Friday, September 27, 2013

Malala Yousafzai who was shot by Taliban honoured at Harvard

A Pakistani girl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban is being honoured as Harvard University\'s humanitarian of the year. Malala Yousafzai is an outspoken proponent for girls\' education. She was at Harvard on Friday to accept the 2013 Peter J Gomes Humanitarian Award. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust says she was pleased to welcome Malala because of their shared interest in education. The 16-year-old Malala says she\'s hoping to become a politician because politicians can have influence on a broad scale. She spoke nostalgically about her home region, the Swat Valley. She says she hopes to return someday. Malala Yousafzai who was shot by Taliban honoured at Harvard Malala was shot in the head last October. Terrorists say she was attacked because she was critical of the Taliban, not because of her views on education.

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Pakistan Bus Bombing Kills 19

SLAMABAD — In Pakistan, a bomb attack against a bus carrying government workers has killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens more in the insurgency-hit city of Peshawar. Friday\'s violence came days after a pair of suicide bombers attacked a church in the same city and killed more than 80 members of the country\'s minority Christian community.

Witnesses and Pakistani officials said the packed bus was traveling through the outskirts of Peshawar when a remote-control bomb exploded. A number of people were said to be on the roof of the overcrowded bus.

A man told reporters he \"was driving his car behind the bus when the powerful blast ripped open the back end, and those sitting on the roof were thrown on the side.\"

There were women among the victims, and hospital sources said some people were seriously wounded.

The provincial chief of the bomb disposal squad, Shafqat Malik, said the initial probe suggested an improvised explosive device or IED was planted in the back of the bus.

Malik said police \"seized an IED container from the scene along with parts of a remote-control device, and the evidence has led experts to conclude that up to 15 kilograms of explosive material was used.\"

Rescue workers check the wreckage of a bus carrying government employees that was destroyed in a bomb blast, Peshawar, Pakistan, Sept. 27, 2013.

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Friday\'s attack is the second deadly bombing in Peshawar within a week. Last Sunday, a pair of suicide bombers targeted a church in the center of the city as Christian worshipers were finishing their prayers. That attack killed more than 80 members of the minority Christian community.

An outlawed Islamist group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is suspected to be behind the bloodshed. Its members have carried out hundreds of suicide and other deadly terrorist attacks around the country in recent years, killing thousands of Pakistanis.

For nearly a decade, Pakistan\'s army has tried to eliminate bases of the TTP in the northwestern tribal districts bordering Afghanistan. The anti-militancy operations have apparently failed to disrupt the group.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to solve the problem of militancy through peaceful means rather than the military might.

In the wake of continued extremist attacks, Sharif\'s policy of engaging Taliban militants in peace talks has come under severe criticism at home and many critics believe the mounting pressure could prompt the Pakistani government to revisit the strategy.
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Sense of fear and uncertainty as Peshawar toll crosses 80

A lone policeman with a submachine gun is on guard outside St. Thomas church, one of the two big churches in the city. Its huge maroon gates with golden crosses are firmly shut but you can see the large red brick building through the fir trees. Built in 1992 the church had installed CCTV cameras a few months ago for safety. A couple of policemen on a motorcycle occasionally patrol the road.

A parish member and retired government employee, Iqbal (name changed), is wary as he talks outside. The church had asked for increased security in the past and on Sunday there are usually two or three policemen. But he looks up and says, "We leave security to God." He has a special connection with All Saints Church which was the target of a twin suicide bombing in Peshawar on Sunday. His nikah ceremony was performed there in 1978.

Soon after the incident he got in touch with his old Bible study coordinator in Peshawar who lost his wife and daughter. "My wife's uncle broke his leg while he ran for his life and my wife's cousins are in hospital," he says. A shocked Iqbal could only cry as he tried to take in the bombing which has shaken the nation and particularly the minorities.

At the Roman Catholic Our Lady of Fatima church, built in 1979, Father Rahmat Michael Hakim discusses security with a senior officer and reminds him gently that Sunday mass begins at 7 a.m. Outside, again a Kalashnikov-wielding policeman lounges in a chair. There are 4,000 Catholic families in the Islamabad Capital Territory, Fr. Hakim says. The Islamabad Rawalpindi diocese has about two lakh Christians. "First they attacked mosques, now it's the churches. Everyone is saddened by the bombing and there is a great sense of fear and insecurity. We are also planning to install CCTVs but for now the razor wire fencing will have to do," he adds.

Minority rights activist Joseph Francis told The Hindu on the phone from Peshawar that "these attacks were making Christians helpless and forcing us to leave this country. We don't have any security." Speaking after visiting the church and the hospital, he said about 20 to 25 people were missing and while many body parts were found, identification was impossible. He said the church had suffered some damage but the building was intact. Peshawar was tense with protests and what was worrying was the inability of the Lady Reading hospital to handle burns victims, many of them women and children. They had blisters all over and there were only six beds for burns patients, he added.

While the government's proposed talks with the Pakistan Taliban has not materialised, a faction has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The death toll crossed 80 on Monday. The national flag flew at half mast and there were protests in many parts of Pakistan. In Islamabad too, nearly 2,000 people marched shouting slogans against the Taliban and demanding justice.

Candles were lit at D chowk, near the National Assembly, Pakistan's Parliament, and religious and political leaders said it was a mourning (matham) for those who were "martyred" in the bombing and not a protest. Farida Choudhry, a nurse, and her young son who had come carrying placards said there should no religious discrimination and that terrorism should end.

Many women from the Christian-dominated colonies joined the protest beating their chests in sorrow. Mumtaz from Faraz Colony can barely hide her tears. "Sunday is a day entire families go to church and in Peshawar many members of a single family died. We are scared now and we can't imagine this happening to us," she says.
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UN Security Council votes to adopt resolution demanding destruction of Syria\'s chemical weapons

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Friday that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons but does not threaten automatic punitive action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government if it does not comply.

The unanimous vote by the 15-member Security Council capped weeks of intense diplomacy between Russia and the United States. It was based on a deal between the two countries reached in Geneva earlier this month following an Aug. 21 sarin nerve gas attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds.

The U.S.-Russia deal averted punitive U.S. military action against Assad's government, which Washington blamed for the August attack. The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, blamed anti-government rebels for the attack.

One provision of the resolution, described by council diplomats as significant, formally endorses a plan for a political transition in Syria agreed on at an international conference in Geneva in June 2012.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote that the big powers hoped to hold a peace conference on Syria in mid-November in Geneva.

He told the council the plan to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons was "not a license to kill with conventional weapons."
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Iran nuclear: Obama and Rouhani speak by phone

US President Barack Obama has spoken by phone to Iran\'s Hassan Rouhani - the first such top-level conversation in more than 30 years.

Mr Obama spoke of a \"unique opportunity\" to make progress with Iran\'s new leadership, amid a flurry of diplomacy over its nuclear programme.

Earlier, Mr Rouhani said Iran was keen to reach a deal soon.

He also asserted that Iran did not seek a nuclear bomb, as Western powers have long suspected.

Describing meetings at the UN this week as a \"first step\", he said he believed the nuclear issue could be settled \"within the not too distant future\".

Mr Rouhani said initial discussions had taken place in an environment that was \"quite different\" from the past.

Hassan Rouhani\'s actions in New York reveal a man dealing with the inherent, overwhelming contradiction of his job: he has a popular mandate without actual power.

In a speech given on 17 September in Tehran, Ali Khamenei approved the use of \"heroic flexibility\" in diplomacy. This would appear to translate as an instruction to President Rouhani: by all means see what you can get from the Americans, but don\'t go around shaking Obama\'s hand.

The ayatollah-approved outreach in New York included the first sustained direct talks between the US and Iran at foreign minister level for more than 30 years.

Hassan Rouhani may be able to recommend a deal, he may be able to explain how concessions are the best way to get sanctions lifted, and improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. But in the end, it is the supreme leader who will have the final say.

The call with Mr Obama was made just before Mr Rouhani left New York, where he has been attending the annual summit of the UN General Assembly, Iranian news agency Irna said.

White House officials described the 15 minute conversation - apparently initiated by Mr Rouhani - as cordial, the BBC\'s Bridget Kendall reports from New York.

Mr Obama raised concerns about American prisoners in Iran, but the bulk of the call was about efforts to reach a solution on the nuclear issue, she says.

Afterwards, Mr Obama said: \"While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.\"

Mr Rouhani, who is regarded as a moderate and was elected in June, has said he wants to reach a deal over the nuclear issue in three to six months.

He says he is fully empowered by Iran\'s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to negotiate.

On Friday, he told a press conference at the UN: \"Whatever result we achieve through negotiations my government will have the full backing of all the main branches of power in Iran as well as the support of the people of Iran.\"

And he said he wanted a deal \"within a very short period of time\".

\'Bomb is dangerous\'

Earlier the UN\'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had held \"very constructive\" talks with Iran in Vienna.

IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts did not give details of Friday\'s talks, but said the two parties would meet again on 28 October.

\"We will start substantial discussions on the way forward to resolving all outstanding issues,\" Mr Nackaerts said.

Reza Najafi, Iran\'s envoy to the IAEA, was quoted as saying that the aim was to reach an agreement \"as soon as possible\" and also spoke of a \"constructive discussion\".

If Iran\'s new President Hassan Rouhani can deliver what he has been saying in New York - and if the world\'s big powers can reciprocate - then there\'s a real chance to make progress"

On Thursday US Secretary of State John Kerry held a rare meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Mr Kerry said he was struck by the \"very different tone\", but added that Iran still had questions to answer.

There had been speculation that Mr Rouhani and Mr Obama might meet in New York. Mr Rouhani told journalists that \"in principle we did not have any problems with having a meeting\", but \"there was not sufficient time\" for planning the encounter.

The Iranian president rebuffed questions about Iran\'s reliability as a negotiating partner, saying his country wanted to retain nuclear technology but would submit to IAEA supervision.

\"We say explicitly that we do not seek a bomb,\" he said. \"We say explicitly that we believe the building of a bomb is dangerous for us - for our region.\"

The US and China have said they expect Iran to respond to an existing offer by the US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany, who form a negotiating group known as the P5+1.

The group has asked Iran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20% - a step away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

They also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility, near Qom.

Substantive talks between Iran and the P5+1 are due to take place on 15 October, and Mr Rouhani said Iran would bring a plan to that meeting, though he did not give details.
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Pakistan earthquake: Appeal as militants hamper rescue efforts

27 September 2013

Attempts to rescue people trapped by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake in Pakistan are being hampered by insurgent attacks.

Officials in the country have called on militant groups to halt attacks in the south-western province affected by Tuesday\'s quake.

On Thursday an army helicopter carrying the head of Pakistan\'s national disaster agency, Maj Gen Alam Saeed, escaped a rocket attack, reports say.

Shahzeb Jillani reports from Quetta.
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United Nations Security Council votes 15-0 to eliminate Syria\'s chemical weapons

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a draft resolution on eliminating Syria\'s chemical weapons on Friday night with a vote of 15-0.

The text of the resolution, while binding, does not lay out consequences for Syria\'s non-compliance with the resolution, beyond the threat of another resolution that would then be passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the right to authorize the use of force.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon told the Council following the vote that this was a \"historic resolution\" that was \"the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time.\"

\"For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria would require a firm, united response,\" Ban said. \"Tonight, the international community has delivered.\"

Now the Council is turning to the matter of drafting and passing a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria, which could happen as early as Monday according to some reports, and in planning a second Geneva Convention, which Ban told the Council on Friday evening following the vote is currently penciled-in for November.

Uk Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters the Security Council\'s vote was a \"very positive development.\" \"It is a good resolution,\" he said.

\"It makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security. It imposes binding obligations on the Syrian regime, and makes clear in the event of non-compliance the Council will take action.\"

Hague also announced that the British government will be donating $3 million to the OPCW Syrian Trust Fund to assist with Syria\'s humanitarian situation. \"I think it\'s very important now that the international agreement on chemical weapons is followed up by renewed agreements,\" Hague said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who did not speak to reporters following the vote, said in his statement Kerry stressed that in the event Syria does not comply with the Council\'s resolution, \"the Council WILL impose measures under Chapter seven.\"

\"The Security Council tonight has shown that diplomacy can be so powerful, that it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war,\" he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who also chose not to address the press, emphasized that the resolution does not automatically impose sanctions or other \"coercive measures\" on Syria, and that the Security Council must have \"100 percent proof\" of a chemical weapons violation before taking further measures.

All present diplomats made statements on how this resolution was not an excuse for either side to continue using conventional weapons. \"We must work together with the same determination, the same co-operation that has brought us here tonight, in order to end the conflict that continues to tear Syria apart even this very day,\" Kerry said.

\"A red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others,\" Ban said. \"This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jafa\'ari told reporters that his government was ready to fully comply with the Security Council, but also told reporters that the resolution applied to every member state in the UN, including in the sections where it recalls a previous Security Council resolution which, Jafa\'ari said, \"calls on all states from providing all form of support to non-state actors.\"

\"The Syrian government acknowledges the positive endeavor that led to this exceptional language. It is regrettable, however, that some of delegations have already started to provide self-inflicted interpretations in order to derail it from its lofty purposes,\" he added

He also emphasized that the Syrian government voluntarily acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and said \"This proves the Syrian government\'s willingness to cooperate with the OPCW.\"

Jafa\'ari added that his government was completely ready and willing to participate in a Geneva II convention, but would not say whether this would include talks to negotiate a mutually-agreed political transition.

Meanwhile in Washington, Obama juggled two major developments in the Middle East, between the Security Council resolution and an historic call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first such call between the leaders of the US and Iran in over three decades.

\"This binding resolution will ensure that the Assad regime must keep its commitments, or face consequences,\" Obama said at a press conference at the White House.

\"We'll have to be vigilant about following through, but this could be a significant victory for the international community, and demonstrate how strong diplomacy can allow us to secure our country and pursue a better world,\" he said.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have for months pushed for more aggressive US involvement in Syria to aid the opposition, immediately released a statement pouring cold water on the resolution.

\"This resolution is another triumph of hope over reality,\" the senators said in a prepared statement. \"It contains no meaningful or immediate enforcement mechanisms, let alone a threat of the use of force for the Assad regime's non-compliance. The whole question of enforcement has been deferred.\"

But a senior administration official told reporters on Friday that the resolution was an achievement that went beyond what a military campaign could have accomplished.

\"This would, frankly, go beyond achieving the objective that we were contemplating with military action,\" the official said.
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Muzaffarnagar riots: Meerut DM imposes ban orders on proposed pro-Som ...

Authorities have banned the holding of a panchayat in favour of arrested BJP MLA Sangeet Som in Meerut district on September 29. \"The administration has banned the proposed all-caste panchayat at Janata Inter College in Kheda village in the Sardhana area to press for the withdrawal of the National Security Act invoked against Som,\" a state home department spokesman said. \"In view of the bad experience of the panchayat held in Muzaffarnagar recently, the Meerut district magistrate has totally banned the holding of panchayats of any kind,\" the spokesman said. Muzaffarnagar riots: Meerut DM imposes ban orders on proposed pro-Som panchayat The DM has issued strict orders for the officials concerned to prevent any kind of panchayat from being organised in the district, the spokesman added. Som has been accused of uploading a fake video that played a role in provoking the recent communal tensions in Muzaffarnagar and for making inflammatory speeches.

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Diplomats from 35 foreign missions to attend Modi\'s Delhi rally

Diplomats from around 35 foreign missions are likely to attend Narendra Modi\'s rally in New Delhi on Sunday but the US Embassy and the British High Commission have conveyed to BJP they will not be able to honour the invite. BJP Overseas Cell Convenor Vijay Jolly said he had sent invitations to over 50 foreign missions out of which 36 have confirmed their participation. \"The US Embassy has informed us that Ambassador Nancy Powell is in the Washington and she will not be able to honour the invite. British High Commissioner James Bevan is also travelling abroad. So he will not also be able to attend the rally,\" Goel said. Diplomats from 35 foreign missions to attend Modi\'s Delhi rally BJP had invited the US Ambassador to Modi\'s rally notwithstanding the denial of visa to the Gujarat Chief Minister by the US. After Modi was anointed BJP\'s prime ministerial candidate on September 14, the US had said there was no change in its visa policy with regard to the BJP leader and that he was welcome to apply for the same. In 2005, the US had denied Modi a diplomatic visa and revoked his existing tourist/business visa over allegations of human rights violations during the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Britain had ended its decade-long boycott of Modi nearly a year ago but maintained that engagement with the Gujarat Chief Minister was not an endorsement of him. Jolly said invitations for the rally have been sent to embassies of various European countries, African nations and countries in the neighbourhood. He, however, said no invitation was sent to Pakistan High Commission. \"I am happy about positive response to our invitation to the rally by various foreign embassies. 36 embassies have so far conveyed to us that diplomats representing their countries will attend the rally. We have invited them as Modi has a global outreach,\" Jolly added.

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Chemist assault case: 3 UP policemen among five arrested

Five persons, including three Uttar Pradesh police personnel, engaged in the security of a Samajwadi Party leader, were on Friday arrested for allegedly beating up a chemist after he failed to provide a medicine they had asked for, police said. The chemist based in South Delhi had accused the daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party leader of getting him beaten up after he failed to provide the medicine. The chemist had claimed that they had come to buy the medicine for the daughter-in-law of the SP leader. The incident, which was caught on the CCTV camera installed in the shop happened on September 17. Delhi Police had filed an FIR in the case on Thursday, after a week\'s delay.

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Durga Shakti Nagpal shifted to Kanpur

Lucknow: Less than a week after revocation of her suspension, Uttar Pradesh IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who had taken on sand mining mafia in Gautam Budh Nagar district, was tonight posted as Joint Magistrate of Kanpur (Rural).

Nagpal, who was awaiting posting after the revocation of her suspension, had allegedly earned the wrath of the state government for her action against the mafia during her tenure as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar.

The 28-year-old officer was suspended on July 27 before her suspension was withdrawn on Sunday last after she along with her husband, also an IAS officer, had a meeting with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The suspension of the 2009-batch IAS officer had triggered a major controversy.

Besides Nagpal, 24 other IAS officers were transferred in an administrative reshuffle carried out by the state government which saw the posting of new district magistrates of Lakhimpur Kheri, Pilibhit, Etah, Mirzapur, Banda, Ambedkarnagar Fatehpur and Kannauj, an official spokesman said.

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JPC Report accuses ex-telecom minister A Raja of misleading Manmohan Singh

With the support of outside allies BSP and SP and absence of JD(U) members, Government on Friday managed to have its way in the JPC on 2G scam when the panel approved the draft report giving clean chit to prime minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram with a 16-11 vote in its favour. The committee's term was supposed to end on the last day of the winter session of parliament this year.

Eleven opposition members, including BJP's 5 and one each of BJD, TMC, CPI, CPI(M), AIADMK and DMK voted against the Joint Parliamentary Committee report that accused former telecom minister A Raja of "misleading" the PM and "belying" the assurances given to him.

The report, which was circulated among members in April also accuses Raja of forging the press note of January 7, 2008 after it was seen by the then Solicitor General G E Vahanvati. The report was critical of the decision taken by the then NDA government to grant concessions to telecom operators over non-recovery of "huge amount" of licence fee despite opposition by then telecom minister Jagmohan.

JPC chairman PC Chacko said he had requested the members to adopt the report unanimously and to give their dissent notes which will be made part of the bound report.

"In a divided polity, this is the maximum I could do." He said that the members did not agree and he had to put the question to vote.

Deputy leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told dna that he will be putting in a "strong dissent note". He called the adoption of report as a "black day in the annals of parliamentary democracy" and escribed it as a "bail out report".

DMK's TR Baalu told dna that he had written repeatedly to Chacko to circulate the documents related to the 2G cases in the Delhi High Court proceedings as well as those in the Supreme Court, but he did not respond. Baalu said on his part he gave copies of the affidavits that the Department of Telecoomunication has filed in the courts, where the officers involved in the decision-making were defended as having done the right. Baalu argued that if the department's officers had done the right thing, then former telcom minister A Raja cannot be included in the list of the accused.
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Mumbai: Death toll in building collapse rises to 25, 32 injured

Mumbai: A 4-storey residential building collapsed on Friday on the Dockyard road in south Mumbai, killing 25 people and injuring 32 others. Around 30 people have been rescued so far.

The incident raised questions over whether Mumbai\'s Municipal Corporation ignored repeated warnings about the safety of the Dockyard building that collapsed yesterday.

The building owned by Brihanmumnai Municipal Corporation has registered a police case against one \'Mamamiyan Decorator\' who had a godown in the ground floor for illegal construction. It has also ordered an audit of all similar buildings in the city.

Four of the deceased have been identified as Lakhoji Devji Chawda (60), Jamuna Chawda (30) Anil Chawda (19) and Santosh (44). The injured have been admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital and Nair Hospital.

About 21 families, who were BMC\'s tenants, lived in the 30-year-old structure. It was categorised as a C-2 building, which meant that it was in need of urgent repairs.

The kin of the missing wailed as a heavy machinery lifted large slabs of concrete and rescue workers looked for the dead or survivors under the rubbles of the building.

The building is located on Brahmadev Khot Marg near Babu Genu market in the Mazgaon area, which is close to the Dockyard Road railway station on the harbour railway line.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan held a meeting with senior officials and asked them to ensure effective relief and rescue operation. He also visited the site of the collapse to review rescue operations.

\"The rescue operation is a slow and painful process because people are stuck inside. Due to RCC slabs there are many air pockets and cavities where people are stuck and are alive. After 15-16 hours there are still people who are brought out alive,\" he said.

The affected families would be given alternative accommodation in the vicinity. It has also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the family of the deceased.
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India, US agree on first deal in civil N-power

India and the US have reached the first commercial agreement on civilian nuclear power, five years after a landmark deal between the two countries was clinched.

Addressing a joint media interaction after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Barack Obama on Friday said the two countries had sealed the agreement.

\"We\'ve made enormous progress on the issue of civilian nuclear power, and in fact, have been able to achieve just in the last few days an agreement on the first commercial agreement between a US company and India on civilian nuclear power,\" Obama said.

Talks between Obama and Singh also focused on Pakistan. Singh said he was looking forward to meeting Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif at the weekend, but added expectations for the talks should be toned down.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks as US President Barack Obama looks on, during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Singh and Sharif are expected to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Saturday, as they reach for better relations despite heightened cross border tensions.

"I look forward to the meeting with ... Nawaz Sharif even though the expectations have to be toned down," Singh told reporters in the Oval Office after the meeting.

Singh told Obama India was facing difficulties because the "epicentre of terrorist activity remains focused in Pakistan".

Deadly skirmishes across the border Kashmir have jeopardised plans for the meeting in New York, which would come months after peace talks again stalled between the two neighbours.
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Ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers: Rahul calls it \'nonsense\'

Rahul Gandhi jolted the UPA government and left Prime Minister Manmohan Singh out on a limb on Friday by trashing a controversial ordinance designed to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi speaks during a Meet the Press programme at Press Club in New Delhi as party general secretary Ajay Maken looks on. (PTI photo)

\"My opinion of the ordinance is that it is complete nonsense and should be torn up and thrown away,\" the normally reticent Congress vice-president said of a piece of legislation steered by the PM and widely thought to have the backing of top Congress leaders.

Rahul\'s condemnation of the ordinance, which now looks dead in the water, exposed divisions between ruling party and government and undermined the position of PM Singh at the worst possible time -- two days before talks with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and hours before a meeting with Barack Obama in New York.

spokesperson Ajay Maken at the Press Club of India and proceeded to demolish the controversial legislation before stunned partymen and journalists.

\"What the government has done is wrong,\", he said, adding that it was high time that political parties stopped taking decisions based on political considerations. The ordinance overturns a Supreme Court ruling mandating disqualification of convicted lawmakers facing at least a two-year jail sentence.

The Congress was trying to push it through despite a bill pending in Parliament, possibly to protect party Rajya Sabha MP Rasheed Masood and ally Lalu Prasad. But President Pranab Mukherjee, who has to sign the ordinance, is understood to have demurred, and sought clarifications. Who stands to lose?

Calls for the PM\'s head grew, with many observers seeing his position as untenable in light of Rahul\'s outburst and the likely stillbirth of the ordinance. But he appeared determined to soldier on, saying in New York that he would take up the matter on his return. But the government looked set to withdraw the ordinance.

Later, a letter Rahul wrote to the PM was made available to the media, which said, "I realize that what I feel about the ordinance is not in harmony with the cabinet decision and the core group's view… You know I have the highest respect for you… I hope you will understand the strength of my own conviction about this very controversial issue."

Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP\'s Arun Jaitley, was scathing in his criticism. \"This is the highly belated realisation of what constitutes nonsense.....well the government makes mistakes, rest of the world makes mistakes, but the first family of the Congress doesn\'t make mistakes,\" he said.

Congress politicians, who had either been silent about their opposition to the ordinance or actively justified it to the media, quickly fell in line with Rahul, who many see as a possible successor to the PM if the UPA were to return to power in 2014.

\"Today was the most appropriate day. He chose to speak at the decisive moment before the President was to take a decision,\" said a senior party leader.

Party leaders declined to confirm whether the issue of bringing an ordinance was discussed by the top Congress leadership during its core committee meeting last week.

Maken, who had started the interaction by explaining the need for the ordinance, said when asked whether it would be withdrawn: \"Rahul ji\'s opinion is the opinion and the line of Congress... Now Congress party is opposed to this ordinance. The views of Congress party should always be supreme.\"

Some Congress leaders including Digvijaya Singh, Milind Deora and Sandeep Dikshit had expressed their reservations against the move.
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Yuvraj-Nayar show powers Blue into Challenger final

INDORE: After missing the opening match against Delhi due to a back strain, Yuvraj Singh took his appointed place as captain of the India Blue team and immediately made an impact.

He was at his attacking best and along with another left-hander, Abhishek Nayar, put up a stand of 151 off just 78 balls.

That partnership helped the team notch up a massive 345 for four. Left with a mountain to climb, India Red batsmen made a valiant effort but fell 11 runs short.

This win helped India Blue, qualify for the final. On Sunday they will face the winners of the last league game between India Red and Delhi, who meet on Saturday.

While it was a memorable outing for Yuvraj, it was a forgettable match for India Red captain Yusuf Pathan. The only thing that went right for him was the toss. But he erred in asking India Blue to make first use of the flat track at Holkar stadium.

After the Blues posted the formidable total, it was time for Yusuf to make amends with the bat. But he lasted barely two deliveries and was caught off his counterpart\'s delivery. Despite Yusuf\'s flop show, the other batsmen tried gamely and made the match seem a close affair.

Yuvraj has been in good form of late after his fitness stint in France. Recently he had three productive knocks against West Indies \'A\'.

Here, he was given a good platform by Akshath Reddy and Manish Pandey, who put on 143 for the second wicket. Yuvraj began tentatively as Umesh Yadav beat his on a few occasions.

But once he got his eye in, he mercilessly slaughtered the bowling attack. With an 84-run knock off just 53 balls, with six boundaries and five sixes, he only enhanced his chances of making a comeback into the Indian team.

Nayar too did his reputation no harm, matching Yuvi stroke for stroke in his 39-ball 63, his second half-century in as many games.

He hammered half-a-dozen fours and four sixes, batting in the same impressive manner as he had against Delhi.

A goodly crowd got their entertainment as 679 runs came in 100 overs, with as many as 21 sixes and 58 fours hit during the match. But it also showed that India\'s pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav are rusty.
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Another Mumbai teenager shines with bat for India U-19

If it was Sarfaraz Khan on Wednesday, it was the turn of another Mumbai teenager, Shreyas Iyer, to post a match-winning century in the ongoing U-19 quadrangular series in Visakhapatnam.

Eighteen-year-old Iyer scored a breezy 109 off just 67 deliveries with 10 fours and half-a-dozen sixes against Australia U-19 to set a strong foundation from where the hosts posted their third successive victory on Friday. Though the margin was only 18 runs in a rain-curtailed enoucnter, it was a match thoroughly dominated by India U-19.

India U-19 posted 321/5 in 50 overs at the ACA-VDCA Stadium. Australia U-19 were 156/3 in 30 overs when rain interrupted play. At that stage, Australia's score should have been 175 by D/L method.

The right-handed middle-order batsman Shreyas hogged the limelight with his first century for India U-19 since making it the squad on the tour of Australia in June-July this year.

"I am very happy with my century," Shreyas said after his chanceless knock. "The Australian trip was not good for me personally. I hardly got any chance and even when I did, I could not score big. I wanted to do something. To survive at this level, I only had to keep scoring runs."

Runs did flow from Shreyas's bat in the ensuing 'Test' series in Sri Lanka. He scored 65, 84 and 22* and with his confidence high, was automatically picked up for the quadrangulars.

A resident of Worli, the B. Com second year student of Podar College said he had to choose between football and cricket in school.

"My father told me to choose any one and it was cricket," Shreyas said.

Unlike youngsters who usually idolise someone, Shreyas doesn't have any. "I want to be myself, now that I have come to a certain level. But I admire AB de Villiers because he is suitable for all formats," he said.

Shreyas had a remarkable run in last season's Cooch Behar, scoring three tons and a half-century in seven matches.

"My start was not good. I fell for a duck against Himachal Pradesh in Dharamsala. But in the second innings, I scored 110 not out. That ton was the turning point of my career so far," Shreyas said.

India U-19 coach Bharat Arun is impressed with Shreyas' talent. "He is an intelligent cricketer who can adapt to any given situation. He is technically a good player and an outstanding fielder. He can rally the team around him. He is a selfless cricketer with the team's interest on top," he said.

Madhya Pradesh's Bhui and Shreyas shared 170 for the fourth wicket to frustrate the Australians.

The current India U-19 is on the right track in its preparation for the junior World Cup in Dubai early next year. And, Shreyas wants to be part of it. "Obviously, I want to play for the senior Indian team. But I should not think about it now and will take things as they come. My immediate goal is to play in the U-19 World Cup," he said.
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SC allows Srinivasan to contest BCCI polls, but conditions apply

Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 | Place: New Delhi |

Two days before the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI), the noose around its president N Srinivasan has been tightened after the Supreme Court directed on Friday that "he won't be allowed to take control till it decides on his fate."

With this, the pressure is now mounting on Srinivasan not to seek a third year as president of the BCCI in view of his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, who was team principal of Chennai Super Kings, being charged by Mumbai police with betting during this year's Indian Premier League.

A senior BCCI official has now told dna that "a serious rethink has been going on before the Sunday's AGM", and there is a strong possibility that it could even be postponed to some other date in order to buy some time.

"This is a huge embarrassment to all of us in BCCI. No one is above the game of cricket and certainly we will put pressure on Srinivasan to reconsider his earlier decision to contest third term.

"But as there is little time left, there is a likelihood that all the members could be persuaded to postpone it for few days to avoid any further embarrassment," said a senior Board official on condition of anonymity.

Asked why no one is coming out in the open to oppose Srinivasan, the official stated, "Don't think that everyone in BCCI is mutely watching all the wrong doings. Don't forget that it was pressure from all of us which forced him (Srinivasan) to step aside some three months back. This time, too, our silence should not be taken as our surrender," the official added.

Srinivasan enjoys a comfortable majority within the state associations and the outcome of the election is hardly in doubt if he decides to contest the elections.

"A postponement could be a suitable step right now because what will happen if he wins election and then the Supreme Court rules against him?" asked the BCCI functionary.

"Will it then not be a huge embarrassment for the game of cricket? And, no one but Srinivasan would be responsible for that."

The Apex Court, while allowing Srinivasan to contest the election, has nevertheless clipped his wings by stating that "he can only discharge his duties after the Court decides on his fate."

Srinivasan's lawyers argued that his daughter chose his son-in-law and not him. But he failed to explain Meiyappan's presence at the CSK team dug-out during the IPL matches.

During the hearing, a bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik remarked: "Why he is in charge (as the BCCI president) if his son-in-law is chargesheeted? Why are you (Srinivasan) so keen to be elected?"

Even if Srinivasan took no time to demote his son-in-law from the post of "team principal" to a mere "cricket enthusiast", no one, including the Apex Court, is ready to take his argument seriously.

Mumbai police has chargesheeted Meiyappan for various crimes, including betting on his own team matches. The court directed the matter be listed for Monday.

Cricket Association of Bihar secretary Aditya Verma on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking to restrain Srinivasan from getting re-elected as the president of the BCCI on the ground that his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan is facing probe on the allegations of spot fixing and betting.
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CLT20 stats: Sachin Tendulkar has gone ten innings without a half-century for Mumbai Indians

Mumbai kept their Champions League Twenty20 semi-final hopes alive after a comfortable seven-wicket victory over Highveld Lions in Jaipur on Friday. Chasing 141 for victory, Dwayne Smith\'s 47-ball 63 powered Mumbai home with 9 balls to spare. However Sachin Tendulkar\'s run-drought continued after he was bowled by Sohail Tanvir for five. The Master Blaster has now gone ten innings in Twenty20 cricket without a half-century. Following are the statistical highlights of the game between Mumbai and the Lions:
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Amitabh Bachchan tops Screen Survey 2013, has the biggest brand value

the One-Man Industry with him topping the Screen Survey as an actor with the biggest brand value in Bollywood.

After topping the Screen Annual Survey 2012 on the biggest legend of all times, Amitabh Bachchan tops the Screen Annual Survey 2013 yet again.

Also read: Amitabh Bachchan tops Screen Survey 2013, Shah Rukh Khan at No. 2

Thirty seven per cent believe that he is the biggest brand in Bollywood today. Leagues ahead of the current crop of actors, which include Shah Rukh Khan (14 per cent), who propelled the brand wave in the nineties to the new-age turk Ranbir Kapoor (8 per cent). Interestingly, a quality associated with the legend is \'Humility\' — the only actor with that distinction on the survey.

As an individual though, the actor, who\'s been showered with many monikers to his credit include the Angry Young Man, the One-Man Industry, Shahenshah and Big B, continues to loom large over the world of Indian cinema and entertainment at 71.

Screen Survery 2013: Salman Khan at No. 3, scores on his charisma

In the 40-odd years of his life as an entertainer, he\'s done it all —films, television hosting, stage-shows, music, dance, voice overs and he also holds fort in cyberspace. In the past one year, he\'s added more feathers to his cap with being the first Indian actor to carry the Olympic torch during the last leg of its relay in London\'s Southwark and a cameo debut in Hollywood as a non-Indian Jew in Baz Luhrman\'s The Great Gatsby.

Ask what makes Bachchan special during the survey, and qualities like Talented (18 %t), Excellent at his craft (12 %), Intelligence (11 %), Hard working (8 %) and Versatile (6 %) were attributed to him. Bachchan seems to also fulfill all the criteria listed in the survey to be the biggest brand — presence on social networking sites and appreciation in Hollywood and international forums. There\'s no dearth on the latter, which got triggered off in 1999, where Bachchan was awarded \'the greatest star of stage or screen\' of the millennium in a BBC online poll followed by the installation of his wax statue in the prestigious Madame Tussaud\'s Wax Museum making him the first living Asian to be featured there. It\'s no wonder that 41 per cent believe that there\'s no better brand ambassador than Big B for Indian cinema on a global platform.
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Ranveer Singh hospitalised, contracts a severe case of dengue

Friday, Sep 27, 2013 |

Just yesterday the living legend Dilip Kumar was discharged from Mumbai's Lilavati hospital, and the latest we hear is Ranveer Singh has been admitted to a suburban hospital.

Ranveer, a known workaholic who rarely takes a break, was made to take one after his health took a turn for the worse, as the actor complained of discomfort and illness. The Yash Raj discovery contracted an infection and high fever during the on-going Durgapur shoot of Gunday but chose to continue to shoot as per the schedule, so as to not cause any inconvenience and loss to the production.

On his return to Mumbai he was diagnosed with a severe case of dengue fever. Singh is presently admitted to a suburban hospital. Hospital sources expressed their surprise at his having continued to work in spite of his severe condition though it cannot be presently said how long Singh will take before he is back in action, though he is in a very positive state of mind!

Hope RS gets well soon so that he can resume work on Gunday starring Priyanka Chopra and Arjun Kapoor on a healthy note, though sadly he'll miss out on the celebrations at Yash Raj studio where Shahrukh Khan will walk the ramp with B-town divas. Get well soon, Ranveer!
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Why Aman Varma refused Mallika Sherawat\'s show

Mumbai, September 27, 2013

As Mallika Sherawat's show, The Bachelorette India — Mere Khayalon Ki Mallika, readies to go on air, the makers are busy roping in popular faces for the show.

While Rohit Roy will host it, Rahul Mahajan and Sunny Deol will be seen as Mallika's friends. The channel even approached Aman

Varma for the show. He tells us why he declined the offer.

We've heard you were asked to be part of Mallika's show.

There were talks. I was offered the chance, but I was clear from the start that I would not do it. There was no reason for me to be a participant. So, they (the channel) revised the offer and asked me to appear in the capacity of a friend to help her choose from the various guys vying for her. I agreed as it was a fair portrayal. But they wanted me for a longer duration.

So we won't see you as a friend on her show?

No. I'm currently doing Shapath for the same channel and it's their top show right now. I needed to be part of something that was successful, as it's been some time (since I had a hit show). I'm thrilled that my show is doing so well. A while ago, it was on the verge of shutting down. So leaving this show was out of the question.

What do you think of Mallika and her show? Would you do something like this ever?

I admire her. Starting from a small town in Haryana as a divorcee and becoming a global sex symbol is commendable. Which actor from India has had dinner with Obama (Barack; the US President)? That is an achievement in itself. As for whether I would do a show like this? Not today. But a few months down the line, who knows?
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Corp affairs ministry probe widens into NSEL associates

The corporate affairs ministry has widened its scope of probe in the NSEL case. Apart from seeking account details of Financial Technologies-promoted National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) from Registrar of Companies (RoC) Mumbai, the ministry has also sought financial reports and other details from the FTIL Group and other related entities.

NSEL is already being probed by various other regulators and investigative agencies with regard to a Rs 5,600-crore payment default and persistent violations of various regulations.

\"As far as ministry of corporate affairs is concerned, we will look at all companies and all entities in question and we have asked for reports from the registrar of companies for all the numbers, figures, balance sheets, financial statements and to see if there has been any company law violations,\" Sachin Pilot, corporate affairs minister, told reporters here. \"As soon as we get reports from RoC on all the companies that are under question, we will take action,\" he added.

On Thursday, finance minister P Chidambaram had said that NSEL was violating rules from the day one and the matter was being looked into by MCA, CBI and commodity markets regulator FMC.

Meanwhile, accounting regulator Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) in a press conference said that it has referred to the disciplinary committee the matter involving auditors of NSEL following a formal complaint against the exchange. As such, it has sought details related to FTIL, after the firm\'s auditor withdrew the audit reports this week.

\"We have referred the matter (of NSEL auditor) to the disciplinary committee. A complaint in the NSEL has been filed and an enquiry has been initiated,\" Subodh Kumar Agrawal, president, ICAI, said.

However, he did not reveal the name of the complainant. The audited accounts were withdrawn a day before FTIL\'s annual shareholder meeting on September 25.
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FIPB clears Mylan\'s acquisition of Strides Arcolab subsidiary Agila Specialities

NEW DELHI: The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has recommended Mylan Inc\'s Rs 5,168-crore acquisition of Strides ArcolabBSE -2.07 % subsidiary Agila Specialities to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for final clearance. The board also cleared 15 foreign direct investment (FDI) proposal worth Rs 2,000 crore, the finance minister said in a statement on Friday.

The FIPB had considered these proposals on August 27.

The board recommended IDFC Trustee Company\'s proposal to set up an alternate investment fund for the consideration of the CCEA. The expected foreign inflow is Rs 5,500 crore.

The cleared proposals include that of Jubilant Pharma Pte, Singapore ( Rs 1145.1 crore), Lotus Surgical Specialities ( Rs 150 crore), Symbiotec Pharmalab ( Rs 306.19 crore) and Advanced Enzyme Technologies ( Rs 200 crore). The FIPB has deferred decisions on 10 FDI proposals, including that of Hindustan Coca-Cola Holdings Pvt Ltd, HBO India Pvt Ltd, P5 Asia Holding Investments (Mauritius) Ltd, Australia Asia Resources LLP ( USA) and Dhanlaxmi Infrastructure Pvt Ltd.
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FM backs priority sector tag for exports

| Sep 28, 2013,

MUMBAI: Finance minister P Chidambaram has said that his ministry supported the demand for including exports under priority sector finance and will take up the matter with the Reserve Bank of India.

Priority sector refers to the business activity identified by the regulator with mandatory lending targets. Banks not meeting the targets have to invest in low-yielding government funds for that sector.

Addressing a gathering organized by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations on Friday, the finance minister said, \"One community that cannot complain about the movement of the rupee are exporters . The rupee has to find its own level, whatever that level is. We feel that 59-60 is the right level for the rupee,\" he said.
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Unlisted companies can directly list abroad

| Sep 28, 2013,

NEW DELHI: The government said on Friday that it will allow unlisted Indian companies to list directly and raise capital overseas to retire debt or for acquisitions or operational needs abroad. The move comes at a time when the government is battling to trim the current account deficit and attract dollar inflows.

A finance ministry statement said unlisted Indian companies would be allowed for two years, on a pilot basis, to list and raise capital abroad without the requirement of prior or subsequent listing in the country . \"At present, unlisted companies that are incorporated in India are not allowed to directly list in overseas markets without prior or simultaneous listing in Indian markets,\" the statement said. After the initial two year period, the impact of this arrangement will be reviewed . While raising resources abroad, the listing company shall be fully compliant with the FDI policy in force, the finance ministry said. In case funds raised are not utilized abroad such companies would be asked to remit the money back to India within 15 days and these funds would be parked only in AD category banks recognized by RBI.
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Moily hints at reduction in petrol price in next few days

Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily today hinted at a reduction in price of petrol in next few days, the first cut in rates in over five months. The reduction in rates is likely to be announced by the month end as per the practice of fortnightly revision in prices, and has been made possible due to appreciation of rupee against the US dollar. Also read: \'Diesel EPP is nothing but short sighted election politics\' \"This is all dynamic pricing system and not static pricing... any advantage of price (reduction in international rates) and rupee (appreciation against US dollar) will be passed on to consumers... consumer will get full advantage,\" he said. Asked if a cut in petrol price was possible on September 30, he said \"hope so.\" \"Petrol price is a deregulated commodity, price of which is decided by our oil marketing companies based on input cost and other parameters,\" he said. If state-owned oil firms cut rates at month end, it will be the first reduction in prices since May. Petrol price was last cut on May 1 by Rs 3 per litre, the steepest reduction in rates in over five years. However, since then petrol prices have been raised or gone up by seven times, totalling Rs 10.80 per litre, excluding VAT, as rupee depreciated sharply against the rupee. The price in Delhi has surged by Rs 13.06 per litre after including state tax, since June 1. Last increase in petrol price was effected from September 14 when prices went up by Rs 1.63 per litre. Petrol costs Rs 76.06 per litre in Delhi.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Larsen & Toubro bags orders worth Rs 2,683 cr

September 26, 2013 |

Engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) on Thursday said it has bagged new orders worth Rs 2,683 crore in the current month across various segments both in the domestic and overseas markets.

\"L&T Construction has won new orders worth Rs 2,683 crore during September 2013 across various business segments,\" the company said in a statement.

The firm has bagged orders worth Rs 1,334 crore in the water and renewable energy sector, it said.

\"Three of the major turnkey orders received are from the Public Health Engineering Department of Rajasthan for integrated regional drinking water supply projects linking several towns and 650 villages in Barmer, Banswara and Pratapgarh districts,\" it added.

The company secured new projects worth Rs 1,194 crore for its buildings and factories business, including an order for design and construction of a mega residential project in Chennai.

\"The power transmission & distribution business has bagged an international order worth Rs 155 crore from a reputed customer in UAE\", it added.
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Market hits fresh intraday high

Key benchmark indices extended gains and hit fresh intraday high in mid-afternoon trade as index heavyweight ITC reversed intraday losses. The barometer index, the S&P BSE Sensex, was up 103.21 points or 0.52%, off about 20 points from the day\'s high and up close to 130 points from the day\'s low. The market breadth, indicating the overall health of the market, was positive. Gains in rupee and bond prices underpinned sentiment on the bourses. Bond prices rose after the Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday, 25 September 2013, said it would ensure that adequate cash is available in the banking system to meet demand for loans, as liquidity conditions have become tight following last week\'s surprise interest-rate increase.

Capital goods pivotals extended recent gains. L&T rose after the company\'s construction division won new orders worth Rs 2683 crore during September 2013. IT stocks were mixed. Wipro rose ahead of its inclusion in 50-unit CNX Nifty index tomorrow, 27 September 2013. Coal India extended intraday gains.

A bout of initial volatility was witnessed as key benchmark indices alternately swung between gains and losses. Volatility continued as key benchmark indices regained positive terrain after slipping into the red after hitting fresh intraday high in morning trade. The Sensex hovered in green after hitting fresh intraday high in mid-morning trade. Key benchmark indices retained positive zone after hitting fresh intraday high in early afternoon trade. Key benchmark indices pared gains in afternoon trade as European stocks edged lower in early trade there. The market regained strength in mid-afternoon trade.

The market may remain volatile during the last one hour or so of trade as traders roll over positions in the futures & options (F&O) segment from the near month September 2013 series to October 2013 series. The September 2013 F&O contracts expire today, 26 September 2013.

At 14:20 IST, the S&P BSE Sensex was up 103.21 points or 0.52% to 19,959.45. The index jumped 124.08 points at the day\'s high of 19,980.32 in mid-afternoon trade, its highest level since 24 September 2013. The index declined 29.25 points at the day\'s low of 19,826.99 in early trade.

The CNX Nifty was up 34.05 points or 0.58% to 5,907.90. The index hit a high of 5,912.40 in intraday trade, its highest level since 24 September 2013. The index hit a low of 5,864.10 in intraday trade.

The market breadth, indicating the overall health of the market, was positive. On BSE, 1,147 shares rose and 1,031 shares dropped. A total of 152 shares were unchanged.

Among the 30-share Sensex pack, 17 stocks rose and rest of them fell. Sun Pharmaceutical Industries (up 2.46%), Sesa Sterlite (up 2.01%) and HDFC (up 1.56%), edged higher from the Sensex pack.

Index heavyweight and cigarette maker ITC rose 0.93% to Rs 348.25, with the stock reversing intraday losses. The stock came off the day\'s low of Rs 341.05.

Coal India rose 3.14%, with the stock extending intraday gains.

Capital goods pivotals extended recent gains. Bhel rose 3.68%, with the stock extending intraday gain.

L&T rose 0.65% after the company said its construction division has won new orders worth Rs 2683 crore during September 2013 across various business segments in the domestic and international markets.

IT stocks were mixed. HCL Technologies was off 0.96%. The company announced on Wednesday, 25 September 2013, that its wholly-owned subsidiary, HCL America Inc (HCLA), has won a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with the WyCAN Consortium, a group of states including Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming. HCLA will enable WyCAN to significantly improve services for its Unemployment Insurance (UI) modernization program, which is one of the largest such programs in the US providing critical income to millions of unemployed Americans.

The deal will give the consortium states a configurable, intuitive Government-to-Citizen (G2C) system aimed at consolidating and replacing existing legacy systems to allow easier adaptation to changing legislation, HCL Technologies said in a statement.

Infosys gained 0.19%. TCS declined 0.18%.

Wipro rose ahead of its inclusion in 50-unit CNX Nifty index tomorrow, 27 September 2013. The stock was up 2.18%, with the stock extending intraday gain. The IT major replaces Reliance Infrastructure in Nifty.

State-run Oriental Bank of Commerce rose 0.16 %. The bank has raised the interest rate on term deposits in the maturity bucket 2 years to less than 3 years to 9% from 8.75% with effect from 25 September 2013.

Bank of India gained 1.93%. The bank said during market hours today, 26 September 2013, that it has completed the allotment of Rs 1000 crore BASEL-III compliant unsecured, Tier-II Bonds of 10 years at a coupon rate of 9.8% per annum on private placement basis to Life Insurance Corporation of India. The issue has been rated AAA by CRISlL.

Aarti Drugs slumped 6.25% after the company said it has recently received a warning letter from USFDA. The company said that its USFDA site at Tarapur was inspected by the US drug regulator in October 2012. Subsequently, the company submitted its response to USFDA. The company said that it has recently received a warning letter from USFDA pertaining to some of the company\'s responses to the USFDA inspection which need to be further corrected. The company further said that it has already submitted an initial response to USFDA in this regard. Aarti Drugs said that it has hired a US based FDA consultant to further review the company\'s responses and send another detailed response by 15 October 2013. The company said that it is putting efforts to further enhance the quality systems to avoid such things in future. Aarti Drugs continues to cooperate with FDA to resolve the issues at the earliest, it said.

Bond prices rose after the Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday, 25 September 2013, said that it is closely and continuously monitoring liquidity conditions in the banking system and will take actions as appropriate, including open market operations, to ensure that adequate liquidity is available to support the flow of credit to productive sectors of the economy. The yield on the benchmark federal paper 7.16% GS 2023 was hovering at 8.7078%, lower than its close of 8.7862% on Wednesday, 25 September 2013. Bond prices and bond yields are inversely related.

The RBI said that liquidity conditions in the banking system have been tightening due to uncertainties around the government borrowing programme for the second half of 2013-14 as well as the prospective effects of banks\' half-yearly account closure, the seasonal pick-up in credit demand, festival-related demand for currency and sluggish deposit growth. The RBI last week began a calibrated unwinding of the exceptional measures undertaken since July so as to restore normalcy to financial flows. Currently, the RBI is injecting about Rs 1.5 lakh crore into the system on a daily basis through the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF), the export credit refinance facility (ECR) and the marginal standing facility (MSF) taken together, the RBI said.

In the foreign exchange market, the rupee edged higher against the dollar after the RBI eased norms for providing swaps to banks that are borrowing funds overseas. The partially convertible rupee was hovering at 62.18, compared with its close of 62.44/45 on Wednesday, 25 September 2013.

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday relaxed the minimum maturity tenure for banks\' foreign currency borrowings\' to one year from three years, in order to use the central bank\'s swap facility which was set up to support the ailing rupee. The RBI, however, said the relaxation is only applicable while the swap window remains open until November 30. After that, banks\' overseas borrowings above 50% of their Tier I capital will have to be of minimum maturity of three years, it said. The RBI set up the swap window for banks earlier this month saying they can borrow overseas up to 100% of their Tier 1 capital level, although any loan over 50% of that level must be for at least three years. Under the plan, the central bank will offer to exchange foreign currency for rupees at a rate below market rates for banks who raise these funds through overseas borrowings.

The report of the Dr. Raghuram Rajan Committee for Evolving a Composite Development Index of States has been submitted to the Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. The committee was asked to suggest methods for identifying backwardness of states using a variety of criteria and also to recommend how the criteria may be reflected in future planning and devolution of funds from the Central Government to the states. The Finance Minister said in a statement that the committee has proposed a general method for allocating funds from the Centre to the States based on both a state\'s development needs as well as its development performance. The committee has recommended that each state may get a fixed basic allocation of 0.3% of overall funds, to which will be added its share stemming from need and performance to get its overall share.

Chidamabaram further said that the committee has come-up with a Multi dimensional Index of backwardness based on per capita consumption as measured by the NSSO, the poverty ratio, and a number of other measures which correspond to the multi dimensional approach to defining poverty outlined in the Twelfth Plan. The committee has recommended that states that score 0.6 and above on the index may be classified as \"Least Developed\"; states that score below 0.6 and above 0.4 may be classified as \"Less Developed\"; and states that score below 0.4 may be classified as \"Relatively Developed\".

Chidamabaram also stated in his statement that the committee has observed that the demand for funds and special attention of different states will be more than adequately met by the twin recommendations of the basic allocation of 0.3% of overall funds to each state and the categorisation of states that score 0.6 and above as \"Least Developed\" states. According to the committee, these two recommendations, along with the allocation methodology, effectively subsume what is now \"Special Category\". Using the index, the committee has identified the \"Least Developed\" states as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Chidamabaram further informed that the Prime Minister has directed that the recommendations of the committee may be examined and necessary action in this behalf may be taken. The Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs has been asked to examine the report and take necessary action, the Finance Minister added.

European stocks edged lower on Thursday, 26 September 2013, as investors awaited US jobs and housing data, amid worries over budget wrangling and debt-ceiling negotiations in Washington. Key benchmark indices in UK, France and Germany were off 0.05% to 0.35%.

Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday. Key benchmark indices in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were off 0.36% to 1.94%. Key benchmark indices in Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea rose 0.46% to 1.22%.

China\'s local markets will be shut from 1 to 7 October 2013 for National Day holidays.

Trading in US index futures indicated that the Dow could gain 31 points at the opening bell on Thursday, 26 September 2013. US stocks dropped on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 index recording its longest decline since December, as a possible government shutdown overrode better-than-forecast economic reports. The Senate voted 100-0 on Wednesday to pass a stopgap spending measure, with Democrats planning to get rid of language from the House version that would remove funding of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Without an accord to hasten Senate consideration of the bill, a vote on its passage could come as late as Sunday, giving the House one day to move before spending authority lapses. Separately, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told legislators that he\'ll run out of options to avoid hitting or surpassing the debt limit by Oct. 17 or sooner.

A report from the Commerce Department showed that new-home sales rose last month after an unexpected drop in July. Another data showed that orders for US durable goods unexpectedly bounced back last month on the back of demand for autos.

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker, a critic of the Fed\'s third round of asset purchases, said on Thursday that the central bank will face several risks when it pursues its exit strategy from recent unconventional policies. Speaking at the Swedbank Economic Outlook Seminar in Stockholm, Lacker said that the \"combination of a very large balance sheet and forward guidance raises the potential of a timing error when it becomes appropriate to raise rates, as well as the consequences of such an error.\" As part of the third round of quantitative easing, the Fed buys $40 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities, but those purchases endangers the bank\'s independence Lacker said. \"By purchasing MBS, the Fed has targeted a specific private-sector asset and engaged in credit policy. Such actions could invite pleading from other sectors and entangle the Fed in distributional politics and threaten its independence,\" he said in the speech. Lacker isn\'t a voting member of the Fed\'s policy-making committee this year.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) holds a two-day policy meeting on 29-30 October 2013. On 18 September 2013, the Fed surprised economists and investors with its decision to delay scaling back its stimulus amid concerns about the strength of the economic recovery.
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Entry, junior level hiring to fall in coming months: Report

Entry and junior level hiring are likely to witness a decline in the second half of this fiscal as employers are looking to hire \"productive workforce\", according to a report by TeamLease Services.

Employers are hiring reactively (just-in-time) when there are projects as employment intentions lag business sentiment, and this leaves little scope for training and orientation, the report said.

Further, hiring activities in tier-2 and -3 cities are expected to slow down for the coming half year across sectors and cities, TeamLease Services\' Employment and Business Outlook Report for the half year period (October 2013 to March 2014) said.

\"The next few quarters will be interesting to watch due to the mixed signals emanating from various sources,\" TeamLease Services Senior Vice-President and Co-Founder Sangeeta Lala said.

Lala further added that \"while businesses seem positive, hiring is not keeping pace though the requirement for good talent is always there. Various industries too are bearing the brunt of the slowdown, and how well they realign themselves to the ground realities will determine the future.\"

The report also said the businesses that are sensitive to the political-economic fallout, due to upcoming elections, have gone more slow on hiring.

Engineers continue to be the toast of the talent market, they are the only profiles that are being hired - albeit, in small numbers - from a few locations, it said.

Allahabad, Bareilly, Ludhiana, Ranchi and Warangal are the towns where employers are hiring good engineering talents at relatively lower cost as compared to tier-1 cities.

Experience and skills are a big hit for employers as in the coming half-year, middle-level positions steal the limelight - a trend witnessed in the previous half year.

City wise, Ahmedabad and Bangalore lead a charge of positive growth in both employment and business outlook indices. Pune loses badly as the employment and business sentiments go down, while the other laggards include Chennai and Kolkata.

The survey covered 614 companies in the latest round, focusing on the employment growth potential, the business outlook and hiring forecast with regard to the location and the company profile.
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CBI, other bodies to take action against NSEL: Chidambaram

Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday said that investors knew that they were putting money in an unregulated entity as far as the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) is concerned.

\"I think there is much more to the way NSEL started business than meets the eye. People seem to have given money to NSEL promoters with open eyes that it is not a regulated entity that is violating conditions from day one. Yet they were giving money to NSEL. Many of them made money in initial stages and some of them lost money now,\" he said.

NSEL, a subsidiary of Jignesh Shah-promoted Financial Technologies, suspended trading in forward contracts on July 31 following government directive. The suspension of trade and the consequent delay and default in payouts of over Rs. 5,500 crore to various entities is now a full blow crisis.

A panel headed by economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram looked into alleged irregularities in the functioning of the commodity exchange and has suggested that the CBI, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the Forward Markets Commission take action against NSEL.

\"These authorities are looking into the matter. They will take action,\" Mr Chidambaram told reporters.

Mr Chidambaram said although there was no fear of the NSEL crisis spilling over to other markets, he has asked capital market regulator Sebi and commodity market watchdog FMC to keep a careful watch.

\"NSEL was violating the very conditions under which they claimed they could do business,\" he said.

On whether the government is looking at changing the management of other entities (MCX and MCX-SX) with the same promoters, Chidambaram said, \"Let us wait for the report of the regulators. Let FMC give its report. I think the FMC report will be ready in a day or two. We will see the report first.\"

Mr Chidambaram said the Income Tax department is looking into the financial details of investors in NSEL to find out whether there is involvement of black money.

The government had in 2007 exempted NSEL from provisions of the Forward Contracts Regulation Act (FCRA) to operate one-day forward commodity contracts.

The exemption was given on some conditions, including delivery of commodities within 11 days and a bar on short selling by members of the exchange.

Observing that the NSEL got exemption under the FCRA even before it started business, he said, \"I have seen the exemption order. Now, whether it is valid or not -- that has to be examined.\"

He said the investors would definitely approach court as it is a matter between them and the company.

\"The government does not come into the picture at all. It is a company. It is not a regulated entity, which got exemption order even before it started business. Therefore, what legal rights flow to the company and investors, court will adjudicate that.

\"What mutual rights and liabilities between the courts and investors is there, only courts will adjudicate that,\" he said.

There are around 17,000 investors in NSEL, out of which 9,000 traded through the top eight brokers, including Anand Rathi, Motilal Oswal, India Infoline and Systematix.
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants nuclear deal within months: Report

WASHINGTON: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants to reach an agreement over the country\'s nuclear programme within three months and has full backing to broker a deal from the country\'s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, it has been reported.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Rouhani said he was keen to set a three or six-month timetable to seal a nuclear deal, emphasizing that Iran envisioned a process lasting \"months not years.\"

\"If we are on the issue of the nuclear file, we need resolution in a reasonable time,\" he told the Post.

\"The only way forward is for a timeline to be inserted into the negotiations that\'s short — and wrap it up. That is a decision of my government, that short is necessary to settle the nuclear file.

\"If it\'s three months that would be Iran\'s choice, if it\'s six months that\'s still good. It\'s a question of months not years.\"

Asked if he had the backing of Khamenei to conclude a deal, Rouhani said \"settlement of the nuclear file is one of the responsibilities of my government.\"

\"My government is fully empowered to finalize the nuclear talks,\" he added.

The United States, other Western powers and Israel suspect Tehran is using its nuclear programme as a cover to develop an atomic bomb, something Iran denies.

Rouhani\'s comments come after signs of improving relations between the United States and Iran following his election earlier this year. The Iranian leader, however, balked at meeting US President Barack Obama at the United Nations on Tuesday.

The first major test of several weeks of promising rhetoric between the foes will come today, as US secretary of state John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif join counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia to discuss Iran\'s nuclear activities at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Rouhani told the Post that Iran was willing to make its nuclear programme \"transparent\" to assure the international community it was not seeking to build a bomb.

\"If the West recognizes Iran\'s legal rights then there\'s really no hurdle in creating full transparency that\'s necessary to settle this case,\" he said.

Rouhani suggested that reaching agreement on Iran\'s nuclear programme could be a gateway to an eventual normalization of ties with the United States. Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 following the US Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.

\"If Mr Obama and I were to get together, we would both be looking at the future, and the prospects ahead and our hopes for that future,\" Rouhani said.

\"The notes and letters and exchanges between us are in that direction, and they will continue. We need a beginning point. I think that is the nuclear issue.\"
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Bombing at Baghdad market kills 21

BAGHDAD: Bombs ripped through outdoor markets in and near Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 21 people and wounding dozens, the latest in a deadly wave that has hit Iraq in recent months, officials said.

Three bombs went off simultaneously in the Shia village of Sabaa al-Bour, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the Iraqi capital. The explosions — two at the market entrance and one inside the shopping area — went off as the place was packed with shoppers.

Three women and two children were among those killed in the village market, according to police and hospital officials.

The attack came shortly after a bomb blast hit the al-Athorien market in Baghdad\'s southern neighborhood of Dora. Police said that seven people, including two women, were killed there and 17 people were wounded.

Insurgents in Iraq often target crowded places such as markets, cafes and mosques in order to inflict huge casualties. More than 4,000 people have been killed in violence during the past few months.

All officials giving the casualty tolls for Thursday\'s attacks spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but they bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida\'s local branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq.
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U.S. Sees Direct Threat in Attack at Kenya Mall

NAIROBI, Kenya — Viewing the deadly siege at a shopping mall in Kenya as a direct threat to its security, the United States is deploying dozens of F.B.I. agents to investigate the wreckage, hoping to glean every piece of information possible to help prevent such a devastating attack from happening again, possibly even on American soil.

Attention Switches to Investigation of Kenyan Mall Siege (September 26, 2013)

Before Kenya Attack, Rehearsals and Planting of Machine Guns (September 25, 2013)

Increase in Jihadi Attacks in Africa May Reflect Movement's Weakness (September 25,

For years, the F.B.I. has been closely watching the Shabab, the Somali Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi massacre and recruited numerous Americans to fight and die — sometimes as suicide bombers — for its cause.

The Shabab has already attacked most of the major actors trying to end the chaos in Somalia — the United Nations, Uganda, aid groups, the Somali government and now Kenya. The United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars bankrolling anti-Shabab operations for years, and there is growing fear that the group could turn its sights on American interests more directly, one of the reasons the Obama administration is committing so many resources to the investigation in Kenya.

"We are in this fight together," said Robert F. Godec, the American ambassador to Kenya. "The more we know about the planning that went into this, the way it was conducted, what was used, the people involved, the better we can protect America, too."

Less than a day after the bloody standoff ended, more than 20 F.B.I. agents wearing flak jackets and helmets were combing through the wreckage strewn across the steps of the mall. Dozens more agents will be headed to Nairobi, American officials say. Some of them are members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force squad that investigates extremist groups operating in the Horn of Africa, a law enforcement official said.

Over the next few days, agents, including a full Evidence Response Team, will be collecting D.N.A., fingerprints and other biometric information, poring through surveillance footage and examining guns, laptops, cameras and computers — anything to gain insights into how the attack was carried out and the hierarchy, planning and structures behind the group, especially if they have any ties back to the United States.

American officials are mindful that Kenya, one of its closest allies in Africa, has become a precarious buffer zone between the United States and Islamist militants who have declared foreigners legitimate targets in their war.

The American government has learned the hard way what happens if it does not contain groups responsible for faraway attacks. In 1998, the then-relatively unknown group called Al Qaeda simultaneously attacked the United States embassies here and in Tanzania, killing hundreds and following up a few years later with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Shabab militant group, which has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and taken responsibility for killing more than 60 civilians at the mall, is considered an especially dangerous threat because more than two dozen young American men are already learning terrorist tactics in Somalia. So far, this has been a one-way pipeline, but the fear is that some battle-hardened militants could come home with their American passports to strike on American soil.

"You never know when a terrorist attack in a faraway place could be a harbinger of something that could strike at the United States," said Daniel Benjamin, a former Obama administration counterterrorism official. On Kenya, he said, "It's a country that has a long history of being attacked by terrorists that are of real concern to the United States."

Compounding matters, relations between the United States and Kenya had grown frosty before the attack because Kenya's president has been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. American officials here were trying to keep their distance from him, but now the two sides must work closely together.

As the mall attack showed, militants would not need to reach the United States to strike hard at American interests. Several Americans were injured in the four-day siege, though none were killed. French, British, Canadians, Chinese, Indians and many others died, most of them Kenyan.

The American government is concerned that the Shabab could target the thousands of Americans living in Kenya, working for companies like General Electric, the embassy or the enormous United Nations office here in the cosmopolitan capital. Tens of thousands of other Americans visit the nation's game parks, beaches and other tourist attractions every year, according to the Kenyan government.

American officials say that several of the attackers may have escaped, posing as civilians and fleeing in the mayhem. The worry is that they may be planning future attacks here in Nairobi.

Wednesday was Day 1 of an investigation that may take weeks, even months, with the first priority establishing the identities of the 10 to 15 attackers who burst into the mall on Saturday with automatic weapons, shooting some people at random, questioning others about their religion and ruthlessly sorting individuals for execution.

Kenyan officials have said that some of the attackers may have been Somali-Americans, but Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that there had been no confirmation of that. Another question is whether a British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the White Widow, was among the assailants.

Part of the mall was destroyed during the three-day effort to dislodge the terrorists, who had holed up in a supermarket with belt-fed machine guns that officials say were sneaked into the mall days before with the help of a colluding employee.

"The next phase really is making sure we know what's under the rubble," said a Kenyan government spokesman, Manoah Esipisu. "Forensic people need to be able to clear that rubble and examine the evidence beneath it."

The massacre plot was hatched weeks or months ago on Somali soil by the Shabab's "external operations arm," according to American security officials. A team of English-speaking foreign fighters was carefully chosen for the target: Westgate, a gleaming upscale mall popular with expatriates and Nairobi's rising middle class.

Kenya is considered one of the most promising countries in Africa and has become a hub for American interests, including the effort to contain Islamist extremism in the region, putting pressure on the United States to repair its strained relations with Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

"This incident has literally put Kenyatta and his deputy in the center stage of the war on terror," said Peter Kagwanja, the chief executive of the Africa Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Nairobi. "America and the world have to contend with the aftermath of Nairobi."

The United States urgently wants to decode the tactics of the assault. There is growing concern about the ease with which a few determined militants armed with automatic weapons could storm into a crowded area, kill many people very quickly and hold off government forces for so long. After the Mumbai killings in 2008, the F.B.I. sponsored training sessions for the hotel industry and other groups that could be soft targets for such attacks.

"One of the misconceptions is that we can let Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups stay abroad and not fight them there, and that we would be safe at home," said Katherine Zimmerman, senior analyst at the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute. "That's really proven not to be the case."
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Syria committed to chemical weapons deal: Assad

Beirut: Syria is committed to the convention against chemical weapons it signed under a US-Russian deal and sees \"no obstacles\" to its implementation, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

Speaking to Venezuela\'s Telesur, the Syrian leader insisted that his regime was complying with a deal under which Damascus will turn over its chemical weapons for destruction.

\"Syria is generally committed to all the agreements that it signs,\" he said in an interview published in full by the Syrian state news agency SANA today.

He said Damascus has begun to send the required details of its chemical arsenal to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which is overseeing the deal, and that OPCW inspectors were expected to visit Syria.

\"Experts (from the OPCW) will come to Syria in the coming period to look into the status of these weapons,\" he said.

\"As the Syrian government, there are no serious obstacles,\" he said.

\"But there is always the possibility that the terrorists will obstruct the work of the experts by preventing them from accessing certain places,\" Assad added.

The Syrian regime calls all those fighting against it \"terrorists\".

Syria agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal under a deal thrashed out following an August 21 sarin attack in the suburbs of Damascus, which killed hundreds of people.

The attack, which occurred as UN chemical weapons experts were in Syria investigating previous alleged chemical attacks, was blamed on the Syrian regime by Washington and other international backers of the Syrian opposition.

Assad\'s government denied involvement, but agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal in the face of threatened US military action in response to the August 21 attack.

The UN experts, who confirmed that sarin gas was used in the attack, arrived back in Damascus yesterday and are to resume investigations into other previous alleged attacks.

Assad said his government would ensure the UN experts were also able to move around freely, insisting that his regime had invited them to come.

\"We are the ones who invited them to come to Syria in March when the terrorists used poison gas in a suburb of the city of Aleppo,\" he said.

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Terrorist attack on Iraqi funeral kills 72, wounds 120 in day of violence

People inspect the site of a double suicide bomb attack in the Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Two suicide bombers, one in an explosives-laden car and the other on foot, hit a cluster of funeral tents packed with mourning families in a Shiite neighbourhood in Baghdad, the deadliest in a string of attacks around Iraq that killed at least 92 on Saturday.

Photograph by: Hadi Mizban , The Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers, one in an explosives-laden car and the other on foot, struck a cluster of funeral tents packed with mourning families in a Shiite neighbourhood in Baghdad, the deadliest in a string of attacks around Iraq that killed at least 96 people on Saturday.

The assaults, the latest in a months-long surge of violence, are a chilling reminder of insurgents' determination to re-ignite sectarian conflict more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.

Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violent attacks in recent months — a level of bloodshed not seen since Iraq pulled back from the brink of civil war in 2008 — despite appeals for restraint from Shiite and Sunni political leaders.

The attack on the funeral was one of the largest single terrorist assaults on civilians in Iraq in recent years. It happened shortly before sunset in the densely populated Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad.

Police said at least 72 people were killed and more than 120 were wounded in that attack. One bomber was able to drive up near the tent before detonating his deadly payload, and another on foot blew himself up nearby, police said.

The explosions set the tents and several nearby cars on fire, sending a towering plume of thick black smoke over the city.

"I saw several charred bodies on the ground and tents on fire and also burning cars. Wounded people were screaming in pain," said Sheik Sattar al-Fartousi, one of the mourners. "The scene was horrible. The funeral turned into an inferno."

He said the first blast went off as dinner was being served in one of several tents set up for the funeral of a member of the al-Fartousi tribe. He estimated that more than 500 people were attending the event.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the day's attacks. Al-Qaida's local franchise in Iraq frequently targets Shiite civilians and security forces in an attempt to undermine public confidence in the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Saturday's violence came as voters in the northern Kurdish autonomous region cast ballots in local elections for the Kurdistan Regional Government's 111-seat legislature. Iraqi Kurds are looking to bolster their autonomy while insulating their increasingly prosperous enclave from the growing violence roiling the rest of the country.

The pace of violent attacks in parts of Iraq outside the three-province Kurdish region has spiked sharply since security forces carried out a deadly crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq in April. Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs have been protesting against the Shiite-led government since late last year, alleging discrimination and criticizing the application of tough anti-terrorism measures against their sect.

Sunni extremists have been trying to capitalize on those Sunni-Shiite tensions, which are being inflamed by the sectarian divisions reflected in the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

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Mumbai is world`s second most honest city

London: Mumbai is not just India\'s most \'attractive\' city but also the second most honest in the world.

In an experiment carried out by the \'Readers\' Digest\' magazine, India\'s financial capital ranked second in the world in returning a lost wallet.

The experiment was simple: drop a wallet and see how many are returned to the owner.

And Mumbaikars passed the \'test\' with flying colours, finishing just behind Helsinki.

As per the experiment\'s results, Mumbaikars returned nine out of 12 wallets they found on the road. Each wallet had Rs 3,000 stashed inside.

As part of the experiment, 192 wallets were dropped in 16 cities spread over four continents. The locations - shopping malls, footpaths and parks.

But how did those who found the wallets managed to contact the owner? Apart from the cash, the wallets also contained a cell phone number, business cards and a family photo.

In Helsinki, the capital of Finland, people returned 11 out of the 12 wallets dropped.

Overall, around 47% of the total wallets dropped were returned.

Among the cities which fared badly include Zurich, London, Warsaw and Berlin. In New York, eight of the 12 wallets were returned.

And Lisbon in Portugal was crowned the most dishonest city in the world where only one wallet was returned and that too by tourists from Netherlands.
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