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February 17, 2017

23:52  Environment ministry orders inquiry into Bengaluru lake fire:  
The environment ministry has ordered an inquiry into the incident of fire that had broken out in the garbage strewn around Bellandur lake in Bengaluru. 

"We are enquiring into it. The report will come by evening. We will have to see what were the reasons behind the fire," Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said.

Thick smoke had enveloped Bellandur lake after the fire, which also triggered panic among motorists on the busy Sarjapur main road.

Residents hit out at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials for their "lackadaisical" attitude in stopping garbage dumping.

Karnataka State Pollution Control Board Chairman Lakshman said notices have been issued to BBMP, Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Board and other agencies to stop the dumping. 

He also said the board is in the process of inspecting sewage treatment plants in the area. 

The lake has been in news for the last one year for spillover of froth and toxic fumes.
23:06  Trump to use National Guard for immigration roundups?:  
The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press. 

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal -- California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four -- Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the AP report was "100 per cent not true" and "irresponsible." 

"There is no effort at all to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants," he said. 

Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, written by US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general. 
22:36  Note ban can't alone curb black money hoarding: Rangarajan:  
Demonetisation cannot be a "standalone measure" to check black money as others like tax and electoral reforms are needed to tackle this menace, former RBI Governor C Rangarajan has said. 

He maintained that the authorities should have been well prepared for the note ban exercise. 

"The demonetisation measure has no doubt sent shivers down the spine of some. However, because of the shortage of new currency to replace the old many have suffered.

"All this will have an immediate effect on the economy which will be adverse. The long term gains are in terms of reduction in the proportion of pure cash transactions, and a shift to digital mode of payment leading to recording of all transactions and thereby helping to widen tax net," Rangarajan said.

He was delivering inaugural address at 32nd Conference of All India Reserve Bank Employees Association in Hyderabad.
22:33  N Korea will reject Kim autopsy result: ambassador:  
North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia today said Pyongyang would reject any results of an autopsy carried out by Kuala Lumpur on the body of Kim Jong-Nam, the half brother of the North Korean leader.

"The Malaysian side forced the post-mortem without our permission and witnessing. We will categorically reject the result of the post-mortem conducted unilaterally excluding our attendance," Kang Chol told reporters gathered outside the morgue where the body is being held.

It is the first official comment from North Korea since the killing of Kim Jong-Nam at Kuala Lumpur international airport on Monday.
21:45  Irom Sharmila has only 2.6 lakh in cash, no immovable asset:  
Activist Irom Sharmila only has Rs 2.6 lakh in her possession and is without any land or house, according to an affidavit she filed with the Election Commission.
In the affidavit, Sharmila stated that she has only Rs 10,000 in cash at hand and Rs 2.5 lakh in a bank account.
Her affidavit claimed that she do not possess any gold, land, home or a vehicle.
The iconic rights crusader, who ended her 16-year-old fast demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in August, 2016, will be one of the main opponents against Chief Minister and Congress veteran Okram Ibobi Singh from Thoubal.

Sharmila's party, Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA), has fielded three candidates in the upcoming Assembly polls.
Sharmila filed her nomination yesterday. She has promised to repeal AFSPA if she becomes the chief minister. 
21:38  Trump considers mobilizing 100,000 National Guard to round up immigrants:  
The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up immigrants in the United States illegally, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by a US news organisation.

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Ore., and as far east as New Orleans, La.

Almost immediately after the report published, the White House issued a denial. That is 100% not true. It is false," Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters aboard Air Force One before President Trump headed to South Carolina to tour a Boeing plant later Friday.

There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants," Spicer said. 

He said he couldn't deny altogether that the subject had never been discussed in the administration,  The White House has noted before that many proposals have been drafted on a range of issues, but not all are under serious consideration.
21:18  OPS appeals to MLAs: Don't vote for Palaniswami :  
Former chief minister of Tamil Nadu O Panneerselvam tonight urged All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLAs to vote against Edappadi K Palaniswami in the trust vote tomorrow to safeguard Jayalalithaa's interests.

"Amma continuously worked to see that family rule doesn't enter Tamil politics. Till her last she worked to achieve this goal," Panneerselvam said on the eve of the trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly. 

He further said, "I reiterate to AIADMK MLAs, please think wisely before casting your vote tomorrow. Don't buckle under pressure."

"Please vote against the trust vote and safeguard the interests of Amma," the former chief minister added.
19:57  EC asks Sasikala to explain her elevation as AIADMK's gen secy:   The Election Commission has issued a notice to VK Sasikala on petitions filed by O Panneerselvam faction on her election as All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary.   

The EC has asked Sasikala to reply by February 28.   

Sasikala is serving a jail term in connection with the Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case in Bengaluru's Parpana Agrahara prison.
19:33  J&K: Grenade lobbed at police party at Pohru Nowgam near Srinagar, 2 policemen injured, reports news agency ANI.
19:13  DMK will vote against Palaniswami government, says Stalin:   Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam working President MK Stalin on Friday said that his party will vote against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami in tomorrow's trust vote.   

"If he (Palaniswami) seeks vote of confidence tomorrow, we will oppose him in the assembly. Our 89 MLAs will vote against him,' Stalin said. 

"People from all walks of life have been badly affected due to political crisis in Tamil Nadu. So we have decided to vote against the government," he added.   

Palaniswami will seek the vote of confidence tomorrow.   

The AIADMK has 134 legislators, of whom all but ten back Sasikala, and therefore Palaniswami. He needs 118 votes to remain chief minister. 
18:51  The Enforcement Directorate attaches assets worth Rs 6.84 crore of businessman Paras Mal Lodha, lawyer Rohit Tandon and others in a money laundering case post demonetisation.
18:09  Don't arrest Amma's supporters: Panneerselvam writes to cops:  O Panneerselvam has written a letter to the state police requesting them not to arrest Amma supporters who are peacefully protesting against the current government. 

Ever since it was announced that Sasikala would be chief minister, people in the state have been protesting, saying that she has no experience. 

However, her dreams of becoming the CM were dashed when the apex court convicted her in the disproportionate assets case. 
17:55  Tales of the bizarre 'captivity' of 100 Tamil Nadu lawmakers:  
Life in "captivity" can be sometimes unusually good for India's lawmakers.

Ask 124 legislators belonging to the ruling AIADMK party in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, who have been shut away in a resort by their leader outside the capital, Chennai (Madras), for 10 days now. 

Read full story HERE
17:43  JUST IN: Government cuts tenure of SEBI Chairman-designate Ajay Tyagiby two years; gives him a tenure of three years now.
17:41  Need 'solid evidence' to back India's efforts to ban Masood Azhar at UN: China:  Ahead of its strategic dialogue with India, China on Friday said "solid evidence" was needed for it to back efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned by the United Nations.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and China's executive vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui will hold a new round of strategic dialogue in Beijing on February 22, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a media briefing here.

The two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on the international situation and other regional and global issues of mutual interest in the strategic dialogue which is an important communication mechanism between India and China, he said.

Commenting on reports of "friction points" in the bilateral relationship, including the Masood Azhar issue and India's admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Geng said "differences are only natural".

"Through all kinds of conversation and exchanges, including (the) upcoming Strategic Dialogue, (the) two sides can step up communication to narrow differences and reach new consensus on achieving cooperation," he said.

On the Masood Azhar issue, over which China has put a technical hold on the recent US move to list the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief as a terrorist in the 1267 committee of the UN Security Council, Geng said China will support the move if there is solid evidence."

China upholds principles of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism and takes part in relevant discussions. Whether last year's application by India or this year's by (the) relevant country, our position is consistent," Geng said.

"Our criteria is only one, we need solid evidence. If there is solid evidence the application can be approved. If there is no solid evidence there is hardly consensus," he said.

Stating that China has reiterated its stand several times, Geng said, "On (the) 1267 committee, the latest development is relevant countries have made another application with the committee. 
17:31  Don't indulge in politicking at cost of security forces' morale: Govt rebukes Cong:   As debate rages over Army Chief General General Bipin Rawat's warning to terror sympathizers in the Kashmir Valley, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh on Friday appealed to all political leaders not to indulge in any kind of politicking at the cost of security forces' morale.

Singh said it is high time that the nation should be made aware of the lowly politicking indulged into by some Congress leaders who have not only questioned the intention of the Army Chief's statement but also have gone to the extent of calling him hot-headed.

"And the statements which have come one after the other are quite unbecoming of a national party, We appeal to all the political section and congress not indulge in any kind of politicking at the cost of security forces' morale," he added.

He said the Army Chief never delivered any warning and albeit his concerns that innocent people should not suffer any loss during anti-terror operations in the state.

"The Army Chief's statement to be fair was fired for the concerned for the youth of Kashmir. Army Chief's remark showed worry and not warning," he added.

The Chief of Army Staff had earlier on Wednesday said those Kashmiris supporting terrorists would be considered anti-national."People who have picked up arms, the local boys, if they want to continue with such acts of terrorism and display flags of ISIS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them. Our relentless operations will continue," General Rawat said while paying tribute to the bravehearts of the Handwara and Bandipora encounters.
17:14  Priyanka's 'outsider' barb at PM at debut speech in Rae Bareli:  Just in: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's first public rally of 2017. Addressing a rally at Maharajganj in her mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's constituency in Rae Bareli. Priyanka shared the dais with her brother and other Congress workers. This is Priyanka's first rally in UP for the Assembly polls and comes close on the heels of Union Minister Smriti Irani's comment that the Congress party's star campaigner was trying to avoid "people's questions" about the "unfulfilled promises" of the Congress. Highlights...

- I want you all to be with Congress, join hands and help us to win.

-- Why is PM saying UP has adopted him. Does UP need to adopt anyone from outside? UP ka har naujawan neta ban sakta hai, aur UP ka vikas kar sakta hai. PM ne kaha mujhe UP ne godh liya aur mein UP ka vikas karoonga. Kya UP ko vikas ke liye kisi ko godh lene ki zarurat hai?"
16:42  Backgrounder: The Qalandar's magnetism:  Sindh's centuries-old bond with Sufis and Sufism is no secret. And among the great mystics that draw devotees from across the province -- and indeed across the country -- is Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, whose shrine was savagely bombed on Thursday evening. Read more
16:37  Tamil Nadu Minister KA Sengottayan appointed as floor leader of the Assembly The party says that according to party rules, Madhusudanan has no power to remove General Secy VK Sasikala from the party. 
15:59  Just In: Delhi HC stays till Feb 20 the parole granted to MLA Mukhtar Ansari for campaigning in UP polls after state election commission challenged it.
15:57  Just In: Sensex jumps 167.48 points to end at 28,468.75; Nifty surges 43.70 points to 8,821.70.
15:54  Priyanka joins Rahul at Rae Bareli rally, targets PM :  Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's rally at Sonia Gandhi's parliamentary constituency of Rae Bareli. Priyanka's entry in the campaign comes after Union Minister Smriti Irani said that the Congress' star campaigner was trying to avoid "people's questions" about the "unfulfilled promises" of the Congress.

The Samajwadi Party is going to the polls in alliance with the Congress in the state. Priyanka has actively campaigned for both her mother and brother in their respective parliamentary constituencies - Raebareli and Amethi - in the past.  

The third phase of the polls will be held on 19 February


-- We spoke to farmers about their issues. The farmers said three things: Rain, hail and Modiji doesn't give us compensations.
-- They want loans to be waived, electricity rates halved and the right price for our produce.
-- Two crore farmers reached out to us. I went to PM Modi and I said you have forgone debts of rich industrialists. You may do that as you are the Prime Minister. But you should also think of the farmers of Uttar Pradesh.
And his response? Not one word about farmers and their debts.
-- While campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, he said, "As soon as you elect the BJP, we will waive off your loans". What kind of deal are you trying to strike here?
-- The Congress had waived off farmers' loans, even when it wasn't in power.
15:24  Vande Mataram NOT Jana Gana Mana, no equal respect: SC :  The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the plea filed by BJP leader and senior Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay seeking direction to give equal respect to the national song as given to the national anthem.

The apex court also clubbed the petition filed by Upadhyay seeking the national anthem to be played in schools with the main plea filed in the concerned matter by social activist Shyam Narayan Chowksey.

Earlier, Upadhyay had filed a plea in the apex court, seeking directions to the Centre for issuing a policy to promote and propagate the national anthem, national flag and national song.

Earlier on February 10, the top court had declined to give an urgent hearing on the plea.

The petition sought a direction to frame a national policy to promote and propagate the national anthem, national song and national flag in spirit of Article 51A.

On November 30, a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, responding to the filed by Chouksey, had ordered all cinema halls to play the national anthem before the screening of a movie.

However, the court later made an amendment and said there is no need to compulsorily stand up when the national anthem is sung or played as part of a film or documentary.

In its earlier order, the apex court had invoked what it called "constitutional patriotism" to say that people need to stand up when the national anthem was played before screening of a film.
14:45  Panneerselvam faction meet TN Assembly Speaker :  Members from the O Panneerselvam faction on Friday met Speaker P Dhanapal, a day ahead of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami's floor test.

The team of members which included K Pandiarajan, S Semmalai and Shanmuganthan (all MLAs) and senior leader C Ponnaiyan, however, did not reveal to the waiting media details of their meeting.

The meeting assumes significance ahead of Saturdays floor test. The Panneerselvam camp has 10 MLAs on its side, including the former Chief Minister.

In his first test, Sasikala loyalist Palaniswami will seek the vote of confidence in the state Assembly. While inviting him to form the government yesterday, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao had asked Palaniswami to seek the vote of confidence in the next 15 days.

The government had later in the day announced that the vote of confidence would be held at 11 am on Saturday.
13:55  Don't smile at me, Stalin advises new TN CM:  DMK's Working President MK Stalin on Friday advised newly-sworn-in Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami against smiling at him in the assembly.
The strange advice came just a few days after AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala had noted that former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had smiled at Stalin -- and cited that as one of the reasons for asking him to step down.

Panneerselvam had said smiling at another human being is one of the qualities that differentiates humans from animals.

Stalin, who has termed the Palaniswami government as "anti-people", was accused by Sasikala of conspiring with Paneerselvam to sideline her in the party.

Stalin had said Sasikala's allegation was laughable wondering what would have Sasikala and her family members done against Jayalalithaa as she too had smiled at him. The leader of the opposition said he used to exchange pleasantries with Jayalalithaa and asked if that too amounted to a similar crime.

A Sasikala loyalist, Palaniswami was sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on Thursday, along with 31 cabinet ministers, ending the political crisis sparked by the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in December.
13:50  SP eyes Priyanka's campaign in Rae Bareli :  With Priyanka Gandhi all set to attend the first election rally in Rae Bareli, the Samajwadi Party on Friday said the former's presence is expected to make a lot of difference as far as the votes are concerned.

"Priyanka Gandhi has always been a big support for Congress. Her presence makes a difference. Supporters and commoners like it when any big leader comes out in support of the party. I wish her all the best from the Samajwadi Party and hope that she wins more number of seats," Samajwadi Party leader Juhi Singh told ANI.

Asserting that the alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress is strong, she added that both the parties have two different manifestos, which aim to make Uttar Pradesh a better state.

Priyanka Gandhi played a key role in sewing the seat-sharing alliance of the two parties, according to which the Samajwadi Party and the Congress have fielded 298 and 105 candidates in the state, respectively.

As voting for the third phase of assembly polls begins in the state, Priyanka Gandhi will attend a rally in Raebareli constituency with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday.

The next five phases of polling will be held on February 19, 23, 27 and March 4 and 8. Counting of votes will be done on March 11.

File pic.
13:39  Prez, PM to visit Tamil Nadu :  Tamil Nadu is in turmoil politically, but VVIP movement in the state continues.

President Pranab Mukherjee will be visiting Chennai on March 2. He will have two official programmes on the following day in Tambaram where he will present colours to the Indian Air Force. He will leave for Delhi on March 3.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Coimbatore on February 24 for a function on Jagadguru Jaggi Vasudev. He will leave for New Delhi on the same day.

The last time they were in Chennai was during Jayalalithaa's funeral on December 6.
13:06  AIADMK will NOT issue whip to MLAs for crucial trust vote. Here's why:   The AIADMK, led by its new chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, has decided NOT to issue a whip to its MLAs to be present in the Assembly on Saturday when the trust vote is slated to take place.  

The CM apprehends there will be an exodus to the rival O Panneerselvam camp, if the MLAs were to be present.
The AIADMK legal wing has suggested that party sack MLAs and hold re-elections in those constituencies. With the prevailing anti-Sasikala sentiment among a majority of the public in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is apprehensive of losing the battle in the Assembly.

Former CM O Pannerselvam is still confident that between 18 and 20 MLAs from the Sasikala camp will walk over to him if they are let out of the Golden Bay Resort where they have been corralled since February 8. Consequently, the Sasikala camp has not allowed its MLAs outside the resort.

OPS wants a ballot vote, and not a voice vote, in the house as it will give him exact numbers who have voted against the government. The Speaker of the Tamil Nadu assembly S Dhanapal is with the Sasikala camp and will vote for E Palaniswami in the event of a tie.

Meanwhile, at 4 pm today, the DMK Legislature party is meeting in Chennai with 89 MLAs. Their strategy is not to bail out the E Palanaisamy government. In fact, early reports say the DMK may boycott the floor test, with MP Kanimozhi saying they will not participate. Whichever way the DMK goes, it will put the Edapaddi Palaniswami government in a tight spot.
12:39  Team OPS sacks Sasikala, nephews from AIADMK:   Tamil Nadu claws its way back to the news: AIADMK Presidium Chairman E Madhusudanan removes VK Sasikala from the primary membership of the party and also removes her nephews TTV Dinakaran and S Venkatesh from their respective party posts.

Madhusudhanan joint the OPS camp last week saying his conscience was urging him to join Panneerselvam's camp and he has surrendered to that voice.

Panneerselvam had said Madhusudhanan would be the permanent general secretary of the AIADMK and that former chief minster J Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence (Veda Nilayam) would be converted into a "memorial for Amma."

12:07  Despite fall, GDP will bounce back sharply: RBI Governor:   Reserve Bank Governor Urjit Patel today said India's economic growth will make a "sharp V" recovery following the recall of old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes. Patel also made a strong case for continuing with globalisation even in the face of a potential shift to trade protectionism under US President Donald Trump as India has benefited from open trade.

"Almost everyone agrees that the impact is going to be a sharp 'V', that we would have a downgrade of growth for a short period of time," he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.

"However, the remonetisation has happened at a fast pace and that was part of the plan." RBI last week lowered economic growth for the current fiscal to 6.9 per cent from the previously projected 7.1 per cent, but saw it bouncing back in a big way to 7.4 per cent in 2017-18.

He said the benefit of junking 86 per cent of currency in circulation will take time to fully play out and needs more work to ensure they are lasting. Asked when India could achieve 9 per cent GDP growth, he said it is difficult to predict sustainable growth rates.

Higher growth rate is possible if very fundamental reforms, especially in factors of production like land and labour, are undertaken, the Governor said. "Now how much higher than 7.5 that we are achieving so far is difficult to say. But the fact is we need to grow at some point faster than we are now," he said. "I think 7.5 per cent growth rate is not something to be disappointed about."
11:58  Alibaba's bigger footprint:  Early talks on merger of Paytm and Snapdeal, with Alibaba and SoftBank as key players. Read
11:50  'We are a bunch of people who love jingoism, dynasty':  If there's one interview you can make the time to read today, let it be this. One of the finest actors of our time Kay Kay Menon speaks to's Jahnavi Patel in a no holds barred tete-a-tete. Do read
11:22  Rowling labels Trump's presser the 'scariest thing' ever seen:  Harry Potter author JK Rowling has showed up her disagreement with the US President Donald Trump, yet again.

Rowling took to Twitter and stated that Trump's Thursday afternoon press conference was the 'scariest thing' she had ever seen.

In a press conference, Donald Trump lambasted the news media and insisted that his administration was running like a 'finely-tuned machine'.

The Harry Potter author, who has been a regular critic of the U.S President, tweeted, "Up until an hour ago, the scariest thing I'd ever watched was Psycho. #TrumpPresser".

Rowling has previously defended her right to criticise the Trump regime, despite not being an American citizen, arguing, "When a man this ignorant & easy to manipulate gets within sniffing distance of the nuclear codes, it's everyone's business."

During his 77-minute press conference, President Trump noted his accomplishments, denied any connection to Russia and called out the 'very fake news' and media over their coverage of his presidency.
11:15  TN CM postpones Sasikala visit:  TN CM E Palaniswami postpones his visit to Sasikala at the Bengaluru Central jail. He will be meeting his MLAs holed up at the Golden Bay resort first, and thereafter schedule the meet with his mentor. 
11:12  Stay away from encounter sites: J-K govt advisory after Army Chief's warning:   Following Army Chief Bipin Rawat's warning, the Jammu and Kashmir government issues a fresh advisory on encounters in Kashmir. Asks people to stay away from encounter sites to avoid collateral damages during anti-militancy operations.

While stressing that the Army has a free hand in dealing with locals who help militants, Parrikar clarified that the Army did not treat "every Kashmiri on the street as a terror sympathiser."Army chief Bipin Rawat on Wednesday warned those attacking security forces during anti-militancy operations of "tough action".

The stern message from Rawat came a day after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting at Parray Mohalla of Bandipore in north Kashmir when they were about to launch an operation against militants holed up there.

Alerted by the stone-pelters, the militants got an opportunity to fire hand grenades and empty a few magazines from AK-rifles into the advancing troopers, leaving three jawans dead and some others, including a Commanding officer of CRPF, injured.

One terrorist managed to flee the area.General Rawat said security forces in Jammu and Kashmir were facing higher casualties due to the manner in which the local population was preventing them from conducting the operations and "at times even supporting the terrorists to escape".

"We would now request the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of ISIS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them," he said.

"They may survive today but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue," the Army Chief told reporters, sending out a stern message to those who support militants.

Rawat's assertion came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he paid last respects in New Delhi to three of the four soldiers, including a major, who were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir earlier this week.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also came out in support of the Army Chief.
11:02  Army has free hand in dealing with Kashmiris aiding militants: Parrikar :   Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has come out in support of Army Chief General Bipin Rawat a day after he issued a stern warning to civilians who obstruct military's anti-terror operations in Kashmir, reports India Today.

While stressing that the Army has a free hand in dealing with locals who help militants, Parrikar clarified that the Army did not treat "every Kashmiri on the street as a terror sympathiser."

Army chief Bipin Rawat on Wednesday warned those attacking security forces during anti-militancy operations of "tough action".

The stern message from Rawat came a day after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting at Parray Mohalla of Bandipore in north Kashmir when they were about to launch an operation against militants holed up there.

Alerted by the stone-pelters, the militants got an opportunity to fire hand grenades and empty a few magazines from AK-rifles into the advancing troopers, leaving three jawans dead and some others, including a
Commanding officer of CRPF, injured. One terrorist managed to flee the area.

General Rawat said security forces in Jammu and Kashmir were facing higher
casualties due to the manner in which the local population was preventing them from conducting the operations and "at times even supporting the terrorists to escape".

"We would now request the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of ISIS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them," he said.

"They may survive today but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue," the Army Chief told reporters, sending out a stern message to those who support militants.

Rawat's assertion came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he paid last respects in New Delhi to three of the four soldiers, including a major, who were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir earlier this week
10:41  Vice Admiral turns Trump down for NSA job:  Vice Admiral Robert Harward has turned down an offer to be President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, the latest blow to a new administration struggling to find its footing.

Harward told The Associated Press that the Trump administration was "very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally." "It's purely a personal issue," Harward said yesterday evening. "I'm in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time."

Asked whether he had requested to bring in his own staff at the National Security Council, Harward said, "I think that's for the president to address." Following Flynn's ouster, administration officials said his deputy, KT McFarland, was staying on at the NSC. McFarland is a former Fox News analyst.

Harward would have replaced retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who resigned at Trump's request Monday after revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the US during the transition.
10:34  After trust vote on Saturday, TN CM will meet Sasikala in jail :  After the trust vote on Saturday, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palaniswami, will meet his mentor, VK Sasikala in jail. Palaniswami was sworn-in as the CM minister yesterday, ending the 10-day political uncertainty in the state which began with caretaker CM O Panneerselvam's revolt against the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary.

Palaniswami is the third person to occupy the top post in the last nine months. Governor C Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office and secrecy to 63-year-old Palaniswami, a party veteran from western Tamil Nadu, at the head of a 31-member Cabinet at a ceremony in the Raj Bhavan on Thursday evening.

The ministers were sworn-in in batches. Palaniswami will seek a vote of confidence on February 18. Speaker P Dhanapal has convened the session of the Tamil Nadu assembly at 11 am on Saturday for the trust vote, Assembly Secretary A M P Jamaludeen said in a statement.  "On that day, the vote of confidence will be taken up," he said.

Palaniswami is the third AIADMK leader to be sworn-in as the chief minister in the last nine months. AIADMK supremo and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had powered the party to a rare successive term in office in the state in the May, 2016 assembly polls. She continued in the post through her grim 74-day battle for life.
10:22  Demonetisation idea wrong, dont blame its execution: Rajiv Bajaj:  Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj on Thursday criticised the withdrawal of high value notes in November last year, saying the idea itself was "wrong' and it was incorrect to blame only the execution. "If the solution or the idea is right, it will go like a hot knife through butter. If the idea is not working, for example demonetisation, don't blame execution. I think your idea itself is wrong," Bajaj said at the annual Nasscom Leadership Forum, in a rare public criticism of the move by a corporate chief. Read more
10:13  Sensex bolts away, jumps 425 pts on inflows, Nifty tops 8,800:   For the second day, the Sensex broke free today, shooting up nearly 425 points, and the Nifty wrested back control of the 8,800-mark in early session on substantial gains across the spectrum, driven by increased foreign capital inflows.

The 30-share barometer zoomed 424.99 points, or 1.50 per cent, to 28,726.26. The gauge had gained 145.71 points in the previous session.

Also, the NSE Nifty recaptured the key 8800-level by surging 91.60 points, or 1.04 per cent, to 8,869.60. HDFC Bank skyrocketed 7.29 per cent to Rs 1,424.05 after RBI yesterday lifted restrictions on foreign investors for purchase of shares in the company. FIIs, NRIs and PIOs (persons of Indian origin) can invest in primary and secondary capital markets in India through portfolio investment scheme (PIS).

RBI monitors the ceilings on FII, NRI, PIO investments in Indian companies on a daily basis and has fixed the cut-off 2 percentage points below the actual ceiling. Other big-time movers that supported the rally were HDFC Ltd, Axis Bank, Lupin, PowerGrid, Adani Ports, Tata Motors, ONGC, Cipla, GAIL, Bharti Airtel and L&T, advancing by up to 1.64 per cent.
09:52  'Truth' has prevailed, now stop protesting: AIADMK to OPS:  With former Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam announcing protests and processions in each constituency opposing Edappadi K Palaniswami's appointment as the new chief minister, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has called on the former to stop his futile efforts, as the 'truth' has prevailed.

Speaking to ANI, AIADMK spokesperson Vaigai Selvan said that supporters of OPS are now fighting against the party and it must be stopped at all costs.

"OPS is saying he will meet people across districts now. He can go wherever he wants, but the truth is on our side and I'm sure that truth will win," he said.

Panneerselvam visited Jayalalithaas memorial on Thursday night and spent some time there with his supporters.

He asserted that the people were against the new government.

"Until this government is removed, we will not sleep or rest. The people don't want this government," he said. -- ANI

IMAGE: Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam addresses a press conference at his Greenways Road residence in Chennai. Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/ PTI Photo
09:24  Sharmila cycles 20km to file nomination:   Irom Sharmila of People's Resurgence Justice Alliance files nomination for Thoubal assembly sear in Manipur to contest against Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.

She rode a bicycle to file the nomination and covered a distance of about 20 km from Imphal.-- ANI
09:23  NYT calls Karan Johar 'The man who let India out of the closet':  Director Karan Johar took India by storm with his bold and unapologetic revelations about his life, friends, colleagues and most importantly his identity, in his biography An Unsuitable Boy.  

Though he did not utter those "three simple words" -- 'I am gay' -- the filmmaker in a way revealed almost everything about himself in the book. 

The New York Times, in an article by Aatish Taseer, has paid KJo a tribute for being what he is. 

Aatish Taseer writes, 'An ocean of innuendo has always surrounded Mr. Johar's sexuality. He has done more than anybody to introduce the idea of homosexuality into the Indian home. It would seem no closet door was better primed to spring open than his. And yet when he tries the latch, he finds it sticks.' 

To read more about what Aatish Taseer has to say about Johar, click here.
09:15  Gopal Baglay to replace Vikas Swarup as MEA spokesperson:  Rajeev Sharma tells us: Gopal Baglay will take over as the ministry of external affairs's spokesperson any day after February 19.

Currently joint secretary in the MEA's Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran division, Baglay is from the 1992 batch of the Indian Foreign Service.

Baglay replaces Vikas Swarup, IFS batch 1986, who has been appointed as India's high commissioner to Canada, a post that has been lying vacant since Ambassador Vishnu Prakash retired several months ago.

Vikas Swarup will fly to Ottawa on February 28. He has to present his credentials before March 2 as the Canadian government has advised New Delhi that if Swarup doesn't present his credentials by March 2 he may have to wait at least four months.

Swarup, whose novel Q&A was made into the Oscar-winnig film, Slumdog Millionaire, has been the MEA's spokesperson for nearly two years.

At a time when India's relations with Pakistan are rather frigid, Baglay's rich experience on Pakistan will come in handy for the Modi government.

Prior to his current hands-on assignment in the MEA headquarters, he had served as India's deputy high commissioner in Pakistan.

IMAGE: Vikas Swarup
09:03  Malaysia seeks DNA sample to release body of Kim Jong-un's half-brother:  Police in Malaysia's Selangor state has said that they will not release the body of North Korean leader half-brother until his family has provided a DNA sample.

Pyongyang has requested for the body of the leader's half-brother.

"So far no family member or next of kin has come to identify or claim the body. We need a DNA sample of a family member to match the profile of the dead person," Selangor state police chief Abdul Samah Mat was quoted as saying by news agencies.

"North Korea has submitted a request to claim the body, but before we release the body we have to identify who the body belongs to," he added.
-- Agencies 
09:02  Dead rat in midday meal served at Delhi school, 9 kids hospitalised:   Nine students at a government school in Delhi have been hospitalised after they consumed a midday meal in which a dead rat was allegedly found.

"A rat was found in the meal my son had consumed yesterday, such negligence is not acceptable," said the mother of one of the students hospitalised.

Meanwhile, Congress' Kiran Walia said, "Strict supervision must be done on cleanliness, hygiene during food preparation. An enquiry should be ordered and nobody at fault should be spared."

More details awaited. -- ANI

Representative image.
00:47  Will issue new order next week to protect Americans: Trump:  
President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he would be issuing an order next week aimed at keeping the American people safe, as his temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries remains kept on hold by a federal court.

"We will be issuing a new and very comprehensive order to protect our people," Trump said at a news conference.

Trump said it will be issued "sometime next week, toward the beginning or middle, at the latest."

Earlier in his remarks, the president criticized a federal appeals court's decision to block his late January travel ban. Among other restrictions, it temporarily banned travelers from seven largely Muslim countries.
00:46  Trump: 'I inherited a mess':  
US President Donald Trump has said the United States faces a host of problems at home and abroad, declaring: "I inherited a mess." 

Trump, speaking at his first solo news conference, said jobs were leaving the country to Mexico and other places, and mass instability was prevalent overseas.

"To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad. A mess," he said.

"Low pay, low wages. Mass instability overseas no matter where you look. The Middle East a disaster. North Korea. We'll take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all." 

He made the remark after presenting Alexander Acosta, a former federal prosecutor from Florida, as his nominee for to lead the Department of Labour.

Acosta was tapped after Trump's first nominee for the post, Andrew Puzder, withdrew under pressure over his business record and other past controversies in his personal life. 
00:41  HC dumps plea to turn Jayalalithaa's home into memorial:  
The Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu government to convert the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa into a public memorial. 

Dismissing the petition filed by S Parthiban, the division bench comprising justices Huluvadi G Ramesh and R Mahadevan said, "It appears that seeking an identical relief a petition was filed before the Madurai Bench of this court and by an order dated January 12, 2017, the said petition was dismissed as not maintainable."

"In view of the above, nothing remains to be reconsidered in the present petition. Petition is dismissed," it said. 

The petitioner submitted that Jayalalithaa was in possession of 'Veda Nilayam' residence in Poes Garden in Chennai. After her demise, politicians belonging to AIADMK party were using the residence and not her legal heirs, he claimed.

Therefore, he had made a representation to the authorities concerned to convert the residence into a memorial. However, no action was taken, he said. 

Recently, caretaker Chief Minister O Paneerselvam had launched a signature campaign, seeking public support to convert the residence into a memorial. The 24,000 square feet residence in Chennai is named "Veda Nilayam" after Jayalalithaa's mother, who was known as Sandhya in the Tamil film industry.
00:40  Talks on for Made in India F-16s, says Lockheed:  
American defence major Lockheed Martin has said that discussions are currently taking place between the US and Indian governments on the company's plans to set up manufacturing base for F-16 fighter jets in India.

"The conversation has progressed to the point that we are deferring at this point to the government-to-government conversation. And that conversation is ongoing," a top company official told reporters at Aero India 2017 air show in Bengaluru. 

The comments from Randy Howard, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Integrated Fighter, Director, Business Development, came when asked about its move to push ahead with its plan to move production of its F-16 to India, but that the Trump Administration is taking a "fresh look" at its proposal. 

"We had really very strong support up to this point. We are deferring those questions and concerns over to governments who are having an ongoing conversation. The discussions have progressed to the point that the requirements need to be more fully articulated...," he said. 

"There are a number of internal discussions going on here in India on strategic partners. Discussions between the two governments at this point. We will wait to hear from the two governments and Lockheed Martin is fully supportive of those decisions," he said.

Lockheed had said recently that its officials have briefed the Trump Administration on the current proposal, which was supported by the Obama Administration as part of a broader cooperative dialogue with the Government of India. 

Trump has flayed US firms for having moved manufacturing overseas and then sell their products back to the US and asked them to produce in the US itself. Lockheed, however, does not plan to sell back F-16 in the US which has not placed fresh orders for it.
00:39  US, Russia military chiefs meet in Azerbaijan:  
The top military commanders from the US and Russia have met for the first time since Donald Trump became president, as Moscow warned Washington against trying any strongarm tactics. 

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford held talks with his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov in Azerbaijan's capital Baku, as both sides have mooted potential cooperation against Islamic State jihadists. 

Russia's defence ministry said in a statement that the two generals "exchanged opinions regarding the condition of Russian-American relations" and on the security situation around the globe. 

They also determined areas for cooperation in "increasing the security of military activity, decreasing tensions and the risks of accidents," the statement said.

Relations between Russia and the US have slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow's meddling in Ukraine, and military  ties are limited to a system aimed at avoiding clashes in the air over Syria. 

Trump has repeatedly held out the prospect of cooperating with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State group, a goal that the Kremlin has long been pushing for.

The United States insisted, however, that today's meeting between the military bosses was not political in nature and had been planned for months.
00:29  Top headlines at this hour:  IS executes suicide attack on Sufi shrine, 70 dead

Palaniswami sworn in as TN CM; faces trust vote on Feb 18

Vikas Swarup new high commissioner to Canada

Pay about 15% more for Antyodaya Express tickets

GST: Health groups seek highest possible tax levy on tobacco items

Don't try to take advantage of BCCI's current mess, warns Shastri

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