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LIVE! Drone strikes on terrorists to continue: Obama

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May 28, 2014

23:29  Drone strikes on terrorists to continue: Obama:  US President Barack Obama today made it clear that he will continue to authorise CIA-operated drone strikes and covert operations abroad to capture terrorists based on "actionable intelligence", moves that are controversial in countries like Pakistan. 

In a major speech outlining his foreign policy framework, Obama said there still would be times when America must go it alone "when necessary to protect ourselves."
23:24  Female soldiers join the army ranks in Somalia:  With an AK47 automatic rifle slung over her shoulder, Naeemo Abdi frisks people coming into a Mogadishu police station. When she holds back a man who tried to enter unchecked, he scowls at her and barks: "Woman and soldier?" She did not respond but directed the man to the security checkpoint.
23:23  Ukraine's new leader gets D-Day invite from France:  The French president has invited the newly-elected Ukrainian leader to attend June 6 ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. 

President Francois Hollande spoke by phone today with Petro Poroshenko, congratulating him for his first-round victory in Ukraine's election Sunday and saying it "opens the way to a peaceful and political way out of the crisis."
23:22  N Korea, Japan wrap up talks in Sweden, to meet again:  North Korea and Japan wrapped up three days of talks in Stockholm today, agreeing to continue their dialogue on Japanese nationals abducted decades ago by Pyongyang. 

The meeting at a hotel in the Swedish capital, which saw the exchange of "tough words" at times, came after the two countries held their first official talks in 16 months in Beijing in March.
21:40  Amway CEO in Khammam police's custody; nine cases across AP:  
The Khammam police in Andhra Pradesh took Amway India CEO William Scott Pinckney into custody today following registration of a case against the direct selling company.

Amway is facing nine criminal cases at various places in Andhra Pradesh. 

A court in Kurnool district also rejected Pinckney's bail petition and granted his five-day remand to Kurnool police while the Punjagutta police registered yet another case against him.

Howver, before Kurnool police could take his custody, the Khammam Police obtained a production warrant from a court in Khammam and furnished it to the Kadapa jail authorities this evening. A complaint has been filed against Amway by one G Rama Rao in Khammam.

"We have taken him (Pinckney) into custody from Kadapa prison... He will be produced before a court in Khammam district," a senior police official told PTI late this evening.
21:36  Guj govt reinstates Singhal, accused in Ishrat accused:  
In a surprise move, Gujarat government on Wednesday reinstated suspended IPS officer G L Singhal, an accused in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case whose recording of phone conversations had brought to light the snooping scandal allegedly involving Narendra Modi aide Amit Shah.

"Yes, he (GL Singhal) has been reinstated. Last night, sanction was given for his reinstatement," S K Nanda, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), said.

Confirming the development, state Director General of Police P C Thakur said Singhal has been posted as Group Commandant of State Reserve Police at Gandhinagar.

While investigating the Ishrat case, the CBI had raided Singhal's house and seized a pen drive containing 267 recordings.

One of the recordings was claimed to contain conversations between law officers of the state and ministers allegedly making plans to derail the Ishrat case probe, while some others purportedly had conversations between former Minister of State for Home Shah and Singhal making plans to snoop on a woman architect at the behest of Saheb. 

It was alleged that Saheb stood for Narendra Modi. 
21:34  President hosts dinner for new cabinet:  
President Pranab Mukherjee today hosted a dinner for the union cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This is a customary dinner hosted by the President for the new cabinet. 

The President had hosted a dinner for the outgoing government led by Manmohan Singh on May 17. 
21:30  Kejriwal to meet AAP's Delhi volunteers tomorrow:  
With fresh Delhi assembly polls likely to be held soon, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal will address volunteers tomorrow with the aim to boost their morale after the party's drubbing in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.

The meeting with the Delhi volunteers has been organised at the Constitution Club tomorrow evening, where the AAP chief is expected to address their concerns and queries, party sources said. 

This will be Kejriwal's first meeting with volunteers after the Lok Sabha polls. 

The meeting was slated to be held last week, but had to be cancelled after Kejriwal was sent to Tihar Jail for refusing to furnish personal bond in a defamation suit filed by former BJP president Nitin Gadkari. 

Volunteers form the backbone of the party and had played a crucial role in its victory in the last assembly elections, and now the party aims to rejuvenate its volunteers after the electoral drubbing, the sources said. 
20:55  Bollywood stars against making of provocative films in India, Pak:  
Leading Bollywood actors during their meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stressed that both the countries should ensure that no provocative films are made in each others territories in order to shed hostility.

Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra and Hema Malini had rich interaction with Sharif yesterday during which they talked on ways and means to strengthen cultural ties between the two neighbours.

"We stressed that film personalities from both countries shall get visa liberally and locations for shooting shall be made available in the two countries easily," Sinha told PTI today giving details of the meeting. 

Sinha, who is a second term BJP Lok Sabha MP from Patna Sahib, said that even Sharif agreed that people of the two countries should have greater access to movies from either sides and artistes from across the borders should get chance to work in each other's movies. 

The 67-year-old actor said it was emphasised that increased trust between people of the two countries would automatically promote trade relations between the two neighbours. 
20:33  PM Modi's advice to ministers: No relatives in personal staff:  
Zee News reports: Leading from the front and by personal example has been Narendra Modi's style of working in Gujarat.

The new ministers got their first lesson on the Gujarat model of governance when they were advised by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions department of Personnel & Training to not appoint their relatives as personal staff. 

As per reports, the advisory, said to be the among the first documents signed by Modi after he assumed charge as PM, outlines rules that will have to be followed in the appointment of personal staff attached to ministers. 

The most important operative part of the order -- ministers will henceforth appoint secretaries and other personal staff only from the "general pool". 

Is is probably for the first time that ministers are being nudged by a prime minister to keep their relatives away from official work.

Click HERE to read
20:30  SBI's Bhattacharya, Kochhar among Forbes' most powerful women:  
State Bank of India Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya and ICICI Bank Managing Director Chanda Kochhar are among the five women from India featured in Forbes' 100 most powerful women in the world, a list topped by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Bhattacharya is ranked 36th on the power list, while Kochhar is 43rd. Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is ranked 92nd on the list. 

PepsiCo's India-born Chief Indra Nooyi is 13th on the list while Cisco's Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Padmasree Warrior is ranked 71st on Forbes' "definitive annual guide to the extraordinary icons and leaders, groundbreakers and ceiling crashers who command the world stage." 

Merkel, who retained her numero uno spot this year, has made the list 10 times out of the past 11 editions and nine times as No. 1. 

Merkel is followed by Chair of the US Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, philanthropist Melinda Gates (3), former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (6), General Motors' first woman CEO Mary Barra (7), First Lady Michelle Obama (8) and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (9).
20:07  SBI's Bhattacharya, Kochhar among Forbes' most powerful women:  
State Bank of India Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya and ICICI Bank Managing Director Chanda Kochhar are among the five women from India featured in Forbes' 100 most powerful women in the world, a list topped by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Bhattacharya is ranked 36th on the power list, while Kochhar is 43rd. Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is ranked 92nd on the list. 

PepsiCo's India-born Chief Indra Nooyi is 13th on the list while Cisco's Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Padmasree Warrior is ranked 71st on Forbes' "definitive annual guide to the extraordinary icons and leaders, groundbreakers and ceiling crashers who command the world stage." 

Merkel, who retained her numero uno spot this year, has made the list 10 times out of the past 11 editions and nine times as No. 1. 

Merkel is followed by Chair of the US Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, philanthropist Melinda Gates (3), former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (6), General Motors' first woman CEO Mary Barra (7), First Lady Michelle Obama (8) and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (9).
19:43  LIVE! TRS calls for bandh on Thursday in Telangana:  Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and Telangana chief minister-elect K Chandrasekhar Rao has called for a shutdown in the region on Thursday in protest against the Centre's reported move to issue an ordinance merging certain villages in Khammam district into residuary Andhra Pradesh. "The Centre's move is undemocratic and amounts to betrayal of Telangana," the TRS president said, adding that the President should not accept the ordinance. 
19:21  Renowned poet Maya Angelou dead:  
Maya Angelou, renowned as a poet, novelist and actress, died on Wednesday at age 86 at her North Carolina home, her literary agent said.

Affectionately referred to as Dr Angelou, the professor never went to college.

She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"I created myself," she once said. "I have taught myself so much."

The writer's voice was born from a childhood tragedy that stunned her into silence for almost a decade.

When she was 7, her mother's boyfriend raped her. He was later beaten to death by a mob after she testified against him.

"My 7-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him, so I stopped speaking for almost six years," she said. 
18:52   Former Telecom Minister A Raja has told a special court that he wishes to depose as a witness to defend himself in the ongoing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case.
18:45  Modi's principal secretary is Nripendra Misra -- you read it first on Rediff :  PIB India has just confirmed that Nripendra Misra, IAS (Retd) has been appointed as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister with effect from today., was the first to tell you of the appointment, THREE days ago.

Also read: The legal hitch with Misra's appointment
18:41  Sushma meets top Indian diplomats on day 1 in office:  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj consults top Indian diplomats on day 1 in office. Swaraj said PM Narendra Modi had emphasised that any talks between the two countries to improve ties will be "effective and successful" only when terror activities against India end.

"The voice of talks gets lost in the sound of bomb blasts. That is why bomb blasts should stop so that we can talk and our voices can be heard. Talks will get subsumed by the din of bomb blasts. He (Modi) conveyed it to Sharif in these many words," 62-year-old Swaraj said after assuming charge as External Affairs Minister.
18:30  TRS calls for bandh in Telangana tomorrow:  TRS president and Telangana Chief Minister-elect K Chandrasekhar Rao has called for a shutdown in the region tomorrow in protest against the Centre's reported move to issue an ordinance merging certain villages in Khammam district into residuary Andhra Pradesh. The villages in seven mandals in Khammam district allegedly face submergence due to Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project.
18:15  Singh's remark on Art 370 can divide JK, trigger partition:PDP:  Opposition PDP chief and Anantnag MP Mehbooba Mufti today condemned the statement of Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh, saying it has the potential to divide Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines and trigger another partition.

"Though the minister has retracted it, we still condemn the statement because there were apprehensions that the BJP government, especially with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi, will be divisive.

But the PM had made a very good start by inviting SAARC leaders to the swearing-in ceremony. "He tried to connect with the neighbours in spite of many problems and conflicts, so we appreciated that. Whereas the PM was on one hand trying to connect with the neighbours and was having talks with (Pakistan Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif, and it was a reconciliatory measure, on the other hand, his minister issued a statement which has a potential to divide the state of Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines," Mehbooba
18:08   Madhu Kishwar still tweeting away on Smriti Irani's education or lack of it. "Of all the foolish things Irani supporters alleging that I've turnerd anti Modi coz i didn't get invite to swearing-in. But i got invite. In fact I wrote a critique of poor arrangements at swearing-in. But I'd have to be very flimsy person to turn against modi over an invite.   I earned the right to criticise Modi 4 ill advised appointment coz I had honesty to praise him for great work as GujCM despite facing abuses."
17:48  Congress leader calls Rahul 'joker'; demands his ouster:  Blaming Rahul Gandhi for the party's electoral reverses in the Lok Sabha election, a senior leader in Kerala on Wednesday termed the Congress vice president a 'joker' and demanded he be removed from his posts if he does not step down voluntarily.

TH Mustafa, a former minister, also demanded Rahul's sister Priyanka Gandhi be made the new party chief.

Addressing reporters in Kochi, Mustafa said that Rahul Gandhi should quit from his post and if he does not, he should be removed.
17:42  Modi cutting chai glasses, anyone?
17:38  LIVE! Zaheer Khan left out for England tour :  Gautam Gambhir made a comeback to the Indian Test squad for the five-match series in England but there is no place for veteran Zaheer Khan.

India squad for England Tests: MS Dhoni (C), Vijay, Dhawan, Gambhir, Pujara, Virat, Rahane, Rohit, Jadeja, Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami, Ishwar, Ishant Sharma, Stuart binny, Aaron, Saha, Pankaj Singh.
17:30  MS Dhoni to lead India for Englad series in the 18-man squad. 
17:28   Gautam Gambhir recalled in Test team for England; Pankaj Singh included. India to play five test matches against England. 
17:25  LIVE! Suresh Raina to lead India in ODI against B'desh; Dhoni, Kohli out:   Suresh Raina to lead Indian team in ODI series against Bangladesh; Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli rested. Gautam Gambhir makes a comeback to the Test team.
17:25  Selectors name 18-member squad for England Test.
17:18  Under-fire Chavan to expand Maha ministry tomorrow:  Smarting from the worst-ever debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan will expand his ministry tomorrow, in probably the last such exercise before the state Assembly elections due later this year.

Facing demands for his ouster following the drubbing, Chavan had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday, a move seen as an attempt to keep under check voices of dissent.

According to sources in the Congress-NCP government, Chavan is likely to fill in three unoccupied ministerial slots of the Congress quota, including that of a Cabinet minister and two Ministers of State.

There have been murmurs of dissent in Congress for a long time over these posts being kept vacant by Chavan. Congress legislators Amit Deshmukh, son of former Chief Minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Kalyan Kale and Rohidas Patil are among the probables from Congress.
17:03  Modi can't ease Delhi's traffic but has opened a door to Islamabad:  Presence of Sharif at inauguration and trip to Pakistan for Indian PM could unlock box of beneficial consequences for both nations, writes Jason Burke on the Independent. Read
16:59  Cong: Smriti Irani must come clean on discrepancy in affidavits to EC:   The Congress has now altered its attacks on HRD minister Smriti Irani saying they were raising the issue of the discrepancies in the affidavits filed in 2004 and 2014. In an affidavit filed by Irani to the Election Commission in 2004, she claims to have completed her BA in 1996 from Delhi University's School of Correspondence. But in her affidavit filed with the EC in 2014, Irani claimed that she completed part one, that is the first year, of her bachelor degree in Commerce in the year 1994 from Delhi University's School of Open Learning.  So, which is it, graduate or not?
That's what the Congress now wants to know and says its not a personal attack on her, but she has to clarify this discrepancy.
16:41  Varun Gandhi, the BJP MP from Sultanpur, tweets: "My mother, after taking charge as Minister of Women and Child Development, today."  @varungandhi80 
16:39  LIVE! Mukul Rohatgi is new attorney general of India:  Senior Supreme Court lawyer Mukul Rohatgi is set to be the country's next top law officer while another senior lawyer Ranjit Kumar is expected to be appointed Solicitor General.Sources in the government said both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have decided to offer the post of Attorney General (AG) to Rohatgi. Outgoing AG Goolam E Vahanvati resigned on Tuesday.
16:34  Gujarat fishermen released from Pak jails to reach India tomorrow:  Gujarat fishermen released from Pakistan prisons to reach coastal town Veraval by tomorrow evening. The fishermen were released ahead of Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony on Monday, May 26, as a goodwill gesture by Pakistan. 
16:31  Nawaz Sharif's daughter thanks Modi for shawl gifted to her grandmom:  Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter, Maryam on Tuesday expressed her gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for gifting a shawl for her grandmother.

Yesterday, Modi gifted Nawaz Sharif a shawl for his mother and a compilation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's poetry as a symbol of affection and respect.

Maryam tweeted: Thank u v much PM @narendramodi for the beautiful shawl for my grandmother. My father personally delivered it to her.
16:20  Postal stamps on Narendra Modi:  Department of #Posts (DoP) issues a set of four postal stamps on PM #NarendraModi conceptualised by a philatelist from #Bihar. Pictures of stamps not available as yet. 
16:19  LIVE! Is Om Mathur the new BJP president?:  Just in: Om Mathur is the frontrunner for BJP president. JP Nadda and Amit Shah are also frontrunners. Nadda is former BJP president Rajnath Singh's personal choice. Mathur, is a close Modi aide and was in-charge of the last Gujarat Assembly elections.

Amit Shah, is a close aide of the Prime Minister and is yet to be rewarded for his performance in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha elections.
15:55  Modi will hopefully maintain good ties with neighbours: Hasina:  Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina today said she was hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will play his role in maintaining good relations with neighbours, notwithstanding his "own ideas".

"We will be able to maintain a good relationship with India....he (Modi) has his own ideas, now he has become the Indian Prime Minister and I hope that he, as the Prime Minister, would also play his role to maintain good relations with neighbours," she said here on the fourth day of her Japan visit.

During the election campaign, Modi had threatened to deport Bangladeshi immigrants if NDA came to power, saying they were being welcomed in West Bengal with a red carpet for vote bank politics.
15:48  Mumbai woman threatens to jump off billboard:   Reports coming in of a woman, threatening to jump from a billboard at Byculla, Mumbai. Huge traffic jam in the area as firemen urge her to climb down. Details in a bit  
15:41  When Shabana Azmi met Nawaz Sharif:  Veteran actress Shabana Azmi met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a tea party hosted by a steel tycoon. The 63-year-old actress said she was delighted to know Sharif, who was in the Capital to attend PM Narendra Modi's swearing-in on May 26, is an admirer of her father Kaifi Azmi, singers Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar.

"Over tea at Sajjan Jindals... Met Nawaz Sharif. delighted that he is fan of Kaifi saab, Lataji and Mohd Rafi," Shabana posted on Twitter. The National award-winning actress said during her tete-a-tete with Sharif, they discussed about the possibility of co-productions between the two countries. 
15:34  PM Narendra Modi asks his ministers to curb nepotism;advises against kin as personal staff or contracts to relative.
15:27  Issues raised by states will be considered on priority: Modi:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made it clear that he will work for strengthening the federal structure of the country and would like his office to consider issues, especially those raised by the states on priority and with sensitivity.

Holding his first formal meeting with officials of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) a day after taking charge, he laid thrust on leveraging modern technology and developing systems and processes for effective monitoring and resolution of issues which are particularly brought to his office.
15:11  JD-U leader Sharad Yadav on Ajay Maken's tweet on Smriti Irani: Unki padhai likhai pe nahi, unke kaam par aalochana kare.
15:07   Sucheta Dalal tweets: Anguish is now a synonym for jealousy? "Deep felt anguish" within BJP over Smriti Irani being picked for HRD: Madhu Kishwar to CNN-IBN. Has major issues -- Smriti Irani looks good, articulate, successful (tulsi), youthful & competent. Bound to be "Deep felt anguish" ' LOL.
14:36  LIVE! Why only gathia, dhokla? Uddhav wants vada pav, thalipeeth, misal pav in Parl:   Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday said, that along with Gujarati favourites -- dhokla and gathiya -- Maharashtrian favourites like Vada pav, thalipeeth and misal pav should also be served in Parliament.

Shiv Sena, a key BJP ally, said this was the beginning of the "happy days" - a tag line coined by the BJP during the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Modi had joked that from now on Gujarati would be spoken in the PMO and dhokla and gathia would be served.

On Tuesday, Modi's first day at work had been marred by a sour note when Shiv Sena MP Anant Geete refused to take charge of his ministry. Geete's refusal had come even as all other ministers took charge of their respective portfolios on Tuesday.

The portfolio distribution had left a sour taste in Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray's mouth. Shiv Sena's sole member in the Cabinet, Anant Geete, got a relatively light-weight ministry, that of 'heavy industries'.

Geete, however, has assumed office today.
14:01  LIVE! PM meets PMO, watches detailed presentation on functions, structure:  Just in: PM Narendra Modi meets PMO officials. Modi holds preliminary meeting with PMO officials after a detailed presentation is made on the structure and functions of the PMO.

Modi indicated that he would like his office to consider issues, especially those raised by states on priority and with sensitivity. He said that India's progress lies in the progress of states and this would strengthen our federal structure.
13:44  Let's not get stuck on composite dialogue: Sartaj Aziz:  More from the Sartaj Aziz presser: "There was tremendous emphasis on people to people contact. The emphasis is necessary, but not implemented in spirit. Let's not get stuck on the term 'composite dialogue'.

"We also took up the issue of expediting the Samjhauta Express Blast trial. Progress was made last year (MFN status) but there are loose ends. Now detailed discussion will be held on this too.

"No detailed discussion was held on the 26/11 trial. I hope in the next few weeks this process (meeting of Foreign Secretaries of both countries) will take place"
13:29  LIVE! Pak on India visit: Was wrong to meet Hurriyat since Kashmir not on agenda:  More on Sartaj Aziz's presser in Islamabad. "As it was a ceremonial occasion, Kashmir was not substantially on the agenda. It was not the right time to meet the Hurriyat because the Kashmir issue was not on agenda, but was discussed."

Aziz is an advisor to Pak PM Nawaz Sharif.
13:23  Sartaj Aziz: Modi-Nawaz meeting constructive :  Sartaj Aziz, advisor on Foreign Affairs to Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif holds a presser on the India visit. "Pak PM had a contructive bilateral meeting and also invited the Indian PM. Although the visit was for a ceremonial occasion, the outcome was better than we expected. Both Prime Ministers recgnized the need to turn a new page. The issue of terrorism came up; the  Pakistan PM informed his counterpart that terrorism is of mutual concern. Pakistan has suffered enormously. As you know the PM (Pak) had said he intended to pick up the threads from where he left in 1999. People and the govt of Pakistan were committed to fighting terrorism. Whenever Kashmir is discussed, their (Hurriyat leaders) views have to be taken along."
12:51  Madhu Kishwar doesn't let go... "Smriti Irani's appointment not the only one disappointing or controversial but its like an avoidable grahna on a bright &shining rising sun!"
12:48   Syed Akbaruddin @MEAIndia: More women to the fore in Indian diplomacy! Minister @SushmaSwaraj greeted by Foreign Secy Sujatha Singh on day1 in office.
12:44  Manish Tiwari: BJP govt has sent out clear signal that terror and talks can clearly go hand in hand. What they used to say was just rhetoric.
12:41  LIVE! Manish Tewari raps Maken: Govt should be criticised on substance no superficiality :  The Congress party, except for Ajay Maken, seems to have learnt its lesson after the Mani Shankar Aiyar 'chaiwallah' fiasco. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari now says, "When we criticize the government it should be on substance not superficiality. There is a difference in education, intelligence and literacy."

Digvijaya Singh also choose to stay non-controversial saying, "It's their prerogative, what can I say?...that they prefer Smriti Irani over Murli Manohar Joshi."
12:34  Rajnath meets Sangh leaders:  Amid talk of leadership change in the BJP after government formation, party president Rajnath Singh today met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and other top Sangh leaders.

 Rajnath, who is now the Home Minister, spent some time with Bhagwat and discussed who will take over from him as the BJP chief and other changes in the party after government formation.

The names of party general secretaries JP Nadda, Amit Shah and Arun Mathur are doing the rounds for replacing Rajnath as BJP President, with Nadda currently said to be leading the race.
12:26  LIVE! Uma Bharti defends Smriti: What is Sonia's educational qualification?:   Minister of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, Uma Bharati hits back at the Congress for its snide remarks against Smriti Irani. Defending the new HRD minister, who has targetted over not being a graduate, Bharti said, "What is the educational qualification of Sonia Gandhi that she was heading UPA Govt? Sonia Gandhi should tell her MPs not to make such statements."

Yesterday Congress leader Ajay Maken tweeted, "What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (Looking after Education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site pg 11."

Bharti has been assigned an unfinished task initiated 28 years ago by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi: cleansing the Ganga river.
12:09  Is Narendra Modi Indias trendiest PM yet?:  Narendra Modi's tailor, Bipin Chauhan, reportedly said to a newspaper: "Modi had once told me he cannot compromise on three things -- his eyes, his voice and his clothes."

Modi's oratorical hyperbole, his penchant for drama (or teary melodrama) and his signature look (his half-sleeve kurta) are now cultural legend.Modi carefully matches his vests with his kurtas, often they are cleverly clashing colours like Gucci's famous colour-blocking schemes.

He has said somewhere that his ability to match colours is "god-gifted', reminding me of Romantic poets who credited divine intervention fortheir genius.  Read more
12:05  JUST IN: Ananth Kumar takes charge as Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers. Shiv Sena's Anant Geete takes charge as minister for heavy industries. 
11:50  Just in: Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu says: Kamal Nath to be protem speaker.

So, that puts paid rumours of Lk Advani being protem speaker.
11:49  Sushma Swaraj said the PM repeated to the Pak PM what he had said earlier that under the noise of bomb blasts its not possible to have normal talks.
11:45  Sushma Swaraj also said India has told Pakistan that it wants good relations with them. "We raised the issue of speedy trial in the 26/11 case. PM expressed that SAARC leaders should work together."
11:43  LIVE! External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj: Priority to show our strengths to world :  Sushma Swaraj takes charge of her new responsibility -- the external affairs minister. Holding a presser now, Swaraj, says, "It is our priority to portray our strengths to the world. Talks between PM and SAARC leaders were very successful. The PM also raised the issue of the 13th amendment and Indian fishermen with Sri Lanka."

Sushma Swaraj was present with Narendra Modi for each of the SAARC meetings with PM Narendra Modi.
11:35  A requiem for moral coherence:  The BJP organisation looks headed for a complete overhaul as almost the entire brass, including party president Rajnath Singh, have joined the Narendra Modi government. Read more
11:29  Sensex up 25 points in morning trade:  The benchmark BSE Sensex recovered by 25 points in morning trade on fresh buying in capital goods and power sector stocks on the back of higher global cues despite selling in metal and realty sectors.

The market may remain volatile in the near future ahead of the expiry of futures & options (F&O) May contract tomorrow.

The Sensex resumed higher at 24,591.61 and hovered in a range of 24,643.33 and 24,552.76 before quoting at 24,574.55 at 1000 hrs, showing a gain of 25.04 points, or 0.10 per cent, from its last close. The NSE 50-share Nifty also moved up by 8.50 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7,326.50 at 1000 hrs.
11:24  A requiem for moral coherence:  Beyond underlining the synthetic unity of Kashmir with India and his calling attention to the 'suffering of sections of J&K society,' can Narendra Modi achieve something significant and long lasting in Kashmir? Read
11:21   Top Pak cricketers want bilateral series with India:  Some of Pakistan's top cricketers including Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar have supported the restoration of bilateral cricket ties with India and hoped the issue was discussed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his flying visit to India.

Former Pakistan speedster Akhtar pointed out that cricket had always played a big role in bringing the people of the two countries closer.

"I am happy that our Prime Minister is in India and I hope cricket ties are discussed in these big meetings. Because it is necessary to have bilateral cricket ties between the two countries," Akhtar said.
11:19  Modi ministry to be expanded before Budget session:  PM Narendra Modi is expected to undertake the first Cabinet expansion next month when he inducts ministers to specifically deal with the portfolios of defence, law and justice, and environment and forests.

Though these portfolios are important and require full-time attention, they in the current scheme have been allotted as additional charges to finance minister Arun Jaitley, telecom minister Ravishankar Prasad and I&B minister Prakash Javadekar, respectively.  Read more

And the Hindu cartoon today... 
11:15  Ramesh Srivats tweets: Right now, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Minister for Food Processing Industries is mugging up Sumeet Mixie manual, to avoid cribs from Ajay Maken.
11:12  LIVE! HRD minister Smriti Irani refuses to comment on education barbs:  Rassi jal gayi par bal nahi gaya, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP spokesperson on the Congress's remark on Smriti Irani.

Yesterday, Congress leader Ajay Maken has touched off a political storm with a series of tweets deriding the new Narendra Modi cabinet.

In one of them, he questioned the educational qualifications of Smriti Irani, who has taken over as Human Resource Development Minister.

"What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (Looking after Education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site pg 11 (sic)!" Maken tweeted, immediately inviting sharp reactions.

Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah, whose party the National Conference is an UPA ally, tweeted last night: "To say that someone needs to be educated to be HRD Min is like saying one needs to be a pilot for Civil Aviation or a miner for Coal Min."
11:00  A refreshing exercise:  Given the magnitude of the mandate that the Bharatiya Janata Party received in the Lok Sabha election, and his own well-recognised role in it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to exercise a free hand in choosing the Council of Ministers. Read
10:55  SAN-rise: Why Delhi is talking about Smriti, Arun and Nirmala:  SAN, not the Sangh, is the talk of the town. The responsibilities of Smriti Irani, Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sitharaman in the Narendra Modi ministry are dominating conversations in the power and party corridors of the capital. "The talk is all about Smriti, Arun and Nirmala," a BJP office-bearer said. Read more
10:47  Here's why Narendra Modi entrusted Young Turks with key jobs:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi killed at least two birds with one stone with his retire-at-75 policy: He managed to keep about 10 septua-and-octogenarian BJP leaders such as Murli Manohar Joshi, CP Thakur, Bhola Singh and Karia Munda out of the ministry, which in turn helped create space for several Young Turks, whom he made ministers of state with independent charge (MoS-IC) of portfolios that are far meatier than some of the Cabinet posts he's doled out to more senior party colleagues. Many of these MoS-IC positions have in the past been part of the Cabinet.
Read more
10:26  Rajnath meets RSS leaders first time after assuming office:  Home Minister Rajnath Singh met senior RSS leaders today. This is his first meeting after assuming office. 
10:13  Former SG Parasaran alleges pressure in sensitive cases in UPA govt:  Former Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who tendered his resignation with Attorney General Goolam Essaji Vahanvati following the change in the government at the Centre, today alleged that he faced pressure in sesitive cases during the UPA government's tenure.

"Its a miracle I  survived," he told a news channel.
09:28  BJP placates Shiv Sena, Geete to take charge today:  According to reports, Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete will take charge today as the heavy industries minister. Geete took oath as Union minister as the party representative on Monday, but did not take charge allocated to him..

09:09  RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav slams Omar over Article 370:  RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav has slammed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah over Article, saying that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

First-time Lok Sabha member Jitendra Singh, who was a surprise choice for the Prime Minister's Office, had  yesterday said that the Modi government is open to debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir and would make efforts to "convince" the "unconvinced" by holding contact programmes with every section of society in the state.

However, his statement drew angry reaction from Omar who shot off his tweets saying Article 370 was the "ONLY Constitutional link" between the state and the rest of the country.Omar said, "Mark my words and save this tweet -- long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won't be part of India or Art 370 will still exist."
08:58  US to have 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in 2015: Obama:  President Barack Obama has said that the US will reduce its troops to 9,800 in Afghanistan by the end of this year before a complete withdrawal takes place by the end of 2016.

Obama said the US will reduce its military presence by half by the end of next year and bring it further down to a "normal embassy presence" by the end of 2016, adding the decision is subject to signing of a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan.

"At the beginning of 2015, we will have approximately 9,800 US service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners," Obama said. "By the end of 2015, we will have reduced that presence by roughly half. One year later, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we've done in Iraq," he said yesterday.

Obama said the international community will continue to support Afghans as they build their country for years to come. He said the US' relation with Afghanistan will not be defined by war but by financial, development and diplomatic assistance to the worn-torn country.
08:56  Will Uddhav speak to Modi today over portfolio discontent?:   IBNLIVE reports:  Barely two days after his government was sworn in, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already dealing with miffed allies over the number of berths allocated to them in the new council of ministers.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will speak to Modi and a final call on the matter will be taken on Wednesday, said Anant Geete, who was appointed as the heavy industries minister skipped Modi's first Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday.

Read the full story here
08:35  Looking forward to welcome Modi to the US: Kerry:  The Obama Administration is looking forward to welcoming new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US, Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

Kerry conveyed this message for Modi during his meeting with Indian Ambassador to the US S Jaishankar, who also met Deputy Secretary of State William Burns for a wide range of discussion on bilateral and regional issues. This was Kerry's first meeting with the top Indian diplomat here after Modi was sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India in New Delhi on Monday.

"Secretary Kerry conveyed again his congratulations to Prime Minister Modi and the new Government of India, noting that the Administration looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the United States," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told PTI.
08:26  Won't hand over Hafiz Saeed till the courts find him guilty: Pak:   IBNLIVE reports:Hours after the bilateral talks between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan has made it clear that it won't hand over 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed to India yet. This even as Modi conveyed to Sharif India's concerns on cross border terrorism and the 26/11 trial.

But Pakistan senate and close Nawaz Sharif aide Tariq Azeem Khan said, "As far as Hafiz Saeed is concerned, we are not going to hand over anybody that India likes us to hand over.

"If a person has to be tried, he will be tried in Pakistan, he was tried last time and he was let go by the court because there was not enough evidence against him," he said

Read the full story here
08:20  US applauds Modi-Sharif meeting, says 'cautiously hopeful':   The United States has applauded the meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, as senior administration officials said they were "cautiously hopeful" about the improvement in the relationship between the two South Asian neighbors.

"We are cautiously hopeful that that (Modi-Sharif) could be a positive indicator, but we're also mindful that this will be very important to the dynamic going forward," a senior Obama administration official said on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that the administration is hopeful that the initial indication between both Islamabad and New Delhi is a positive one.
03:49  Iran to West: resist outside pressure in nuclear talks:  Iran urged western powers today to resist any pressure from third parties not directly involved in negotiations over its nuclear activities, in a clear reference to Israeli-led influence. 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, quoted by the official IRNA news agency after meetings with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, also called for "seriousness and realism," in the next round of nuclear talks in Vienna next month.
03:48  US deploys warship carrying marines off Libya:  The United States is deploying an amphibious assault ship with about 1,000 marines off the coast of Libya in case the US embassy must be evacuated, a US defense official said today. The USS Bataan was to be in the area "in a matter of days," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
03:40  Israel holds funeral of Brussels attack victims:  Hundreds of people turned out in Tel Aviv today for the funerals of two Israelis gunned down at the Jewish museum in Brussels last week. 

Relatives of Emmanuel and Miriam Riva, who are survived by their two teenage daughters, said the couple in their 50s had been celebrating their wedding anniversary in the Belgian capital.
02:53  US Ambassador: Russian involvement in Ukraine hard to deny:  As the uprising in eastern Ukraine intensifies, the Russian government's involvement is becoming harder to deny, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said Tuesday. 

Geoffrey Pyatt's remarks, in an exclusive interview with VOA, came as the morgue in the eastern city of Donetsk struggled to cope with dozens of bodies of armed fighters.
01:40  Singapore PM rejects compensation offer from blogger:  Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has rejected as "derisory" a compensation offer by a local blogger who defamed him, the premier's lawyer said today, paving the way for a possible lawsuit. 

"Your client's offer of Singapore dollars 5,000 (USD 4,000) is derisory and completely disregards the gravity of your client's conduct (and) the undisputed fact that the libel is false and malicious," Lee's lawyer Davinder Singh said in a letter to Roy Ngerng Yi Ling's legal counsel late today.
01:25  Boko Haram attack kills 31 Nigerian security personnel:  Boko Haram gunmen attacked a Nigerian military base and adjacent police barracks in the northeastern town of Buni Yadi, killing 31 security personnel, security sources and witnesses said.

The attack late on Monday in Yobe state occurred not far from where the Islamist insurgents shot or burned to death 59 pupils at a boarding school in February.
01:22  'Ukraine must use 'peaceful means' to regain east':  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today urged Ukraine to use "exclusively peaceful means" to regain control in the east of the country from pro-Russian separatists. "The secretary general is alarmed by the continuing violence that we have seen in the east during the weekend," Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
00:31  US applauds Modi-Sharif bilateral meeting:  The US today applauded the first bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, adding it welcomes any steps by the two South Asian neighbours to strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation.
00:28  Sharif meets Vajpayee:  Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today met former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, with whom he had worked together earlier during his previous regime. 

Pakistan officials termed it as a courtesy call. The Pakistan premiere spent few minutes at Vajpayee's residence.
00:27  Obama vows 'full support' to Ukraine's Poroshenko:  President Barack Obama called Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko today and offered him "the full support of the United States." Obama said the United States would assist Ukraine as Poroshenko "seeks to unify and move his country forward," the White House said.
00:26  Nigeria ex-president Obasanjo holds talks to free schoolgirls:  Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo has met with people close to Boko Haram in an attempt to broker the release of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, a source close to the talks said today. 

Reports of the talks emerged as Boko Haram was blamed for fresh attacks targeting the security forces, public buildings and a school in its northeastern stronghold.
00:26  Top headlines in that last 24 hours:  

Congress fires first salvo at Modi 
Shiv Sena sulks over single berth in Cabinet 
Set to be NSA, Ajit Doval has his work cut out
Modi's minister talks of Article 370 debate; Omar, Mehbooba fume
Modi's PMO gets control of official Twitter handle
Modi govt's first decision: SIT to probe black money 
Modi meets Afghan president, raises issue of Herat attack 

Delhi court orders Kejriwal's release after he furnishes bail bond 

Full time defence minister in few weeks, says Jaitley 
MIG-21 crashes in South Kashmir; pilot killed 
Why Vasundhara Raje had to fight for a ministry 

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