Thu, 23 August 2018
Now, Pak offers humanitarian assistance to Kerala

Timeline  Refresh

23:40   Now, Pak offers humanitarian assistance to Kerala
Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan today said Pakistan stands ready to provide any humanitarian assistance to flood-ravaged Kerala as he sent best wishes to those affected by the devastating deluge.

Khan, who took the oath as Pakistan's prime minister last week, took to Twitter to express his support to the people of Kerala.

'On behalf of the people of Pakistan, we send our prayers and best wishes to those who have been devastated by the floods in Kerala, India. We stand ready to provide any humanitarian assistance that may be needed,' Khan said in a tweet.

A number of countries have announced assistance for flood relief operations in Kerala.

While the United Arab Emirates has offered $100 million (around Rs 700 crore), Qatar has pledged around Rs 35 crore and Maldives has announced a donation of $50,000 (Rs 35 lakh).  -- PTI
23:19   Use DNA profiling for speedy justice in rape cases: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked forensic experts today to adopt modern techniques like DNA profiling in rape cases to ensure speedy justice.

He said the central government had approved the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 in view of the importance of DNA technology in forensic investigation.

"I call upon forensic experts to help the judiciary by using DNA profiling as much as possible so that culprits of brutal rape cases are punished immediately and the victims get justice," Modi said while addressing the 4th convocation ceremony of the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University (GFSU) in Gandhinagar.

He said technology should be used to the maximum extent to ensure speedy delivery of justice.

"In order to deal with rapidly changing crime scenario, you also have to develop newer techniques to ensure that criminals are not spared," the prime minister said.

He said criminals and their ways of committing crime are constantly changing.

"Forensic science, the police and the judiciary are three important pillars to ensure criminal justice delivery system, so that citizens feel safe and the crime is kept under check," Modi said.

He said Gujarat had adopted a holistic approach in developing these three areas.  -- PTI
22:23   Trump says market would 'crash' if he was impeached
Donald Trump today warned that 'the market would crash' if he is impeached, amid increasing trouble for the United States President after his former lawyer Micheal Cohen implicated him by pleading guilty to campaign finance laws.

In a stunning admission that implicates Trump, Cohen, 51, pleaded guilty to buying the silence of two women about their alleged affairs with Trump.

The admission to paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 US election potentially leaves the US president in legal jeopardy. In an interview to 'Fox & Friends', Trump said: "I don't know how you can impeach somebody who's done a great job."

"If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe in reverse," the President said.

Trump asserted that he has done a great job in office, despite the critical coverage in connection with the guilty plea of his long-time attorney Cohen.

Listing his economic accomplishments, Trump claimed that the economy was going to be 'down' if he hadn't been elected.

"I freed up, I got rid of regulations, the tax cut was a tremendous thing," the President said.

He said that 'had Hillary and the Democrats gotten in, had she been president, you would have had negative growth. We picked up $10 trillion worth'.

In a series of tweets, Trump maintained that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential elections.

'The only thing that I have done wrong is to win an election that was expected to be won by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The problem is, they forgot to campaign in numerous states!' he tweeted.

'NO COLLUSION - RIGGED WITCH HUNT!' he said in another tweet.

Cohen's extraordinary admission came the same day as Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.  -- PTI
21:35   PM directly benefited from Rafale deal, alleges Congress
The Congress today launched a direct attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that the 'benefits' of the Rafale deal, signed by the National Democratic Alliance government, 'have gone into his pockets'.

Congress spokesperson R P N Singh said his party will not be afraid of exposing the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal.

The Congress has drawn out a month-long agitational plan where it intends to hold press conferences and protests at every district and state headquarters across the country.

"This Rafale deal that has been signed, its benefits have gone directly into the pockets of the prime minister. We will expose this before the entire country.

"That is why the prime minister, instead of giving a statement on the Rafale deal, is along with industrialists trying to intimidate the media and our leaders. The Congress leaders do not fear from anyone and I can say that you should also not fear from anyone," he told reporters.

Singh alleged that the contract for the Rafale deal worth Rs 1,30,000 crore was given to a big industrialist, who had opened his company only 12 days before and owed Rs 45,000 crore (sic) to banks.

"The government even ignored the fact that the companies owned by the industrialist owed Rs 45,000 crore (sic) to banks. Instead of repaying the loans taken from the banks, he set up a new company to secure the Rafale deal," the Congress leader alleged.

As part of its planned agitation, the Congress has lined up a series of press conferences across the country from August 25 to September 6 on the Rafale deal. The party has also planned district and state-level agitations starting September 7.

This campaign will be taken to all state headquarters from September 16 to 30 where dharnas and protests would be organised by the party to "expose" the alleged corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Facing allegations of getting undue benefits from the multi-billion dollar Rafale deal, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group has sent legal notices to several Congress leaders asking them to 'cease and desist' from levelling such charges, which was promptly dubbed by the party as evidence of a 'nexus between the BJP and the corporate world'.

The Congress leaders said they will not be scared or silenced by such notices, which have been sent to several spokespersons and other leaders of the party.  -- PTI
21:01   Baghdadi alive? ISIS releases his 'new audio'
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive chief of the Islamic State terror group, in his first purported speech in nearly a year, has asked his followers to 'patiently persevere' despite the losses they suffered in Iraq and Syria.      

The 55-minute recording, which was released by the official ISIS media wing al-Furqan yesterday, came after reports that he was probably killed in a Russian air strike in May last year on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group's primary stronghold.

Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, has not been seen in public since he proclaimed the creation of a 'caliphate' from the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2014.

His last audio message was released in September 2017.

In his latest message, the man on the recording admits that ISIS groups are losing and that it is a test from Allah, saying they need to stick together.

The man then says his followers are being tested with 'fear and hunger' but says 'glad tidings' will be given to those who 'patiently persevere'.

CNN, which carried the report said it cannot independently confirm the voice on the recording is that of Baghdadi.

The BBC also reported that the recording's authenticity could not be verified, but experts said the voice resembled that heard in other messages.

The man in the recording references massive losses by ISIS.

The speaker makes reference to recent events, including tensions between the United States and Turkey.

He refers to the sanctions the United States imposed on Turkey on August 1, 'just to release the pastor', referring to US pastor Andrew Brunson, who is detained in Turkey.

The man also says Russia and Iran are seeking to revolt against sanctions and avoid a similar situation to North Korea. The voice says America is using 'the gang policy' and it is a 'sign of weakness'.

The man also mentions the Syrian city of Idlib, saying Russian and Syrian military are about to storm it 'with the help of traitors', a reference to some Syrian rebels.

Commenting on the new video, US Central Command spokesperson Capt. William Urban said, "I am not going to comment on our assessment of the recording."

"We do not know where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is at this time, but he continues to be someone that we are interested in removing from the battlefield," CNN quoted Urban as saying.

"I do not believe that any official US government source has ever claimed that he is dead."

When asked whether that meant US officials believe the ISIS leader is alive, Urban said, "Yes."

ISIS has since released various audio messages that it claims are from Baghdadi, said to be in his late 40s.  -- PTI
20:39   Pompeo wants Imran to act against all terrorists operating in Pak
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today spoke to Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan and sought 'decisive action' against all terrorists operating in the country.

The US has long been frustrated with Pakistan's overt and covert support to the Afghan Taliban and other terror groups, forcing the Trump administration to warn Islamabad and slash military aid to the country.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement that Pompeo, in his talks with Khan, also discussed Pakistan's vital role in promoting the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

'Secretary Michael R Pompeo spoke today with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and wished him success. Secretary Pompeo expressed his willingness to work with the new government towards a productive bilateral relationship,' she said in the statement.

Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking 'decisive action' against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process, she said.

The Pakistani media this week reported that Pompeo is likely to visit Islamabad in the first week of September to hold talks with newly-elected Prime Minister Khan.

Pompeo, who is expected in Islamabad on September 5, would be the first foreign dignitary to meet Khan, Dawn reported, quoting the diplomatic and official sources.

The relations between Pakistan and the US nose-dived after President Donald Trump in January accused Islamabad of giving nothing to Washington but 'lies and deceit' and providing 'safe haven' to terrorists.

The US Congress also passed a bill to slash Pakistan's defence aid to $150 million, significantly below the historic level of more than $1 billion per year.

In his victory speech last month, Khan said he wants a balanced relation between Pakistan and America which should be mutually beneficial, not one sided.  -- PTI
20:34   One killed, two injured in explosion at TMC office
One person was killed and two others were seriously injured in an explosion at an office of the ruling Trinamool Congress at Makrampur in West Midnapore district, police in  Midnapore said.

It was not immediately known whether a crude bomb had exploded or a gas cylinder inside the party office led to the incident, the sources said.

The cause of the blast that took place at around 10 am would be known only after forensic examination, police said.

The injured were admitted to a hospital where their condition was stated to be stable. The police remained tight-lipped whether the deceased and the injured belonged to the TMC. Police have cordoned off the explosion site.

TMC district president Ajit Maiti said they were collecting all information regarding the explosion.

"Either it was a cylinder blast or some outsiders threw bombs at the TMC office. We have requested the administration to investigate," he said.

Local TMC MLA Pradyut Ghosh said the cause of the explosion could not be ascertained immediately and the police were looking into it.  -- PTI
20:00   Alpesh Thakor, 8 others appointed as AICC secretaries
Congress president Rahul Gandhi today named nine new secretaries, including Gujarat OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, in the All India Congress Committee for different states, besides appointing Aditi Singh, MLA of Rae Bareli Sadar (Uttar Pradesh) constituency, as general secretary of All India Mahila Congress.

Among the new secretaries appointed are Shakeel Ahmed Khan, an MLA, as All India Congress Committee secretary for Jammu and Kashmir, Rajesh Dhamani for Uttarakhand and B P Singh, Mohd Jawaid and Sarat Raut, all three for West Bengal.

Backward leader Alpesh Thakor, who joined the Congress last year ahead of Gujarat assembly elections, has been made the AICC Secretary for Bihar and Challa Vamshi Chand Reddy and B M Sandeep, both for Maharashtra.

Gandhi also appointed Deepak Rathod from Himachal Pradesh and Rajpal Bisht from Uttarakhand as members of the screening committee for the state of Mizoram.

'Congress president Rahul Gandhi has appointed Aditi Singh, MLA Rae Bareli Sadar (UP) as general secretary of All India Mahila Congress,' said a statement from AICC general secretary, Organisation, Ashok Gehlot.

Sanjay Dutt, ex MLC, has been made AICC secretary inchage of Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi has initiated a number of changes in the AICC ever since he took over as party chief late last year by bringing in young blood to infuse new energy in the party.Some of the old-timers and veterans have been shown the door in the new set-up under him.   -- PTI
19:35   Nayar cremated; politicians, friends, others bid farewell
The mortal remains of noted journalist and author Kuldip Nayar, who died today were consigned to flames, as grieving friends, families, admirers and a host of public figures bid farewell to a man, who was often described as an 'institution in himself'.

Nayar died aged 95 at a private hospital in New Delhi around 12.30 am today and his funeral at the Lodhi Crematorium was attended by former vice president Hamid Ansari, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia, photographer Raghu Rai, artist Jatin Das, and several journalists and former colleagues.

Raghu Rai, who worked with him during the 60s and 70s at the The Statesman, described his departure as an 'end of an era'.

"He was last of those editors, who stood for truth, honesty and commitment in their profession. And, till the last days, he stood for integrity and commitment for his country that he loved so deeply," the photographer said.

Nayar, born in Sialkot in Pakistan in 1923, began his career in journalism in the Urdu press and went on to serve as editor of several newspapers, including Indian Express and The Statesman.

He was arrested during the Emergency. He fought fiercely for press freedom and civil liberties and to improve the ties between India and Pakistan, Rai said.

Union Sports Minister Rathore said Nayar was not just an eminent journalist, 'he was an institution in himself', in every aspect.

"He stood steadfast in what journalism stands for, a true definition of it in every aspect, intellect-wise or the ability to keep people informed without any prejudice. And, I hope and pray that his legacy continues," he said.

Kejriwal, who attended the funeral along with Sisodia, described Nayar's death as a 'great loss to the nation'.

"His absence will be sorely felt," the chief minister said.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant also attended the funeral.

"He was in true sense the embodiment of the idea of India, the very facet of secularism as enshrined on our Constitution. Also, journalists and activists have benefited from his presence and encouragement," Yadav said.

The Swaraj India leader recalled his student days at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in early 1980s, when he had attended a talk by Nayar in a hostel mess.

"I had read his articles and was aware of his work already, but to see and hear him talk left quite an impression," he said.

"He belonged to the generation uprooted during the partition, but never had bitterness towards anyone," Yadav said.

Rai also recalled the time when he had shot Nayar's photograph for the cover photo for his book, Beyond the Lines: An Autobiography.

"He asked me if I could take a picture of him for the book. And, I told him - 'You don't ask me, you order me'. He was a great humanist too and very sensitive to every situation and people he dealt with.

"He was not a man of ego, but of grace and dignity. His school of journalism was class apart. Today, the fast food generation, and infotainment concept has diluted everything," Rai said.

Historian Ramachandra Guha had once described Nayar as a journalist who followed the dictates of his conscience rather than the lure of money or fame.

Nayar's son, Rajiv Nayar, 62, said, "He was a stalwart in his field, a mine of experience. For us in the family, he was a source of inspiration every day."  -- PTI

IMAGE: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh attends the last rites of veteran journalist and former Rajya Sabha member Kuldeep Nayar at Lodhi crematorium, in New Delhi on Thursday.  Photograph: PTI Photo
19:01   Court sends 2 men who attacked Umar Khalid to judicial custody
A Delhi court today sent two persons, who had allegedly attacked Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid at the Constitution Club in New Delhi, to two-week's judicial custody.

The incident took place on August 13 and the two were arrested from Haryana a week later.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Sherawat sent the duo, Darwesh Shahpur and Naveen Dalal, to the judicial custody after they were produced before the court on expiry of their two-day police custody.

The police told the court their custodial interrogation was not required.

The two men, who were arrested on August 20 from Fatehabad in Haryana's Hisar district, had claimed that they were cow vigilantes and wanted to draw attention towards protection of the animal.

The duo had told the police that they had planned to disrupt the event 'Khauff se Azaadi' (Freedom from Fear) that was being held at the Constitution Club on August 13.

When Dalal reached the Constitution Club, he found Khalid outside the venue and allegedly attacked him.

Dalal claimed he did not fire from a pistol, as alleged by Khalid, he was carrying and it fell down while he was fleeing from there.

However, police are probing Khalid's allegations about the weapon being pointed towards him. Shahpur was also present at the spot, but did not attack Khalid.

After the attack, they fled separately. One of them took a bus and then a metro, according to the police.

The two men told the police they wanted to draw people's attention towards the issue of cow protection and thought targeting the event would serve the purpose, police said.

In a video uploaded on Facebook on August 15, they claimed the attack on Khalid was supposed to be an 'Independence Day gift' to the citizens.

"We respect our Constitution. But there is no provision in our Constitution to punish mad dogs. By mad dogs, we mean the JNU gang that is making the country weaker and their number is increasing.

"Our elders in Haryana have taught us that such people should be taught a lesson," Shahpur had said in the video message.

Khalid was attacked when he was on his way to take part at the event. He escaped unhurt.

The Delhi Police had handed over the case to its Special Cell, which incidentally is already probing a sedition case against Khalid and two other JNU students.

A case of attempt to murder was registered by the police in connection with the incident.  -- PTI
18:29   No chance at all: CEC on simultaneous polls
Putting to rest all speculation, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat today emphatically ruled out the possibility of holding simultaneous elections to the state assemblies along with the Lok Sabha polls without a 'legal framework' in place.

"Koi chance nahi" (no chance at all), Rawat told a select media meet in Aurangabad when asked if it was still feasible to hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.

The Lok Sabha elections are due in April-May next year while assembly polls to Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram are scheduled to be held later this year.  -- PTI
18:08   Defence minister to visit flood-hit Kodagu tomorrow
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will visit tomorrow the floods and landslide-ravaged Kodagu district, bordering Kerala, where rescue and relief operations are underway in full swing.

The torrential rains that lashed the district last week has left a huge trail of destruction and claimed at least 16 lives.

Thousands have been rendered homeless. Sitharaman is expected to reach Kushalnagar tomorrow morning and scheduled to visit affected areas including Kuvempu Layout, Sai Layout and talk to people there, the Karnataka BJP said.

She will then travel to landslide-hit areas of Madapur and take stock of the situation. After that, she is scheduled to visit a relief camp in Madikeri and interact with the inmates there.

The defence minister will also hold meetings with the district administration and other officials at the Deputy Commissioner's office on the relief and rehabilitation work.

Sitharaman, who is Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, is the second Union minister to visit the flood-ravaged district, after D V Sadananada Gowda, who also hails from the state.

The visit by the defence minister comes a day after state Bharatiya Janata Party chief B S Yeddyurappa said he had apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the situation in Kodagu.  -- PTI
17:36   BJP carrying Vajpayee's ashes around the country for votes: niece
Slap on the face of the BJP: The BJP is carrying the ashes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee around the country for votes. Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh and  his cabinet never remembered him until now especially when he had created the state, says Karuna Shukla, Vajpayee's niece and Congress leader.
17:29   Kerala govt needs medical teams, field hospitals NOW
The Kerala government has requested for additional medical teams and setting up of field hospitals. Army is moving medical assets in addition to the 12 teams already deployed. Total of approximately 3000 people have received medical aid till now.

Landslips and heavy rains unleashed in Kerala forests causing flooding in downstream did not have any major impact on its precious wildlife including elephants, tigers and leopards, a top state forest official said today. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests P K Kesavan said generally animals have got a "strong sixth sense" and they become "alert" at the time of any unusual changes in the nature helping them escape to safety at the time of its fury. "As of now, no serious issues," Kesavan told PTI.

Image: The Indian Army is moving medical assets in addition to the 12 teams already deployed to Kerala. A total of approximately 3000 people have received medical aid till now. Picture courtesy: @adgpi
17:00   Former K'taka CM Siddaramaiah reviews flood-wrecked Kodagu
Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamaiah visited rain and landslide affected areas in Kodagu district today. With rehabilitaton work in full swing in rain-ravaged Kodagu, the Karnataka government said all efforts would be made to restore normalcy at the earliest in the district where torrential rains that lashed the district last week have claimed 12 lives.

Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge announced Rs 25 crore aid towards relief measures.

"The social welfare ministry has reserved a care  package of Rs 25 crore. We hope this will address immediate needs. The road to recovery will be hard and long, but we will try restore normalcy sooner than later," he said in a statement.

Thousands have been rendered homeless in the rains that left a trail of destruction. Several houses were inundated and people affected. The government is making every effort to rescue and provide relief to those marooned, Kharge said.

He directed officials of the social welfare department to tour the district and assess the damage caused by the unprecedented rains.

"The department will survey and take immediate action as soon as the rains subside, " he said.The National Disaster Response Force personnel are working in in tandem with the state government to carry out relief operations. Police personnel have also been engaged, he added.

Repair on roads was going on in full swing at Jodupala and surrounding areas bordering Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts, which had been  severely hit by flash floods and landslides last week.

Fire and rescue service personnel, police, forest department staff and volunteers are carrying out rescue operations at Jodupala. Earthmovers have been engaged to remove huge boulders blocking the highway, Puttur assistant commissioner Krishnamurthy said.

An official release said NGOs and members of the local community in Kodagu are also involved in rescue operations, which has so far saved 4,450 people.

As many as 70 earthmovers have been deployed to clear debris and 20 four-wheel drive vehicles deployed for quick movement of rescue teams, it said. Two doctors with paramedics are posted in every relief camp, where hygiene was being monitored by health inspectors to prevent any outbreak of disease, the release said.

For restoration and rehabilitation, a three member team from NGRI (National Geophysical Research Institute) visited Kodagu and set up a seismic monitoring center at a school to closely monitor seismic activity there, the release said. -- PTI
15:30   Nighties, lungies most wanted in Kerala relief camps
Rains have subsided in Kerala, but there seems to be no end to the destruction caused by the floods and landslides, which claimed over 230 lives since August 8.

A bleak, uncertain future stares at the nearly 13 lakh people currently taking shelter at the relief camps in the state.

"Everything is lost. We are ruined," said an elderly woman, fighting back her tears. Many houses are still under water and the ones which are not have broken pots and pans strewn everywhere with a multitude of problems plaguing them.

Sabitha, who has registered at a camp in Pandalam, said she had a small shed for a home and now that too has been ruined due to the rains. "Muddy waters entered my home when I was asleep with my son. I grabbed my child and escaped in the nick of time," she said.

Seventy-five-year old Chellama was preparing to celebrate Kerala's harvest festival Onam on August 25 when the disaster struck. "I had bought rice, coconuts and other provision as Onam was round the corner. I could not save anything," she said.

Jalaja, who returned to her small house from the camp at Pandanad near Chengannur, believes her home is in no condition to move back into. The only toilet in the house was overflowing and the well water was dirty.

"The well has to be cleaned. We need water to drink and to prepare food. The toilet has to be repaired. After all this, we can think of moving back", she said.

Many women have no clothes to wear. "I left home in a hurry with my family. Since the last five days I am wearing the same clothes. Please give us something clean to wear," said a woman, voicing the demand of thousands' of women.

Clothes like nighties and lungies are most sought after in relief camps, according to authorities. There has been no rain in the past three days, however flood water is yet to recede from many places.

The situation is particularly critical in Kuttanad, which is one of the few places in the world where paddy farming is done 1.2 metre to 3 metre below sea level. Flood waters receding is not the panacea for all ills.

As waters subsided in Cheruthoni in Idukki district, many were shocked to see huge deposits of sand and slush inside and outside their homes. Many cannot even open the doors of their homes.

Earth-movers are being used at many places to remove the accumulated mud and sand. The heavy rains and consequent floods have claimed 231 lives since August 8, besides causing an estimated loss of Rs 20,000 crore to the state. --  PTI

Image: A woman clings on to her son after they were evacuated from a flooded area in Aluva in Kerala on August 18. Photograph: Sivaram V/Reuters
14:58   Spirit of India: Temple, church, madrasa turn into relief camps in Kodagu
Symbolising the spirit of communal harmony in times of distress, Suntikoppa, a small town in Karnataka has turned its church, temple and madrasa, into relief camps to help flood victims in Kodagu district.

Many videos have gone viral depicting inhabitants of Suntikoppa in the rain-ravaged Kodagu district turning a Shiva temple, St Mary's church and a madrasa, nearby one another, into relief camps in which around 600 affected people are sheltered.

Food was also being cooked in a common place at the community kitchen in the madrasa and being provided to the sheltered people in the temple and the church, residents said.

This act, testifying to the spirit of communal harmony, has prompted many leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi to lavish praise on Suntikoppa inhabitants.

In a tweet posted on Tuesday, Gandhi said, "In Kodagu, Karnataka, massive floods have unleashed a trail of devastation. But amidst the gloom, here's a great story about an oasis of hope, a small town, Suntikoppa, where Shiv, Ram, Christ, Allah and the Buddha are working together to help those in need.This is India!"

Speaking to the media,a priest at St Marys church said more than 200 marooned people have been accommodated in church premises.

"We have collected the details of flood victims staying with us. We will prepare a list and submit it to the state government for providing help to them," he said.

Tibetan monks have also chipped in providing relief materials, including water. Bylakuppe in Kodagu district houses a large Tibetan settlement.

Not far behind from the rest, RSS workers also have been actively participating in reliefwork.

The Sangh has formed volunteer groups helping set up relief camps and evacuating distressed people caught in the rain fury by constructing makeshift wooden pathways, videos of which also have gone viral on social media.

Image: Water gushes over a bridge in Kodagu town.
One killed, two injured in knife attack near Paris: Police
14:28   Moody's puts India growth in 2018, 2019 at 7.5%
The Indian economy is expected to grow by around 7.5 per cent in 2018 and 2019 as it is largely resilient to external pressures like those from higher oil prices, Moody's Investors Service said today. In its Global Macro Outlook for 2018-19, Moody's said the run-up in energy prices over the last few months will raise headline inflation temporarily but the growth story remains intact as it is supported by strong urban and rural demand and improved industrial activity. -- PTI
14:23   Vaping, smoking together up heart attack risk by 5 times
Daily use of e-cigarettes combined with traditional smoking can lead to a five-fold increase in the odds of heart attack, according to study which also found that vaping alone doubles the risk.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined the relationship between e-cigarette use and heart attacks, and begins to fill the understanding of the effects of e-cigarettes on long-term health.

"Most adults who use e-cigarettes continue to smoke cigarettes," said senior author Stanton Glantz, a professor at University of California - San Francisco in the US. "While people may think they are reducing their health risks, we found that the heart attack risk of e-cigarettes adds to the risk of smoking cigarettes," Glantz said.

"Using both products at the same time is worse than using either one separately. Someone who continues to smoke daily while using e-cigarettes daily increases the odds of a heart attack by a factor of five," he said.
-- PTI
13:48   A commitment to love and protection
In Amritsar, school children celebrate Raksha bandhan with jawans of the Border Security Force Attari-Wagah border. The festival falls on August 26 this year. 
13:42   One killed, two injured in explosion at TMC office
One person was killed and two others were seriously injured in an explosion at a Trinamool Congress office at Makrampur in Midnapore district, official sources said.

The identity of the deceased and the injured was not immediately known, they said. The explosion took place at around 10 am. The injured were admitted to a hospital and the police have cordoned off the area.

The sources said it was also not known whether a crude bomb had exploded or a gas cylinder inside the party office led to the incident. Pradyut Ghosh, TMC MLA of Narayangarh, said that the cause of the explosion could not be ascertained till noon and the police were looking into it. -- PTI
13:32   The Indian Navy Commander who rescued pregnant women
In his more than two decade career as an Indian Navy officer and 19 years of service as a pilot, Commander Vijay Varma has been involved in several rescue missions including three flood affected areas in India.

The Kerala floods, Commander Varma tells's Shobha Warrier, has been the most challenging as far as distance and scale of operations is concerned. The commander became a hero after the miraculous rescue of a pregnant woman whose water had broken. Two hours later, she delivered a baby boy.

Read the report here.

13:28   SC seeks EC response on Cong leaders' plea on duplicate voters in MP, Raj
The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Election Commission of India on pleas of Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot alleging duplication of voters in the voters' list in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajsthan.

A bench of Justice A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan issued notice to the ECI and the state election commission of MP and Rajasthan and posted the matter for further hearing on August 31.

During the hearing, senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Nath and Pilot, said that Nath had conducted a survey on his own cost in Madhya Pradesh and found that there were over 60 lakh duplicate voters in the voters' list.

He said there was a similar situation in Rajasthan where large numbers of duplicate voters have been found. In his plea, Nath has also sought random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the upcoming MP assembly polls. -- PTI
13:26   As Jaitley resumes work, all visitors told to wear sanitised shoes
Arun Jaitley, 65, who had stopped attending office a month-and-half before the May 14 renal surgery, came to North Block -- the seat of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs -- at 1100 hrs in his white Tata Safari accompanied by his personal staff.

Wearing a smile, Jaitley went straight to his first-floor office, which had been renovated and sanitised to suit his present condition. He was greeted by a host of officials and his deputies. He acknowledged them with folded hands and also waved at people waiting for him.

Jaitley started work after getting a clearance from his doctors, official sources said. He met senior officials in both the ministries including Finance Secretary Hashmukh Adhia as also the chairpersons of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC).

Sources said doctors have advised him to cut his public interaction to the minimum to protect him from contracting any infection. The limited visitors to his room are required to cover their shoes with the blue plastic bags that are used in hospitals.

Jaitley had undergone a renal transplant operation on May 14. On that day, the charge of his ministry was given to Minister for Railways and Coal Piyush Goyal on an interim basis. Jaitley had remained a minister without portfolio in the Narendra Modi government since then. -- PTI

Image: Arun Jaitley met with finance secretaries in North Block, today.
12:26   'The Big Bang Theory' to end next year
"The Big Bang Theory" is set to bow out with its finale season in 2019. According to CNN, producer Warner Bros Television and channel CBS have announced that the comedy's upcoming season 12 will be its last. The show, headlined by original cast members Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar, will conclude as the longest-running multi-camera sitcom, with 279 episodes, in TV history.

"We are forever grateful to our fans for their support of 'The Big Bang Theory' during the past 12 seasons. "We, along with the cast, writers and crew, are extremely appreciative of the show's success and aim to deliver a final season, and series finale, that will bring 'The Big Bang Theory' to an epic creative close," Warner Bros Television, CBS and Chuck Lorre Productions said in a joint statement.

The development comes days after CBS Entertainment head Kelly Kahl said that the company and Warner Bros TV were discussing renewing the show beyond its upcoming twelfth season. Cuoco also expressed an interest in returning for a 13th run. Also starring Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, the final season of the Emmy-winning show debuts September 24. -- PTI
12:03   Indians lose over 1.5 years of their lives to air pollution: Study
Ambient air pollution shortens an average Indian's life by over 1.5 years, say scientists who suggest that better air quality could lead to a significant extension of human lifespan around the world.

Researchers said that if PM2.5 concentrations worldwide were limited to the World Health Organization's (WHO) air quality guideline concentration of 10 microgrammes per square cubic metre, the global life expectancy would be on average 0.59 year longer. The benefit of reaching the stringent target would be especially large in countries with the highest current levels of pollution, with approximately 0.8-1.4 years of additional survival in countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

This is the first time data on air pollution and lifespan has been studied together in order to examine the global variations to find out how they affect the overall life expectancy. -- PTI
12:00   Yashwant Sinha: PM broke rule of criticising India abroad, don't follow it
Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha @YashwantSinha tweets, "I appeal to all leaders to refrain from discussing our internal issues abroad. PM broke this rule first. Others need not follow his example."

This is likely a reference to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's speech in Hamburg, Germany, where he spoke about lynchings and demonetisation  and essentially domestic issues.

Gandhi on Wednesday night, while addressing a gathering at Germanys Hamburg, at the Bucerius Summer School, his alma mater, said, "Couple of years back, the Prime Minister demonetised the Indian economy and destroyed the cash flow of all MSMEs and millions of people who worked in the informal sector were left unemployed. A large number of people who worked in small businesses were forced back into villages. This is what's making people angry. All the lynchings we hear about are the result of this."

As far back as 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the Indian diaspora at the Sultan Qaboos Satidum in Oman's capital Muscat created controversy because of his barb at the Opposition, Congress. He accused the previous Congress governments of ruining the image of the country with scams. "No one can accuse my government of corruption," he had said.

In Canada, in  April 2015, the PM had said that henceforth India will be known as "skill" India, not "scam" India.
11:34   Satya Pal Malik sworn in as J-K governor
Satya Pal Malik has been sworn-in as the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. Malik replaces incumbent NN Vohra, who has occupied the J&K Raj Bhavan since 2008. 
11:29   Jaitley back in office
Arun Jaitley arrives at Ministry of Finance to resume charge as Finance Minister. Jaitely, 65, stopped attending office in April for a renal transplant operation on May 14. In his absence, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal held charge of his ministry.
People pay last respects to senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat at his residence in Mumbai. He passed away in a Delhi hospital yesterday.
West Bengal: State BJP President Dilip Ghosh and BJP MP Roopa Ganguly take part in 'Asthi Kalash Yatra' of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Kolkata.
10:47   Thank you! Kerala govt's farewell for armed forces on August 26
The Kerala government will organize a farewell for various defence forces who helped in relief and rescue operations during the recent unprecedented floods in the state, announced Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan while addressing a presser on Wednesday evening.

The Chief Minister said, "The government has decided to organise a farewell on August 26 to express its love and gratitude towards the various defence forces that helped in relief and rescue operations in the state".

Indian Air Force, Navy and Army deployed defence personnel including medical teams, engineers, paratroopers and divers to help during relief and rescue operations in Kerala.

Commenting on the initial warnings and efforts made by the government before the unprecedented floods, the Kerala Chief Minister said, "On July 30 water levels were below orange alert and till August 7 water was receding, on August 8 heavy rain started and water levels began to increase. On August 15 Mullaperiyar Dam was opened. Nobody could have foreseen this but still, warnings were given and evacuations were done."

With flood water receding and no latest forecast of heavy rainfall in the state, the coastal region is making efforts to return towards normalcy.
-- ANI

Image: The Indian Army's twitter handle, @adgpi posted this picture of rescue and rehab ops in Kerala saying, "The mother of the 45 day old baby was all in tears when men in uniform arrived at their doorstep. She was quick to handover the child to #IndianArmy personnel from 19 Madras Regiment trusting them with her child more than herself.We are at it. #OpMadad"

10:22   Kochi airport to resume operations from August 29
Cochin International Airport will start operations from August 29, announced Cochin International Airport Limited on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday a meeting was held at CIAL to review the damage control activities at Kochi Airport. The information released by CIAL after the consultation reads that during the meeting most of the stakeholders including airlines and ground handling agencies expressed their concerns over organizing their manpower.

CIAL informed, "In view of concerns expressed by stakeholders of airlines and ground staff that 90 per cent of their staffers got affected by the flood, CIAL has decided to extend the date of resuming operations for three more days and operations will start on August 29."

Air traffic to and from Kerala's Cochin International Airport was completely halted due to flash floods on August 19. Kerala witnessed unprecedented devastating floods in recent times. As much as 357 people reported dead due to flood and landslide in Kerala. -- ANI

Image: A file pic of the flooded runway of the Kochi airport which has remained closed since August 19.
10:01   Rupee breaches again 70-mark, falls 27 paise against US dollar
The rupee today fell 27 paise against the dollar to trade near 70.08 again amid strong demand for the US currency after the US Fed released minutes of its policy meet yesterday.

At the Interbank Foreign Exchange, the local currency opened at a low of 70.03 a dollar, down from its previous close of 69.81, and weakened further to trade at a 70.08, down by 27 paise. Forex dealers said increased demand for the US currency from importers and its gains against other currencies overseas on expectations of rising US interest rates, put pressure on the rupee.
09:56   Kuldip Nayar was an intellectual giant of our times: PM
Rajnath Singh: Saddened by the demise of senior journalist, columnist &  former MP, Shri Kuldeep Nayyar. As a columnist he candidly expressed his views in his widely read column Between the Lines. His contribution to journalism will be remembered. My thoughts are with his bereaved family.

Sagarika Ghose: Rest In Peace #KuldeepNayyar sir. You will always remain an inspiration.

Ashok Gehlot: Shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the sudden demise of Senior Congress leader Sh. Gurudas Kamat ji. His passing away is an irreparable loss for us. My heartfelt condolences to his family members, may god give them strength to bear this loss. May his soul Rest in peace.

Rajyavardhan Rathore: Saddened by the demise of veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar. A scholar, a prolific author and former MP, he leaves behind a rich legacy in the field of journalism.

Shekhar Gupta: RIP Kuldip Nayar, Indias first reporter to become editor in an era when top newsroom jobs were reserved for editorialists. A genuine scoop-man, and Ind-Pak peace visionary. You will be missed by journalists and peace activists.

President of India: Sad to hear of the passing of Kuldip Nayar, veteran editor and writer, diplomat and parliamentarian, and a determined champion of democracy during the Emergency. His readers will miss him. Condolences to his family and associates #PresidentKovind

Shahid Siddiqui: Shocked to hear the passing away of veteran journalist, Kuldip Nayyar.He was a pillar of Indian Democracy, Secularism and a fighter for peace in the subcontinent. Its a huge loss for the nation. A personal loss for me he was a father, friend and teacher for me. RIP

Narendra Modi: Kuldip Nayar was an intellectual giant of our times. Frank and fearless in his views, his work spanned across many decades. His strong stand against the Emergency, public service and commitment to a better India will always be remembered. Saddened by his demise. My condolences.
09:40   Kerala CM to visit relief camps today
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday will conduct an in-person review of the functioning of relief camps in Chengannur, Kozhencherry, Alappuzha, North Paravoor and Chalakudy.

Nearly 10 lakh people have taken shelter in a number of relief camps, set up by the administration across the state. Kerala is reeling under the massive devastation caused by flash floods from the onset of monsoon.

In order to help Kerala limp back to normalcy, Centre and several states have announced aid from their relief funds.

As many as 357 people have lost their lives so far, with the state facing a loss of Rs 19,512 crore. Rescue and relief operations in the state has been stepped up to evacuate the stranded people from the flood-affected areas.
-- ANI
09:04   Arun Jaitley back as Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley will return as Finance Minister after a three-month break for surgery, a statement from the President's office said today.

Jaitely, 65, stopped attending office in April for a renal transplant operation on May 14.

In his absence, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal held charge of his ministry.

Jaitley had earlier this month (confirm) attended parliament for a vote for the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.

A press communique confirming the same said, " The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has directed to assign the portfolios of the Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs to Shri Arun Jaitley."
08:40   Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar passes away at 95
Kuldip Nayar, veteran journalist and private secretary of then PM Shastri, passed away last night. He was 95 years old. His cremation is at 1 pm at Lodhi.

Following the demise, several people took to Twitter to pass on their condolences. 

Eminent historian Ramchandra Guha wrote, "Sorry to hear of Kuldip Nayar's passing. As I wrote here, he was a journalist who followed the dictates of his conscience rather than the lure of money or fame."
08:12   With roads opening, helicopter relief ops to dwindle in Kerala
The incessant whirring of the rotors of around 65 helicopters engaged in rescue and relief operations from INS Garuda naval air station in flood-ravaged Kerala is likely to cease from tomorrow, an official said.

The helicopters in operation belong to the Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy and Army Aviation, the official said.

"The five army aviation choppers operating from INS Garuda will shift to another location on August 24," the official said.

The choppers were in operation when most roads were submerged and only bridges were seen. In the first three days, the emphasis was on rescue and later it shifted to providing relief, although in many cases, both types of operations continued, he said.

"Army Aviation operates mostly in north India and the North-East. It was asked to move some of its elements to Kerala as the situation was grim, with many villages fully cut off and stagnant water not receding," he said.

"Many people are still staying in make-shift camps, temples, churches, community spaces and are dependent on helicopters for essential supplies like food, drinking water and medicines. With collapse of infrastructure like bridges and roads, the only hope was boats and helicopters," he said.

"INS Garuda (in Kochi) is from where all rescue and coordination is being carried out in north Kerala for the past week. Two Dorniers (fixed-wing aircraft working as `aerial air traffic control') have been flying overhead, guiding all helicopter traffic and coordination in air," he said.

-- PTI
00:17   Some from my party didn't like me hugging Modi: Rahul
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said some of his own part members did not like it when he hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament.

In his address in Hamburg, Germany, Gandhi also said there is a big job problem in India but the prime minister refuses to see it.

"You have to accept the problem to fix it," he said.

Gandhi also spoke about India and its progress over the last 70 years.

Referring to his famous hug, after a no-holds-barred attack in a Parliament debate last month, Gandhi said, "When I hugged PM Modi in Parliament, some within my party did not like it."

Gandhi also talked about his father former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assailants.

"When I saw the man who killed my father lying dead in a field in Sri Lanka, I did not like it, I saw his crying children in him," he said.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Velupillai Prabhakaran, responsible for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, was shot dead by Sri Lankan troops in 2009.  -- PTI
00:01   ICJ likely to hear Jadhav case in Feb 2019
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has fixed February 2019 for hearing the case of retired Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav.

The ICJ turned down Pakistan's request for an early date for hearing while fixing February 2019.

Attributing to sources, Geo News reported that the international court would hear the case on a daily basis for a week between February 19-25.

Last month, Pakistan had filed its second counter-memorial.

As part of the reply, they refuted Indian allegations that Jadhav's wife and mother were mistreated when they visited him last year, according to a report of the Express Tribune.

On April 10 last year, a Pakistan military court pronounced death sentence to Jadhav.

Subsequently, on May 8 India approached the ICJ for egregious violations of the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 by Pakistan in the matter.

On May 18, the court passed an order obligating Islamabad not to carry out the sentence that was awarded to Jadhav.

On September 13 last year, India had filed written pleadings (Memorial) in connection with the case and Pakistan filed its counter-memorial in December that year.

Pakistan has claimed that Jadhav was arrested from Balochistan for alleged involvement in espionage and subversive activities for India's intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

New Delhi maintains that Jadhav was a former naval officer, and after retiring from the Indian Navy, he was in Iran for business interests when he was kidnapped.  -- ANI