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LIVE! After withdrawal from UNESCO, US warns other UN agencies

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October 12, 2017

23:24  After withdrawal from UNESCO, US warns other UN agencies:  Hours after the United States announced its decision to pull out from the UNESCO, America's Permanent Representative to the United Natinos issued a stern warning to other UN agencies that they will be evaluated through the same lens.

US taxpayers should 'no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense', US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement.

Her remarks came hours after the State Department announced that the US will withdraw from the UNESCO, accusing the UN cultural body of 'anti-Israel' bias.

"In July, when UNESCO made its latest outrageous and politically based decision, designating the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory, the US clearly stated that this decision would negatively affect its evaluation of the level of engagement with the organisation," she said.

"The US will continue to evaluate all agencies within the United Nations system through the same lens," Haley said.

"The purpose of UNESCO is a good one. Unfortunately, its extreme politicisation has become a chronic embarrassment."

The Tomb of the Patriarchs decision was just the latest 'in a long line of foolish actions', which includes keeping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protestors, Haley asserted.  -- PTI
22:19  'Pessimists are going global', Rahul takes a dig at PM:  Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his remarks dubbing the Opposition as 'pessimists' and said 'pessimists are going global'.

'These pessimists are going global. Why don't they just go away?' he said on Twitter.

Gandhi while taking on the prime minister posted a link of an article about World Bank downgrading India's growth forecast, after the International Monetary Fund.

Modi had compared critics of his government with a character in the Mahabharata, who used to demoralise Karna while engaged in the battle with Arjuna.

Modi had also said that people who spread pessimism sleep well only after they spread that feeling all around and asked to recognise them.

Gandhi had earlier said that instead of making excuses, Modi should speak up instead.  -- PTI
21:16  Jawan, porter killed; 6 injured as Pak forces violate ceasefire:  An Army jawan and a porter were killed and six others injured when Pakistani troops fired small arms on forward areas along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district.

"The Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked and indiscriminate firing of small arms and automatics from 10.35 am in Krishnagati sector along the Line of Control (LoC)," a defence spokesperson said in Srinagar.

The Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively. The exchange of fire is on, he said.

During firing, Sepoy T K Reddy, 21, and Defence Porter Mohd Zahir, 22, suffered serious injuries and died, the spokesperson said.

He said six other personnel, including a defence porter, were also injured and are undergoing treatment.

Reddy belonged to Obulapuram village in Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district.

He is survived by his mother.

Zahir belonged to Kalali village in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district, he said.

Sepoy Reddy was a brave and sincere soldier and Zahir was an honest and dedicated worker, he said adding that the nation will always remain indebted to them for their supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty.

On October 6, Pakistani troops had opened fire on Baba Khori and other areas in Rajouri district, and on October 4, three Army jawans were injured in unprovoked and  indiscriminate firing in the Poonch sector.

An Army jawan was killed in a ceasefire violation by Pakistan along the LoC in Poonch on October 3.

On October 2, two minors had died and 12 civilians were injured in cross-border shelling.

The year 2017 has seen a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan.  -- PTI
21:05  Pak EC seeks arrest of Imran Khan on contempt charges:  Pakistan's election commission today issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Opposition leader Imran Khan on contempt charges and ordered police to produce the cricketer-turned-politician before it on October 26.

Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Raza Khan, heading a five-member bench, issued the warrant against 64-year-old Khan after he failed to appear before it or offer apology in the case.

Khan's lawyer Babar Awan urged the EC to delay the proceedings till the Islamabad High Court decides the issue of the election commission's jurisdiction in contempt case. In Pakistan, election commission can issue arrest warrants.

Meanwhile, Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said it would challenge the decision in the high court.

On September 14, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had issued a bailable warrant against Khan to ensure his presence in the case.

However, his party approached the Islamabad high court which, on September 20, suspended the bailable arrest warrants.

In the previous hearing, Khan, in his reply submitted through his lawyer Babar Awan, had stated that he confirmed the apology tendered by his previous counsel regarding the 'contemptuous' remarks, adding that the contempt of court matter is a 'closed transaction belonging to the past'.

His counsel then requested the ECP to withdraw a showcause notice issued on September 24.

The ECP had issued the contempt notice to Khan on January 24 over his 'scandalous remarks' about the commission.

Akbar Babar, the petitioner who had filed the foreign funding case against the PTI leadership, had informed the ECP that Khan had accused it of being biased in the foreign funding case following which his counsel tendered an apology with the commission.  -- PTI
20:16  It's not really a clean chit: Ex-CBI boss on Talwars' acquittal:   Former Central Bureau of Investigation Director A P Singh, who headed the CBI during the investigation of the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case, said that the Allhabad high court on Thursday only said what he had said in the beginning that evidence is insufficient to prosecute Rajesh and Nupur Talwar.

"It is not really a clean chit because it says they've been given benefit of doubt and not that they are innocent," Singh said.

"Only weakness we found was that scene of crime had been badly tampered on the first day itself. As a result, after that we got nothing of value from the scene of crime. That was the major lacuna in the entire investigation," Singh said. -- ANI

Photograph: PTI Photo
19:49  US withdraws from 'anti-Israel' UNESCO:   The United States today announced that it is to withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation, accusing the body of 'anti-Israel bias', reports said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington would establish an 'observer mission' to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency. -- Agencies

Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters
19:16  Family held hostage by Taliban freed after 5 years:  CNN reports:

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children have been freed from captivity by Pakistani security forces, nearly five years after being taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The initial word came from a Pakistani Army statement and was confirmed by US officials.

The couple, American Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33, were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2012 while they were traveling as tourists in Afghanistan and were held in captivity since.

Coleman was pregnant when she was kidnapped. The couple had two more children born in captivity.

In a statement, the Pakistani Army said US intelligence agencies had been tracking the hostages and shared intelligence with Pakistan when the family was moved to the country.

US officials confirmed there was intelligence about their location in recent days that was shared with the Pakistanis.  Read full
19:07  Congress sweeps Nanded civic polls; stops BJP juggernaut:  The Congress today made a clean sweep in the Nanded-Waghala municipal corporation elections, winning 49 of the 54 seats for which results were declared.

Results for 54 seats, out of the total 81, have been declared so far.

Nanded is Maharashtra Congress president AshokChavan's home turf and it saw an aggressive campaign, with the Bharatiya Janata Party making all efforts to wrest control of the civic body.

The campaign for the polls witnessed a bitter war of words among the Congress, BJP and Shiv Sena.

Of the results declared so far, BJP has won three, while Shiv Sena is placed a distant third, winning a solitary seat.

The results indicate a rout of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which had around a dozen corporators in the outgoing body.

The Congress has 41 members in the outgoing civic body, followed by 14 corporators of the Shiv Sena, 11 of the AIMIM and Nationalist Congress Party's 10.

The municipal corporation of Nanded has been ruled by the Congress, since it came into existence two decades ago.

The BJP won 12 of the 16 civic bodies, for which polls were held this year, expanding its footprint in Maharashtra's urban areas.  -- PTI
18:04  Kejriwal's car stolen:  JUST IN: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Blue Wagon R stolen near Secretariat.
17:52  'The trial left them emotionally drained':  The nine-year trial in the murder of their daughter Aarushi had left the Talwar couple emotionally drained, Nupur Talwar's father said today, thanking the judiciary for acquitting them.

B G Chitnis, a former group captain in the Indian Air Force, said it was very trying for him to see his daughter, Nupur and her husband Rajesh behind bars.

"I am grateful to the judiciary for the verdict. They(the Talwar couple) have really suffered. They are emotionally drained. At my age it was very trying to see my daughter behind bars," he told reporters in New Delhi.

Vandana Talwar, Aarushi's aunt, said the entire family had suffered for nearly a decade as the case dragged on.

"It was very exhausting and trying...," she said.

She refused to go into the merits of the case and the judgment, saying the couple's lawyers would answer questions on who killed Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj.

"We are deeply grateful to the judiciary and relieved over the verdict. I would like to thank all the supporters who supported us through the long ordeal," she said.

The Allahabad high court today acquitted the Talwar couple, saying they could not be held guilty on the basis of the evidence on record.

The verdict ends the ordeal of the parents who were found guilty by a CBI court in the sensational double murder case.

A division bench of the court comprising justices B K Narayana and A K Mishra upheld the appeals by the Talwars against the Ghaziabad CBI court order sentencing them to life imprisonment on November 26, 2013.

Aarushi was found dead inside her room in the Talwars' Noida residence with her throat slit in May 2008.

The needle of suspicion had initially moved towards 45-year-old Hemraj, who had gone missing but his body was recovered from the terrace of the house a day later.  -- PTI

Photograph: PTI Photo
17:28  Masked gunmen rob Rs 5 lakh from Srinagar bank:  Masked gunmen on Thursday robbed a bank in Bijbehara area of Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir, decamping with several lakh rupees, a police official said.

He said while the bank officials were calculating the exact amount of cash robbed by the gunmen, the rough estimates put the amount at around Rs five lakh.

"Three to four gunmen barged into the Jammu and Kashmir Bank branch at Marhama in Bijbehara this afternoon and decamped with cash from the premises," the official said.

Several incidents of bank robberies have taken place in the Kashmir Valley over the past two years.  -- PTI

Photograph: ANI
16:57  Cong benefited from Gandhi's assassination: Uma Bharti:  BJP leader and Union minister Uma Bharti today claimed the Congress "benefited" from the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi as he had talked about disbanding the party after Independence.

She was responding to a question on the Supreme Court's recent observations while hearing a plea seeking reopening of the investigation into the assassination.

"This matter is going on since the time Godse killed Gandhiji. Today I ask the country through you (the media) as to who benefited from the murder of Gandhiji?" Bharti asked.

She said while the Sangh and Jan Sangh faced damage and the country suffered losses "only the Congress benefited from the assassination of Gandhiji".

"Because Gandhiji had suggested that the Congress be dissolved (after Independence). In fact, he had already announced the Congress shall be disbanded," the minister of drinking water and sanitation claimed.

She was speaking to the media during the BJP's 'Gujarat Gaurav Yatra' in Banaskantha district of north Gujarat. Gandhi was shot dead at point blank range in New Delhi on January 30, 1948 by Godse, a right-wing advocate of Hindu nationalism.

The plea in the SC, filed by Mumbai-based Pankaj Phadnis, a researcher and a trustee of Abhinav Bharat, has sought reopening of the probe on several grounds, claiming it was one of the biggest cover-ups in history.

Bharti is one of the ministers taking part in the ongoing yatra of the BJP that aims to galvanise support for the ruling party ahead of the assembly elections. During the yatra, she addressed public meetings in Deodar, Tharad, Vav and Radhanpur constituencies.  -- PTI
16:50  Gujarat polls before Dec 18, Himachal on Nov 9, says EC:   Although it did not announce dates for Gujarat assembly elections, the Election Commission said they would be held prior to December 18.

"This will enable simultaneous counting in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat," the CEC said.

The counting of votes for Himachal Pradesh polls will be held on December 18.  -- ANI
16:34  Himachal polls on Nov 9, counting on Dec 18 :  Just in: Himachal Pradesh will go to the polls on November 9, the votes will be counted on December 18.

Chief Election Commissioner AK Jyoti, along with ECs OP Rawat and Sunil Arora say the elections will be conducted by using EVMs with VVPAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail).

The model code of conduct for Himachal Pradesh assembly election comes into effect from now itself. 

Himachal Pradesh voting will be held in 7521 polling stations, 136 women managed poll stations. 
16:04  Talwars happy to have got justice: Jailor :  The Allahabad High Court today acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the murder of their teenage daughter Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj in 2008, saying they could not be held guilty on the basis of the evidence on record. The verdict ends a nine-year ordeal of the parents who were found guilty by a CBI court of murdering 14-year-old Aarushi.  The Talwars lawyer said they expect them to be out of jail tomorrow. DR Maurya, a jailor, at Dasna jail where the Talwars have been incarcerated since November 2013 said they are happy to have got justice.

A division bench of the court comprising justices B K Narayana and A K Mishra upheld the appeals by the Talwars against the Ghaziabad CBI court order sentencing them to life imprisonment on November 26, 2013.

The CBI said they are awaiting a copy of the judgement and will decide the next course of action after studying it.   -- PTI
15:38  Update: The Talwars have been acquitted in both Aarushi and Hemraj's murder. 
15:28  CBI awaits copy of judgement:  CBI on Aarushi verdict: We are waiting for the copy of the judgement. We will decide our next course of action after studying it.
15:21  OPS meets PM for Cabinet berths :  Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. OPS wants Cabinet berths for the AIADMK as it is ready to align with the BJP and join the NDA.

Narendra Modi is said to have told Pannerselvam that a decision to the effect will be taken at the BJP's the Parliamentary Board meeting.

The BJP also insists that the AIADMK should pass a resolution of its desire to join the NDA. That's yet another party aligning with the BJP.

In Maharashtra, Narayan Rane resigned from the Congress and joined the NDA. In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress senior leader Mukul Roy resigned from the party and is floating a regional party which is expected to join the NDA.

More seats for the NDA in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?

Image: OPS and AIADMK MP Dr V Maitreyan with the PM
15:08  Rajesh, Nupur Talwar cleared of Aarushi's murder:   The Allahabad High Court has acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for the 2008 murder of their daughter Aarushi. The court was hearing an appeal filed by the Talwars challenging a CBI court order convicting them for the murders. The couple were awarded life sentence by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Ghaziabad on November 26, 2013, a day after their conviction. There is no clarity on whether they have been cleared of the murder of their servant, Hemraj.

The court today said there was no conclusive evidence to convict the Talwars and said the benefit of doubt should go to the couple. The court said there was no clinching evidence against the Talwars.

Nupur and Rajesh Talwar are at present serving their sentence in Ghaziabad's Dasna jail and according to reports are watching the news on TV.

A division bench of the high court comprising justices B K Narayana and A K Mishra had reserved its judgement on September 7 on the appeal filed by the dentist couple, fixing October 12 as the date for the verdict.

The Aarushi murder case dates back to 2008, just a day after 14-year-old Aarushi was found dead (May 16, 2008) in her house in Noida with her throat slit and head bludgeoned; the Talwar family's domestic help Hemraj was also found dead on the terrace of the same house.
14:45  Aarushi murder: Judges arrive in court:  
The judges arrive at the Allahabad high court to pronounce the judgment in the murder case of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar in Noida, four years after her parents were convicted for the sensational killing that shook the country.

A high court bench comprising justice BK Narayana and justice AK Mishra reserved its verdict in September in the appeal filed by Aarushi's parents, Rajesh and Nupur, who were sentenced to life in jail by a CBI court in Ghaziabad.

They were convicted for the double murder of Aarushi and their house help, Hemraj.
14:29  Stop press:   The son of a former constitutional authority was charged with sexual harassment a while ago. The father, a constitutional authority, held office for many years and recently demitted office.

The Delhi Police has found the copy of the FIR in this old case, which has now come very handy for the Union Government.

A section in BJP and the government feel that the FIR should be taken  seriously as the father has been very critical of the functioning of the government.

If the son is questioned, the father will take it as a message from the government and pipe down. Will the case be taken to its logical conclusion?

Stay with us.
14:13  Separatist Asiya Andrabi on Beti Bachao poster :   The child development project officer of Anantnag's Breng block has been suspended after a banner on 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' campaign featured separatist leader Asiya Andrabi as an achiever alongside Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and other personalities.

In a major embarrassment for the Jammu and Kashmir government, the banner aimed at highlighting the women achievers of the country was hoisted at a function held to promote education for girls in south Kashmir's Kokernag area.

It also featured tennis star Sania Mirza, legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar and Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi among others.

"The CDPO, Shamima, has been placed under suspension and an inquiry has been ordered into the incident," Deputy Commissioner Anantnag Mohammad Yunus Malik told PTI. Andrabi, who is currently detained under the Public Safety Act, heads Dukhtaran-e-Millat (daughter of nation) outfit which openly calls for merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. She has several cases registered against her, including some for hoisting Pakistani flag on August 14 and March 23-- the independence day and national day of Pakistan respectively. -- PTI

Image: The Beti Bachao poster which also features Asiya Andrabi (1st row, second from right)
14:05  Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee unanimously passes resolution to appoint Rahul Gandhi as AICC President.
13:39  Disney removes Harvey Weinstein as producer on 'Artemis Fowl':   Disney has terminated Harvey Weinstein as a producer on "Artemis Fowl". The news comes a day after Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger spoke out against Weinstein, saying, "Harvey Weinstein's reported behaviour is abhorrent and unacceptable, and it has no place in our society."

"We have terminated his services as producer," a spokesperson for Disney said. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Weinstein picked up the rights to the Eoin Colfer series during the height of Hollywood's Harry Potter craze in the early 2000s, when many studios were looking to find the next YA fantasy to bring to the big screen.  -- PTI
13:20  Cong's Ashok Gehlot's star is on the rise :  A room at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi has been lying vacant. The room used to be occupied by senior party leader Digvijaya Singh but his is now on a Narmada Yatra which is expected to last for six months; he will return to New Delhi only in February 2018.

So now, there is this big tug-of-war for the room with senior leaders fighting each other to occupy it.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Motilal Vohra have been claiming the chambers. The fact is, this room has special significance since it is the first room as you enter the AICC HQ and is also right next to Sonia Gandhi's chambers. Congress

VP Rahul Gandhi has finally allotted it to Ashok Gehlot, the general secretary in-charge of Gujarat.

So every visitor to AICC all over from India will have to first have a darshan at Gehlot and then go to Sonia Gandhi's room. This is an indication that Gehlot's political graph is on the rise in the party and that Rahul Gandhi likes him  for his acumen in dealing with organisational matters.
12:56  White Widow terrorist Sally Jones 'killed in drone strike' :  Britain's most wanted female terrorist Sally Jones, nicknamed the White Widow, has reportedly been killed in a drone strike. The fugitive jihadi, who was once a punk rock singer, was said to have been killed in June in a US strike close to the border between Syria and Iraq. For more than three years, Jones has been the world's most wanted female terrorist.  Read more
12:34  Modi mantris unhappy:  Murmurs are being heard in New Delhi political circles that many union ministers are upset with their seniors. The reason is that there is no work allocation, no files to consider and no foreign tours.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds meetings with Ministers of State on the third Saturday of every month in New Delhi. But not a single minister shares grievances with the PM.

A junior minister who is a doctor, complained that he had worked under three  different ministers in the same ministry since 2014, but the present Cabinet Minister has only been sending him a copy of the  daily engagements and tour  programmes.

The earlier two ministers had given him responsibility of welfare schemes of employees of two public sector undertakings.

The reason for taking away all the responsibility, the senior minister, said in private, is that the junior minister never disposes off his files since he is always on touring his constituency in choppers.

Eight joint  secretaries  have complained to the secretary and also to the Cabinet Minister that decisions are delayed. 
12:18  Sena condemns SC's ruling on firecrackers, questions its relevance:  The Shiv Sena on Thursday questioned the relevance of the Supreme Court's ruling on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and the NCR region, citing it would end the enthusiasm of 'Hindu festivals' in India".

The Supreme Court's decision to ban the sale of crackers in Delhi has come in light of the rising levels of air pollution in the city. Now one cannot really say how much the ban will affect the air pollution," said an editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, 'Saamna'.

Speaking about the shopkeepers and the workers whose household depends on crackers, the Shiv Sena asserted that due to the decision, thousands of people would lose their jobs and further asked if the authorities had done anything about the food and the living conditions of those affected by it.

"Will the authorities do anything for them? Or will they commit suicide just like the farmers elsewhere have resorted to?" asked the Shiv Sena.

The Sena added that banning crackers and disturbing the tranquility of the festivities was not the only solution to the problem.It further said that even though plastic had been banned, the Mumbai sewers were still choked with plastic waste.

Bashing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive, the Shiv Sena said, "The Modi Government's note-ban has given a huge shock to the people and hence, the people of India also have to take the burden of the pollution that demonetisation is spreading."

The Shiv Sena also asserted that till the courts and the Centre don't provide people with the basic necessities, banning events and practices is pointless.On Monday, the Supreme Court restored the ban on the sale of firecrackers till November 1, in Delhi and the NCR region.

The order has been passed with a view of controlling pollution levels during the festival of Diwali.The court's order, however, does not comment on the use of firecrackers.  -- PTI
11:49  Pakistan targets forward areas in Poonch:  Pakistani troops today fired from small arms at forward areas along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district. There are no reports of any casualty in the firing.

A senior police officer said Pakistani troops opened fire at forward areas in Khadi Karmara along LoC in Poonch sector this morning. On October 6, Pakistani troops had opened fire in Baba Khori and other areas in Rajouri district. The year 2017 has seen a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan. -- PTI
11:43  Poll dates for only Himachal, not Gujarat, today:  Update: The Election Commission will announce the dates for the assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh today, but not for Gujarat, as reported earlier. The Election Commission yesterday indicated that Gujarat may go to polls in December as the term of the current legislative assembly is coming to end in the third week of January.
11:33  Ben Affleck apologises for groping incident :  As Hollywood continues to reel over allegations of sexual abuse against renowned movie producer Harvey Weinstein, it seems the industry now has to answer more uncomfortable allegations for several A-listers.

This time it is Ben Affleck, who has been slammed for groping actress Hilarie Burton during an appearance on MTV's 'Total Request Live' years ago.

Taking to Twitter, the actor wrote, "I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologise."

The reply comes after the actress responded to tweets about the 'groping' incident that happened on MTV's 'Total Request Live'.

Burton's encounter with Affleck was recalled by Burton on Twitter in reply to a fan, who brought up the incident."[Affleck] also grabbed Hilarie Burton's breasts on TRL once. Everyone forgot though," wrote one user.
To which, Burton replied, "I didn't forget."

The video of the incident resurfaced on Wednesday after Affleck joined a chorus of others in denouncing the actions of disgraced movie mogul Weinstein.

Recently, the 'Batman' actor described Weinstein's alleged behaviour as "unacceptable" and claimed he had only read of the news surrounding the American producer this week.   -- ANI
11:29  Sinha bells the morality cat:  BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha said the party had lost the "high moral ground" on corruption after revelations linked to a company owned by Jay Amitbhai Shah, the son of the BJP national president.

"The BJP has lost its high moral ground," said Sinha, referring to the revelations made by a news portal. The Wire, a news portal, had reported that the turnover of the company had risen 16,000 times in a year. Jay has filed a criminal defamation case against the portal.

Sinha condemned the way railway minister Piyush Goyal had stepped forward in defence of party president Amit Shah's son.

"The way a central minister gave clarifications while reacting to the news, it appeared that he was the chartered accountant of the company and not a Union minister," said Sinha, a former Union finance minister who had recently blamed the policies of the Narendra Modi government for the economic "mess".

Goyal, who addressed the media on Sunday and Monday, is a chartered accountant by training. Sinha, who was speaking to reporters after paying homage to Jayaprakash Narayan on the socialist icon's birth anniversary, said he was not hopeful of any inquiry by the government on the points raised in the report.

"What can one expect from the government? The Government of India does not want to conduct any inquiry into the case," he said. "Without going into the merit of the story published by the news portal, I would say that there are a few things which do not look normal. The news item appeared on October 8 whereas the additional solicitor-general (Tushar Mehta) got the government's permission for representing a private individual on October 6 itself," the former minister added.   Read more
10:53  Dates for Gujarat, Himachal polls at 4 pm today:  Just in: The Election Commission will announce the dates for the Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at 4 pm today.

The Election Commission yesterday indicated that Gujarat may go to polls in December as the term of the current legislative assembly is coming to end in the third week of January.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) A K Joti also said that voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system will be used in over 50,000 booths in Gujarat. VVPAT was first used in Goa polls earlier this year.

He said that paper slips will be counted at a single booth in each 182 constituencies to tally the number of slips and the votes cast.For the first time, the poll panel will also introduce all-women polling stations in Gujarat in all assembly segments.  -- PTI
10:29  Sensex flexes its muscles :  The benchmark Sensex went up 113 points and the NSE Nifty seized control of 10,000 level today as domestic investors raised the bar ahead of key industrial output numbers to be released later in the day.

Another record close on Wall Street after the release of the US Fed minutes fuelled the uptrend.

The 30-share Sensex was higher by 112.53 points, or 0.35 per cent, at 31,946.52. Healthcare, realty, IT, capital goods, oil and gas and auto stocks were in the pink of health, rising by up to 0.86 per cent. The gauge had lost 90 points yesterday. The NSE Nifty too rose 36.60 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 10,021.40.

Building up of positions by participants ahead of key economic data -- industrial production (IIP) for August and consumer inflation for September to be released after market closing today -- drove up domestic bourses.

In the Sensex kitty, Sun Pharma topped the gainers list by climbing 2.42 per cent to Rs 538.50 after the company said it has received establishment inspection report (EIR) from the US health regulator for its Dadra facility. Stock of the country's largest software exporter, TCS, was trading higher by 0.83 per cent at Rs 2,521.15 ahead of its September quarterly earnings slated later in the day.

Other big movers were Lupin, Reliance Industries, NTPC, Hero MotoCorp, Tata Steel, Hindustan Unilever, M&M, Maruti Suzuki, Infosys and Bajaj Auto, advancing up to 1.08 per cent.   -- PTI
10:18  Delhi: Woman sexually assaulted by two bike-borne men in Vasant Kunj:  A Noida-based woman has complained of sexual assault in Delhi's Vasant Kunj area.On late Tuesday night, the Vasant Kunj Police Station received information regarding 'outraging the modesty of woman'.

Immediately, the police staff along with a lady officer was rushed to the spot where they met the victim.

The woman, in her complaint at the Vasant Kunj Police Station, has stated that she was sexually assaulted by two bike-borne men, who tried to drag her into bushes after finding her alone while she was waiting for a taxi on the Nangal Devat-Vasant Kunj Road on late Tuesday night.

When she resisted, they caused injuries on her body and thereafter, the assailants fled.

The woman was immediately sent for medical assistance and examination and after the same, upon her statement, a case under appropriate sections was registered and investigation was taken up.

The victim has expressed an apprehension that Sahil Bagga, against whom she had earlier lodged an FIR for rape on the promise of marriage and for causing medical termination of pregnancies registered in Greater Noida, could be behind this incident.  - ANI
10:03  'It takes two to tango': Pak army chief on 'belligerent' India:  
Pakistan has shown "genuine desire" to have peaceful relations with its "belligerent" neighbour India but it takes two to tango, the country's Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said.

Gen Bajwa also said that Pakistan needed a comprehensive effort to pursue the National Action Plan and remove vulnerabilities well before they turn into threats.

"Our external front which continues to remain in a flux. With a belligerent India on our East and an unstable Afghanistan on our West, the region remains captive due to historical baggage and negative competition," Bajwa said.

"But on our part, we are making a deliberate and concerted effort to pacify the western border through a multitude of diplomatic, military and economic initiative, not to mention the phenomenal boost to human security that we have provided in FATA and surrounding areas.

"We have also expressed and demonstrated our genuine desire to have normal and and peaceful relations with India, however, it takes two to tango," Bajwa said.
09:34  North Korean diplomat describes nukes as 'sword of justice':  
Russian state news agency Tass says North Korea's foreign minister has described his nation's nuclear weapons as a "sword of justice."

Tass quoted North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho today accusing US President Donald Trump of "setting a fuse of war" with his September speech at the United Nations.

Trump threatened in the UN speech to "totally destroy" North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.

Ri told Tass that the North's nuclear weapons represent a deterrent to protect the country from the US.

He said the North's strategic forces have "inexhaustible power that won't leave aggressor state America unpunished."

Ri added that North Korea's "army and people are persistently demanding to settle the final score with the Americans with a fiery hail, not words." 
09:18  UPDATE: V K Sasikala heads back to prison after parole ends:  
Deposed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V K Sasikala makes her way back to Parappana Agrahara central jail in Bengaluru after her five-day parole, for visiting her husband in a hospital in Chennai, ended on Wednesday. 

She visited her husband M Natarajan, who underwent liver and kidney transplantation at a hospital in Chennai, on all five days of her parole period, including Wednesday.

According to Gleneagles Global Health City, where Natarajan, 74, underwent organ transplantations on October 4 and a tracheostomy two days later, is recovering well.

Sasikala, who was removed from the party last month by Chief Minister K Palaniswami-led camp, had arrived in Chennai on the night of October 6 to a enthusiastic albeit subdued welcome.

She has been lodged in the Parapana Agrahara central jail since February this year after the Supreme Court upheld her conviction by a special court in a disproportionate assets case.
09:04  India prepares to welcome French President Macron in December:  
Six months after being elected, French President Emmanuel Macron is set to make his first visit to India from December 8 to 10, sources have said. 

He will hold official talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time, although they met during the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July this year.

India is preparing to host him as the chief guest at the International Solar Alliance Summit, which is scheduled to be held on December 9. This ties in with Indias public commitment to the Paris climate agreement despite US pulling out. The ISA, a coalition of 121 solar-rich countries to address energy needs, will become a legal entity during the summit with the adoption of a legal instrument.

While Macron, 37, will come to Delhi, South Block is discussing the possibility of hosting him in another city as well. 
08:42  PM Modi likely to spend Diwali with army at China border:  
For the second time in less than five months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be visiting Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand on October 20. The PM is also likely to spend his Diwali this year on the China border along with troops of the army and Indo-Tiben Border Police but the schedule is yet to be finalised.

"The PM is scheduled to visit the shrine a day after Diwali and will inaugurate a number of projects including the temple protection wall which will block 2013-like floods from hitting the shrine," sources said.
08:14  UPDATE: Aarushi case: Allahabad HC likely to deliver verdict today:  
The Allahabad high court is likely to pronounce its judgment today in the murder case of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar in Noida, four years after her parents were convicted for the sensational killing that shook the country.

A high court bench comprising justice BK Narayana and justice AK Mishra reserved its verdict in September in the appeal filed by Aarushi's parents, Rajesh and Nupur, who were sentenced to life in jail by a CBI court in Ghaziabad.

They were convicted for the double murder of Aarushi and their house help, Hemraj.

On May 16, 2008, Aarushi was found murdered inside her bedroom in the Talwar's flat in Noida's posh Jal Vayu Vihar her throat slit with surgical precision. The police initially suspected the missing house help from Nepal, Hemraj, but his decomposed body was found a day later from inside a locked room in the terrace of the building.

The police then began to suspect the Talwars and said Rajesh, the father, had murdered the two after finding them in an "objectionable" position. The accusations enraged the Talwars and friends, who accused the police of framing the dentist couple in order to cover up a botched investigation.

The probe into the case hogged headlines for months, and sparked numerous conspiracy theories, a widely read book and a Bollywood film. Many accused the police of tampering with key pieces of evidence and bungling the probe.
01:04  Army wants body bags, caskets lying in warehouse for 17 yrs:  The Army has sought early handing over of 900 body bags and 150 caskets procured in 1999 lying in a warehouse for the past 17 years after allegations of kickbacks in the $4 lakh deal and subsequent Central Bureau of Investigation probe into it.

The Army's renewed pitch for getting custody of the body bags and caskets comes at a time when images of bodies of seven military personnel wrapped in plastic sacks and tied up in cardboard triggered outrage last week.

The military personnel were killed in an Mi-17 helicopter crash in Tawang on Friday.

Official sources said the Army has requested the CBI again to facilitate the handing over of the body bags and caskets as the probe into their procurement was over and the case was closed in 2013.

When contacted, CBI sources said they are looking into the matter.

In the aftermath of the Kargil war, the then National Democratic Alliance government had ordered procurement of 3,000 body bags and 500 aluminium caskets.

However, following allegations of kickbacks in the contract, the deal was cancelled but the company which was given the contract had supplied 900 body bags and 150 caskets by then.

The CBI had carried out probe into the allegations.

A Delhi court in 2013 had discharged three former Army officials who were chargesheeted by the CBI.

A senior Army official said CBI had found that a typographical error at a clerical level triggered these allegations.

He said the actual weight of each casket should have been mentioned as 55 kg but instead, it was written 18 kg.

The official sources said, however, an observation by a government auditor favouring scrutiny of the pricing of the body bags and caskets held back their release.

They said a city court had issued directions for release of the caskets and body bags.

They said the United States government had also bought body bags and caskets from the same company at almost the same period when India had finalised the deal and the auditor suggested to find out the rates at which the American government had procured them.

The images of bodies of the seven military personnel wrapped in plastic sacks had triggering outrage prompting the Army to call it an 'aberration'.

Former Northern Army commander Lt Gen H S Panag (Retd) had said proper military body bags must be used to transport bodies from forward locations until ceremonial coffins were available.  -- PTI

IMAGE: Bodies of IAF officials arrive in makeshift cartons from Tawang. Photograph: Kind courtesy @RWAC48/Twitter

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