Thursday, October 31, 2013

Moulded in silver, hatri makes a comeback

LUDHIANA: People are going modern with each passing and the changes are very well reflected in our day-to-day activities. A few years back people would visit family and friends on Diwali holding boxes of sweets, mainly ladoos, for they are considered apt for the day.

Those boxes soon changed into heftier looking cartons with cakes, chocolates or dry fruits. Since the old in the family would insist, hence the tradition of passing on silver or gold coins or other centerpieces persisted. However what has so unexpectedly made a comeback in the market this season, is \'hatri\' moulded in silver.

Centuries ago, hatri, a house shaped structure, had once started with silver and gold plating, but thanks to the surging metal prices, it slowly got confined as a mud and clay handicraft.

The \'hatri\', as it is popularly called, finds its mention in the Diwali tale that is narrated during the puja. It hence forms an important part in Diwali rituals. And since the silver metal is a better deal this season, city residents are making the most of it and hence giving way to the old trend make an effective comeback this festive season.

\"I remember seeing these in Diwali as gifts when I was in school and. Usually these are mad in clay and mud and that\'s what have been popular all this time. When I saw them in one of the stores the other day, I just knew that this has to be it. There is already so much confusion about Diwali gifts\", says Prakram Bedi, an IT professional from Civil Lines.

While for Prakaram it\'s a visit to age-old memories, women in the city say that it is actually a very sanctimonious gift for the occasion. \" Anything that is associated with the Diwali katha is obviously very meaningful and pious. Why do you think silver coins with Lakshmi or Ganesh imprinted have always been so much in demand? We hadn\'t seen these hatri\'s in the market before and had always stuck to coins, but this is such a beautiful gift. We are gifting the silver hatri to friends and the gold plated hatri\'s to the close ones\", says Lovely Munjal, a resident of Model Gram.

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DMCH doctor holds interactive session with students on safe Diwali

LUDHIANA: Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) on Thursday organized an interactive session and hands-on workshop with the students of Jesus Sacred Heart School located in South City, Ludhiana on burns prevention during Diwali.

Dr Sanjeev Uppal, professor and head of plastic surgery, conducted the workshop. He spoke to the students and gave tips to them that how they should burn crackers to avoid any accident.

\"Children, usually, like to burn firecrackers many days before Diwali. Anaars and rockets are very dangerous and children should ignite these crackers with safety\", he said, cautioning the students that all accidents due to fireworks occur as a result of carelessness, negligence and ignorance. But these can certainly be avoided by observing some very simple precautions.

\"A small negligence in the part of kids can turn the celebration into a mishap or personal damage. All of us enjoy the pleasure of light and sound but when disaster strikes the injured has to bear the cross\", Dr Uppal said.

\"With each passing year, incidents of fire burning during Diwali season have been accelerating at an alarming rate. During Diwali, parents need to be more cautious for the kids and should take necessary safety measures to avoid any accident.\"

Dr Uppal also advised students to educate maximum number of people after the session. \"Fire is a good master when it is in our control but it becomes bad master when goes out of control, it does not identify people who come in its contact that weather he/she is a celebrity, a politician, a student, a teacher, and so on\", Dr Uppal said. The students participated in the session and also asked the queries, which were answered by the doctor.
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Short of funds, 2 schools plan to stop serving mid-day meal

Two government schools in the district - one in Doraha, other in Sahnewal - are planning to stop serving mid-day meal to their students due to shortage of funds.

The in-charges of the schools said that rising prices of vegetables coupled with costly cooking gas and a shoestring budget had forced them to think of taking the decision.

Karamjit Kaur, in-charge of Government Primary School, Doraha (GPS-Doraha), said, "We had received Rs. 8,000 last month, but the money is not enough. If the authorities do not provide us funds, then we will stop serving mid-day meal to students from November 1.

Our budget for feeding the students is Rs. 3.34 per child daily; it is difficult to run this scheme."

This, however, is not the first time schools may resort to such a step. At Government Primary School, Nandpur in Sahnewal, mid-day meal was not served for 15 days in September.

School in-charge Sukhwinder Kaur said they had stopped serving mid-day meal due to shortage of funds. "We are running out of funds again. We will now inform the authorities concerned to provide us funds or we will stop serving mid-day meal."

Contacted, Doraha block education officer (primary) Sadhu Singh confirmed that schools were not receiving much money for mid-day meal. "I have informed the district mid-day meal incharge, Tarsem Singh Banga, several times that the schools must be provided funds every month. He has told me that they they transfer the funds to schools as and when they receive the money," he said.

Contacted, Banga said he could not comment on the matter. "It is better you talk to district education officer (DEO) (elementary) Ranjit Singh Malhi." Despite repeated attempts, DEO (elementary) was not available for comment.

Iqbal Singh, Sahnewal block education officer (primary), again asked HT to contact Banga. "The money and food grains are directly transferred to schools. We have nothing to do with it," he said.

Motivating teachers school heads to contribute

Such has been the problem of funds for implementing mid-day meal at schools in the district that Doraha block primary education officer Sadhu Singh said that they had been motivating school heads and teachers contribute from their own pockets. "But, for how many months will they run this scheme?" he asked. "For the scheme to be successful, the authorities have to provide funds in time."
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GADVASU bags project to develop stronger vaccine against Brucellosis

Adding another feather to its cap, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) has bagged two projects to develop a stronger vaccine for animals against the highly contagious Brucellosis and to research the disease\'s transmission from animals to humans.

The School of Public Health and Zoonosis has been assigned the projects by union government\'s department of biotechnology (DBT), Network Project on Brucellosis, in which the government has involved all stakeholders to fight the deadly disease.

"Keeping in view the high presence of the disease among animals in Punjab and the kind of expertise the university here has, GADVASU has been awarded two key roles under this project.

First, to develop the modified vaccines for the disease, and other, to carry out a detailed study over how the ailments can be stopped from transferring from animals to humans," Dr SR Rao, advisor, DBT, Government of India, told Hindustan Times.

As per Dr NK Ganguly, former director-general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), who is looking after the medicinal aspect of the disease and how it transfers from animals to humans, stated that Brucellosis got transmitted to humans whenever they came in contact with the infected animals.

"In Punjab, a number of cases have surfaced where veterinary doctors or caretakers of animals have been infected by the disease that travelled from the animals," he said.

"GADVASU will also carry out a research over the symptoms and the medicines to be developed for this need," he said.

Both experts were in the varsity on Wednesday to chair the first review meet of the Network Project that started a few months back.

Dr VK Taneja, vice-chancellor, GADVASU, said the department had already started work over the projects that had to be completed in four years.

"Among all 17 stakeholders involved in this project, GADVASU is the only unit to be awarded such an important task for two different aspects of country\'s fight against Brucellosis," the vice-chancellor stated.

"The existing vaccines have not proved to be effective to curb the illness. Therefore the union government has funded Rs. 16 crore to develop new vaccines. The study of foreign countries that have successfully tackled with the diseases is also being taken into consideration," Ganguly said.

Dr JPS Gill, organising secretary and principal investigator, said the research work for both projects had already started from the task of carrying out research on animals hit by the disease.

The project would also come out with the seriousness of the disease in Punjab that had been ranked as one of the worst-affected states due to the dairy business in the state, he added.

Know the disease

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria from the genus Brucella. It is an infection that affects mainly animals, including goats, sheep, camels, pigs, elk, deer, cattle, and dogs. Humans contract Brucellosis on ingestion of milk or meat from the infected animals or coming in close contact with their secretions. In humans, Brucellosis can cause biphasic fever, night chills, joint pain and general discomfort or uneasiness.x
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BVM, Kitchlu Nagar, wins folk song contest of CBSE schools

The Sahodaya Inter-School Folk Song Competition for CBSE schools was organised by Guru Nanak Public School, Sarabha Nagar, on Wednesday.

As many as 25 schools participated in this competition. The event began with a shabad recital by the host school. Sukhvinder Singh Sukhi, a renowned folk singer, Manjit Roopowalia, a renowned Punjabi singer, and Santosh Basra, a Doordarshan artiste, were the judges. Contestants presented folk songs rooted in the life and culture of Punjab. Through their songs they brought to life the folklore of Heer Ranjha, Mirza Sahiba and Chhalla. BVM Senior Secondary School, Kitchlu Nagar, bagged the first prize. Springdale Senior Secondary School stood second. Jesus Sacred Heart School, South City, bagged the third position while an award of appreciation was given to Nankana Sahib Public School, Gill Road, and BVM Senior Secondary School, Udham Singh Nagar.
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Pakistan: 3% of drone deaths were civilians

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government said on Wednesday that 3 percent of 2,227 people killed in US drone strikes since 2008 were civilians, a surprisingly low figure that sparked criticism from groups that have investigated deaths from the attacks.

The number, which was provided by the ministry of defense to the senate, is much lower than past government calculations and estimates by independent organizations that have gone as high as 300. The ministry said 317 drone strikes have killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians since 2008.

The attacks, which mainly target suspected Islamic militants near the northwestern border with Afghanistan, are widely unpopular in Pakistan because they are viewed as violating the country\'s sovereignty and killing too many civilians. The Pakistani government regularly criticizes the drone program in public, even though it is known to have secretly supported at least some of the strikes in the past.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pressed President Barack Obama to end the attacks in a visit to the White House last week, but the US considers the attacks vital to its battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban and gave no indication it was willing to abandon them.

The latest strike occurred around midnight Wednesday, when missiles destroyed a vehicle in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, a major militant sanctuary, Pakistani intelligence officials said. No one was killed in the attack, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Defense Ministry officials could not be reached for comment on their civilian casualty figure, and the statement posted on the Senate\'s website did not give any indication why the number was so much lower than past government calculations and outside estimates.

A UN expert investigating drone strikes, Ben Emmerson, said earlier this month that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry told him that at least 400 civilians have been killed by the attacks in the country since they started in 2004.

Emmerson called on the government to explain the apparent discrepancy, saying the figures provided by the Foreign Ministry since 2004 indicated a much higher percentage of civilian casualties.

\"If the true figures for civilian deaths are significantly lower, then it is important that this should now be made clear, and the apparent discrepancy explained,\" Emmerson said in an email.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in London, has estimated that drones have killed at least 300 civilians in Pakistan since 2008, while the Washington-based New America Foundation put the figure at 185. These estimates are often compiled based on media reports about the attacks.

Pakistan\'s overall death toll is lower than some other totals, although not to the same degree as its figure for civilians. The New America Foundation registered 2,651 people killed in the same period, while the Long War Journal website has 2,493.

The danger of traveling to the remote tribal region targeted by the strikes makes it difficult to compile an accurate number of civilian casualties.

The US rarely speaks publicly about the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan because it is classified. But some American officials have insisted that the strikes have killed very few civilians and that estimates from the Pakistani government and independent organizations are exaggerated.

Amnesty International called on the US to investigate reports of civilians killed and wounded by drone strikes in Pakistan in a report released earlier this month that provided new details about the alleged victims of the attacks, including a 68-year-old woman killed while farming with her grandchildren.

Mamana Bibi\'s grandchildren told the London-based rights group that she was killed by missile fire on Oct. 24, 2012, as she was collecting vegetables in a family field in North Waziristan. Bibi\'s relatives testified before members of the US Congress on Tuesday.

The Amnesty report also cited witnesses as saying that a volley of missiles hit a tent where 18 men with no links to militant groups were eating after work, then a second struck those who came to help the wounded on July 6, 2012 in North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials at the time identified the dead as suspected militants.

In its latest statement, the Pakistani government said 21 civilians were killed in 2008, nine in 2009, two in 2010 and 35 in 2011. But it insisted no civilians have been killed since then.

Amnesty researcher Mustafa Qadri said he was skeptical about the government figures because it conflicted with their research and indicated a failure of the state to adequately investigate alleged civilian casualties.

The London-based human rights group, Reprieve, called the government\'s civilian casualty figures inaccurate, based on higher numbers it said were submitted to the Peshawar High Court by the top official in North Waziristan earlier this year.

An Associated Press study in early 2012 of 10 of the deadliest drone strikes in North Waziristan over the preceding 18 months found that of at least 194 people killed in the attacks, about 70 percent — at least 138 — were militants. The remaining 56 were either civilians or tribal police, and 38 of them were killed in a single strike.

The Interior Ministry also said Wednesday that \"terrorist\" attacks have killed 12,404 people and wounded 26,881 others since 2002, although these figures were disputed by some senators. The government has been battling an insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks to topple the country\'s democratic system and impose Islamic law. It was not clear if the figure involved only attacks on civilians, or also attacks on security forces.

A roadside bomb killed five soldiers and wounded three others Wednesday in the South Waziristan tribal area, the Pakistani Taliban\'s main sanctuary before the army conducted a large ground offensive in 2009, said military officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy.

Also on Wednesday, a bomb exploded in a market in southwestern Pakistan, killing two people and wounding at least 20 others, said police official Ahmad Raza. The attack occurred in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. The province is home to both Islamic militants and separatists who have waged a low-level insurgency against the government for decades.
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Clashes in Cairo as Brotherhood leader arrested

CAIRO: Egyptian police fired teargas at protesting students at Cairo\'s al-Azhar university on Wednesday hours after authorities announced the detention of Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian, part of a crackdown against the Islamist movement.

Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood\'s Freedom and Justice party, was taken into custody from a New Cairo house where he had been in hiding, an interior ministry source said.

At the al-Azhar university\'s main campus, students smashed windows, hurled chairs and covered walls of an administrative building with graffiti. \"Sisi is a dog. Down, down with the lord of the army,\" one protester scribbled, refering to army chief general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi.

One police officer yelled, \"Arrest anyone you see. Bring me those kids. If you see anyone just arrest them right away.\"

Students at Egypt\'s institution for Islamic teachings demonstrated for weeks to support the Islamist Morsi, whom the army toppled in July after mass protests against his rule.

Many Brotherhood leaders have been detained since Morsi\'s overthrow. He, Erian and 13 others are expected to go on trial on Monday on charges of inciting violence. The charges relate to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace last December after Morsi enraged protesters with a decree expanding his powers.
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Snowden leaks: NSA chief denies illegal server access

The US National Security Agency (NSA) director has denied illegally accessing the servers of Google and Yahoo.

A Washington Post report, based on leaks from Edward Snowden, claimed that the NSA hacked links connecting data centres operated by the two companies.

Speaking to Bloomberg TV, Gen Keith Alexander said it would be \"illegal\" for the agency to break into databases but that companies were \"compelled\" by court orders to assist them.
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Forbes power list 2013: Vladimir Putin topples Barack Obama

Washington: The World\'s Most Powerful People 2013 list released by the Forbes hinted at the \'shifting individual power dynamics\' as US President Barack Obama was outdone by Russian leader Vladimir Putin who notched the number one position on the list,, riding high on Syria manoeuver and Edward Snowden issue.

The Most Powerful\'s title went to Putin as he \"solidified his control over Russia\" whereas the chaos created by the US government shutdown and Edward Snowden leaks revealing NSA surveillance programmes pushed Obama into a \"lame duck period\" that set in earlier than ususual for a two-term president, said a post written by the Forbes staff Caroline Howard.

The post further spoke about what it referred to as \"the chess match over Syria and NSA leaks\"and hinted how the Russian President outshone Obama when he made Syria agree to a chemcial weapons\' dismantling plan and averted a planned strike by US missiles.

The Forbes list is a compilation of top 72 people from around the world and four factors were kept in mind while deciding on the list: how many people they have power over; the financial resources they control; if they have influence in more than one sphere; and how actively they wield their power to change the world, reported the Forbes.

The list of the Top ten people on the Most Powerful list is as below:
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Syria Is Said to Destroy All Chemical Arms Production Sites

LONDON — The international chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday that Syria had met a key deadline for "the functional destruction" of all the chemical weapons production and mixing facilities declared to inspectors, "rendering them inoperable" under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague said in a statement that a joint team of its inspectors and United Nations officials had visited 21 of the 23 chemical sites Syria declared to them. While the remaining two sites were too hazardous to visit because of the country's continuing civil war, the chemical-making equipment there had already been moved to other sites which the inspectors could visit.

"The Joint O.P.C.W.-U.N. mission has inspected 21 of the 23 sites declared by Syria, and 39 of the 41 facilities located at those sites,\'' the statement said. "The two remaining sites were not visited due to safety and security concerns. But Syria declared those sites as abandoned and that the chemical weapons program items they contained were moved to other declared sites, which were inspected."

"The joint mission is now satisfied that it has verified — and seen destroyed — all of Syria's declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment," it added.

"Given the progress made," it said, "no further inspection activities are currently planned."

Syria agreed to the destruction of its chemical arsenal to avert threatened American and French military strikes following a poison gas attack in a suburb of Damascus on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people.

The United States and its allies backing Syria's rebels accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of responsibility for the attack. But Mr. Assad blamed the rebels themselves.

The timetable foresees Syria destroying its stockpiles of chemical weapons by mid-2014.

The development on Thursday was depicted as a significant milestone, since it presumably means that Syria could no longer produce chemical weapons. Mr. Assad still controls weapons and stockpiles of chemicals, believed to include mustard gas and sarin, a toxic nerve agent which the Obama administration says was used in the Aug. 21 attack.

The civil war is still raging with conventional weapons pushing the death toll since March 2011 well above 100,000. Millions of Syrians have fled the country.

Syria has submitted proposals to completely destroy the arsenal to the O.P.C.W. which has yet to approve them.

"The next milestone for the mission will be 15 November, by which time the Executive Council must approve a detailed plan of destruction submitted by Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile," the O.P.C.W. statement said on Thursday.
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UN communications will not be monitored, says US

Amid growing international anger over the spying activities of the National Security Agency, the U.S. has assured the United Nations that the world body's communications will not be monitored.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters on Wednesday that the world body has been "in touch" with relevant authorities in the U.S. since reports of the NSA's spying and monitoring of phone conversations of 35 world leaders surfaced.

"We were indeed in touch with the U.S. authorities. And I understand that the U.S. authorities have given assurances that United Nations communications are not and will not be monitored," Mr. Nesirky said when asked to comment on reports that the encryption system of the video-conferencing system of the U.N. had been broken into.

He said the "inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations, has been well-established in international law, and therefore, all Member States are expected to act accordingly".

The U.S. is facing criticism from international leaders over revelations that the NSA carried out electronic surveillance and snooped in on conversations of 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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Little boy upstages Pope Francis, sits in Papal Chair

Pope Francis was delivering a homily, but a little boy stole the show. Francis was speaking in St Peter\'s Square about the important role grandparents play when a little boy walked up behind him and confidently climbed up and sat down on the pontiff\'s white chair. The Vatican says

Francis was surrounded by elderly faithful and their grandchildren on Saturday night at a rally to encourage family life when the boy came up, wearing a striped shirt, jeans and sneakers.

Acting like an indulgent grandpa, Francis let the boy explore the area undisturbed before tens of thousands of people. The pope smiled while reading his speech as the boy sat in the empty chair, gazed up at him and even at one point clung to the pontiff\'s legs.
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Kareena Kapoor honoured by British House of Commons

As reported earlier, Kareena Kapoor was honoured by the UK Parliament, at the House of Commons, recently on 29th October.

The event witnessed the presence of MPs and members of Bradford Metropolitan District Council who honoured certain artists for their contribution to the global entertainment industry - hosted by Asian Sunday newspaper.

Bebo, who looked elegant in grey ethnic attire (by Manish Malhotra), was honoured by noted NRI MP Rt Hon Keith Vaz, Chairman of Britain\'s Home Affairs Committee.

Incidentally, Kareena is the only Bollywood artist to be honoured at British Parliament since Mr Bachchan, and is also the first Bollywood actress to earn such recognition from UK Parliament.

Singer Kimberley Walsh and magician Dynamo aka Steven Frayne was also honoured at the event.
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Faridabad girl Srishti Rana crowned Miss Asia Pacific World 2013

India\'s Srishti Rana has been crowned Miss Asia Pacific World 2013 by last year\'s winner Himangini Singh Yadu at a glittering ceremony.

This is India\'s second win in a row at the Miss Asia Pacific World pageant.

The 21-year-old from Faridabad saw off competition from 49 contestants from different countries, which includes first runner up from Egypt- Meriam George and Kazakhstan\'s Evgenia Klishina, who was the second runner up.

Srishti\'s peacock-inspired gown also won her the Best National costume award, for depicting the national bird of India.

Post Srishti\'s win, many took to Twitter to congratulate her.

\"Congratulations Srishti Rana for making India proud,\" a post read.

Another said, \"Srishti Rana mesmerized the jury and the audience with her poise, beauty and intelligence and came out as a winner.\"

Yesteryear actress Zeenat Aman was the first Indian to win the title of Miss Asia Pacific back in 1970, while model Tara Anne Fonseca was crowned winner in 1973.

Bollywood actress-procucer Dia Mirza won the title in 2000. Actress Namrata Shirodkar was named the first runner-up of the 1993 edition of the competition.
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Anushka Sharma turns producer

Mumbai, Oct 31 - Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma is joining hands with film production company Phantom to produce Navdeep Singh's next film called NH 10.

Anushka, who plays the lead in the film, liked the script so much that she has decided to co-produce it with Phantom.

At 25, this makes her among the youngest actor-producers on the block taking her into a different league altogether vis-à-vis her contemporaries.

With two of the biggest films Rajkumar Hirani's Peekay with Aamir Khan and Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet with Ranbir Kapoor, NH 10 will be her third release next year.

Continuing with their content driven films like Lootera, which released this year, Phantom will back Navdeep Singh to direct his second film post his critically acclaimed debut Manorama 6 feet Under.

The film is full with edge of the seat action and thrills, when a road trip goes wrong. It brings together a talented crew of technicians including international action directors.

Speaking on her new role, Anushka says, "I'm thrilled to get a chance to do this so early on in my career. And I couldn't have found a better project than NH-10 to kick-start this new phase in my film journey.

\"This is my second film after Bombay Velvet with Phantom, and it's a blast working with them. It's going to be super-exciting working together again on what promises to be an explosive film."

Adds Vikramaditya Motwane of Phantom, "We love to partner with the talent we work with. It's extremely reassuring for us when the lead actor wants to join hands, to back an outstanding script like NH10.

\"We strongly believe in the script and know that Navdeep is going to make a kickass film out of it".

Being shot this winter across the northern plains around Delhi, NH 10 will release Sept 12, 2014.
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Will start work on \'Mr.India\' sequel soon: Anil Kapoor

Kolkata: Best known for the 1987 path breaking sci-fi superhero film \'Mr. India\', actor-producer Anil Kapoor Wednesday confirmed his presence in the cult movie\'s sequel. \"How can there be a \'Mr. India\' sequel without me? Of course, I will be in it and will start work on it very soon,\" Anil told mediapersons while speaking about his debut television production \'24\'. \"Even after 25 years, the movie has great recall value. I am always asked about the film,\" he added. Actor-producer Anil Kapoor has confirmed his presence in the cult movie\'s sequel. The seasoned actor will be next seen in the sequel to the hit comedy \'Welcome\' titled \"Welcome Back\" and the next part of \'No Entry\' as well. Currently Anil is on a roll, thanks to \'24\'. It has garnered widespread appreciation for the concept, performance and technical superiority. Directed by Abhinay Deo, \'24\' airs on Colors channel. In the show, Anil plays the lead role of Jai Singh Rathod, the chief of an anti-terrorist unit. The actor will start shooting the last three episodes of the 24-episode series Nov 2.
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Revealed: Why Hrithik Roshan didn\'t get to promote Krissh 3 on Bigg Boss 7

Salman, apparenlty, refused to interact with Hrithik due to some problem in the past.

Around release time, every big actor makes his way to the Bigg Boss house to promote his film. It is a big platform as it assures plenty of eyeballs. Strangely, Hrithik Roshan has not appeared on the show to promote Krrish 3.

While the team of the film comprising Hrithik, Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut are busy making their customary rounds on shows like Comedy Nights With Kapil to Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, and many others, that hasn't happened on Salman Khan's reality show.

Usually, the team of a film goes together on a show, but in the case of Krrish 3 while Kangana appeared solo on Bigg Boss 7 two weeks ago to promote Rajjo and Krrish 3 (it got a subtle mention), last week Priyanka was seen dancing with the host Salman Khan and recreating their screen magic. Which brings up the question: Why no Hrithik? It is shocking that the main hero of the film was missing from the popular show.

A little digging revealed the truth. Says a source, "It's not Hrithik who has a problem. We were told that Salman refused to interact with Hrithik. They have had some problem in the past in connection to a film and a certain director. That's probably why he refused to have Hrithik on the show."

However, a source from Colors, the channel which airs the show, maintains, "Krrish 3 integration was to have both Hrithik and Priyanka, but since Hrithik had date and time issues he couldn't give more than two hours Priyanka came alone, that's all."
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Shah Rukh Khan: Feel very weird when people celebrate my birthday

SRK will turn 48-years-old on November 2, 2013 Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan will carry on the tradition of inviting media on his birthday this year too. He turns 48 on Saturday, and has planned a sit-down gathering with journalists at his home.

Shah Rukh stays with his family at his palatial bungalow, Mannat, located at Bandstand in Bandra here.

\"I feel very weird when people celebrate my birthday with great enthusiasm every year. So, you all (reporters) are invited. Come to my home. We will sit down, have cold drinks and chat and all,\" Shah Rukh said here on Wednesday at the launch of a jewellery lounge by Lista Jewels.

Meanwhile, the actor, who was last seen in Rohit Shetty\'s Chennai Express, is busy shooting for Farah Khan\'s Happy New Year.

Slated to release next year, the film also features Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani and Sonu Sood.
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Aaradhya got pally with Aamir Khan while shooting for Dhoom 3: Abhishek Bachchan

Actor Abhishek Bachchan says his one-year-old daughter Aaradhya got pally with co-star Aamir Khan while they were shooting for \'Dhoom 3\' in Chicago.

Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai\'s daughter Aaradhya and Aamir and Kiran Rao\'s son Azad were in Chicago on the set of \'Dhoom 3\', as their fathers were shooting.

\"When we were shooting for \'Dhoom 3\', I remember Aaradhya had come on the sets and Aamir spent an entire evening with her. She is very fond of him. She liked him and is also pally with him,\" Abhishek said.

\'Dhoom 3\' is the third installment of the Dhoom series which is directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya and produced by Aditya Chopra.

The movie also Uday Chopra and Katrina Kaif in prominent roles and releases on December 20.
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Mamata Banerjee to design ‘Tantuja’ sarees


Bengal's ailing handloom brand 'Tantuja' is all set to get the personal touch of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who will design the six yard wonder.

During her last few visits to North Bengal, Banerjee had showed interest in herbs used for medicines and had wondered if herbal colours could be used in designing sarees, Minister of State for Micro and Small Scale Enterprises and Textile Swapan Debnath told PTI here.

"The Chief Minister wants to revive ailing 'Tantuja', once a popular handloom brand of Bengal, by designing sarees," Debnath said.

The Chief Minister was also interested in designing sarees through discussions with weavers, he said.

She has set up ministry level and secretary level committees to popularise medicinal and herbal plants in the state and promote their marketing in the country and abroad.

Banerjee has sought a report from the committees within a month.

The Minister hoped that the Chief Minister's initiative would promote marketing of 'Tantuja' products in the country and abroad.
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Parikh panel wants diesel price hiked by Rs. 5

The Government-appointed Kirit Parikh Committee has recommended a price increase of Rs. 5 per litre in diesel, Rs. 4 per litre in kerosene, and Rs. 250 in LPG cylinder with immediate effect.

It has also recommended that the subsidised LPG cylinders be reduced from the present nine to six cylinders per annum to each household. It has pitched for capping the subsidy on diesel at Rs. 6 per litre. At the same time, it has called for the elimination of subsidy on diesel within one year, which could save the exchequer Rs. 72,000 crore in fuel subsidy.

Mr. Parikh submitted the report to Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily here on Wednesday.

The Kirit Parikh panel was set up by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry to suggest a methodology for pricing of diesel and cooking fuel.

The panel has said that the Government should take steps to pass on the impact of rise in price of diesel to consumers, and move rapidly towards making the price of diesel market-determined. "The expert group recommends that in view of high under-recovery of Rs. 10.51 per litre on diesel, HSD prices be raised by Rs. 5 per litre with immediate effect. The balance under-recovery should be made up through a subsidy of Rs. 6 per litre to public sector oil marketing companies (OMCs). The subsidy on diesel should be capped at Rs. 6 per litre litre. This will imply freeing of price of diesel beyond this cap," the panel has said.

If the gap falls below Rs. 6 per litre, either the prices should be reduced or the subsidy to be provided should be reduced. In future, OMCs should be permitted to revise the prices above the subsidy cap on their own. The fixed subsidy of Rs. 6 per litre be reduced gradually, and finally removed through regular revisions over the next one year, it has said.

The committee is of the view that the PDS kerosene price should be comparable to diesel price to prevent diversion and adulteration. "This can be accomplished if PDS kerosene is priced at full market price, and the benefit of the subsidy to the deserving consumers i.e. BPL families, is given through direct cash transfer mechanism. The direct transfer of subsidy to BPL families country-wide should be fast-tracked, and completed within the next two years. Till this is implemented, price of kerosene should be increased by Rs. 4 per litre immediately, and thereafter be revised from time to time at least in line with growth in the per capita agriculture GDP," it has said.
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India a land of emerging opportunities: Ajit Singh

WASHINGTON: Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has said that India is a land of emerging opportunities and the aviation scenario in the country is fast changing and poised for breaking boundaries and scaling new heights.

Considering the growth prospects of air traffic, potential for large scale acquisition of aircrafts by the airlines and substantial investment projections, Indian civil aviation market offers tremendous opportunities for US industries to invest in India, Singh said in his address to the India-US Aviation Summit.

\"Furthermore, the gap between potential and current air travel penetration which is currently 0.04 airstrips per capita per annum, highlights the huge potential for the air traffic growth in India, considering a relatively higher trajectory of economic growth coupled with necessary Government support,\" he said in his address to the three-day meeting which kicked-off in Washington yesterday.

Noting that over the past decade, civil aviation in India has been scripting a major success story, Singh said the government in tune with general policy of liberalisation has brought in positive initiatives to attract foreign direct investment and rope in private investments that have helped in releasing the latent potential of this sector and make it a key player in the nation\'s economic growth.

One of the most important initiatives in this direction is to allow 49 per cent Foreign Direct Investment by foreign airlines in Indian carriers.

India, Singh said, has adopted liberal policies regarding bilateral air services agreement, partnerships and code- sharing. To facilitate the growth of MRO Business and to make it competitive, India has also announced several concessions.

Rapidly expanding air transport network and opening up of the airport infrastructure to private sector participation have fuelled the growth of the air traffic in India, he said.

India is currently the 9th largest aviation market handling 121 million domestic and 41 million international passengers with more than 85 international airlines operating to India and 5 Indian carriers connecting over 40 countries.

The Indian airport system is poised to handle 336 million domestic and 85 million international passengers by 2020, making India the third largest aviation market, Singh said.

Moreover, it is estimated that commercial fleet size is expected to reach 1,000 aircraft worth $45 billion from 400 today by 2020.
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Sensex trades flat amid expiry volatility

The BSE Sensex and the broader Nifty were trading flat on caution ahead of the expiry of October derivatives contracts at the end of the session.

The Sensex was up 12 points at 21,045, around 150 points away from its all-time high of 21,206. Nifty was almost unchanged at 6,252.

Still, domestic shares are headed towards their highest monthly close on strong foreign investor flows. The BSE index is up 8.5 percent in October, also heading towards its biggest monthly gain since January 2012.

Foreign investors were net buyers for a 19th consecutive session on Wednesday, bringing their total buying to nearly Rs. 16,000 crore.

Dr.Reddy\'s Laboratories Ltd fell 1.3 percent on profit-taking after hitting a record high of 2,545.15 rupees in early trade. Infosys Ltd fell 0.4 per cent after the company agreed on Wednesday to pay $34 million to end a U.S. investigation related to the widespread practice by Indian firms of flying workers to client sites in the United States on temporary visas.

However, Bharti Airtel Ltd gained 1.1 percent, adding to Wednesday\'s 5.5 percent rise after its September-quarter operating margin grew 32 percent.

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SC agrees to hear Sahara plea to allow Roy to travel abroad

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear Sahara Group's plea seeking modification in its order restraining Subrata Roy from going abroad till the Group hands over title deeds of its properties worth Rs. 20,000 crore to SEBI.

A bench headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, before whom the matter was mentioned by Sahara's counsel, said that it will consider the Group's plea on Friday in chamber.

Sahara had moved the apex court on October 29, claiming that there was a mistake in its October 28 order restraining Mr. Roy from leaving the country till it hands over title deeds of its properties to SEBI.

The bench had on Wednesday refused to pass any interim order for allowing Mr. Roy to go abroad before his Group files a review petition seeking to modify the earlier order.

Senior advocate C.A. Sundaram, appearing for the Group, had submitted that he is not seeking review of the order but only pointing out the difference in the decision which was uploaded on the Supreme Court website and the order passed in the open court.

The counsel had submitted that while passing the order, the apex court had said if documents are not handed over to the market regulator within three weeks only then Mr. Roy would be restrained from going abroad.

Holding that it was playing "hide and seek" and cannot be trusted any more, the court had directed Sahara Group to hand over title deeds of its properties to SEBI.

Making it clear that there is no "escape" from depositing the investors' money with the market regulator, the apex court had asked Sahara to also give valuation reports of properties to SEBI which will verify worth of assets.

The court was hearing three contempt petitions filed by SEBI against Mr. Roy, the two firms — Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd. (SIREC) and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp Ltd. (SHIC) — and their directors.

It had on August 31 last year directed the Sahara Group to refund Rs. 24,000 crore by November end. The deadline was further extended and the companies were directed to deposit Rs. 5,120 crore immediately and Rs. 10,000 crore in first week of January and the remaining amount in first week of February.

The group, which had handed over draft of Rs. 5,120 crore on December 5, 2012 has failed to pay the rest of the amount.

It had directed the two companies to refund the money to their investors within three months with 15 per cent interest per annum. It had also said SEBI can attach the properties and freeze the bank accounts of the companies if they fail to refund the amount.

The two companies, their promoter Mr. Roy and directors Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary were told to refund the collected money to the regulator.
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DLF cuts net debt by Rs 861 crore to Rs 19,508 crore

NEW DELHI: India\'s largest realty firm DLFBSE 1.94 % has reduced net debt by Rs 861 crore in the second quarter of this fiscal at Rs 19,508 crore and the company is targeting to cut it further at Rs 17,500 crore level by March next year.

In an analyst presentation, DLF also said that it is negotiating with the multiple investors to sell luxury hotel chain Amanresorts and expects to close the transaction soon.

\"Sequentially, the net debt has declined by Rs 861 crore from Rs 20,369 crore to Rs 19,508 crore. Given the pipeline of divestitures already executed but not yet closed, we maintain the FY14 guidance of net debt of Rs 17,500 crore,\" DLF said.

Sale of non-core assets and internal accruals helped the company in bringing down the net debt level to below Rs 20,000 crore level.

Realisation from divestment of non-core assets stood at Rs 870 crore during first six months of this fiscal and the company hopes to garner another Rs 1,000 crore in second half of this fiscal from this process.

On the status of divesting Amanresorts, DLF said it is in \"negotiations with multiple bidders/investors on the Share Purchase Agreement. Substantial diligence has been completed. Targeting closure of the transaction in near future\".

In December 2012, DLF announced the deal with Indonesian hotelier Adrian Zecha to sell Amanresorts for an estimated USD 300 million and expected the transaction to close by February 2013. Zecha, the founder of Amanresorts, missed the February deadline and exclusivity period was extended till June end.

In July, DLF walked out of a pact to exclusively negotiate sale of Amanresorts with Zecha and opened talks with 4 other potential buyers.

To reduce debt and focus on core realty business, DLF has been selling its non-core businesses and assets such as plots, hotels, wind mills and insurance venture.

It has raised about Rs 10,000 crore in last three years through divestment of its non-core assets.
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Vodafone slashes mobile Internet charges by 80%


The rate cut from 10 paise per 10 KB to 2 paise per 10 KB will make Internet more affordable for customers who use mobile Internet in a limited way. Additionally, the company would levy home rates for mobile Internet for a customer on national roaming.

"This 80 per cent reduction in mobile Internet charges for customers using 2G is an important step in our strategy to drive mobile Internet and we are confident that this move will facilitate faster adoption and better usage," said Vodafone India Chief Commercial Officer Vivek Mathur.
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Fed Extends Stimulus as Growth Stumbles

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is still waiting for clear evidence that the economy can grow decently without its help.

The Fed's widely expected announcement on Wednesday that it would press ahead with its stimulus campaign of asset purchases and low interest rates reflected the reality that the nation's central bankers gained little clarity in the six weeks since their last meeting, in part because the government shutdown delayed and distorted key economic indicators.

The statement, issued after a scheduled two-day meeting of its policy-making committee, amounted to a declaration that the Fed is not yet ready to decide, and it shed little light on how soon changes may come.

The Fed maintained its optimistic assessment of "growing underlying strength in the broader economy," contrasting the recovery of the private sector with the continued drag of federal spending cuts. It said that the availability of jobs was improving and that it expected inflation to rebound from its sluggish pace. Notably, it made no direct mention of the shutdown.

But despite the relatively sunny forecast, largely unchanged from the Fed's last meeting in September, Fed officials remain reluctant to pull back. As a result, the central bank will continue to add $85 billion a month to its portfolio of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities.

And the Fed, if anything, has reinforced its commitment to hold short-term interest rates near zero through next year and well into 2015. "Taking into account the extent of federal fiscal retrenchment over the past year, the committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy," the Federal Open Market Committee said. "However, the committee decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases."

Analysts and investors reacted to the statement as moderately increasing the chances that the Fed would begin to retreat, or taper back on its purchases, in December, when the committee holds its final scheduled meeting of the year. Stocks fell slightly. Yet most analysts said they continued to regard the Fed as more likely to wait until the spring.

"This is a somewhat hawkish statement, but we don't think it's so hawkish as to change our expectations for a first tapering in April," Michael Feroli, chief United States economist at JPMorgan Chase, wrote to clients.

Fed officials spent much of the summer preparing investors for a retreat from its stimulus campaign before the end of the year.

But there is still little sign that the Fed has succeeded in increasing job growth. The share of adults with jobs remains at roughly its post-recession nadir. The unemployment rate has fallen largely because fewer people are looking for jobs.

Some analysts saw the Fed's upbeat description of the job market as evidence of its desire to retreat, even if it is not prepared to set that in motion yet.

The description "is not true, and we know it, the data has been weakening on this front," wrote Eric Green, global head of rates research at TD Securities. "One must view the emphasis here as reason to lean against the view that the Fed has gone soft."

Mr. Green added, however, that he still did not expect the Fed to begin its retreat until March, because its desire remained constrained by the weak economic reality.

Inflation has fallen well below the 2 percent annual pace the Fed has established as its goal. Prices rose in August at an annual pace of 1.2 percent, excluding food and fuel, according to the Fed's preferred measure, the Commerce Department's index of personal consumption expenditures.

The statement said persistently low inflation "could pose risks to economic performance," but reiterated the Fed's expectation that inflation will rebound to a healthier level.

The combination of persistently high unemployment and low inflation has prompted some Fed officials, and outside critics, to question whether the asset purchases are worthwhile.

"With the benefits of quantitative easing essentially at zero, this equivocating action by the Fed is less about the economy and more about its unwillingness to begin the tapering that everyone knows must begin," Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, said in a statement.
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Infosys whistleblower to get $5-8 mn in settlement

A former American employee of Infosys, who had brought a whistleblower lawsuit against the IT giant, could receive between $5 to 8 million of the total $34 million (Rs 207 crore) that the Indian company has promised to pay to settle the visa fraud allegations.

In one of the largest settlements in an immigration fraud case, Bangalore-based Infosys has agreed to pay the amount to resolve claims made by the federal prosecutors in Texas.\\

On Wednesday, Infosys agreed to pay $34 million in settlement with US authorities.

Read: Infosys to pay $34 million in US visa case

John Bales, the US attorney for the district of Texas, said in a news conference in Plano on Wednesday that Jack Palmer, who had worked at Infosys and brought the whistle-blower lawsuit in Alabama in February 2011, would be \"amply and justly rewarded.\"

Palmer would get a small pie of the settlement amount that Infosys would have to cough up.

Authorities, however, refused to divulge the exact amount that Palmer would get, saying that it would be a \"slightly complicated calculation about how the funds are apportioned.\" \"It would be safe to say that Palmer can receive no more than 25% of the portion of the settlement amount that is attributable to his whistleblowing,\" attorney-in-charge at the US attorney\'s plano office deputy criminal chief, Shamoil Shipchandler, said in an email.

Palmer could receive as much as $5-8 million.

Bales said the compensation to Palmer would be made under the false claims act, adding that the government had done a lot of the work during its two-and-a-half-year investigation into the case.

This would be kept in mind while calculating Palmer\'s share, he said.

The payment by Infosys would be made within the next 30 days and include $5 million to Homeland Security Investigations for civil or administrative forfeiture, a similar amount to the department of state and $24 million to the US attorney\'s office for the eastern district of Texas.

Earlier, a New York Times report had quoted Palmer as saying that the entire visa fraud investigation had taken a \"personal toll\" on him but \"it would have been much worse in the long run if I had turned the other cheek.\" \"It was a question of right and wrong, following my conscience and following the law.\"

Palmer had first reported that Infosys was writing false invitation letters for B-1 visas for Indian employees, because he was asked to write one and he refused.

Palmer said he had turned down an early settlement offer from Infosys, because it would not have allowed him to continue cooperating with federal investigators.

\"They wanted to buy my silence, and I wouldn't do it,\" he said. \"I never did it for the money. I did it because they were violating the law.\"

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NHRC pulls up Manipur for isolation of Irom Sharmila

GUWAHATI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Manipur government to remove restrictions imposed on Irom Sharmila, who is fasting for the last 12 years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act ( AFSPA), 1958.

Taking suo motu cognisance, the NHRC has recommended that the government should immediately remove the restrictions as they are breaching India\'s obligations under the international human rights standards and principles, and making gross violation of human rights.

In its notice to the Manipur chief secretary, the commission has said that Sharmila must be permitted to receive visitors under the regime that governs all persons in judicial custody. It has asked the chief secretary to file a report by December 6 on the steps taken in response to its recommendation.

Sharmila is being forced-fed through her nose by the Congress regime in the state. Two members of the commission had met her on the October 23 in Imphal. \"If the government of Manipur could deny permission to its special rapporteur , a retired director-general of police and to special rapporteurs of the UN, to visit Sharmila, it is unlikely that it gives others access to her,\" NHRC said in a statement .

\"It would appear that while keeping her alive, since her death would create problems for the state government, it is trying to break her spirit through this enforced isolation for which there is no judicial mandate, though she is in judicial custody.\" The NHRC said she was found frail but alert and did not complain of any physical ill-treatment.

However, she repeatedly said that she was rarely allowed visitors, whereas all others in the custody of the state government routinely receive visits from family and friends.
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Arvind Kejriwal top choice for Delhi CM post, says poll survey


Aam Admi Party may secure between 19 and 25 seats in the 70-member Delhi assembly which could put it in the role of a king-maker as neither BJP nor Congress is projected to get majority of its own, according to a news channel.

It said Congress may secure between 19 and 25 seats while BJP has been projected to lead with 22 to 28 seats in the December 4 assembly polls.

2,507 eligible voters were surveyed for the opinion poll between October 16 and 24. The survey was conducted across 28 constituencies.

The opinion poll said Congress is likely to get a vote share of 27 per cent, a drop of 13.3 per cent from what it had got in 2008 polls, while BJP BJP may secure 29 per cent votes.

AAP has been projected to secure 28 per cent vote share.

The poll said AAP\'s Arvind Kejriwal emerged as the top choice Chief Ministership with 25 per cent support while Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been preferred by 16 per cent.

It said the image of Dikshit has gone down significantly as 49 people said they are dissatisfied with her performance as Chief Minister. 47 per cent of those surveyed said they were still satisfied with her performance.
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Rahul keeps off Modi, takes on ‘young’ CM

Asking the people of Bundelkhand to \"dream big\", Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi spoke of how the Congress could bring about development like \"Rajasthan, Maharastra and Karnataka\" in Uttar Pradesh if it came to power.

Addressing a public rally here Wednesday, which, despite best efforts by social group Gulabi Gang and party MPs and MLAs, could not gather a crowd of more than 25,000, Gandhi said: \"Jab tak UP mein Congress ki sarkar nahi ayegi, tab tak maza nahi ayega (Unless Congress comes to power in UP, things would not be exciting).\"

Gandhi avoided any mention of BJP\'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who had recently addressed a huge gathering in Jhansi and had dared the Congress vice-president to name the riot victims whom he had claimed to be in touch with the ISI. Instead, Gandhi preferred to target the ruling Samajwadi Party and \"its young Chief Minister\" (Akhilesh Yadav).

\"In 2012, SP came to power but you did not get what was promised. You did not get employment as was promised, did you?\" Gandhi asked the crowd.

Without naming Akhilesh Yadav, Rahul said: \"There is a young CM here, who could have changed UP. While your voices have reached Delhi, they have failed to reach Lucknow.\"

Alleging that the package sent to Bundelkhand from the Centre to the state \"disappeared\" before they could benefit people, he said: \"For the various problems of Bundelkhand, Delhi sent a Rs 3,000-crore package but the state government did not deliver it to you.\"

He asked the gathering to see the development in Rajasthan in spite of its \"water crisis\". \"There is industrialisation and large-scale employment due to Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. The day Congress comes to power in UP, there will be development similar to Rajasthan, Maharastra and Karnataka,\" he said while citing example of how \"computer revolution\" has changed Bangalore\'s economy.
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Patna serial blasts: One more terror suspect arrested

Terror suspect Meher Alam has been detained as sleuths raided several places in Bihar to hunt down those who unleashed a string of bombings that left six dead, police said on Thursday. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) intensified the search for terror suspects and carried out raids at several places in the state since Wednesday, police said. Six of the seven blasts took place on Sunday at Patna\'s Gandhi Maidan before Bharatiya Janata Party\'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was to address a rally. The seventh explosion was at the railway station. Patna serial blasts: One more terror suspect arrested Police officials said that NIA detained terror suspect Meher Alam, 25, from Darbhanga. \"The NIA team raided at least two places in Muzaffarpur and three places in Darbhanga districts since Wednesday in search of terror suspect involved in serial blasts in Patna,\" a police official said. More raids would be conducted in next few days. NIA officials also searched the Muzaffarpur house of another terror suspect Mohammad Aftab, who was arrested from Delhi. The NIA team seized some documents and a laptop from his house, said an official. The NIA officials along with Intelligence Bureau officials continued to interrogate two of three arrested terror suspects Mohammad Imtiaz Ansari and Arshad Alam. Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj said Imtiaz along with Arshad came to Patna between Oct 8 and 10 to carry out recce of various sites that could be targeted. Arshad Alam, 24, a resident of East Champaran district\'s Alauli village, was arrested by a team of NIA and Bihar Police on Tuesday. \"Arshad was arrested on the basis of information provided by Mohammad Imtiaz Ansari, one of the two suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives arrested from Patna junction soon after the first bomb exploded,\" a police official said. A second terror suspect who was injured in the blasts is battling for life at a government hospital. Imtiaz, a resident of Ranchi, is suspected to be the brain behind the blasts. He was arrested from the Patna railway junction after a bomb exploded in a toilet on platform No.10 on Sunday morning. Ainul alias Tarique, the second suspect, was apprehended while he was crying in pain at the Patna railway junction toilet soon after a bomb which he was trying to fit with a timer exploded.

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Muzaffarnagar violence: Eight arrested, cases against 15

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Eight persons have been arrested and cases registered against 15 people in connection with fresh communal violence in Budhana area of Muzaffarnagar district where paramilitary forces are patrolling tense areas.

Three persons were killed last night as communal violence erupted afresh in Budhana area of Muzaffarnagar district which was hit by riots last month leaving 62 dead.

Eight persons were arrested in connection with the latest round of violence and security was enhanced in the entire district where tension ran high, officials said.

Cases have been registered against 15 persons at Budana Police Station, SSP, Muzaffarnagar, H M Singh said.

District Magistrate Kaushal Raj had said yesterday that three victims, identified as Afroz, 20, Meherban, 21, and Ajmal, 22, were beaten to death while another was injured in clashes between members of two communities at Muhammadpurraisingh village.

Sources said the victims were among those people staying in relief camps after the recent riots.

The incident appeared to be a fallout of the communal tension in the region. Muhammadpurraisingh village was one of places affected by the riots last month.

Residents of Muhammadpurraisingh clashed with people belonging to Hussainpur village that led to the death of the three youths, the sources had said.

Though the two villages are at a distance of a kilometre, their agricultural fields are situated nearby, the sources had said, adding some people spread rumours that five persons were planning to attack members of a community residing at Muhammadpurraisingh village.
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Jethmalani case: HC notice to BJP members excluding Vajpayee, Modi

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to all Parliamentary Board members of the Bharatiya Janata Party excluding Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi in connection with former party leader Ram Jethmalani\'s case. The court has asked them to reply by January 30, 2014. Ram Jethmalani had filed a defamation suit against the BJP\'s parliamentary board. He is seeking damages worth Rs 50 lakh for being expelled from each member of the party. Jethmalani was expelled in May 2013 following his remarks against senior party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

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Fodder scam: HC rejects Lalu Prasad\'s bail petition

Ranchi, October 31, 2013

Jharkhand high court on Thursday rejected the bail petition of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad convicted in a 17-year-old fodder scam case.

Prasad is serving a five-year sentence at the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi in the case.

On Wednesday, the court had reserved its order on the bail petition moved by the former Bihar chief minister.

The court, however, had granted provisional bail to another former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra on October 25.

Prasad and 44 others, including Mishra, were convicted by a CBI court on September 30, in a fodder scam case involving fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 37.70 crore from Chaibasa Treasury during 1994-1995.

Prasad was the chief minister of undivided Bihar during the period.

The CBI court had pronounced varying prison terms to the convicted on October 3.

Following his conviction, Prasad was also disqualified as Lok Sabha member.

According to a Supreme Court order, lawmakers convicted for criminal offences punishable with jail term of more than two years stand immediately disqualified from Parliament and state legislatures.
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Bureaucrats shouldn\'t take oral orders from political bosses: SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday said bureaucrats will no more take oral orders from their political bosses, as it sought an end to frequent transfers and suggested a fixed tenure to protect them from political interference.

The judgment comes close on the heels of controversies surrounding alleged persecution of Uttar Pradesh IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal and Senior Haryana cadre IAS officer Ashok Khemka.

Suggesting sweeping reforms in the functioning of bureaucracy, a bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan said Parliament must enact a law to regulate postings, transfers and disciplinary action against bureaucrats.

Holding that much of the deterioration in bureaucracy is because of political interference, it said that civil servants should not act on verbal orders given by political executives and all actions must be taken by them on the basis of written communication.

The bench, also comprising justice P C Ghose, said giving a fixed minimum tenure to a civil servant will not only promote professionalism and efficiency, but also good governance.

It asked the Centre and all state governments along with union territories to issue directions within three months for providing fixed tenure to civil servants.

The bench ordered the constitution of the Civil Services Board at the Centre and state-levels.

The apex court passed the verdict on a PIL filed by 83 retired bureaucrats, including former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian seeking its directions for insulating bureaucracy from political interference.

The petitioners also include former Indian ambassador to the US Abid Hussain, former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, former Election Commissioner T S Krishna Murthy, former IPS officer Ved Prakash Marwah, and former CBI directors Joginder Singh and D R Kaarthikeyan.

\"This is a landmark judgement. Public servants are not private servants,\" said Subramanian.

\"Today faith in our Constitution has been reaffirmed...our faith in the strength of democracy has been reaffirmed because the highest court of the land has recognised the problems,\" he said, adding \"malgovernance affected people and quality of administration\".

Krishna Murthy lauded the verdict, saying \"Good governance is critical to good quality democracy.

\"Most of us have seen in our career how most of the transfers, promotions, postings and foreign assignments, all of them are decided on whimsical basis very often,\" he said.

Singh said, \"I am happy over this judgement but having said that I am aware that similar judgement was passed by the Supreme Court on September 20, 2006 on fixed tenure of police officers but all states are dilly-dallying\".

The PIL had alleged that at present, the system of transfers, postings, promotions, disciplinary action and other personnel matters pertaining to the members of civil services are ad-hoc and non-transparent.

\"There is an urgent need to make the civil servants accountable, sensitive and responsive. If this is achieved, there will be across-the-spectrum benefits...

\"Transfers are often used as instruments of reward and punishment, with officials being frequently transferred on the whims and caprices as well as the personal needs of local politicians and other vested interests. Officers, especially those in the All India Services serving in state governments, have no stability or security of tenure,\" it had said.

The PIL had also said the civil servants at all levels should be given a minimum three-year fixed tenure on each post to foster functional freedom and independence.

Any premature transfer should specifically be authorised by the \'civil service board/commission\' on specific circumstances to be brought out in writing, it had said.

At least four high-powered panels made recommendations for freeing the bureaucracy from political interference but the government had not taken any concrete step for implementation of the reforms suggested by them, it had said.

\"Change of government invariably leads to new rounds of transfers as the incoming group of political leaders seeks to reward supporters and put its \"own\" staff in key positions.

\"Moreover, the \'transfer industry\' is backed by entrenched and powerful vested interests as frequent transfers generate huge amounts of black money for corrupt officials and politicians...,\" it had said.

The PIL had said that there should be an independent, high-powered and statutory \'civil services board\' in each state which should process proposals of postings and transfers.
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India needs Patel’s secularism, not votebank secularism: Modi

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hit back at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel belonged to the whole nation and not a particular party and that he favoured Patel's secularism and not "votebank secularism" practiced by some parties.

Mr. Modi also attacked the Prime Minister on the issue of installing a gate on the Sardar Sarovar Dam which has been pending for a long time. He alleged that Gujarat is being discriminated against by the Centre for political reasons.

Taking on the Prime Minister for his comments on October 29 that he is proud Patel belonged to his party, Mr. Modi said, "Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru are highly respected. Were they BJP members? Will only those who belong to the BJP be given respect and honour. Country is greater than the party and those who sacrifice themselves for the country are greater." He emphasised that nobody, not even him, can deny that Patel belonged to a party but his stature was such that he is respected by all. "To associate Patel with one party will be a great injustice to Sardar sahab. We should not divide our legacy," Mr. Modi said.

BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, who was speaking at the inauguration of a project to build the tallest statue of Sardar Patel in Kevadia, also attacked Mr. Singh and the Congress on the issue of secularism.

"I would really like to honour the Prime Minister for saying that Patel was truly secular. We also say that Patel was truly secular. The country needs Patel's secularism and not votebank secularism. He was secular yet his secularism did not come in the way of building the Somnath Temple. Mr. Prime Minister, the country needs secularism that does not divide the country but unites it," Mr. Modi said.

The BJP leader alleged that despite repeated requests to the Prime Minister, the gates on Sardar Sarovar Dam have not been constructed. Indicating that this was due to politics and discrimination against Gujarat, Mr. Modi said the Centre and the Congress can take all the credit for it but should build the gate without any further delay.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Suicide blast in Tunisian resort of Sousse

There has been a suicide bomb attack in the Tunisian Mediterranean resort town of Sousse on a beach in front of a hotel, officials say.

A hotel employee told the BBC that the blast occurred at 09:45 local time (08:45 GMT) and that no-one was hurt except for the bomber.

Meanwhile, security sources say police have foiled a separate plot to attack ex-President Habib Bourguiba\'s tomb.

Police captured the would-be suicide bomber before he blew himself up.

Mr Bourguiba led Tunisia after independence from France; he was deposed in 1987 and died 13 years ago.

Attack \'foiled\'

The blast in Sousse happened close to the Riadh Palms hotel, a receptionist told the BBC\'s World Update programme.

The male attacker, wearing a belt of explosives, was killed, the Associated Press quoted Tunisia\'s Tap state news agency as saying.

Witnesses said the bomber was spotted and chased away from the hotel, blowing himself up on an empty beach, the AFP news agency reported.

Sousse is a tourist destination about 140km (87 miles) south of the capital, Tunis, on the Mediterranean coast.

The former president\'s tomb is in Monastir, a town about 20km further south along the coast from Sousse.

\"An attempted attack targeting the compound of the Bourguiba mausoleum was foiled... and a young man carrying explosives was arrested,\" Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Laroui told AFP.

Since the 2011 uprising, which unseated long-time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has seen a rise in attacks by militants.

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Tiananmen: Why is the square so politically sensitive?

The car crash which killed five people and injured 38 others in Beijing\'s Tiananmen Square on Monday happened at a politically sensitive time - and in the most politically sensitive place in China.

It happened just a few weeks before the ruling Communist Party is to hold a major meeting to unveil its blueprint for new reforms.

The meeting, officially termed the third plenum of the 18th Party Congress, also marks the beginning of the time for President Xi Jinping - who assumed power late last year - to be in full control of the world\'s most populous country.

Whether the crash is an accident or a suspected suicide attack by Uighur separatists from the Xinjiang region, the mere fact that it happened in front of Tiananmen Square has inevitably turned it into a political story. That is because of the uniquely political nature of the square.

It is indeed one of a kind in the world. The word Tiananmen means \"gate of heavenly peace\". However, it is anything but heavenly peace.

The square was a playground for the Forbidden City before the last emperor was evicted during the 1911 revolution led by Dr Sun Yat-sen.

Official photo released by China in 1976 showing a major political event being held in Tiananmen square

Tiananmen Square has witnessed every major turn of history in the People\'s Republic

It has been used as a political venue ever since. But only from 1949, when the Communist Party came to power at the end of a bloody civil war, did the square start to assume real significance in politics.

On 1 October 1949, Chairman Mao, standing on the rostrum above the front entrance to the Forbidden City, proudly declared the founding of the People\'s Republic to a packed and excited audience in the square.

To many people at that time who dreamed about a new China, Tiananmen Square was a Mecca, the holiest place on Earth.

The square was considerably enlarged several times during the first decade of Communist Party rule, to reach its present scale of 440,000 sq m (4,736,000 sq ft) - the size of roughly 70 standard football pitches. It can accommodate 600,000 people at one time.

A family visiting Tiananmen Square - file pic, Sep 2012

There are no benches in the square for people to sit on

It is not supposed to be a place for people to relax and socialise. There are no public benches for visitors to sit on, nor trees nor any shelter from the sun or rain. And no toilets either. The Communist Party redesigned it with only one purpose - to serve politics on a grand scale.

If there was a video camera that was able to continuously record what has happened in the square since 1949, then you would have a complete and comprehensive record of the People\'s Republic, as every major turn of history has either been seen or felt there.

Tiananmen Square has become world-famous largely due to a single event in 1989. On 4 June that year, the Chinese government sent in soldiers and tanks to crush a student-led pro-democracy protest there. It ended with many people killed and injured.

14th October 1977: Tiananmen Square in Beijing with the giant mausoleum of Chairman Mao in its centre

Tiananmen Square used to be freely accessible from all sides

Tiananmen Square used to be an open ground, freely accessible from all sides. On hot and humid summer evenings, Beijing residents would come and sit on the ground in the square to cool down. A lot of people also used to fly kites in the square - a popular hobby for many local residents.

But now the square has been turned into something like a fortress. Iron railings have been erected around it and access has been restricted to four underground tunnels at its four corners. Security checks are in place to stop any potential trouble-makers from entering. Closed-circuit TV cameras are installed in many places for the authorities and police to monitor the square 24/7.

Tiananmen Square has assumed a role which was not planned and certainly not desired by the Communist Party. It has become a venue for people to air their grievances. Rights activists and opponents of the regime have used the square to openly challenge the party.

At a time when the Communist Party is facing a growing crisis over the legitimacy of its rule, it is obsessed with social stability.

It fears that any protests and demonstrations in Tiananmen Square will be perceived as a sign of party weakness. It is ready to use all available means to stop protests in the square before they escalate out of control.

It is still not known whether Monday\'s car blaze was an accident or a desperate attempt to make some sort of political statement. One thing is for sure - Tiananmen Square will only become even more fortified.
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PTU inter-zonal youth fest begins at GGNIMT

Gujranwala Guru Nanak Institute of Management & Technology (GGNIMT), Civil Lines, began its three-day Swami Vivekananda PTU Inter-zonal Youth Festival on Tuesday.

Day one of the festival witnessed a huge crowd of participants and eminent personalities from all across the region. Teams from 21 colleges participated in various musical, dance and fine arts events.

PTU Vice-Chancellor Rajneesh Arora inaugurated the event and congratulated the host institute. Punjab BJP state president Kamal Sharma was the guest of honour.

Dr Arora expressed satisfaction at the smooth working of the youth festivals. He motivated the students to participate in extracurricular activities, and advocated the need for teamwork.

In group shabad singing, GNIMT, Ludhiana, stood first. In Indian group song, BBSBEC, Fategarh Sahib, came first. In classical dance, DAVIET, Jalandhar, in classical vocal solo, GNIMT, Ludhiana, and in rangoli, DAVIET, Jalandhar, and in mehndi, LGC, Ludhiana, stood first.
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South Korean Lawmakers Visit Kaesong Factory in North

A group of South Korean lawmakers traveled to a North Korean border village Wednesday to visit a jointly run industrial park that recently reopened following months of military tensions.

The 21 lawmakers and several Unification Ministry officials are expected to meet with South Korean businessmen during their visit to the Kaesong industrial complex, which lies 10 kilometers inside North Korea.

The facility was shut down in April after the North pulled its 53,000 workers during a time of unusually tense relations following Pyongyang\'s third nuclear test. It was reopened last month as ties improved, but production is currently only at 80 percent of capacity.

Before crossing the border Wednesday, ruling party lawmaker Ahn Hong-joon said he hopes the trip can lead to a \"new beginning\" for the complex and for cooperation between the Koreas.

\"We should look forward to a future that does not simply go back to the situation of six months ago, but leads to a new beginning by progressive development of the Kaesong industrial complex. Upon discussions of the normalization process, we, the National Assembly\'s Foreign and Unification Committee, will make an effort to build the South-North relationship upon trust, and act as a stepping stone for improvement overall,\" said Hong-joon.

Vice Unification Minister Kim Nam-sik is among the Seoul government officials taking part in the one-day trip. The group is not scheduled to meet with officials in Pyongyang, which has given mixed signals about restarting several cross-border economic projects.

In addition to agreeing to re-open their joint factory zone, the North and South recently reached a deal on restarting reunions between families separated by the 1950s Korean War. It would have been the first time in years that such a meeting was held.

However, North Korea abruptly postponed the reunions and talks on resuming South Korean tourism to Mount Kumgang, citing alleged hostility from Seoul.

Talks have also stalled on fully restoring operations at Kaesong, which uses cheap North Korean labor and South Korean know-how to produce mainly industrial goods.

The factory, which opened in 2004, is an important source of revenue for North Korea and served as one of the last remaining signs of cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang.
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Suicide attacks across Iraq kill 20, October deaths climb to 600

Two separate overnight suicide attacks targeting Iraqi government forces and an allied militia killed at least 20 people, officials said on Wednesday.

The deadlier of Tuesday\'s attacks was in the town of Tarmiyah north of Baghdad. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives-laden belts among a group of soldiers and Sahwa militiamen gathered in the orchard of a local Sahwa leader, killing 12, a police officer said. Saeed Jassim, the leader of the Sunni Sahwa militia, was unhurt, but the commander of the military battalion deployed in the region died along with his deputy.

To maximize casualties, the suicide bombers blew themselves up in sequence: the first detonating among the group and the second at the gate of the compound as people tried to flee, he added. The dead included nine soldiers, one a brigade commander, and three militiamen, while 23 were wounded.

The former insurgent stronghold Tarmiyah is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad.

The Sahwa movement, also known as the Awakening Council, was formed by the US forces in 2007 to help fight insurgents during the height of Iraqi war. Ever since, it has been a target for Sunni hard-liners who consider them traitors.

In a separate incident, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a checkpoint leading to a police station at a village outside the northern city of Mosul, killing three policemen and four civilians.

When the ambulance rushed to the scene, gunmen opened fire on its crew, killing one and wounding three, a police official said. Mosul is located about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to media.

Violence has spiked in Iraq since April, with the pace of killing reaching levels unseen since 2008. Tuesday\'s attacks bring the death toll across Iraq to close to 600 in October alone, according to an estimate.
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Drone strikes can end tomorrow, if Pakistan wanted: Grayson

WASINGTON: US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee member Congressman Alan Grayson has said that drone strikes in Pakistan could end tomorrow if the country wanted to and that no such attacks take place without the approval of Pakistan.

The Democrat Congressman from Florida also said that he received no evidence from the Obama administration to suggest that there would be a drop in drone strikes conducted in Pakistan by the end of this year.

He said that had Pakistan wanted, drone attacks on its territory could end tomorrow if the country stopped facilitating the US strikes.

Pakistan\'s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his recent trip to the US, had talked to President Obama on the drone issue after which the government had announced that the results of the talks would be visible shortly and that the nation would see its positive effects in the coming days as the number of drone strikes would significantly be reduced by the end of this year.

Pakistan has a strong Air Force which had the power to impose a restriction on its borders whenever it chose to, according to the Congressman who added that, such attacks were not possible without the consent of the country struck.

Grayson further said that it was possible that a similar situation developed in Pakistan and only then there would be an end to drone attacks.

Moreover, he said Pakistan\'s armed forces were capable of tackling militants and that in such a situation the US should not have blood on its hands. He added that there were only a handful militants in the country, whose numbers hardly run into hundreds, whereas the strength of Pakistan\'s military was more than a million.

Grayson was of the view that heirs of the innocent victims of drone attacks should receive compensation from the United States.

Wondering as to why the decision of who lives and who does not was taken thousand of miles away from Pakistan, Grayson said that the call was for God to make but drones were taking those decisions here instead.

Earlier on Tuesday Congressman Grayson met with the family of a Pakistani elementary school teacher, Rafiq-ur-Rehman, whose mother was killed in a US drone strike last year.

Rafiq, who was visiting the US with his family on an invitation sent by Congressman Grayson, provided him with their accounts of the attack that killed the school-teacher\'s 67-year-old mother, Momina Bibi in North Waziristan.
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Nawaz Sharif asks Taliban to join peace talks for harmony in Pakistan

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 -

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that his government wants peace not only in the country, but the region. The comments from Sharif came as he asked the Taliban to join the peace process and become part of the political process.

In an interview with a private TV channel in London, Sharif said that his government is serious in negotiations with the Taliban, the Daily Times reports. He said that Interior Minister Chaurdhy Nisar had been given the responsibility for dialogue with the Taliban.

Sharif said that he wants to include all stakeholders, including the Taliban, in the negotiations. The prime minister is in London to attend the World Islamic Economic Forum.
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Egypt detains senior Brotherhood leader in Cairo

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Wednesday detained senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam al-Erian, one of the last few leaders of the Islamist movement to have escaped a security crackdown, the interior ministry said.

Security forces arrested Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood\'s Freedom and Justice Party, in the early hours of Wednesday at an apartment in east Cairo where he had been in hiding.

Pictures of Erian circulating on social media, apparently taken during his arrest, showed him smiling and making a gesture symbolising the rejection of the military\'s ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July.

Erian was moved to Tora prison, where much of the movement\'s leadership is being held, and public prosecutors have begun questioning him, the official MENA news agency reported.

The leader faces charges of inciting violence on several occasions.

The search for Erian had extended to eight provinces, according to a security official quoted by MENA.

Egypt\'s army-installed authorities launched a massive crackdown on Morsi\'s supporters in August, violently dispersing two protest camps in Cairo and making mass arrests.

More than 1,000 people have been killed since Morsi\'s ouster -- mainly his supporters -- and the authorities have detained some 2,000 Islamists, including most of the Muslim Brotherhood\'s leadership.
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Trending: The story behind No Woman, No Drive

This weekend a handful of women in Saudi Arabia defied a ban on driving and took to the wheel - many posted videos of themselves on YouTube - but what got the biggest response on social media was a video made by a Saudi comedian. Who is he, and what does the video mean?

Less than two days after it was posted, No Woman, No Drive has had more than three million views on YouTube. It\'s the most popular YouTube video in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, and has been a big hit around the world from South Africa to Denmark to Canada. \"Insanity\" is the word 26-year-old comedian Hisham Fageeh uses to describe the way his video has taken off. \"For two days my brain has been on fire - I can\'t wrap my brain around what is happening,\" he told the BBC.

It\'s a satirical video set to the tune of Bob Marley\'s No Woman, No Cry, with the words changed to focus on driving. It was put together by Fageeh and colleagues at the production house Telfaz11, which specialises in making comedy for an online audience. In short, they wanted it to go viral.

Like all the best ideas, \"it came to me either in the shower or in the toilet\", Fageeh says. Judging by the comments online, some people have been left confused as to whether he supports women driving or not.

Fageeh himself will not be drawn on this, stressing he is a comedian not a political activist. \"My philosophy is that you do something you think is funny and hope that other people enjoy it. I\'m not aiming to do anything political, just to entertain.\"

Fresh back in Saudi Arabia after courses in Middle East studies and political rhetoric at New York\'s Columbia University

Well-known in the online community since appearing in the online comedy show La Yekthar

The question of whether women should be allowed to drive is highly sensitive within Saudi Arabia, so it\'s perhaps understandable that he does not want to alienate his audience by coming out too explicitly on either side.

Some women who defied the ban shared his video, suggesting they chose to see it as complementary to their cause rather than overshadowing it. Many of the women driving videos have also been successful online, such as this one, with more than half a million views at the time of publication.
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German intelligence officials in US over Angela Merkel\'s phone spying scandal

Washington: A team of German intelligence officials are in the United States to investigate reports that claim surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel\'s phone.

The talks between the senior officials of the two countries will be at the White House, as per a BBC news report.

The meeting comes amidst furore over reports of US allegedly spying on foreign leaders.

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, on Wednesday defended the decision of the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor phone calls of foreign leaders and said that it was imperative to keep a watch on their intentions.

Speaking before the panel of the House of Representatives, he said that it\'s \"kind of a basic tenet\" of US intelligence-gathering to find out the intentions of foreign leaders.

Meanwhile, US National Security Agency (NSA) Director General Keith Alexander while testifying before the US Congress said that reports stating spying on European allies were false.

The startling revelation that phones of several foreign leaders including that of US allies, Germany and France, were put on surveillance by the NSA was made after a former CIA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the classified information.
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Decline of Chiranjeevi: From mega star to a big zero in Andhra Pradesh

New Delhi: Just five years ago he was the undisputed mega star, the matinee idol and perhaps the most powerful person in Andhra Pradesh. People would throw rose petals at him while his speeches would make them go delirious. Everything seems to have changed for him in the past five years. The one time mega star of Telugu cinema, Chiranjeevi, has now become one of the most unpopular figures in the state. The same people are now throwing stones and rotten eggs at him. They even verbally abuse him. Chiranjeevi is facing the ire of the people in Seemandhra region. They feel that Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi is not doing anything to keep the state united. They openly attack him saying that the \'reel\' life hero is a big zero in \'real life\' politics. When he visited the Cyclone Phailin hit areas in Seemandhra, Chiranjeevi was booed by angry people. Some even pelted stones at him. There was no adulation and reverence. He was treated like any other politician who is unconcerned about the well being of the masses. The one time mega star of Telugu cinema, Chiranjeevi, has now become one of the most unpopular figures in the state. In the Telangana region, he is being seen as a pro-united Andhra politician and the people stopped \'worshipping\' him, long ago. His son Ram Charan Teja\'s films were also not allowed to be released in Telangana. Chiranjeevi\'s decline started with the humiliating debacle of his Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) in the 2009 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. Chiranjeevi, who wanted to be the Chief Minister of AP failed to win even a single Lok Sabha seat and managed just 16 Assembly seats. In a TV interview, the most formidable AP Chief Minister the late Dr YS Rajashekhara Reddy had said, \"People come to see film stars. They don\'t vote for them. I don\'t consider Chiranjeevi a threat. He is not an NTR.\" The voters of Andhra Pradesh proved YSR right in the polls. According to the people close to him, Chiranjeevi was under the impression that he could repeat what the legendary film star NT Ramarao did in the early 1980s. His calculations went horribly wrong and he was finally forced to merge his party with the Congress in return for a Rajya Sabha seat for himself. This made him one of the several dozen leaders of the overcrowded Congress party. He managed to secure a berth for himself in the Union Cabinet in 2012. But his political ambitions ended his film career and mass appeal. He also lost the brand value. When he launched Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), there were allegations of sale of Lok Sabha and Assembly tickets for crores by his coterie. Chiranjeevi still denies those charges. But, only a few believe him. He is an unwanted man in Andhra Pradesh Congress. Some leaders joke that he is now a big zero both in politics and film. Even his hardcore fans are also disillusioned and most of his fan clubs have shut the doors long ago. A senior journalist in Hyderabad said, \"Earlier the people used to wait outside his house for a glimpse of Chiranjeevi for days. Now even if he walks on the roads, nobody looks at him.\" The YSR Congress Party led by Jaganmohan Reddy is decimating the Congress in Seemandhra. The Congress might win Telangana with the support of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Since, Chiranjeevi is from Seemandhra region, he will be seen as a non-entity in Telangana, even if his party rules the new state. Only three film stars made it big in Southern politics. MG Ramachandran or MGR in Tamil Nadu and NT Ramarao or NTR in Andhra Pradesh between 1970s - 1990s. The current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa has also made it big in politics by occupying the post of the Chief Minister thrice. Most others including Shivaji Ganeshan to Chiranjeevi have failed miserably.

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