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British police say George Michael autopsy inconclusive, more tests needed | Reuters

British police say George Michael autopsy inconclusive, more tests needed | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST


LONDON The cause of singer George Michael’s death this week is unclear after an initial autopsy and more tests are needed, British police said on Friday.British singer Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in southern England on Sunday. He was 53.”A post mortem examination was carried out yesterday as part of the investigation into the death of George Michael,” Thames Valley police said.

“The cause of death is inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out. The results of these tests are unlikely to be known for several weeks,” they added in a statement.British police had said that Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious”. Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, said he had died of heart failure.

In the mid-1980s, “Wham! were one of the most successful pop duos with singles such as “”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “”Careless Whisper”, ““Last Christmas” and ““The Edge of Heaven”.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Stephen Addison and Alison Williams)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST

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DNA Morning Must Reads: Hyderabad men’s allegiance to ISIS; PM pushes cashless economy; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Hyderabad men’s pledge shows close knowledge of Islamic State groupBayah known as the pledge of allegiance is a crucial evidence to prove accused were members of the dreaded terrorist organisation. Read more.2. PM Modi reiterates govt’s move to push cashless economy, unveiled two schemesLucky Grahak Yojana, Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana to benefit 15,000 people over next 100 days for making cashless payments. Read more.3. Mumbai: Two students abduct, murder 3-year-old girl for Rs 1 cr ransomAccused used chloroform on the victim, later strangulated her; For 20 days her body lay concealed in an adjacent building. Read more.4. Traffickers get life in prison in India for torturing & chopping off labourers’ handsEight human traffickers were found guilty and they have been awarded life prison sentences and hefty fines. Read more.5. British singer George Michael dies aged 53British pop singer George Michael no more. Read more.

Nalanda University chancellor George Yeo resigns, claims he wasn’t notified about leadership change

New Delhi: George Yeo, the second Chancellor of Nalanda University after Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, on Friday resigned from the post saying the varsity’s autonomy was being affected as he was “not even given notice” of the leadership change in the institution.

“The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the University’s development,” he said in a statement to the members of the earlier Board of the university.

The Board was reconstituted by President Pranab Mukherjee as its Visitor on 21 November which severed Sen’s nearly a decade-long association with the institution after the government reconstituted the governing body of the prestigious institution.

“It is puzzling why I, as Chancellor, was not even given notice of it. When I was invited to take over the responsibility from Amartya Sen last year, I was repeatedly assured that the University would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now.

“Accordingly, and with deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation as Chancellor to the Visitor,” Yeo said.

Sources said the President, in his capacity as the Visitor of the university, approved the reconstitution of the Governing Board in accordance with provisions of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.

He also approved giving temporary charge of Vice Chancellor to senior-most Dean of the University as the current VC Gopa Sabharwal’s one year extension expired on Thursday. It will be a stop-gap measure until the new Vice Chancellor is appointed.

File photo of George Yeo. Reuters

File photo of George Yeo. Reuters

The new governing board will be a 14-member body which will be chaired by the chancellor. It will also comprise vice-chancellor, along with five members nominated by India, China, Australia, Laos PDR and Thailand.

Former revenue secretary NK Singh, who was also member of the Nalanda Mentors Group, will represent India.

“For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Government of India has decided to form the new Governing Board with immediate effect before the Act is amended. This is of course entirely the prerogative of the Government of India,” Yeo, the former Foreign Affairs Minister of Singapore, said.

He said that pending the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor, the incumbent Gopa Sabharwal, whose term ended on Thursday, was to stay in place “to ensure that there is no hiatus in the leadership of the University.”

This was also provided in the university statutes and “fully supported by the old Governing Board.”

“However, on 22 November, the Visitor overruled the Governing Board and directed the senior-most Dean be appointed instead,” Yeo said.

He said when he was appointed Chancellor in July this year, “I was told that a new Governing Board would be formed under an amended Act, core aspects of which the Ministry of External Affairs sought my views on.”

The amended Act, he said, would have removed “a major flaw” which “in essence offers Governing Board seats to East Asian Summit countries making the highest financial contributions in the last three years.”

“This provision, which was never recommended by the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG), would not have been a good way to constitute the Governing Board and was the reason the Government of India requested the NMG to continue functioning as the Governing Board for a number of years until the Act could be amended,” he said.

“It has been an honour and a privilege for me to be associated with the revival of Nalanda over the last decade, to serve as a member of the NMG and the Governing Board under the leadership of Amartya Sen, and to be appointed its second Chancellor.

“Despite difficult circumstances, the University has made remarkable progress through the tireless effort of Dr Gopa Sabharwal and her colleagues …. Nalanda is an idea whose time has come and larger than anyone of us,” Yeo said.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 14:10 IST

Bengaluru’s steel flyover: SC lawyer seeks probe against CM Siddaramaiah

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the heat over the construction of a steel flyover intensifies, Senior Supreme Court lawyer KV Dhananjay has alleged that the project is marred with corruption and demanded that a probe be initiated against Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the state’s Development Minister, KJ George.”This project is an insult to the people of Karnataka because anybody who has ever constructed a house knows what concrete will cost and what steel will cost. This is a corruption project, and therefore, the honourable chief minister and the Development Minister KJ George should be criminally investigated for floating this corruption project. This is an act of massive corruption. The government has kept the whole project in a very secretive manner, it’s almost as if they are building some nuclear arsenal,” Dhananjay told ANI.Meanwhile, former IAS Officer M N Vijay Kumar claimed that important documents pertaining to the cost of the project has been suppressed by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA).”I have put the information on the internet. My demand is don’t suppress, take action and, I am sending a copy of all the documents to the registrar general of the High Court of Karnataka,” Kumar told ANI.On Thursday, Bengalureans approached the National Green Tribunal over the construction of the steel flyover which requires the axing of almost 812 trees. The green board on Friday put the entire project on hold for four weeks. The tribunal sought a detailed report from the state government on the environmental impact assessment before going ahead with the work.Earlier, citizens had met Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala seeking cancellation of the tender to Larsen & Toubro, who have been given the contract to construct the flyover.Meanwhile, the ‘tree vigil’ will commence from November, where citizen volunteers will hold regular day and night vigil on the stretch from Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal to save the trees which are to be axed for the project.

‘Indian call centres stole $300 million from Americans’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The five Indian call centres charged with defrauding thousands of Americans, stole more than US $300 million from their victims, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said.The official on Thursday said an inter-agency effort resulted in the indictment of all five call centers and 56 people, including 31 from India, as well as the arrest of 20 others in the US, most of whom are Indians.Johnson said these were “engaged in defrauding thousands of victims, stealing more than a total of US $300 million.” The scheme involved a network of call centers based in Ahmedabad, where associates of the ring would call victims in the US impersonating Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Services, or other government officials, demanding payment in order to clear fictitious arrest warrants, orders of deportation, or unpaid income tax, Johnson said.The five Ahmedabad-based call centers that made calls to people living in the US are global, Call Mantra, Worldwide Solution, Zoriion Communications and Sharma BPO Services.The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission announced the indictments, the result of a three-year investigation that was the largest single domestic law enforcement action connected with the impersonation scam.”To date, more than 1.8 million people have reported to TIGTA that they have received an impersonation call; more than 9,600 victims reported that they paid the impersonators a total amount that exceeds US $50 million,” TIGTA Inspector General J Russell George said.”The largest single amount paid as a result of the IRS impersonation scam as charged in the indictment is US $136,000, paid by a victim in California,” George said.The US Senate Aging Committee, that studies issues related to older Americans, received more than 1,100 calls from senior citizens across the country on its fraud hotline in 2015.The most common complaint reported to the fraud hotline continues to be the IRS impersonation scam.

AAP MLA Naresh Balyan arrested in a case of assault

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AAP MLA Naresh Balyan, who was last week booked for allegedly assaulting president of Mohan Garden RWA, Henry George, was arrested by Delhi Police on Friday. Balyan, MLA from Uttam Nagar, was arrested on a day that also saw Deputy Chief Minister Manish and Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan being questioned by Anti-Corruption Branch in separate cases and news about a non-bailable warrant being issued against Matiala legislator Gulab Singh surfaced.”AAP MLA Balyan was arrested today in connection with a case of assault registered at Uttam Nagar police station last week,” said Dependra Pathak, joint commissioner of police (Southwest).Balyan was called for questioning to the police station around 8.30 pm and was later arrested, said a senior police officer. He added that Mahavir Fauji, an associate of Balyan, was also arrested.”In such matters, it is essential to arrest the accused since we have to know the facts. It’s a bailable offence in which he has been arrested and he is likely to be given bail by late night,” said the officer.In his complaint, George, also a former AAP volunteer, had accused Balyan and his associates of tress-passing his office, attacking him and issuing threat to his life. A case had been registered against Balyan under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 451 (assault) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.One of Balyan’s associates had filed a cross complaint against George accusing him and his aides of abusing and assaulting the MLA and his supporters who were passing from near his office. (Agency Inputs)

AAP MLA Naresh Balyan booked for assault, he files cross complaint

Mon, 10 Oct 2016-10:20am , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi Police has lodged a First Investigation Report (FIR) against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Naresh Balyan for allegedly assaulting the c president of Mohan Garden area in the national capital. The FIR was lodged yesterday night following a complaint by former AAP volunteer and president of Mohan Garden RWA, Henry George, who has accused Balyan and his associates of tres-passing his office, attacking him and issuing threat to his life. Deputy Commissioner of Police, West Vijay Kumar said the case has been registered against the Uttam Nagar MLA under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Meanwhile, one of MLAs’ supporters in turn filed a cross FIR against George, accusing him of abusing and assaulting the MLA and his supporters near his office. The cross FIRs have been registered at the Uttam Nagar Police Station. Police said no one has been arrested so far and the probe is underway.

Former AAP volunteer files FIR against MLA Naresh Balyan, associates file cross complaint

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An FIR was filed on Sunday by a former AAP volunteer against the party Uttam Nagar MLA Naresh Balyan, one of whose supporters in turn filed a cross FIR in an assault case. The cross FIRs have been filed at west Delhi’s Uttam Nagar police station.In his FIR, former AAP volunteer and president of Mohan Garden RWA Henry George has accused Balyan and his associates of trespassing his office, attacking him and issuing threat to his life this afternoon, police said. A case has been registered against Balyan under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 451 (assault) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC, Vijay Kumar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West), said.Also, a case has been registered against George on the basis of a complaint by one of the MLA’s associates. He has accused George and his aides of abusing and assaulting the MLA and his supporters who were passing from near his office.The case against George has been registered under sections 323, 341 and 506 of the IPC. Kumar said no one has been arrested so far and the probe is underway.

KJ George back in cabinet after clean chit in MK Ganapathy suicide case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Karnataka Minister KJ George was reinducted into the Siddaramaiah ministry on Monday, close on the heels of being given a clean chit by the CID in a case related to the alleged suicide of a Deputy Superintendent of Police.George, a close confidant of the Chief Minister, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Vajubhai Vala at a ceremony held in Raj Bhavan. George had resigned on July 18, soon after a court in Madikeri in Kodagu district directed police to register an FIR against him and two police officers in connection with the suicide of 51-year-old MK Ganapathy. Ganapathy was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a room at a lodge in Madikeri on July 7, prior to which he gave an interview to a local TV channel saying the Minister and AM Prasad (now Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety) and Pranab Mohanty (now on central deputation as Additional Deputy Director General of UIDAI) would be responsible “if anything happens to me.” The court had issued directions based on a private criminal complaint by Ganapathy’s son, Nehal, requesting it to direct police to take up investigation against the minister and the officers for allegedly abetting his father’s suicide. Karnataka CID, which investigated the case, on September 17 gave a clean chit to George and two senior police officers in its ‘B’ report, filed in a court in Madikeri. George is likely to retain Bengaluru Development and Town Planning portfolio, which he had held when he stepped down amid a huge political storm in the state with the Opposition gunning for him. He had also held the Home portfolio earlier.With the reinduction of George, the strength of the Siddaramaiah ministry now stands at 34, the maximum constitutional limit for the state. Siddaramaiah, his cabinet colleagues, Congress legislators and senior government officials were present at the swearing-in. Both opposition parties BJP and JD(S) have taken exception to the reinduction of George.Earlier this month, Siddaramaiah on September 5 had expanded his Cabinet by inducting M Krishnappa into his Ministry.

SP MK Ganapathy suicide: KJ George to be sworn into Karnataka Cabinet on Monday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After the Karnataka CID gave a clean chit to former minister KJ George and two senior police officers in connection with the alleged suicide of Deputy Superintendent of Police MK Ganapathy, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will reinstated KJ George as minister in the Karnataka Cabinet on Monday. After his reinstatement, George might be re-allotted the Bengaluru Development portfolio.The Bengaluru MLA was forced to resign as Bengaluru minister after an FIR was filed against him.Before hanging himself to death, Ganapathy (51) had given an interview to a local TV channel alleging that George and senior IPS officers Pranob Mohanthy and AM Prasad had harassed him, and that they were responsible for his impending suicide.The incident had kicked up a huge storm in the state.Although the government ordered an investigation, George had not stepped down as minister. Ganapathy’s son Nehal then lodged private complaint with a court in Madikeri, which ordered an FIR to be filed against George. It was after this, that George resigned.Congress Working President Dinesh Gundu Rao maintained that there had been no need for George to resign. However, George had done so as he did not want to embarrass the party. Eventually, the CID had filed its B Report to the Madikeri Court stating that there is no clear evidence against three who were named in the case and a clean chit was given.

Search engines to block ads on sex determination

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft on Monday informed the Supreme Court (SC) that they have developed a system to block advertisements on sex determination online.Appearing for the Centre, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra that he has been apprised on Monday about the “proposed list of words” that would be “auto-blocked” by these engines.If someone searches for these words, the sites would give a warning and nothing would be reflected on the internet, as it is prohibited in India, he said.The companies told the court that they will comply with the provisions of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic TechniquesAct as the Indian law prohibits pre-natal sex determination. They have identified 22 key words, including “sex determination” that will be harder to search.Petitioner Sebu George Mathew petitioner had moved the court, alleging that online search engines displaying ads of sex determination kits was a violation of laws in India.The PCPNDT Act was brought in to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. Under this Act, gender selection is prohibited. After the court’s direction, the Centre held a meeting with the search engine giants.Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, counsel for the petitioner, pointed out that there are agencies which still publish advertisements.

SC to hear PIL against Google, Yahoo for hosting pre-natal sex determination sites

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court will on Monday hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in which Google, Yahoo and other search engines have been made a party for allegedly putting up advertisements selling pre-natal sex determination kits.The apex court in July had concluded that the companies’ search engines violated the laws by hosting advertisements for tools, kits and clinics that help determine the sex of a foetus.”Can these search engines continue to violate the law? Is there nothing that can be done to completely stop them? Google, Microsoft, Yahoo can’t continue doing the illegal activity in the name of being an intermediary,? the top court had observed. It had also called on the Centre to come up with a memorandum to stop the ‘abuse’.The government had held consultative meeting with the companies to reach a solution.The PIL was filed by Sabu Mathew George, who sought the court’s intervention to get the government to crack down on advertisement of sex-determination kits, tools and clinics on websites.George has alleged that sex-determination ads and links were freely available on the search engines, defeating the purpose of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, enacted in 1994 to stop female foeticides and check the declining sex ratio in India.Prenatal sex determination was made illegal in India in 1994 to prevent sex-selective abortions.

CPI legislator V Sasi elected Deputy speaker of Kerala Assembly

Thiruvananthapuram: Communist Party of India legislator V Sasi was on Wednesday elected the Deputy Speaker of the Kerala Assembly, which was a foregone conclusion. However, independent legislator PC George caught the attention of all by voting Nota or None of the Above.

Explaining why he wrote Nota, George told IANS: “See, Nota is now an accepted thing by the Election Commission, so in the ballot also it should be there too. I did not vote for any of the candidates because none asked me for my vote. I am now in the process of building up a political front which does not have any allegiance to any of the three —the LDF, UDF or the BJP.”

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Sasi, a two-time CPI legislator, secured 90 votes with the Congress-led opposition candidate I.C. Balakrishnan getting 45 votes. The lone BJP legislator O Rajagopal was not present in the house as he was attending a family function in his home town Palakkad.

In the 141-member Kerala Assembly, including one nominated Anglo-Indian nominee, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has 92 members while the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has 47, and then there is George and Rajagopal.

On Wednesday, Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan did not cast his vote, and there were four absentees, including two from the opposition and one from the treasury bench and Rajagopal.

George, a seven-time legislator, in the 16 April assembly polls won from his traditional Poonjar seat in Kottayam district as an independent candidate.

China bars India’s NSG entry: We must rely on our own wits, develop tech

Early on Friday morning, Indian time, the verdict from Seoul was announced: India was denied entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). For many, this had been a foregone conclusion, but the strenuous efforts of the Indian government raised hope that things would ultimately come out in India’s favour as they did in 2008. They were wrong.

At Seoul, Beijing played a spoilsport. Stubbornly insisting on creating an admissions process for countries not signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it refused to consider the specifics of India’s case. For China, it was a purely geopolitical calculation — Indian admission to the nuclear high table would bring the South Asian country on a par with itself. Additionally, it would put India in a position of advantage over China’s client, Pakistan. Obfuscating these realities behind the rhetoric of non-proliferation, China, one of the worst proliferators in recent years, gained the support of other NSG participating governments for its “principled” stand.

Although India insists that its application was foiled by one obstinate country, other reports suggest that Austria, Brazil, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Turkey all supported a process-based entry. Turkey may have been keeping an eye on Israel while China is the largest trading partner for Brazil and New Zealand. According to diplomats, accession to the NPT was the recurring theme during the negotiations.

Technically, the NSG is a consensus-based body and it does not have rules, at least not legally binding ones. Furthermore, as Indian diplomats have repeatedly pointed out, France joined the NSG while not a member of the NPT. Nonetheless, if the sense of the group has now changed to requiring NPT membership, there is very little that India can do about it. However, given the support for India’s candidacy, that does not seem to be the sense. Were China to acquiesce to Indian membership, or even abstain from making a decision, it remains a question whether the others would still hold firm to their “principles.” Admittedly, there have been complaints about pressure to vote in favour of India but such behaviour is certainly the norm for any important decision in any forum.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

India will not — and should not — sign the NPT as is, and an amendment to the treaty that would recognise India as the sixth nuclear weapons state would be tougher to achieve than a NSG membership. Even the George W Bush administration, which was rather sanguine about India’s nuclear programme, did not attempt to modify the NPT during the 2008 Indo-US nuclear deal for that was too high a mountain. After nearly half a century of having its arbitrariness and hypocrisy enshrined, no state would want to be reminded of the fundamental flaw in the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Nuclear weapons states, at least one of them, would not want another competitor. And non-nuclear weapons states would feel the fool for accepting discriminatory laws all this time while a country that rejected the system for so long is admitted to its highest echelon.

How did India manage to get a waiver in 2008 and not in 2016? Several things have changed in these eight years. US president Barack Obama is not George W Bush, nor is Xi Jinping his predecessor. In 2008, the Bush administration is rumoured to have twisted arms to get India the NSG waiver; the Obama administration, though supportive of India, was probably not willing to go so far. Additionally, Sino-American relations were calmer: it was not unthinkable for Bush to personally call his counterpart, Hu Jintao, in Beijing on India’s behalf. Xi Jinping is different, intent on refashioning a Chinese empire during his time at the helm. The troubles in the South China Sea have also changed the tone of the relationship. Additionally, the 2008 waiver for India helped China in some ways: it gave them an excuse to openly sell more reactors to Pakistan against the NSG’s wishes and with no such waiver coming for Pakistan, it made Islamabad entirely dependent on Beijing for nuclear assistance. The 2016 waiver holds no such benefits for China.

The most important question now is, what next? There are several options on a broader diplomatic canvas but it is not clear whether Delhi has the courage to do so. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned like a hawk in the general elections two years ago, has turned into a meek businessman since he moved to Raisina. To be fair to him, however, India cannot bite off more than it can chew — economically as well as militarily and diplomatically, India is much inferior to China and repercussions must be carefully considered.

Yet within the narrow arena of nuclear affairs, India is restricted to developing its own technology for the complete nuclear supply chain. This is easier said than done: industry will not be interested in partnering with government if there is no demand for their wares. An overt commitment to large-scale domestic growth of nuclear power with Make-in-India components will create the incentive for the private sector to develop nuclear-grade components. Furthermore, India has plenty of expertise in designing, building, and operating small to medium reactors. These also cost less than the larger Western models and may be more suitable for developing countries just embracing nuclear energy. Given India’s lower cost of labour, it may even be able to become part of nuclear supply chains of Western vendors.

Were India to commit to emerging as a nuclear manufacturing hub within the next ten years, its clout at the negotiating table would be significant. At that point, the NSG would run the risk of fuelling a parallel nuclear market were it to continue to ignore India. The value of NSG membership, for Delhi, at least since 2011, has not been the acquisition of technology but the prevention of the adoption of discriminatory guidelines in the future. It is also unrealistic to expect countries to sell their latest technology to India even if an NSG membership had been in the stars. For now, the failure to become an NSG member does not create additional burdens to the development of Indian manufacturing; that should be the point of focus.

A nuclear renaissance would need a considerable boost in India’s budget for the Atomic Energy Commission. It would also require greater private participation in the sector, perhaps even in operations. This has been a taboo subject so far for no good reason. Public-Private partnerships will catalyse capacity growth and have a ripple effect on several sectors such as labour, the environment, and, of course, the economy.

India can also speed up its languishing Fast Breeder Reactor programme. These reactors irk the non-proliferation lobby because of their excellent capacity to breed plutonium. With several of these reactors operating, India can offer to put most of them under safeguards in exchange for a seat at the nuclear high table. The investment in FBRs will not be wasted for India’s primary purpose is to use them to fuel the third stage of its civilian three-stage nuclear energy strategy.

Yet for any of this to occur, nuclear issues need to receive generous political attention that they have lacked since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. Reforms bringing greater transparency and a focus on outcomes must be introduced to shake up what is until now a sluggish governmental behemoth. If India cannot join the NSG, it must be made largely irrelevant to India.

CPI(M) tries to do damage control, says Anju Bobby George Kerala’s pride

Describing Olympian Anju Bobby George, heading the state Sports Council, as Kerala’s ‘pride’, CPI(M) on Sunday said the Marxist party led government was not for ‘driving out anyone’.”We are not for driving out anyone. Anju is Kerala’s pride who has brought laurels to the state at the national and international levels,” CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>His response assumes significance as speculations are rife that the veteran athlete is likely to be shunted out as Sports council president in the light of differences between her and Sports minister E P Jayarajan over certain concessions being availed by her.The Arjuna awardee had recently alleged that the minister had “insulted” her by accusing her of corruption. Anju had complained to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also, but he had defended his colleague. Anju had on Saturday written a five page open letter to the Sports minister, stating that he should order a ‘truthful and transparent’ probe into the happenings in the council during the last 10 years and that she would return the Rs 40,000 claimed by her as flight charges.Kodiyeri said Anju had herself stated that she wanted the government to launch a probe into not just the alleged corruption during her six months term, but the happenings in the Sports council since the last 10 years.”Let the government look into all the aspects’, he said adding that Anju had spoken to him also.

Kerala Assembly polls 2016: CM Oommen Chandy confident of smooth sail in Puthuppally

Notwithstanding various allegations, including solar scam against him, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy seems to be confident of sailing through comfortably in his home constituency of Puthuppally for the 11th time in a row in the May 16 Assembly polls.29-year-old Jaik C Thomas (CPI-M), the state president of Students Federation of India who is challenging 73-year-old Chandy, does not seem much of a threat to the senior Congress leader, political observers say.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chandy, Chairman of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), is spearheading the campaign hoping to create history by retaining power in a state where rivals UDF and CPI(M)-led LDF have come to power alternatively in the last three decades.”I am getting full support of the people. We had come to power with a thin majority of two MLAs. There were even talks that the government will not last for 6 months. Today we have completed 5 years and now the talk is about continuation of this government,” Chandy told PTI. He said he had received unstinted support from his party and UDF partners.People are going to support UDF for the radical liquor policy which envisages total prohibition in 10 years and various developmental initiatives undertaken during the five-year rule of the UDF government, he said.Listing out the development projects, including Vizhinjam International Deepwater Seaport, Kannur Airport and Kochi Metro, Chandy said, “People of the state will vote for development rather than the politics of violence pursued by CPI(M) in the state.”The UDF victory in three Assembly byelections, Parliament and civic polls, after this government came to power in 2011, clearly showed that people have rejected the various allegations against his government, he said. Chandy, who filed his nomination papers today, immediately left for campaigning in the constituency.A leader, who always draws energy by being in the midst of party workers and people, Chandy was first elected to Assembly from his home segment Puthupally in 1970 when he was a 26-year-old and there has been no looking back ever since.Chandy’s pocket borough, Puthupally, in the central Travancore district of Kottayam, is encircled by rivers, paddy fields and hills and is home to many NRIs.Constituted in November 1965, the constituency comprises 8 panchayats — Akalakunnam, Ayarkunnam, Kooroppada, Manarcad, Meenadom, Pampady and Puthuppally in Kottayam Taluk and Vakathanam Panchayat in Changanassery Taluk. He had won by a margin of 7,288 votes in the 1970 elections against E M George (CPI-M).In 2011, Chandy defeated Suja Susan George of the Marxist party by 33,255 votes and is hoping to improve his margin further this time. A mass leader, Chandy jumped into the political arena as an activist of Kerala Students Union (KSU), Congress’s students wing, along with contemporary leaders of that time – A K Antony and Valayar Ravi.Affectionately called “Kunjunju” by his supporters, Chandy prefers to be at his home in Puthupally, especially on Sundays, when people from all walks of life and from different parts of the state flock to meet him with their woes. His “Mass Contact Programme”, which has won him praise even from the United Nations, had endeared him among the masses, though the opposition did target him with barbs for undertaking a “panchayat clerk’s duties”.However, an unfazed Chandy continues to accept petitions from people who approach him.While some want urgent medical assistance or financial assistance for children’s education, there are some even who come to him for settling family disputes. His poll managers say that though the LDF continues to attack him with the solar and bar scams and ‘tainted’ ministers in his cabinet, it is not likely to cut much ice with this electorate.However, Jaick C Thomas is focusing on corruption charges against the UDF government during campaign and his main target is to woo young voters.”I also hope that people in the constituency will vote for a change,” he said. BJP has fielded George Kurian from Puthuppally.

Fed keeps rates unchanged, signals faith in U.S. economy | Reuters

WASHINGTON The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday but signaled confidence in the U.S. economic outlook, leaving the door open to a hike in June.

The U.S. central bank’s policy-setting committee said the labor market had improved further despite a recent economic slowdown and that it was keeping a close eye on inflation.

It added that global economic headwinds remained on its radar, but removed a specific reference from its last policy statement to the risks they posed.

“The committee continues to closely monitor inflation indicators and global economic and financial developments,” the Fed said in a statement following a two-day meeting.

It kept the target range for its overnight lending rate in a range of 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent. The Fed hiked rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

For the third consecutive meeting, it did not include any mention of the balance of risks to the economy. However, the Fed noted that while growth in household spending had moderated, households’ real income had risen at a “solid rate” and consumer sentiment remained high.

Inflation has picked up recently, but the Fed on Wednesday said it was expected to remain low in the near term in part because of earlier declines in energy prices. It added that it remained confident inflation would rise to its 2 percent target over the medium term.

Despite strong job gains and an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, Fed policymakers have previously said they would proceed cautiously in raising rates again due to the uncertainty in the world economy and a lack of inflation pressures at home.

A global equities sell-off and the tightening of financial markets earlier this year largely on concerns of a slowdown in China prompted the Fed’s policy-setting committee last month to dial back rate hike expectations for the year.

Fed policymakers currently project two rate hikes in 2016, compared to the four hikes forecast in December. Stocks have continued to rise since the Fed’s March policy meeting and investors’ nerves have been soothed by an apparent pick-up in China’s economy.

Oil prices also have rallied from a near-collapse earlier this year and the U.S. dollar has shed some of its strength from last year. A robust dollar last year acted as a drag on U.S. manufacturing and other sectors in the economy.

Other major central banks have been grappling with ways to deal with lackluster economies, including the adoption of negative interest rates.

For its part, the Fed is concerned that with interest rates still close to zero it would have to rely on more unconventional policy tools should the economy take a turn for the worse.

An initial estimate of U.S. first-quarter gross domestic product is expected on Thursday to show tepid growth. Kansas City Fed President Esther George dissented for the second consecutive meeting.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Jason Lange; Editing by Paul; Simao)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Maharashtra: Chhagan Bhujbal’s ‘unrecognisable’ picture from St. George’s hospital goes viral

A picture of former Maharashtra deputy Chief Minister and senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal who is undergoing treatment at Saint George Hospital has gone viral. Almost unrecognisable, Bhujbal is seen sitting in a wheelchair before a probable check-up. He has a full grown white beard and seems to look frail.Bhujbal is presently under judicial custody in an alleged money laundering case, and was admitted to ICU last week in South Mumbai after he complained of severe chest pain and high blood pressure. Inspector general of police (Prisons) is carrying out a vigilance inquiry on why Bhujbal was taken to St George hospital, despite complaining of toothache.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Although it seems like jail time is taking its toll on the NCP leader, doctors told dna that all his vital parameters are normal and that he is stable.Bhujbal has reportedly lost 10 kgs since his arrest in March. He is likely to get discharged from the hospital in the next few days.
ALSO READ Bhujbal has enlarged prostate, hospital stay justified: JJ doctorsThe former PWD minister and his nephew and former MP Samir Bhujbal are in judicial custody till April 27.The ED had filed two FIRs against Bhujbal, his son and nephew among others under the provisions of PMLA, based on Mumbai Police FIRs, to probe the Delhi-based Maharashtra Sadan construction scam and the Kalina land grabbing case.

Maharashtra: Prison doctor shunted for fudging Chhagan Bhujbal’s medical records

An inquiry by the Prisons department into the admission of former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal to St George Hospital in Mumbai has revealed that a doctor at Arthur Road Jail had manipulated papers to help the jailed NCP leader.Bhujbal, remanded in judicial custody in an alleged money laundering case, was admitted to ICU of the multi-speciality hospital in South Mumbai on April 18 after he complained of severe chest pain and high blood pressure.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bipin Kumar Singh, IG Prisons, said jail doctor Rahul Ghule has been shifted out of the Arthur Road jail and sent back to the health department. Also, “strict action” has been recommended against the doctor, he said.
ALSO READ NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s toothache turns into chest pain outside prison”Bhujbal was supposed to go to St George Hospital for a dental treatment but Ghule changed his medical papers without the knowledge of Arthur Road Jail CMO and recommended that he get admitted there for some other reason,” Singh told PTI.”If a prisoner has a medical ailment, he has the right to get medical treatment. But, never is a prisoner has taken anywhere except JJ Hospital. Ghule has been fired as he was found guilty and we have recommended strict action against him,” he said.
ALSO READ Land branted to Bhujbal’s MET led to losses for state: PACSingh said that the motive behind Ghule’s conduct and whether he received favours for it will be ascertained after the health department completes its probe into the matter.The former PWD Minister has been lodged in Arthur Road Jail for a month after ED arrested him for alleged involvement in the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi and the Kalina land grabbing case.
ALSO READ Judicial Custody of Chhagan Bhujbal extended till April 13Maharashtra Minister of State for Home (Urban) Ranjit Patil had ordered a Director General of Police (DGP) level probe into allegations of VIP treatment being accorded to some detainees in lieu of monetary considerations at Arthur Road Jail.His orders came after Ghule, in a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on April 6, had alleged that jail authorities were coercing and threatening inmates lodged for economic offences and forcing them to cough up lakhs of rupees for availing VIP treatment.

NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s toothache turns into chest pain outside prison

As reported by Mumbai Mirror, Maharashtra’s Additional DGP (prisons), BK Upadhyay has ordered an inquiry into Maharashtra’s former deputy chief minister and NCP chief Chhagan Bhujbal’s sudden admission to Mumbai’s St. George’s Hospital. Curiously he had complained to prison authorities about a toothache, and was granted permission to visit Government Dental College and Hospital. Bhujbal is currently in jail in the money laundering case. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>How did toothache become chest pain is the matter of inquiry. Inspector General (IG prisons) of Arthur Road jail, Bipin Kumar Singh will be conducting the inquiry. He will be seeking answers from jail authorities accompanying Bhujbal, doctors from St George Hospital and Government Dental College and Hospital, to understand what transpired on Monday after the leader left from the jail.While, St. George’s Hospital does not have a cardiology department, the doctors at both the hospital have also been giving contradictory details of the events. Dr Rohan Sequeira, head of medicine at St George’s Hospital, claims that he was brought in from the dental hospital, a little past noon on Monday, but Dr Mansingh Pawar, dean of dental hospital said that Bhujbal never visited them. St George’s Hospital, has earlier too said to have been hospitable to Gangster Arun Gawli and Maharashtra’s former minister Sureshdada Jain, when they were serving their jail term.

Senior U.S. lawmakers want PM Modi to address U.S. Congress | Reuters

WASHINGTON The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee called on Tuesday for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to Washington in June.

“Given the depth of our relationship with India across a range of areas – defence, humanitarian and disaster relief, space cooperation, conservation and innovation – we believe this is an ideal opportunity for the Congress to hear directly from the prime minister,” Representatives Ed Royce, the Republican committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, the panel’s ranking Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The invitation would be a sharp turnaround for a leader who was once barred from the United States over massacres of Muslims.

A spokeswoman for Ryan said she had no announcement at this time about whether Ryan would extend the invitation.

Invitations to address the Senate and House are considered a great honour. There have been only two in the past year: Pope Francis, on September 24, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on April 29, 2015.

When Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies swept India’s elections in 2014, there initially were questions about whether he would qualify for a visa. President Barack Obama quickly dismissed the issue by inviting him to the White House when he called to congratulate him on his victory.

In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state.

The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

Modi denied any wrongdoing. India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 he had no case to answer.

Washington sees its relationship with India as critical, partly to counterbalance China’s rising power. Obama has called it “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

The letter to Ryan was also signed by Republican Representative George Holding and Democrat Ami Bera, the co-chairmen of the Congress Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Kerala elections: A rash of 3-way contests

By Sanu George

Thiruvananthapuram: Like in the past, this time too quite a few interesting poll battles are lined up – more than a dozen in fact – for May 16 when the Kerala voters queue up to cast their vote. This time there are film stars pitted against one another, political veterans taking on one another, one-time friends battling against one another; and there are two TV journalists rivalling it out.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. File photo. IBN LiveKerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. File photo. IBN Live

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. File photo. IBN Live

Though the fight in Kerala is mainly between the traditional rival fronts – the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), in a few constituencies there is a triangular contest, with the BJP-led NDA putting up a fight.

But the mother of all battles is taking place at Poonjar in Kottayam district, where it is a tough four-way contest. In at least 30 constituencies, it’s a 3-way fight, reports The Indian Express.

Six-time legislator P.C. George, who has earlier been with both the traditional fronts and has now become a persona non grata for them, has decided to go it alone for the first time. George asserts he will win the seat.

Another battle never witnessed before in the state is at Pathanapuram in Kollam district, where the rival fronts have fielded veteran film stars.

For K.B. Ganesh Kumar, who is aiming for a fourth successive win, the only change is that this is the first time he is part of the LDF combination, moving out from the UDF. Taking him on is ace comedian Jagdish, the Congress candidate, while the BJP has fielded popular villain Bheemen Reghu.

The selection of Reporter TV channel journalist M.V. Nikesh Kumar by the CPI-M appears to be the biggest surprise. His father M.V. Raghavan till the ’80s was the most firebrand CPI-M leader, and after being booted out of the party he has turned into its biggest enemy by becoming a minister on two occasions with the UDF.

Kumar is being fielded from Azhikode in Kannur district, the seat from where his father won in 1987 as a UDF ally. He is taking on sitting legislator K.M. Shaji of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the UDF.

Kumar’s colleague in the Reporter TV channel, Veena George, was another surprise choice by the CPI-M. She is taking on senior Congress legislator K. Sivadasan Nair at the Aranmula constituency in Pathanamthitta.

In the Kollam constituency, the CPI-M again sprang a surprise when it decided to drop its veteran CITU trade union leader and former minister P.K. Gurudasan. The party gave the seat to film star Mukesh, who is pitted against Sooraj Ravi, son of late legislator Thoppil Ravi, a close friend and party colleague of top Congress leaders like A.K. Antony, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran.

Popular Congress leader, Raj Mohan Unnithan, who turned a film star late in his career and is known for his razor sharp tongue, is taking on former legislator and senior CPI-M leader J. Mercykutty in the Kundara constituency in Kollam.

For the Idukki seat, the fight is between three-time sitting legislator Roshy Augustine of the Kerala Congress (Mani), an ally of the UDF, and his party colleague till last month and former Lok Sabha member Francis George, who has formed a new party and joined the LDF.

The Thalassery seat in Kannur district – the seat that has seen veteran CPI-M leaders like former chief minister E.K. Nayanar and present party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan winning – will this time see two former friends in the CPI-M pitted against each other. Sitting Congress legislator from Kannur, A.P. Abdullahakutty (who quit CPI-M a few years back and joined the Congress) is taking on CPI-M youth leader A.N. Shamsheer.

Two other poll battles that appear to be closely watched by the BJP, which is yet to open its account in the 140-member Kerala assembly, is at Manjeswaram, the northernmost constituency in the state. Firebrand BJP leader K. Surendran, who finished in second place in the 2011 polls, is taking on sitting IUML legislator P.B. Abdul Razak.

The second one where the BJP is placing high hopes is in the Nemom constituency in the capital district where former union minister of state O. Rajagopal, a regular contestant in all elections since the BJP was formed in Kerala and who finished second in 2011 in Nemom, is being fielded. Rajagopal is taking on sitting legislator of the CPI-M V. Sivan Kutty.

At Thrissur, the home turf of former chief minister K. Karunakaran, his daughter Padmaja Venugopal is returning to active politics after a gap of 12 years and is taking on popular Communist Party of India (CPI) legislator V.S. Sunilkumar.

Another interesting constituency is Tripunithura in Ernakulam district where Congress Minister for Excise K. Babu, who came under a cloud in the bar scam, is taking on firebrand CPI-M youth leader M. Swaraj.

Besides these closely fought constituencies, the other glamour ones include where Chandy (Puthupally), CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan (Dharmadom) and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan (Malampuzha) are contesting and where the outcomes can easily be predicted.

Kerala Elections 2016: Poll predicts an LDF win, see full list of the Left front’s candidates

Kerala’s LDF had announced its list of candidates last week and in an opinion poll conducted by CVoter-India TV it looks like the CPM-led LDF could come to power this time round. The Indian Express reported that the state’s tradition of alternating between the Congress and the Left front governments after every five years will hold good this time as well.According to the poll, the CPM-led LDF is poised to win at least 86 seats. This would be a comfortable majority in the 140-member state assembly. Congress is predicted to fare badly with its alliance mustering just 53 seats. This would be down from the 72 seats it had won in 2011. The BJP-led NDA is not going to fare well as per this poll, winning just one seat. If it wins this seat, it will a first in the state’s electoral history.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The poll projected a vote share of 44% for LDF and 41% for UDF. For NDA it estimates a vote share of 10%. These numbers indicate heavy anti-incumbency which the Congress is facing as Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has found himself in the midst of several scams.List of CPI (M) candidates:1. Manjeshwaram – C H Kunjampu2. Uduma – L Kunjiraman3. Trikkaripur M Rajagopalan4. Payyannur – C Krishanan5. Thaliparampu – Jaims Mathew6, Kallyasherry _ T V Rajesh7. Dharmmadam – Pinnarayi Vijayan8. Mattannur – E P Jairajan9. Koothuparamb – KK Shailaja10. Peravur – Binoy Kuryan11. Thalasherry – A N Shamseer12. Manathavadi – O R Kelu13. Sulthan Batheri – Rugmini Subramanian14. Kalpatta – CK Shashindran15. Kuttiyadi – KK Lathika16. Perambra – T P Ramakrishnan17. Balusherry – Purushan Kadalundi18. Koilandy – K Dasan19. Kozhikide North – A Pradeep Kumar20. Beppur – V K C Mammadkoya21. Thiruvampadi – George M Thomas22. Malapuram – K P Sumathy23. Vengara – PP Bashir24. Vandur – K Nishant25. Perunthalmanna – V Shashikumar26. Mankada – Rashid Ali27. Ponnani – P Sriramakrishnan28. Thrithala – Subaida Isahaque29. Tharur – A K Balan30. Alathur K D Prasenan31. Nenmara – K Babu32. Shornoor – PK Shahi33. Ottappala, – P Unni34.Kongadu – K V Vijayadad35. Palakkad – NN Krishnadas36. Malampuzha – V S Achuthanandan37. Kunnamkulam – A C Moideen38. Chelakkara – U R Pradeep39. Manalur – Murali Perunelly40. Guruvayoor – K V Abdulla Khadir41. Puthukkadu – C Ravindra Nath42. Irinjalakuda – K U Arun43. Chalakkudy – B D Dewasi44. Vadakkancherry – Mery Thomas45.Alwey V Salim46. Perumpavur – Saju Paul47. Kunnathunadu Shiji Shivaji48. Vyppin – S Sharma49. Kalamasherry – A M Yusuf50. Eranakumal – M Anil Kumar51. Kochi – K J Maxy52. Trikkakara – Sebastian Paul52. Thrippunithara – M Swaraj54. Piravam –M J Jekab55. Devikulam – S Rajendran56. Udumbanchola – M M Mani57. Ettumanur – K Suresh Kurup58. Kottayam – Reji Zachariya59. Puthupalli – Jaik P Thomas60. Aroor – A M Arif61. Alapuzha – T M Thomas Issac62. Ampalapuzha – G Sudhakaran63. Kayamkulam – Prathibha Hari64. Chengannur – Ramachandran Nair65. Mavelikkara – R Rajesh66. Ranni – Raju Abreham67. Aranmula – Veena George68. Konni – R Sanal Kumar 69. Kottarakkara – Aisha Potti70. Kundara – J Mersykutty Amma71. Iravipuram – M Naushad72. Kollam – Mukesh73. Varkalla – V Joyi73 Attingal V Joyi74. Attingal – B Satyan75. Vamanapuram – D K Murali76. Kazhakootam – Kadakampally Surendran77. Vattiyukav – T N Seema78. Nemam – V shivan Kutty79. Kattakada I B Sathish80. Aruvikkara – A A Rasheed81. Neyyattinkara – K Ansalan82. Parashala – C K Harindran CPI(M) Independent83. Azhikode – M V Nigesh Kumar84. Kundamandal – P T A Rahim85. Koduvally – Karat Razak86. Kondatty – K P Beerankutty87. Thannoor – V Abdul Rehman88. Thirur – Gafoor P Lilis89. Nilamboor – PV Anvar90. Thavanoor – K T JaleelCPI candidates:Kanjangadu – E ChandrashekharanIrikkur – K T JoseNadapuram – E K VijayanThirurangadi – Niyas PuliyikkalathuMannarkkadu – K P Suresh RajPattambi – Mohamad MohasinThrishoor – V S Sunil KumarNattika – Geeta GopiOllur – K RajanKayippmangalam – E T Tyson MasterKodungalorr _ V R Sunil KumarParavoor – Sharada MohanMoovattupuzha – Elodo AbrahamPeerumedu – E S Biji MolVykoo, – C K AshaKanjirappally – V B BinuCherthala – P ThilothamanHarippadu – P PrasadAdoor – Chittayam GopakumarKarunagapally – R RamachandranChathanoor – G S JayalalChadayamangalam – Mullakkara RathnakaranPunaloor – K RajuChirayankeezhu – V ShashiNedumangadu – C DivakaranCongress (S) candidate:Kannur _ Kadannapally RamachandranKerala Congress (Scaria) candidate:Kaduthurathi – Zachariya ThomasINL candidate:Kozhikode South – A P Abdulla VahabJanadhipatya Kerala Congress candidates:Idukky- K Fransis GeorgeThiruvananthapuram – Antony RajuChanganasherry – K C Josephoonjaru – P C JosephRSP (Leninist) candidate:Kunnathur – Kovoor KunjumonKerala Congress (B) candidate:Pathanapuram – K B Ganesh Kumar

‘Locking up a dissenter will not stifle dissent, it will fester’: Amal Clooney

New Delhi: Renowned lawyer and activist Amal Clooney on Friday asserted that minority voice should always be protected in a society advocating a free speech.

A file photo of Amal Clooney. ReutersA file photo of Amal Clooney. Reuters

A file photo of Amal Clooney. Reuters

“The minority voice is the one you should always protect a society that advocates a free speech. Countries must allow criticism of its rulers, governments and religion,” Clooney said addressing a session at India
Today Conclave.

“Locking up a dissenter will not stifle dissent. In fact it will fester it further. For India. using sedition law against students would be a step in the wrong direction,” she added.

Clooney added that sedition is an anachronistic crime but it is unfortunate if a country starts using it more actively.

“I hope we could have a healthy debate on the freedom of speech in India since it is well placed for such discussion,” Clooney said insisting free speech is not only a human right but also an essence of being human.

Clooney is a British-Lebanese lawyer, who has fought the case of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in his fight against extradition. She has also represented the Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy who was jailed during the Arab Spring for expressing dissent against the then Egyptian government. She is married to popular Hollywood actor George Clooney.


Fed holds steady, rate-setters now see two hikes this year | Reuters

WASHINGTON The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday and indicated that moderate U.S. economic growth and “strong job gains” would allow it to tighten policy this year with fresh projections showing policymakers expected two quarter-point hikes by the year’s end, half the number seen in December.

The U.S. central bank, however, noted that the United States continues to face risks from an uncertain global economy.

“A range of recent indicators, including strong job gains, points to additional strengthening of the labor market. Inflation picked up in recent months,” the Fed said in a policy statement in which it kept the target range for its overnight lending rate at 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent.

“However, global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks” and will keep inflation low for the remainder of 2016, it said.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is due to hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT).

Policymakers projected weaker economic growth and lower inflation this year and lowered their estimate of where the targeted lending rate would be in the long run to 3.30 percent from 3.50 percent – a signal that the economic recovery would remain tepid.

The interest rate outlook is a shift from the four hikes expected when the Fed raised rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade. The majority of policymakers now said they expected it would be appropriate to raise rates by about a half a percentage point by the end of this year.

“Our first take on this is that it probably leans slightly more dovish, relative to expectations,” said Tom Porcelli, Chief U.S. Economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

The dollar fell against both the euro and the yen in the wake of the statement. Bond yields from two to ten years hit session lows, while stock markets rallied with the S&P 500 hitting its highest intraday level since Jan. 4.

The new outlook came as the Fed attempts to steer through recent global market volatility and keep its rate hike plans somewhat intact.

The Fed had adopted a cautious approach at its last policy meeting in January, amid a selloff on financial markets, weaker oil prices and falling inflation expectations. As in its January policy statement, the Fed did not say directly how it regards the balance of risks to the U.S. economy.

Fed policymakers also see continued improvement in the job market, with the unemployment rate expected to decline to 4.7 percent by the end of the year and fall further in 2017 and 2018.

Fed policymakers marked down their forecast for inflation

this year to 1.2 percent from 1.6 percent, but see it recovering to close to the central bank’s 2 percent medium-term target next


Kansas City Fed President Esther George was the only policymaker to dissent on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao and David Chance)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Gujarat: After panchayat poll debacle, BJP govt to withdraw non-serious cases against Patel agitators

The home department was asked to prepare a list of all cases related to the violence during Patel quota agitation and put it before the CM for review and final decision. “This is not at all a political decision. If our aim had been just to make Patels happy, we would have announced the decision before the panchayat polls,” he said.

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Air quality in Delhi on December 31 crossed prescribed limits: TERI

TERI has also installed an air quality monitor on the terrace of their office at India Habitat Centre to monitor air quality.


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