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LIVE! Maha govt move on reservations 'opportunistic', says Katju

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June 26, 2014

23:11  Nepal PM Koirala diagnosed with lung cancer:  
Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has been diagnosed with lung cancer at a US hospital, his personal physician said today. 

Koirala, 75, flew to the US 10 days ago for medical treatment as his doctors advised him to have a thorough medical check-up in a well-equipped hospital after black spots were found in his lung, a couple of weeks ago. 

"I am really sad to confirm the fact that cancer in Prime Minister's lungs has been confirmed by the reports of several investigations," quoted Koirala's personal physician Dr Kabirnath Yogi as saying. 

Earlier, Yogi, who accompanied Koirala to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said the prime minister would receive radiotherapy for treatment of the localised lesion of the lung since his chronic bronchitis does not permit a major surgery of the lung. 

Radiotherapy will be administered to Koirala from Thursday, said Chiranjivi Nepal, senior advisor to the prime minister.
22:07  Maha govt move on reservations 'opportunistic', says Katju:  The move by Maharashtra government to extend reservation in jobs and education to Marathas and Muslims in the state is nothing but "opportunistic vote-bank politics", Press Council of India chairperson Justice (retd) Markandey Katju said today.

"I strongly protest against the decision of Maharashtra government to give 16 per cent reservation to Marathas and 5 per cent to Muslims in state government jobs and educational institutions. This is in addition to the 52 per cent reservation already given to OBCs, thus taking the total reservation to 73 per cent," Katju said in a statement.

He said that although Supreme Court, in the Indira Sawhney case, permitted maximum 50 per cent reservation, some politicians do not seem to care about the law of the land.

"This is nothing but crass, opportunistic vote-bank politics, particularly since state elections are approaching in Maharashtra," Katju said. Questioning the Maharashtra government, Katju asked whether "meritorious general category people (should) leave (the state)".
21:20  Beas tragedy: Two more bodies recovered, six still untraceable:  Rescuers today recovered the bodies of two more students of a Hyderabad-based engineering college who, along with their 22 other friends and a co-tour operator, were swept away in the Beas river on June 8, taking the number of bodies traced so far to 19.

The victims were identified as P Ridhima and Merudu Jagdish and their bodies were sent to their hometowns after post-mortem, Mandi Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar said.

Twenty-four BTech students of VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad and a co-tour leader had drowned in the Beas river on June 8 when the Larji hydropower project authorities suddenly released water from the dam.

The bodies of five students, including two girls, and co-tour leader Prahlad are yet to be recovered. Rescue teams of NDRF, Police, ITBP and expert divers are searching for the remaining bodies in a 20-km stretch from Thalot to Pandoh Dam and efforts are being made to recover all the bodies, officials said.
20:50  IAS officer S Selvakumar from the Karnataka cadre has been chosen to be a director with the Prime Minister's Office. Selvakumar, who is a 1997 batch officer, is presently serving as managing director with the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation.
20:30  India will actively engage with neighbours: Swaraj:  Spelling out the new Indian government's foreign policy towards its neighbours, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said India would actively engage with them to ensure security, stability and prosperity for all nations.

"We are convinced that India's development cannot be complete and sustainable unless we succeed in building productive partnerships with our immediate neighbours," she said while addressing scholars at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies here. "We will pursue a policy of active engagement with our neighbours with the aim of ensuring security, stability and prosperity for all. We will, therefore, devote our energy to working much more closely with our neighbours in pursuit of our development goals," she said.

Swaraj stressed that India will walk the extra mile to create opportunities and to build virtuous cycles of prosperity in the region.
19:52  Modi satisfied with 30 days of work but says room for improvement:  Satisfied with the work done by his government that completed 30 days in office today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi nevertheless acknowledged that there are areas where "we need to improve", underlining that unlike the previous governments he did not have the "luxury" of a "honeymoon period".

He said a "series of allegations began in less than a hundred hours" after his government took over and there were "instances" with which the government had nothing to do, "yet these controversies have persisted". He, however, did not specify these "allegations" and controversies.

The former Gujarat Chief Minister said "a big challenge" he was facing in Delhi is to "convey to a select group of people about our intentions and sincerity to bring a positive change in this country" and they are "both within and outside government system".

Writing in a blog, he said "every decision we took has been guided solely by national interest" and expressed the commitment to take India to "greater heights in the years to come". Modi said his "confidence and determination has increased tremendously".
19:44  Nirmala Sitharaman elected to RS from AP:   Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was today elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from (new) Andhra Pradesh. The election was held to fill the vacancy in the upper house from Andhra Pradesh after the death of N Janardhan Reddy, an official release said.

The announcement of Sitharaman's election was made as today is the last date for withdrawal of nominations. Sitharaman, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry (independent charge) was the only candidate to contest in the poll. The ruling TDP has backed the candidature of Sitharaman, who is married into a coastal Andhra family.
19:29  The speculations were on since yesterday after he appeared to bite Italy's Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder during his team's 1-0 win on Tuesday. A furious Giorgio Chiellini said he had been bitten by Suarez during the South Americans' 1-0 Group D victory at the World Cup on Tuesday, and photographs showed what appeared to be bite marks on his shoulder.
19:27  Suarez suspended for 9 matches; banned for 4 months from any football activity:  Just in Uruguay's Luis Suarez has been suspended for 9 matches and has been banned for 4 months from any football-related activity.
19:10   Just in: PCB has signed a binding agreement with the BCCI, in which both countries will play six bilateral series over the next eight years.
18:58  AAP's Pravin Srivastava tweets this cartoon
18:52  Maharashtra gets poll ready: Sea plane services to begin in Mumbai:   Now that it's getting ready for elections, Mumbai is getting a whole lot of love. First, the government watered down a hike in train fares to ensure commuters do not spurn the BJP and its ally, the Shiv Sena, in the assembly election, expected in the next few months.

Permissions have been received from the shipping and defence ministries for commercial sea planes to fly people from Juhu in the western suburban of the city to Girgaum Chowpatty in South Mumbai. A ticket in a plane that seats four or seven will cost Rs. 850.  Read
18:50  Rafale deal likely to figure during French Foreign Minister's visit:  The multi-billion dollar Rafale combat aircraft deal, the Jaitapur nuclear power plant and climate change are expected to figure prominently during talks French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius' will have with Indian leaders during his two-day visit to India starting Monday.
18:36  The court order on the summons issued to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case. Read
18:22  India's English obsession must end:  India is like Europe. The European Union has 24 official languages. All 24 are used for outbound communication. All laws are released in 24 languages. Each state has engineering, medicine, business in their own language. India's languages serve a larger number of people than many European states. There is no reason why we cannot adopt this model, says Sankrant Sanu on Read
18:18  Most of 55 ex-ministers fail to meet deadline to vacate houses:  Most of the 55 former ministers have not met the deadline of vacating their official residences which ended today and the Urban Development Ministry is preparing to issue fresh notices to them.

Among the new ministers, nine will retain the bungalows they have been occupying as MPs while 29 have been allotted new bungalows to match their current stature.

Those who have been allotted new bungalows include Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda and MSME Minister Kalraj Mishra.
18:05  PM on completion of 30 days: I don't have the luxury of a honeymoon period:   And this is Narendra Modi's blog on his government completing a month in office. Excerpts...

Dear Friends,
Today our Government completes a month in office. The support and affection of the people has been overwhelming and this inspires us to work even harder.

67 years of previous governments is nothing compared to 1 month, but I do want to say that in the last month, our entire team has devoted every single moment for the welfare of the people. Every decision we took has been guided solely by national interest.

When we took over a month ago, I kept thinking that I am new to this place and some people believed that I would take at least a year or even two to learn the intricacies of the working of the Central Government. Fortunately, a month later that thought does not exist any longer in my mind. My confidence and determination has increased tremendously and I credit a substantial part of this to the collective experience and wisdom of my ministerial colleagues and also to my experiences as a four time Chief Minister. The affection of the people and support from officials has also added to this confidence in large measure.

Here's the full blog
17:48  The Congress party tweets: Shri Narendra Modi's Achievements in past 30 days- Skyrocketing Prices & more! Are these the #AchheDin he promised?
17:41  All work, no play for Modi in Brazil :   Xi Jinping will be there. So will Vladmir Putin. Barack Obama may make a short trip down. And a galaxy of European and Latin American leaders is expected. But one seat Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is keeping warm will stay empty.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will skip the Fifa World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13 despite an invitation from Roussef, ensuring that India's absence at the high table of global football will also resonate in the stands where some of the world's top leaders will gather.

Modi, who has set a punishing schedule for ministers and bureaucrats alike, will fly to Brazil for a summit of the BRICS grouping of emerging economies starting July 15 in the port town of Fortaleza. Read more
17:34  State govts get 3 more months to implement Food Security Act:  The Centre today decided to give additional three months to state governments to implement the National Food Security Act, that gives two-thirds of the country's population the right to subsidised foodgrains.

The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"The deadline for implementation of National Food Security Act expires on July 4. The government has decided to extend the deadline by three months," Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.

An executive order will be issued in this regard, he said.

So far, Haryana, Rajasthan. Maharashtra, Punjab and Chattisgarh have fully implemented the Act, while Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chandigarh have partially implemented, he said. More than 19 states and union territories are yet to implement the provisions of the Act, he added.
17:21  Bribes: The secret weapon of the ISIS:  Using their deep cash reserves amounting to at least $1.3 billion (about Rs 7,800 crore), the militants are bribing military commanders to stay away from the battle, enabling them to take over Iraqi towns easily. They also use their money power to gain crucial information from the military, thus helping them spread their influence over the nation. Read the report on 
17:13  Why the Modi govt may have erred in the case of Gopal Subramanium:  Gopal Subramanium, a feisty character, is not going to let anyone sully his reputation. He is ready to answer any question, any charge, which is more than what the Modi regime might be ready for. One man's integrity and toughness can crack a regime's carefully-built faade. Suddenly its backstage looks murky, says Shiv Visvanathan. Read
17:06  Modi accepts Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina's invite to visit :   Prime Minister Narendra Modi writes to his Bangladeshi courterpart Sheikh Hasina and says he hopes to foster a new era of cooperation and connectivity between the two countries. The PM has accepted Sheikh Hasina`s invitation to visit Bangladesh. The PM has also extended an invitation to Hasina to visit India at her earliest convenience.
17:01  Implementation of National Food Security Act extended by three months, says Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
16:59  Visa norms eased for Bangladesh:   In the wake of EAM Sushma Swaraj's visit to Dhaka, India has eased tourist visa norms for Bangladeshi nationals. Multiple entry visa for five years for Bangladesi minors and senior citizens.
16:30  Cong on Sonia, Rahul summons: Swamy allegations without merit :  Congress reacts to the court summons on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case filed by BJP's Subramanian Swamy.

Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi says, "Dr. Swamy is known for his anti-Congress campaign, allegations without merit, will reply strongly."
16:17  Shah Rukh to receive Legion d'Honneur - France's highest award :  France has decided to honour Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan with Legion of France, its highest distinction - civilian or military. The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, will travel to Mumbai next week to confer the award of Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (Officer of the Legion of Honour) on Khan for his contribution to cinema. The only Bollywood actor to have received the same honour was Amitabh Bachchan in 2007.  
15:57  PM Modi with his Cabinet colleagues reviews the progress of the monsoon and the steps taken to contain inflation.
15:56  What India needs to do :  Bangladesh's government has reversed Indian public opinion by creating a favourable atmosphere. It is time India does the same. Read
15:53  Congress petitions court against Muthalik:   Goa Congress today filed a petition with the local court pleading that police be asked to file an FIR against Sri Ram Sene Chief for trying to incite communal violence in Goa.
15:46  Jailed Jazeera reporter donates funds to Sisi's Egypt plan:  An Al-Jazeera journalist whose jailing triggered global outrage has donated 15,000 Egyptian pounds to a fund initiated by the president to boost Egypt's ailing economy, his brother said today.

Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, who was sentenced to seven years in jail along with two other Al-Jazeera journalists for allegedly aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood, made the donation to Tahya Misr (Long Live Egypt), an initiative of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
15:35  Subramanian Swamy tweets on the summons for Sonia, Rahul: "Once they appear they will have to take bail and deposit passport."

Swamy is the petitioner in the case.
15:19  'Monsoon weak but likely to "improve substantially" in the next two months' :  Holding a meeting with Cabinet colleagues to review the progress of monsoon and steps taken to contain inflation, the Prime Minister directed that adequate water, power and seed supply should be ensured to the farmers so that the production is not affected due to scant rainfall.

The meeting was told that the monsoon has been weak but it is likely to "improve substantially" in the next two months and steps taken to contain inflation have shown "positive effect".

The Agriculture Ministry has firmed up a contingency plan for more than 500 districts, the meeting was told.

Modi "stressed on the need for both the centre and states to proactively mount a coordinated effort in implementing the advance action plan for the monsoon, with districts, rather than states, being the unit of planning," said a PMO statement issued after over two-hour-long meeting.
15:17  Rainman Modi ready with contingency plan for delayed monsoon:   PM Narendra Modi is sitting up and taking note of the delayed monosoon. Modi says the Centre and states should proactively mount a coordinated effort in implementing the advance action plan for the monsoon. A meeting held by the PM said that the monsoon is delayed but likely to improve in next two months. For now, a contingency plan for more than 500 districts is ready.
15:02  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj extends Prime Minister Narendra Modi's invitation to his counterpart Sheikh Hasina to visit India.
14:39   Subramanian Swamy alleges misappropriation of funds of Rs 2000 crore of National Herald. 
14:26  Court summons Sonia on Aug 7 in National Herald case:  Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have been summoned by a magistrate court of Delhi's Patiala House court on August 7 in the National Herald case.

The Court was acting on the petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, accusing Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi of taking over the newspaper publishing company by floating a new private company using Congress funds.

National Herald newspaper publishing company The Associated Journal Ltd, established in 1930s, was taken over by a newly-floated company Young Indian in 2010.

The new company was a private firm where Sonia and Rahul had 38 per cent shares each and Congress gave `90 crore to the private company for taking over the public company, which published the National Herald newspaper.

Political parties are forbidden from transferring money to companies. When the controversy erupted, the Congress admitted that the incident claiming the payment was done to revive the party's organ, as it was an "emotionally attached matter'.
14:19  Sri Sri: Few people know Modi has a soft heart:  Lack of understanding, sense of belonging, trust, and probably misinterpretation of scriptures are causes of religious extremism, says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at an interaction organised by a neo-conservative American think tank. Aziz Haniffa reports from Washington, DC. Read
14:17  Anna Hazare, Sri Sri, Ramdev team up for Great India movement :  Anna Hazare claws his way back in the news with the Great India Movement or the Shreshta Bharat Abhiyan. It will be launched in Delhi to coincide with the Quit India movement anniversary on 9th August. Anna Hazare, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Yoga guru Ramdev will be part of the movement, which is believed to be non-political movement which aims at a systematic change in society.

Prof Jagamohan Rajput (Ex NCERT Director), Justice DS Tewatia (Ex-Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court), IPS Prakash Singh (Ex-DGP of UP), IPS Shashi Kant (Ex-DGP of Punjab), Prabhat Chaturvedi (Ex-Labour Secretary), Dr Ved Pratap Vaidik, Jurist Ram Jethamalani etc will be core commettee member of SBA.
14:00  Borking Gopal Subramaniam:  When the judiciary is in charge of its own appointments, something more substantial than a report based on innuendo is required before impugning a candidate's integrity. Read
13:58  Fin min Arun Jaitley to meet state finance ministers on July 4 to discuss ways to tackle inflation. 
13:52  Towards reciprocity:  By reaching out dramatically to our neighbours and other major powers so rapidly after winning the general election, has Narendra Modi been unusually pro-active or unexpectedly defensive? Read
13:49  Student commits suicide over inability to afford notebook, pencil:  A girl studying in Class 7 committed suicide in Odisha's Ganjam district because her poor parents could not afford to pay for a notebook and pencil, the police said on Thursday.

The drastic step taken by the girl has put a question mark on the functioning of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan that boasts of taking care of all educational needs of children upto the age of 14.  Read
13:41  Satyam case: Court to pronounce date of verdict on July 28:  A special court trying the case of multi-crore rupee accounting fraud in erstwhile Satyam Computer Services Limited today said it will pronounce the date of verdict on July 28.
13:37  Even a man who conquered the Everest has to accept defeat at the hands of the signboard painters of New Delhi. Churumuri tweets this picture.
13:36  Suspicious derailment:   While the Railway administration seems convinced that the derailment of the Rajdhani was possibly on account of sabotage, the local administration, including the Bihar police, insists that prima facie there was no sabotage.

Pictures of the derailment paint a serious picture of the accident, and considering it happened around 2.15 a.m., and eyewitness accounts that the driver did apply the brakes suddenly, an element of suspicion does creep in: was the track cut, or did the track give in because of the derailment?

13:30  Heads up: Pope Francis will not attend the Goa exposition of St. Francis Xavier's relics in November 2014.
13:22  Madhuri Dixit becomes brand ambassador for Madhya Pradesh health department's 'Mamta Abhiyan'.
13:21  The songlines of secularism:  Secularism as an ideology was always intolerant. The fact that our culture inevitably weakens it or blends it says something about the strength of our culture, not about secularism. Read Shiv Visvanathan's column.
12:55  Sushma discusses Land Boundary Agreement, Teesta water sharing :  External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who arrived in Dhaka late last night, discussed the Land Boundary Agreement, proposed Teesta river water sharing deal and the issue of illegal immigration. She was assisted by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh.

Swaraj is on a two-day official visit, her first stand alone trip abroad since assuming office last month. The Indian side assured Bangladesh of its positive intention towards Dhaka's concerns on LBA and Teesta river issues.

Pic: Sushma Swaraj meets Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Hassan Mahmood Ali
12:42  Acche din kidhar hai, asks PIL against PM and BJP:  A month after the Narendra Modi-led BJP swept the Lok Sabha polls on the plank of 'Acche Din Aane Wale Hain', a city-based organization has dragged the Prime Minister and the party to court over "broken promises". Read
12:38  Cop's warning, sent hours before Rajdhani derailed, was ignored :  The day before the Rajdhani Express derailed in Chhapra, Bihar a police officer in the area where the accident took place had urged his seniors and railway officials to follow a basic precaution: to run a pilot engine on the track an hour before passenger trains as a way of ensuring the tracks were intact. His alert was sounded after Naxal insurgents called a strike in the area; it was ignored; four people died after the Rajdhani Express headed from Delhi to Assam derailed in Chapra, 75 kilometres from the state capital of Patna.  Read more
12:33  Mandi House-Central Sect Metro Section thrown open to public:  The much-awaited Mandi House to Central Secretariat Metro section in New Delhi was thrown open to the public today by Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu.
12:25  1 lakh women work at TCS, the most in the pvt sector! :  Tata Consultancy Services should soon become the first private sector company in India to employ more than 100,000 women.

According to the company's 2013-14 annual report, it had 98,122 permanent women employees in its 300,464-strong workforce.

Given the scorching pace at which TCS has been hiring, all indications are that the company may cross the 100,000 figure by the end of the current quarter, said analysts. In Q4, India's top software exporter reported a net addition of 9,751 professionals.

It plans to hire 55,000 people this fiscal year.
12:21  38 per cent deficient rainfall in June; monsoon revival likely by July first week:  With the cumulative rainfall recorded in the country till June 24 being 38 per cent below the long period average, this year will be only the twelfth time in the last 113 years (1901-2013) when there has been over 30 per cent deficiency of rainfall in the country in June. Read
12:01  Varun Gandhi on the new Silk Route:  And while on the BJP, Varun Gandhi, the party's MP from Sultanpur, writes on the India-China relationship: "India and China will not be 'bhai-bhai' anytime soon. We will not be allies. But once we were the greatest of trading neighbours. Reviving that sentiment is eminently desirable."  Read
11:55  Amit Shah frontrunner to replace Rajnath as BJP prez:  Amit Shah, the man responsible for scripting the BJP's spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls, is the frontrunner to replace Rajnath Singh as the party president. Rajnath Singh has held hectic consultations with the the RSS, the BJP's ideological mentor, over who will be his successor.

While on Shah, read this columnon How Amit Shah engineered the UP revolution.
11:31  Sushma Swaraj meets Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina:  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday called on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discussed key bilateral issues. Swaraj, who arrived here on Wednesday night on her first trip abroad, met Hasina after holding talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali.
10:57  N Srinivasan becomes ICC chief:  N Srinivasan is the new Chairman of the International Cricket Council. Srinivasan, who was nominated by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for the top position, will assume charge following the conclusion of the ICC Annual Conference week. Srinivasan said it was an honour to become ICC chairman and promised that the ICC will continue to play a leading role in the promotion and development of the game.
10:45  Narendra Modi calls emergency meeting on rising prices:  Facing criticism from all corners for escalating prices, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting with Finance, Agriculture and Food ministers. Sources said Modi will discuss the inflation and methods to improve the situation. Discussions will be held on the rise in prices of vegetables, gas and sugar. 
10:28  SRK's driver nabbed for raping Sangeeta Bijlani's servant:  Shah Rukh Khan's driver has been arrested for allegedly raping aactress Sangeeta Bijlani's servant. SRK's driver Rajendra Gautam alias Pintu Mishra, who is 34, was arrested by the Bandra Police. According to media reports, Mishra allegedly lured the 17-yr-old by offering her a job at the star's home, took her to to a lodge in Nalasopara and allegedly raped her. 
09:41  Home Ministry content with US ban on JuD:  After the United States named Hafeez Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a terror affiliate of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that they welcomed the move taken by the US. They said that they hoped this would curtail the financing that the group received from the Pakistan government.
09:28  ISIS militants selling merchandise on Facebook:  T-shirts, hoodies and even toy figurines bearing the ISIS logo are being sold on online and marketed across social media. For around $10 one can buy an ISIS shirt with the militant group's logo and phrases printed on it like "We are all ISIS" and "Fight for freedom, until the last drop of blood." After it was revealed, social media giant Facebook began deleting the page marketing the items on the website
08:58  Standoff continues as DU colleges don't start admissions:  There is no respite for students as Delhi University colleges won't start admissions on Thursday, owing to the debate over the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme. This is the third day that there have been no admissions. The University Grants Commission had issued a fresh ultimatum asking DU to begin the admission process under the 3-year course from Thursday. But DU is silent so far. Admissions were slated to begin on June 24 but were deferred following the stand-off.
08:24  Syria's warplanes launch strikes against ISIS in Iraq:  Syrian warplanes launched strikes in Iraq's Sunni-dominant Anbar province, killing 57 Iraqi civilians and injuring more than 120 others. Local Iraqi officials in the province identified the planes as Syrian. Officials said the planes bore the Syrian flag, which locals were able to see using scopes and other unspecified equipment. Additionally, the planes flew directly from Syrian airspace and went back to Syria, said officials. 
08:05  Amma medicines to launch in Tamil Nadu today:  After Amma canteens, water and salt, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is all set to launch Amma pharmacies on Thursday. The government plans to launch 10 such pharmacies across Chennai and 90 in the rest of the state. These medical shops will sell medicines at a subsided rate to the general public, selling medicines at just 4 per cent profit against the usual 14 per cent profit margin. 
08:00  North Korea warns of 'merciless response' to US film:  A new film starring US comic Seth Rogen about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been labelled an act of terrorism by the regime. A statement from North Korea warned of a 'merciless response' unless US authorities banned the film. 
03:59  Ness Wadia also abused renowned cricketer's son?:  
Zee News reports: In another twist of events in the Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia mess, it has been learnt that the Mumbai Police may approach a key witness in this case. The witness happens to be a renowned retired cricketers son who was present during the altercation between Ness and Preity.
If the sources are to be believed, then the cricketers son was also abused by Ness when he tried to intervene by saying,"Please let us watch the match". As per reports this is what Ness replied -- "Shut up you, ****ing ********". It seems that Ness was well aware of his identity.

The police may approach the retired cricketer to seek his permission to record his son`s statement regarding the complaint filed by Preity against Ness, as his son is a minor.

The 39-year-old actress had filed a police complaint on June 13 night, alleging she was abused and humiliated by her former boyfriend, Wadia (44) at Wankhede stadium on May 30, when an IPL match was played between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings, a charge the industrialist has denied as "false and baseless". 
03:57  Bomb blast in Nigeria capital kills 21, wounds 17:  
A bomb exploded in a crowded shopping centre in Nigeria's capital Abuja today, killing at least 21 people in a city already gripped by fear after a series of deadly attacks by Boko Haram Islamists, police and the government said.

The blast shook the Emab Plaza, not far from the country's parliament, at 1930 IST, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said, as shoppers were buying groceries ahead of the country's World Cup match against Argentina, which kicked-off an hour later.

"The casualty figure for now is 21 persons dead, 17 injured," national police spokesman Frank Mba said, adding that an arrest had been made. 

Senior government spokesman Mike Omeri confirmed that the blast was the result of "a bomb attack". 

Rescue teams were deployed to the scene and evacuated the victims from the area, NEMA spokesman Manzo Ezekiel told AFP.

"The explosion struck at peak business time," he said, adding that the area was busy at the time of the blast and that 40 cars had been destroyed.
03:55  Pakistan Army helicopter crashes; 2 pilots killed:  
A Pakistan Army helicopter crashed late Wednesday night near Multan while it was on training mission, killing the two pilots on board.

An army aviation helicopter crashed near Multan airport after it is believed it developed technical problems, the Express Tribune reported. 

The helicopter was on a regular night training mission when it developed fault. 

Major Yasir and Captain Murtaza lost their lives in the incident. 
03:54  Drone crashes in Dublin prison:  
An investigation was launched today after a remote-controlled helicopter, suspected to be carrying drugs, crash-landed in an exercise yard at one of Dublin's largest prisons. 

The drone plummeted into an exercise yard within Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin at around 1430 IST (10:00 GMT Tuesday).

A package containing suspected drugs was attached by a rope to the four-blade device but it got caught on wires designed to prevent airborne escapes by prisoners. 

It's believed up to 20 inmates rushed to the device and managed to gather some of the contraband. 

Prison guards noticed the commotion in the yard and intervened. 

"We were alerted to an incident at Wheatfield prison yesterday morning," the Garda (police) press office told AFP. 

"We were handed a device and an investigation is underway."
03:54  Jackson fans mark 5th anniversary of icon's death:  
Dozens of Michael Jackson fans laid heaps of flowers at the mausoleum where the pop icon is interred, to mark the 5th anniversary of his death. 

Around 100 fans, some dressed as the self-proclaimed King of Pop, gathered at the Forest Lawn cemetery outside Los Angeles yesterday, where the 50-year-old died while rehearsing for a comeback tour. 

"We love you Michael," read a banner on a giant red heart placed outside the small mausoleum in Glendale, north of downtown LA. 

Jackson died on June 25, 2009 of an overdose of the clinical anesthetic propofol, administered by his doctor to help treat insomnia as the singer prepared for "This is It" shows in London. 

His personal medic Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 over the star's death and jailed for four years. He was released in October after serving two years.
03:53  Polish PM survives vote of confidence over bugging scandal:  
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has survived a vote of confidence in his coalition amid a high-profile bugging scandal that has prompted calls for his centre-right government to resign. 

Tusk's two-party governing coalition scored backing from 237 MPs yesterday, with 203 against and no abstentions in the 460-member parliament in the vote, which he called after leaked exchanges between top officials whipped up a political storm in this central European heavyweight. 

"Without this mandate, I will not be effective, the government will not be able to clarify the bugging affair in a satisfactory manner and keep a handle on state interests," he told parliament after requesting the vote. 

The Polish news magazine Wprost first dropped a bomb when it released a secret recording of the central bank chief purportedly telling the interior minister he would support the government's economic policy if the then finance minister resigned. 

The weekly has since released transcripts of other juicy exchanges, including one in which Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski allegedly calls Poland's US ties "worthless" and blasts British Prime Minister David Cameron as "incompetent on EU affairs".
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