Thu, 03 May 2018
Not in a position to release water to TN, says Karna govt

Timeline  Refresh

23:52   Congress, NCP ink pact for 3 bypolls, 6 council seats in Maha
The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party today entered into an electoral alliance for bypolls to two Lok Sabha and one Assembly seats and also half a dozen Legislative Council seats in Maharashtra.
As per an understanding reached between the two parties, the NCP and the Congress will contest the Bhandara-Gondia and Palghar Lok Sabha constituencies, respectively.
The Congress will also contest the Palus-Kadegaon Assembly seat in the Sangli district of western Maharashtra.
Bypolls for all three seats will be held on May 28.
The Congress and the NCP also concluded a seat-sharing agreement for the May 21 Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) biennial elections for half a dozen seats from local bodies constituencies with both the parties deciding to contest three each.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said senior leaders from both the parties held talks to finalise the electoral alliance.
NCP leader Praful Patel and the party's state unit president Jayant Patil and AICC general secretaries Mohan Prakash, Ashok Gehlot and Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan took part in the parleys, Malik said.
As per the alliance, the Congress and the NCP swapped Latur-Beed-Osmanabad and Parbhani-Hingoli MLC seats. The Sharad Pawar-led NCP was keen on contesting the Latur-Beed-Osmanabad seat currently held by the Congress.
The Congress has decided to field Suresh Deshmukh in Parbhani-Hingoli, now held by NCP's Abdullah Khan Durrani. The NCP will field Ramesh Karad from Latur-Beed-Osmanabad, where the current MLC is Dilip Deshmukh of the Congress.
The Latur-Beed-Osmanabad segment is important for the NCP as party rebel and former MLA Suresh Dhas is the BJP candidate from the seat. -- PTI
23:49   No deal with US to hand over Dr Shakeel Afridi: Pak
Pakistan today said there was "no deal" with the US for the release of an imprisoned doctor, who helped CIA track down Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Dr Shakeel Afridi was arrested after Osama was killed in a covert US raid at a compound in Pakistan's Abbotabad city on May 2, 2011. The US has been asking Pakistan to release him.
Initially, he was accused of organising a fake immunization campaign for the CIA to confirm presence of then al-Qaeda chief but later awarded 33 years sentence for alleged links with militants. 
His sentence was later reduced to 23 years.
He was shifted from a Peshawar jail to a jail in Rawalpindi last week, giving air to various kinds of speculations, including one that American secret agencies were planning a jail break to take Afridi away.
Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal today rejected all speculations about handing over Afridi to the US.
Faisal said he was not "aware of any deal regarding Dr. Shakeel Afridi" and the "subject of the reported jail break is being dealt by the Ministry of Interior."
He said Afridi will not be handed over to the US. 
"On behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I can assure you that he is not being handed over to US," the spokesman said.
Faisal also insisted that the authorities were not planning to swap Afridi for Aafia Siddiqui - who is currently serving a sentence in a US jail for trying to kill US agents and military officers in Afghanistan - or former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani who resides in the US and is the prime suspect in the Memogate scandal that surfaced in 2011. -- PTI
23:13   Major fire at ISRO's antenna testing lab in Ahmedabad; none hurt
A major fire broke out at a research facility located in the Space Application Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation in Ahmedabad today, officials said.
Nobody was injured in the blaze, which was doused within a couple of hours, they said.
"A major fire broke out inside a building, which is used as an antenna testing laboratory (for satellites). It is located inside the sprawling SAC campus in the Satellite area of the city. As many as 27 fire tenders were pressed into service," Additional Chief Fire Officer Rajesh Bhatt said.
A senior official of the Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services said the fire incident was reported around 2 pm and it took almost two hours to douse the flames.
The exact cause of the fire was not yet known, the official added.
According to Bhatt, the blaze spread quickly due to the presence of U-Foam material on the walls of the lab.
Considering the importance of the SAC campus, several senior government officials, including Ahmedabad Collector Vikrant Pandey and Joint Commissioner of Police K L N Rao, rushed to the spot along with the AFES officials.
Pandey said a team of forensic experts would conduct a study to find out the cause of fire.
"Since it was lunch time, all employees were outside the facility when the fire broke out. Only one person, who tried to douse the fire, complained of breathing problems, but
nobody else was injured," he said.
The SAC is a major research centre of the ISRO in Ahmedabad, where payloads for satellite launched by the country are prepared. The centre was established by Vikram Sarabhai, known as the father of the Indian space programme. -- PTI

Photograph: PTI Photo
22:55   2 held for 'raping and murdering' Lithuanian tourist in Kerala
In a breakthrough in the mysterious death of 33-year-old Lithuanian tourist, Kerala police today arrested two people for allegedly raping and brutally murdering her.

The highly decomposed and headless body of the woman, who went missing on March 14, was recovered from a mangrove forest at Thiruvallam on April 21.
Briefing reporters, Kerala DGP Loknath Behara said the entire investigation was conducted on the basis of circumstantial evidence and using scientific methods.      

"The case was homicide. It was unfortunately brutal. It should not have happened to any woman," behara said.
Efforts are also on to ascertain if anymore people are directly or indirectly involved in the case, he said.
He also lauded his officers who had cracked the case working 24x7 and said all those connected with the probe would be given the DGP's special award.
Investigating officer, Manoj Abhraham said the accused have been charged under IPC sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape) and 20(b) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances NDPS Act.
City Police Commisisoner, P Prakash, also part of the investigations, told PTI that the woman was raped and murdered by the two accused, Umesh and Udayan, who are drug peddlers, on March 14, the day she went missing. 
"The accused lured her to the spot saying it was a scenic and beautiful place, made her consume ganja, and then sexually assaulted and strangled her to death," he said.
The motive of the murder was sexual assault, he said.
"The accused then tried to make it look like a suicide. They hung her body in a natural creaper."
As the decomposition set in, after about 30 days, the head fell off the body, he added. -- PTI
22:49   Siddaramaiah takes to twitter to attack Modi and UP CM
Stung by the attack launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath against him, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today took to micro-blogging site Twitter to hit
out at them.
With hashtag #ModiHitWicket, Siddaramaiah posed a question to Modi as he arrived for extensive canvassing in Kalaburagi, Ballari and Bengaluru.
Siddaramaiah reminded Modi to mention about the "loot of Rs 35,000 crore worth iron ore" allegedly by BJP's Janardhana Reddy.
The Congress has alleged that eight of "Reddy Gang" members have been given ticket for the assembly election. 
Siddaramaiah tweeted, "Dear PM Modi, As you arrive in Bellary, we look forward to hear your commentary on corruption. Don't forget to mention Reddy's record scam score of 35,000 cr & still not out.
With star players like"Yeddy-Reddy, your score in Karnataka will be well short of"60."
He also asked Modi how he was asking for vote for "a" candidate who is the brother of the mining mafia kingpin G Janardhana Reddy who brought shame to Bellry & the state.
"And you say Congress has insulted Bellary. Pray, how?

He concluded his tweet by saying "There should be a limit"to lies.
Siddaramaiah also retweeted former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav's tweet pointing to an alleged gaffe by Modi during his speech at Kalaburagi today.
Modi while addressing poll rallies in Karnataka said the Congress is a party that has disrespected the armed forces.
"Forgetting the national heroes, patriots and history is the nature of a family in the Congress. (Jawaharlal) Nehru and V K Krishna Menon insulted General (KS) Thimayya, who had to resign.
They neglected General (K M) Cariappa, Modi told an election rally, as he sought to connect with the voters of the home state of the two legends of the Army.
Yadav tweeted, "No sir, Krishna Menon was Defence Minister from April 1957 to October 1962. Thimayya was Army Chief from May 1957 to May 1961. Sir can't the PMO afford a fact-checker? It's so embarrassing!"
Siddaramaiah tweeted that Karnataka holds its revered son Field Marshal K M Cariappa in high esteem.
Instead of doing politics in his name, Modi should list five things he has done for Karnataka, Siddaramaiah said" and posed a few questions.
Siddaramaiah flayed Adityanath for being in Karnataka for electioneering when 64 people lost their lives due to a storm in Uttar Pradesh.
"My heartfelt condolences to the families, who have lost their loved ones (due to storm in UP). I am sorry your CM is needed here in Karnataka. I am sure he will return soon & attend to his work there," Siddaramaiah said. -- PTI
22:28   Not in a position to release water to TN, says Karna govt
The Karnataka government said it was not in a position to release Cauvery river water to neighbouring Tamil Nadu even as the Supreme Court today sought to know the quantum of water that can be spared.
"There is a total of nine tmc water in all the four reservoirs coming under the Cauvery basin. That 9 tmc water is not enough for our drinking needs and crops. We have shortage," Water Resources Minister M B Patil said.
In a video message shared with media today, he said, "In this circumstance we cannot obey today's Supreme Court's order, as we don't have water. We will inform the court about availability of water currently and our needs."
"Even if we want to release we don't have water," he added.
During the hearing today, the court first asked Karnataka to"release 4 tmcft water by May 8, then asked it to release 2 tmcft water and at the end, ordered it to apprise the bench" "as to how much water can be released."
Stating that he was in touch with the legal team, the minister said "we will bring to cannot be implemented. We don't have water..."
The Centre was today rapped by the apex court for failing to finalise the draft Cauvery management scheme.    

It was also flayed by Tamil Nadu for its alleged "partisan" attitude to favour Karnataka by citing the poll campaign in that state for the delay. -- PTI  
21:57   Data leak: India to continue probe despite Cambridge Analytica closure
The Indian government will continue with its enquiry into the Cambridge Analytica data leak issue, irrespective of the British firm announcing closure of business, senior information technology ministry officials said today.
The United Kingdom-based data analytics and political consulting firm has been under fire in various countries for allegedly harvesting data from almost 87 million Facebook users and leveraging them for political campaigns.
The Indian government too has shot-off notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, confronting them with questions on data breach issue. The last date for the two companies to respond is May 10.
Yesterday, however, Cambridge Analytica announced its closure in a statement on its website and claimed it had been "vilified" for activities that are legal and considered a standard component of online advertising.
Indian officials familiar with the questioning and notices sent in the data leak matter said the ongoing probe will continue as the liability of the company existed prior to the closure announcement.
They, however, declined to divulge further details in the matter, saying that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have time till May 10 to send written responses to official questioning.
In fresh notice sent to Cambridge Analytica last month, the government asked what kind of data was collected in India and the research instruments used to capture such data. It also asked whether the company harvested any data through third party apps and whether or not mining of such data was done with user consent.
Quizzing the British firm on the non-disclosure pacts signed by the company with its associates and clients for Indian assignments, the government also asked it to share the templates that were used in signing such agreements.
The latest notice by the government had also flagged the "cryptic and evasive" reply given by Cambridge Analytica to the first notice.
On the other hand, the notice to Facebook had taken note of the US social networking company's candid admission of unauthorised use of its user data by Cambridge Analytica. -- PTI
21:53   Rise in no. of scribes killed globally; 18 such deaths in India in 5 yrs: UNESCO
The number of journalists killed all over the world has seen a sharp rise in five years, with 530 such deaths -- 18 of them in India -- being reported from 2012 to 2016-end, a UNESCO report released today said.
The report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report 2017/2018' said the number of killings was 67.72 per cent higher than the 316 recorded during the previous five-year periodfrom 2007 to 2011-end.
Syria, with 86, recorded the highest number of killings, followed by Iraq (46) , Mexico (37) , Somalia (36), Pakistan ( 30), Brazil (29), the Philippines and Yemen (21 each), Afghanistan (20), Honduras (19), India (18), Libya (17) and Guatemala (14).
Ten journalists were killed in Bangladesh, 10 in Ukraine,  eight in France and six each in Paraguay and Turkey.
"The year 2012 proved to be the deadliest year on record, with 124 journalists killed," said the report, released on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, which is marked today.
Although the number of journalists killed every year has seen a slight decline since 2012, the figures are still alarmingly high, the report said.

"With a number of Member States that have experienced periods of violent conflict, the Arab region remains the most dangerous for journalists, with 191 journalists killed between 2012 and 2016, including a significant peak of 50 deaths in 2012," it said.
Despite registering a decline in the following years, the overall the region represents 36 per cent of all cases.
Latin America and the Caribbean saw an increase in the number of journalists killed during the period, with 125 killings overall and a peak of 28 in 2016.

"This trend can be largely attributed to organised crime, drug trafficking and corruption," the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization report said.
After a steep decline prior to 2014, the killings sharply rose across Asia and the Pacific region, with a total of 107 killings, and a high of 27 in 2016. -- PTI
21:33   Proud that Nat Awards have honoured over 21 women, says Irani
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani today said she feels proud as the 65th National Film Awards have honoured over 21 women, including Rima Das for her critically-acclaimed Assamese movie Village Rockstars
Irani, who felicitated the winners along with President Ram Nath Kovind and Minister of State Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, promised to promote diversity of India through cinema in future. 
"I feel proud as we honour more than 21 women today on this stage including Rima Das, who presented a simple story from Assam, which not only resonated with people in India but also made the country proud across the globe," the minister said in her speech. 
"I assure you all,  that like this year we gave special mention to our regional cinema, we will continue to promote the diversity of India through our films," she added. 
In her address, Irani also remembered late actors Vinod Khanna and Sridevi, who received the Dadasaheb Phalke honour and the Best Actress award respectively.  
"Today on this stage we also honoured a woman, who is not among us anymore. It is her first win. Nobody had ever thought that she will receive this honour posthumously. I  today remember Sridevi, who not only left a great impression on the film world but on our lives well. 
"The President today also honoured a personality, who on the basis of his calibre created history not only in cinema but also in politics. It is my honour that the biggest award of the film industry was given to Vinod Khanna ji," she said. -- PTI
21:13   Pak hands over ailing Indian on humanitarian ground
The Pakistani government  today repatriated a young Indian national who was suffering from thalassemia, a blood disorder, officials said.
Indian national Jitendra Arjunwar, 21, was handed over to the BSF at Attari border where a formal medical was conducted before shifting him to civil hospital in Amritsar, the officials said.
Arjunwar, a resident of Madhya Pradesh's Barghat town, was repatriated to India on humanitarian ground as he was suffering from thalassemia. 
He was released from Karachi's juvenile jail early morning and was flown to Lahore to hand over to Indian authorities at Attari border.
He came back on the basis of an emergency travel certificate issued by the Pakistan based Indian High commission to facilitate him to reach back to India.
At the time of his repatriation he was looking pale and week.
Arjunwar had crossed into Pakistan unintentionally five years back from the Rajasthan border on August 12, 2013, following an heated argument with his family.
He remained under treatment at the juvenile jail in Pakistan due to the disorder before being transferred to district jail Landhi where all the Indian prisoners are kept since January 2015.
He was lodged in Hyderabad jail after being sentenced to one-year imprisonment by the court and shifted to Karachi on completing his jail term in 2014.
Despite repeated correspondence with the Indian embassy, the Pakistani authorities could not ascertain Jitendra's status as an Indian citizen.
However, his Indian citizenship was confirmed a few months back, after which the authorities decided to send him back. -- PTI 
20:59   Free press makes for a stronger democracy: PM
Multiplicity of ideas and human expression make the country more vibrant as a society and a free press provides for a stronger democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on the World Press Freedom Day.
"Today on #WorldPressFreedomDay, let us reaffirm our commitment towards steadfastly supporting a free press. It is the multiplicity of ideas and human expression that makes us more vibrant as a society," he said in a series of tweets. 
Modi applauded all those who have been working tirelessly to uphold the freedom of press. 
"It is due to these countless women and men that the spirit of a free press is significantly enhanced ...would once again like to appreciate the proactive role of everyone on social media for their commendable work towards safeguarding the freedom of press and expression," the prime minister said on his Twitter handle @narendramodi.
The United Nations General Assembly had declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness about freedom of press. -- PTI
20:55   Republicans nominate Trump for Nobel Peace Prize
Seventeen Republican lawmakers have nominated United States President Donald Trump for this year's Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work to end the Korean War, denuclearise the Korean peninsula and bring peace to the region.
Trump has accepted an invitation to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong- un. This would be the first-ever meeting between leaders of the US and North Korea. 
"Since taking office, President Trump has worked tirelessly to apply maximum pressure on North Korea to end its illicit weapons program and bring peace to the region. His administration successfully united the international community, including China, to impose one of the most successful international sanctions regimes in history," the letter said.
The sanctions have decimated the North Korean economy and have been largely credited for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table, the Congressmen said in a letter to Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
On April 20, North Korea announced it will end its nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile testing programmes.
On April 27, North Korea and South Korea announced that they will work toward ending the Korean War, seek to reunify their countries, and that they will begin a process to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
"President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has consistently praised the administration's work and recently said, 'President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize'," the lawmakers wrote.
Although North Korea has evaded demands from the international community to cease its aggressions for decades, Trump's peace through strength policies are working and bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula, they said.
The White House did not respond to a question on the letter. 
Early this week, Trump told reporters that he is focused on achieving peace in the region. -- PTI  
20:48   Reject 'jihadi mindset' of Congress, says UP CM in K'taka
Hitting the campaign trail in poll-bound Karnataka to mobilise support for the BJP, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today asked the people to reject what he called the "divisive" politics and "jihadi mindset" of the Congress.
At a rally in Sirsi, he accused his Karnataka counterpart Siddaramaiah of playing the "most corrupt innings" that divides the society.
"I have come here to call upon you to outrightly reject the divisive politics of the Congress, the jihadi mindset of the Congress, its policies of supporting terrorism and corruption," Adityanath said.
Targeting Siddaramaiah, he claimed that "jihadis" killing 23 BJP workers in the state in the last five years was a "proof" of the Congress party's alleged divisive politics.
"Today the Congress government in Karnataka and its chief minister, who is playing the most corrupt innings, are making the worst effort to divide the society. Their divisive politics supports terrorism," he said.
Adityanath said he had come to put a brake on the "divisive" policies of the Congress in the state.
Seeking to draw a comparison between UP and Karnataka, Adityanath said no jihadi element can raise his ugly head in his state.
"This government does not seem to be standing in favour of farmers, traders, citizens and BJP workers and does not seem to be doing justice to them. The government is encouraging anarchy," the UP chief minister said.
He also took a dig at Siddaramaiah over farmers' suicides and said their interests of had been ignored due to the "indifferent" attitude of his government. -- PTI
20:46   K'taka poll: Cong urges EC to act against BJP for objectionable ads
A delegation of Congress leaders today met the Election Commission officials and demanded immediate action against the BJP, alleging that the saffron party had issued advertisements in clear violation of the model code of conduct and criminal law.
The delegation comprising senior party leaders Abhishek Singhvi, Rajiv Shukla and Pramod Tiwari apprised the officials about the advertisements issued by the BJP. They alleged the advertisements aimed to "vitiate and communalise" the atmosphere in Karnataka a week before the state assembly elections.
"We apprised the Election Commission about the highly objectionable advertisements taken out by the BJP in Karnataka," Singhvi told reporters after the meeting.
"They are not only a direct violation of the Model Code of Conduct, but it is a criminal act. They are a clear violation of the criminal law in India. We will also file a criminal complaint and lodge an FIR under the criminal law," he said.
The Congress leader claimed that it was happening in a "brazen manner" and a ban must be imposed on them immediately.
He said the EC officials heard them patiently and took the issue seriously. "The EC has assured us of looking into the issue and action," he said.
"This is clearly a sign of defeat by the BJP and of their frustration," Singhvi claimed.
Shukla alleged that the BJP was dubbing Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamaiah, who holds a constitutional post, as murderers which was a criminal offence.
"They are trying to vitiate and communalise the atmosphere," he alleged, adding that the BJP feared "imminent defeat" in Karnataka and that was why they were resorting to such measures. -- PTI
20:11   Visit of Indian experts to Pak 'normal': MEA on Track II diplomacy
India today termed as "normal" the visit of a group of Indian experts to Pakistan to revive Track II diplomacy, but asserted that there was no dilution in its policy towards Islamabad that talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said functional exchanges between the two sides have continued and is part of the "normal process" between the two countries.
"This is a meeting between two civil societies, this is a meeting which is part of people to people exchange...There is nothing new in it," he told reporters, responding to questions on the issue.
The original Track II initiative -- the Neemrana Dialogue -- received a fresh start with the visit of the group of experts to Islamabad recently.
The Indian side was led by former foreign ministry secretary Vivek Katju, while the Pakistani side included former minister Javed Jabbar among others.
The interactions between the two sides took place between April 28 to 30 in the Pakistani capital, sources in Islamabad had said.
Asked whether the dialogue had the backing of the ministry, Kumar did not give a direct reply, saying it was part of  the normal process.
He, however, said there was no change in India's "clear and consistent" policy towards Pakistan.
"There is no dilution in our position that talks and terror cannot go together," he said.
Sources in Islamabad said that the experts from two sides discussed a number of issues, including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, terrorism, tensions along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and the regional situation.
They said that the two sides will present their proposals to their government for consideration.
The Neemrana Dialogue was launched in early 1990s and included influential former diplomats, military veterans and academics, who had the unofficial backing from the foreign ministries of the two countries. -- PTI
20:06   Virat Kohli to play for Surrey in June, to miss Afghanistan Test
India captain Virat Kohli has been signed for Surrey to play English County.

The Indian cricket captain will join the team after he finishes his duty with Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

However, Kohli will miss India's inaugural Test match with Afghanistan in June.

Speaking after signing for the club, Virat Kohli said, "It has long been an ambition of mine to play county cricket and I am thankful to Alec Stewart and Surrey for allowing me the opportunity to join them during their 2018 season. I can't wait to get to the Kia Oval."

Kohli will lead India in a five-match Test series against England starting in August.
19:49   Cyclonic circulation over Haryana was trigger for dust storm: Experts
A cyclonic circulation over Haryana was the trigger for the deadly dust storm that swept parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, weather experts said today, estimating that the wind speed during the storm may have gone up to 100  kilometres per hour.
The winds were so violent that a number of houses collapsed and electricity poles and trees got uprooted, as the severe dust storm swept parts of these states.
The phenomenon was restricted to these two states, largely because of external and domestic reasons, experts said.
There were primarily four reasons that lead to the thunderstorm -- excessive heating, availability of moisture, instability in atmosphere and a trigger for the storm, India Meteorological Department Additional Director General Mritunjay Mohapatra said.
"The north Indian plains have been witnessing temperatures of over 40 degree Celsius. There were two sources of moisture --a western disturbance over north Pakistan and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir and easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal," Mohaptara said.
The cold winds from the western disturbance was making atmosphere unstable.
"The trigger was a cyclonic circulation over Haryana," Mohapatra said.
This led to the formation of two cloud patches, said Mahesh Palawat, Vice President (Meteorology and Climate Change) of Skymet, a private firm that provides weather forecast 
One patch moved to north of Delhi, while another patch moved over the Alwar, Agra, and Dholpur belt, which was more deadly.
Mohapatra said it was difficult to record the wind speed as the phenomenon was restricted to only small patches. In Delhi, where a milder version of the dust storm and thunderstorm struck, the wind speed was recorded as 69 kmph.
However, Palawat estimated that the wind speed would have been more than 100 kmph. -- PTI
19:16   20 feared dead in bus accident in Bihar
At least 20 people were feared dead when a bus fell into a roadside pit and caught fire in Bihar's East Champaran district today, Disaster Management Department minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav said.
The accident occurred under the Kotwa police station area, over 75 km from the state capital.
The bus was on its way to Delhi from Muzaffarpur. -- PTI
19:09   Hotel owner who killed HP officer during demolition drive held
A hotel owner who shot a woman government official during a demolition drive in Himachal Pradesh's Kasauli has been arrested. 

Vijay Singh was on the run after shooting assistant town and country Planner Shail Bala Sharma on May 1.

Sharma had gone to supervise the demolition of unauthorised construction at Kasauli's Narayani Guest House where its owner Singh had allegedly shot at her. 

She later succumbed to injuries, while another government official accompanying her had sustained serious injuries. 

IMAGE: Assistant town and country planner Shail Bala Sharma, right, talks with Vijay Singh, left,  before he allegedly shot her dead. Photograph: ANI
18:38   National Awards: Sridevi honoured posthumously; wish she was here, says Boney
Filmmaker Boney Kapoor and his daughters Janhvi and Khushi today received actor Sridevi's posthumous Best Actress honour at the National Film Awards from President Ram Nath Kovind.

Sridevi, who died at the age of 54 in Dubai on February 24, won the award for her portrayal of a revenge-seeking mother in Hindi film Mom.

"I wish she was here. She truly deserved this award. It s so unfortunate that she is not here with us today to celebrate. I am grateful to the government of India, the I&B Ministry and the jury. It is a proud moment for all of us but sadly she is not here," Boney told reporters ahead of the ceremony.
Janhvi said, "I want to thank the jury and the government of India for recognising the hardwork my mother has done. It is very special for us as a family." 
Sridevi and her Chandni co-star Vinod Khanna were recognised posthumously at the National Film Awards this year. 
Khanna was named this year's Dadasaheb Phalke award winner. 
18:15   Of Yogi's Karnataka campaign during a storm in UP
Rohit Pradhan (@retributions) tweets: 'I can't even imagine a US governor continuing to give political speeches in other states while a hurricane hits his own state killing 100. If he didn't immediately rush back, he would be politically toast. The optics are terrible @myogiadityanath is certainly a unique animal.'
18:06   Phalke award for Vinod Khanna, emotional moment for wife, Rahul
President Ram Nath Kovind presents the Dadasaheb Phalke Award to veteran actor Vinod Khanna (posthumously). The award was received by his wife Kavita Khanna and son Akshaye Khanna. This was one of the 11 awards presented by the President. The other awards were handed out by I&B minister Smriti Irani.

Kavita Khanna had said this was a special moment for the family and an emotional one. 
17:30   Smriti Irani wants to shut down Films Division
The Information and Broadcasting ministry plans to shut down Films Division of India, say sources.

I&B minister Smriti Irani has prepared a power point presentation that is being shown to almost all union ministers after an Expenditure Committee recommended that Films Division has become redundant. The minister now plans to create an umbrella organisation for all movie-related activities.

This ties in with reports that Irani is planning to merge all four of its film unitsNational Film Development Corp. Childrens Film Society India (CFSI), Directorate of Film Festivals and Films Division of India into a single entity.

Films Division has 250 employees.

A nod from Pm Modi is awaited.
17:15   I&B minister begins presenting National Awards
Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore present 65th National Film Awards at Vigyan Bhawan, in Delhi. More than 60 winners of the National Film Awards said they would skip the ceremony, after a last minute announcement that President Ram Nath Kovind will present only 11 awards, a departure from tradition. Read more on the controversy here.
16:59   Centre seeks stay of SC order on SC/ST law; SC
The Centre today demanded a stay on the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act, with the top court saying it was "100 per cent" in favour of protecting the rights of these communities and punishing those guilty of atrocities against them. The observations by a bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit came after the Centre, represented by Attorney General K K Venugopal, sought a stay on the Supreme Court order in the matter. He said the apex court cannot make rules or guidelines which go against the law passed by the legislature. -- PTI
16:28   CBI books journalist for giving false info to access 'sensitive' areas
The CBI has booked senior journalist Upender Rai along with an official of Air One Aviation Pvt Ltd for allegedly giving false information to access "highly sensitive" areas of national importance and entering into dubious financial transactions, officials said today.

The scribe associated with many well known media outlets has been booked along with Prasun Roy, CSO of Air One Aviation Pvt Ltd, they said.

It is alleged that the duo gave false information for obtaining access to highly sensitive areas like airports and entering into dubious financial transactions, the officials said. The investigative agency is carrying out searches at eight locations in Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and Mumbai in this regard. -- PTI
16:20   Rahul hits back at Modi for personal attacks on him
Hitting back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his "personal attacks" on him, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today said it does not behove a person who holds the high office. Addressing a rally in poll-bound Karnataka, Gandhi said Modi was not answering the issues raised by him such as the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal and fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, and only launching a personal attack on him.

"Whenever Modi is afraid....I would tell about Modi's character....he launches a personal attack on a person. He will talk ill of a person. Will talk wrong of a person. That is the difference between me and him," Gandhi said.

Gandhi, who came under a scathing attack from Modi at his rallies in Karnataka, said, "Let him speak anything about me, whether it is wrong or right, it will not make any difference.

"He is the PM of India and I will not launch a personal attack against him. I am from India and he is the PM of India and I will never launch a personal attack on him," the Congress president said, as the two leaders stepped up their campaign for the May 12 Assembly polls.

Gandhi also slammed Modi over the BJP giving tickets to controversial mining barons Reddy brothers in the elections. "In film Sholay, there was Gabbar Singh. You brought Gabbar Singh Tax (an allusion to GST) but this time you have gone even further. You have fielded the entire gang of Gabbar Singh.

"There is Gabbar, Sambha, Kalia, and all of them.... Reddy brothers gang, which was in jail....You are trying to get them inducted into Assembly, and you tell to the country that you are fighting against corruption," Gandhi said. PTI
16:07   Former foreign secy Nirupama Rao asks PM not to 'distort history'
Former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao reacts to PM Narendra Modi's speech in Karnataka today where he claimed that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had insulted was the first Indian commander-in-chief of the Indian Army Field Marshall Cariappa and former army chief General KS Thimayya.

Addressing an election rally in Kalabugari district of poll-bound Karnataka, the Prime Minister said, ""From insulting Field Marshall Cariappa and General Thimayya to calling our Army Chief a 'Sadak ka goonda' right after surgical strikes, they (Congress) have consistently shown their disdain for our brave heroes."

"Karnataka is synonymous with valour. But, how did the Congress Govts treat Field Marshall Cariappa and General Thimayya? History is proof of that. In 1948 after defeating Pakistan, General Thimayya was insulted by PM Nehru and Defence Minister Krishna Menon," the PM said.

Krishan Partap Singh, author of the Raisina Series reacted to this tweeting, "Yes,Nehru insulted Gen Thimayya by first sending him to Korea after the armistice to command the UN peacekeeping force.And then further the insult by making him Army Chief!And then not allowing to him to resign!As for Cariappa,Nehru sent him as High Commissioner after retirement."

Rao retweeted Singh's tweet saying, "Dear PM : how can you distort history   For the sake of the children of this glorious land, please rise above this." 
15:47   Sachin in Dharamsala
Dalai Lama @DalaiLama Former Captain of the Indian National Cricket Team Sachin Tendulkar and HHDL (His Highness the Dalai Lama) enjoy meeting each other at the latter's residence in Dharamsala, India on May 3, 2018. (Photo by Tenzin Choejor)
15:42   Eerie silence descends on AMU campus, heavy police deployment
An eerie silence today descended over the AMU campus even as hundreds of student protesters gathered at the Baab-e-Syed gate, the scene of yesterday's violent incident in which around 20 students were injured in police action.

Violence broke out at the Aligarh Muslim University yesterday after the right-wing protestors barged into the varsity demanding removal of the portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah displayed on the campus.

Following yesterday's incident, policemen in large numbers and a RAF contingent were deployed near the Baab-e-Syed gate to maintain law and order.

While the rest of the injured students were discharged after first aid, three of those with serious injuries are admitted at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College hospital.

According to a hospital official, all the three students are out of danger and recovering. The AMU students today sat on an indefinite dharna demanding action against the protestors.

The AMU Students' Union (AMUSU) alleged that violence on the campus was a "deliberate and pre-planned attempt" to attack former vice president Hamid Ansari, who was at that time barely 100 metres away at the university guest house, from where the violence erupted.

A spokesman of the varsity strongly condemned yesterday's "trespassing" of the university boundary by Hindu Yuva Vahini activists who were raising "highly objectionable and inflammatory slogans". "We hope that the state government will take strong action against the Hindu Yuva Vahini youths who deliberately tried to disturb peace on the university campus," he said.
15:24   Winners protest National Awards to be given by Smriti Irani, Rathore
More than 70 winners of the National Film Awards today said they would skip the ceremony in the evening after a last minute announcement that President Ram Nath Kovind would be presenting only 11 awards, a departure from tradition.

Expressing "surprise" at the "11th hour questions", Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a statement that the president attends all award functions for a maximum one hour and this was conveyed to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

"It was conveyed to Information and Broadcasting Ministry several weeks ago and the ministry knew this all along. Rashtrapati Bhavan is surprised by the 11th hour questions that have been raised," said Ashok Malik, press secretary to the president.

The function, being held at Vigyan Bhavan, will be organised in two phases this year, the Press Information Bureau said.

The first set of awards will be conferred by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and the Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore from 4 pm. The second set will be presented by the president from 5.30 pm.

Traditionally, the president gives away all the National Film Awards. In their open letter, marked to the Office of the President and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the artistes said they were informed about the change in the schedule yesterday by Chaitanya Prasad, additional director general of the Directorate of Film Festivals.

He told them that "a large segment of the Awards will not be presented" by the president whereas the invite given to them states that they will receive the award from the president. They said they were disheartened and "felt dejected rather than honoured" on being informed at the last minute that the president will present only 11 awards.

"It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with a prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy," read the letter, signed by more than 70 filmmakers and artistes from across the country.

The signatories include noted singer K J Yesudas, named this year's best playback singer, Bengali filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly, whose film "Nagarkirtan" has been named the best Bengali film and best supporting actor winner Fahadh Faasil.

"We request that the dignity and eminence of this award is maintained and that there is no display of hierarchy at the event. We are disappointed to know that the Hon'ble President will be presenting the Award to just 11 Awardees and not the remaining of about 120 of us."

The artistes said they had discussed the matter with Irani last evening and were promised a reply "We would like to bring to your notice that we discussed this matter with the Hon'ble I&B Minister last evening and were promised a reply but haven't heard back from anybody... "In the circumstances of not receiving a response for our grievance we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award but are not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent and are awaiting a more just solution," they said in the letter.

Giving an account of what happened, a filmmaker said on condition of anonymity that they were informed about the change during the rehearsal yesterday.  PTI

Image: Sonam Kapoor receiving the National Award (Special Jury Award) for the film, Neerja from former President Pranab Mukherjee in 2017
15:24   More thunderstorms likely in UP
The MET office has, meanwhile, warned of more thunderstorms accompanied with gusty winds is some areas in districts of Gorakhpur, Ballia, Mau, Ghazipur, Ambedkar Nagar, SK Nagar, Basti, Kushinagar, Mahrajganj, Siddharthnagar, Gonda, Balrampur, Aligarh, Etah, Bijnore, Baghpat and other districts.
15:01   Poonam Mahajan's poignant picture with her family
A throwback picture tweeted by BJP MP Poonam Mahajan:  @poonam_mahajan  "Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory. Dr. Seuss.  We miss you more every day..."

She's the little girl in the picture in the arms of her father Pramod Mahajan. The boy is her brother Rahul, with their mother Rekha. Pramod Mahajan was a charismatic BJP leader who was shot by his brother Pravin in 2006 over a family dispute. He died as a result of his injuries shortly thereafter.
14:49   Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's statue vandalised in Kolkata
A bust of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was found vandalised inside a park in the city's Narkeldanga area this morning leading to protests by the local people, police said. A complaint was lodged at the local police station against unknown miscreants by activists of the Forward Bloc, a senior official of Kolkata Police told PTI.

"The bust of Netaji was damaged probably last evening or last night. Some of the residents spotted it this morning and it was brought to our notice. We are looking into the matter," the IPS officer said. Netaji's bust has been erected inside a children's park after the leader. -- PTI
Death toll in high-intensity dust storm in parts of Uttar Pradesh rises to 64: Official. PTI
14:20   Protestors against Jinnah portrait should also raise voice against Godse temples: Javed Akhtar
Veteran lyricist-screenwriter Javed Akhtar today said it is "shameful" that the portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah hangs in Aligarh Muslim University  but people, who are protesting against it, should also oppose the "temples made to honour Godse".

The 73-year-old writer took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the ongoing controversy at the university which was triggered after Aligarh MP Satish Gautam objected to the Pakistan founder's picture on the walls of the AMU student union office.

"Jinnah was neither a student nor a teacher of Aligarh. It's a shame that his portrait is there. The administration and students should voluntarily remove it from there and those who were protesting against this portrait should now protest against the temples made to honour Godse," Akhtar wrote.

AMU spokesman Shafey Kidwai had defended the presence of the portrait, which has apparently been hanging there for decades, saying that Jinnah was a founder member of the university court and was granted life membership of the student union.

Traditionally, photographs of all life members are placed on the walls of the student union office.

The row sparked violence at the campus yesterday which resulted in at least six people being injured when the police lobbed teargas shells to disperse AMU students, who were demanding the arrest of the protesters who had earlier barged into the campus shouting slogans.

The AMU students alleged that the protesters were from Hindu Yuva Vahini, and were allowed to leave a police station even after being initially detained. PTI
14:08   Kailash Mansarovar yatra advisory
Indian Embassy in Kathmandu issues advisory to Indian citizens travelling for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nepal. Embassy advises people to get appropriate Chinese visa & travel permit for Tibet before commencing journey.
13:45   PM for speedy assistance to those hit by dust storms
Expressing sorrow at the loss of lives due to dust storms in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today directed officials to coordinate with states to ensure speedy relief and rehabilitation of those affected.

"Saddened by the loss of lives due to dust storms in various parts of India. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon." "Have asked officials to coordinate with the respective state governments and work towards assisting those who have been affected," the Prime Minister's Office tweeted quoting Modi.

A severe dust storm followed by thunder showers hit parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan overnight, killing over 70 people and leaving a trail of destruction. Houses collapsed and trees and poles were uprooted in the storm that also led to power outages. PTI
13:38   Cong misled Dalits by promising Kharge would be CM: PM in K'taka
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi are holding rallies in Karnataka today ahead of the May 12 assembly election. This is the PM's second round of campaigning with a rally in Kalaburagi. He will also be addressing rallies in Bellary and Bengaluru. A phalanx of senior BJP leaders will also be campaigning in the state. Rahul Gandhi will hold rallies in Aurad, Bhalki and Humnabad in Bidar district today. Excerpts from the PM's speech.

-- This election will decide the future of Karnataka. It is about security of women, the development of farmers. Do not assume this is only about electing MLAs, it is much more than that.

-- Congress doesn't respect the sacrifices of our soldiers. When our soldiers carried out surgical strikes, the Congress party questioned them. They kept on asking proof of the strikes from me. After surgical strikes, a Congress senior leaders called our current Army Chief a 'Gunda'.  Congress would rather prefer our soldiers go with cameras and not guns! But then, this is expected considering how their own senior leader behaved on stage when 'Vande Mataram' was being sung

-- Karnataka is synonymous with valour, but how did the Congress governments treat Field Marshall Cariappa and General Thimayya? History is proof of that. In 1948 after defeating Pakistan, General Thimayya was insulted by PM Nehru and Defence Minister Krishna Menon. 

-- During the last elections, Congress promised they will make Mallikarjuna Kharge the Chief Minister. They misled the Dalit community. This is typically how Congress plays politics.

-- Would like to ask the Congress people who carried out a candle march in Delhi? Where were your candles when a Dalit girl was tortured in Bidar?
13:04   Trump hints at release of 3 Americans detained in N Korea
United States President Donald Trump on Thursday hinted at the possibility of the release of three American hostages, who were detained in North Korea.

In a midnight tweet, President Trump wrote, "As everybody is aware, the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!"

The tweet comes after a report emerged that North Korea relocated three American detainees from a labour camp to a hotel on the outskirts of Pyongyang, ahead of a planned summit between President Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, according to a South Korean activist, who was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying.

The three American citizens are -- Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul. They were accused of espionage or doing "hostile acts" against North Korea.

On a related note, Otto Warmbier, an American college student, who was arrested in North Korea last year for allegedly removing a political propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel, died after he was transferred to the US in a deep coma. Washington D.C. accused Pyongyang of Warmbier's "bad" condition, while the latter outwardly rejected it.
12:31   45 killed in UP storm, 27 in Rajasthan
At least 45 people have died following heavy rainfall and dust storms across Uttar Pradesh. According to reports, Agra registered 36 deaths, Bijnor three and Saharanpur two, while one death each was reported from Bareilly, Moradabad Chitrakoot and Rampur.

Local authorities in each of these areas have issued directions to provide immediate relief and carry out a thorough and full assessment.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a compensation of upto Rs.4 lakhs to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for each of the injured.

At least 27 people were killed and nearly 100 injured as a high-intensity squall followed by thunder showers hit parts of Rajasthan overnight, leaving a trail of destruction.

Houses collapsed and electricity poles and trees were uprooted as the severe dust storm swept the Matysya region.

12:25   Fish rules in Bengal after rotting meat scam
The recent carcass scam has dealt a blow to the sale of meat-based items across the city and its surrounding areas, prompting the hotels and restaurants to take immediate measures to reinstate confidence among the food aficionados.

Sudesh Poddar, the president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India (HRAEI), has issued an advisory asking its members to procure meat and poultry from registered vendors.

"Members are hereby advised to procure meat and poultry from reputed vendors who have FSSAI licence and corporation trade licence. Preference should be given to suppliers having ISO 9001 and HACCP certification," the HRAEI circular said.

The police last week busted a racket involved in supplying decomposed meat from dumping grounds to restaurants in and around the city. They seized nearly 20 tonne of rotten meat, meant to be supplied to restaurants, from a cold storage in central Kolkata.

The HRAEI members have called for a meeting this weekend to discuss ways to cope with this crisis, Poddar said, adding that the restaurants should be able to assure the customers that the food served to them are safe, he said.

"Many of our member restaurants are getting the raw supplies checked in their own labs. We are also thinking about taking help from the state-run laboratories for testing the supplies," he explained.

Admitting that there has been a 30% drop in demand for non-vegetarian items, the HRAEI Assistant Secretary General Atikram Gupta said, "Footfall has remained the same in different hotels and restaurants as customers are opting for fish and vegetarian items instead of meat," he said. PTI
11:54   DDCA defamation suit: Vishwas 'regrets damage' caused to Jaitley
AAP rebel leader Kumar Vishwas tells the Delhi High Court that his statements against BJP senior leader Arun Jaitley were based on information received from his party leader, Arvind Kejriwal.

He said he was personally not interested in going ahead with the matter and regretted any injury or damage caused to Jaitley. He said he was simply repeating what Arvind Kejriwal had said. The court has now granted time to Vishwas to decide on the statement he wants to make so the the defamation suit can be disposed of.

To bring you up to speed, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with AAP leaders Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh, Deepak Bajpai, Raghav Chadha and Kumar Vishwas had alleged irregularities in the Delhi District Cricket Administration which was once headed by Jaitley.

However, a joint plea last month was moved in a Delhi court by Jaitley, Kejriwal, Singh, Ashutosh, Bajpai and Chadha to "settle" their more than two years old litigation over alleged defamatory statements made against the BJP leader. The development came after the AAP leaders apologised for their remarks.

However, Vishwas had not moved any plea to settle the litigation. So, the defamation case against him stands.

Vishwas had then said he would not apologise to the finance minister and would contest the defamation cases filed against him.

Image: Kumar Vishwas. Picture courtesy his Twitter account.
11:36   41 injured in clash between AMU students, cops
Twenty-eight students and 13 cops got injured in a clash which broke out between students of Aligarh Muslim University and police on Wednesday. The students were marching to police station after Hindu groups protested outside the university campus a day ago, when the clash broke out.

Students demanding a ban on Hindu groups alleged that they were targeted by the police. "Students were marching to the police station demanding to know why protesters of Hindu were groups let off without an FIR against them and why were they not stopped before reaching AMU. Police baton charged on them and used tear gas," a spokesperson from the university. -- ANI
11:25   At least 50 people killed in dust storm in north India
Update on the dust storm: Sanjay Kumar, State Revenue and Relief Commissioner says, "40 to 50 people have been killed after the dust storm hit Uttar Pradesh yesterday. Agra is the most affected district. Relief measures  will be given to the affected within 24 hours."
11:07   No Tears for Lieutenant Fayaz
Public spirited individuals and organisations should commemorate May 10 as Kashmir Solidarity Day by taking out candlelight marches and gathering at war memorials all over the country. 'The occasion is not just to remember Lieutenant Fayaz, but also all those who have lost their lives in Kashmir defending the Republic,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd). Do read
11:01   India among top 5 military spenders
India has emerged as one of the five biggest military spenders in 2017, a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found.

With an expenditure of USD 63.9 billion on military in 2017, India marked a 5.5 percent rise from the figures in 2016.China made the biggest leap with an increase of 5.6 percent (USD 12 billion) from 2016, and became the highest defence spender in Asia at USD 228 billion.Military tension between India and China may have driven India's defence expense, as indicated by Senior Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme, Siemon Wezeman.

The United States retained the top spot at USD 610 billion, with unchanged military expenditure between 2016 and 2017. Saudi Arabia emerged as the third biggest spender in 2017 at USD 69.4 billion, an increase of 9.2 percent from 2016. The report found a sharp drop in Russia's military expenditure that dropped by 20 percent from 2016 to stand at USD 66.3 billion. Overall, the global military expenditure showed a rising trend as a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms from 2016, resulted in USD 1739 billion expenditure in 2017. -- ANI
Death toll in Rajasthan dust storm rises to 22, more than 100 people have been injured. Several electricity poles and trees uprooted.
10:32   Australian first lady flattered by Macron's 'delicious' description
All's well that ends well.

Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said today his wife was "flattered and charmed" to be described by French President Emmanuel Macron as "delicious".

The compliment had sparked lighthearted discussion on whether it was in fact inappropriate.

Macron had raised eyebrows with his description of Prime Minister Turnbull's wife of 38 years, Lucy, during a Sydney press conference.

He had said at a press conference, "I want to thank you for your welcome, thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome."

Turnbull, however was unflappable, when asked about his reaction to Macron's comment.

He said his wife was in fact very flattered and said she had asked him to say that she found the president's compliment as charming as it was memorable.

"President Macron charmed Australia. He certainly charmed all of us, all the Turnbulls," the prime minister said.

The Sydney newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported the comment on its front page under the headline "President Pepe Le Pew," likening Macron to the Warner Bros. love-sick French skunk cartoon character.

Some observers however felt Macron may simply have slipped up in his use of English, since the French word for delicious.

Image: French President Emmanuel Macron made headlines and raised eyebrows in Sydney on Wednesday by calling Lucy Turnbull, the Australian prime ministers wife, 'delicious'. Picture: Reuters
10:15   Last rites of officer shot for demolition drive in Kasauli
The last rites of Assistant Town and Country Planning officer Shail Bala Sharma, who was allegedly shot dead by the owner of a hotel on Tuesday in Kasauli, was performed at her village Barin in Mandi yesterday.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the authorities for their failure to ensure the safety of government officials after the woman officer was shot dead when she had gone to supervise the demolition of unauthorised constructions, dubbing it a "brazen act".

"We might stop passing any orders if you are going to kill people," a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said after the matter was mentioned before it.

It also asked the state government why the police could not stop the alleged assailant from fleeing the spot after shooting the officer.

Assistant town and country planner Shail Bala Sharma had on Tuesday gone to supervise the demolition of unauthorised construction at Kasauli's Narayani Guest House where its owner Vijay Singh allegedly shot at her. She later succumbed to injuries.

Dubbing the incident as "extremely serious", the top court pulled up the authorities for their failure to ensure safety of officials and said it was quite clear that there was "absolutely no regard" for the rule of law as the public servants had gone there to do their work as per the directions passed by the apex court.
09:55   Woman, son looted and thrown of moving train
And as the government gets going with its plans for a the Bullet train, a woman is looted and pushed off a moving train with her 5-year-old son in Chandauli district in Uttar Pradesh. Both have been admitted to hospital and are undergoing treatment as the police begin investigations.
09:45   Toilet chaiwalla fined Rs 1 lakh
You will be happy to know that the railway tea vendor who used water from the toilet in a train to make tea has been fined Rs 1 lakh by the Indian railways.

The incident came to light in a viral video yesterday where the vendor and one one other were seen bringing out tea or coffee cans from inside the train toilet at the Secunderabad station in Telangana in December 2017.

A Twitter user named Punit Tyagi uploaded a video in which Railway employees were seen filling water in their tea-kettles from the train toilets. Utterly shocked, Punit wrote, "Indian Railways tea. Is there anybody who can look into it'. 
09:39   Rajasthan dust storm toll climbs to 15
Death toll in the dust storm in Rajasthan yesterday goes up to 15 with several injured, says the Disaster Management and Relief Secretary. 
09:38   Trump hires Clinton impeachment lawyer
White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who is dealing with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia, is leaving his position and being replaced by Emmet Flood, the attorney who represented former president Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings.

Cobb's exit would be the latest in a string of top White House departures, including from the president's legal team as Trump wants his lawyers to adopt an aggressive stance to counter the ongoing special counsel investigation.

"Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Veteran Washington lawyer Flood represented Clinton during his 1998-99 impeachment proceedings.

Referring to Ty Cobb as "a friend of the president" who has done a "terrific job", Sanders said the attorney will be retiring at the end of the month.  Cobb had been one of the Trump lawyers pushing the president to cooperate with Mueller, amid an internal debate over whether or not the US President should agree to be interviewed by the special counsel. The news was first reported by The New York Times. -- PTI
09:28   Dust storm claims at least nine lives in Rajasthan
A severe intensity dust storm followed by thunder showers on Wednesday evening claimed at least nine lives in Rajasthan, Tribune reported.

More than two-dozen people were injured after a thatched house collapsed, power poles and trees were uprooted in the two districts as high-intensity squall struck the Matysya region comprising Bharatpur, Dholpur, Alwar and Dausa region, police said.

A detailed report of mishaps is awaited even as teams were pressed into service to rescue trapped people from damaged houses.

The injured have been admitted to government hospitals. The harvested rabi crop was also reportedly damaged.   -- Agencies

IMAGE: Vehicles ride past as the sky darkens with a looming dust storm in Bikaner on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo
08:25   Cambridge Analytica, firm linked to FB data breach, to shut down
Cambridge Analytica, the United Kingdom-based political consulting firm at the heart of the massive data breach of Facebook users worldwide, announced it is shutting down.

The company denies any wrongdoing, but says that the negative media coverage has left it with no clients and mounting legal fees which has forced it to resort to closure.

'Despite Cambridge Analytica's unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company's customers and suppliers,' the company said in a statement.

'As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the company into administration,' it added.

The firm was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients.

According to Facebook, data on up to 87 million of its users was harvested by an app and then passed on to the political consultancy. The social network said its own probe into the matter would continue.

'This doesn't change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again," a Cambridge Analytica (CA) spokesperson said.

The company said its parent company, SCL Elections, would also commence bankruptcy proceedings. This could impact its Indian operations as well.

The chair of a UK Parliament committee investigating the firm's activities also raised concerns about CA and SCL Elections' move to shut down.

"They are party to very serious investigations and those investigations cannot be impeded by the closure of these companies," said MP Damian Collins.

"I think it's absolutely vital that the closure of these companies is not used as an excuse to try and limit or restrict the ability of the authorities to investigate what they were doing," he said.

Cambridge Analytica has been linked to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Trump's campaign denies having used CA's data.

Amid investigations, the British firm suspended CEO Alexander Tayler in April. It sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the US electorate.

The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that appeared to be a personality test.

The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.

Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions.  -- PTI
00:05   Go beyond 'tokenism' in celebrating Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the nation should celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi "in action" and not through "tokenism" and felt the event should be in the form of a mass movement.
Addressing a 'national committee' meeting chaired by President Ram Nath Kovind to plan the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, he told the gathering that the nation should celebrate the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi next year "in action" and not through "tokenism", leaders and officials present at the event said.
The prime minister was of the view that it is not enough to just pay homage to the leader but the government should ensure that he lives amongst the people, the sources said.
Modi also said that Gandhi's works have to be imbibed in life so that generations to come remember him and the celebration should be in the form of a 'jan andolan' (mass movement).
After the meeting, Modi further said in a series of tweets that Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary is a perfect occasion for us to "reiterate our commitment towards fulfilling Bapu's dreams, through our Karyanjali' (and) we should leave no stone unturned in creating an India that would make Bapu very proud".
In another tweet, Modi said Mahatma Gandhi gave his life for the nation and led a movement due to which our generations can breathe the air of freedom and have the privilege of living in a vibrant democracy.
"We should ensure more and more people across the world know about Bapu's greatness," he said.
The PM said the meeting witnessed wide-scale participation, with eminent leaders, CMs, citizens from various walks of life and people from overseas taking an active part. -- PTI