those stranded there are safe as of now, but the situation tense. ISIS are ferocious, worst than wild animals, they are killing Shia, Sunni both, they want to create a nation."
13:46  Families of Indians stuck in Iraq approach Centre :  Panic-stricken family members of six men, who were abducted in Iraq have appealed to the Centre for help in securing their early return.

A resident of Majitha village, Gurpinder Kaur said that her brother Manjinder Singh was lured by a travel agent who first sent him to Dubai but later put him in Iraq, where he has now got stuck.

Manjinder was among the youths from Punjab working with one of the Iraqi companies which were closed down after the area was captured by militants.

Kaur said that her brother had called her two days back and said that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants were taking care of them and wanted to help them leave Iraq.

She said she was in touch with the Indian embassy in Baghdad and had also sent a request to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking assistance in the matter from the government. But she added that the Ministry of External Affairs was yet to provide any information about the Punjabi youths stranded in Iraq. However, the Union Government had told them that it has sent officials to Iraq for negotiations.
13:30  Greenpeace trashes IB report :  Greenpeace has trashed the Intelligence Bureau report, which has described the organisation as "a threat to national economic security", and that that the organization's compliance with tax rules should also be checked. It accused Greenpeace of hurting economic progress by campaigning against power projects and mining. The Intelligence Bureau, in a new report, says the NGO's clearance to collect funds from abroad should be cancelled. The report was submitted on June 9 to the Prime Minister's Office and Ajit Doval, the National Security Adviser.
13:01  Y.P. Singh @yogeshpsingh  Short-staffed Police's decision to provide security to Wadias is wrong.Wadias should hire private security as issue with Zinta is private.

Singh is a former police officer who left to become a lawyer and activist in Mumbai.
12:59  Why many Indian nurses won't leave Iraq:  Many Indian nurses -- most of them from Kerala -- stuck in Iraq took loans to arrive in the war-torn country to support their families back home. Now, they have to choose between the devil and the deep sea. Read
12:49  Militants promise to free abducted Indian workers :  Families of 40 Indian construction workers abducted in strife-torn northern Iraq say they have spoken with the men, whose captors claim they will be freed unharmed.

Ministry of external affairs had announced on Wednesday that the 40 workers had been abducted in recent days in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which Sunni militants have overrun in a deadly ongoing insurgency.

The ministry said no demands for ransom had been made and the workers' whereabouts, along with who was responsible for the abductions, were not known.
12:39  The importance of dissent in democracy:  In a democracy, non-governmental organisations provide a platform to civil society to dissent in an informed and reasoned manner. Read
12:34  Rahul turns 44, on par with Congresss LS strength:  Rahul Gandhi turns 44 today, the same as the Congress partys strength in the 16th Lok Sabha. The party vice president is abroad, even as party men are reportedly making plans to celebrate his birthday back home, in absentia.

But not everything is as hunky-dory as it seems or sounds. Within the party there is growing restiveness over his lack of involvement with the partys affairs. Insiders narrate one incident last week, when Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was defending the UPA government during the debate on the Presidents address to Parliament.

At a time when he should have been thumping the desks in Kharges support, Gandhi, it is said, was busy taking out the battery from his BlackBerry, wiping it clean with his handkerchief and putting it back into the phone.

Who knows, maybe he was trying to phone a friend, remarked a senior Congress leader wryly.
12:18  Sushma: Am personally supervising efforts to end Iraq crisis :   External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj says the government will leave no stone unturned to find a solution to this (the abduction of the 40 construction workers in Iraq). Am personally supervising this."

Pic: The mother of Kuljeet Singh, one of the 40 construction workers abducted in Iraq, with his photograph.
12:15  Stunning photographs of India at night. Take a look.
12:10  Students, parents among 50 arrested for exam scam in Madhya Pradesh:   The Special Task Force of the Madhya Pradesh Police has arrested 50 people -- including, students, parents and alleged brokers -- in connection with the multi-crore Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board scam.
12:09  In the wake of Chhattisgarh governor Shekhar Dutt stepping down today, an annoyed Assam Governor JB Patnaik tells reporters, "How many times should I say this? I am not resigning!"
11:51  Indian nurses in Iraqi hospital wait for violence to subside:  A moving report on the condition of the 46 nurses in Tikrit, Iraq.

Abandoned by most of the hospital's Iraqi staff, the nurses, whose homes in Kerala are worlds away from the desert city in which they now live, stayed behind because they had nowhere to go.

They have been isolated since the city was taken over by Islamist forces and are now awaiting help. Some want assurances of safe passage.

"We don't know what's going on outside,' said Tona Joseph, 24, who said her twin sister, Veena, also a nurse, was sitting beside her in a patient's ward on the second floor of the hospital. "We haven't stepped outside for the last five days." Read more
11:47  Maharashtra Governor Sankaranarayanan: Home Secy called asking me to quit:  In a confirmation that the NDA government has been informally asking UPA-appointed governors to step down, Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan on Wednesday said he got two calls from Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami last week, asking him to demit office.

He said he had no objection to the Centre's decision to replace Governors but objected to the manner in which the government was asking him to quit the constitutional post.

"Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami called me twice last week, asking me to demit office. I didn't reply to him nor expressed my views."
Read more
11:36  36 hours on 4-yr-old girl still stuck in bore well :  And a four-year-old girl who fell inside a bore well in Bijapur is yet to be rescued. Efforts are on by special teams to rescue the girl who fell into an open bore well at Nagathana village, 26 km from Bijapur, senior officials said.
Read more
11:32  SC agrees to hear petition challenging new army chief's appointment:   The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that challenges the appointment of Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag as the Indian Army's new chief.

Lieutenant General Suhag is scheduled to take over as army commander on August 1, after General Bikram Singh retires. But another senior office, Lieutenant General Ravi Dastane, has said that the new army chief's selection is mired in "favouritism". Read more

Pic: Army chief Bikram Singh with Lt Gen Suhag (right)
11:27  Iraq appeals for US air strikes on advancing militants:  Iraq has called for US air strikes on militants who attacked its main oil refinery and seized more territory in the north, putting US President Barack Obama under pressure today amid warnings the country could unravel.

The White House said Obama has not ruled out such strikes after a lightning eight-day offensive by Sunni fighters, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that has seen them rapidly bear down on the capital.

While officials touted progress, militants seized three villages in northern Iraq. "Iraq has officially asked Washington to help... and to conduct air strikes against terrorist groups," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in Saudi Arabia.

However, Zebari said "a military approach will not be enough. We acknowledge the need for drastic political solutions."
11:22  India must find its voice in West Asia :  For the past decade, especially after what are called the 9/11 wars, New Delhi has chosen to give up its own say on matters of the Middle East to the big powers, either piggybacking on their stands or being intimidated into adopting a hands-off policy there. Read the opinion piece on the Hindu today. 
11:20  What the Supreme Court says on removal of governors :  As the second governor resigns, take a look at what the Supreme Court says on governors.

In 2010, a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court interpreted these provisions and laid down some binding principles (B.P. Singhal v. Union of India). In this case, the newly elected central government had removed the Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa in July, 2004 after the 14th Lok Sabha election. When these removals were challenged, the Supreme Court held:

  • The President, in effect the central government, has the power to remove a Governor at any time without giving him or her any reason, and without granting an opportunity to be heard.
  • However, this power cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner.  The power of removing Governors should only be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons.
  • The mere reason that a Governor is at variance with the policies and ideologies of the central government, or that the central government has lost confidence in him or her, is not sufficient to remove a Governor.  Thus, a change in central government cannot be a ground for removal of Governors, or to appoint more favourable persons to this post.
  • A decision to remove a Governor can be challenged in a court of law.  In such cases, first the petitioner will have to make a prima facie case of arbitrariness or bad faith on part of the central government.  If a prima facie case is established, the court can require the central government to produce the materials on the basis of which the decision was made in order to verify the presence of compelling reasons.
  • In summary, this means that the central government enjoys the power to remove Governors of the different states, as long as it does not act arbitrarily, without reason, or in bad faith.

11:14  Promised wages by Iraq rebels, Indian nurses to stay in Tikrit:  Hours after sending an SOS to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure their safe return to India, 46 nurses from Kerala trapped in a hospital in the northern Iraq city of Tikrit on Wednesday evening said they had agreed to continue to work there after fighters from militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), assured them they would be paid their salaries and dues. Read more
11:08  Sourav Ganguly joins Mudgal committee probe:  Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has joined the Supreme Court-appointed Justice (Retd) Mukul Mudgal committee probing the allegations of betting and spot-fixing in the sixth Indian Premier League.

Ganguly yesterday specially flew down here to attend the proceedings as the full committee met for the first time.

"Yes, Sourav joined the investigations today. It was the first time after his appointment that we met in person. The meeting took place at my office and I would like to think that discussions were indeed very fruitful," Justice Mudgal said.
11:05  LIVE! Chhattisgarh governor steps down:  Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt has stepped down from his post, two days after Uttar Pradesh Governor BL Joshi submitted his papers following a request by the NDA government to some of them to demit office.

"The Governor submitted his resignation papers to President Pranab Mukherjee last night in New Delhi," Secretary to Governor, Amitabh Jain said today. Dutt had taken charge as the Governor in January 2010.

Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami had called some of the Governors appointed during UPA government's tenure to resign in the wake of change of government at the Centre. While the Uttar Pradesh Governor had resigned on Tuesday, some of his counterparts in other states, who are UPA appointees, appear to have dug their heels in.
10:11  Sensex up 125 pts in early trade on global cues:  
The benchmark BSE Sensex recovered over 125 points in early trade today on emergence of buying by funds and retail investors amidst a firming trend in global markets after Federal Reserve's upbeat outlook on the US economy.

The 30-share index rose by 125.27 points, or 0.50 per cent, to 25,371.521 points with capital goods, power, consumer durables, realty and auto sector stocks leading the recovery. 

The index had tanked 274.94 points in yesterday's trade after unrest intensified in Iraq, threatening rise in crude import costs. 

On the similar lines, the National Stock Exchange index Nifty surged by 37.95 points, or 0.50 per cent, to 7,596.15. 

Brokers said fresh buying by funds and retail investors, triggered by a better trend on other Asian bourses following overnight gains in the US markets fuelled by upbeat comments on the economy by the Federal Reserve. 

The Fed said the economic growth has rebounded in recent months and kept its short-term interest rates unchanged. 
10:09  Preity to return to Mumbai today, 'won't sell Kings XI stake':  
Actress Preity Zinta will return to Mumbai on Thursday to record her statement over the complaint filed by her against her former boyfriend Ness Wadia accusing him of misbehaving with her in public. 

Ahead of her return, Preity Zinta tweeted that she was not selling her stake in IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab, nor was she settling in the US.

"A big thank you to all the people for the support. Amazed at how much speculation in the media. No I'm not selling my stake or settling in the US," Preity tweeted.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said that the police have written to Preity Zinta's lawyer, asking her to record a supplementary statement.
10:09  Rupee rallies 46 paise against dollar in early trade:  
The rupee regained strength to trade 46 paise higher at 59.93 against the dollar at the Interbank Foreign Exchange market today on increased selling of the US currency by exporters and banks. 

Forex dealers said a higher opening in the domestic equity market and dollar's weakness against other currencies overseas after the US Federal Reserve kept its easing policy unchanged also supported the rupee. 

The Fed on Wednesday said it would leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged but cut its monthly stimulus programme to $35 billion from $45 billion. 

The rupee lost 36 paise to end at an over seven-week low of 60.39 against the dollar yesterday as growing unrest in Iraq pushed up crude and caution prevailed in the currency markets ahead of the outcome of US Fed meeting.

Meanwhile, the benchmark BSE Sensex recovered by 125.27 points, or 0.50 per cent, to 25,371.52 in early trade today. 
09:38  Google Play has a major security problem:  
Researchers have discovered a crucial security problem in Google Play, the official Android app store where millions of users of Android, the most popular mobile platform, get their apps.

Jason Nieh, professor of computer science at Columbia Engineering, said Google Play has more than one million apps and over 50 billion app downloads, but no one reviews what gets put into Google Play-anyone can get a 25-dollar-account and upload whatever they want. Very little is known about what's there at an aggregate level.

He said given the huge popularity of Google Play and the potential risks to millions of users, we thought it was important to take a close look at Google Play content.

Nieh and PhD candidate Nicolas Viennot's paper is the first to make a large-scale measurement of the huge Google Play marketplace. To do this, they developed PlayDrone, a tool that uses various hacking techniques to circumvent Google security to successfully download Google Play apps and recover their sources.

They discovered all kinds of new information about the content in Google Play, including a critical security problem: developers often store their secret keys in their apps software, similar to usernames/passwords info, and these can be then used by anyone to maliciously steal user data or resources from service providers such as Amazon and Facebook.
09:18  IIT-JEE Advanced Exam Results 2014 to be declared today:  
The results for the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Exam (IIT-JEE) will be declared on Thursday. 

Students can check their results on:
http://jeemain.nic.in/jeemainapp/Welcome.aspx
http://jeeadv.iitd.ac.in/#sthash.mBLHZWpg.dpuf

The exam was conducted on May 25, 2014. 

Nearly 1.19 lakh students attended the joint entrance examination to get admission to undergraduate engineering courses at Indian Institutes of Technology (Bhubaneswar, Bombay, Delhi, Gandhinagar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Mandi, Patna, Roorkee, Ropar and Varanasi) and ISM Dhanbad.

Once the JEE Advanced results are declared, the candidates shall begin with the online filling of choice for a number of courses.
09:18  Yashwant Sinha to walk out of Hazaribagh jail today:  
Senior BJP leader and former union minister Yashwant Sinha will, Thursday, be released from a prison in Hazaribagh, a day after he was granted bail by a local court in Jharkhand. 

Sinha had moved the bail petition on Tuesday, but arguments in the case were deferred till Wednesday as top party leader LK Advani was scheduled to meet him on Tuesday. 

After meeting Sinha in jail on Tuesday, Advani did not rule out the possibility of a larger role for him in the state. Advani had also appealed him to seek bail and lead the agitation in the state.

Sinha was arrested on June 2 while he was leading a demonstration against the state's poor power scenario and had locked up officials of the electricity board. 
09:16  First session of AP assembly from today:  
The first session of the Andhra Pradesh assembly post the division of the state will be held  here from Thursday  in a historical century-old building, which has been witness to the emergence of state legislature.

Constructed as a Town hall in 1913, the building was converted into Hyderabad State Legislative Assembly in 1952. Even after the formation of Andhra Pradesh state in 1956, it continued to be the house of the state legislature till 1985, when a new assembly building was inaugurated.

Though known for its architectural splendour, the old assembly building looks a bit cramped compared with the new one. Not only the elected representatives, even officials and mediapersons, whose number had grown manifold since 1985, have to cope with limited space availability.    

The five-day session begins with protem Speaker, P Narayanaswamy, administering oath  of office to the newly-elected members of the assembly.
08:38  Bihar Rajya Sabha bypoll today; RJD to support JD-U:  
An election to Bihar's two Rajya Sabha seats will be held on Thursday. 

On the appeal of former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav extended his party's support to the ruling JD-U's two candidates in the Rajya Sabha by-election to defeat BJP's game plan. 

Lalu Prasad said the RJD decided to support JD-U to forestall any chance to communal forces to play their dirty politics. 

It was probably the first time in two decades that Nitish Kumar has publicly admitted that he sought support from the RJD chief after he and Lalu Prasad parted ways in 1994.

Lalu Prasad's decision to support JD-U is seen here as the first step for a likely realignment of RJD-JD-U to take on a surging Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar, despite reservations expressed by some RJD legislators and senior leaders like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. 
08:25  India-born scientist wins 2014 World Food Prize:  
India-born plant scientist Sanjaya Rajaram has been named the winner of the $250,000 World Food Prize for his contribution in increasing global wheat production by more than 200 million tonnes in the years following the Green Revolution. 

Rajaram's breakthrough achievement in successfully cross-breeding winter and spring wheat varieties, which were distinct gene pools and had been isolated from one another for hundreds of years, led to him developing plants that have higher yields and a broad genetic base. 

More than 480 high-yielding wheat varieties bred by Rajaram have been released in 51 countries on six continents and have been widely adopted by small- and large-scale farmers alike. "Dr Rajaram's work serves as an inspiration to us all to do more, whether in the private or public sector," said Secretary of State, John Kerry, at an event where he delivered the keynote address. 

"When you do the math, when our planet needs to support two billion more people in the next three decades, it's not hard to figure out: This is the time for a second green revolution," Kerry said. 

Rajaram followed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman E Borlaug at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, CIMMYT, leading its Wheat Program from 1976 to 2001. The World Food Prize Foundation President and the former US Ambassador to Cambodia, Kenneth M Quinn, said the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate is an individual who worked closely with Dr Borlaug in Mexico and who then carried forward and extended his work, breaking new ground with his own achievements. 
03:51  Obama to Congress: I don't need new permission on Iraq:  I'll let you know what's going on, but I don't need new congressional authority to act, President Barack Obama told congressional leaders Wednesday about his upcoming decision on possible military intervention in Iraq.

The White House meeting sounded more like a listening session for the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate about options for helping Iraq's embattled Shiite government halt the lightning advance of Sunni Islamist fighters toward Baghdad that Obama is considering.
03:47  Iraq crisis: Isis planning to attack Britain, says Cameron:  David Cameron has warned that Isis jihadists seeking to build an Islamic caliphate also plan to "attack us here at home in the United Kingdom"
02:39  US urges 'restraint' as Israel hunts kidnappers:  The United States today called on both Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint as Israelis tightened their grip on the West Bank hunting for three kidnapped teenagers. "We recognize this is an incredibly sensitive and difficult circumstance on the ground, and we feel all sides should exercise restraint," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
02:38  Iraqi leaders' sectarianism fueled militant advance: US:  Islamist militants have rolled over the Iraqi army because the Shiite-led government has pursued a sectarian agenda that alienated Sunnis, the top-ranking US military officer said today. 

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that Baghdad had requested US "air power" to fend off the onslaught of Sunni extremists. But he said the political leadership had sown the seeds of the crisis it now faces.
02:38  US man who posted Obama threat gets a year in jail:  A US man who posted an online threat to kill President Barack Obama has been sentenced to a year in jail. US Attorney Peter Smith's office says a federal judge today also ordered Nicholas Savino to undergo two years of supervised release and forfeit his guns and ammunition.
02:10  US urges 'restraint' as Israel hunts kidnappers:  The United States today called on both Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint as Israelis tightened their grip on the West Bank hunting for three kidnapped teenagers. 

"We recognize this is an incredibly sensitive and difficult circumstance on the ground, and we feel all sides should exercise restraint," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
01:20  Benghazi suspect Khattala captured after months of planning:  US Special Operations Forces captured wanted terrorist Abu Ahmed Khattala when he unwittingly presented himself as a golden target of opportunity, NBC News has learned.

After months of planning, Delta Force commandos along with FBI agents captured the man suspected in the Benghazi consulate attack late Sunday night on a desolate stretch of desert highway just outside Benghazi, U.S. sources tell NBC News.

Read more
01:19  EU set to ban imports from annexed Crimea:  The European Union is expected to announce a ban on imports from Crimea next week in response to Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian territory, sources said today. 

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday are likely to agree a move to ban imports from Crimea as from next week, notably its wine, said an EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.
00:50  Israel arrests 51 former Palestinian prisoners:  The Israeli army has re-arrested 51 former Palestinian prisoners as part of a furious search for three missing Israeli teens believed to have been abducted in the West Bank.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said on Wednesday that the 51 were among more than 65 Palestinians detained overnight in the search for the teens.

The 51 were part of a group of 1,027 Palestinians released in 2011 from Israeli prisons in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in 2006.
00:22  Nihalchand Meghwal refuses to resign over rape charge:  Union Minister Nihalchand Meghwal, summoned by a court in Rajasthan in connection with a rape incident, today ruled out his resignation. 

"I will not resign," he told reporters at Sriganganagar district when his attention was drawn to street protests by Congress and women outfits demanding his removal from the ministry.
00:21  Zinta rules out selling her stake in Kings XI Punjab:  Actress Preity Zinta today ruled out selling her stake in IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab. "A big Thank U 2all the people 4the support. Amazed at how much speculation in the media. No I'm not selling my stake or settling in the US," she posted on her Twitter account.
00:18  Iraq crisis: First major test for PM Narendra Modi:  India's newly elected leader is confronting his first major crisis after it was confirmed 40 Indian construction workers have been kidnapped in the Iraqi city of Mosul - seized by Islamist fighters last week. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi dispatched a senior envoy to Iraq after it emerged families of the workers employed by a Turkish firm had not heard from the men for several days and Indian officials in Iraq had failed to make contact. There are also concerns for a further 46 Indian nurses, stranded in the city of Tikrit, which is also in the control of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Read more
00:16  Top headlines in that last 24 hours:  India has limited options in securing hostages' release
Meet the world's most dangerous terrorist 
Sonia Gandhi unlikely to retire as Congress president next year 
'Soon my daughter in Iraq will lose all contact with us' 
Rajnath rejects mercy petitions of Nithari killer Koli, 4 others 
40 Indian workers in Iraq abducted, no ransom calls so far
'Pay the ransom to save kidnapped Indians' 
Days after son's Preity mess, Nusli Wadia gets underworld threat 
8-yr-old raped, dumped in field by 2 in UP
Rijiju on Modi sarkar: 'Discipline can't be termed as dictatorship'
UP 'goondagiri' continues: Teen beaten up for opposing sexual harassment 

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