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LIVE! PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi lose Twitter followers

16:37  India, US 2+2 dialogue to take place in first week of September:  India and United States will conduct their 2+2 dialogue in the first week of September, confirmed Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. 

She said that the main agenda of the meet will be to to develop andstrengthen strategic defence cooperation and to follow-on with what had transpired during the meeting with Secretary Defence Mattis. 

The two delegations were to meet first on April 18 and senior Indian officials were on their way to Washington for preparatory talks when president Donald Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson and gave his job to Mike Pompeo. Set to take place in Washington on July 6, the dialogue was again postponed because Pompeo had to visit North Korea.

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16:14  PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi lose Twitter followers:  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, among others on Friday lost thousands of Twitter followers after the micro-blogging site deleted several suspicious and inactive accounts.

Prime Minister Modi, according to socialblade.com, lost 2,84,746 followers and currently has 43.1 million followers.

The Congress president, on the other hand, lost 17,503 followers. He currently has 7.33 million followers on Twitter.

Other politicians who lost the followers are as follows:

-External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj – 74,132

-Congress leader Shashi Tharoor – 1, 51,509

-Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien – 10,902

-Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani- 41,280

Meanwhile, Twitter accounts across the globe saw a drop in their follower count as the micro-blogging site removed “locked accounts” – accounts which have not validated their ownership.

“As part of our ongoing and global effort to build trust and encourage healthy conversation on Twitter, every part of the service matters,” read its blog post.

It added, “This week, we’ll be removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.” 

— ANI


16:06  2 women teachers convicted of sexual assault on 5-yr-old girl in Bihar:  

A court in Patna has convicted two women teachers of a renowned English-medium school for ‘unnatural sexual act’ with a five-year-old girl student.

The order was passed by Special POCSO judge Ravindra Nath Tripathi, who fixed July 20 as the date for deciding the quantum of sentence for Nutan Joseph and Indu Anand.

Special Public Prosecutor Suresh Chandra Prasad said the two women have been held guilty under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code as well as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Joseph and Anand were arrested in November, 2016, after the girl’s parents lodged a complaint against them at Mahila Thana in Patna.

According to the FIR, the parents had said that the two teachers asked their 5-year-old girl to undress in a classroom and then sexually assaulted her.

A medical test conducted on the minor also confirmed the assault.  —  PTI

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15:49  May’s Brexit plan could kill US trade deal: Trump:  

President Donald Trump has rubbished embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, saying it will probably ‘kill’ the chances of a bilateral trade deal, inviting sharp criticism from MPs, many of whom described it as an insult to the country.

The Brexit strategy, spelt out in a White Paper yesterday, has proved controversial as it led to the resignation of two senior cabinet ministers, including Brexit minister David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

In an interview with the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper, Trump became the latest critic of May’s Brexit plans, which foresee a closer relationship with the European Union (EU) after Britain leaves the 28-member economic bloc next year, than many hard-Brexit supporters are demanding.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,” the US President told the newspaper in reference to May’s Brexit strategy.

Trump also said he had told May how to do a Brexit deal, but, ‘she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me’.

“I told her how to do it. That will be up to her to say. But I told her how to do it. She wanted to go a different route,” Trump, who is in London on his first official visit, said.

The US President’s interview attracted sharp criticism from British MPs, many of whom described it as an insult to the British prime minister and the UK.

Conservative party MP Sarah Wollaston said Trump was ‘determined to insult’ May, adding: “If signing up to the Trump world view is the price of a deal, it’s not worth paying.”

“Our Prime Minister is so weak she still rolls out the red carpet for a man who does nothing but insult her. Humiliating,” Opposition Labour party MP Ben Bradshaw added.

In the interview, Trump said he was ‘cracking down’ on the EU because ‘they have not treated the United States fairly on trading’.

Trump described Johnson, one of leading critics and who is seen as a potential challenger to May, as a ‘very talented guy’ and said the former foreign secretary would make a ‘great prime minister’.

“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me. I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country,” he said.

In the wide-ranging interview to the tabloid, the US President also took aim at one of his most vocal critics, London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

He blamed the Pakistani-origin mayor for making him feel ‘unwelcome’ in the UK, in light of mass street protests and said he ‘used to love London’.

Khan had authorised protesters to raise a giant helium-filled balloon showing a nappy-wearing Trump next to the British parliament today.

Trump said that Khan was doing a ‘terrible job’ in fighting crime and believed the mayor was responsible for the terror attacks that had taken place in the British capital because he had ‘done a very bad job on terrorism’ as well as a ‘bad job on crime’.

Responding to Trump’s criticism of his response to terrorism, Khan said it was ‘interesting’ that the US president ‘is not criticising the mayors of other cities’ which have also experienced terror attacks.

He defended his decision to allow the giant Trump baby inflatable to fly over London, saying: “The idea that we limit the right to protest because it might cause offence to a foreign leader is a slippery slope.”

Trump went on to claim that the UK and the rest of Europe was ‘losing its culture’ because of immigration.

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame,” he said.

The interview was conducted in Brussels before the US President and First Lady, Melania, arrived in the UK yesterday afternoon.   — PTI

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15:13  Under pressure from ex-babu to exchange banned notes, man kills self:  

A former sugar mill manager allegedly shot himself after being pressured by a retired Indian Administrative Service officer to get demonetised currency notes worth Rs 10 crore exchanged in a village in Shamli district, police said today.

The incident occurred in Badhev village under the Adarsh Mandi police station area last evening, Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Shalok Kumar said.

The victim, Vijay Singh, 51, left a suicide note accusing brother-in-law and retired IAS officer Vinod Kumar Pawar of putting pressure on him to get the demonetised notes exchanged, he said.

According to the suicide note, the victim had helped the accused exchange demonetised notes worth Rs 50 lakh earlier, the ASP said, adding that he also alleged that Pawar had forcibly captured a piece of land belonging to Singh’s mother.

The pistol used in the suicide was seized and the note sent to handwriting experts for verification, the ASP said.

A case was registered under various sections of the law and an investigation was underway, he added.

Pawar, a resident of Ghaziabad, was earlier posted as an additional district magistrate in Muzaffarnagar and as a district magistrate in Bijnore.  — PTI

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14:57  Mass grave discovered in Lanka’s former war zone:  

A mass grave with 38 skeletons has been discovered in Sri Lanka’s former war zone where the government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels were engaged in pitched battles in 2009, officials said today.

Skeletal remains of around 38 people have been found during the ground digging to build a new construction at the old cooperative store site in the north eastern town of Mannar.

Following the discovery in late March, the site was kept under supervision of Mannar magistrate M Prabhakaran for further digging.

While the judicial medical officers are carrying out investigations, the skeletal remains are being kept at the Mannar hospital. The construction site has been cordoned off, the police said.

The town was occupied by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam during Sri Lanka’s civil war between 1983 and 2009.

International rights groups have said that at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by government forces under the command of former president Mahinda Rajapakse in the final months of the war.

Since the end of the military battles, Sri Lanka has faced international accusations of rights abuses by its troops .   — PTI

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14:51  Bombay HC refuses to relax thermocol ban for Ganesh mandaps:  The Bombay high court today declined to relax the ban on sale of decoration items made of thermocol for use in the forthcoming Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Maharashtra.   

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla dismissed a petition filed by the Thermocol Fabricators and Decoration Association, seeking relaxation of the ban only for this year’s Ganesh festival to be celebrated in September.   

The manufacture and use of a large number of plastic and thermocol items have been banned in Maharashtra.   

The petition claimed the association’s members would suffer huge financial losses if decoration material made of thermocol is not permitted to be sold in the market.   

The association also submitted an undertaking stating they will themselves dispose of the material.   The state government opposed the petition and said the last day to dispose of the banned items was June 23.   

Despite this, the petitioner (the association) did not dispose of their material and instead kept it as it is and is now seeking relaxation, it argued. 

The HC said it cannot ignore the government’s arguments, made during a hearing on petitions challenging the plastic and thermocol ban, that 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste is generated each day and there is no proper scientific provision for its disposal.


14:29  Fresh batch of pilgrims leave for Amarnath yatra:  

Amid tight security, a fresh batch of 3,451 pilgrims today left a base camp here for Kashmir to undertake the annual Amarnath yatra, the police said.

The 60-day yatra to the 3,880 metre high holy cave in south Kashmir Himalayas commenced on June 28 and so far over 1.51 lakh pilgrims have paid obeisance at the shrine.

The pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu in two separate convoys for the twin base camps of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district in the early hours, a police official said.

While 2,281 pilgrims are performing the yatra from the traditional 36-km Pahalgam track, 1,170 pilgrims have opted for the shortest 12-km Baltal route.

The official said the pilgrims left in 110 vehicles amid rains which lashed wide parts of the state this morning.  — PTI

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14:06  Mumbai’s Parel flyover shut for repairs on water pipeline:  
The south-bound arm of the Parel flyover in central Mumbai was closed for traffic on Friday due to repair work on a water pipeline near the flyover, causing massive traffic congestion.   

The water pipeline had burst at the entrance of the flyover on Babasaheb Ambedkar Road.   

According to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation officials, the repair work, which started on July 12, is expected to be completed today.   

The repair work has affected water supply to many areas in Mumbai and surrounding suburbs like Ghatkopar, Chembur, Sion, etc.


13:47  Trainer arrested for girl’s death in drill gone wrong:  A 19-year-old student died when she jumped off the third floor of a college building in Coimbatore during a disaster management drill, following which a trainer was arrested for allegedly prodding her to take the leap, police said today.   

 In a video of the incident, which went viral, the girl appeared to be reluctant to take the jump even though a net was put up for her safe landing and, it seemed, the trainer was trying to push her, they said.   

Lokeshwari, a second-year BBA student, who finally took the jump, hit a sunshade on the second floor, the police said.   She suffered serious head injuries and died while being taken to a government hospital yesterday, they said.   

Students also claimed that Lokeshwari was not willing to jump.   The police said R Arumugam, who claimed to be a trainer of the National Disaster Management Authority, was arrested based on a complaint by the student’s father and remanded to custody.   

However, the NDMA said it was not associated with the drill and that the trainer was not authorised by it to conduct the exercise.   

“Unfortunate that this incident has happened and we have lost a young life. Our heartfelt condolences to the family,” it said.   

“However, the National Disaster Management Authority wasn’t involved in this drill. The trainer wasn’t authorised by NDMA to conduct such a drill,” it said in a tweet.

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13:45  Doing this for you: Nawaz tells people of Pakistan:  

Ahead of his imminent imprisonment, former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif urged his followers to stand with him to ‘change the fate of the country’.

Maryam Nawaz, who is en route to Pakistan from London, along with her father Nawaz Sharif, tweeted a video message by the deposed prime minister in which he said, “I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you. I urge everyone to come and stand with me and let’s change the fate of the country.”  — ANI

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13:38  Coal scam: Court orders framing of additional charge against Naveen Jindal:  

A special court today ordered framing of an additional charge of abetment of bribery against Congress leader and industrialist Naveen Jindal in a case pertaining to irregularities in the allocation of a Jharkhand coal block. Special judge Bharat Parashar said the charge will formally be framed against the accused on August 16.

The court had in April, 2016 ordered framing of charges against Jindal, former MoS for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao (since deceased), former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and 11 others for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust under the Indian Penal Code and sections of Prevention of Corruption Act in the case.

However, the charge under section 12 (punishment for abetment of offences defined in section 7 (public servant taking gratification) or 11 (public servant obtaining valuable thing, without consideration from person concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant)) of Prevention of Corruption Act was not framed then.

The case pertains to allocation of the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand. In today’s order, the court said the charge under section 7 of the Act was made out against Rao, but since he was deceased, the charge will not be framed against him.

The court also ordered framing of section 120-B (criminal conspiracy against Jindal Steel’s then adviser Anand Goel, Nihar Stocks Ltd Director BSN Suryanarayan and Mumbai’s Essar Power Ltd Executive Vice-Chairman Sushil Kumar Maroo.

The three were named in an additional charge sheet filed by the agency in the case.

The court discharged Mumbai-based KE International’s Chief Financial Officer Rajeev Aggarwal and Gurgaon-based Green Infra’s Vice-President Siddharth Madra from the case, citing lack of evidence against them.

While arguing on charge, CBI’s deputy legal adviser V K Sharma had told the court that there were enough evidence against Jindal for trying him under sections 7 and 12 of the Act.

The names of Goel, Madra, Suryanarayan, Aggarwal and Maroo had cropped up in the additional charge sheet filed by the agency in the case. The CBI had alleged that Koda had favoured Jindal group firms — Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd (GSIPL) — in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal block.

It had later alleged that five accused named in the second charge sheet tried to hamper the investigation and threatened Suresh Singhal, a chartered accountant who was earlier arrayed as an accused but later turned approver.

All the accused have denied the allegations levelled against them and said there was no evidence to show that there was any conspiracy during the coal block allocation process.

The CBI has filed another chargesheet against Jindal and others, including Goel and Maroo, for allegedly cheating the government by misrepresenting facts to get the Madhya Pradesh based Urtan North coal block.  — PTI

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13:32  Former Andhra CM Kiran Kumar Reddy rejoins Congress:  

Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy returned to the Congress fold today, four years after quitting the party.

Congress’ communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala announced Reddy’s return to the party after the former chief minister met party president Rahul Gandhi at his residence today.

Reddy joined the party in the presence of All India Congress Committee Andhra Pradesh in-charge Oomen Chandy, Surjewala and Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee chief N Raghuveera Reddy at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi.

Reddy had quit as chief minister and the Congress in February 2014, protesting against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

His meeting with the Congress chief came following talks with the party’s leaders over two months. Reddy, the last chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh, had floated the Jai Samaikyandhra party after quitting the Congress.

He fought the 2014 elections, but failed to make a mark.  — PTI

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13:30  Visuals of flood due to heavy rains in Jhalawar, Rajasthan. Photograph: ANI


13:06  ‘Like creating a surveillance State’: SC on govt’s social media hub plan:  The Supreme Court today took a strong note of the information and broadcasting ministry’s decision to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data, observing that it will be “like creating a surveillance State”.   

The top court said the government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages and sought its response within two weeks   

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre on a plea by Trinamool Congress legislator Mahua Moitra and sought Attorney General K K Venugopal’s assistance in the matter.   

“The government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance State,” the bench said.   

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Moitra, said the government has issued a request for proposal and the tender will be opened on August 20.   

“They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” Singhvi said.   The bench then said it is listing the matter on August 3, before the opening of tender on August 20 and AG or any law officer for the government will assist the court in the matter.   

Earlier, on June 18, the apex court had refused to accord urgent hearing on the plea seeking to stay a central government move to set up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’ that would collect and analyse digital and social media content.   

The counsel for Moitra had said that the government is trying to monitor the social media contents of individuals by tracking their social media accounts such as those on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and their e-mails.   

Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited, a public sector undertaking under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply a software for the project.


12:54  Pfizer halts production at TN plant after 11 USFDA observations:   Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur is not following quality control norms and lacks data related to laboratory records, report Gireesh Babu and Aneesh Phadnis in Business Standard

These are among the 11 observations the US Food and Drug Administration has made following inspections at the Hospira Healthcare India in Sriperumbudur conducted in last March-April.    

The company said it had “voluntarily paused’ production in the facility, which became a part of Pfizer following its acquisition of US-based Hospira in February 2015 in a $17-billion deal.    

A Pfizer spokesperson said they were disappointed with the outcome of the drug regulator’s inspection. 

“We have submitted a comprehensive response to the USFDA and are committed to implementing the necessary improvements and ensuring the quality of our medicines. Pfizer is committed to product quality and we have voluntarily paused production at our Irungattukottai site.”

The facility had earlier received observations from the USFDA as part of inspections in 2013 and 2015, according to reports.

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12:48  Terrorists attack CRPF party in Anantnag, 2 jawans dead:  

Two Central Reserve Police Force personnel lost their lives when terrorists fired upon their party in Anantnag’s Sheer Pora earlier today.

The two personnel were critically injured in the attack and succumbed later.

More details awaited.   — ANI

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12:03  UN chief supports Zeid’s call for human rights probe in Kashmir:  

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has voiced support for the UN human rights chief’s call for an independent international investigation into the human rights situation in Kashmir, saying his action ‘represents the voice of the UN’ on the issue.

“As you can imagine, all the action of the Human Rights High Commissioner is an action that represents the voice of the UN in relation to that issue,” Guterres told reporters at a press conference in New York yesterday.

He was responding to questions whether he supports an independent international probe into the human rights situation in Kashmir as recommended by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in his report on Kashmir last month.

India has rejected Al Hussein’s report in which he had called for a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent international investigation into the human rights situation in Kashmir.

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal said this week that the ‘so-called’ report reflects the ‘clear bias of an official who was acting without any mandate whatsoever and relied on unverified sources of information’.

Lal had said the report ‘was not even found fit to be considered by the membership of the forum where it was submitted’.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, responding to the Secretary General’s remarks, said the Human Rights chief’s report was not followed up by anyone in the Human Rights Council.

“That the High Commissioner for Human Rights represents the UN Secretariat on the issue of human rights is a factual issue. But that his report was not followed up by anyone is also a reality that no one sees it as something they are ready to support. So referring to the report is like flogging a dead horse,” Akbaruddin told PTI.

Guterres was asked by PTI about India’s assertion that Al Hussein was acting without any mandate and that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that needs to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

He said, “One thing is the definition of the mechanism for a political solution of a situation in a country.

“The other thing is the general mandate of human rights instruments in relation to human rights everywhere.

“And so what the Human Rights High Commissioner did was the use of its own competencies and capacities, as it does in all other parts of the world, to report on what he considered to be relevant human rights violations.”

“It doesn’t mean that there is in that a preference for any kind of methodology for a political solution. They are two completely different things, and the same applies in relation to the other report,” he said, referring to his report on children and armed conflict.

India has also expressed its disappointment that the Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflict included situations that do not meet the definition of armed conflict or of threat to international peace and security.

The report had mentioned the Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, saying children continued to be affected by incidents of violence between armed groups and the government, particularly in the three states.

Noting ‘grave violations’, the report had said three incidents of the recruitment and use of children were reported in Jammu and Kashmir in the context of clashes with national security forces.

“One case was attributed to Jaish-e-Mohammed and two to Hizbul Mujahideen,” the report said, adding that ‘unverified’ reports also indicate the use of children as informants and spies by national security forces.

The report added that the United Nations also continued to receive reports of the recruitment and use of children, including by the Naxalites, particularly in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

“The other report is a report about situations in which the rights of children have been put into question,” Guterres said.

When asked if he has made any attempt to bring about dialogue between India and Pakistan, Guterres said, “It is clear for me that only political solutions can address political problems.”

He added that whenever he meets the leaders of both India and Pakistan, he always offers his good offices, and ‘I hope that the future will be able to create the mechanisms of dialogue that will allow for this problem to find also an adequate political solution that the people can benefit from.’   — PTI


11:31  

JUST IN: Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif move from UAE’s Abu Dhabi International Airport.

They are being brought to Lahore, Pakistan in Etihad EY 243 Abu Dhabi to Lahore flight.  — ANI

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11:02  Sharif, Maryam reach Abu Dhabi:  

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif have landed at the United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi International Airport.

It is not known yet whether they will be taken to Islamabad or Lahore from here.

“I’ll be taken straight to jail. But I’m doing this for people of Pakistan, sacrificing for generations to come. Such opportunity won’t come again. Let’s build destiny of Pak together,” Sharif earlier said, on board the flight to Abu Dhabi.   — ANI

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10:47  Mehbooba: If Delhi tries to break PDP, there’ll be consequences:  

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s estranged ally People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti has ‘warned’ New Delhi that if it tries to ‘divide’ people of Kashmir, and ‘rob them of their voting rights like it did in 1987’, then the consequences would be dangerous.

“If Delhi tries to dismiss the voting rights of people like 1987, if it tries to create divisions and interfere like that, then I think, like one Syed Salahuddin and one Yasin Malik were born in 1987…if it tries to break PDP like that then outcomes will be dangerous,” Mufti said.

Last month, the BJP had withdrew support from the PDP, resulting in the collapse of Mufti’s government.

The BJP blamed the PDP for failing to improve the security conditions in the Kashmir Valley.  — ANI

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10:44  India hopeful of resolving both Iranian and Russian sanctions issue: Envoy:  

The Indian Ambassador to the United States has exuded confidence that the two major issues of Iranian and Russian sanctions that have become an irritant in the Indo-US relationship would be sorted out soon.

Referring to a series of recent topics, including the Iranian sanctions under which India is required to stop its import of oil from Iran by November 4, Navtej Singh Sarna said none of these were issues over which one can lose sleep.

“This (the Indo-US) relationship has been through far more fundamental differences. I remember being in Washington three months after the nuclear tests in May ’98’ and those were differences,” Sarna said yesterday at the inaugural Annual Leadership summit of the US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum.

Asserting that the relationship between the two countries has seen a ‘steady upward graph’, he expressed hope that both sides would find a way to resolve the thorny issues.

“India and the US have been down this road in the past and we have handled it in the past,” he said, underlining that the South Asian nation was dependent on several countries for its oil and energy needs.

Pointing out the development of Chabahar port by India in Iran — which is crucial for its developmental role in Afghanistan — the top Indian diplomat said the US would have an interest in having that port open.

That factor has been recognised several times, including during the meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last June, Sarna said.

Acknowledging that there are going to be questions on resolving this issue about sanctions and India’s energy needs, Sarna said it was far too early to predict where this needle would stop.

“But I can share with you that these conversations are already ongoing and we’ll see more of this in the coming weeks,” the Indian ambassador said.

Responding to a question on CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), Sarna said India was not the target of the federal law and it should not become collateral damage of it.

The administration has to find a way in which they can find a waiver for the partner on this particular thorny issue, he said.

“We are hopeful that given the broad understanding on this issue on the Hill as well as the administrations enthusiasm behind it, he added.  —  PTI

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10:19  FIFA World Cup 2018 is a huge hit on TV, finds Sony:  The FIFA World Cup on Sony Pictures Network India has garnered over 192.7 million viewers across 58 matches played so far, reports Urvi Malvania in Business Standard

This includes LIVE matches, wraparound shows, highlights, repeats, surround programming on the SPN Sports Network and its online streaming platform SonyLIV.   

Of this, 63.1 million viewers in rural markets have tuned in to the television coverage of the tournament, amounting to 42 per cent of the overall TV reach.   

The 58 live matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia have been watched by 96.7 million viewers. The 8 pre-quarter final and 2 quarter final matches telecast in Week 4 have been watched by 57.1 million viewers.   

The France versus Argentina pre-quarter final, image alongside, has been the most watched game with 22.2 million viewers.   

Local language feeds (Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, Tamil and Telugu) have contributed to 47 per cent of the viewership.   

The regional commentary provided has seen 9 million viewers in Kerala and 9.2 million viewers in West Bengal. In all, 36.3 million viewers across India have sampled the regional commentary feed.  

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09:59  UP Min performs pooja to mark his ‘rebirth’:  

While people usually celebrate their birth anniversary, Uttar Pradesh Minister Nand Gopal Gupta performed a pooja to mark his ‘rebirth’.

During former chief minister Mayawati’s rule Nand Gopal was attacked with a remote bomb but was saved from the mishap.

Since then, he performs this pooja for his safety.

State administration and other ministers attended the event, organised in Allahabad yesterday.

As the city celebrated Nand Gopal’s reincarnation day, security arrangements at Bahadurganj were increased to avoid any untoward incident during the ongoing event.     — ANI

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09:26  Sharif’s comatose wife opens eyes after a month:  

Ahead of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam’s arrest, Nawaz’s wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, opened her eyes after a month-long coma.

The news was confirmed by Kulsoom’s son, Hussain Nawaz.

In an emotional appeal, Hussain requested people to remember his mother in their prayers.

“She (Kulsoom) has opened her eyes after exactly one month. I don’t have anything else to share. Her sedatives were being reduced. My only request is, please remember her in your prayers,” he told media in London.

Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam, will be arrested at Abu Dhabi airport in United Arab Emirates (UAE) today morning.

The duo, who are convicted in Avenfield reference case, will stay at the Abu Dhab iairport for seven hours and will reach Lahore at 6.15pm (2.15 UK time), sources said.

All arrangements have been made to arrest the three-time Prime Minister and his daughter by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team.The father-daughter duo, who was in London to meet Nawaz’s ailing wife, left for Pakistan on Friday.   — ANI

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08:52  India invites Trump to be the chief guest at R-Day parade: Report:  

India has invited United States President Donald Trump to be the chief guest at next year’s Republic Day parade and celebrations, The Times of India has reported.

While an official response by the US is still awaited, it is being said that the Trump Administration is favorably considering India’s invite.

Read the full report HERE

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08:37  Fingers pointed at women will be chopped off: Khattar:  

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that if anyone dares to point fingers at women, their fingers will be chopped off.

Khattar further said that people accused of rape and molestation in Haryana will not be allowed to avail benefits from state schemes.

Hamare yaha ek bhi behen beti ki taraf agar koi ungli uthayega to uski ungli kaat di jaayegi, aisa hum prabhand karenge (If anyone dares to point fingers at our women.their fingers will be chopped off. We will make arrangements regarding this),” Khattar said during the launch of Ek aur Sudhar project in Panchkula.

After receiving criticism over his statement, Khattar later clarified stating that he didn’t mean for any barbarian rule towards anyone.

Dekhiye kehne ki bhav ye hai ki sirf dandit karenge. Aisa koi barbarian rule hamara nahi hai (The intention of the statement was not a barbarian rule but to punish the accused/culprits),” Khattar told media.

Khattar on Thursday said that if the accused is acquitted of all charges then that person can avail the benefits.

The chief minister also said that if a rape victim wants to hire a lawyer of her choice except for the one provided by the state government, she would be provided financial assistance of Rs 22,000.

Khattar also said that he will announce a comprehensive scheme for the safety and security of women either on Independence Day (August 15) or Raksha Bandhan (August 26).  — ANI

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08:16  Nawaz, Maryam have an ’emotional farewell’, to be arrested today:  

Pakistan former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam had an emotional farewell meeting with former finance minister Ishaq Dar in London before leaving for Pakistan on Thursday.

The pictures of the farewell shows emotional scenes, wherein Nawaz’s friends and relatives can be seen weeping.

Maryam’s kids can also be seen embracing her and kissing her forehead.

The father-daughter duo, who left from London on Thursday, will be arrested by a special National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team at Abu Dhabi Airport in United Arab Emirates (UAE) later today.

NAB sources in Islamabad said that both the convicted would be kept at Adiala jail for a day before being transferred to the notorious Attock Fort prison.

Flights that were to arrive at Islamabad
airport this morning have been diverted to Lahore airport. Sharif and Maryam will be
taken to jail under heavy security.

Meanwhile, Junaid Safdar and Zakaria Hussain, grandsons of Sharif,
are arrested by London
police for punching a demonstrator outside their residence in Park Lane yesterday.

Junaid Safdar is the son of Maryam Nawaz and Zakaria Hussain
is the son of Hussain Nawaz.

On July 6, Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment, and a fine of eight million pounds was slapped on him in the Avenfield Reference case.

Maryam was sentenced to seven years of jail and fined two million pounds, by the Accountability Court.   — ANI

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00:22  Pak must stop supporting terrorism: India:  

India hit back at Pakistan over its comments on the alleged human rights abuse in Kashmir, saying Islamabad must first stop terrorism emanating from its soil.

   

The Pakistan foreign office alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. It also raised concern over shifting of woman separatist leader Syeda Aasiya Andrabi to Tihar jail and detention of Hurriyat leaders Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masarrat Alam Bhat. 

Andrabi was arrested by the National Investigating Agency under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for allegedly carrying out secessionist activity and waging war against India.

 

“They sometimes forget that what they preach they don’t follow. Time and again we have told them to stop supporting terrorism, stop supporting terrorist entities, which are operating out of Pakistan. That is something (on which) they have taken no action. Our position on this remains clear and consistent,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a question at a media briefing.

 

According to media reports, Zafar Bangash, a Pakistani-origin journalist based in Canada has claimed that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, was in constant touch with him while preparing the controversial report on Kashmir which was rejected by India. 

 

In a report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last month, the UN body talked about alleged human rights violations in Kashmir and sought an international inquiry into these abuses.

 

“We also question the intention of bringing out this report. The document that was brought out reflected the clear bias of the official, who was acting without a mandate whatsoever and who relied on unverified source of information. The report which had put out was very motivated. It had a clear bias. And when I say motivated, it explains what you are alluding to,” he said.  

 

Responding to a question on Gulab Singh Shaheen, the Pakistan’s first Sikh police officer, forcibly evicted from his home along with his children and wife, following a property dispute with the government, Kumar said India strongly condemns the act.

 

“This is not for the first time that the religious minorities in Pakistan have been subjected to such a behaviour. In the past, there have been reports of persecution of people from other communities,” he said.

 

Kumar added that in May, Charnjit Singh, a prominient Sikh leader was also killed in Peshawar. 

 

“We want Pakistan to probe the matter with sincerity and act as per its international obligation to protect the minorities,” he said. 

 

Kumar said Don Pramudwinai, the foreign minister of Thailand, in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, has thanked India for the moral support it had extended during the operation to rescue 12 boys trapped in the cave.

In the letter, the Thai foreign minister also thanked the Indian community in Thailand for solidarity it displayed during the operation. — PTI  

Source: Rediff

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